What are some positive aspects of wars

War and violent conflict

Wars have no real winners, because all sides involved in them always have their own serious victims. In the following, “consequences of war” are therefore less understood to mean the consequences that result from a war and its end. Rather, its direct consequences for people, politics, the economy and the environment should be outlined.

War victims

The First World War (1914 to 1918) claimed the lives of 17 to 20 million people. In the Second World War (1939 to 1945), the death toll is estimated between 50 and 56 million (some sources even speak of 80 million). Even if the end of the Second World War represented a turning point and no war since then has had such extensive destructive power, around 800,000 people died in armed conflicts between 1989 and 2010 after the end of the Cold War (UCDP Battle-Related Deaths Dataset v.5-2010 ).

The real casualty figures in a war can only be estimated. The amount depends, for example, on whether people killed by gun violence alone are included. This would mean excluding those victims who, for example, perish as a result of (sexual) violence, starvation, freezing or epidemics during a war. And don't people who often succumb to war-related wounds or illnesses years later - such as the radiation victims of Hiroshima and Nagasaki - also count as "war victims"?

A look at the consequences of the US intervention against Vietnam and Cambodia (1965 to 1975) illustrates the problem. In the Vietnam War, the number of deaths is said to be three million. According to Hanoi, over 42,000 people have died in fatal accidents involving ammunition residues since its end. The US armed forces used 15 million tons of bombs and ammunition in the war against the North Vietnamese troops, of which around 800,000 tons still contaminate around 20 percent of the country. The same applies to Cambodia, where, according to UNICEF, between four and six million landmines lurk on roads, in fields and near schools or wells in the villages. Above all, they hit the civilian population; every third victim is a child. According to the “Landmine Monitor 2009”, at least 19,505 people are said to have been killed and 44,024 injured between 1979 and the end of 2009.

"The war will never be over as long as there is still bleeding from a wound that it struck," said Heinrich Böll aptly when describing the long-term consequences of war. War invalids - be it civilians or the military - often suffer from physical injuries for decades to come. Often they have to learn to live with mutilations, blindness or deafness.

The psychological consequences also affect the survivors' everyday lives. Fear and insecurity through the use of weapons and military attacks leave their mark, as does the experience of physical and sexual violence or the death of relatives. Consequential symptoms are e.g. post-traumatic stress reactions as well as depression and anxiety. It should be noted that, in many cases, these trauma apply not only to civilians but also to military personnel.

A special aspect of the consequences of the war is the misery of refugees. According to the UN, there are 15 million refugees worldwide, three quarters of whom live in developing countries and who had to leave their homeland due to conflict or persecution. People on the run or in refugee camps have been deprived of their homes and - often in the long term - livelihoods. Hunger, malnutrition, disease and epidemics threaten the refugees and their children directly. The refugee situation becomes all the more difficult when the international attention and support for these people gradually disappears and there is still no prospect of an end to their legal, economic and social limbo, i.e. no permanent solution. In particular, when refugees live long-term in larger “camps”, various security risks arise for those affected themselves and for those around them, which can lead to new violent conflicts.

politic and economy

The most far-reaching political consequence of a war is that it can completely destroy the state and the community. Civil liberties are restricted during the war. Under the conditions of a state of emergency, emergency laws or martial law, freedom of expression and choice as well as the activities of political and social groups are often severely curtailed. In terms of domestic and foreign policy, images of the enemy are being built up. This triggers distrust of those who think differently in one's own country, while relations with the states that have become parties to the conflict are destroyed and often poisoned over the long term.

“A world under arms doesn't just squander money. It also wastes the sweat of its workers, the spirit of its scientists and the hope of its children, ”lamented Dwight D. Eisenhower, 34th President of the United States and Commander-in-Chief of the Allied Forces during World War II. According to the knowledge of the internationally recognized NGOs Oxfam International, Safer World and International Action Network on Small Arms (IANSA), the costs today include:

  • increased spending on the military that the economy lacks in other areas,
  • Destruction of livelihoods and infrastructure (e.g. water supply and transport system),
  • Restrictions on economic activities due to insecurity, restricted mobility and the withdrawal of labor from the civil to the military sector as well as capital flight,
  • Macroeconomic consequences such as inflation, restrictions on savings, investments and exports and increased debt,
  • Loss of development aid,
  • Transfer of wealth to the illegal economy.

The conquest of territories and the associated forced redistribution of land, means of production and labor also have economic consequences.


In 2001 the “International Day for the Prevention of the Abuse of the Environment in Wars and Armed Conflicts” was celebrated for the first time and has been held ever since on November 6th at the initiative of the UN. The then UN Secretary General Kofi Annan wanted to draw attention to the devastating ecological side effects and the massive long-term effects of wars on the environment, which hit people just as hard as direct violence. Damage caused by oil, chemicals, land mines or duds often cannot be repaired for a long time. The contamination of water, air and soil threatens the livelihoods of many people and causes whole peoples to flee.

New technologies, such as ammunition coated with enriched uranium, also threaten the environment. Even the smallest amounts of radioactive uranium can cause cancer or damage kidneys and other organs. This points to a second aspect of the effects of war on the environment. Because in addition to the "involuntary" side effects, natural resources are sometimes also deliberately destroyed for tactical reasons. Well-known examples are the bombing of oil production facilities in the Gulf Wars in order to achieve economic damage, the mining of arable land, which is frequently carried out around the world, in order to deprive the enemy of the war, or the use of chemical warfare agents such as "Agent Orange", which the USA used in the Vietnam War used to defoliate forests and destroy crops. “The environment often suffers from acts of violence. As always, the poor suffer disproportionately because they are particularly dependent on an intact environment. Not only because of the food supply, but also for medical reasons and because they secure their livelihood with natural resources and need material for their accommodation, ”Kofi Annan warned of the environmental consequences of the war.

Sources and further information:

BICC 09/2011