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Analysis of Tim O’Brien’s How to Tell a True War Story

By NASRULLAH MAMBROL on May 25, 2021

Tim O’Brien’s “How to Tell a True War Story” is an often-anthologized metafictional short story that provides, among many surprises, an important literary representation of the Vietnam War and the trauma it inflicted upon individuals. The story is part commentary on the nature of truth in storytelling and part illumination on the character’s experiences in war. In fact, the narration is divided into 15 sections that range from commenting on how a war story ought to be told to the story itself. In one sense, O’Brien appears to be experimenting with Postmodernism through the deconstruction of his tale, which bears witness to the death of a comrade into so many fragmentary episodes, some that repeat particular details. In another sense, O’Brien is commenting on the traumatic impact war has upon those who survive it. In fact, O’Brien’s narrator explains that “a war story is never moral” (68) but that “you can tell a true war story by its absolute and uncompromising allegiance to obscenity and evil” (69).

Although the criticism of O’Brien’s story ranges from canonization to cautious reverence, many scholars agree that he uses metafiction effectively, and his depiction of trauma is a central theme. Catherine Calloway lauds O’Brien’s use of metafiction in which form “perfectly embodies its theme” (255). This linkage of form and theme is also praised by Daniel Robinson, who declares that O’Brien’s “truths lie as much in the fragmented, impressionistic stories he tells as in the narrative technique he chooses for the telling” (257). Heberele goes one step further in specifying how the theme and form unite as a “brilliant representation of trauma writing,” in which the 14 sections of the story raise awareness of “the validity of fiction and its relationship to trauma” (187).

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Tim O’Brien/Wikimedia

O’Brien uses metafiction as a device to fragment the trauma that his narrator experienced during his service in Vietnam. The narrator/protagonist seeks to fragment, hide, and tell his story only in piecemeal fashion. The narrator is traumatized by essentially witnessing the death of Curt Lemon and by being involved in the cleanup of the body parts. This story finds a central metaphor in the blown-up body parts of the deceased soldier, Curt Lemon, hanging from a tree that the narrator has to climb to retrieve it. Like the fragmented body of Lemon, the narrator’s story is broken into parts consisting of story and commentary as representative of his trauma. He tells the story of Lemon’s death four times, and it is this retelling, in various ways, that reflects an attempt by the narrator to reveal, however slyly, his own inexpressible traumatic reaction.

The commentary about the episode seems as important as the episode itself, as if O’Brien’s goal here is to recreate the sense of disbelief that accompanies shocking events. For example, the narrator laments, “When a guy dies, like Curt Lemon, you look away and then look back for a moment and then look away again” (71). The narrator is so traumatized that in his telling of the episode the first time, he seeks to find a description of the episode that will allow him an acceptable way to remember the horror. He describes the death as “almost beautiful, the way the sunlight came around him and lifted him up and sucked him high into a tree full of moss and vines and white blossoms” (70). There are no gory details on this first telling. The next time he tries to tell the story in a journalistic manner by keeping to facts: “Curt Lemon stepped on a booby-trapped 105 round. He was playing catch with Rat Kiley, laughing, and then he was dead. The trees were thick; it took nearly an hour to cut an LZ for the dustoff” (78). Up to that point in the narrative, O’Brien describes the death scene but never with as much vigor and detail as he describes Rat Kiley’s vengeful butchering of a water buffalo. Then, as if the detailing of the water buffalo’s destruction has freed him to render gore more fully, the narrator’s third description of the episode includes more details:

Then he [Lemon] took a peculiar half step, moving from shade into bright sunlight, and the booby-trapped 105 round blew him into a tree. The parts were just hanging there, so Dave Jensen and I were ordered to shinny up and peel him off. I remember the white bone of an arm. I remember pieces of skin and something wet and yellow that must’ve been the intestines. (83)

Yet the narrator claims it is not the gore that wakes him up 20 years later, but instead it is the memory of Jensen singing “ ‘Lemon Tree’ as we threw down the parts” (83). O’Brien’s telling of the scene will not end on the graphic reality of the episode. His fourth description finally openly merges memory with incident as he begins, “Twenty years later, I can still see the sunlight on Lemon’s face” (84). He attempts once again to make sense of the scene while describing it, curiously aware of his own artifice by saying,

But if I could ever get the story right, how the sun seemed to gather around him and pick him up and lift him high into a tree, if I could somehow re-create the fatal whiteness of that light, the quick glare, the obvious cause and effect, then you would believe the last thing Curt Lemon believed, which for him must’ve been the final truth. (84)

By ending with this description, O’Brien’s narrator connects the traumatic incident with the mysteries of human thoughts and emotions. O’Brien is healing trauma with story. Is it finally more important to accept the impossibility of knowing a dead man’s thoughts than to accept the memory’s unreliability in rendering specific physical details? By clearly denouncing the mimetic fallacy, O’Brien is offering a revision of Vietnam War stories that pivot on the mechanism of artifice—not reality.

O’Brien’s story foregrounds the structure as metafiction, and yet that same structure is found to replicate the central metaphor and theme of trauma. O’Brien’s story is a powerful reminder of how fiction writing comes down to the choices a writer makes and how those choices shape the reader’s experience.

BIBLIOGRAPHY Calloway, Catherine. “ ‘How to Tell a True War Story’: Metafiction in ‘The Things They Carried.’ ” Critique 36, no. 4 (1995): 249–257. Heberle, Mark A. A Trauma Artist: Tim O’Brien and the Fiction of Vietnam. Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 2001. O’Brien, Tim. “How to Tell a True War Story.” In The Things They Carried. Boston: Houghton Miffl in, 1990. Robinson, Daniel. “Getting It Right: The Short Fiction of Tim O’Brien.” Critique 40, no. 3 (1999): 257–264. Smith, Lorrie N. “ ‘The Things Men Do’: The Gendered Subtext in Tim O’Brien’s Esquire Stories.” Critique 36, no. 1 (1994): 16–40. Tal, Kali. “The Mind at War: Images of Women in Vietnam Novels by Combat Veterans.” Contemporary Literature 21, no. 1 (1990): 76–96.

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Vietnam War: 6 personal essays describe the sting of a tragic conflict

The Vietnam War touched millions of lives. Within these personal essays from people who took part in the filming of The Vietnam War , are lessons about what happened, what it meant then and what we can learn from it now.

Long ago and far away, we fought a war in which more than 58,000 Americans died and hundreds of thousands of others were wounded. The war meant death for an estimated 3 million Vietnamese, North and South. The fighting dragged on for almost a decade, polarizing the American people, dividing the country and creating distrust of our government that remains with us today.

In one way or another, Vietnam has overshadowed every national security decision since.

We were told that our mission was to prevent South Vietnam from falling to communism. Very lofty. But the men I led as a young infantry platoon leader and later as a company commander weren’t fighting for that mission. Mostly draftees, they were terrific soldiers. They were fighting, I realized, for each other — to simply survive their year in-country and go home.

I had grown up as an “Army brat.” To me, the Army was like a second family. In Vietnam, the radio code word for our division’s infantry companies was family . A “rucksack outfit,” my company would disappear into the jungle, moving quietly, staying in the field for weeks. We all ate the same rations and endured the same heat, humidity, mosquitoes, leeches, skin rashes, jungle itch. We were like pack animals, carrying upwards of 60 pounds of gear, water, ammunition — and even more for the radio operators and machine gunners. I was impressed by how the men endured it all, especially the draftees who had answered the call to service.

I learned much about leadership. I was once counseled by a senior officer “not to be too worried about your men.” Incredible. I was concerned about my men’s safety at all times. Even though my company lost very few, I remember each of those deaths vividly. They were all good men, in a war very few understood.

On both of my combat tours, in 1968 at Huê´ during the Tet Offensive and in 1969-70 in the triple-canopy rainforests along the Cambodian border, we fought soldiers of the North Vietnamese army. They were good light infantry; I had respect for their determination and abilities. But they were the enemy; our job was to kill or capture them.

Though we were conducting a war of attrition, we were actually fighting the enemy’s birth rate. He was prepared and determined to keep fighting as long as he had the manpower to send south.

In terms of strategy, it seemed a war out of “Alice in Wonderland.” The Ho Chi Minh Trail, the enemy’s major supply line and infiltration route, ran through Cambodia and Laos. Yet until May 1970, both of those countries were off limits to U.S. ground forces. We bombed the trail incessantly, but the enemy’s ability to move troops and equipment south never seemed to slack. We never invaded North Vietnam. As demonstrated during Tet in ’68, the enemy could control the tempo of the war when he wished. We, on the other hand, would use unilaterally declared “truce” periods and would halt bombing to signal something never clearly defined — a willingness to talk, I imagined, which the enemy ignored.

Looking back, if our strategy was intended to force the enemy to say “enough,” resulting in a stalemate situation like that at the end of the Korean War, would the South Vietnamese have been able to defend themselves, independently? Unlikely.

Would the U.S. have been willing to commit and maintain American forces in South Vietnam indefinitely? Also unlikely.

Did we learn anything from that experience, which left such an indelible mark on our national psyche? History is a harsh teacher; there are still no easy answers.

Phil Gioia entered the Army after graduating from Virginia Military Institute in 1967. He left the military in 1977 and later was mayor in Corte Madera, Calif., and worked in venture capital and the technology industry. He lives in Marin County, Calif.

Hal Kushner

When I deployed to Vietnam in August 1967, I was a young Army doctor, married five years, with a 3-year-old daughter, just potty trained, and another child due the following April. When I returned from Vietnam in late March 1973, I saw my 5-year-old son for the first time, and my daughter was in the fifth grade. In the interim, we had landed on the moon; there was women’s lib, Nixon had gone to China; Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert Kennedy had been assassinated.

I was the only doctor captured in the 10-year Vietnam War. I was back from the dead.

We prisoners endured unspeakable horror, brutality and deprivation, and we saw and experienced things no human should ever witness. Our mortality rate was almost 50% — higher even than at the brutal Civil War prisons at Andersonville or Elmira a century earlier. I cradled 10 dying men in my arms as they breathed their last and spoke of home and family; then we buried them in crude graves, marked with stones and bamboo, and eulogized them with words of sunshine and hope, country and family. The eulogies were for the survivors, of course; they always are.

On the Fourth of July in five successive years, we sang patriotic songs, but very softly, so our captors couldn’t hear the forbidden words, and we cried. One of us had a missal issued by the Marine Corps, our only book, but our captors had torn out the pages with the American flag and The Star-Spangled Banner .

At my release in Hanoi, I was shocked by the hair and dress of the reporters there. Once home, I saw television and movies with frank profanity and sex. When I left, Lucy and Desi slept in twin beds. I left Ozzie and Harriett and returned to Taxi Driver . What had happened to my country? Why did we suffer and sacrifice?

When my aircraft crashed on Nov. 30, 1967, I collided with one planet and returned to another. The Vietnam War, which had about one-fifth of the casualties of World War II but had lasted three times as long, had changed the country as much as the greatest cataclysm in world history. It had changed forever the way we think of our government and ourselves. The country had lost its innocence — and, for a time, its confidence.

This war, which had such a great impact on my life, is a dim memory today. There are 58,000 names on that wall, and it rates but a few pages in a high school history book.

I am dismayed by how little our young people know about Vietnam, and how misunderstood it is by others. The Vietnam War is as remote to them as the War of 1812 or the War of Jenkins’ Ear. Now, 40 years later, we must try to understand.

Hal  Kushner joined the Army and served as a flight surgeon in Vietnam. In 1967, he was captured by the Viet Cong after surviving a helicopter crash. He spent nearly six years as a prisoner of war. He lives in Daytona Beach, Fla.

Mai Elliott

Having lived through war and seen what it did to my family and to millions of Vietnamese, I feel grateful for the peace and stability I now enjoy in the United States.

In Vietnam, my family and I experienced what it was like to be caught in bombing and fighting, and what it was like to flee our home and survive as refugees.

During World War II, in my childhood, we huddled in shelters as Allied planes targeting Japanese positions bombed the town in the North where we lived.

In 1946, when French troops returned to try to take Vietnam back from Ho Chi Minh’s government, French soldiers attacking the village where we were taking refuge almost executed my father (who had earlier worked for the French colonial authorities).

In 1954, fearing reprisals from the communists about to enter Hanoi, we fled to Saigon with only the clothes on our backs.

In 1955, we fled again when we found ourselves caught in the fighting between the army of President Ngo Dinh Diem and the armed group he was trying to eliminate, leaving behind our home, which was about to burn to the ground in the onslaught.

In April 1975, American helicopters plucked my family out of Saigon at the last minute as communist rockets exploded nearby.

The fear we felt paled in comparison to the terror that Vietnamese in the countryside of South Vietnam experienced when bombs and artillery shells landed in their villages, or when American and South Vietnamese soldiers swept through their hamlets; or the terror my relatives in North Vietnam felt when American B-52s carpet bombed in December 1972. Yet, our brushes with war were terrifying enough.

As refugees, we could find shelter and support from middle-class friends and relatives, while destitute peasants had to move to squalid camps and depend on meager handouts and help from the government in Saigon. But we did find out, as they did, that losing everything was psychologically wrenching, and that surviving and rebuilding took fortitude of spirit.

Only those who have known war can truly appreciate peace. I am one of those people.

Mai Elliott was born in Vietnam and spent her childhood in Hanoi, where her father was a high-ranking official under the French colonial regime. Her family became divided when her older sister joined the Viet Minh resistance against French rule. In 1954, her family fled to Saigon, where Mai later did research on the Viet Cong insurgency for the RAND Corp. during the Vietnam War. She is married to American political scientist David Elliott. They live in Southern California.

Bill Zimmerman

I graduated from high school in 1958, thinking myself a patriot and aspiring to be a military pilot. Thirteen years later, I sat in a jail cell in Washington, D.C., after protesting what military pilots were doing in the skies over Vietnam.

My patriotism wilted in the South in 1963, after a short stint with the civil rights movement. Simultaneously, as the U.S. slid into war in Vietnam, skepticism nurtured in Mississippi led me to discover that we were stumbling into a quagmire.

The war escalated in 1965, and I became an ardent protester over the next six years. I was fired from two university teaching positions. But my sacrifices were trivial compared with those of young Americans forced into war, or Vietnamese civilians dying under bombs and napalm. With other antiwar activists, I anguished over them all, and seethed with rage at our inability to stop the killing. In our fury, we became more forceful, committing widespread civil disobedience.

That’s how I landed in jail in 1971, trying unsuccessfully to block traffic to shut down the federal government. But our failure that day became a turning point. Antiwar leaders realized that while we had finally convinced a majority of Americans to oppose the war, our militant tactics kept them from joining us.

We changed course. Large demonstrations ended. New organizations sprang up to educate the public and lobby Congress. The work was confrontational but did not ask participants to risk arrest. Millions took part. Richard Nixon escalated the war, but he also felt the heat from a much broader antiwar coalition. In January 1973, his administration signed the Paris Peace Accords, and over the next two years, our intense lobbying persuaded Congress to cut funding for the corrupt South Vietnamese government, leading to its collapse in 1975.

We learned that in matters of war and peace, presidents regularly lie to the American people. Every president from Truman to Ford lied about Vietnam. We learned that two presidents, Johnson and Nixon, cared more about their own political survival than the lives of the men under their command. Both sent thousands of Americans to die in a war they already knew could not be won.

We learned that our government committed crimes against humanity. Agent Orange and other chemicals were sprayed on millions of acres, leaving a legacy of cancer and birth defects.

Most important, Vietnam taught us to reject blind loyalty and to fight back. In doing so, we meet our obligation as citizens … and become patriots.

Bill Zimmerman is a Los Angeles political consultant and the author of Troublemaker: A Memoir from the Front Lines of the Sixties (Anchor Books, 2012).

Roger Harris

When I think about the Vietnam War, I am torn by personal emotions that range from anger and sadness to hope. The Vietnam War experience scarred me but also shaped and molded my perspective on life.

As a 19-year-old African American from the Roxbury section of Boston, I voluntarily joined the U.S. Marine Corps, willing to fight and die for my country. I had experienced the tough neighborhood turf battles too often prevalent in the inner city. I had a gladiator’s heart and no fear. My father, all of my uncles, including a grand-uncle who rode with Teddy Roosevelt, all served in the military. I believed that it was now my turn, and if I were to die, my mom would receive a $10,000 death benefit and be able to purchase a house. I saw the war in Vietnam as a win-win situation.

In Vietnam, I served with G Company, 2nd Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment of the 3rd Marine Division. We were called the “Hell in a Helmet” Marines. We operated in I Corps, Quang Tri Province, mainly north of Dong Ha at the Demilitarized Zone, in hot spots called Con Thien, Gio Linh, Camp Carroll and Cam Lo. I vividly remember trembling with fear from the incoming shells in the mud-filled holes at Con Thien, wishing the shelling would stop and we could fight hand-to-hand. I remember those feelings like it was yesterday.

I, along with others, witnessed deaths unimaginable. We picked up the pieces of Marine bodies obliterated by direct hits. We stacked green body bags. I often wondered why others died and I lived.

I become angry when I think about the very young lives that were lost in Vietnam and the Gold Star families who have suffered. I am saddened by the sacrifices of true heroes and the disrespect that was shown to those who were fortunate enough to come home.

When I returned from Vietnam it was March 1968 in the midst of the civil rights movement. I landed at Boston’s Logan Airport in my Marine Corps Alpha Green uniform, with the medals and ribbons I had earned proudly displayed. I approached the sidewalk to catch a taxi, hoping that I wasn’t dreaming and would not awaken back at Camp Carroll to another bombardment.

Six taxicabs passed me by and drove off. I didn’t realize what was happening until the state trooper stepped in and told the next driver, “You have got to take this soldier.” The driver, who was white, looked up at us through the passenger side window and said, “I don’t want to go to Roxbury.”

That was my initial welcome home.

I now have an appreciation for the gift of life. Since returning home and completing college, I have devoted 42 years working in Boston schools. I see it as a tribute to my fellow Marines who paid the ultimate sacrifice.

I am very proud to have served my country as a United States Marine.

I am also very proud of the young men and women who continue to volunteer to join the armed services of our country.

Roger  Harris enlisted in the Marines and served in Vietnam in 1967 and 1968. Afterward, he worked in the Boston public school system for more than 40 years. He lives in New York and Boston.

Eva Jefferson Paterson

This summer, I attended the 50th reunion of my high school class in Mascoutah, Ill., across the Mississippi River from St. Louis. My dad was a career Air Force man and was stationed at Scott Air Force Base nearby in 1960.

During dinner, before we rocked out to the Beach Boys and Stevie Wonder, a group of us talked about the war in Vietnam. The men remembered the draft system that required all young men to register to serve in the military. While I was in college at Northwestern from 1967 to 1971, a draft lottery was established. Numbers were drawn out of a big bin — similar to the one used for weekly state lotteries — corresponding to the days of the year. If your birthday corresponded to the first number drawn, your draft number was 1, and you were virtually certain to be drafted and sent to war. Most men from that period remember their number.

Some at our reunion had felt that it was their patriotic duty to serve; others were just delighted that their lottery numbers were above 300 and they were unlikely to be drafted. Few of us were anti-war at that time; I fully supported the war. My dad was sent to Cam Rahn Bay and Tan Son Nhut air force bases in Vietnam in 1966, my senior year in high school.

I remember being a freshman in college and actually saying to classmates who opposed to the war, “We have to support the war because the president says the war is good, and we must support the president.” Yikes! I changed my views as I got the facts.

Much of the fervor of the anti-war movement was fueled by the slogan “Hell no, we won’t go!” There was righteous indignation about the war, but fear was a strong motivator.

Now the burden of serving in wars falls on a very small percentage of the population, one that likely mirrors the patterns in the Vietnam era, with predominantly poor white, black and Latino men and women along with those who come from military backgrounds. It would be great to have a national discussion about this, but I fear our country is quite comfortable letting poor men and women and people of color and their families bear the burden of war.

Eva  Jefferson  Paterson grew up on air force bases and enrolled in Northwestern University in 1967, where she became student body president and politically active against the war. A civil rights attorney, she now runs the Equal Justice Society in Northern California.

U.S. general on Vietnam War: ‘This was some enemy’

Vietnam War: A timeline of U.S. entanglement

war story essay

The Things They Carried

Tim o’brien, ask litcharts ai: the answer to your questions.

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Friday, january 22, 2016, writing a war story.

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This Collection Of Short Stories Captures The Truth About War Better Than Nonfiction

People sometimes assume that the best war stories are fact based. Logic tells us that truth is more authentic than...

By Diana Moga | Published Jan 11, 2017 8:42 PM EST

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People sometimes assume that the best war stories are fact based. Logic tells us that truth is more authentic than fiction. But Adrian Bonenberger and Brian Castner challenge that assumption in a new anthology of short story fiction, “ The Road Ahead: Stories of the Forever War. ”

In one story, “Blake’s Girl” by Eric Nelson, the main character, Dave, wrestles with his stifling grief and guilt because his best friend Blake died in combat, and he’s in love with Blake’s girlfriend, Amy. Nelson capturesthe bizarre alternate reality of experiencing loss in combat in one crushing line. “It was as if Blake died in the dream, but when they woke up he was really dead.”

The literary portraits of the post-9/11 war that Bonenberger and Castner have compiled feel authentic, gritty, tragic, and real. Though at least nominally fiction, you can imagine that the hardships in these stories may have actually happened to someone, somewhere. The stories live up to a curious characteristic of fiction: that sometimes the imagined trials of the human condition contain more truth than the Truth.

The range of war related experiences in the stories is both broad and specific. From Alex Horton’s “Small Kill Team” about a soldier anxious for his first kill, to Brandon Caro’s “The Morgan House” about an overzealous captain at a soldier rehabilitation home, the narrative themes are universal — even for those who have never served. Any career-minded person can understand wanting a promotion — even if, as in Elliot Ackerman’s story, “Two Grenades,” promotion hangs on the brutal criteria of whether the person has seen combat or not.

Related: Overpaid, Oversexed And Over The Military: A Review Of ‘War Virgin’ »

Among the strongest pieces is Nate Bethea’s “Funeral Conversation,” in which a platoon is ordered on a 24-hour mission in search of a kidnapped soldier through Taliban-controlled terrain. Bethea takes the reader into the wasteland where the soldiers encounter pestilence, disease, maggots, and misery. The story is dense but dynamic. Bethea’s style of short statement descriptions gives the reader time to process the lurid details of the scene. Things come to a head when higher headquarters orders a battle damage assessment and the soldiers must talk to the village survivors of their platoon’s deadly mortar attack.

The authors’ own stories, “American Fapper” and “The Wild Hunt” — and others such as “Bleeder” by Matthew Robinson — stand out among the rest. The narratives not only tell a good story, but also say something bigger about the Generation X and Millennial warrior.

But the anthology has shortcomings, too. In some stories, the plots don’t add up and seem virtually non existent.

Lauren Kay Halloran’s “Operation Slut” and a handful of other female-centered stories portray the strange, often awkward space military women occupy among their male peers with authenticity; a space that lies somewhere between inconspicuous service member and member of the opposite sex. But among these, only a certain type of female service member is portrayed: One who is young and without children. Sexuality features prominently. Women dealing with issues around maternity or physical weakness as compared to men — with aspects unique to women in the military — do not feature at all.

Nevertheless, this is an important book. As the editors point out in the preface, never in our history has a force been so educated. I would also add that never in our history has a war on this scale been fought by so small a portion of the population. It’s possible — likely even — that these pages from a handful of writers will come to define the warrior perspective for this generation. For that reason, this book is relevant. Its stories are tragic, moving, violent, and devastating, but not always in the ways one expects. It’s enough to enlighten those most insulated from the war.

“ The Road Ahead: Stories of the Forever War ” ( Pegasus Books, 2017) became available for purchase Jan. 10, 2017.

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Essays About War: Top 5 Examples and 5 Prompts

War is atrocious and there is an almost universal rule that we should be prevented; if you are writing essays about war, read our helpful guide.

Throughout history, war has driven human progress. It has led to the dissolution of oppressive regimes and the founding of new democratic countries. There is no doubt that the world would not be as it is without the many wars waged in the past.

War is waged to achieve a nation or organization’s goals, but what is the actual cost of progress? War has taken, and continues to take, countless lives. It is and is very costly in terms of resources as well. From the American Revolution to World Wars I and II to the Crusades and Hundred Years’ War of antiquity, wars throughout history have been bloody, brutal, and disastrous. 

If you are writing essays about war, look at our top essay examples below.

1. War Is Not Part of Human Nature by R. Brian Ferguson

2. essay on war and peace (author unknown), 3. the impacts of war on global health by sarah moore.

  • 4.  The Psychosocial Impacts of War and Armed Conflict on Children by Iman Farajallah, Omar Reda, H. Steven Moffic, John R. Peteet, and Ahmed Hankir

5. ​​Is war a pre-requisite for peace? by Anna Cleary

5 prompts for essays about war, 1. is war justified, 2. why do countries go to war, 3. the effects of war, 4. moral and ethical issues concerning war, 5. reflecting on a historical war.

“Debate over war and human nature will not soon be resolved. The idea that intensive, high-casualty violence was ubiquitous throughout prehistory has many backers. It has cultural resonance for those who are sure that we as a species naturally tilt toward war. As my mother would say: “Just look at history!” But doves have the upper hand when all the evidence is considered. Broadly, early finds provide little if any evidence suggesting war was a fact of life.”

Ferguson disputes the popular belief that war is inherent to human nature, as evidenced by archaeological discoveries. Many archaeologists use the very same evidence to support the opposing view. Evidence reveals many instances where war was waged, but not fought. In the minds of Ferguson and many others, humanity may be predisposed to conflict and violence, but not war, as many believe. 

“It also appears that if peace were to continue for a long period, people would become sick of the monotony of life and would seek war for a changed man is a highly dynamic creature and it seems that he cannot remain contented merely with works of peace-the cultivation of arts, the development of material comforts, the extension of knowledge, the means and appliances of a happy life.”

This essay provides an interesting perspective on war; other than the typical motivations for war, such as the desire to achieve one’s goals; the author writes that war disrupts the monotony of peace and gives participants a sense of excitement and uncertainty. In addition, it instills the spirit of heroism and bravery in people. However, the author does not dispute that war is evil and should be avoided as much as possible. 

“War forces people to flee their homes in search of safety, with the latest figures from the UN estimating that around 70 million people are currently displaced due to war. This displacement can be incredibly detrimental to health, with no safe and consistent place to sleep, wash, and shelter from the elements. It also removes a regular source of food and proper nutrition. As well as impacting physical health, war adversely affects the mental health of both those actively involved in conflict and civilians.”

Moore discusses the side effects that war has on civilians. For example, it diverts resources used on poverty alleviation and infrastructure towards fighting. It also displaces civilians when their homes are destroyed, reduces access to food, water, and sanitation, and can significantly impact mental health, among many other effects. 

4.   The Psychosocial Impacts of War and Armed Conflict on Children by Iman Farajallah, Omar Reda, H. Steven Moffic, John R. Peteet, and Ahmed Hankir

“The damage done by war-related trauma can never be undone. We can, however, help reduce its long-term impacts, which can span generations. When we reach within ourselves to discover our humanity, it allows us to reach out to the innocent children and remind them of their resilience and beauty. Trauma can make or break us as individuals, families, and communities.”

In their essay, the authors explain how war can affect children. Children living in war-torn areas expectedly witness a lot of violence, including the killings of their loved ones. This may lead to the inability to sleep properly, difficulty performing daily functions, and a speech impediment. The authors write that trauma cannot be undone and can ruin a child’s life.  

“The sociologist Charles Tilly has argued that war and the nation state are inextricably linked. War has been crucial for the formation of the nation state, and remains crucial for its continuation. Anthony Giddens similarly views a link between the internal pacification of states and their external violence. It may be that, if we want a durable peace, a peace built on something other than war, we need to consider how to construct societies based on something other than the nation state and its monopoly of violence.”

This essay discusses the irony that war is waged to achieve peace. Many justify war and believe it is inevitable, as the world seems to balance out an era of peace with another war. However, others advocate for total pacifism. Even in relatively peaceful times, organizations and countries have been carrying out “shadow wars” or engaging in conflict without necessarily going into outright war. Cleary cites arguments made that for peace to indeed exist by itself, societies must not be built on the war in the first place. 

Many believe that war is justified by providing a means to peace and prosperity. Do you agree with this statement? If so, to what extent? What would you consider “too much” for war to be unjustified? In your essay, respond to these questions and reflect on the nature and morality of war. 

Wars throughout history have been waged for various reasons, including geographical domination, and disagreement over cultural and religious beliefs. In your essay, discuss some of the reasons different countries go to war, you can look into the belief systems that cause disagreements, oppression of people, and leaders’ desire to conquer geographical land. For an interesting essay, look to history and the reasons why major wars such as WWI and WWII occurred.

Essays about war: The effects of war

In this essay, you can write about war’s effects on participating countries. You can focus on the impact of war on specific sectors, such as healthcare or the economy. In your mind, do they outweigh the benefits? Discuss the positive and negative effects of war in your essay. To create an argumentative essay, you can pick a stance if you are for or against war. Then, argue your case and show how its effects are positive, negative, or both.

Many issues arise when waging war, such as the treatment of civilians as “collateral damage,” keeping secrets from the public, and torturing prisoners. For your essay, choose an issue that may arise when fighting a war and determine whether or not it is genuinely “unforgivable” or “unacceptable.” Are there instances where it is justified? Be sure to examples where this issue has arisen before.

Humans have fought countless wars throughout history. Choose one significant war and briefly explain its causes, major events, and effects. Conduct thorough research into the period of war and the political, social, and economic effects occurred. Discuss these points for a compelling cause and effect essay.

For help with this topic, read our guide explaining “what is persuasive writing ?”If you still need help, our guide to grammar and punctuation explains more.

war story essay

Martin is an avid writer specializing in editing and proofreading. He also enjoys literary analysis and writing about food and travel.

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War Stories

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47 pages • 1 hour read

A modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, SuperSummary offers high-quality Study Guides with detailed chapter summaries and analysis of major themes, characters, and more.

Chapter Summaries & Analyses

Chapters 1-13

Chapters 14-22

Chapter 23-Epilogue

Character Analysis

Symbols & Motifs

Important Quotes

Essay Topics

Discussion Questions

Summary and Study Guide

War Stories (July 2020) is a standalone novel by Canadian-American children’s author Gordon Korman. Korman began writing as a teenager and sold his first book when he was a high school freshman. In a career that spans four decades, he has penned numerous middle grade and teen novels. His works have sold 35 million copies worldwide, and his 39 Clues series has reached #1 on the New York Times bestseller list. Korman has also received multiple reader’s choice and best book awards from various organizations during his long career. His Masterminds Trilogy has been optioned for film. Titles include Masterminds (2015), Masterminds: Criminal Destiny (2016), and Masterminds: Payback (2017). Other titles of note include The Unteachables (2019), Ungifted (2012), and Supergifted (2018).

War Stories was inspired by the experiences of Korman’s own grandfather during World War II. It falls under the categories of Children’s Historical Action & Adventure and Children’s Military Fiction. The book is intended for readers aged 8 to 12 in third to seventh grade.

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This guide is based on the Scholastic Press 2020 Kindle edition of the novel.

Content Warning : The book covers many battles of World War II from the grim perspective of a soldier who lived through the conflict. Consequently, the focus on wartime death and destruction may be too intense for very young readers.

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Plot Summary

The novel details the wartime experiences of Jacob Firestone and is told from the perspective of Jacob as a 93-year-old veteran in 2020 and as a 17-year-old soldier serving in the army from 1943 to 1945. Since the story retraces Jacob’s footsteps during the war, it is set in multiple locations, including Connecticut, Georgia, England, and France. The story is told using a limited third-person narrative technique that alternates between Jacob and his 12-year-old great-grandson Trevor, with the narrative slipping smoothly between past and present. Jacob’s journey through his past allows the novel to examine the themes of The Glamorization of Warfare , The Realities of Combat , and The Personal Price of Victory .

Twelve-year-old Trevor Firestone loves anything related to World War II. He plays video games that are based on the conflict, and he idolizes his great-grandfather Jacob, whom he considers to be a real American hero. Trevor’s father, Daniel, is concerned that his son glamorizes warfare to an unhealthy degree, and he is skeptical of allowing him to be influenced by Jacob’s many war stories. One day, Jacob announces that the village of Sainte-Régine in France wants to honor him as the last surviving soldier who liberated the town from the Germans. They will hold a celebration on the 75th anniversary of V-E Day and want Jacob to be their guest of honor. Daniel warily agrees to go along as an escort for his aged relative and allows Trevor to accompany them.

Trevor is ecstatic at the chance to see all the battlefields depicted in his video games, and Jacob initially seems just as enthusiastic to relive his glory days. The trio begins by visiting Fort Benning, Georgia, where Jacob went through basic training with three army buddies: Freddie, Leland, and Beau. During this visit, Jacob tells Trevor how grueling and exhausting his training really was, slipping into the perceptive of his younger self. In the storyline of the past, the recruits are then shipped across the Atlantic, their boat nearly sunk by a German submarine.

Although the young Jacob is itching to go to war, his unit is sent to rural England, where they spend months digging foxholes. This mundane reality of life in the army is something Trevor didn’t anticipate. Afterward, Jacob and his friends are sent to Normandy as part of the D-Day invasion. The chaos and horror of the battle are not glorious, as Trevor imagined. Jacob’s friend Freddie steps on a land mine and is killed before he ever gets a chance to fight.

After visiting the war memorials in Normandy, the Firestones travel south in France, and Jacob talks about the pitched battles in hedgerow country. Trevor is equally unimpressed by the soldiers’ slow progress through farmland. He hoped for more spectacular confrontations, but Jacob grimly reminds him that many soldiers died in the hedgerows, too. As their journey proceeds, Jacob grows gloomier. He talks about another friend named Leland, who was killed while trying to defuse bombs planted under a bridge. Jacob nearly died too, but he was rescued by a member of the French Resistance named René Lafleur . René’s family hides Jacob, nurses him back to health, and helps him return to his unit.

Later, Jacob gets the chance to liberate René’s town from the Germans by contacting the Resistance and supplying them with explosives to blow up a Nazi tank. Unfortunately, Jacob’s presence at René’s farm is discovered by the enemy, and the entire Lafleur family is killed. Jacob has never forgiven himself for his carelessness. The two remaining members of the Lafleur family don’t forgive him either and have secretly been dogging his steps since he arrived in France. They try to scare the Firestones away from the ceremony. Fortunately, Trevor forms a connection with Juliette Lafleur to prevent any further hostilities directed at Jacob. For his part, the war veteran confesses his secret to all the residents of Sainte-Régine and asks Juliette for forgiveness, which she grants. The story concludes with Trevor pondering the difference between his video game understanding of the war and the real experience: “Now that he’d been there and seen so much, the only thing he was sure of was that he knew nothing” (229).

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Summaries, Analysis & Lists

Short Stories About War, Soldiers or the Military: Examples from WW2, WW1 & Civil War

Short Stories About War WWI WWII civil

These war short stories that take place during or after a war, or have characters that have been greatly affected by war. Some might simply offer commentary on war. One of the classic collections set during wartime is  The Things They Carried  by Tim O’Brien. For a futuristic take on war, try the anthology Space Soldiers . For an anthology full of military stories, check out  First to Fight .  There’s also a second volume. See also:

  • Alien Invasions
  • Space Opera

War Short Stories

“the king of norway” by cecelia holland.

Conn Corbansson fought for Sweyn Tjugas in his rise to King of Denmark. Sweyn had promised they would also take England, but now he’s hesitant. Sweyn has his sights set on Norway, and has enlisted the help of the Jomsvikings. Conn is upset with the change. While feasting, many of the notables make public oaths. Caught up in the moment, Conn makes one himself.

“The King of Norway” can be read in the Amazon preview of  Warriors.

“A Piece of Wood” by Ray Bradbury

A young sergeant is called to his superior’s office. The Official offers to transfer him somewhere more to his liking. The young soldier only wants to live in peace. They discuss what would happen if all the world’s guns suddenly rusted away. (Summary )

“The Defense of Free Mind” by Desirina Boskovich

is working a shift in the greenhouse when the sirens go off. She grabs a rifle from the locker and sets up at the wall, along with the other Defenders. Five people are approaching on a boat marked with the City insignia. The city people all look the same, and they want to conquer Free Mind and control them. The Defenders fire on the boat.

This story can be read in the preview of  Resist: Tales From a Future Worth Fighting Against .  (32% in)

“The Survivor’s Story” by Dino Buzzati

Survivors of wars and cataclysms in distant lands are returning home. They’re happy and looking forward to being home again. They especially want to tell their many stories. ( Summary )

“A Horseman in the Sky” by Ambrose Bierce

During the American Civil War, Carter Druse, fighting for the North, falls asleep at his sentry post but wakes in time to catch a spy for the South.

This story can be read in the preview of  The Devil’s Dictionary, Tales, & Memoirs.

“Happily Ever After” by Aldous Huxley

Jacobsen travels from Chicago to Wiltshire, in England, in the fourth year of the war to see his old tutor, Alfred Petherton. The old man is delighted to see Jacobsen and flattered that he’s come. Rather than having genuine affection for people, Jacobsen seems more amused by their mediocrity. Eventually, they get news that the fiance of Petherton’s daughter will be visiting on his leave, as well as another young friend of his.

This story can be read in the preview of  Collected Short Stories .  (Paperback preview first, then select Kindle sample)

“An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” by Ambrose Bierce

A man is on a bridge in Alabama, his hands bound and a rope around his neck. He’s a civilian, a confederate sympathizer, and is being held by Federal soldiers. He’s been sentenced to hang from Owl Creek Bridge during the American civil war.

Read “An Occurrence . . .” (Includes Analysis)

“Luck” by Mark Twain

The narrator attended a banquet in honor of an English military captain. An old acquaintance, a clergyman, told him that in private the man was a fool. Surprised, the narrator gets the story from him. It seems all the captain’s successful campaigns were the result of endless blunders. ( Summary )

Read “Luck”

“Chickamauga” by Ambrose Bierce

A six-year-old boy, who is a deaf-mute, wanders off one afternoon. He gets scared by a rabbit and then runs off and hides, falling asleep. He wakes up to an unusual sight.

“A Son of the Gods” by Ambrose Bierce

A group of soldiers advances to a difficult point. There’s a clearing ahead. At the far end is a stone wall. Behind the wall is a hedge and behind that are some trees. The enemy could be concealed somewhere within. Something must be done.

This story can be read in the above preview of The Devil’s Dictionary, Tales, & Memoirs.

“The Coup de Grace” by Ambrose Bierce

In a regiment are two brothers, Caffal and Creede Halcrow. Caffal is a sergeant under Captain Madwell, and they are long-time friends. Creede is a major and has a hostile relationship with Madwell. Madwell’s company is ordered to hold the head of a ravine, but they are driven from their position with heavy losses.

This story can also be read in the above preview of The Devil’s Dictionary, Tales, & Memoirs.

“Snowflake” by Ruth Ware

Leah’s father wants a wall built around their island. She’s not sure why. They lug back all the rocks they can find. Wood won’t be strong enough for what’s coming. They fled a war on the mainland. Uniformed men came to their home at night, but her father was prepared so they escaped.

The beginning can be read in the Amazon preview of “Snowflake” .

“A Late Encounter with the Enemy” by Flannery O’Connor

General George Poker Sash is a 104-year-old American Civil War veteran. He gets invited to attend some events because of his age and veteran status. His granddaughter, 62-year-old Sally Poker Sash, prays that he will live to attend her college graduation so everyone will see she has a superior background. ( Summary )

“Nightfall (The Curse)” by Arthur C. Clarke

The little town had stood through many hard times, but now it’s gone. It was hit by a stray rocket, one of the last ones fired. Everything is ruined.

This story can be read in the preview of  The Collected Stories of Arthur C. Clarke .

“Old Man at the Bridge” by Ernest Hemingway

During the Spanish Civil War, an old man sits on the roadside, exhausted and discouraged.  Everyone is fleeing from the advancing Fascist army.

This is the fourth story in the preview of The Complete Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway .  (92% into the preview)

“Guests of the Nation” by Frank O’Connor

During the War for Independence, two Englishmen are held captive by the Irish Republican Army. The captors and captives develop camaraderie as they go about their daily routine.

This is the first story in the preview of  Collected Stories .  (Go into Paperback preview first, then select Kindle)

“A Perfect Day for Bananafish” by J. D. Salinger

Muriel speaks on the phone with her mother about her husband, Seymour, who has returned from the war. Her mother is worried about Seymour’s driving and his general mental condition. Meanwhile, Seymour is on the beach, where he meets a young girl and tells her about the bananafish.

This is the first story in the preview of  Nine Stories .

“For Esmé —with Love and Squalor” by J. D. Salinger

The narrator is invited to a wedding in England that he won’t be able to attend. He writes a few things about the bride, whom he knew about six years earlier. In 1944 he was with the American forces in Devon. After his training, he walked into town. He went into a church where a children’s choir was practicing. He was affected by the performance, particularly that of a thirteen-year-old girl named Esmé.

“The Garbage Collector” by Ray Bradbury

A garbage collector gets up at five every morning to do his job. He does it well, and some days he really likes it. One day after work he’s unusually quiet. Something happened that day that changed the job for him. A new directive was issued to garbage collectors. ( Summary )

Short Stories About War, Cont’d

“A Mystery of Heroism” by Stephen Crane

Soldiers are firing on each other on the battlefield. When Fred says he’s thirsty, his fellow soldiers teasingly tell him to go to the well in no man’s land. Fred asks his captain if he can go.

This story can be read in the preview of  The Complete Short Stories of Stephen Crane .  (Select in table of contents)

“When We Harvested the Nacre-Rice” by Benjanun Sriduangkaew

Jiratar and Sujari are fighting an un-war. They’re not fighting with traditional weapons. One day, Pahayal spots a body floating among catfish. It’s not a leftover from an illogic burst—it’s really there. Going to a hospital is hopeless. Pahayal takes the stranger back to her own place.

This is the first story in the preview of  Solaris Rising 3 .

“A Brief Guide to Other Histories” by Paul McAuley

The narrator’s platoon went through the Turing gate to another America. There are recognizable elements in this New York—buildings, taxis and various landmarks. This world is every bit as real as their own. It was taken over by a rogue General who made himself President-for-Life. The narrator’s reality offered assistance in the civil war against this tyrant. Now, they’re dealing with guerilla fighters.

This is the second story in the preview of  Other Worlds Than These .  (66% into preview)

“Cold Moonlight” by Carla Neggers

Ryan Taylor, a former Navy SEAL, is out in the Vermont snow looking for Marissa Neal, daughter of the vice-president. He rounds a corner and sees Elijah Cameron, a Special Forces soldier. Cameron spotted Marissa, but then someone shot at him.

This story can be read in the preview of  Love Is Murder .  (45% in)

“The Sound of Secrecy” by Martin Edwards

Wilf sees Lina at the funeral of their old friend, Edward. He can recognize her even after all these years. Lina drove Edward to murder. Wilf thinks back to when they were all together at Bletchley Park, a code-breaking facility used during WWII.

This story can be read in the preview of  The Book of Extraordinary Historical Mystery Stories .  (17% in)

“The Sniper” by Liam O’Flaherty  

At night a sniper waits on a rooftop. He risks lighting a cigarette which alerts a nearby sniper of his presence.  They exchange some fire. The sniper feels trapped, but he knows he has to get off the roof before enemy forces converge on him. ( Summary & Analysis )

“The Children’s Campaign” by Par Lagerkvist

An unnamed country maintains an army of children between six and fourteen, who run their training and organization without any adult help. When an inferior nation insults this country, war is declared and the children’s army launches an attack.

“The Dog of Tithwal” by Saadat Hasan Manto

Entrenched Indian and Pakistani soldiers send a stray dog to the others camp.

“How to Tell a True War Story” by Tim O’Brien

The narrator tells war stories interspersed with commentary on story telling.

“The Red Convertible” by Louise Erdrich

Lyman Lamartine’s brother, Henry, goes to war in Vietnam and returns three years later a changed man.

Read “The Red Convertible”

“The Things They Carried” by Tim O’Brien

A narrator details the items that a regiment of soldiers carry with them, giving insight into their characters.

Read here  (Pages 1 – 10)

“The Canal” by Richard Yates

While mingling at a cocktail party, two husbands discover they were part of the same military action in WW II. They reminisce, with one of the men eager to share and describe his heroism, while the other is reticent.

The following for Roald Dahl stories are in   The Complete Short Stories Volume 1 .

“Beware of the Dog” by Roald Dahl

Peter Williamson, an injured WW II pilot, bails out of his plane. He wakes up in a Brighton hospital, in a comfortable room with his wounds tended.

“Only This” 

In an English cottage, an old woman lies in bed. She hears bombers flying overhead, and thinks of her son in the Royal Air Force, imagining that she’s in the plane with him.

“Yesterday was Beautiful” 

An English pilot ejected from his plane and landed on a Greek island. He searches the deserted town for a boat that can take him to the mainland.

Peter, Fin and the narrator, RAF pilots, help at a Greek village in the aftermath of a German bombing. They find a little girl sitting on a stone not moving. She’s bleeding fast; they take her back to the landing field to see the doctor. Her name is Katina, and she lost her family in the bombing. She becomes a member of the squadron.

“Two Friends” by Guy de Maupassant

Two men, now members of the Paris National Guard because of an attack by Prussian soldiers, meet up with each other in the street. They reminisce about the fishing they did before the war, and decide to try and go back to their fishing spot, even though it’s in no man’s land.

Read “Two Friends”

“The First Year of My Life” by Muriel Spark

The narrator, a baby, is able to relate the first year of its life because, as we’re told, babies are omniscient in their first year. Born late in WW I, the baby reports on its caregivers, famous people’s lives, and the war.

“The Upturned Face” by Stephen Crane

Two soldiers ponder the body of a fallen comrade. They decide to bury the body even though there’s shooting just overhead.

“Civil Peace” by Chinua Achebe

Jonathan Iwegbu and his family rebuild their lives after the Nigerian Civil War.

Read “Civil Peace”

“Editha” by W. D. Howells

Editha has read about the Spanish-American war in the papers. She has a romantic view of the war, and feels that her fiancé, George, should join the effort. George is against war, but he gets swept up in the fervor at a meeting, and enlists.

“Soldier’s Home” by Ernest Hemingway

Krebs comes home after the First World War and keeps to himself. His mother wants him to do something with his life and meet people.

“The Old Demon” by Pearl S. Buck

Mrs. Wang lives in a remote Chinese village. They have heard the talk of a war with the Japanese, but they haven’t seen it firsthand. Mrs. Wang is more concerned with the river; it is higher than it’s ever been at this time of year.

“The Old Demon”

“Dish Night” by Michael Martone

World War II interrupts a couple’s courtship, including their routine of going to a movie on Dish Night so they could get a complete set of crockery.

Read “Dish Night”

“Stockings” by Tim O’Brien

Henry Dobbins is a good man, and great soldier, but unsophisticated. He views a pair of his girlfriend’s pantyhose as a good-luck charm.

Read “Stockings”

“Three Soldiers” by Bruce Holland Rogers

Soldiers face difficult situations at various stages of their careers.

“Prisoner of War” by Muna Fadhil

Saleh was captured by the Iranians and held for seventeen years. He now lives with his daughter, Sahira, who was only five when he was captured.

“War” by Luigi Pirandello

Passengers on a train carriage argue over who feels the most grief over their sons lost in WWI.

“Snow” by Julia Alvarez

A young girl is attending Catholic school her first year in the United States. She learns some English words, eventually becoming aware of the communist threat.

Read “Snow”

“The Soul of a Regiment” by Talbot Mundy

Sergeant-Instructor William Grogram comes out of retirement to lead the First Egyptian Foot, a lowly regiment that the Colonel believes is hopeless. Grogram is devoted to duty and honor, and makes it his aim to turn them into a respectable unit.

Read “The Soul of a Regiment”

“Big Bertha Stories” by Bobbie Ann Mason

Donald comes home, occasionally and unannounced, to see his family. He seemed to adjust after the Vietnam War, but then he lost his job and deteriorated. He tells his son, Rodney, tall tales of Big Bertha, a huge strip-mining machine. The stories start out light but always turn dark.

“It” by Norman Mailer

Soldiers are on the battlefield.

(Story is less than 40 words)

“The Ensign” by Alphonse Daudet

A French regiment is holding their position on the banks of a railway. They keep their flag flying despite the advance of the Prussian force. Twenty-two officers fall before Sergeant Hornus takes over the job.

“The Paper House” by Norman Mailer

Nicholson and Hayes are Army cooks, stationed in Japan after the war. Hayes is divorced and bitter about it. They often visit the geisha house where they each have a regular woman.

“The Track” by Walter McDonald

It is a sweltering day in Vietnam during the war after many of the troops have been withdrawn. The narrator and Lebowitz are running around a track with other soldiers.

“The Language of Men” by Norman Mailer

After failing at a variety of assignments, Carter becomes an Army cook. He does well and is promoted. After a while, he puts more effort into the meals, improving the taste and quality of his dishes. He doesn’t think the men appreciate what they’re getting.

“Old Hildebrand (Hildebrandslied)” by Anonymous

An old man and a young man meet on a battlefield. The older man asks about the younger man’s father and his people.

There are different version of this poem/story available. The original leaves off before the ending is revealed. Others have an ending added on.

Read “Hildebrandslied”  (no ending)

Read “Old Hildebrand”  (ending added)

“An Episode of War” by Stephen Crane

A lieutenant is dividing the coffee supply for the squads. Suddenly he cries out as if attacked. The other officers see blood on his sleeve.

Read “An Episode of War”

“Why Does the Child Cry?” by Mulk Raj Anand

Abdul, a young boy, is known for being late because he likes to bird-watch and go fishing. One day on the way home from school he sees his friend Ali. He calls out to him but Ali ignores him and runs off. Abdul wonders what is wrong. He notices some things are different.

“Frustration” by Isaac Asimov

Herman gets a visit from the Secretary of Foreign Affairs, Hargrove. He’s working on a computer program that would determine how to fight the most efficient war possible.

Read “Frustration”

“New Year for Fong Wing” by Monfoon Leong

Fong and Lee, restaurant workers, get paid. Lee wants to gamble, but Fong is worried about what his wife will think. Fong’s sons were killed in wars, and now he has no male heir. Feeling depressed, he agrees to go gamble with Lee.

“Train to Harbin” by Asako Serizawa

The narrator tells of a time forty years prior in 1939 when Japan and China were at war. He was a doctor, recruited by his country for some patriotic service. His group’s goal was to preserve lives. He hasn’t fully come to terms with his past. The fact that it was wartime doesn’t settle things in his mind.

Read “Train to Harbin”

“The Northern Lights” by Joy Harjo

Whirling Soldier is a Native American Vietnam War veteran. In flashbacks, we see his childhood, his war days and his post-war life. He has struggled with drug and alcohol use.

“A Curious Experience” by Mark Twain

In the winter of 1962-63, a boy, aged fourteen or fifteen, shows up at the recruiting office at Fort Trumbull, wanting to enlist. The commandant objects, saying the boy is too young and too small. He feels for the boy, though, and allows him to stay a while. He listens to the boy’s story. He relents, and let’s the boy join, although not as a soldier.

Read “A Curious Experience” 

“North Light: A Recollection in the Present Tense” by Mark Helprin

An Israeli soldier’s unit has been called into action. They watch their target site until dark. He expounds on the differences between the new and experienced soldiers.

“No Trace” by David Madden

Ernest Foster is inspecting his son’s dorm room before the police and other authorities get a look. It’s dirty, has revolutionary-type items and has a hippie-vibe. He finds his son’s relationship with his roommate, who was against the Vietnam War, puzzling. The odor that assaults him from the closet makes him picture his son at graduation with a grenade in his hand.

“The Pacific” by Mark Helprin

Paulette Ferry, a young woman, is a precision welder in a factory making altimeters for planes. Her husband, Lee, is a Marine stationed overseas, in combat. Paulette devotes herself to her work while waiting, and hoping, for Lee to return.

“Act of Faith” by Irwin Shaw

WW II is over. Sergeant Seeger and his friends, both privates, are getting together what money they can for a weekend trip to Paris. Seeger was awarded a Purple Heart, and has saved the lives of his friends. They’re still short on funds. Luger pistols are selling at high prices, and Seeger has one.

“Roger Malvin’s Burial” by Nathaniel Hawthorne

In 1725, two wounded soldiers have been struggling to safety for three days. The older one, Roger, is hurt worse; he knows he won’t make it. While resting by a rock, he tells the younger one, Rueben, to go on without him. They argue about it, and Roger tells a story to persuade the younger man to leave.

Read “Roger Malvin’s Burial”

“The Drummer Boy of Shiloh” by Ray Bradbury

A fourteen-year-old boy is awakened by a sound at midnight. He’s with an encampment of soldiers at Shiloh. About a mile away, an opposing army waits. The boy is afraid. The soldiers have rifles and shields; he only has his drum and two sticks.

Read  “The Drummer Boy of Shiloh”

“A Natural History of the Dead” by Ernest Hemingway

The narrator furnishes the reader with some facts about the war-dead. He talks about the preponderance of male casualties, the fate of mules, the decomposition of bodies, how people die, and other related things.

Read “A Natural History of the Dead”

“A Way You’ll Never Be” by Ernest Hemingway

Nick Adams was wounded in battle and is shell-shocked. He rides a bicycle to his old Captain’s encampment. On the way, he passes numerous war-dead and military debris. He’s able to recreate the main action of the battle.

Read “A Way You’ll Never Be”

“Stranger, Bear Word to the Spartans We . . .” by Heinrich Boll

The narrator arrives at what seems to be a school. There’s a place for the dead outside; the living are taken to the art room. He’s carried up the stairs on a stretcher. He’s feverish, hurts all over and is disoriented.

“The Aqueduct” by Ray Bradbury

A huge aqueduct from the North to the South is almost constructed. Citizens of the South look forward to everything they’ll be able to do with this ready water source. There’s a war between the two Northern countries.

“The Enemy” by Pearl Buck

Dr. Sadao Hoki, who’s a surgeon, and his wife, Hana, live on the coast of Japan. Japan and America are at war. On a foggy night, the Hoki’s are out on the verandah. Through the mist, they see someone stagger out of the sea. Thinking he might be a lost fisherman, they run to him. To their surprise, and consternation, he’s a wounded white man—an escaped American prisoner of war. They don’t know what to do with him.

Read “The Enemy”

I’ll keep adding short stories about war as I find more.

war story essay

war story essay

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World War I

By: History.com Editors

Updated: May 10, 2024 | Original: October 29, 2009

"I Have a Rendevous with Death."FRANCE - CIRCA 1916: German troops advancing from their trenches. (Photo by Buyenlarge/Getty Images)

World War I, also known as the Great War, started in 1914 after the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria. His murder catapulted into a war across Europe that lasted until 1918. During the four-year conflict, Germany, Austria-Hungary, Bulgaria and the Ottoman Empire (the Central Powers) fought against Great Britain, France, Russia, Italy, Romania, Canada, Japan and the United States (the Allied Powers). Thanks to new military technologies and the horrors of trench warfare, World War I saw unprecedented levels of carnage and destruction. By the time the war was over and the Allied Powers had won, more than 16 million people—soldiers and civilians alike—were dead.

Archduke Franz Ferdinand

Tensions had been brewing throughout Europe—especially in the troubled Balkan region of southeast Europe—for years before World War I actually broke out.

A number of alliances involving European powers, the Ottoman Empire , Russia and other parties had existed for years, but political instability in the Balkans (particularly Bosnia, Serbia and Herzegovina) threatened to destroy these agreements.

The spark that ignited World War I was struck in Sarajevo, Bosnia, where Archduke Franz Ferdinand —heir to the Austro-Hungarian Empire—was shot to death along with his wife, Sophie, by the Serbian nationalist Gavrilo Princip on June 28, 1914. Princip and other nationalists were struggling to end Austro-Hungarian rule over Bosnia and Herzegovina.

war story essay

The Great War

The two-night event The Great War begins Monday, May 27 at 8/7c and streams the next day.

The assassination of Franz Ferdinand set off a rapidly escalating chain of events: Austria-Hungary , like many countries around the world, blamed the Serbian government for the attack and hoped to use the incident as justification for settling the question of Serbian nationalism once and for all.

Kaiser Wilhelm II

Because mighty Russia supported Serbia, Austria-Hungary waited to declare war until its leaders received assurance from German leader Kaiser Wilhelm II that Germany would support their cause. Austro-Hungarian leaders feared that a Russian intervention would involve Russia’s ally, France, and possibly Great Britain as well.

On July 5, Kaiser Wilhelm secretly pledged his support, giving Austria-Hungary a so-called carte blanche, or “blank check” assurance of Germany’s backing in the case of war. The Dual Monarchy of Austria-Hungary then sent an ultimatum to Serbia, with such harsh terms as to make it almost impossible to accept.

World War I Begins

Convinced that Austria-Hungary was readying for war, the Serbian government ordered the Serbian army to mobilize and appealed to Russia for assistance. On July 28, Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia, and the tenuous peace between Europe’s great powers quickly collapsed.

Within a week, Russia, Belgium, France, Great Britain and Serbia had lined up against Austria-Hungary and Germany, and World War I had begun.

The Western Front

According to an aggressive military strategy known as the Schlieffen Plan (named for its mastermind, German Field Marshal Alfred von Schlieffen ), Germany began fighting World War I on two fronts, invading France through neutral Belgium in the west and confronting Russia in the east.

On August 4, 1914, German troops crossed the border into Belgium. In the first battle of World War I, the Germans assaulted the heavily fortified city of Liege , using the most powerful weapons in their arsenal—enormous siege cannons—to capture the city by August 15. The Germans left death and destruction in their wake as they advanced through Belgium toward France, shooting civilians and executing a Belgian priest they had accused of inciting civilian resistance. 

First Battle of the Marne

In the First Battle of the Marne , fought from September 6-9, 1914, French and British forces confronted the invading German army, which had by then penetrated deep into northeastern France, within 30 miles of Paris. The Allied troops checked the German advance and mounted a successful counterattack, driving the Germans back to the north of the Aisne River.

The defeat meant the end of German plans for a quick victory in France. Both sides dug into trenches , and the Western Front was the setting for a hellish war of attrition that would last more than three years.

Particularly long and costly battles in this campaign were fought at Verdun (February-December 1916) and the Battle of the Somme (July-November 1916). German and French troops suffered close to a million casualties in the Battle of Verdun alone.

war story essay

HISTORY Vault: World War I Documentaries

Stream World War I videos commercial-free in HISTORY Vault.

World War I Books and Art

The bloodshed on the battlefields of the Western Front, and the difficulties its soldiers had for years after the fighting had ended, inspired such works of art as “ All Quiet on the Western Front ” by Erich Maria Remarque and “ In Flanders Fields ” by Canadian doctor Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae . In the latter poem, McCrae writes from the perspective of the fallen soldiers:

Published in 1915, the poem inspired the use of the poppy as a symbol of remembrance.

Visual artists like Otto Dix of Germany and British painters Wyndham Lewis, Paul Nash and David Bomberg used their firsthand experience as soldiers in World War I to create their art, capturing the anguish of trench warfare and exploring the themes of technology, violence and landscapes decimated by war.

The Eastern Front

On the Eastern Front of World War I, Russian forces invaded the German-held regions of East Prussia and Poland but were stopped short by German and Austrian forces at the Battle of Tannenberg in late August 1914.

Despite that victory, Russia’s assault forced Germany to move two corps from the Western Front to the Eastern, contributing to the German loss in the Battle of the Marne.

Combined with the fierce Allied resistance in France, the ability of Russia’s huge war machine to mobilize relatively quickly in the east ensured a longer, more grueling conflict instead of the quick victory Germany had hoped to win under the Schlieffen Plan .

Russian Revolution

From 1914 to 1916, Russia’s army mounted several offensives on World War I’s Eastern Front but was unable to break through German lines.

Defeat on the battlefield, combined with economic instability and the scarcity of food and other essentials, led to mounting discontent among the bulk of Russia’s population, especially the poverty-stricken workers and peasants. This increased hostility was directed toward the imperial regime of Czar Nicholas II and his unpopular German-born wife, Alexandra.

Russia’s simmering instability exploded in the Russian Revolution of 1917, spearheaded by Vladimir Lenin and the Bolsheviks , which ended czarist rule and brought a halt to Russian participation in World War I.

Russia reached an armistice with the Central Powers in early December 1917, freeing German troops to face the remaining Allies on the Western Front.

America Enters World War I

At the outbreak of fighting in 1914, the United States remained on the sidelines of World War I, adopting the policy of neutrality favored by President Woodrow Wilson while continuing to engage in commerce and shipping with European countries on both sides of the conflict.

Neutrality, however, it was increasingly difficult to maintain in the face of Germany’s unchecked submarine aggression against neutral ships, including those carrying passengers. In 1915, Germany declared the waters surrounding the British Isles to be a war zone, and German U-boats sunk several commercial and passenger vessels, including some U.S. ships.

Widespread protest over the sinking by U-boat of the British ocean liner Lusitania —traveling from New York to Liverpool, England with hundreds of American passengers onboard—in May 1915 helped turn the tide of American public opinion against Germany. In February 1917, Congress passed a $250 million arms appropriations bill intended to make the United States ready for war.

Germany sunk four more U.S. merchant ships the following month, and on April 2 Woodrow Wilson appeared before Congress and called for a declaration of war against Germany.

Gallipoli Campaign

With World War I having effectively settled into a stalemate in Europe, the Allies attempted to score a victory against the Ottoman Empire, which entered the conflict on the side of the Central Powers in late 1914.

After a failed attack on the Dardanelles (the strait linking the Sea of Marmara with the Aegean Sea), Allied forces led by Britain launched a large-scale land invasion of the Gallipoli Peninsula in April 1915. The invasion also proved a dismal failure, and in January 1916 Allied forces staged a full retreat from the shores of the peninsula after suffering 250,000 casualties.

Did you know? The young Winston Churchill, then first lord of the British Admiralty, resigned his command after the failed Gallipoli campaign in 1916, accepting a commission with an infantry battalion in France.

British-led forces also combated the Ottoman Turks in Egypt and Mesopotamia , while in northern Italy, Austrian and Italian troops faced off in a series of 12 battles along the Isonzo River, located at the border between the two nations.

Battle of the Isonzo

The First Battle of the Isonzo took place in the late spring of 1915, soon after Italy’s entrance into the war on the Allied side. In the Twelfth Battle of the Isonzo, also known as the Battle of Caporetto (October 1917), German reinforcements helped Austria-Hungary win a decisive victory.

After Caporetto, Italy’s allies jumped in to offer increased assistance. British and French—and later, American—troops arrived in the region, and the Allies began to take back the Italian Front.

World War I at Sea

In the years before World War I, the superiority of Britain’s Royal Navy was unchallenged by any other nation’s fleet, but the Imperial German Navy had made substantial strides in closing the gap between the two naval powers. Germany’s strength on the high seas was also aided by its lethal fleet of U-boat submarines.

After the Battle of Dogger Bank in January 1915, in which the British mounted a surprise attack on German ships in the North Sea, the German navy chose not to confront Britain’s mighty Royal Navy in a major battle for more than a year, preferring to rest the bulk of its naval strategy on its U-boats.

The biggest naval engagement of World War I, the Battle of Jutland (May 1916) left British naval superiority on the North Sea intact, and Germany would make no further attempts to break an Allied naval blockade for the remainder of the war.

World War I Planes

World War I was the first major conflict to harness the power of planes. Though not as impactful as the British Royal Navy or Germany’s U-boats, the use of planes in World War I presaged their later, pivotal role in military conflicts around the globe.

At the dawn of World War I, aviation was a relatively new field; the Wright brothers took their first sustained flight just eleven years before, in 1903. Aircraft were initially used primarily for reconnaissance missions. During the First Battle of the Marne, information passed from pilots allowed the allies to exploit weak spots in the German lines, helping the Allies to push Germany out of France.

The first machine guns were successfully mounted on planes in June of 1912 in the United States, but were imperfect; if timed incorrectly, a bullet could easily destroy the propeller of the plane it came from. The Morane-Saulnier L, a French plane, provided a solution: The propeller was armored with deflector wedges that prevented bullets from hitting it. The Morane-Saulnier Type L was used by the French, the British Royal Flying Corps (part of the Army), the British Royal Navy Air Service and the Imperial Russian Air Service. The British Bristol Type 22 was another popular model used for both reconnaissance work and as a fighter plane.

Dutch inventor Anthony Fokker improved upon the French deflector system in 1915. His “interrupter” synchronized the firing of the guns with the plane’s propeller to avoid collisions. Though his most popular plane during WWI was the single-seat Fokker Eindecker, Fokker created over 40 kinds of airplanes for the Germans.

The Allies debuted the Handley-Page HP O/400, the first two-engine bomber, in 1915. As aerial technology progressed, long-range heavy bombers like Germany’s Gotha G.V. (first introduced in 1917) were used to strike cities like London. Their speed and maneuverability proved to be far deadlier than Germany’s earlier Zeppelin raids.

By the war’s end, the Allies were producing five times more aircraft than the Germans. On April 1, 1918, the British created the Royal Air Force, or RAF, the first air force to be a separate military branch independent from the navy or army. 

Second Battle of the Marne

With Germany able to build up its strength on the Western Front after the armistice with Russia, Allied troops struggled to hold off another German offensive until promised reinforcements from the United States were able to arrive.

On July 15, 1918, German troops launched what would become the last German offensive of the war, attacking French forces (joined by 85,000 American troops as well as some of the British Expeditionary Force) in the Second Battle of the Marne . The Allies successfully pushed back the German offensive and launched their own counteroffensive just three days later.

After suffering massive casualties, Germany was forced to call off a planned offensive further north, in the Flanders region stretching between France and Belgium, which was envisioned as Germany’s best hope of victory.

The Second Battle of the Marne turned the tide of war decisively towards the Allies, who were able to regain much of France and Belgium in the months that followed.

The Harlem Hellfighters and Other All-Black Regiments

By the time World War I began, there were four all-Black regiments in the U.S. military: the 24th and 25th Infantry and the 9th and 10th Cavalry. All four regiments comprised of celebrated soldiers who fought in the Spanish-American War and American-Indian Wars , and served in the American territories. But they were not deployed for overseas combat in World War I. 

Blacks serving alongside white soldiers on the front lines in Europe was inconceivable to the U.S. military. Instead, the first African American troops sent overseas served in segregated labor battalions, restricted to menial roles in the Army and Navy, and shutout of the Marines, entirely. Their duties mostly included unloading ships, transporting materials from train depots, bases and ports, digging trenches, cooking and maintenance, removing barbed wire and inoperable equipment, and burying soldiers.

Facing criticism from the Black community and civil rights organizations for its quotas and treatment of African American soldiers in the war effort, the military formed two Black combat units in 1917, the 92nd and 93rd Divisions . Trained separately and inadequately in the United States, the divisions fared differently in the war. The 92nd faced criticism for their performance in the Meuse-Argonne campaign in September 1918. The 93rd Division, however, had more success. 

With dwindling armies, France asked America for reinforcements, and General John Pershing , commander of the American Expeditionary Forces, sent regiments in the 93 Division to over, since France had experience fighting alongside Black soldiers from their Senegalese French Colonial army. The 93 Division’s 369 regiment, nicknamed the Harlem Hellfighters , fought so gallantly, with a total of 191 days on the front lines, longer than any AEF regiment, that France awarded them the Croix de Guerre for their heroism. More than 350,000 African American soldiers would serve in World War I in various capacities.

Toward Armistice

By the fall of 1918, the Central Powers were unraveling on all fronts.

Despite the Turkish victory at Gallipoli, later defeats by invading forces and an Arab revolt that destroyed the Ottoman economy and devastated its land, and the Turks signed a treaty with the Allies in late October 1918.

Austria-Hungary, dissolving from within due to growing nationalist movements among its diverse population, reached an armistice on November 4. Facing dwindling resources on the battlefield, discontent on the homefront and the surrender of its allies, Germany was finally forced to seek an armistice on November 11, 1918, ending World War I.

Treaty of Versailles

At the Paris Peace Conference in 1919, Allied leaders stated their desire to build a post-war world that would safeguard itself against future conflicts of such a devastating scale.

Some hopeful participants had even begun calling World War I “the War to End All Wars.” But the Treaty of Versailles , signed on June 28, 1919, would not achieve that lofty goal.

Saddled with war guilt, heavy reparations and denied entrance into the League of Nations , Germany felt tricked into signing the treaty, having believed any peace would be a “peace without victory,” as put forward by President Wilson in his famous Fourteen Points speech of January 1918.

As the years passed, hatred of the Versailles treaty and its authors settled into a smoldering resentment in Germany that would, two decades later, be counted among the causes of World War II .

World War I Casualties

World War I took the lives of more than 9 million soldiers; 21 million more were wounded. Civilian casualties numbered close to 10 million. The two nations most affected were Germany and France, each of which sent some 80 percent of their male populations between the ages of 15 and 49 into battle.

The political disruption surrounding World War I also contributed to the fall of four venerable imperial dynasties: Germany, Austria-Hungary, Russia and Turkey.

Legacy of World War I

World War I brought about massive social upheaval, as millions of women entered the workforce to replace men who went to war and those who never came back. The first global war also helped to spread one of the world’s deadliest global pandemics, the Spanish flu epidemic of 1918, which killed an estimated 20 to 50 million people.

World War I has also been referred to as “the first modern war.” Many of the technologies now associated with military conflict—machine guns, tanks , aerial combat and radio communications—were introduced on a massive scale during World War I.

The severe effects that chemical weapons such as mustard gas and phosgene had on soldiers and civilians during World War I galvanized public and military attitudes against their continued use. The Geneva Convention agreements, signed in 1925, restricted the use of chemical and biological agents in warfare and remain in effect today.

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635 War Topics to Write about & Examples

Can’t think of interesting wars to write about? Check out this list for inspiration! Here, you will find best war topics to write about, be it WW1, Vietnam War, or the Cold War. Choose a catchy title for war-themed paper or speech, and don’t forget to read our essay examples!

🔝 Top 10 War Essay Topics to Write About

🏆 best war topic ideas & essay examples, 👍 good essay topics on war, 📌 simple & easy war title ideas, 🎓 writing prompts for war, 💡 interesting war topics to write about, 📑 good research topics about war, ❓ research questions about war, ✅ war argumentative essay topics.

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  • What Is the Role of Media in War Propaganda?
  • The Psychological Effects of War on Soldiers
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  • Air Defense Artillery in the Gulf War Operation Desert Storm is the first combat use of the missile MIM-104C Patriot, which became the backbone of the Allied air defense system.
  • Two Main Causes of Wars For instance, wars have existed since the time of the civilization revolution and even the wars are constantly recorded in the holy books such as the bible and the Koran respectively.
  • World War II Propaganda and Its Effects The purpose of this paper is to examine the confrontation between the German and the Soviet propaganda machines during the period of the Second Patriotic War, outline the goals and purposes of each, and identify […]
  • Effects of the Industrial Revolution in Relation to World War I During the last period of the 19th century all the way to the early 20th century, Europe and America experienced revolutions in communication, transportation and weapons which were very crucial particularly in the manner in […]
  • The Use of Agent Orange in the Vietnam War The Association of American Advancement of science prompted the US government to allow investigations into the effects of Agent Orange in Vietnam in 1968.
  • “The Art of War” by Sun Tzu Sun Tzu is also known to have written the book, The Lost Art of War, which is related to the first book.
  • Themes in “The Wars” Novel by Timothy Findley The title of the story, The Wars, is not that simple and represents two different types of war, which are inherent to people: the war that happens on the battlefield, and the war that happens […]
  • Role of the Woman During the Spanish Civil War This impact of the Spanish war is even clearer by consideration of the fact that the war had the implications of making women take up the jobs that originally belonged to men in the industries […]
  • The Turning Point of War; Stalingrad Battle The Stalingrad battle began in September 1942 during the winter, led by the “German commander of the sixth army, General Paulus and assisted by Fourth Panzer Army”; indeed, General Paulus was ordered by Hitler to […]
  • How Did War Change People This is one of the main issues that should be considered because it throws light on the motives that drive the actions of the narrator.
  • UAE Involvement in the Iran-Iraq War This paper will argue that the UAE contributed to the lengthy duration of the war due to the monetary support offered to the Iraqis and the Iranians.
  • Federal Government Expansion During World War I The period between 1914 and 1918 was marked by the increased role of the federal government in the United States and the dramatic expansion of its bureaucracies.
  • Outcomes of the Wars of the Roses The wars ended with the ascendancy of Henry, of the House of Tudor, to the throne. This marked the start of the war of the roses as Richard Duke of York and his supporters sought […]
  • The War of 1812 Impacts on the United States The war was fought from June 1812 and it climaxed in the spring of 1815 with the signing of the Treaty of Ghent, although the battle failed to solve the issues that had made it […]
  • Freedom in Antebellum America: Civil War and Abolishment of Slavery The American Civil War, which led to the abolishment of slavery, was one of the most important events in the history of the United States.
  • Soldier’s Home by Ernest Hemingway and War Experiences The thesis of this paper is in the form of an argument to convince the readers that Krebs’s laziness comes from his inability to adapt himself to the changing patterns of life, which society imposes […]
  • Yugoslav Wars: Ethnic Conflicts and the Collapse of Power However, the collapse of the Soviet Union meant the end of this era and the start of the post-Cold War period, with its unique peculiarities of the international discourse.
  • The Thirty Years’ War The unwillingness of Calvinists to adhere to terms of the Peace of Augsburg and the formation of military alliances by Lutheran and Catholic rulers contributed to the outbreak of the Thirty Years’ War.
  • Civil War in America: “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” by Ambrose Bierce For instance, in his story, Bierce gives specific details of the setting of the story, which is during the civil war in Alabama.
  • The Office of Strategic Services Operational Groups in World War II The study of the importance of O.S. To investigate the impact of O.S.
  • The First World War’s Long- and Short-Term Causes Numerous conflicts witnessed in Europe towards the end of the 19th century and the start of the 20th formed the basis for resentment, hate, and the arms race that led to the Great War.
  • “Charlie Wilson’s War” by Nichols The 2007 movie, featuring award-winning actors Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts, and Philip Seymour Hoffman, portrays the involvement of the US in the Soviet-Afghan conflict.”Charlie Wilson’s War” is based on a true story and presents the […]
  • The Causes and Effects of World War I To this end, the Commission on the Responsibility of the Authors of the War and the Enforcement of Penalties met in Paris in 1919. It is impossible to name a single reason for the initiation […]
  • Germany’s Aims in the First World War Thus, Fischer insisted on the acceptance of the revolution as a means of warfare and the aim of Germany in the First World War.
  • Countries That Suffered the Greatest as a Result of the Cold War After the Second World War, there was a long period of tension between the democracies of the Western World and the communists’ countries of Eastern Europe, which is called The Cold War.
  • First Fitna: Islamic Civil War Evaluating the situation, it appears that the First Islamic Civil war led to the split in the Muslim religion caused by the effects of the Arbitration Agreement developed after the battle of Siffin.
  • The Martians in “The War of the Worlds” by H.D. Wells The first time the reader encounters the Martians is in the chapter “The Cylinder Opens” and this encounter suggests the evident difference of appearances of the Martians and men.
  • Nationalism in World War II Another critical “nation-statehood making” is the break of the Soviet Union and the end of cold war between Soviet Union republic and the United States.
  • Role of United Arab Emirates in the Iraqi Invasion of Kuwait Initially, UAE’s operations in the Middle East were considered to have fuelled the Iraq- Kuwait conflicts during the early 1990s. Before the onset of the war, UAE was among the first Arab countries to object […]
  • Causes and Effects of the Vietnamese War To the U.S.the war was a loss, because the reunion of South and North Vietnamese citizens marked the end of the war, hence U.S.’s undivided support for the southern region yielded nothing, apart from numerous […]
  • “War” and “The other Wife” It is through the characterization of Marc and Alice, the contrasting of Alice with Marc’s ex-wife, that the story’s themes are revealed.
  • Bitterness and Cruelty of War: “Dulce Et Decorum Est” and “Facing It” Although both concerning the subject of war, the settings of the two poems are quite different.”Dulce Et Decorum Est” is set in a trench of the First World War and dedicated to description of a […]
  • Aboriginal Soldiers in the World War I and II Additionally, the paper will argue that the role and experiences of Aboriginal soldiers and the manner in which they have been overshadowed by other significant events in Australian history.
  • The Effects of War and Destruction in Poetry This essay aims to analyze the theme of the effects of war and destruction in the poem The End and the Beginning by Wislawa Szymborska and the lyrics Harry Patch by Radiohead.
  • The Causes of the Islamic Civil War The power was passed from father and son, and the Quraish of the Hashemites handed power to the Umayyads after the murder of Muttalib.
  • Mueller’s “The Banality of ‘Ethnic War’” Instead, the second half of the 20th and the early years of the 21st century have seen a significant increase in the number of civil wars.
  • Realism, Strategies and War The reality is that people expect the worst and have to create plans for such occurrences. Realism is a philosophical branch of thinking that tries to expand the knowledge of people and explain what reality […]
  • The Hurt Locker: Sergeant James’ Obsession With War Our essay is devoted to the investigation of a question: was the war an obsession and a drug for Sergeant James, the main character of the movie?
  • Fort Sumter, South Carolina – Civil War The 1812 war spurred the need for construction of a fort to strengthen the United States military along the coast which led to construction of fort Sumter.
  • “War and Innocence” by Robert Fullinwinder In the closing part of the article, the researcher concludes that absent of self-defense should be compensated by the introduction of the legal conventions justifying killing in war.
  • Investigation of War Causes Between the USA and Japan Nevertheless, it is necessary to dive into the depth of Pacific War causes analysis in order to understand its relation to the events in Europe and outline the basic effects it brought to the countries; […]
  • “How to Tell a True War Story” by Tim O’Brien People also tend to use these memories to have a purpose and goals in life.”How to tell a true war story” by Tim O’Brien is a story told about the encounters and experiences of war […]
  • Refugees as a Tactic in War: History, Types, and Number A refugee is defined as a person who due to a justifiable reason of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a certain social or a political group is out of the […]
  • “Victims: A True Story of the Civil War” by Phillip Shaw Paludan The course of this war and the way it affected the people who suffered from it presents the main concern for the author of the book.
  • The Battle of Chickamauga in the American Civil War The topic that is the focus of this paper is the battle of Chickamauga and its influence on the course of the Civil War.
  • Vietnam War in the “Platoon” Movie by Oliver Stone In the context of the war, the confrontation between two non-commissioned officers, the cruel-hearted Barnes and the humane Elias, is depicted.
  • All Diplomacy Is a Continuation of War by Other Means It should also be known that diplomacy is a continuation of war based on the fact that one party might be involved in diplomacy to get enough support in defense of war.
  • The Neutrality of Vatican City During World War II Despite the moves made by the Pope Pius XII for the Vatican City to remain neutral in the World War II, the actions he made were seen as a great violation of stance.
  • The Book “The First World War” by John Keegan However, the emergence of the bill of the right to people’s life across the globe is owed to the occurrence of the First and the Second World War.
  • Dwight D. Eisenhower: World War II Hero and U.S. President In addition to his leading role as a peace and desegregation crusader, prior to his election as the 34th American president and even after his rise to the top seat, Eisenhower was a well known […]
  • The Aftermath of World War I for Germany In spite of the fact that Germany was one of the most powerful European states before the war’s start in 1914, World War I led to the political, economic, and social decline in the country […]
  • How Americans Won the Revolutionary War? Thus, the Revolutionary War resulted in the victory of the American colonists because the experienced British army was defeated with the help of the new military techniques, approaches, and strategies, the Americans had the territory […]
  • The Role of Women in the Vietnam War For example, women in the Navy Nurse Corps and Army Nurse Corp were sent to take part in the Vietnam War and the Korean War.
  • Why and How Did the US Get Involved in the Korean War? On the surface, the Korean War seemed like a normal war between North and South Korea; however, there was more to it than what met the eye.
  • Doing Academic World War II Research Researchers can use the information on the authors at Britannica to determine the reliability of the information provided on the website.
  • Why Wars Happen: Liberal, Realist, Identity Perspectives The Kuwaiti attack by Iraq saw the torching of oil fields, the death of several Iraq and Kuwaiti soldiers as well as the citizens of the two countries.
  • The Spanish American War The Spanish American War started in 1898, and the reason of this conflict was the liberation of Cuba. The war started after Spain’s rejection of the American request for the resolution of the Cuban struggle […]
  • The House I Live In: War on Drugs and Mass Incarceration Yet the way in which the comparison between the Holocaust and the War on Drugs makes the most sense is the fact that mass incarceration for drug-related offenses disproportionally targets one group of population.
  • Latin America and the Cold War In the conditions of the Cold War, namely in the middle of the 1940s-1970s, Latin America was the arena of the struggle for the spheres of influence of the US and the Soviet Union.
  • Cold War: Summary, Causes, History, & Facts The plot of the Soviet Union to spread the issue of communism to all parts of the world stands out as the major cause of the Cold War.
  • War in Poems by Dickinson, Hardy, and Jarrell Dickinson experienced a great amount of attachment towards the Civil War and her expression for the cause had been expressed through the expression of death in its spiritual and eternal nature.
  • Individualism as an Ideal of Civil War in America Most of the Americans believe that James town is the birth place of the distinctive, secular and unique ideals of America that led to America’s freedom and prosperity.
  • The Cold War: Causes and Consequences United States, which sustained the minimal damage during the apocalyptic war, was elevated to the status of the savior of the new world in the west whilst mighty Soviet Union whose winters not only mercilessly […]
  • The Vietnam War in American History Since early fifties the government of the United States began to pay special attention to Vietnam and political situation in this country, because, it was one of the most important regions in the Southeast Asia.
  • The Break-up of Yugoslavia and the War in Bosnia-Hecergovina S, the end of Cold the War in 1989 led to the disintegration of Communist federations of the Soviet Union including Yugoslavia and the other nations in Eastern Europe.
  • Anglo-Zulu 1879 War Analysis The Zulu nation had been invaded by Voortrekkers and up to the time it was subdued by the British, it had fought numerous battles and even when the Zulu finally lost to the British, they […]
  • The End of the Cold War Analyzing Gorbachevs actions and his incentives in the economy of the USSR, it is possible to conclude that the primary aim of these actions was the destruction of the welfare of the country, the growth […]
  • World War II in “Slaughterhouse-Five“ Novel by Kurt Vonnegut To make a detailed description of the expressed opinion and to prove it, we should consider the characteristic features of the heroes and the general perception of novels which are directed at the description of […]
  • Strategy Ideas From ”The Art of War” by Sun Tzu In its turn, this particular requirement is predetermined by the fact that the activity in question is the subject to the rules of thermodynamics something that makes it possible to proceed with it in a […]
  • The First and Second Chechen Wars Comparison The ethnic and linguistic composition of the population of this region probably makes the range of the Caucasus the most varied area in the world.
  • Hard or Soft Power in the Cold War’s End One of the biggest motivations that triggered the involvement of the United States in the cold war was the need to stop the Soviet Union spreading their communist ideologies into other parts of the world.
  • The Trojan War: A New History by Barry Strauss The intentions of Strauss are displayed at once in the title of the book: the author claims to introduce an updated view of the Trojan War to the general public.
  • The Film “Cuban Missile Crisis: Three Men Go To War” The film Cuban Missile Crisis: Three Men Go To War produced by the Public Broadcasting Service throws light on the actions of the political leaders who were involved in the confrontation that could result in […]
  • The Iraq War: Background and Issues After the end of the gulf war, the relationship between the US and Iraq was characterized by conflict which culminated into the invasion of Iraq by the US and its allies namely the United Kingdom, […]
  • Religious Values in War and Peace Although war is a natural thing, which occurs in the presence of humanity, the maintenance of ethical and moral values is of great significance.
  • Women in World War II The involvement of women in the war was quite significant to the women as they were able to have a strong arguing point after the war and this made it possible for the women to […]
  • Hanoi and Washington: The Vietnam War The Vietnam War was a conflict that was military in nature, occurred between the years 1954 and 1975, and was between the communists and the non-communists.
  • The Mass Media and War The media can decide to become actively involved in the war which can be of help when finding a resolution to the conflict or it can lead to escalation of the conflict.
  • Music of the Civil Wars, Civil Rights & Freedom Movements of Europe, Africa, North & South America During the 20th Century The aim of Giovinezza was to reinforce the position of Mussolini as the leader of the Fascist Movement and of Italy.
  • “War Horse” (2011) by Steven Spielberg The setting of this movie is before the onset of the First World War. The way Ted dresses and his flask of alcohol help give a date to this movie.
  • World War 1 Origins (How and Why the War Started) William Anthony Hay claims that according to McMeekin, a tutor of international relations, “The war’s real catalyst lay in Russia’s ambition to supplant the waning Ottoman Empire in the Near East and to control the […]
  • Civil War Paper: Valley of the Shadow The valley of the shadow explains the history the citizens especially the blacks had to go. The free blacks got involved in farming as this constituted a large part of the valley prosperity and wealth.
  • Tim O’Brien: The True War Storyteller In How to Tell a True War Story, author Tim O’Brien directs the reader’s attention to the idea of truth, not simply in the telling and retelling of certain events from the Vietnam War that […]
  • Stories From the Vietnam War In the dissonance of opinions on the Vietnam War, it appears reasonable to turn to the first-hand experiences of the veterans and to draw real-life information from their stories.
  • The Role of the US in the Gulf War The paper will also analyse importance of the Gulf region as a major world supplier of oil and the role played by the US in guiding the UN in making the resolutions for Iraq’s withdrawal […]
  • International Relations: Atomic Bombs and Cold War The dropping of the nuclear bombs on Nagasaki and Hiroshima by the United States directly contributed to the initiation of the Cold War. The utilization of the bombs led the Soviet Union to see the […]
  • The First World War: Role of Aviation The main features of aviation in that period were the simplicity of aircraft design and the rapid improvement of models depending on combat requirements. The use of aviation had a great influence on the development […]
  • The World War II Propaganda Techniques All the parties to the war, including Germany, the Soviet Union, and Britain, invested many resources in propaganda, but the present essay will focus on the United States’ effort. Furthermore, propaganda messages were created to […]
  • America’s Involvement in World War I The issues that led to America’s involvement in this were the German’s resumption of unexpected submarine attacks and the Zimmerman telegram.
  • The Cold War and the Events of September 11 The anxieties arising from the issue of European immigrants echo the sentiments of securitization and Islamophobia following the events of September 11.
  • Oleg Penkovsky, a Double Agent of the Cold War The political race of the Soviet Union and the United States began after the end of the Second World War. In 1953, Penkovsky began working in GRU and was sent to work in Turkey as […]
  • Photos of Vietnam War The role of the media in the Vietnam War also raises issues of what the media ought to censor and report to the public.
  • The American Civil War: Causes and Aftermath The war happened because of economical, political and cultural differences between the Northern states and the Southern states. In the late 1970s to 1860s, slavery was the norm in most of the Southern states.
  • The Costs Effects of the War in Afghanistan This highlights the causes of the war and Justifies the United States Action to invade Iraq on the argument of self-defense based on the UN Charter.
  • The Spanish Civil War in Picasso’s, Siqueiros’, Dali’s Paintings The piece conveys the horrors and losses of the event dead adults and children, a horse in agony as an important symbol in Spain, and the suffering of survivors are present here. In various ways, […]
  • The Connection of Hockey, Violence, and War
  • Consequences of the Hundred Years’ War Between England and France
  • Importance of Diplomacy in Preventing and Stopping Wars
  • War Justification in The Iliad and The Bhagavad-Gita
  • Soldiers’ Letters From American Civil War
  • “Ivan’s War: Life and Death in the Red Army, 1939-45” by C. Merridale
  • War Ethics in “The Sirens of Baghdad” by Yasmina Khadra
  • Underlying Causes of the Sierra Leone Civil War
  • Anti-War Sentiments in the Play “The Trojan Women”
  • Life of Soldiers During the World War I
  • Religion as the Cause of Wars
  • Dwight D. Eisenhower’s Role in World War II
  • Comparison Between Sun Tzu’s Art of War and Machiavelli’s Art of War
  • Entering the Great War in War is a Blessing, Not a Curse
  • Effects of World War I on the Development of Modern Art
  • The Causes and Consequences of World War Two
  • New and Old Wars Comparison
  • Why Did Conflicts in Yugoslavia Lead to War in the 1990s?
  • The Impacts of the Second World War on Asia
  • The Cold War: US Foreign Policy
  • Cold War and a Bipolar World
  • Protests and Music of the Vietnam War
  • The Progressive Movement and the American Entry Into World War I
  • Polybius vs. Livy on the Second Punic War
  • V-2 Rocket and Its Impact on World War II and Today US Army
  • Causes of the Civil War: Battle on the Bay
  • The Factors That Led to the Outbreak of the Yemeni Civil War
  • Causes and Conflict of the Peloponnesian Wars
  • The History of the Mexican–American War
  • The Late 19th Century and the First World War, 1850-1918
  • Political and Social Forces During and After the Vietnam War
  • Dynastic Wars’ Impact on England’s Development
  • US Holocaust Policy During World War II
  • The Post-Civil War Era in the Lives of African Americans
  • Reasons for Soviets Losing the Cold War
  • The Cold War: Reassessing the Cold War and the Far-Right
  • The Role of Women in the Civil War
  • The War in Ukraine: Weapons of Mass Destruction
  • World War I as the Catastrophe of the 20th Century
  • The American Civil War Period
  • Canada’s Role and Experiences in World War II
  • The Civil War by K. Burns Film Review
  • The American Civil War and Its Main Stages
  • The Bonds or Bondage World War II Poster Analysis
  • The Unfinished Journey: The US During the Cold War
  • The Cold War Ideologies’ Impact on the American History
  • Strategies in the Peloponnesian War
  • Cold War Impact on Germany
  • The Cold War: The US vs. the Soviets Polarization
  • Canadian Martial Art and a World at War
  • Women Who Fought in the American Civil War
  • Civil War in Shaara’s The Killer Angels and Glory Film
  • “How War Fuels Poverty” Article by McCarthy
  • Important Questions on America Since World War II
  • World War I: American Policy of Neutrality
  • Role of Terrorism in Russo-Ukrainian War
  • The Barbary Wars’ Impact on the US
  • Game Theory Applied to the Russo-Ukrainian War
  • The US Foreign Policy in the Post-World War II Era
  • Causes of the Cold War’s End
  • Diaries on Australia in the Pacific War
  • Search for Identity After Dirty War in Argentina
  • The War of 1812: A Narrative History
  • Implications of the Russia–Ukraine War for Global Food Security
  • The American Civil War: Pro- & Anti-Slavery Forces
  • Justification of War Based on Falklands War Example
  • Texas War of Independence: The Main Challenges
  • “The War’s Price Tag for Russia…” Article by Aris
  • Economic Causes of World War I
  • The Role of Canada in World War I
  • American History: Bacon’s Rebellion & King Phillip’s War
  • The Election of 1860: The Final Step to Civil War
  • Smallpox During the American Revolutionary War
  • Challenges of Managing the Army and War
  • The Life of the US After the Civil War
  • The Texas War for Independence
  • Russo-Ukrainian War: Global Effects
  • American Cities and Urbanization After the Civil War
  • Researching and Analysis of the Vietnam War
  • The Afghanistan War From a Utilitarian Point of View
  • Post-Traumatic Growth in Student War Veterans
  • The Barbary Wars of the United States
  • World War II and the US Decision to Stay Out
  • The Cold War as a Turning Point in History
  • Latin America Impacted by Global Cold War
  • Contribution of Media Text to World Wars’ Propaganda
  • Afro-American Position on Spanish-American War
  • The Result Japan’s Fall in World War II
  • War’s Effect on Perception in Literary Characters
  • The Civil War in Ukraine (2014 – Present)
  • The Ethics of War: A Contractarian Ethics of War
  • The Role of Propaganda During World War II
  • Russia and Ukraine War in News From February to April
  • Wartime Conferences of World War II
  • The Events of 1968 in American History and the Cold War
  • African American Soldiers in the Civil War
  • D-Day: The Role in World War II
  • Promoting Production During World War II
  • The World War II Discussion: The Convoy Tactics
  • The War in Ukraine and Exchange Rates
  • The Sino-Vietnamese War: The Ending and the Consequences
  • The Russo-Ukrainian War’s Impact on the World
  • America’s Progressive Era and World War I
  • Lincoln’s Views on Ending the Civil War
  • War Creates Opportunities for Women: “A Story of Mercy Otis Warren”
  • The Second World War Choices Made in 1940
  • A Change in Art Style After World War II
  • Russo-Japanese War and American-Japanese Conflicts in the Pacific
  • Significant Impact Field Artillery Had in the 2003 War in Baghdad
  • The Cold War and Engagement
  • US Strategy From the Cold War to the Post-Global War on Terrorism
  • Aspects of the Second Gulf War
  • War in Ukraine: A Humanitarian Disaster
  • What Role Did India Play in the Second World War?
  • Mearsheimer’s Standpoint on the War Reasons
  • The Spanish-American War: Reasons, Sequence, and Results
  • World War Two and Its Ramifications
  • South Africa During World War II Years
  • Contribution to World War II of Chinese and Native Americans
  • The American Civil War’s Causes and Inevitability
  • Migration Issue: Cultural War
  • The Armenian Community’s Recovery After the War
  • The World Wars’ Consequences for European Countries
  • From Divided to United During American War in Vietnam
  • Emory Upton in the Battle of Columbus in the Civil War
  • A Civil War with Former Ethiopian Rulers
  • Latin-African Philosophical Wars on Racism in US
  • The First World War: Military-Industrial Complex
  • Factors That Enable Iraq War Veterans to Integrate Into the Civilian Sphere
  • The Cold War in Context: Geopolitics
  • Ancient Egyptians’ Ethics of War
  • Inside the President’s War Room Documentary
  • The Desert War: Armed Forces of Saudi Arabia
  • Civil War: Causes, Technology, and Justification
  • Generals of the American Civil War Ulysses Grant and Robert Lee
  • GI Bill as Legislative Notion for Post-War Nation
  • The Gallic War and Julius Caesar’s Life
  • The Texas Abortion Law: A Signal of War on Women’s Rights and Bodies
  • Spirit and Northwest Airlines’ Price War
  • The Role of the United States in World War II
  • Stepping Stones to the American Civil War
  • The Origins of the American Civil War
  • Civil War and Supreme Court: The Enforcement of the Slave-Trade Laws
  • Manifest Destiny and the Mexican War of 1846
  • Kongo’s Fourteen-Year Civil War
  • Wars of Independence in Latin America
  • The Labor Unions in the Post-Civil War Period
  • The Entry of the United States Into World War I
  • War on Drugs in “Sicario” (2015) Film
  • The War on Drugs Is Lost: In Search of a New Method
  • Revolutionary War Digital Timeline
  • Civil War and Horton’s Review
  • Role the United States of America in the World War I
  • The War in Iraq: Perspectives on Participating
  • Impact of World War I on the American Army
  • Jomini’s Theory on the “Western Way of War”
  • American History From Civil War to 20th Century
  • Significant Events of the Cold War
  • Social Aspect in the Attitude Towards the American Civil War
  • Women in War Industries
  • The Home Front During War in Japan, Germany, the US
  • The Use of Radio in German Propaganda During the World War II
  • The US Patriot Missile in the Gulf War
  • Online Resources on the American Civil War Topic
  • Why the French Revolution Led to War Between France and Prussia & Austria
  • Arguments Against the Use of Nuclear Weapons in World War II
  • Ken Burns “The Civil War” Review
  • A Turning Point During the Civil War
  • The United States Priorities Following World War I
  • Researching of Civil War Causes
  • Biggest Influence on the US Involvement in World War I
  • American Wars and American Political Development
  • Homer: The Theme of Men at War in “The Iliad”
  • The Participation Women in the War
  • “How to Tell a True War Story” by O’Brien
  • The Significance of the Iron Curtain at World War II and the Cold War
  • The Myth of the Lost Cause and the American Civil War
  • Great Depression and Cold War: Making of Modern America
  • The Early Republic and the American Civil War
  • The French and Indian War and Its Aftermath
  • War and Diplomacy in the Politics of a Nation
  • The American Civil War: Key Points
  • American Revolution: Seven Years War in 1763
  • Slaves in the Civil War and Free Blacks After It
  • Prohibition & War on Drugs and Negative Effects
  • War-Related Art: Heroic Themes of Art
  • Lincoln’s Speech Against the American-Mexican War
  • Remembering the Great War Book by Ian Andrew
  • Literature Review: The War on Drugs
  • World Wars and National Conflicts: What Were the Reasons?
  • The Doctrine Just and Unjust Wars
  • Brigadier-General Mosby Monroe Parsons in the Civil War
  • “After War: The Political Economy of Exporting Democracy” by Coyne
  • Militia Casualties of the War of 1812
  • The America’s Unjust Drug War
  • Cold War Exchange in the Bridges of Spies Film
  • Effects of the Civil War in Western North Carolina Communities in Appalachian Mountains
  • Factors Leading to the Termination of World War I
  • Cuban Missile Crisis: Why Was There No War?
  • The Yemen War: The Latest Developments and Reasons
  • Capacity Building for Women War Victims in D.R.Congo
  • The Likelihood of Civil Wars: Impact of Collective Action Problem
  • Not Set in Stone: Ethnicity and Civil War
  • American Civil War and Fiji Coups
  • “How the ‘80s Programmed Us for War” by Sirota
  • Soviet and American Perspectives on World War II Through Movies
  • States’ Rights as the Main Cause of the Civil War
  • Valley Forge in the Revolutionary War History
  • The Cold War Impact on African States & Societies
  • Pre-World War II South Africa: Centuries-Old Exploitation
  • How Did Cold War and Post-Cold War U.S. Imperialism Affect African Societies?
  • The Vietnam War and the Tet Offensive
  • The Ramadan War of 1973 and Its Outcomes
  • Abolition vs. Equality in the American Civil War
  • Wikipedia: Posts About World War II
  • The War by the Ruling Republicans Against Great Britain
  • Submarines: The Significance of Submarines in the First World War
  • The Korean War: Interview with Grandfather
  • War on Terrorism: Budget and Policy Discussion
  • War on Terror: Propaganda and Freedom of the Press in the US
  • War on Drugs and Prison Overcrowding Analysis
  • Would Be War in the Future
  • Students’ Drinking and Partying: Ethics of the University’s War
  • Torture and War Towards Terrorism
  • Fabricating the Memory: War Museums and Memorial Sites
  • The Western Way of War
  • World War I Causes by Ethnic Problems in Austro-Hungary
  • Winston Churchill, a Leader During the World War II
  • Japanese War Bride: Yamaguchi Yoshiko
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The Legacy of Achilles in the Siege of Troy: Heroism and Tragedy in Ancient Warfare

This essay about the legacy of Achilles in the Trojan War explores his role as a figure of both heroism and tragedy in ancient warfare. It discusses his supernatural origins, personal motivations for glory, and the devastating consequences of his wrath, particularly his response to Patroclus’s death. The text reflects on Achilles’ dual legacy of martial prowess and personal suffering, ultimately highlighting the timeless themes of human strength, vulnerability, and the inescapable nature of fate.

How it works

The story of Achilles, a central character in Homer’s “Iliad,” has left an indelible mark on the narrative of the Trojan War, providing a profound exploration of heroism and tragedy in ancient warfare. This legendary Greek warrior, known for his unmatched martial prowess and tragic vulnerability, offers us a window into the complex interplay of fate, honor, and human frailty that characterized ancient conflicts.

Achilles’ legacy begins with his supernatural lineage and the prophecy that overshadowed his life. His mother, the nymph Thetis, and his father, the mortal Peleus, were told that their son would either live a long and unremarkable life or die young with everlasting glory.

This prophecy set the stage for Achilles’ life choices and his ultimate path in the Trojan War, reflecting the ancient Greek ethos that valor and renown were paramount.

At Troy, Achilles was the epitome of the heroic ideal, unmatched in battle, and driven by a pursuit of personal glory that was deemed essential for a warrior of his time. His martial feats were unparalleled, as he turned the tide of war more than once, demonstrating what it meant to be a hero in the eyes of his contemporaries. However, this pursuit of kleos (glory) was not without its consequences, which were deeply tragic.

The heroism of Achilles is most vividly depicted in his wrath and the reasons behind it. After being slighted by Agamemnon, the leader of the Greek forces, over a dispute about war prizes, Achilles chose to withdraw from the battle, which led to significant losses for the Greeks. This act of withdrawal underlines the Homeric concept of heroism, where personal honor and respect were more important than any collective military success. Achilles’ anger, although detrimental to the Greek cause, was a form of asserting his worth and heroism in a culture that valued individual honor above all.

The turning point in Achilles’ tale, and perhaps what cements his legacy, is the death of his beloved friend Patroclus. Patroclus, wearing Achilles’ armor, attempted to fill the void left by Achilles and inspire the Greeks but was slain by Hector, the Trojan prince. The death of Patroclus propelled Achilles back into combat, fueled by a grief-stricken rage. His subsequent actions, including the killing of Hector and the desecration of his body, displayed the darker aspects of his character and heroism—obsession with revenge and disregard for the norms of warfare and respect for the dead.

Achilles’ heroism and his capacity for great wrath brought immense suffering not only to his enemies but also to himself and his allies. This dual nature of his legacy highlights the Homeric view of war and heroism: they are not only sources of glory and honor but also of immense pain and suffering. The “Iliad” does not shy away from depicting the brutal realities of war—loss, grief, and the ruination of lives and communities.

Moreover, Achilles’ tragic fate—his death from an arrow strike to his only vulnerable spot, his heel—underscores the fragile balance between human strength and vulnerability. It serves as a poignant reminder of the human condition in the context of war, where even the greatest heroes can fall. His death, occurring near the war’s end and prophesied from his youth, encapsulates the inevitability of fate, a central theme in Greek literature and thought.

The legacy of Achilles in the siege of Troy, thus, extends beyond his martial successes. It encompasses the complexities of heroism imbued with personal and collective tragedy. His story offers a timeless reflection on the nature of war, the pursuit of glory, and the profound consequences these have on the human spirit. Through Achilles, the “Iliad” expresses the ancient Greeks’ nuanced understanding of heroism—as a concept intertwined with personal sacrifice, momentary triumph, and inevitable tragedy.

This exploration of Achilles’ role in the Trojan War, through the lens of heroism and tragedy, continues to resonate today, offering valuable insights into the interplay between individual agency and the broader forces of history and destiny. His story, echoing through the ages, serves as a powerful reminder of the enduring human struggle to find meaning and honor in life, even in the face of overwhelming adversity.

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PapersOwl.com. (2024). The Legacy of Achilles in the Siege of Troy: Heroism and Tragedy in Ancient Warfare . [Online]. Available at: https://papersowl.com/examples/the-legacy-of-achilles-in-the-siege-of-troy-heroism-and-tragedy-in-ancient-warfare/ [Accessed: 21-May-2024]

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Illustration of a missile made from words.

In the campus protests over the war in Gaza, language and rhetoric are—as they have always been when it comes to Israel and Palestine—weapons of mass destruction.

By Zadie Smith

A philosophy without a politics is common enough. Aesthetes, ethicists, novelists—all may be easily critiqued and found wanting on this basis. But there is also the danger of a politics without a philosophy. A politics unmoored, unprincipled, which holds as its most fundamental commitment its own perpetuation. A Realpolitik that believes itself too subtle—or too pragmatic—to deal with such ethical platitudes as thou shalt not kill. Or: rape is a crime, everywhere and always. But sometimes ethical philosophy reënters the arena, as is happening right now on college campuses all over America. I understand the ethics underpinning the protests to be based on two widely recognized principles:

There is an ethical duty to express solidarity with the weak in any situation that involves oppressive power.

If the machinery of oppressive power is to be trained on the weak, then there is a duty to stop the gears by any means necessary.

The first principle sometimes takes the “weak” to mean “whoever has the least power,” and sometimes “whoever suffers most,” but most often a combination of both. The second principle, meanwhile, may be used to defend revolutionary violence, although this interpretation has just as often been repudiated by pacifistic radicals, among whom two of the most famous are, of course, Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr . In the pacifist’s interpretation, the body that we must place between the gears is not that of our enemy but our own. In doing this, we may pay the ultimate price with our actual bodies, in the non-metaphorical sense. More usually, the risk is to our livelihoods, our reputations, our futures. Before these most recent campus protests began, we had an example of this kind of action in the climate movement. For several years now, many people have been protesting the economic and political machinery that perpetuates climate change, by blocking roads, throwing paint, interrupting plays, and committing many other arrestable offenses that can appear ridiculous to skeptics (or, at the very least, performative), but which in truth represent a level of personal sacrifice unimaginable to many of us.

I experienced this not long ago while participating in an XR climate rally in London. When it came to the point in the proceedings where I was asked by my fellow-protesters whether I’d be willing to commit an arrestable offense—one that would likely lead to a conviction and thus make travelling to the United States difficult or even impossible—I’m ashamed to say that I declined that offer. Turns out, I could not give up my relationship with New York City for the future of the planet. I’d just about managed to stop buying plastic bottles (except when very thirsty) and was trying to fly less. But never to see New York again? What pitiful ethical creatures we are (I am)! Falling at the first hurdle! Anyone who finds themselves rolling their eyes at any young person willing to put their own future into jeopardy for an ethical principle should ask themselves where the limits of their own commitments lie—also whether they’ve bought a plastic bottle or booked a flight recently. A humbling inquiry.

It is difficult to look at the recent Columbia University protests in particular without being reminded of the campus protests of the nineteen-sixties and seventies, some of which happened on the very same lawns. At that time, a cynical political class was forced to observe the spectacle of its own privileged youth standing in solidarity with the weakest historical actors of the moment, a group that included, but was not restricted to, African Americans and the Vietnamese. By placing such people within their ethical zone of interest, young Americans risked both their own academic and personal futures and—in the infamous case of Kent State—their lives. I imagine that the students at Columbia—and protesters on other campuses—fully intend this echo, and, in their unequivocal demand for both a ceasefire and financial divestment from this terrible war, to a certain extent they have achieved it.

But, when I open newspapers and see students dismissing the idea that some of their fellow-students feel, at this particular moment, unsafe on campus, or arguing that such a feeling is simply not worth attending to, given the magnitude of what is occurring in Gaza, I find such sentiments cynical and unworthy of this movement. For it may well be—within the ethical zone of interest that is a campus, which was not so long ago defined as a safe space, delineated by the boundary of a generation’s ethical ideas— it may well be that a Jewish student walking past the tents, who finds herself referred to as a Zionist, and then is warned to keep her distance, is, in that moment, the weakest participant in the zone. If the concept of safety is foundational to these students’ ethical philosophy (as I take it to be), and, if the protests are committed to reinserting ethical principles into a cynical and corrupt politics, it is not right to divest from these same ethics at the very moment they come into conflict with other imperatives. The point of a foundational ethics is that it is not contingent but foundational. That is precisely its challenge to a corrupt politics.

Practicing our ethics in the real world involves a constant testing of them, a recognition that our zones of ethical interest have no fixed boundaries and may need to widen and shrink moment by moment as the situation demands. (Those brave students who—in supporting the ethical necessity of a ceasefire—find themselves at painful odds with family, friends, faith, or community have already made this calculation.) This flexibility can also have the positive long-term political effect of allowing us to comprehend that, although our duty to the weakest is permanent, the role of “the weakest” is not an existential matter independent of time and space but, rather, a contingent situation, continually subject to change. By contrast, there is a dangerous rigidity to be found in the idea that concern for the dreadful situation of the hostages is somehow in opposition to, or incompatible with, the demand for a ceasefire. Surely a ceasefire—as well as being an ethical necessity—is also in the immediate absolute interest of the hostages, a fact that cannot be erased by tearing their posters off walls.

Part of the significance of a student protest is the ways in which it gives young people the opportunity to insist upon an ethical principle while still being, comparatively speaking, a more rational force than the supposed adults in the room, against whose crazed magical thinking they have been forced to define themselves. The equality of all human life was never a self-evident truth in racially segregated America. There was no way to “win” in Vietnam. Hamas will not be “eliminated.” The more than seven million Jewish human beings who live in the gap between the river and the sea will not simply vanish because you think that they should. All of that is just rhetoric. Words. Cathartic to chant, perhaps, but essentially meaningless. A ceasefire, meanwhile, is both a potential reality and an ethical necessity. The monstrous and brutal mass murder of more than eleven hundred people, the majority of them civilians, dozens of them children, on October 7th, has been followed by the monstrous and brutal mass murder (at the time of writing) of a reported fourteen thousand five hundred children. And many more human beings besides, but it’s impossible not to notice that the sort of people who take at face value phrases like “surgical strikes” and “controlled military operation” sometimes need to look at and/or think about dead children specifically in order to refocus their minds on reality.

To send the police in to arrest young people peacefully insisting upon a ceasefire represents a moral injury to us all. To do it with violence is a scandal. How could they do less than protest, in this moment? They are putting their own bodies into the machine. They deserve our support and praise. As to which postwar political arrangement any of these students may favor, and on what basis they favor it—that is all an argument for the day after a ceasefire. One state, two states, river to the sea—in my view, their views have no real weight in this particular moment, or very little weight next to the significance of their collective action, which (if I understand it correctly) is focussed on stopping the flow of money that is funding bloody murder, and calling for a ceasefire, the political euphemism that we use to mark the end of bloody murder. After a ceasefire, the criminal events of the past seven months should be tried and judged, and the infinitely difficult business of creating just, humane, and habitable political structures in the region must begin anew. Right now: ceasefire. And, as we make this demand, we might remind ourselves that a ceasefire is not, primarily, a political demand. Primarily, it is an ethical one.

But it is in the nature of the political that we cannot even attend to such ethical imperatives unless we first know the political position of whoever is speaking. (“Where do you stand on Israel/Palestine?”) In these constructed narratives, there are always a series of shibboleths, that is, phrases that can’t be said, or, conversely, phrases that must be said. Once these words or phrases have been spoken ( river to the sea, existential threat, right to defend, one state, two states, Zionist, colonialist, imperialist, terrorist ) and one’s positionality established, then and only then will the ethics of the question be attended to (or absolutely ignored). The objection may be raised at this point that I am behaving like a novelist, expressing a philosophy without a politics, or making some rarefied point about language and rhetoric while people commit bloody murder. This would normally be my own view, but, in the case of Israel/Palestine, language and rhetoric are and always have been weapons of mass destruction.

It is in fact perhaps the most acute example in the world of the use of words to justify bloody murder, to flatten and erase unbelievably labyrinthine histories, and to deliver the atavistic pleasure of violent simplicity to the many people who seem to believe that merely by saying something they make it so. It is no doubt a great relief to say the word “Hamas” as if it purely and solely described a terrorist entity. A great relief to say “There is no such thing as the Palestinian people” as they stand in front of you. A great relief to say “Zionist colonialist state” and accept those three words as a full and unimpeachable definition of the state of Israel, not only under the disastrous leadership of Benjamin Netanyahu but at every stage of its long and complex history, and also to hear them as a perfectly sufficient description of every man, woman, and child who has ever lived in Israel or happened to find themselves born within it. It is perhaps because we know these simplifications to be impossible that we insist upon them so passionately. They are shibboleths; they describe a people, by defining them against other people—but the people being described are ourselves. The person who says “We must eliminate Hamas” says this not necessarily because she thinks this is a possible outcome on this earth but because this sentence is the shibboleth that marks her membership in the community that says that. The person who uses the word “Zionist” as if that word were an unchanged and unchangeable monolith, meaning exactly the same thing in 2024 and 1948 as it meant in 1890 or 1901 or 1920—that person does not so much bring definitive clarity to the entangled history of Jews and Palestinians as they successfully and soothingly draw a line to mark their own zone of interest and where it ends. And while we all talk, carefully curating our shibboleths, presenting them to others and waiting for them to reveal themselves as with us or against us—while we do all that, bloody murder.

And now here we are, almost at the end of this little stream of words. We’ve arrived at the point at which I must state clearly “where I stand on the issue,” that is, which particular political settlement should, in my own, personal view, occur on the other side of a ceasefire. This is the point wherein—by my stating of a position—you are at once liberated into the simple pleasure of placing me firmly on one side or the other, putting me over there with those who lisp or those who don’t, with the Ephraimites, or with the people of Gilead. Yes, this is the point at which I stake my rhetorical flag in that fantastical, linguistical, conceptual, unreal place—built with words—where rapes are minimized as needs be, and the definition of genocide quibbled over, where the killing of babies is denied, and the precision of drones glorified, where histories are reconsidered or rewritten or analogized or simply ignored, and “Jew” and “colonialist” are synonymous, and “Palestinian” and “terrorist” are synonymous, and language is your accomplice and alibi in all of it. Language euphemized, instrumentalized, and abused, put to work for your cause and only for your cause, so that it does exactly and only what you want it to do. Let me make it easy for you. Put me wherever you want: misguided socialist, toothless humanist, naïve novelist, useful idiot, apologist, denier, ally, contrarian, collaborator, traitor, inexcusable coward. It is my view that my personal views have no more weight than an ear of corn in this particular essay. The only thing that has any weight in this particular essay is the dead. ♦

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war story essay

Full God of War story explained

Image of Anish Nair

God of War is one of the most well-known and beloved gaming franchises, spanning over 17 years of games featuring the vengeful Spartan champion, Kratos. The man famous for innovating the chain blades weapon goes through quite the journey in his years spent between the Greek and Norse lands, changing Kratos drastically as a character across his experiences.

But where does it all begin? Many players are familiar with the first God of War back in 2005, during the peak of the action-adventure era, but Kratos’ journey begins way before that. Before we get into the history of God of War , we need to learn more about Kratos first.

Kratos’ backstory

war story essay

Before his deicide-filled journey began, Kratos was a mortal warrior of Sparta, the best one in fact. Kratos was hailed as Sparta’s champion, leading his armies to blood-soaked victory wherever he went. He was the ideal Spartan warrior and many looked up to him.

While the violence was strong within Kratos, he also possessed a softer side. Kratos cared for his soldiers as if they were his own brothers, drinking with them during times of peace and avenging their deaths when they fell in battle. He also had a family of his own, a wife and daughter that he loved very much. While they loved him too, they disapproved of his warmongering ways and wished for him to stop. As a Spartan warrior, Kratos had too much pride and bloodlust to do so.

These qualities caught the attention of Ares, the god of war himself. He descended down to the mortal realm and recruited Kratos into his army. Since the Spartans worshipped Ares as their god, it was a huge privilege to be enlisted in his service. Kratos served faithfully as Ares’ champion for many years and Ares rewarded him with the Blades of Chaos, imbued with the power of the god of war himself.

Ares, however, was not entirely satisfied with Kratos’ service and wanted more out of him. He ordered Kratos to attack a temple dedicated to his sister Athena, but this was a plot. Kratos’ wife and daughter were in the temple during the attack and Kratos accidentally slaughtered them as well. When he realized what he had done, Kratos was distraught, while Ares claimed he did it to rid Kratos of his weaknesses.

Now vowing revenge on the god of war, Kratos plotted to kill Ares for making him slaughter his own family. This is where the story of the games begins.

God of War: Ascension

war story essay

Six months after the death of his family, Kratos is now tormented by nightmarish visions of his actions. With the ashes of his family now cursed to be stuck to his skin, carrying his sins with him wherever he goes, Kratos is now known as the Ghost of Sparta. Ares’ disowned son Orkos tells Kratos that the unending visions are due to the three Fury sisters, Megaera, Tisiphone, and their queen Alecto.

Kratos then travels to Delphi to speak with the Oracle about ending the nightmares. The Oracle instructs Kratos to get the Eyes of Truth from Delos. After heading to Delos and getting the Eyes, Kratos is ambushed by the three Furies who capture him and take away all of his items. Since the Furies have always punished oathbreakers, they deem Kratos a traitor and imprison him.

Kratos, however, escapes and kills Megaera in the process, gaining his items back. He uses the Eyes of Truth to break through the Furies’ illusions and kill Tisiphone and Alecto as well. Kratos then heads back home to find that the visions still don’t end. Orkos tells him that the visions will not end till he kills Kratos, thus setting him on a journey to kill a god.

God of War: Chains of Olympus

war story essay

Kratos continues on his journey to kill Ares. Since his nightmares haven’t ended, Kratos decided to enlist help from the Olympian gods and they were happy to let Kratos into their service. The gods sent Kratos out on several campaigns and he did so to win their favor. One such campaign led him to the defense of Attica from an invading Persian army. During the invasion, the sky was suddenly plunged into darkness.

Kratos later finds out that the cause for this was the abduction of the sun god, Helios. This was done by Morpheus with help from Persephone, the queen of the underworld. Kratos fights through their armies and confronts Persephone who gives Kratos the choice of leaving his life behind to be reunited with the soul of his daughter Calliope in the underworld.

Kratos gives up his life in a heartbeat, only to later find out that Persephone had no intention of keeping her promise. She planned to take down Mount Olympus using the titan Atlas. In a final battle, Kratos kills Persephone and defeats Atlas, leaving him to shoulder the burden of the world on his back. Despite Kratos releasing Helios and fending off Morpheus, his actions earn the ire of the gods.

God of War (2005)

war story essay

Caught in a sinking ship in the middle of a storm battling a Hydra is where most players meet Kratos for the first time. Sometime after the events of Chains of Olympus, Kratos is now firmly in the Olympians’ service. After the gods learn of Ares’ plan to topple Mount Olympus, they recruit Kratos as their champion to take down Ares, since it is forbidden for Olympians to go to war against each other.

This worked out perfectly for Kratos, lining up with his decade-long plan to kill Ares. Athena comes as a messenger to Kratos and he vows to her that he will take down Ares. In return, he asked the gods to remove his nightmares. Throughout the game, Kratos defeats several enemies that stand in his way, including a host of mythical creatures from Greek mythology.

Finally, after gaining several powers from the gods and opening Pandora’s Box, Kratos becomes strong enough to kill Ares. In the game’s final showdown, Kratos slays Ares in battle and reminds the gods of his reward. The gods claimed that they could forgive his sins but not stop his visions, so Kratos hopelessly throws himself off the highest mountain peak in Greece.

Zeus, however, did not wish to lose their strongest champion and saved him just before he died, ascending him to Mount Olympus as the new, but reluctant, god of war.

God of War: Ghost of Sparta

war story essay

Now hailed as the new god of war, but still tormented by nightmares, a spiteful Kratos continues to act independently from the Olympians. With his revenge now behind him, Kratos goes back into his warmongering ways, leading conquests with his fellow Spartans using his new godly powers. This wanton abuse of power does not sit well with Zeus and the rest of the Greek pantheon.

No matter how many battles he fought, the visions did not stop. Due to this, he decides to journey to find his mother Callisto, who eventually tells him of his brother Deimos who has been imprisoned by the god of death, Thanatos. Callisto is then transformed into a beast that Kratos is forced to put down. After reluctantly killing his mother, Kratos then sets off to save Deimos and invades the domain of death after sinking Poseidon’s city of Atlantis.

The final battle sees Kratos and Deimos take on Thanatos together but Deimos dies in the process. Enraged, Kratos kills Thanatos to avenge his family, thus further angering the gods. Kratos’ tenure as the god of war gets even worse from this point on.

God of War: Betrayal

war story essay

Before we head back to the main story, we make a small stop into the fairly obscure world of God of War: Betrayal . This is the only mobile game in the series and takes place right where Ghost of Sparta leaves off, with the gods still annoyed at Kratos for his actions. To stop Kratos’ rampages, they send Argos to defeat him on the field.

In the midst of the battle, Argos is killed by an assassin, and Kratos is framed for his murder. In an effort to clear his name, Kratos pursues the unknown assassin all over Greece, despite the minions of Hades barring his progress. Finally, Zeus sends Ceryx as a messenger to Kratos, warning him to stop his relentless pursuit.

Kratos responds by killing Ceryx, allowing the true assassin to escape in the process. This act further enrages the gods and all of that anger boils over in the next entry.

God of War II

war story essay

We head back to Mount Olympus with Kratos reluctantly sitting on the god of war’s throne. After several years of service as the god of war, Kratos has grown tired of the gods not fulfilling their promise of getting rid of his nightmares. So he copes in the only way he knows how: conquest and war. This time, it all goes wrong though.

Kratos is tricked by Zeus to drain his godly powers into the Blade of Olympus, which then Zeus uses to stab him through the chest, sending Kratos to the underworld. Kratos meets Gaia and the rest of the titans here as he teams up with them to take revenge on all of Olympus. Kratos uses his newfound titan powers to break out of the underworld along with the titans.

Kratos then journeys to the Sisters of Fate, wanting to rewrite his destiny. He slays the Sisters and unwinds time to the point before Zeus kills him. He then faces Zeus in battle, but before he could finish off Zeus with the Blade of Olympus, Athena takes the blow in his stead. With her dying breath, Athena pleads with Kratos to not kill Zeus because he is Kratos’ father.

Further enraged by this revelation and the death of Athena, Kratos unwinds time back even further, bringing the titans back to their prime. The game ends with the sight of Kratos on the back of Gaia as the titans mount a full-scale assault on Mount Olympus.

God of War III

war story essay

God of War III continues exactly where God of War II left off, with Kratos on the back of the massive titan Gaia. He is then confronted by Poseidon who is still angry at Kratos for sinking Atlantis. Kratos then proceeds to dismantle Poseidon, causing the sea level to rapidly rise. What follows after this point is nothing short of a bloodbath.

In his attempt to kill Zeus, Kratos slaughters gods and titans alike, slaying Hades, Helios, Hermes, Hercules, Hera, Hephaestus, and Cronos. In his final showdown with Zeus, Gaia interferes in the battle vowing to crush father and son together, consuming both of them. Unbeknownst to her, the battle between Kratos and Zeus raged on inside her, with Kratos finally driving the Blade of Olympus through Zeus and Gaia’s heart in one thrust, killing them both.

With his vengeance finally complete, Athena’s spirit arrives urging Kratos to give her all of the powers he absorbed by killing the gods. In a final act of defiance against the gods, Kratos instead stabs himself with the Blade of Olympus, releasing all of the god powers to the hands of humanity, ceasing the natural disasters, and letting them rebuild, to the dismay of Athena.

Kratos is then left for dead here, but as we know, his story is not over.

God of War (2018)

war story essay

In a secret ending in God of War III , it was shown that the lifeless body of Kratos somehow made it off Mount Olympus. How he survived after this is not something we know yet, but Kratos somehow made it to the Norse lands. Having been nursed back to health by a mysterious woman named Faye, Kratos eventually marries her and the couple has a son together named Atreus. Believing this to be his second chance at a happy life, Kratos is finally at peace here.

That peace did not last long with the passing of his wife. Following this event, he is entrusted with her final wish, the scattering of her ashes from the highest peak in Jötunheim. After the father and son battle through Midgard, Alfheim, Muspelheim, Niflheim, and Helheim, they finally made their way to the top of Jötunheim, scattering Faye’s ashes in the process.

It is here that Kratos learns of his wife’s giant lineage and his son’s true name, Loki. These revelations are followed by the eventual coming of the great Nordic cataclysm, Ragnarök. To prepare for these events, Kratos trains Atreus to make sure he can brave the dangers of what is to come once Fimbulwinter comes to an end.

God of War Ragnarök

war story essay

Fimbulwinter finally comes to an end and Atreus is now a seasoned warrior. The final journey in Kratos’ saga takes him and his son through the events of Ragnarök, defiantly opposing the forces of Thor and Odin. Odin wants to take Atreus back with him to teach him about his true power as Loki, but Kratos and Atreus refuse and escape to Yggdrasil to prepare their counterattack against the Aesir.

What follows next is the events of Ragnarök itself, with the father-son duo on their way to find Tyr, the Norse god of war. Kratos was prophesized to die in the events of Ragnarök, but father and son manage to change their fate, allying with the ruler of Muspelheim Surtr to take down Asgard itself. This assault leads to the deaths of Thor and Odin while Surtr destroys all of Asgard, marking the end of the Aesirs’ era.

Following these events, Kratos is elevated to the position of Allfather, overseeing the nine Norse realms with the help of Freya, Mimir, Thrud, Tyr, and Sindri, while Atreus departs with the giantess Angrboda in her quest to find and reunite the surviving giants. This is where the story of Kratos ends, for now at least. What’s to come next is yet unknown, but we will keep you posted with any updates.

kratos waking up in god of war ragnarok valhalla dlc

The New Propaganda War

Autocrats in China, Russia, and elsewhere are now making common cause with MAGA Republicans to discredit liberalism and freedom around the world.

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On June 4 , 1989 , the Polish Communist Party held partially free elections, setting in motion a series of events that ultimately removed the Communists from power. Not long afterward, street protests calling for free speech, due process, accountability, and democracy brought about the end of the Communist regimes in East Germany, Czechoslovakia, and Romania. Within a few years, the Soviet Union itself would no longer exist.

Also on June 4, 1989, the Chinese Communist Party ordered the military to remove thousands of students from Tiananmen Square. The students were calling for free speech, due process, accountability, and democracy. Soldiers arrested and killed demonstrators in Beijing and around the country. Later, they systematically tracked down the leaders of the protest movement and forced them to confess and recant. Some spent years in jail. Others managed to elude their pursuers and flee the country forever.

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In the aftermath of these events, the Chinese concluded that the physical elimination of dissenters was insufficient. To prevent the democratic wave then sweeping across Central Europe from reaching East Asia, the Chinese Communist Party eventually set out to eliminate not just the people but the ideas that had motivated the protests. In the years to come, this would require policing what the Chinese people could see online.

Nobody believed that this would work. In 2000, President Bill Clinton told an audience at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies that it was impossible. “In the knowledge economy,” he said, “economic innovation and political empowerment, whether anyone likes it or not, will inevitably go hand in hand.” The transcript records the audience reactions:

“Now, there’s no question China has been trying to crack down on the internet.” ( Chuckles. ) “Good luck!” ( Laughter. ) “That’s sort of like trying to nail Jell-O to the wall.” ( Laughter. )

While we were still rhapsodizing about the many ways in which the internet could spread democracy, the Chinese were designing what’s become known as the Great Firewall of China . That method of internet management—which is in effect conversation management—contains many different elements, beginning with an elaborate system of blocks and filters that prevent internet users from seeing particular words and phrases. Among them, famously, are Tiananmen , 1989 , and June 4 , but there are many more. In 2000, a directive called “ Measures for Managing Internet Information Services ” prohibited an extraordinarily wide range of content, including anything that “endangers national security, divulges state secrets, subverts the government, undermines national unification,” and “is detrimental to the honor and interests of the state”—anything, in other words, that the authorities didn’t like.

From the May 2022 issue: There is no liberal world order

The Chinese regime also combined online tracking methods with other tools of repression, including security cameras, police inspections, and arrests. In Xinjiang province, where China’s Uyghur Muslim population is concentrated, the state has forced people to install “nanny apps” that can scan phones for forbidden phrases and pick up unusual behavior: Anyone who downloads a virtual private network, anyone who stays offline altogether, and anyone whose home uses too much electricity (which could be evidence of a secret houseguest) can arouse suspicion. Voice-recognition technology and even DNA swabs are used to monitor where Uyghurs walk, drive, and shop. With every new breakthrough, with every AI advance, China has gotten closer to its holy grail: a system that can eliminate not just the words democracy and Tiananmen from the internet, but the thinking that leads people to become democracy activists or attend public protests in real life.

But along the way, the Chinese regime discovered a deeper problem: Surveillance, regardless of sophistication, provides no guarantees. During the coronavirus pandemic, the Chinese government imposed controls more severe than most of its citizens had ever experienced. Millions of people were locked into their homes. Untold numbers entered government quarantine camps. Yet the lockdown also produced the angriest and most energetic Chinese protests in many years. Young people who had never attended a demonstration and had no memory of Tiananmen gathered in the streets of Beijing and Shanghai in the autumn of 2022 to talk about freedom. In Xinjiang, where lockdowns were the longest and harshest, and where repression is most complete, people came out in public and sang the Chinese national anthem , emphasizing one line: “Rise up, those who refuse to be slaves!” Clips of their performance circulated widely, presumably because the spyware and filters didn’t identify the national anthem as dissent.

Even in a state where surveillance is almost total, the experience of tyranny and injustice can radicalize people. Anger at arbitrary power will always lead someone to start thinking about another system, a better way to run society. The strength of these demonstrations, and the broader anger they reflected, was enough to spook the Chinese Communist Party into lifting the quarantine and allowing the virus to spread. The deaths that resulted were preferable to public anger and protest.

Like the demonstrations against President Vladimir Putin in Russia that began in 2011, the 2014 street protests in Venezuela , and the 2019 Hong Kong protests , the 2022 protests in China help explain something else: why autocratic regimes have slowly turned their repressive mechanisms outward, into the democratic world. If people are naturally drawn to the image of human rights, to the language of democracy, to the dream of freedom, then those concepts have to be poisoned. That requires more than surveillance, more than close observation of the population, more than a political system that defends against liberal ideas. It also requires an offensive plan: a narrative that damages both the idea of democracy everywhere in the world and the tools to deliver it.

On February 24, 2022, as Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine, fantastical tales of biological warfare began surging across the internet. Russian officials solemnly declared that secret U.S.-funded biolabs in Ukraine had been conducting experiments with bat viruses and claimed that U.S. officials had confessed to manipulating “dangerous pathogens.” The story was unfounded, not to say ridiculous, and was repeatedly debunked .

Nevertheless, an American Twitter account with links to the QAnon conspiracy network—@WarClandestine—began tweeting about the nonexistent biolabs , racking up thousands of retweets and views. The hashtag #biolab started trending on Twitter and reached more than 9 million views. Even after the account—later revealed to belong to a veteran of the Army National Guard—was suspended, people continued to post screenshots. A version of the story appeared on the Infowars website created by Alex Jones, best known for promoting conspiracy theories about the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School and harassing families of the victims. Tucker Carlson, then still hosting a show on Fox News, played clips of a Russian general and a Chinese spokesperson repeating the biolab fantasy and demanded that the Biden administration “stop lying and [tell] us what’s going on here.”

Chinese state media also leaned hard into the story. A foreign-ministry spokesperson declared that the U.S. controlled 26 biolabs in Ukraine: “Russia has found during its military operations that the U.S. uses these facilities to conduct bio-military plans.” Xinhua, a Chinese state news agency, ran multiple headlines: “U.S.-Led Biolabs Pose Potential Threats to People of Ukraine and Beyond,” “Russia Urges U.S. to Explain Purpose of Biological Labs in Ukraine,” and so on. U.S. diplomats publicly refuted these fabrications. Nevertheless, the Chinese continued to spread them. So did the scores of Asian, African, and Latin American media outlets that have content-sharing agreements with Chinese state media. So did Telesur, the Venezuelan network; Press TV, the Iranian network; and Russia Today, in Spanish and Arabic, as well as on many Russia Today–linked websites around the world.

This joint propaganda effort worked. Globally, it helped undermine the U.S.-led effort to create solidarity with Ukraine and enforce sanctions against Russia. Inside the U.S., it helped undermine the Biden administration’s effort to consolidate American public opinion in support of providing aid to Ukraine. According to one poll, a quarter of Americans believed the biolabs conspiracy theory to be true. After the invasion, Russia and China—with, again, help from Venezuela, Iran, and far-right Europeans and Americans—successfully created an international echo chamber. Anyone inside this echo chamber heard the biolab conspiracy theory many times, from different sources, each one repeating and building on the others to create the impression of veracity. They also heard false descriptions of Ukrainians as Nazis, along with claims that Ukraine is a puppet state run by the CIA, and that NATO started the war.

Outside this echo chamber, few even know it exists. At a dinner in Munich in February 2023, I found myself seated across from a European diplomat who had just returned from Africa. He had met with some students there and had been shocked to discover how little they knew about the war in Ukraine, and how much of what they did know was wrong. They had repeated the Russian claims that the Ukrainians are Nazis, blamed NATO for the invasion, and generally used the same kind of language that can be heard every night on the Russian evening news. The diplomat was mystified. He grasped for explanations: Maybe the legacy of colonialism explained the spread of these conspiracy theories, or Western neglect of the global South, or the long shadow of the Cold War.

illustration of green plastic toy army soldier holding large black/red microphone like a bazooka

But the story of how Africans—as well as Latin Americans, Asians, and indeed many Europeans and Americans—have come to spout Russian propaganda about Ukraine is not primarily a story of European colonial history, Western policy, or the Cold War. Rather, it involves China’s systematic efforts to buy or influence both popular and elite audiences around the world; carefully curated Russian propaganda campaigns, some open, some clandestine, some amplified by the American and European far right; and other autocracies using their own networks to promote the same language.

To be fair to the European diplomat, the convergence of what had been disparate authoritarian influence projects is still new. Russian information-laundering and Chinese propaganda have long had different goals. Chinese propagandists mostly stayed out of the democratic world’s politics, except to promote Chinese achievements, Chinese economic success, and Chinese narratives about Tibet or Hong Kong. Their efforts in Africa and Latin America tended to feature dull, unwatchable announcements of investments and state visits. Russian efforts were more aggressive—sometimes in conjunction with the far right or the far left in the democratic world—and aimed to distort debates and elections in the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, France, and elsewhere. Still, they often seemed unfocused, as if computer hackers were throwing spaghetti at the wall, just to see which crazy story might stick. Venezuela and Iran were fringe players, not real sources of influence.

Slowly, though, these autocracies have come together, not around particular stories, but around a set of ideas, or rather in opposition to a set of ideas. Transparency, for example. And rule of law. And democracy. They have heard language about those ideas—which originate in the democratic world—coming from their own dissidents, and have concluded that they are dangerous to their regimes. Their own rhetoric makes this clear. In 2013, as Chinese President Xi Jinping was beginning his rise to power, an internal Chinese memo, known enigmatically as Document No. 9 —or, more formally, as the Communiqué on the Current State of the Ideological Sphere—listed “seven perils” faced by the Chinese Communist Party. “Western constitutional democracy” led the list, followed by “universal human rights,” “media independence,” “judicial independence,” and “civic participation.” The document concluded that “Western forces hostile to China,” together with dissidents inside the country, “are still constantly infiltrating the ideological sphere,” and instructed party leaders to push back against these ideas wherever they found them, especially online, inside China and around the world.

From the December 2021 issue: The bad guys are winning

Since at least 2004, the Russians have been focused on the same convergence of internal and external ideological threats. That was the year Ukrainians staged a popular revolt, known as the Orange Revolution —the name came from the orange T-shirts and flags of the protesters—against a clumsy attempt to steal a presidential election. The angry intervention of the Ukrainian public into what was meant to have been a carefully orchestrated victory for Viktor Yanukovych, a pro-Russian candidate directly supported by Putin himself, profoundly unnerved the Russians. This was especially the case because a similarly unruly protest movement in Georgia had brought a pro-European politician, Mikheil Saakashvili, to power the year before.

Shaken by those two events, Putin put the bogeyman of “color revolution” at the center of Russian propaganda. Civic protest movements are now always described as color revolutions in Russia, and as the work of outsiders. Popular opposition leaders are always said to be puppets of foreign governments. Anti-corruption and prodemocracy slogans are linked to chaos and instability wherever they are used, whether in Tunisia, Syria, or the United States. In 2011, a year of mass protest against a manipulated election in Russia itself, Putin bitterly described the Orange Revolution as a “well-tested scheme for destabilizing society,” and he accused the Russian opposition of “transferring this practice to Russian soil,” where he feared a similar popular uprising intended to remove him from power.

Putin was wrong—no “scheme” had been “transferred.” Public discontent in Russia simply had no way to express itself except through street protest, and Putin’s opponents had no legal means to remove him from power. Like so many other people around the world, they talked about democracy and human rights because they recognized that these concepts represented their best hope for achieving justice, and freedom from autocratic power. The protests that led to democratic transitions in the Philippines, Taiwan, South Africa, South Korea, and Mexico; the “people’s revolutions” that washed across Central and Eastern Europe in 1989; the Arab Spring in 2011; and, yes, the color revolutions in Ukraine and Georgia—all were begun by those who had suffered injustice at the hands of the state, and who seized on the language of freedom and democracy to propose an alternative.

This is the core problem for autocracies: The Russians, the Chinese, the Iranians, and others all know that the language of transparency, accountability, justice, and democracy appeals to some of their citizens, as it does to many people who live in dictatorships. Even the most sophisticated surveillance can’t wholly suppress it. The very ideas of democracy and freedom must be discredited—especially in the places where they have historically flourished.

In the 20th century, Communist Party propaganda was overwhelming and inspiring, or at least it was meant to be. The future it portrayed was shiny and idealized, a vision of clean factories, abundant produce, and healthy tractor drivers with large muscles and square jaws. The architecture was designed to overpower, the music to intimidate, the public spectacles to awe. In theory, citizens were meant to feel enthusiasm, inspiration, and hope. In practice, this kind of propaganda backfired, because people could compare what they saw on posters and in movies with a far more impoverished reality.

A few autocracies still portray themselves to their citizens as model states. The North Koreans continue to hold colossal military parades with elaborate gymnastics displays and huge portraits of their leader, very much in the Stalinist style. But most modern authoritarians have learned from the mistakes of the previous century. Freedom House, a nonprofit that advocates for democracy around the world, lists 56 countries as “not free.” Most don’t offer their fellow citizens a vision of utopia, and don’t inspire them to build a better world. Instead, they teach people to be cynical and passive, apathetic and afraid, because there is no better world to build. Their goal is to persuade their own people to stay out of politics, and above all to convince them that there is no democratic alternative: Our state may be corrupt, but everyone else is corrupt too. You may not like our leader, but the others are worse. You may not like our society, but at least we are strong. The democratic world is weak, degenerate, divided, dying.

Instead of portraying China as the perfect society, modern Chinese propaganda seeks to inculcate nationalist pride, based on China’s real experience of economic development, and to promote a Beijing model of progress through dictatorship and “order” that’s superior to the chaos and violence of democracy . Chinese media mocked the laxity of the American response to the pandemic with an animated film that ended with the Statue of Liberty on an intravenous drip . China’s Global Times wrote that Chinese people were mocking the January 6 insurrection as “karma” and “retribution”: “Seeing such scenarios,” the publication’s then-editor wrote in an op-ed , “many Chinese will naturally recall that Nancy Pelosi once praised the violence of Hong Kong protesters as ‘a beautiful sight to behold.’ ” (Pelosi, of course, had praised peaceful demonstrators , not violence.) The Chinese are told that these forces of chaos are out to disrupt their own lives, and they are encouraged to fight against them in a “people’s war” against foreign influence.

Read: I watched Russian TV so you don’t have to

Russians, although they hear very little about what happens in their own towns and cities, receive similar messages about the decline of places they don’t know and have mostly never visited: America, France, Britain, Sweden, Poland—countries apparently filled with degeneracy, hypocrisy, and Russophobia . A study of Russian television from 2014 to 2017 found that negative news about Europe appeared on the three main Russian channels, all state-controlled, an average of 18 times a day. Some of the stories were obviously invented ( European governments are stealing children from straight families and giving them to gay couples!  ), but even the true ones were cherry-picked to support the idea that daily life in Europe is frightening and chaotic, that Europeans are weak and immoral, and that the European Union is aggressive and interventionist. If anything, the portrayal of America has been more dramatic. Putin himself has displayed a surprisingly intimate acquaintance with American culture wars about transgender rights, and mockingly sympathized with people who he says have been “canceled.”

The goal is clear: to prevent Russians from identifying with Europe the way they once did, and to build alliances between Putin’s domestic audience and his supporters in Europe and North America, where some naive conservatives (or perhaps cynical, well-paid conservatives) seek to convince their followers that Russia is a “white Christian state.” In reality, Russia has very low church attendance, legal abortion, and a multiethnic population containing millions of Muslim citizens and migrants. The autonomous region of Chechnya, which is part of the Russian Federation, is governed, in practice, by elements of Sharia law . The Russian state harasses and represses many forms of religion outside the state-sanctioned Russian Orthodox Church, including evangelical Protestantism. Nevertheless, among the slogans shouted by white nationalists marching in the infamous Charlottesville, Virginia, demonstration in 2017 was “ Russia is our friend .” Putin sends periodic messages to this constituency: “I uphold the traditional approach that a woman is a woman, a man is a man, a mother is a mother, and a father is a father,” he told a press conference in December 2021, almost as if this “traditional approach” would be justification for invading Ukraine.

Michael Carpenter: Russia is co-opting angry young men

This manipulation of the strong emotions around gay rights and feminism has been widely copied throughout the autocratic world, often as a means of defending against criticism of the regime. Yoweri Museveni, who has been the president of Uganda for more than three decades, passed an “anti-homosexuality” bill in 2014, instituting a life sentence for gay people who have sex or marry and criminalizing the “promotion” of a homosexual lifestyle. By picking a fight over gay rights, he was able to consolidate his supporters at home while neutralizing foreign criticisms of his regime, describing them as “social imperialism”: “Outsiders cannot dictate to us; this is our country,” he declared. Viktor Orbán, the prime minister of Hungary, also ducks discussion of Hungarian corruption by hiding behind a culture war. He pretends that ongoing tension between his government and the U.S. ambassador to Hungary concerns religion and gender: During Tucker Carlson’s recent visit to Hungary , Carlson declared that the Biden administration “hates” Hungary because “it’s a Christian country,” when in fact it is Orbán’s deep financial and political ties to Russia and China that have badly damaged American-Hungarian relations.

The new authoritarians also have a different attitude toward reality. When Soviet leaders lied, they tried to make their falsehoods seem real. They became angry when anyone accused them of lying. But in Putin’s Russia, Bashar al-Assad’s Syria, and Nicolás Maduro’s Venezuela, politicians and television personalities play a different game. They lie constantly, blatantly, obviously. But they don’t bother to offer counterarguments when their lies are exposed. After Russian-controlled forces shot down Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 over Ukraine in 2014, the Russian government reacted not only with a denial, but with multiple stories, plausible and implausible: It blamed the Ukrainian army, and the CIA, and a nefarious plot in which dead people were placed on a plane in order to fake a crash and discredit Russia. This tactic—the so-called fire hose of falsehoods—ultimately produces not outrage but nihilism. Given so many explanations, how can you know what actually happened? What if you just can’t know? If you don’t know what happened, you’re not likely to join a great movement for democracy, or to listen when anyone speaks about positive political change. Instead, you are not going to participate in any politics at all.

Anne Applebaum: The American face of authoritarian propaganda

Fear, cynicism, nihilism, and apathy, coupled with disgust and disdain for democracy: This is the formula that modern autocrats, with some variations, sell to their citizens and to foreigners, all with the aim of destroying what they call “American hegemony.” In service of this idea, Russia, a colonial power, paints itself as a leader of the non-Western civilizations in what the analyst Ivan Klyszcz calls their struggle for “ messianic multipolarity ,” a battle against “the West’s imposition of ‘decadent,’ ‘globalist’ values.” In September 2022, when Putin held a ceremony to mark his illegal annexation of southern and eastern Ukraine, he claimed that he was protecting Russia from the “satanic” West and “perversions that lead to degradation and extinction.” He did not speak of the people he had tortured or the Ukrainian children he had kidnapped. A year later, Putin told a gathering in Sochi: “We are now fighting not just for Russia’s freedom but for the freedom of the whole world. We can frankly say that the dictatorship of one hegemon is becoming decrepit. We see it, and everyone sees it now. It is getting out of control and is simply dangerous for others.” The language of “hegemony” and “multipolarity” is now part of Chinese, Iranian, and Venezuelan narratives too.

In truth, Russia is a genuine danger to its neighbors, which is why most of them are re-arming and preparing to fight against a new colonial occupation. The irony is even greater in African countries like Mali, where Russian mercenaries from the Wagner Group have helped keep a military dictatorship in power, reportedly by conducting summary executions, committing atrocities against civilians, and looting property. In Mali, as in Ukraine, the battle against Western decadence means that white Russian thugs brutally terrorize people with impunity.

And yet Mali Actu, a pro-Russian website in Mali, solemnly explains to its readers that “in a world that is more and more multipolar, Africa will play a more and more important role.” Mali Actu is not alone; it’s just a small part of a propaganda network, created by the autocracies, that is now visible all over the world.

The infrastructure of antidemocratic propaganda takes many forms, some overt and some covert, some aimed at the public and some aimed at elites. The United Front, the fulcrum of the Chinese Communist Party’s most important influence strategy, seeks to shape perceptions of China around the world by creating educational and exchange programs, controlling Chinese exile communities, building Chinese chambers of commerce, and courting anyone willing to be a de facto spokesperson for China. The Confucius Institutes are probably the best-known elite Chinese influence project. Originally perceived as benign cultural bodies not unlike the Goethe-Institut, run by the German government, and the Alliance Française, they were welcomed by many universities because they provided cheap or even free Chinese-language classes and professors. Over time, the institutes aroused suspicion, policing Chinese students at American universities by restricting open discussions of Tibet and Taiwan, and in some cases altering the teaching of Chinese history and politics to suit Chinese narratives. They have now been mostly disbanded in the United States. But they are flourishing in many other places, including Africa, where there are several dozen.

These subtler operations are augmented by China’s enormous investment in international media. The Xinhua wire service, the China Global Television Network, China Radio International, and China Daily all receive significant state financing , have social-media accounts in multiple languages and regions, and sell, share, or otherwise promote their content. These Chinese outlets cover the entire world, and provide feeds of slickly produced news and video segments to their partners at low prices, sometimes for free, which makes them more than competitive with reputable Western newswires, such as Reuters and the Associated Press. Scores of news organizations in Europe and Asia use Chinese content, as do many in Africa, from Kenya and Nigeria to Egypt and Zambia. Chinese media maintain a regional hub in Nairobi, where they hire prominent local journalists and produce content in African languages. Building this media empire has been estimated to cost billions of dollars a year.

illustration of automatic rifle with large red megaphone in place of the barrel

For the moment, viewership of many of these Chinese-owned channels remains low; their output can be predictable, even boring. But more popular forms of Chinese television are gradually becoming available. StarTimes, a satellite-television company that is tightly linked to the Chinese government, launched in Africa in 2008 and now has 13 million television subscribers in more than 30 African countries. StarTimes is cheap for consumers, costing just a few dollars a month. It prioritizes Chinese content—not just news but kung-fu movies, soap operas, and Chinese Super League football, with the dialogue and commentary all translated into Hausa, Swahili, and other African languages. In this way, even entertainment can carry China-positive messages.

This subtler shift is the real goal: to have the Chinese point of view appear in the local press, with local bylines. Chinese propagandists call this strategy “borrowing boats to reach the sea,” and it can be achieved in many ways. Unlike Western governments, China doesn’t think of propaganda, censorship, diplomacy, and media as separate activities. Legal pressure on news organizations, online trolling operations aimed at journalists, cyberattacks—all of these can be deployed as part of a single operation designed to promulgate or undermine a given narrative. China also offers training courses or stipends for local journalists across Asia, Africa, and Latin America, sometimes providing phones and laptops in exchange for what the regime hopes will be favorable coverage.

The Chinese also cooperate, both openly and discreetly, with the media outlets of other autocracies. Telesur, a Hugo Chávez project launched in 2005, is headquartered in Caracas and led by Venezuela in partnership with Cuba and Nicaragua. Selectively culled bits of foreign news make it onto Telesur from its partners, including headlines that presumably have limited appeal in Latin America: “US-Armenia Joint Military Drills Undermine Regional Stability,” for example, and “Russia Has No Expansionist Plans in Europe.” Both of these stories, from 2023, were lifted directly from the Xinhua wire.

Iran, for its part, offers HispanTV, the Spanish-language version of Press TV, the Iranian international service. HispanTV leans heavily into open anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial: One March 2020 headline declared that the “New Coronavirus Is the Result of a Zionist Plot.” Spain banned HispanTV and Google blocked it from its YouTube and Gmail accounts, but the service is easily available across Latin America, just as Al-Alam, the Arabic version of Press TV, is widely available in the Middle East. After the October 7 Hamas attack on Israel, the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, an international group dedicated to fighting disinformation, found that Iran was creating additional hacking groups to target digital, physical, and electoral infrastructure in Israel (where it went after electoral rolls) and the United States. In the future, these hacking operations may be combined with propaganda campaigns.

RT—Russia Today—has a bigger profile than either Telesur or Press TV; in Africa, it has close links to China . Following the invasion of Ukraine, some satellite networks dropped RT. But China’s StarTimes satellite picked it up, and RT immediately began building offices and relationships across Africa, especially in countries run by autocrats who echo its anti-Western, anti-LGBTQ messages, and who appreciate its lack of critical or investigative reporting.

RT—like Press TV, Telesur, and even CGTN—also functions as a production facility, a source of video clips that can be spread online, repurposed and reused in targeted campaigns. Americans got a firsthand view of how the clandestine versions work in 2016, when the Internet Research Agency—now disbanded but based then in St. Petersburg and led by the late Yevgeny Prigozhin, more famous as the mercenary boss of the Wagner Group who staged an aborted march on Moscow—pumped out fake material via fake Facebook and Twitter accounts, designed to confuse American voters. Examples ranged from virulently anti-immigration accounts aimed at benefiting Donald Trump to fake Black Lives Matter accounts that attacked Hillary Clinton from the left.

Since 2016, these tactics have been applied across the globe. The Xinhua and RT offices in Africa and around the world—along with Telesur and HispanTV—create stories, slogans, memes, and narratives promoting the worldview of the autocracies; these, in turn, are repeated and amplified in many countries, translated into many languages, and reshaped for many local markets. The material produced is mostly unsophisticated, but it is inexpensive and can change quickly, according to the needs of the moment. After the October 7 Hamas attack, for example, official and unofficial Russian sources immediately began putting out both anti-Israel and anti-Semitic material, and messages calling American and Western support for Ukraine hypocritical in light of the Gaza conflict. The data-analytics company Alto Intelligence found posts smearing both Ukrainians and Israelis as “Nazis,” part of what appears to be a campaign to bring far-left and far-right communities closer together in opposition to U.S.-allied democracies. Anti-Semitic and pro-Hamas messages also increased inside China, as well as on Chinese-linked accounts around the world. Joshua Eisenman, a professor at Notre Dame and the author of a new book on China’s relations with Africa, told me that during a recent trip to Beijing, he was astonished by how quickly the previous Chinese line on the Middle East—“China-Israel relations are stronger than ever”—changed. “It was a complete 180 in just a few days.”

Not that everyone hearing these messages will necessarily know where they come from, because they often appear in forums that conceal their origins. Most people probably did not hear the American-biolabs conspiracy theory on a television news program, for example. Instead, they heard it thanks to organizations like Pressenza and Yala News. Pressenza, a website founded in Milan and relocated to Ecuador in 2014, publishes in eight languages, describes itself as “an international news agency dedicated to news about peace and nonviolence,” and featured an article on biolabs in Ukraine. According to the U.S. State Department, Pressenza is part of a project, run by three Russian companies, that planned to create articles in Moscow and then translate them for these “native” sites, following Chinese practice, to make them seem “local.” Pressenza denied the allegations; one of its journalists, Oleg Yasinsky, who says he is of Ukrainian origin, responded by denouncing America’s “planetary propaganda machine” and quoting Che Guevara.

Like Pressenza, Yala News also markets itself as independent. This U.K.-registered, Arabic-language news operation provides slickly produced videos, including celebrity interviews, to its 3 million followers every day. In March 2022, as the biolabs allegation was being promoted by other outlets, the site posted a video that echoed one of the most sensational versions: Ukraine was planning to use migratory birds as a delivery vehicle for bioweapons, infecting the birds and then sending them into Russia to spread disease.

Yala did not invent this ludicrous tale: Russian state media, such as the Sputnik news agency, published it in Russian first, followed by Sputnik’s Arabic website and RT Arabic. Russia’s United Nations ambassador addressed the UN Security Council about the biobird scandal, warning of the “real biological danger to the people in European countries, which can result from an uncontrolled spread of bioagents from Ukraine.” In an April 2022 interview in Kyiv , Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky told The Atlantic ’s editor in chief, Jeffrey Goldberg, and me that the biobirds story reminded him of a Monty Python sketch. If Yala were truly an “independent” publication, as it describes itself, it would have fact-checked this story, which, like the other biolab conspiracies, was widely debunked.

Read: Anne Applebaum and Jeffrey Goldberg interview Volodymyr Zelensky

But Yala News is not a news organization at all. As the BBC has reported , it’s an information laundromat, a site that exists to spread and propagate material produced by RT and other Russian facilities. Yala News has posted claims that the Russian massacre of Ukrainian civilians at Bucha was staged, that Zelensky appeared drunk on television, and that Ukrainian soldiers were running away from the front lines. Although the company is registered to an address in London—a mail drop shared by 65,000 other companies—its “news team” is based in a suburb of Damascus. The company’s CEO is a Syrian businessman based in Dubai who, when asked by the BBC, insisted on the organization’s “impartiality.”

Another strange actor in this field is RRN—the company’s name is an acronym, originally for Reliable Russian News, later changed to Reliable Recent News. Created in the aftermath of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, RRN, part of a bigger information-laundering operation known to investigators as Doppelganger, is primarily a “typosquatter”: a company that registers domain names that look similar to real media domain names—Reuters.cfd instead of Reuters.com, for example—as well as websites with names that sound authentic (like Notre Pays , or “Our Country”) but are created to deceive. RRN is prolific. During its short existence, it has created more than 300 sites targeting Europe, the Middle East, and Latin America. Links to these sites are then used to make Facebook, Twitter, and other social-media posts appear credible. When someone is quickly scrolling, they might not notice that a headline links to a fake Spiegel.pro website, say, rather than to the authentic German-magazine website Spiegel.de.

Doppelganger’s efforts, run by a clutch of companies in Russia, have varied widely, and seem to have included fake NATO press releases , with the same fonts and design as the genuine releases, “revealing” that NATO leaders were planning to deploy Ukrainian paramilitary troops to France to quell pension protests. In November, operatives who the French government believes are linked to Doppelganger spray-painted Stars of David around Paris and posted them on social media, hoping to amplify French divisions over the Gaza war. Russian operatives built a social-media network to spread the false stories and the photographs of anti-Semitic graffiti. The goal is to make sure that the people encountering this content have little clue as to who created it, or where or why.

Russia and China are not the only parties in this space. Both real and automated social-media accounts geolocated to Venezuela played a small role in the 2018 Mexican presidential election, for example, boosting the campaign of Andrés Manuel López Obrador. Notable were two kinds of messages: those that promoted images of Mexican violence and chaos—images that might make people feel they need an autocrat to restore order—and those that were angrily opposed to NAFTA and the U.S. more broadly. This tiny social-media investment must have been deemed successful. After he became president, López Obrador engaged in the same kinds of smear campaigns as unelected politicians in autocracies, empowered and corrupted the military, undermined the independence of the judiciary, and otherwise degraded Mexican democracy. In office, he has promoted Russian narratives about the war in Ukraine along with Chinese narratives about the repression of the Uyghurs. Mexico’s relationship with the United States has become more difficult—and that, surely, was part of the point.

None of these efforts would succeed without local actors who share the autocratic world’s goals. Russia, China, and Venezuela did not invent anti-Americanism in Mexico. They did not invent Catalan separatism, to name another movement that both Russian and Venezuelan social-media accounts supported, or the German far right, or France’s Marine Le Pen. All they do is amplify existing people and movements—whether anti-LGBTQ, anti-Semitic, anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant, anti-Ukrainian, or, above all, antidemocratic. Sometimes they provide a social-media echo. Sometimes they employ reporters and spokespeople. Sometimes they use the media networks they built for this purpose. And sometimes, they just rely on Americans to do it for them.

Here is a difficult truth: A part of the American political spectrum is not merely a passive recipient of the combined authoritarian narratives that come from Russia, China, and their ilk, but an active participant in creating and spreading them. Like the leaders of those countries, the American MAGA right also wants Americans to believe that their democracy is degenerate, their elections illegitimate, their civilization dying. The MAGA movement’s leaders also have an interest in pumping nihilism and cynicism into the brains of their fellow citizens, and in convincing them that nothing they see is true. Their goals are so similar that it is hard to distinguish between the online American alt-right and its foreign amplifiers, who have multiplied since the days when this was solely a Russian project. Tucker Carlson has even promoted the fear of a color revolution in America, lifting the phrase directly from Russian propaganda. The Chinese have joined in too: Earlier this year, a group of Chinese accounts that had previously been posting pro-Chinese material in Mandarin began posting in English, using MAGA symbols and attacking President Joe Biden. They showed fake images of Biden in prison garb, made fun of his age, and called him a satanist pedophile. One Chinese-linked account reposted an RT video repeating the lie that Biden had sent a neo-Nazi criminal to fight in Ukraine. Alex Jones’s reposting of the lie on social media reached some 400,000 people.

Given that both Russian and Chinese actors now blend in so easily with the MAGA messaging operation, it is hardly surprising that the American government has difficulty responding to the newly interlinked autocratic propaganda network. American-government-backed foreign broadcasters—Voice of America, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Radio Farda, Radio Martí—still exist, but neither their mandate nor their funding has changed much in recent years. The intelligence agencies continue to observe what happens—there is a Foreign Malign Influence Center under the Office of the Director of National Intelligence—but they are by definition not part of the public debate. The only relatively new government institution fighting antidemocratic propaganda is the Global Engagement Center, but it is in the State Department, and its mandate is to focus on authoritarian propaganda outside the United States. Established in 2016, it replaced the Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications, which sought to foil the Islamic State and other jihadist groups that were recruiting young people online. In 2014–15, as the scale of Russian disinformation campaigns in Europe was becoming better known, Congress designated the GEC to deal with Russian as well as Chinese, Iranian, and other propaganda campaigns around the world—although not, again, inside the United States. Throughout the Trump administration, the organization languished under the direction of a president who himself repeated Russian propaganda lines during the 2016 campaign—“Obama founded ISIS,” for example, and “Hillary will start World War III.”

Today the GEC is run by James Rubin, a former State Department spokesperson from the Bill Clinton era. It employs 125 people and has a budget of $61 million—hardly a match for the many billions that China and Russia spend building their media networks. But it is beginning to find its footing, handing out small grants to international groups that track and reveal foreign disinformation operations. It’s now specializing in identifying covert propaganda campaigns before they begin, with the help of U.S. intelligence agencies. Rubin calls this “prebunking” and describes it as a kind of “inoculation”: “If journalists and governments know that this is coming, then when it comes, they will recognize it.”

The revelation in November of the Russian ties to seemingly native left-wing websites in Latin America, including Pressenza, was one such effort. More recently, the GEC published a report on the African Initiative, an agency that had planned a huge campaign to discredit Western health philanthropy, starting with rumors about a new virus supposedly spread by mosquitoes. The idea was to smear Western doctors, clinics, and philanthropists, and to build a climate of distrust around Western medicine, much as Russian efforts helped build a climate of distrust around Western vaccines during the pandemic. The GEC identified the Russian leader of the project, Artem Sergeyevich Kureyev; noted that several employees had come to the African Initiative from the Wagner Group; and located two of its offices, in Mali and Burkina Faso. Rubin and others subsequently spent a lot of time talking with regional reporters about the African Initiative’s plans so that “people will recognize them” when they launch. Dozens of articles in English, Spanish, and other languages have described these operations, as have thousands of social-media posts. Eventually, the goal is to create an alliance of other nations who also want to share information about planned and ongoing information operations so that everyone knows they are coming.

It’s a great idea, but no equivalent agency functions inside the United States. Some social-media companies have made purely voluntary efforts to remove foreign-government propaganda, sometimes after being tipped off by the U.S. government but mostly on their own. In the U.S., Facebook created a security-policy unit that still regularly announces when it discovers “coordinated inauthentic behavior”—meaning accounts that are automated and/or evidently part of a planned operation from (usually) Russian, Iranian, or Chinese sources—and then takes down the posts. It is difficult for outsiders to monitor this activity, because the company restricts access to its data, and even controls the tools that can be used to examine the data. In March, Meta announced that by August, it would phase out CrowdTangle, a tool used to analyze Facebook data, and replace it with a tool that analysts fear will be harder to use.

X (formerly Twitter) also used to look for foreign propaganda activity, but under the ownership of Elon Musk, that voluntary effort has been badly weakened. The new blue-check “verification” process allows users—including anonymous, pro-Russian users—to pay to have their posts amplified; the old “safety team” no longer exists. The result: After the collapse of the Kakhovka dam in Ukraine last summer, a major environmental and humanitarian disaster caused by Russian bombing over many weeks, the false narrative that Ukraine had destroyed it appeared hundreds of thousands of times on X. After the ISIS terrorist attack on a concert hall in Moscow in March, David Sacks, the former PayPal entrepreneur and a close associate of Musk’s, posted on X, with no evidence, that “if the Ukrainian government was behind the terrorist attack, as looks increasingly likely, the U.S. must renounce it.” His completely unfounded post was viewed 2.5 million times. This spring, some Republican congressional leaders finally began speaking about the Russian propaganda that had “infected” their base and their colleagues. Most of that “Russian propaganda” is not coming from inside Russia.

Over the past several years, universities and think tanks have used their own data analytics to try to identify inauthentic networks on the largest websites—but they are also now meeting resistance from MAGA-affiliated Republican politicians. In 2020, teams at Stanford University and the University of Washington, together with the Digital Forensic Research Lab at the Atlantic Council and Graphika, a company that specializes in social-media analytics, decided to join forces to monitor false election information. Renée DiResta, one of the leaders of what became the Election Integrity Partnership, told me that an early concern was Russian and Chinese campaigns. DiResta assumed that these foreign interventions wouldn’t matter much, but she thought it would be useful and academically interesting to understand their scope. “Lo and behold,” she said, “the entity that becomes the most persistent in alleging that American elections are fraudulent, fake, rigged, and everything else turns out to be the president of the United States.” The Election Integrity Partnership tracked election rumors coming from across the political spectrum, but observed that the MAGA right was far more prolific and significant than any other source.

The Election Integrity Partnership was not organized or directed by the U.S. government. It occasionally reached out to platforms, but had no power to compel them to act, DiResta told me. Nevertheless, the project became the focus of a complicated MAGA-world conspiracy theory about alleged government suppression of free speech, and it led to legal and personal attacks on many of those involved. The project has been smeared and mischaracterized by some of the journalists attached to Musk’s “Twitter Files” investigation , and by Representative Jim Jordan’s Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government. A series of lawsuits alleging that the U.S. government sought to suppress conservative speech, including one launched by Missouri and Louisiana that has now reached the Supreme Court, has effectively tried to silence organizations that investigate both domestic and foreign disinformation campaigns, overt and covert. To state baldly what is happening: The Republican Party’s right wing is actively harassing legitimate, good-faith efforts to track the production and dissemination of autocratic disinformation here in the United States.

Over time, the attack on the Election Integrity Partnership has itself acquired some of the characteristics of a classic information-laundering operation. The most notorious example concerns a reference, on page 183 of the project’s final post-2020-election report, to the 21,897,364 tweets gathered after the election, in an effort to catalog the most viral false rumors. That simple statement of the size of the database has been twisted into another false and yet constantly repeated rumor: the spurious claim that the Department of Homeland Security somehow conspired with the Election Integrity Partnership to censor 22 million tweets. This never happened, and yet DiResta said that “this nonsense about the 22 million tweets pops up constantly as evidence of the sheer volume of our duplicity”; it has even appeared in the Congressional Record .

The same tactics have been used against the Global Engagement Center. In 2021, the GEC gave a grant to another organization, the Global Disinformation Index, which helped develop a technical tool to track online campaigns in East Asia and Europe. For a completely unrelated, separately funded project, the Global Disinformation Index also conducted a study, aimed at advertisers, that identified websites at risk for publishing false stories. Two conservative organizations, finding their names on that latter list, sued the GEC, although it had nothing to do with creating the list. Musk posted, again without any evidence, “The worst offender in US government censorship & media manipulation is an obscure agency called GEC,” and that organization also became caught up in the endless whirlwind of conspiracy and congressional investigations.

As it happens, I was caught up in it too, because I was listed online as an “adviser” to the Global Disinformation Index, even though I had not spoken with anyone at the organization for several years and was not aware that it even had a website. A predictable, and wearisome, pattern followed: false accusations (no, I was not advising anyone to censor anyone) and the obligatory death threats. Of course, my experience was mild compared with the experience of DiResta, who has been accused of being, as she put it, “the head of a censorship-industrial complex that does not exist.”

These stories are symptomatic of a larger problem: Because the American extreme right and (more rarely) the extreme left benefit from the spread of antidemocratic narratives, they have an interest in silencing or hobbling any group that wants to stop, or even identify, foreign campaigns. Senator Mark Warner, the chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, told me that “we are actually less prepared today than we were four years ago” for foreign attempts to influence the 2024 election. This is not only because authoritarian propaganda campaigns have become more sophisticated as they begin to use AI, or because “you obviously have a political environment here where there’s a lot more Americans who are more distrustful of all institutions.” It’s also because the lawsuits, threats, and smear tactics have chilled government, academic, and tech-company responses.

One could call this a secret authoritarian “plot” to preserve the ability to spread antidemocratic conspiracy theories, except that it’s not a secret. It’s all visible, right on the surface. Russia, China, and sometimes other state actors—Venezuela, Iran, Hungary—work with Americans to discredit democracy, to undermine the credibility of democratic leaders, to mock the rule of law. They do so with the goal of electing Trump, whose second presidency would damage the image of democracy around the world, as well as the stability of democracy in America, even further.

This article appears in the June 2024 print edition with the headline “Democracy Is Losing the Propaganda War.” Anne Applebaum’s new book, Autocracy, Inc.: The Dictators Who Want to Run the World , will be published in July.

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What lies beneath Gaza’s rubble and ruin

The hysteria over campus protests in the United States has shifted American attention away from the depth of the ongoing calamity in Gaza.

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In a fit of ideological pique last week, far-right Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) scoffed at protesters agitating against pro-Israel policies on campuses across the United States . “I get a strange inkling that all these Columbia and UCLA students running around yelling ‘Free Palestine’ would not be jumping at the opportunity to do a semester abroad in Gaza,” she wrote on social media , before later journeying to a protest encampment at George Washington University and almost sparring with students when trying to pull down a Palestinian flag.

Boebert’s scorn is shared even by some of her opponents in the Washington establishment, many of whom have cast the student demonstrations as, at best, unproductive far-left agitprop or, more darkly, dangerous antisemitic behavior that must be expunged from the academy. Hundreds of campus protesters have been arrested in recent days in police crackdowns from California to New York.

Boebert’s comment, though, drew derision on two counts: First, that protesters angry about alleged Israeli war crimes in Gaza would need to go to the besieged territory itself to justify their anger. And, second, that students could even do “a semester abroad” in Gaza, where Israel has spent the past half year systematically destroying most of its educational institutions, including all of its universities .

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For months, Palestinian civil society activists have drawn attention to the steady eradication of Gaza’s cultural patrimony. Israel’s punishing campaign against militant group Hamas has seen much of the territory reduced to ruin. In the process, many libraries, museums and colleges have been ransacked and razed — in some instances, by deliberate Israeli demolition. Thousands of artifacts in various collections, including Roman coins and other materials from Gaza’s pre-Islamic past, have been potentially lost during the war .

The hysteria over campus protests in the United States has shifted American attention away from the depth of the ongoing calamity in Gaza. U.N. officials and aid agencies are still grappling with the scale of the destruction in the territory, where dozens are still dying every day. Since Hamas launched its Oct. 7 terrorist strike on southern Israel, more than 34,500 Palestinians in the territory — many of them women and children — have been killed. Some 5 percent of Gaza’s overall population has been killed or injured, according to a U.N. report that cites local data.

That figure doesn’t include the more than at least 10,000 people that the U.N. estimates are still missing beneath the rubble, citing the Palestinian Civil Defense (PCD). The challenge of finding the missing is growing more dire, given the widespread destruction of heavy machinery and equipment needed to dig through the debris.

“Rising temperatures can accelerate the decomposition of bodies and the spread of disease,” the U.N. humanitarian affairs office said in a statement , adding that the PCD was appealing to “all relevant stakeholders to urgently intervene to allow the entry of needed equipment, including bulldozers and excavators, to avert a public health catastrophe, facilitate dignified burials, and save the lives of injured people.”

Sifting through Gaza’s wreckage will be no simple task. Israel has dumped a huge amount of ordnance on the territory. Mungo Birch, head of the U.N. Mine Action Program in Palestinian territory, said last week that the amount of unexploded missiles and bombs lying in the rubble is “unprecedented” since World War II. He said tiny Gaza is a site of some 37 million tons of rubble — more than what’s been generated across all of Ukraine during Russia’s war — and 800,000 tons of asbestos and other contaminants. He said his agency has only a fraction of the funding it needs to begin clearing operations whenever the war ends.

Over the weekend, U.S. and Egyptian officials attempted to facilitate a last-ditch effort to broker a truce between Israel and Hamas . A delegation from the Palestinian militant group was in Cairo and expressed optimism that a breakthrough could be found. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who faced mass protests at home against his continued tenure in office, seemed more wary of the arrangement and remains bent on carrying out a full offensive against the southern Gazan city of Rafah, where more than a million Palestinians already displaced in the territory have taken shelter.

Top U.N. officials say famine has already gripped parts of Gaza. Beyond the desperately insufficient trickle of humanitarian aid into the territory, the war has also “severely hampered” Gaza’s “ability to produce food and clean water,” according to my colleagues . “Israeli airstrikes and bulldozers have razed farms and orchards. Crops abandoned by farmers seeking safety in southern Gaza have withered, and cattle have been left to die.”

The fear surrounding Rafah and the uncertainty over a potential cease-fire sit against the looming reality of how difficult it will be for Gaza to recover. More than 70 percent of all housing in the territory has been destroyed. A report by the U.N. Development Program (UNDP) found that the war has reversed 40 years of development and improvement in social indicators such as life expectancy, health and educational attainment in Gaza.

The agency estimated that reconstruction, at this point, would cost some $40 billion to $50 billion. And if it follows the pace observed after previous conflicts, UNDP estimates that it will take “approximately 80 years to restore all the fully destroyed housing units” in Gaza.

“My very big concern — in addition to the numbers — is the breaking down of communities and families in Gaza,” UNDP regional director Abdallah al-Dardari told The Washington Post . “If you know 60 people in your family have been killed — like our colleague Issam al-Mughrabi who was killed with 60 people in his family during one raid — you will go numb,” Dardari said. “The consequences of this war will stay with us far beyond the end of the war.”

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Guest Essay

With I.C.C. Arrest Warrants, Let Justice Take Its Course

Two black-and-white photographs of Benjamin Netanyahu and Yahya Sinwar.

By David Kaye

Mr. Kaye is a law professor at the University of California, Irvine.

In seeking the arrests of senior leaders of Israel and Hamas, the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court has given the world a promise of accountability.

Regardless of the outcome of the cases, the prosecutor’s request that the court issue arrest warrants for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Hamas’s Yahya Sinwar helps cut through the polarizing language of the moment and promotes the idea that the basic rules of international humanitarian law apply to all. Anyone demanding an end to the conflict in Gaza and the release of all hostages from the grasp of Hamas should embrace the decision.

The prosecutor, Karim Khan, has also brought accusations against Hamas’s Muhammad Deif and Ismail Haniyeh. Mr. Khan has charged the three Hamas leaders with crimes against humanity and war crimes arising out of the Oct. 7 attacks, and he emphasized that some of these crimes are being committed “to this day,” a reference to the hostages still being held by the group.

Mr. Khan is charging Israel’s most senior leadership, including Mr. Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, for war crimes and crimes against humanity. While Mr. Khan recognized Israel’s “right to take action to defend its population,” he accused them of having “a common plan to use starvation as a weapon of war,” the targeting of civilians and other forms of collective punishment.

Crucially, the request recognizes compelling claims for justice on both sides of the conflict. Soon after Hamas’s attack on Israel, families of Israeli victims urged Mr. Khan to investigate Hamas for its actions, including forced disappearances, which is viewed by the court as a crime against humanity. “They simply want justice to be done,” a lawyer for some of the families said . Mr. Khan, after visiting the Rafah border crossing in late October, said of the hostage-taking, “When these types of acts take place, they cannot go uninvestigated, and they cannot go unpunished.”

The prosecutor also recognized demands on the Palestinian side. When Mr. Gallant announced a “complete siege” of Gaza days after the Oct. 7 attacks, a potentially grave violation of international law, the prosecutor had little choice but to set in motion an investigation that led to today’s action.

Palestinian human rights defenders have long urged international investigations and prosecutions of senior Israeli officials. They believed that the court’s failure to issue arrest warrants against Israeli officials early in the current war — or even before, over repression in the West Bank — undermined the deterrent effect that accountability could create. Justice delayed is justice denied, they argued .

The prosecutor heard both parties. There is no doubt that by pursuing parallel, if independent, actions against these officials, he risks the perception of equivalence between Hamas, a terrorist organization with little concern for its own people, and Israel, a democratic member of the United Nations. But that is the wrong way to read what he has done. Instead, he has acknowledged that people on both sides of this conflict have legitimate claims and that the law is designed to protect all of humanity.

Mr. Khan’s action is unprecedented: It is the first time the court has targeted a Western democracy with a vibrant court system or the top leaders of a close U.S. ally. The International Criminal Court’s founding charter, the Rome Statute, generally rules out pursuing prosecutions in countries that are able and willing to investigate and prosecute people accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity. Israel will no doubt make this a central plank of its rebuttal. But Mr. Khan’s approach remains focused on allegations like the deprivation of humanitarian aid and other collective punishments that are the responsibility of senior leaders. These are the people least likely to face accountability not just in Israeli courts but in any national court worldwide.

Similarly, the accusations against Hamas’s leaders are focused on the murders, sexual violence and kidnappings of Oct. 7. They align with provisions of the Rome Statute that provide the court with jurisdiction to investigate and prosecute war crimes and crimes against humanity.

By lodging allegations against individuals, the prosecutor moves the world away from the broad and dangerous claims of collective responsibility that have dominated sloganeering since Oct. 7. In neither case does Mr. Khan cast doubt on underlying historical or divisive political views; the charges avoid any language that questions Israel’s legitimacy as a state or claims of Palestinians’ right to self-determination. Instead, the request is an affirmation of the principle that individuals have the power to behave within the bounds of international law and to bear responsibility when they break its gravest rules.

To be sure, many people in the United States and Israel will not see it this way. House Republicans have already introduced legislation threatening to impose sanctions on Mr. Khan and his team of investigators and lawyers if they were to investigate or prosecute. Some Israelis will no doubt say that the prosecutor is acting like a friend to Hamas. And the prosecution, even if the court approves the warrants, has extraordinary barriers to surmount, not least that it cannot carry out prosecutions until the defendants are in custody in The Hague. Israel is not a member of the court and does not recognize its jurisdiction within its borders or in Gaza.

Courtroom arguments will determine the prosecution’s fate. Israeli officials may argue that the court’s jurisdiction should not extend to them because there is no Palestinian state capable of accepting its jurisdiction, even though the court previously decided otherwise. They may also contend that Hamas’s violence and use of Gazans as human shields bear the blame for the catastrophic humanitarian situation and that they do everything possible to minimize harm to civilians and ensure aid deliveries.

Let Israel argue all of this in court or start investigations to demonstrate that it has legitimate national processes to hold accountable the most senior officials responsible for I.C.C. crimes, thereby making a court prosecution unwarranted.

There is a global cost to opposing the International Criminal Court. With U.S. and European support, the court is seeking to prosecute President Vladimir Putin for alleged crimes in Ukraine. The court promotes the global interest in accountability for the worst crimes under international law. Attacks on it only benefit those who, like Mr. Putin, seek to delegitimize its existence.

The court must do its work of demonstrating the promise of global justice and individual accountability for the recognition of victims on both sides. It can show protesters around the world that international institutions can still function and help bring about justice. Both Israelis and Palestinians are owed it.

David Kaye is a law professor at the University of California, Irvine.

The Times is committed to publishing a diversity of letters to the editor. We’d like to hear what you think about this or any of our articles. Here are some tips . And here’s our email: [email protected] .

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