War is generally defined as violent conflict between states or nations.
Nations go to war for a variety of reasons. It has been argued that a nation will go to war if the benefits of war are deemed to outweigh the disadvantages, and if there is a sense that there is not another mutually agreeable solution. More specifically, some have argued that wars are fought primarily for economic, religious, and political reasons. Others have claimed that most wars today are fought for ideological reasons.
In the United States, the legal power to declare war is vested in Congress; however, the president is the commander-in-chief of the military, so he or she holds power to conduct a war once it has been declared. In many instances, the president has used military force without declaring war.
** Just War Theory **
In Western tradition, there is a sense that the reasons for war must be just. This idea dates back to ancient times, but is most clearly traced to the writings of St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas. They attempted to justify war, and reconcile it with the Christian belief that taking a human life is wrong.
** Law of War **
Some of the just war theories have been adopted as parts of international agreements and incorporated into the law of war (i.e., international law) that regulates the resort to armed force, the conduct of hostilities, and the protection of war victims.
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