Civil wars and their causes - A detailed description
From ancient history to modern history, the world has witnessed various acts of war that killed scores of people. Ancient and medieval history is brimming with wars between kingdoms and the bloodshed hence caused. Therefore, peace was not a very commonly promoted idea in orthodox times, for it was more about expanding empires. Even in modern history, World War I that went on from 1914 to 1918 killed more than 16 million people. To add, World War II, the awful global war until now, claimed more than 75 million lives, far more than the total troops mobilized in the First World War. It is worth highlighting here that more than 40 million civilians from different nations died in the Second World War. ("Casualties of World War II | History of Western Civilization II," 2020) Besides, wars are always understood by people as acts of aggression between different countries. However, wars are not always transnational as some wars are even fought within a nation and between people of the same nationality. To elaborate, this essay underlines the meaning, causes, and uniqueness of civil wars. Furthermore, a sample essay on the American Civil War creates a more informative perception of civil wars.
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What is a civil war?
After the end of the Second World War in 1945, the United Nations was founded with the core value of peace. This multilateral organization was formed with the objective of promoting and safeguarding global peace. However, somewhere this prestigious organization has not been able to foster peace for various civil wars broke out even after the establishment of the United Nations. Civil war is an act of aggression between groups of people that belong to the same nation. Besides, these groups posed against each other can be on the lines of religion, ethnicity, political leaning, social principles, and so on. In a more definitive sense, a civil war is a violent conflict that breaks out between the state (the government of a given nation) and one or more non-state actors that organize themselves into groups. To substantiate, non-state actors are defined as groups or individuals that are not affiliated with or sponsored by the government in any direct way. ("Non-State Actors", 2020). So, civil wars are very different from wars between two or more nations. In civil wars, aggression is within the civil society between sections of the same diaspora.
To cite an example, the ongoing conflict in Yemen, which has been active since 2014, is the most prominent civil war in contemporary times. The civil war broke out years ago between the Yemeni government and the Houthi rebels. The war has exposed Yemen to an unbelievable humanitarian crisis. According to the United Nations, more than 24 million people in Yemen require humanitarian aid. Moreover, owing to the ongoing civil war between the state and Houthi militants, Yemen’s economy has crashed, and more than 600,000 people have lost their jobs to the war. In fact, in output, Yemen has lost 90 billion USD due to the armed civil conflict prevalent in the nation. ("The United Nations in Yemen," 2020) Yemen has been torn apart by the war, and the majority of the population has been pushed to the brink of deep poverty. This example provides an insight into the large-scale devastation and impoverishment that a civil war can inflict on a country. Thus, wars of all kinds incur heavy damage and trigger carnage. The subsequent section talks about the various possible causes of civil wars.
Causes of civil wars
Different nations have their unique share of political, economic, and social problems that can escalate into war-like scenarios. In most cases, differences in civil societies' various forms translate into conflicts, and these conflicts can further turn violent. In fact, at times, the impacts and trends of globalization can also set off scuffles in the internal matters of a nation. This happens when concepts like liberty and freedom of choice travel from western countries to conservative nations in the Middle East or Asia. To generalize, the common causes of the outbreak of civil wars include the following.
Deprivation of political rights or exploitation of people under oppressive governments often become reasons for violent protests. In fact, most of the civil wars that broke out in history were to challenge colonial and imperial reigns. By means of launching civil wars against the state, protestors sought to liberate their nations from tyrannical kingdoms. Most skirmishes for independence started out as civil wars to garner momentum for uprooting colonial governments. (Civil war - Political causes of civil war, 2020). For instance, the Algerian War of Independence fought between 1954 and 1962 was a civil war to defeat Algeria’s French control.
Thus, when people disagree with their governments or feel agonized under a given government, violent protests become likely. Besides, the existence of different political leanings in civil societies can also sometimes trigger different forms of violence and become a reason for armed conflicts. Also, the exclusion of various religious or ethnic groups from political power can instigate civil wars. Under the apartheid system that discriminated against black people, South Africa has seen a series of such armed conflicts. Moreover, police brutality on the government’s orders to target a section of civil society can also trigger dissent and revolts among people.
Deplorable economic conditions and impoverishment in society or sections of society become common reasons for civil unrest. Instances of civil wars in history suggest that some major conflicts were triggered by economic deprivation and economic exclusion. Besides, the widening gap between the rich and poor of a nation can also take the shape of a violent conflict between the two economic groups. To add, some economists suggested that it is easier to inspire a revolt when people are suffering from low income and economic grievances.
So, it can be said that people are more likely to indulge in a civil war if they see the outcomes of the war benefiting their economic prosperity. Furthermore, American political researchers James Fearon and David Laitin argued that civil wars are fought to challenge the state of weakness. In most cases, weakness is an attribute of the economic condition, according to them, and this establishes a link between low income and the outbreak of civil unrest.
To add, the abundance of natural resources in a country can also hike the risks of civil unrest. This is the case because groups are likely to resort to aggression to control natural resources. To support the argument, most civil wars in the African continent were caused by the bid to take over natural resources.
Social disparity, social exclusion, and other forms of inequality in society can also provoke people to resort to violence. It was seen in the American Civil War that the corrupt social practice of slavery in America became one of the causes of the civil war. So, civil wars can begin against the state with the objective of abolishing discriminatory social practices, including racial abuse.
Moving further, social awakening among groups that makes them realize their rights and privileges can also instigate upheaval in civil societies. This phenomenon of social awakening can give rise to various social movements in a country that challenge the state’s functioning. To substantiate, enlightenment among people to raise their voice against gender discrimination or human trafficking can instigate an uprising. For instance, the Women’s Rights Movement in America became one of the social causes of the American civil war.
Moving further, after analyzing the various causes that can provoke a civil war, the essay looks at the fundamental difference between a civil war and other conflicts. By understanding what makes a civil war different from other armed conflicts, people can learn about civil wars comprehensively.
What makes civil war different from other conflicts?
According to the International Peace Institute, there are several pre-set conditions for a conflict to qualify as a civil war. The criteria for a civil war are centered around the following parameters.
The parties to the dispute must contain the government and should be within the territory of a nation.
It should involve the use of armed forces, and there should be more than 500 deaths due to aggression in any given year of the conflict.
A civil war must involve two or more parties, one being the government and the other warring party being the non-state actors.
So, as the above criteria suggest, to differentiate a civil war from a minor armed conflict, there is a threshold of 500 deaths in a year during the conflict. Also, as per the United Nations Security Council, simultaneous disputes against the government are not counted as separate civil wars. The UN Security Council views all the simultaneous conflicts as part of one civil war so as to have a uniform response.
Moving further, an armed conflict between two different nations is not a civil war, for civil wars are intrastate and not extrastate. Besides, violent aggressions between an occupying power and organized non-state actors is also not a civil war, for it is considered extrastate. To clarify, extrastate conflicts are the ones that are fought between the government of a state and non-state actors outside the nation's territorial boundaries. To cite an example, the conflicts in Gaza are not considered to be part of a civil war, for that is not an intrastate conflict. It is a conflict between Israel and Palestine and not directly a war within a nation.
Therefore, this distinction between a civil war and other armed conflicts determines the United Nations’ intervention. The response of the United Nations depends on the nature of the conflict prevalent in a given nation.
Essay topics for your assignments on history or political science can include wars, global conflicts, and the major civil wars that the world has witnessed. In such a scenario, this sample essay that gives a detailed expression of the American Civil War can serve as a fine example. If you have to complete an important assignment with a tight deadline, you can avail our Instant Assignment Help solutions. We ensure that our communications team is quick to respond and your experience is delightful. On our website, you can also find complete guidance on how to write an assignment so that you can ace every academic task. To add, after reading the following essay, you can also check out our collection of sample essays on important academic topics.
An explicit essay on the American Civil War
Wars of all kinds and magnitudes take heavy tolls on mankind as they leave behind uncountable corpses and beyond repair damages. The American Civil War that broke out in the nineteenth century is the deadliest skirmish in the history of the United States to date. Basically, the American Civil War broke out in 1861, just one year after Abraham Lincoln was elected to the top post of the US President. To add, this war was fought between the northern and the southern states of America on issues of slavery rights, the westward expansion of the US, and rights of the states. In fact, not only is this civil war the most devastating conflict in the history of the United States but also the costliest. To substantiate, the war claimed the lives of more than 640,000 soldiers while millions of others were left brutally injured. Besides, the consequences of this civil war left the regions of Southern America in shatters. It is worth noting that although the war began in 1861, for many years, even before the outbreak of the war, there were simmering tensions between the northern and the southern regions of America. This essay underlines the various developments and causes that led to the American Civil War. After that, the essay throws light on the outcomes of the war and how it overhauled the social, political, and economic environment in America.
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To begin with, there was a wide spectrum of causes that shaped into an armed conflict in America between the northern and the southern states. These causes can be classified into political, social, and economic reasons that ignited the deadly war. Primarily, talking of the political causes, the election of Abraham Lincoln to the post of the US President in 1860 was a major political development that contributed to the escalation of tensions. While Abraham Lincoln won from the North, his arch-rival emerged victorious in the South hence dividing America into two halves into the lines of political differences. To substantiate, with the rise of Abraham Lincoln to power, seven southern states came together to form the Confederates States of America. Further, four more states from the south extended support to this confederate and became a part of it. Moreover, there was a wide range of economic causes and developments that propelled the conflict into an armed rebellion. To elaborate, in the 19th century, there was a large difference between the economic prosperity of the northern states and the southern states. While northern states witnessed rich growth in the manufacturing industry, the economy of the south depended majorly on agriculture. The economy of the southern states was largely dependent on the harvest of cotton, growth of tobacco, and slavery of Black people. Contrary to this, there were rising voices in the north against the practice of slavery. So, there was a growing sentiment in the north about the abolition of slavery, and this idea threatened the economy of the south. To clarify, people of the southern states had apprehensions about their economic welfare, given the idea of eliminating the system of slavery. These concerns led to an outrage in southern states as people felt that the backbone of their economy was endangered.
Probing further, another cause for the outbreak of the civil unrest in America was the tussle between demands for larger states’ rights and federal rights. To explain, some Americans were in favor of more rights for the states, while others argued that more control should rest with the federal government. So, these differences in ideology contributed to the hostile sentiments between the southern and northern states. When no solutions could be found to these differences of opinion and when the federal government denied certain rights to the states, the southern states felt disrespected and moved towards secession. Moreover, the Abolitionist Movement, largely helmed by the northern states, launched a massive social campaign against enslavers and the practice of enslavement. People in North America were of the opinion that slavery is a social as well as a moral evil, and much to the dislike of the southern states, they vehemently opposed slavery. As mentioned above, because slavery was a key contributor to the economic prosperity of southern states, this deepened the conflict between the north and south. This is how various differences between southern and the northern states translated into bloodshed between the Confederates and the Union. (Understanding the 4 Main Issues That Led to the American Civil War, 2020) While Confederates represented the unity of the southern states, the Union of the Federal government largely represented the interests of the northern states.
Subsequently, the First Battle of Bull Run broke out on July 21, 1861. In this skirmish, more than 35000 Confederate Soldiers confronted Union soldiers and made them retreat towards Washington DC. This provoked Abraham Lincoln to call for the recruitment of 500,000 more soldiers. This battle was followed by deadly battles in the subsequent years, and the prominent ones among them were the Battle of Virginia, The Second Battle of Bull Run, and the Battle of Antietam. It is crucial to note that in 1863, Lincoln issued a preliminary Emancipation Proclamation after the victory of the Union forces in Antietam. The proclamation announced that all the enslaved people in the rebellious state were to be freed after January 1, 1863. This proved to be a political masterstroke as it included the global perception towards the Union and also deprived the Confederacy of a large number of its slaves and labor class workers. After the announcement of this proclamation, around 186,000 black soldiers joined the Union forces. Then in 1864, Abraham Lincoln made Ulysses Grant the supreme commander of the Union forces to replace Halleck. Under the command of Ulysses Grant, the Union forces pursued the strategy of attrition despite suffering heavy casualties in different battles. Besides, Abraham Lincoln put William Tecumseh Sherman in control in the west. Sherman’s men went on to capture Atlanta by September 1864 and then went on to capture Savanah in December. Furthermore, the Union forces under Sherman also won Columbia, Charleston, and South Carolina. To add, by 1865, William Sherman had gained control of Raleigh, Bentonville, Goldsboro, and Fayetteville. Rendered weak and exhausted by the resistance and might of the Union forces, the Confederates surrendered to Grant on April 9. However, on the eve of this victory, Abraham Lincoln was assassinated by a Confederate sympathizer, John Wilkes Booth, on April 14, 1865. This was a massive loss for the Union forces as they lost their top leader right after the surrender of the Confederacy. Finally, the civil war ended on April 26 when Sherman accepted the surrender of Confederate General Joseph Johnston at Durham Station, North Carolina.
To conclude, the deadly battle between the Confederate forces and the Union forces marks a dark era in the history of America. Because scores of people were killed in this civil war that lasted for four years, it is always going to be recalled as a set of unfortunate events. However, despite the bloodshed, the civil war resulted in the liberation of more than four million enslaved Americans. Besides, as an outcome of the war, industrialization emerged at a massive scale in the southern states, which were majorly driven by agriculture before the outbreak of the civil war. However, in the course of this war, America lost its President, who was assassinated by a harmonizer of the Confederacy. At last, the war may have changed America for the better, but the price paid was hefty. Although millions of people were freed from slavery as a ramification of this war, the deadly clashes claimed millions of lives as well. The fact remains, war is never the solution but a monstrous problem in itself.
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To encapsulate, civil wars are not wars that are fought between nations but are rather fought within the state. Usually, as per the generally accepted definition, the warring parties include the government and the non-state actors that oppose the government and challenge the rule of law. Besides, history is loaded with events of civil wars that were instigated by several political, social, and economic reasons. If the general perspective is viewed, civil wars arise from economic or political exclusion of sections of society or economic grievances of the oppressed groups. Poor economic conditions and low income among people can trigger the notion of launching civil unrest with the objective of achieving better economic conditions. Also, there may be other discriminatory social practices that can align the non-state actors against the elected or authoritarian governments. At last, it is very imperative that people understand how to distinguish between a civil war and a minor armed conflict.
Suggested further readings
Non-State Actors. (2020). Retrieved 12 December 2020, from https://www.escr-net.org/resources/non-state-actors#:~:text=...&text=Non%2Dstate%20actors%20include%20organizations,paramilitary%20and%20armed%20resistance%20group
Casualties of World War II | History of Western Civilization II. (2020). Retrieved 12 December 2020, from https://courses.lumenlearning.com/suny-hccc-worldhistory2/chapter/casualties-of-world-war-ii/#:~:text=Some%2075%20million%20people%20died,bombings%2C%20disease%2C%20and%20starvation.
The United Nations in Yemen. (2020). Retrieved 12 December 2020, from https://yemen.un.org/en/about/about-the-un
Encyclopedia Britannica. 2020. Civil War - Political Causes Of Civil War. [online] Available at: https: civil-war political-causes-of-civil-war topic www.britannica.com [Accessed 14 December 2020].
ThoughtCo. 2020. Understanding The 4 Main Issues That Led To The American Civil War. [online] Available at: https: top-causes-of-the-civil-war-104532 www.thoughtco.com [Accessed 14 December 2020].