War is one of the most radical embodiments of "doublethink" possible for mankind to engage in, and is almost always accompanied by a massive campaign of disinformation on all sides involved. Increasingly, disinformation and propaganda have become integral parts of the war effort. See Office of Strategic Influence.
Some believe that war is good for something, for instance that it promotes industry and encourages national solidarity. And, unspoken by most, it lets "us" be the winners (for any value of "us" that happens to be on the winning side). Others believe that war is bad. The costs of war, in lost lives, money spent, and so on can stagger a society if it is not prepared for them. There is the persistent possibility that the public mood will swing, and that the people will begin calling on the administration to "bring the boys home!"
Because the dichotomy between performance and outcome is so radical (i.e. nobody wishes to actually go fight in a war, but few people object to winning one), public perceptions and attitudes on any given war are fickle. Because of this, there is an everpresent temptation for politicians to pad (or "sex up") their motives for engaging in war. Any war proceeds more smoothly when the public perceives that it will cost them little to nothing.
Every conceivable motive to go to war has seen use at some point in human history, from religion to industry to simple real estate concerns. At bottom, war is, and will remain, a political exercise whose side-effects include death on a large scale. Because of this, there are cases (e.g. Vietnam) where soldiers can be looked upon with contempt because of their role in a politically-motivated war.
"War", as a word in the common language, is experiencing definition drift. The following have widespread notoriety:
- war on drugs
- war on terrorism
- As Episcopal Bishop John Chane said at a recent chapel service: "We've gone from a war on poverty to a war on the poor".