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CZ:Proposals/Article names for wars and conflicts

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This proposal has been assigned on an ad hoc basis to the person or persons named just below, and is now in the Ad hoc proposals queue

This proposal will in the first instance be approved or rejected by the contributors to this page, when the driver deems it ready to call for approval. If there is a controversy, and you contribute to this page, then you have a "vote." If the proposal is approved, then it must be posted to cz-editcouncil so that the Council has a chance to review it and opt to vote on it.

Driver: Howard C. Berkowitz

Complete explanation

We have had confusion, and some arguments, on the nomenclature for events involving "the extension of politics (group or national) through military or paramilitary means." The confusion involves both semantics and syntax. We need standards.

No one standard can cover all cases, but we can have an ordered list of preferences for naming.


The problems include:


  • various parties will have different names for the same conflict (e.g., War Between the States, War of Yankee Aggression); an initiator may have a name for the operation (Case White) but the defender speaks more generically (e.g., defense of Poland against Germany, 1939)
  • Historically significant code names, which are not necessarily obvious search terms for a nonspecialist (e.g., Operation Torch vs. Allied invasion of North Africa, 1942.
  • Especially with modern conflicts, some countries, especially the U.S., tend to refer to the name by (e.g., Operation IRAQI FREEDOM versus 2003 US invasion of Iraq).
  • Operations may have more than one code name. Modern code names are not supposed to suggest the subject of the plan, so, in planning, Operation POLO STEP was the term used for planning the Iraq War (2003-).
  • Some names are quickly changed. The original public name for the Iraq War was Operation IRAQI LIBERATION, but that changed when the connotations of the natural abbreviation were noticed.
  • Even when the sides involved had relatively neutral naming policies, they were different. During the American Civil War, the Union tended to name battles for a nearby city, while the Confederacy preferred to use rivers (e.g., Manassas vs. Bull Run)
  • When the war is over disputed territory, the different sides may have very different names, especially when separatism is involved
  • high-intensity combat vs. occupation/nationbuilding/resistance (i.e., when does a "war" stop and an "occupation" end? When does an "occupation end" '
  • Especially for older conflicts, the dates of starting and ending may be imprecise. This is still a problem in modern wars; the Second World War ended in 1945, but did it start in 1931 (Mukden incident), 1938 (sinking of the USS Panay) or even Kristallnacht, 1939 (invasion of Poland) or 1941 (Japanese attacks against Western bases in the Pacific)?


No naming convention will cover all cases, so the article must mention partisan and other names in the introductory paragraphs, and with redirects to them.

In order of preference:

  1. [location], conflict in [dates] (e.g., Gulf War (1991)); the date may be optional
  2. [sides] war (primary naming should be the most common, such as Sino-Japanese War, but also should have the alternatives, such as Japanese-Chinese War (1894-195)

Recognizing that search engines will find the article title, text names in articles, and redirects, the priority is to have these alternate names available. If a conflict is formally named in a treaty, declaration of war, or other primary document, such a name is authoritative. If there is no authoritative name, then the goal is to have a comprehensive set of strings that will be found on search.


A discussion section, to which anyone may contribute.

The wiki I am most familiar with is Wikitravel. Policy there is to use the "commonest English name" for article titles. Other names are often redirects and may be discussed in the article body, especially if there is controversy or the name has political implications. Would that work here?

We would then have articles titled "US Civil War", "World War II", "Vietnam War", "D-Day", ... since those are common English names. Things like "War between the states" or "Operation Overlord" would be redirects. On the other hand, I think "Operation Torch" could be an article title since it is a well-known term.

Where there are two or more common terms, say "American Revolution" vs "War of Independence (USA)", I do not think it matters much which we choose as long as the other is created as redirect. Wikitravel discussion. User: Sandy Harris

I'm not opposed, with the caveats that there really isn't a single common English name for some of these terms; the common term varies with English-speaking country and even region of a country. That being said, if we recognize that the base article name is arbitrary, we are committed to multiple redirects as well as explaining the multiple names in article text, then we also need to commit to accepting a first-name-selected-in-good-faith and not disrupt content unless a truly rare name is selected. It will be a judgment call, but one such is going on at U.S. Civil War, a term very few use. In a different article, however, I encountered immediate pushback on a transliterated name, with others moving the article so quickly that I was unable to create working, non-double, redirects in time.
Procedurally, I would suggest that if a reasonably expert writer picked an arbitrary article name, and immediately indicated, in the introduction, that there were other names that would be redirected, a brief grace period might be in order. Only in the most extreme cases -- and I think U.S. Civil War is one -- should there be argument and nonconsensual title moves. Howard C. Berkowitz 12:43, 22 March 2009 (UTC)

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