|A German medium bomber flies over a Polish city|
Noun phrase. Plural same. Mid-19th century.
[from Latin casus CASE noun + belli genitive of bellum war.]
An act or situation justifying or precipitating war.
Countries (generally) need a damn good reason to go to war, a reason that will motivate its fighting forces, galvanise support from its allies, undermine support for its enemy, and mollify critics and its own civilian population. Where there is no reasonable justification, however, governments haven't been above artfully orchestrating them: Nazi Germany staged an attack on its own Sender Gleiwitz radio station by Germans dressed in Polish uniforms, an "act of aggression" that was subsequently used to justify its catalytic invasion, and later that same year, the Soviet Union shelled the Russian village of Mainila and blamed it on Finland, using that as an excuse to invade and start the 'The Winter War'. Interestingly, while Germany's invasion of Poland was technically the casus belli for Britain and France to declare war, this is more correctly termed a casus foederis, a 'case for the alliance', which is when the terms of a military alliance trigger a declaration of war. Of course, in the age of media and democracy, the importance of a convincing casus belli has never been greater - alleging the development of WMDs or links to Al Qaeda have been particularly useful in this regard.
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