Difference Between War and Conflict

War vs Conflict

Human civilization is replete with instances of wars and conflicts. In fact, at any given point of time, there are scores of conflicts, battles, skirmishes, and full scale wars carrying on between political entities and nations around the world. All there words smack of rift, tension and violence in some form but among these terms, war is decidedly the deadliest as it is of longer duration and declared while rest of the terms signify local level fights that cannot be considered as full fledged war. In this article, we shall concentrate upon the concepts of war and conflict and try to find out the major differences between the two.


When we talk of wars, two wars that stand out in the minds of all people are the two world wars that tool place in the twentieth century and are living examples of destruction of lives and property. If we count wars as open, declared, and intentional armed struggles between nations or political entities, more than 3000 wars have been fought on the face of the earth so far and despite concerted and united efforts by civilized nations, there seems to be no end to the use of this instrument of settling disputes between countries. Though it is common to refer to armed conflict of long duration between two countries as classical wars, civil wars inside countries are also considered wars. What would you call the latest call given by the ex President of US to fight against international terror. He described it as war on terror, and war indeed it is, involving cooperation and active support of the international community.

It is clear than fisticuffs between individuals, gang wars, killings by mafia and gang lords etc cannot be classified as wars. However, there is a lot of confusion in this regard as armed rebellions against a nation by a section of its population that feels oppressed are called as wars of independence by those who support these rebellions, and extremism or terrorism by those in power.

Mutual disdain between political parties and use of violence by them against each other does not constitute as war. To be classified as a war, the conflict must be widespread, intentional, and declared. It requires mobilization of personnel and fighter or soldiers moving to front positions to defend territories.


Conflict arises from disagreement between two parties where parties perceive a threat to their needs and interests. It is a state of open and prolonged fighting between people, ideologies, and even countries. It is a known fact that there are differences in the positions of parties involved in any conflict. As long as the level of disagreement remains manageable, conflict remains verbal and can be solved (or at least raises hopes of settlement) through negotiations. It is when the levels of disagreements go beyond control that conflicts give rise to violence and armed struggles.

In an organization, there is always a conflict between the management and the employees because of differences in interests. But there is a mechanism to resolve these conflicts like meetings, negotiations, and talks. Similarly in a political system, there is always a conflict between the party in power and those in opposition, but it does not get out of hand as there are rules and regulations and also norms of conduct that keep discordant elements in check.

There are international conflicts that are mostly pertaining to disputes about geographical boundaries as countries claim a particular region as their own which is denied vehemently by those who control those areas. One such international conflict is India Pakistan Kashmir conflict which has led to three full fledged wars between these two countries and remains a potential nuclear flash point with both countries now being nuclear powers. Another international conflict that has remained unresolved for the last 5 decades is the Israel Palestine conflict with Israel on one side and most of the Arab states on the other side.

In brief:

Difference Between War and Conflict

• War is intentional, disclosed, wide spread and long duration armed conflict between countries.

• War requires mobilization of troops and use of arms and ammunition to destroy enemy targets.

• Conflict is disagreement between parties where parties perceive threat to their interests and needs

• Conflict can be between individuals, communities, or even countries

• There are mechanisms to resolve conflicts but when they fail, conflicts can give rise to full scal wars (when involving countries)