So, after a good deal of pushback and a good deal of thoughtful commentary on my war posts, I think I’ll have to take a step back from my plunder/defense/folly theory of war. I do think that many conflicts can be viewed, at least after the fact, in this fashion. Certainly I still see the Crusades – as they played out, if not their initial motivation – as wars of plunder and conquest. Other conflicts are much harder to judge, the web of actions and motives so tangled.
And really, that is where the classification breaks down the most – in the inspiration for war and the many reasons men feel the need to wage it in the first place. As many have pointed out, these motives are manifold, often too complicated to easily or even accurately classify.
The question I have, then, is what makes a war just? What makes a war worth fighting? And what allows us to clearly judge who is in the right and who is in the wrong? Perhaps we are simply left with the fog of recollection, the many rewrites of history, and no good way of understanding whether a war ought to have been fought, whether it was just, whether the motives of the many different actors involved were noble or wicked. In the end, I think most wars are probably a mixture of all three of my classifications, and perhaps some others as well. But perhaps we should still attempt to see what lies beneath the surface of these conflicts, what direction the power is flowing.