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June 2021
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Is going to war a legitimate economic decision?
Filed under: General
Posted by: Alan @ 6:47 pm

I don’t usually answer these SNS questions, whether on FB or LinkedIn, but for some reason this jumped out at me, probably because I’m listening to John Keegan’s A History of Warfare.  Here’s what I wrote:

Tricky word, legitimate:

le·git·i·mate (l-jt-mt)


1. Being in compliance with the law; lawful: a legitimate business.

Maybe only for civil wars is a war following the “law”, of course from
only one side’s perspective. Since we don’t really have int’l law, I
think it’s difficult to say wars between foreign powers are legit by
this definition. I think Rik’s answer is based on this definition.

2. Being in accordance with established or accepted patterns and standards: legitimate advertising practices.

I think Richard’s answer is based on this second definition. It may
be an “established standard” to go to war against evil (another
point-of-view word).

3. Based on logical reasoning; reasonable: a legitimate solution to the problem.

I think your question probably is based on this definition, with some morale undertones.

Ultimately, people will fight over constrained resources. Rarely will
some people just give up and die. I’m concerned about China - US
relationships as China increases its energy consumption and continues
to gain int’l power. That’s why I’m helping out with JUCCCE - Joint
US-China Cooperation on Clean Energy (

An interesting book is A History of Warfare by John Keegan. He
argues that the theory that war is an extension of politics is actually
a pretty recent hypothesis, and that history offers plenty of examples
where this isn’t the case. In regards to your question, economics may
be the outwardly “logical” reason for a war, but there may be other
irrational factors at play as well, such as nationalism and racism.

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