Why do wars end the way they do?


Why do wars sometimes end with the winning side “settling” for a peace treaty or money instead of simply capturing the opposing country?

An example of this could be the The Treaty of Versailles

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Wars happen when two or more groups of people want conflicting things and are willing to use violence to try to force what they want.

Wars end when one or both groups decide that fighting is no longer worth it. Maybe that’s because one side has been completely wiped out or subjugated. More frequently, it’s because one or both sides decide to concede enough of what the other wants that the cost of continuing to fight outweighs any benefit the other could obtain from doing so.

And ultimately, not every war is about trying to take over another country. The victor is the one who gets all or most of what they want in the end, and what they want varies from war to war. Sometimes it’s taking over more territory. Frequently it’s something else entirely.

Well, I think one of the biggest factors would be dealing with the populace that lives in the newly gained territory. The locale would be hostile and resistant to your government and citizens. This can also spark the beginning of resistance / separatist movements that would cause instability (very bad for investors) and extending the violence, further degrading your country’s international image.

Often wars do end with the winning country taking territory. The whole purpose behind WW II for Germany was “Lebensraum” or “living space”, they were taking more territory for their citizens.

This issue with taking territory is the people living there. Either they are killed, expelled or become citizens. The first two options aren’t really acceptable in todays world. The people aren’t generally welcomed as new citizens, and don’t want to be citizens of the new country either, so you get continued fighting.

In the past the new territory could be taken as a colony, and then the winning country would get the economic benefits but not have to take on new citizens. This is also no longer seen as ‘ok’.

Have you been playing Total War?

Capturing a country is not usually the goal of a war. Occupations and annexations are costly and unpopular both with citizens and in international politics. Then you have a rebellious population to deal with. Not to mention a nation will fight back a lot harder when the conflict is existential.

Wars are usually fought for a strategic objective. You think the Russians have too much influence in Syria so you fight or fund a war to put your preferred regime in place and get them to back down.

Wars take a huge toll on both sides. WW 1 has an estimated 8 million losses on one side (Central Powers) and 9 million on the other, for example.

Armies get weaker, both numerically and psychologically, logistics becomes more complicated and expensive, economies suffer a lot from all the expenses (and, often, supply decreases), civilians protest, maybe even politicians start to back down. At some point a peace treaty is the only way out.

Or maybe the winning party doesn’t want to burn the country to the ground, but the opposing force fights so hard that the winning army tries to get an armistice to get out of this in reasonable terms.