What are the effects of war on society?
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Through history, wars have had different kinds of effects on the societies impacted by the wars for many reasons.
The Cold War resulted, in the US, in a renewed emphasis upon the importance of education, particularly in the areas of science and mathematics. The impression developed that the US was falling behind the Soviet Union in development of weapons and technology, as illustrated by the space race, and that the way to overtaking the Soviets involved raising the caliber of scientific research and development being done in the US. As Americans watched the expansion of the nuclear arms race, they became more aware of the threats created along with those armaments. As industrialization expanded along with the production of new products, many people achieved greater material wealth. At the same time, the environment experienced increased pollution and depletion of natural resources. All of the above activity drove the US economy to raise the overall standard of living.
Other wars created different sets of impacts.
War can have many different impacts on societies. It depends very much on what the society is like before the war, what the war is about, how popular the war is, whether that particular country wins or loses the war, and many other variables.
For example, the major impact of WWII on US society as a whole was fairly positive. The war stimulated the US economy and helped to get it out of the Great Depression. The war led to an increase in patriotism and solidarity in the country. It also helped to some degree with moving the United States towards giving civil rights to African Americans.
War can, of course, have much more negative impacts on a society. German society, for example, was pushed towards evil by WWII. The best example of this, of course, is how the war allowed Germans to participate in the Holocaust. In this way, war can sometimes bring out the worst in a society.
War can have so many different impacts on a society that it is impossible to generalize and say that war always has some particular effect on society.
Under any circumstances, war is a mixed bag. It normally leads to increased economic production; in fact World War II was largely responsible for pulling the United States out of the Great Depression. At the same time, the cost in human lives is so high that war seems almost inappropriate. Few people would justify war on the basis of an improved economy.
War also is a tremendous boost to Nationalism, in fact the initial practice of Nationalism was a result of the Napoleonic wars. One need only look at the plethora of flag displays after September 11, 2001 to understand that nationalism almost always follows a national conflict with another country or ideology.
One very important effect is the curtailment of civil liberties and dissent. In the United States, laws and policies from the Alien and Sedition Acts to the PATRIOT Act have been enacted to limit speech and other civil liberties during times of conflict and war. Whether one thinks these restrictions justified or not is a bit of a different issue, but there's no doubt they occur-just ask the thousands of Japanese-Americans placed in internment camps during World War II.
Wars can also lead to major social change- it's no accident that the US and Great Britain granted suffrage to women in the aftermath of WWI, and certainly WWII was a major stimulus for the African-American Civil Rights movement. Yet these changes can be fleeting, or even illusory-despite all the "Rosie the Riveter" propaganda, most women worked domestic and low-paying jobs during the Second World War, and those who didn't were certainly expected to return to the home after the war's end.
Consider the expense of war. The cost of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, for example, has surpassed a trillion dollars US. Not only has this been spent on war, but it's important to note that it consequently hasn't been spent on social programs, education, infrastructure, the arts, or anything else. So society is affected over the long run because of the huge treasure that war requires that is thus denied to every other socially beneficial program.
It depends in part upon which side of the war your society is on. In the society that bears the front of confrontation, the affects are devastation of the land, the cities and towns, business and employment, psychological health and population count. If a society is involved in the war but not at the front, most effects are similar but, in some categories, are seen at lesser degrees. The land is not subject to ruin. The cities and towns are not destroyed. Business and employment may be adversely affected if taxation is high and if the economy overburdened. The general population is not affected psychologically--however the military population will be affected profoundly psychologically and physically (as in the war-torn society), and there will be a reduction in population, while families will also suffer psychologically.
War shapes society. Different wars make it possible for social action to take place. For example, after the Civil War, slavery no longer existed. The Vietnam War made people question US involvement in foreign countries. Every war has some kind of social impact.
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