What are different types of war? Ten examples.

There are different types of war. That is why it is used in different ways. The most well-known form of war in history is that of ‘conventional warfare’, in which politicians throw in the towel of negotiation and give the floor to the military.Author: Manu Steens  

In this post I write my own opinion, not that of any organization.

What types of war exist? A non-exhaustive list.

There are many kinds of war. These can be both conventional military and non-military.

Examples include:

  • The Conventional Military War
  • Psychological warfare
  • Terrorist acts
  • Guerrilla warfare
  • Trade war
  • Cyber warfare
  • Information warfare
  • Climate war
  • Civil war
  • Hybrid war

These can be set up at the same time. I’ll briefly discuss each of these.

Discussion of the different types of war.

Most people know the concept of ‘war’, but not the many variations on it. When the concept of ‘war’ comes to mind, images of fighter planes, warships and guns come to mind. And endless rows of wounded and killed. That is often the case. Sometimes it’s different. Here I discuss ten examples of types of wars.

The Conventional Military War

There are different forms within this: the blitzkrieg, the trench war, the war of annihilation, the nuclear war and special military operations. These forms are often used together to settle the dispute.

Blitzkrieg

‘Blitzkrieg’ is a strategy of waging war from World War II. It consists of rapid and coordinated attacks using mobile army units. It ensured the rapid conquests by Germany. The strategy was one of concentrated attacks on weak spots in the enemy lines, breaking the defenses. The mobile troops, which quickly penetrated deep into enemy territory, thus had the opportunity to encircle enemy troops.

Trench warfare

In trench warfare, both sides dig into trenches. Little or no significant progress or loss of ground is made. This results in high numbers of casualties. This is due to military activities as well as diseases and exhaustion. One of the most well-known examples of trench warfare is the one that took place during the First World War in ‘Flanders Fields’.

War of annihilation

This term was used during World War II to denote total war. It is aimed at the complete destruction of the enemy, both in terms of armed forces and his society.

This term refers to the strategic doctrine of the Nazi German armed forces led by Adolf Hitler. The idea was to completely destroy or subjugate the others’ infrastructure and economy as well. This was done completely uncompromisingly. This included changing the social structures. This strategy is ruthless. It always brought an enormous amount of human suffering.

Nuclear war

In a nuclear war, nuclear weapons are used to destroy enemy targets. In Japan in 1945, it resulted in enormous destruction, countless deaths and long-term consequences for people and the environment. This made the Second World War the first nuclear war.

There are two fundamentally different categories of weapons at play here: atomic bombs (based on nuclear fission) and hydrogen bombs (based on nuclear fusion).

A nuclear war is considered catastrophic. Herman Kahn’s famous work ‘On Thermonuclear War’ is considered the standard work that outlines the consequences of a nuclear war. This book is considered to be the most important warning against nuclear war. It discusses the great potential damage to the health of survivors and the environment, with long-term effects such as radiation sickness, genetic mutations, cancer, and other serious health problems.

Special Military Operation

The conduct of a special military operation (SMO) involves a wide range of military activities. It is about achieving specific, often secret or sensitive objectives. These objectives may include intelligence gathering, counter-terrorism activities, freeing hostages, committing sabotage, as well as carrying out precision strikes or special missions behind enemy lines.

SMOs are carried out by special forces trained in advanced combat techniques. Usually, there is confidentiality. The type of conflict in which they are used can vary. The tasks to be performed in an SMO are often outside the scope of conventional armed forces.

Psychological warfare

It deals with influencing the opponent, manipulating or weakening him without directly using force. It influences the mental state, perception, emotions, motivation, and behavior of adversaries, civilians, or groups to gain a strategic (often military) advantage.

A few tactics of psychological warfare are: propaganda, psychological operations (PSYOPS), demoralization, and dehumanization.

The goal of psychological warfare is often to change the perception of the enemy and to ultimately achieve strategic goals without having to make major military efforts.

Terrorist acts

Terrorism is usually considered to be the use of violence or intimidation to pursue political, religious, or ideological goals. It works by sowing fear and putting pressure on people or governments. Some common forms of terrorism include political terrorism, religious terrorism, ideological terrorism, state terrorism, cyber terrorism, and environmental terrorism.

The most common type of terrorism in Western Europe today is religious-political terrorism. However, this is region-dependent and depends on recent events and changing global dynamics.

Guerrilla warfare

In guerrilla warfare, a weaker force will engage in unconventional tactics such as ambushes, hit-and-run attacks, and sabotage. The goal is often to wage an asymmetric conflict that allows the weaker party to survive in the long term and potentially achieve political and strategic goals. In the eyes of a superior ruler, it is quickly labeled as a form of terrorism.

It can take place in a variety of contexts. They could be anti-colonial movements, uprisings against authoritarian regimes, or a struggle for independence or political change. An example of such guerrilla warfare was the Vietnam War (1955-1975). It was a protracted conflict, and eventually it realized the withdrawal of U.S. troops.

Trade war

The term “trade war” is often used when there is an escalation in trade tensions between countries that have a significant impact on international trade. Countries then compete through trade restrictions, tariffs, import quotas, and economic sanctions. It is often in response to unfavorable business practices or political policies of the other party. It can have a variety of purposes: protection of domestic industries, negotiation tactics, revenge, or retaliation.

Trade wars have a detrimental impact on the global economy. Typically, consumers pay the costs through higher prices for imported goods. In addition, disruption of supply chains is occurring in both countries. It increases tensions between countries.

Cyber warfare

Cyber warfare uses digital means to carry out hostile actions against an adversary’s information systems, (critical) infrastructure (such as electricity grids, water supplies, financial systems, or communication networks) or data. The purpose can range from espionage, sabotage, theft of information, disruption of services…

Some of the characteristics are: cyber attacks, disinformation and propaganda, sabotage of systems, cyber espionage (to find out military secrets or not) … .

Cyber warfare uses state actors (such as governments) and non-state actors. Problems to counter are the anonymity, the complex technology, and the cross-border nature of digital attacks. International cooperation is crucial in this respect.

Information warfare

In an infowar, rival entities compete for control of information, communication channels, and society’s perception of truth. The goal is to influence public opinion to achieve political, social, or strategic goals such as undermining the credibility of opponents.

Characteristics are: disinformation and propaganda, cyber propaganda and manipulation, psychological operations (PsyOps), information control. An example is the constant rewriting of history by the victors of wars or political campaigns. It can also be done by non-state actors, such as political movements or terrorist groups. The goal can be to influence elections, including those of another country. It’s ‘made easy’ by social media.

Climate war

A climate war is a hypothetical concept. It refers to conflicts that occur because of climate change. It is often used as a warning of potential conflicts that may arise because of increasing pressure on resources due to climate change. These conflicts arise from competition for scarce natural resources, such as water, farmland, food, energy resources, and other fundamental elements.

Some aspects include competition for resources, migration and conflicts, regional instability and geopolitical implications.

So far, there have only been examples of conflicts in which environmental and resource issues have played a role, not directly due to climate change itself. This includes access to water, agricultural land, or other essential resources.

Civil war

A civil war is an armed conflict between different groups. It concerns struggles between citizens of that country because of political, ethnic, religious, or ideological disputes.

Some determining factors that contribute to the emergence of a civil war are ethnic and religious tensions, political instability, social inequality, opposing ideologies, or foreign influence.

Some indicators that may indicate an increased risk of civil conflict include increasing tensions and polarization, historical patterns, economic and social inequality, and increasing militant activity.

Hybrid war

In a hybrid war, different tactics, strategies, and resources are combined to carry out a multifaceted attack. It can consist of both conventional military actions and non-military tactics, such as cyberattacks, disinformation, political destabilization, economic pressure, propaganda, and covert operations. The goal is to weaken opponents by attacking him on multiple fronts.

The use of multiple methods can use of proxies or non-state actors. Often, state actors who want to expand their spheres of influence, cause conflicts, or weaken adversaries use this method to the exclusion of conventional warfare.

Finally

There are several types of wars as a crisis. They all have their own causes and work with their own methods. Most of the time, none of them offers a solution to the underlying problem. Because hatred, resentment, and injustice can never be washed away with hatred, resentment, or injustice.

Manu Steens

Manu works at the Flemish Government in risk management and Business Continuity Management. On this website, he shares his own opinions regarding these and related fields. Since 2012, he has been working at the Crisis Centre of the Flemish Government (CCVO), where he has progressed in BCM, risk management, and crisis management. Since August 2021, he has been a knowledge worker for the CCVO. As of January 2024, he works at the Department of Chancellery and Foreign Affairs of the Flemish Government. Here, he combines BCM, risk management, and crisis management to create a tailored form of resilience management to meet the needs of the Flemish Government.

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