War for Fun and Profit

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"War! What is it good for?
It's good for you! It's good for me!
War! What is it good for?

It strengthens the economy!"
The War Song, Sam and Max
"War is good for business."

War Is Hell for many, and some would rather it didn't happen. They say it's unnecessary, or they wish it wasn't necessary. In fiction, however, some Villains not only like war, they frequently like to start wars for their own ends. Their motives may vary. They may set out to profit from the situation, or be trying to Take Over the World. They may be terrorists, or just Card Carrying Villains.

The method is often some form of False-Flag Operation; the villains pretend to be members of one country, and attack another. Nuclear weapons are commonly used in the set-up. At times, both sides in a conflict use a flimsy Pretext for War just so they can get to the "good" parts.

It's sometimes implied in narrative examples of this trope that corporations would somehow profit from this war, often mentioning arms manufacturers, but this ignores the large amount of other companies that would only lose money in the economic recessions that inevitably accompany wars, especially their aftermaths. Then again, the corporations that incite these wars are probably not interested in what happens to other companies anyway (or in really cartelized corporate oligarchies, might actually subvert these "enemies"). It also starts the argument that only in times of (relative) peace do people buy weapons - once the war starts, weapons and relevant industries tend to be confiscated. Countered by the argument that peace tends to make arms markets flat - a long-standing threat of war (real or artificial) can be damned profitable for arms manufacturers... Let's just be real careful what gets put in the Real Life section, okay?

Examples of War for Fun and Profit include:

Anime and Manga

  • Major Montana Max from Hellsing doesn't care who wins, loses, or even why people are fighting. He just absolutely loves conflict for its own sake, as he explains during an inspirational speech to his men before launching his assault on London.
  • In Cyborg 009, Black Ghost sent a group of mass produced cyborg men to help try to spark a war in 008's home country in Africa and proceeded to sell his advanced weaponry to both sides.
    • In the original manga version it was in 'Nam during The Vietnam War. This happens a few more times, as well. The Black Ghost Organization is pretty much the king of this trope, being run by a consortium of arms manufacturers.
  • In the Lupin III movie $1 Money Wars, the villainess, Cynthia, arranges for a third-world military junta to stage attacks on oil-rich areas throughout the world, at the same time buying as much oil as she can. The desired result is perpetual warfare, giving her an eternal market.
  • Madlax did this as some kind of bizarre magic ritual for a Nietzsche Wannabe.
    • In fact, a lot of people were expecting this to be the reason of Enfant backing the civil war in Gatz-Sonika, only to be surprised to learn that there was no immediately obvious profit - Enfant was arming both sides for free.
  • Gundam series:
  • The Atreide Company from Noir is in this line of work - with the front of being an International Security Service, they sell complete coup d'etat packages to interested factions in unstable regions, toppling governments in return for resource rights. From training the soldiers and providing the weapons, right down to planning the actual takeover, all you need to do is provide a charismatic face for the Revolution!
  • In One Piece, Sir Crocodile inspires a rebellion in the kingdom of Alabasta by framing the King for stealing the rain, as well as some other villainous deeds. He does all this to force the king into telling him the location of an ancient superweapon.
  • Orochimaru, the Big Bad of Naruto, loves doing this. He seems to consider it an art-form (but only if he is responsible - he thinks any other war is pointless).
  • Full Metal Panic!: The Second Raid. Amalgam starts wars in order to test, demonstrate and create a market for its Black Technology.
  • The villain from one of the Dirty Pair OVA episodes is a military contractor who has helped to incite (and finance) a rebellion against his own country in order to sell weapons to the guerrillas. He keeps upping the stakes by gradually selling each side better weapons.
  • In Mahou Sensei Negima, the war that split the Magic World twenty years ago was due to Fate Averruncus's group Kosmo Entelecheia, who wanted everyone else off their backs while they kidnapped a princess and used her to power their massive ritual (it's easier if the princess's home country thinks the enemy did it).
  • This is the main plot of Maoyuu Maou Yuusha with the reason being that the war has benefited both humans and demons and if the war ends, there will be civil war which would be a lot worse.

Comic Books

  • In his first appearance, before he was a Mad Scientist, a Corrupt Corporate Executive or President Evil, Lex Luthor was a weapons dealer trying to start a war between two Ruritanias.
  • One of the ways that Max from The Losers gets his funding for his grand plan is P.A.M. (Policy Analysis Market) a special program that reads changes in the stock markets as a way of predicting terrorist attacks and also allows investors to earn huge profits by betting on the probability of said attacks. Max also runs a special outfit called P.2.O.G. (Proactive Preemptive Operations Group) whose objective is to provoke terrorism. You do the math.
    • In fact, the fear of something like the above happening in real life is why P.A.M. was cancelled in real life.
  • In The Broken Ear, an oil company helps start a war between San Theodoros and Nuevo-Rico for sole control of the Gran Chapo region which straddles the border between the two countries. An arms merchant in cahoots with the oil company representative makes his profit by selling cannons to both sides. The war lasts a few weeks until it is discovered that the report of oil deposits in the area was an exaggeration.
  • G.I. Joe features Destro, a weapons manufacturer who incites war and sells to both sides if it's profitable.
  • In Marvel Comics Six Guns mini-series, evil corporation Roxxon starts rumours about a vibranium mine is a Banana Republic, knowing that both halves of the country will go to war. Roxxon is providing the Private Military Contractors for both sides of the conflicts.


  • The James Bond films did this at least three times. In You Only Live Twice, Blofeld tries to heat up the cold war, by having a spacecraft steal American and Soviet space capsules, so the Americans and Soviets would each think the other is responsible. Tomorrow Never Dies has media magnate Elliot Carver attempt to start a war between the United Kingdom and China, by sinking a British frigate sent off-course into Chinese waters, while shooting down a Chinese fighter plane sent to investigate. The Spy Who Loved Me was essentially You Only Live Twice but replaced spacecraft with submarines.
    • It seems that in the new films this is the modus operandi of Quantum. In Casino Royale Le Chiffre plans to blow up a new airliner to make money as he's sold their shares short. When Bond stops the plan, Le Chiffre loses a great deal of money that belongs to other people and has to run the poker game to try and get it back. In Quantum of Solace Dominic Greene helps General Medrano overthrow the Bolivian government in exchange for a seemingly useless piece of desert which unknown to Medrano allows Greene to completely control Bolivia's entire water supply and charge exorbitant rates.
  • Lord of War
  • The Assassination Bureau: Bostwick plans to destroy a peace conference to ignite a war and profit as the stock prices soar.
  • In the Star Wars prequel trilogy, the Trade Federation's blockade/invasion of Naboo, the Separatist Crisis, and the Clone Wars were all orchestrated by Palpatine in his plot to become Emperor.
  • In Canadian Bacon, facing the prospect of economic recession from closing arms factories and low popularity among working people, the president of the US and a major arms dealer try to restart the Cold War. Since Russia isn't interested (at this point, anyway) they instead frame up Canada as the new enemy. Canadians, on the other hand, are either unaware, or just confused about the whole thing.
    • There's also the fact that one of the President's advisors is in cahoots with the owner of said arms factories with a personal interest in a new Cold War. Unfortunately for him, now only does he fall to his death, but the Canadians actually end up "winning" the war.
  • A different take on this trope appears in The International (2009). The International Bank of Business and Credit finances third world revolution and arms sales, but their goal is not to profit from wars, but from the massive debt racked up by those fighting them.
  • Destro in G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra is an arms dealer who creates a weapon, steals it back, and then attempts to use it to create global fear of terrorism so the entire world will seek unifying leadership from the most powerful man on the planet. The president of the United States of America, who is really Destro's agent, Zartan
  • Possible Ur-Example: In Citizen Kane, Charles Foster Kane does this in order to sell newspapers. Based on the manipulations of real-life media mogul William Randolph Hearst:

"Dear Wheeler: You provide the prose poems. I'll provide the war."

  • In The Man Who Knew Too Little, an English and a Russian official conspire to kill the diplomats at an Anglo-Russian peace conference. They aim to restart the Cold War, apparently because they're bored.
  • Toyed with in Wag the Dog in order to get a sex scandal off the front page and get the President re-elected, with the twist that there never actually is a war as far as the viewers know. There may be fighting going on off screen, or there may not at all. We don't know, because it doesn't matter and nobody cares. What's important are the photo ops, the slogans and the huge PR spin.
  • In the Sherlock Holmes film A Game of Shadows, Professor Moriarty is attempting to ignite World War I after acquiring stock in a great many arms manufacturing companies, as well as cotton and opium companies (bandages and medicine). When Holmes figures out his plot and derails it, he points out that the approaching world war is inevitable, and he'll make a profit regardless. Then Holmes reveals he snatched the codebook Moriarty uses to keep track of his fortune and Scotland Yard has been gleefully seizing all of his assets, leaving the good professor with a "significantly diminished fortune."
  • In The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, the Big Bad Fantom (who is really Moriarty) is pitting Great Britain and Germany against each other at the turn of the 20th century in order to make a profit by selling advanced weapons to both sides. His plan is to steal the abilities of the League and mass-produce them. When the League prevents the destruction of Venice, which would result in the deaths of delegates in the middle of peace talks, Fantom replies that this is only delaying the inevitable. Even at the beginning of the movie, Fantom already has advanced weapons, such as a tank, machineguns, and a rocket launcher.
  • Three Days Of The Condor: The CIA is involved in provoking a war in the Middle East to ensure plentiful oil supplies to the US. Sound familiar ?


  • Tom Clancy's The Sum of All Fears had terrorists (Arabs in the book, Neo-Nazis in the movie) detonate a nuke in the US, in the hopes of provoking a retaliatory strike against Russia, and ultimately an all-out nuclear exchange.
    • The film seems to swap round the villains in terms of importance. In the book, the Arab are the main villains, supported by Germans.
    • And also a part of the most recent book in the series Dead or Alive. The Emir was hoping to frame the Pakistani government for his acts of terrorism, inspiring the US to occupy Pakistan and get embroiled in another highly unpopular decade-long nation-building exercise like post-9/11 Afghanistan and Iraq.
  • Vizzini in The Princess Bride was hired to kidnap Buttercup and place the blame on Guilder, the sworn enemy of Florin. This would have triggered a war, if the Dread Pirate Roberts had not intervened. But then, her royal fiancé had much the same plan.
    • Well, yeah. Who do you think hired Vizzini? Strangulation on the wedding night was the back-up plan.
  • In The Negotiator, the 1989 novel by Frederick Forsyth, unrelated to the film, the villains attempt to restart the Cold War because their weapons contracts are being canceled because the USA doesn't need them anymore.
    • Also The Fourth Protocol, though in that case the Dirty Communists plan was to allow the head of the British Labour Party to avert the crisis at the last minute; the resulting popularity would enable him to win the election whereupon he would be toppled by a hard-left faction inside his own party.
    • And lets not forget The Dogs of War, which was quite anvilicious about the role big business had in inciting warfare. The plot itself has a Corrupt Corporate Executive funding the overthrow of a small African state in order to get sole control of a mountain of platinum.
  • In 1984, The Book explains how Oceania keeps industries working and public sentiment worked up by a state of constant warfare.
  • And don't forget Petyr "Littlefinger" Baelish from A Song of Ice and Fire, whose Batman Gambit pretty much started the War of the Five Kings, all so he could marry Catelyn Stark, the only woman he had ever loved.
    • That's one theory, but as of the latest book it's merely supposition. Baelish's motives have yet to be revealed and judging from his comments in Feast For Crows it seems unlikely marrying Catelyn was a definite objective in his plan.
  • The idea behind Richard Morgan's 2004 sci-fi novel Market Forces. It's referred to as Conflict Investment, where multinational corporations invest in either the government or a rebel faction in exchange for a percentage of the country's resources.
  • In book 48 of Animorphs, Visser Three tried to start a war between America and China to weaken the Earth so that the Yeerks could win in all-out war.
  • The Warlord Chronicles gives us a view of how this might have worked in Dark Ages England, with numerous examples. First, war is both a source of fun and profit for many of the lords and kings, who view it as the most direct means of expanding their territory. Second, you have various different societies, warbands and mercenaries who raid from other sides (or even kingdoms ostensibly allied to them) for extra food, plunder, or renown. Lastly, one instance in particular nearly exemplifies the trope: Prince Cadwy of Isca hires Owain to take his warband and slaughter tin miners from Kernow. In an attempt to deflect suspicion, Owain disguises his men as the mercenary Irish group the Blackshields while he does so. Since the raid threatens to shatter the fragile alliance holding the Briton Kingdoms together against the Saxons, it seriously pisses off Arthur, who quickly tries to get to the bottom of it.
  • The Castigator from the Warhammer 40,000 novel Dark Adeptus claims that war is its sole purpose and one it enjoys, thus leading it to ally with Chaos.
  • The Saint's foe Doctor Rayt Marius attempted to start warfare for profit. Later, the Saint used Marius' records to blackmail his accomplices to start a fund for the families of the wounded and casualties of war.
  • The first work of fiction by Andy Mc Nab (or at least the first one he sold as fiction) had a slightly more plausible variant: Various defence contractors were conspiring to prolong The Troubles so that they'd have a convenient proving ground for their new products, with a faction of the British government getting some sort of kickback.
  • Comrade Death, a short story by Gerald Kersh, features an Arms Dealer who successfully merges the world's arms suppliers into a single corporation. One specializing in chemical weapons. He doesn't start any wars himself, they come along without his help, but fear of his gasses and the need for his gas masks to counter them help spread paranoia and militarization and lead to more sales.
  • This is basically the story of the Dune series. From the beginning (best known from the movie,) Atreides and Harkonnen fight to the death in a long bloody war to harvest spice for the Empire, because the house that harvests the most takes control of the planet. The Imperial House Corrino had been playing them off against each other, knowing they'd get their share of the spice either way but placing their bets on Harkonnen. The Corrinos lost that bet when Atreides defeated and absorbed Harkonnen, and had to enter the spice war themselves.
    • Not quite. The Atreides and Harkonnen hated each other over past family history. The Corrinos were only involved because the Emperor felt the Atreides Duke Leto was too popular and had managed to train a small force up to the level where they'd be able to take the Imperial Sardaukar infantry, which is why they assisted the Harkonnen in trapping them on a planet they had little entrenched support on by "awarding" them Arrakis. Leto could not refuse because Spice is too valuable to pass up the offer, even if it smelled like a trap.
    • Though in the background, war is largely a staple of inter-House politics; there's even an official "War of Assassins" situation two houses can declare to allow them to strike at each other in an official and legal fashion without requiring full-blown mobilization and invasion. Needless to say, the Atreides and Harkonnen have been in this state for a long time.
  • In Scarecrow by Matthew Reilly, a cabal of businessmen tries to start a new Cold War by using nukes with falsified signatures that'll convince the targets that someone else attacked them, increasing the value of their defence contracts. However, one of the businessmen secretly changes some things around so that instead of a Cold War, there's a series of red-hot ones (for example, one of his nukes is set to destroy Mecca and has the signatures of an American weapon). Why? Well... he's kinda big on anarchy.
  • The avian-serpiente war in the Kiesha'ra series doesn't initially look like one of these, but we learn in the first book that falcons have separated from the other avians to form their own society, and that the avians have only survived as long as they have by buying falcons' superior weaponry, at grievous prices. We're not initially told how the war started in the first place, and later books start putting the pieces together . . .
  • In Loic Henry's Loar, two neutral factions are selling their services to the different warring powers. One merely wished for war to continue lest they likely starve to death, the other actively makes it continue because in times of peace they'd be hunted down and exterminated.
  • The Mouse That Roared by Leonard Wibberley has the Duchy of Grand Fenwick, a tiny, impoverished, European country that declares war on the United States of America, planning to lose quickly, and then profit from the Americans coming in to rebuild their economy, just as they'd done for Germany and Japan after WW-II. Then they win, and are at a loss for what to do next.
  • A Shadow of All Night Falling, first book of Glen Cook's Dread Empire series, mentions that two of the characters, mercenary leaders Bragi Ragnarson and Haroun bin Yousif, have made a lucrative business of hiring into various quarrels on opposing sides:

What employers didn't know—and a couple had suffered for it—was that Ragnarson and bin Yousif were intimates. From opposite sides they engineered conflicts to their own profit, and with such finesse that even losing campaigns contributed to their reputations.


Live Action TV

  • In season 2 of 24, a consortium of oil company executives attempt to provoke a war between the US and several Mideast countries in order to enrich their investments in Caspian Sea oil deposits, by planting evidence that incriminates those countries' leaders in an attempted nuclear strike on Los Angeles.
    • Season 6 repeated the trope, with "renegade" Russian general Dmitri Gredenko supplying Arab terrorists with nukes to use against the US, in the hopes that it would precipitate a nuclear war that would destroy Russia's rivals and leave them as top dog.
  • The Slitheen in the Doctor Who episode "World War III" disguise themselves as the British government and try to incite the titular event, so that the Earth is reduced to a radioactive pile of rock... which they can then sell as spacecraft fuel.
  • Highlander the Raven featured a villain who made a living of starting wars. He planned something so horrible than even his watcher broke the non-interference rule to prevent it.
  • The Ferengi in Star Trek are fans of this.
    • Not really; while the Laws of Acquisition do say "War is good for business", they also say "Peace is good for business".
      • Quark doesn't sell weapons, but his cousin Gaila does. Which is why Quark only owns a single bar, and Gaila has his own moon...
        • Then again, when a business deal goes wrong for Gaila, he's got to deal with government hit squads who will nail his head on a pike, while Quark likely just has to deal with Odo or angry bruisers. Note the Ferengi Rule of Acquisition: "The Greater the Risk the Greater the Profit".
  • The Weatherman in NCIS intended to use knowledge of the US plan for handling war in Israel to make a killing on the stock market.
  • The pilot of The Lone Gunmen theorized that the end of the Cold War over might compel parties unhappy with this to fake a terrorist attack - triggering a "new Cold War" to keep arms sales up . Fast-forward six months to 9/11...
  • In the Star Trek: The Original Series episode "Journey to Babel", the Orions tried to sabotage a diplomatic conference and attacked the Enterprise in the hopes of starting a war, preventing the Federation from interfering with their operations and allowing them to profit by selling dilithium to both sides.
    • Enterprise: The Romulans used a holoship, disguising it as several different ships (depending on who they attacked) in an attempt to disrupt the very first Babel peace conference. They wanted to simply prevent an alliance between the Vulcans, Humans, Tellarites and Andorians because of the predicted shift in power in the quadrant, but the actions they took would have definitely ended in war.
  • The most recent addition to the Burn Notice Myth Arc (in Season 4) consists of trying to find out the organization that's apparently been starting wars in third-world countries for the sake of arms sales and other business opportunities.


Tabletop RPG

  • The Orks and Dark Eldar of Warhammer 40,000 qualify for this trope, while all of the other factions treat this as Serious Business.
    • The Orks are more fun oriented with profit being secondary. The only real reason behind the profit part is to sustain their war machine so they can keep fighting.
      • There is a story about an Ork raiding force that attacked one of Khorne's planets. Everyday the Orks are forced to fight a losing battle until every last one of them is killed. At the beginning of the next day, all of the Orks are resurrected to start the process again. The is considered by the Orks on the planet to be their equivalent of heaven.
      • Essentially for Orks, it doesn't matter whether you win or lose, as long as you participate.
    • Dark Eldar are sadists that use raids to steal wealth and slaves. However, the Dark Eldar are also incredibly arrogant, so they rarely consider anyone else to actually be a threat. As a result, they usually like to indulge their sadistic tendencies during raids for their own amusement.
      • The Dark Eldar also do this partly because they need a steady supply of souls to feed to Slaanesh to keep the Chaos god from devouring their souls. It's mostly sadistic hedonism though.
    • Chaos does not qualify, even if it seems like it should. Chaos is essentially the twisted mirror image of the Imperium and shares the same Serious Business, fanatical approach to war.
  • Sky Pirate Johnathan Genghis Khan of Crimson Skies actually started a war between Utah and the People's Collective simply so he could steal a military zeppelin and a cargo hold full of ill gotten gains.
  • The yugoloths in Planescape and other Dungeons & Dragons settings where the Blood War is important. While some suspect their highest high-ups have a more sinister reason for encouraging the war between the Abyss and the Nine Hells, most are greedy merchants and mercenaries, selling weapons, goods, services, and information to both sides to profit from a war that, in the eons since it started, shows no signs of ending.

Video Games

  • 2027 Evgeny participates in this in the Omar ending if you helped expand his territory.
  • In the game Dune the Battle for Arakis we are also introduced to the house Ordos who also fight for Arakis.
  • This is the very premise for the game The Sky Crawlers: Innocent Aces, where you work for a company called Rostock against their rival Lautern.
  • In Advance Wars, Big Bad Sturm goes for the gold with this trope, creating clones of an Orange Star officer to start a four-way war, with the intent to swoop in afterwards with his own army and take over after everyone's resources were drained.
    • Ditto Batallion Wars Wii, where the Anglo Isles ("England") attacks the Solar Empire ("Japan") because the Solar Empire was rumored to be making a superweapon... and this is less than 30 years after the same thing happened between the Western Frontier and the Tundran Territories (take a guess). In BOTH cases, the whole thing was orchestrated by the leader of Xylvania (the closest Nintendo Wars has ever gotten to Those Wacky Nazis).
    • Days of Ruin has this with Caulder/Stolos and his company Intelligent Defense Systems, which supplies small arms and innovative weapons to both Rubinelle and Lazuria during their conflict. On the personal side, Caulder just likes studying the effects of war and death on humans.
      • The Beast, meanwhile, is the leader of a group of raiders who prey on the few surviving pockets of civilization... but even if they're set for a while, he'll still attack the villages because he just likes blood.
  • The Omniscient Council of Vagueness in Metal Gear Acid was a company, BEAGLE, that existed to orchestrate minor but bloody civil wars, sell huge amounts of weapons to both sides, and profit.
  • In Metal Gear Solid, Big Boss wanted to plunge the world into "eternal warfare" in order to give soldiers a place in the world. He started off as a fairly standard Bond-esque baddie, but as MGS3 rolled in it became apparent that his wild war fantasies were fed by the philosophy of The Boss that the world needed an "absolute timeless enemy". A couple of well-placed prophecies and his increasingly deteriorating sanity helped, too. The concept of a "world of eternal warfare"—named "Outer Heaven"—is a recurring Arc Word theme throughout the series (MGS4 had Liquid Ocelot intentionally name the game's final location, a warship, based on this).
    • MGS4, however, takes the trope to the other end of the spectrum. It ultimately became clear that Big Boss initially didn't want an eternal World War III, and simply founded Outer Heaven to give people, especially soldiers, a place where they would be free from the La-li-lu-le-lo. It wasn't until Zanzibarland that he gave up all hope of soldiers being reintegrated into society. Years later, his ideals were further perverted by his successors, The Patriots, with so many resources are being invested in soldiers and weapons that war ends up replacing oil as a commodity - a self-destructive commodity. Investing in war doesn't create new resources, so the world is falling ever deeper into a depression where "oil and gasoline are as precious as diamonds", but attempting to stop war would render those investments worthless, triggering a total global economic collapse. It's pretty much the Aesop Hideo Kojima is trying to convey: war isn't about right and wrong, it just is.
      • To make things worse, it turns out that the MGS4-era Patriots are nothing more but an AI repeatedly performing long-obsolescent orders from Big Boss's ally, Major Zero, developed long after he lost all faith in humanity after Big Boss left him in disgust when he learned Zero used him as a clone source.
  • In Super Robot Wars Original Generations, the Shadow Mirrors were dedicated to creating endless conflict. Why? Their own dimension's Federation had become corrupt after the Inspectors had been driven off. They believed that with endless conflict that there would not be any corrupt politicians, and that technology would increase rapidly. The leader points out that since the Divine Crusaders war the strength of Earth has increased rapidly.
    • Likewise, from the same game, Mitsuko Isurugi, head of Isurugi Industries, who wanted the conflicts to go on as long as possible so that her company could continue making money by selling their weapons to every side.
    • Except Einst, maybe because they hasn't any kind of economical activities^^.
      • The Ruina live on this Mostly to gain negative energy for Perfectio and use worlds as fields to cultivate negative energies
  • The whole plan of the Big Bad of the first Baldur's Gate revolved around causing a huge war between two rival merchant governments as a way of proving himself worthy of inheriting his dead father's former position as the God of Murder.
  • In Ace Combat X: Skies of Deception, the Big Bad dictator who emerges after a civil war in his country invades a peaceful neighboring country, for allegedly working to prolong the civil war ( in fact the neighbor had been supplying humanitarian aid). It's eventually revealed that the whole point was to demonstrate the villain's military might, thereby allowing for lucrative arms trading, particularly advertising his greatest fighter aircraft.
  • The Rikti War in City of Heroes was orchestrated by Nemesis.
    • But then again, everything is orchestrated by Nemesis.
  • Freelancer starts with the colonies in the brink of war. It later turns out the Nomads are secretly parasiting the top politicians in Sirius and using their power to declare all-out war, in order to soften the human defenses and let the Nomads mop the sector with their blood, and the Order is actually here to defend the Sirius sector against the Nomads.
  • This is essentially the motivation of the Prince of Highland, Luca Blight in Suikoden II. He starts a massive war between the newly allied nations of Highland and Jowston by orchestrating a False-Flag Operation, in which he betrays and butchers a band of his own nation's child unit the night they are to return to their homes and blames it on Jowston. He uses this as his justification to invade Jowston and level it to the ground, hoping to torture and murder every last one of its citizens (usually by his own hand). Unlike most examples here, his motives aren't profit or terrorism... he just enjoys killing.
  • In RuneScape, most of the quest 'Royal Trouble' revolves around this. A group of kids unable to pass tests that would make them full adults of their tribe go to two warring islands and decide to start a war, stop it, and then be seen as heroes.
  • In Utawarerumono, court adviser and Humongous Mecha pilot Hien encourages Kuuya to unite the world under the Kunnekamun for the sake of peace. Fellow adviser and pilot Hauenkua also wants to invade the other countries as Hien does, but only so he could kill people.
  • Modern Warfare 2. General Shepherd, pissed off that he lost 30,000 men in the nuclear explosion of COD4, played Makarov like a fiddle to trigger a Russian invasion of America so that he can turn the USA into the most powerful country in the world through military might and pose himself as a legendary war hero.
    • It's worth noting that while Shepherd is unquestionably the Big Bad and his war-mongering is specific to accomplishing something, he's not selfish, he's just downright unhinged. There's some noble intent in his goal of waking America up from taking everything for granted and inspiring more people than ever to willingly enlist and earn their luxuries, all without dealing with the downsides of compulsory service like unwilling and apathetic soldiers. He believes his Ends Justify The Means, and doesn't see what's wrong with anything he's done, unlike the player-characters and most actual players.
  • While he didn't actually start the Crystal War the goblin Boodlix certainly makes a profit from selling goods to both sides of it. Although Boodlix is a freelance that fights with the Beastmen Confederate, the Scholar Maruna-Kurina believes that Boodlix might be persuaded to fight for the Allies if it would help make the war (and thus his profits) last a little longer.
  • The fundamental plot behind Alpha Protocol is an attempt by an American-based weapons corporation to boost their profits by causing a new Cold War between China and the US. Unfortunately, their calculations are off by a bit - the cold war they're attempting to start will actually become a hot war if they aren't stopped, so its up to Mike Thorton to put an end to the plot before the nukes start flying.
    • The player can also uncover some additional examples of this as the game progresses. For example, Mike can dig up evidence that a semi-anonymous US Senator wants to arrange for a war in Central Asia or the Middle East (he doesn't terribly care where) so he can sell off a few thousand artillery pieces manufactured by a company that he owns but are being left unused. There's also evidence of war profiteering, where the aforementioned arms company wants to sell weapons to both China and Taiwan, but give them weapons with different ammunition specifications, so they have to keep buying separate weapons' packages.
  • The Excuse Plot of the Saturn shooter AMOK. Two warring countries have finally made peace after 47 years of war, but the weapon manufacturer of both sides is pissed and so hires a mercenary to reignite the hostilities.
  • In Mount & Blade, if you are a lord and talk to another noble of your faction who likes you and possesses evil characteristics, he may propose starting a war with a neighbouring kingdom by raiding some caravans for this trope if you ask him for a task. Justified in that Calradian warfare offers many chances and few risks for nobles. The worst that's going to happen to them is being taken prisoner for a while until they can escape or are ransomed. On the other hand, they can improve their standing with the king and other nobles by being successful in battle, possibly obtaining new fiefs or even being promoted to Marshall, and raiding enemy villages and caravans happens to be very lucrative.
  • In Iron Storm, the Forever War has turned into this, with the arms industries and armies being an important part of the stock exchange and manipulating the USWE and The Empire to prolong the war in the name of profit.
  • Heavily hinted to be the motivation of The Administrator from Team Fortress 2. As the acting CEO of two feuding MegaCorps, each of which controls one half of the world, and as CEO of her own Weapon Supply Company, The Administrator has everything to gain from keeping the conflict going.
  • The plot of Might and Magic VII features another conflict between the mostly human kingdom of Erathia and the mostly elven kingdom of Tularea/AvLee over the Contested Lands. The evil path has an agent of the necromancers' kingdom of Deyja help escalate the conflict into a full-scale war, weakening Deyja's rivals, producing a rich bounty of 'resources' to exploit and ensuring that reconciliation between Erathia and Tularea is unlikely for the forseeable future.


  • Yet Another Fantasy Gamer Comic when Lewie the Lich gives rings to rulers so that kingdoms will go to war with each other so that he can raise the deads into zombies.
  • Order of the Stick has the IFCC, sort of middle-management fiends whose goal (as far we know) is to continue to stir up conflict between the opposing factions.

We want for them the same thing that has held the fiendish races back all these years.
We want conflict.
Destructive, unnecessary conflict.
The worst thing that could happen would be a victory by one team.

  • In Shortpacked, the pretext used by Sydney Yus to have her nemesis Robin's "world peace" bill[4] repealed is that it's bad for the weapons industry.

Western Animation

  • Captain Planet and the Planeteers had a few episodes where the bad guys did this.
  • The Road Rovers were once sent to investigate a conflict between two Ruritanias over a missing scepter. It turned out that an arms dealer had stolen the scepter so he could make a profit off the war. (For some reason, said episode also had many Shout Outs to Disney, right down to the Ruritanias having the names of Disney's executives at the time.)
  • In one episode of the Disney's Aladdin series, the imps stole "the most sacred crock of cheese" from the Odiferians (cheese loving barbarians) and framed Agrabah for the theft. The angry Odiferians declared war on Agrabah and the imps made a fortune selling war machines to both sides until Aladdin and the gang uncovered the whole scheme.
  • In the original Transformers cartoon, the eponymous robots were actually originally built by (or, by the time of the series, built by 'bots that were built by) alien war profiteers known as the Quintessons. The evil Decepticons were the military models to be sold to both sides of a conflict, the heroic Autobots were consumer goods. Even after the Robot War that freed the Transformers, they continue to sell weapons to the highest bidder in-between trying to get revenge.
    • In a later episode, it is revealed that the Quintessons escalated a war between two neighbouring planets, by selling one side advanced weapons, then selling those same weapons to the other side; They did this continually for countless generations.
    • Swindle lives and breathes this in every incarnation of the character.

Real Life

  • Truth in Television: the Opium Wars.
    • Like most examples on this list, there were geopolitical reasons behind the Opium Wars, as well as ideological ones (free trade). The profitability of the opium trade, however, was certainly a factor.
  • The 1893 revolution in Hawai'i, where the Queen was overthrown and a 'republic' declared by a group of American businessmen (although no elections were ever held, and the republic was annexed by the United States, at its own request, five years later). The only president of the Republic of Hawai'i was a member of the Dole family. As in Dole Fruit.
  • Basil Zaharoff from cracked.com. [1]
  • Consider all the people who made their fortunes from selling rifles and other weaponary during the Cold War.
  • Many groups in the United States were accused of this during World War I, including the President by his own cabinet members.
  • The Second Congo War and its still ongoing offshoots. The aftermath of the Rwandan genocide mixed with the realization that the DRC had a crapload of resources to be exploited resulted in most of its neighbors and some countries further afield taking sides in order to loot the country's mineral riches. And killing several million people.
  • Sir John Hawkwood. Successfully played one Italian city off against another for a long and profitable career as a Mercenary. When some Monks said "May God grant you Peace" he replied by saying "May God take your Alms away" (since he lived by war and peace would destroy him).
  • I'm gonna go and throw out the mandatory War on Terrorism/Iraq example. I'm not saying they are, I'm saying people think they are.
    • The War on Terrorism is an interesting subversion, but not from NATO's side, from the Taliban side. The Taliban's strategy of triggering a war, then hiding in the Afghan mountains while carrying out minor hit-and-run missions, is specifically intended to drain the resources of their enemies and then strike back when they're weak. Historians and tacticians noticed this strategy used on the Russian occupation of Afghanistan in the 80s and 90s, and drew parallels to what they're doing now. Some could argue that, to some degree, it's working.
  • Others make the claim that the US is profiting from the War on Drugs as well. News items supporting this tend to drop from the news cycle quickly, but often return in fiction.
  • The European Colonial empires were built on this. Sure, there was all the talk about "Bringing the light of enlightenment to these unfortunates", but the real driving motivation was greed. Some acknowledged this, many did not.
    • "We came here to serve God and the King. And to get rich." - Bernal Díaz del Castillo, Spanish Conquistador.
    • Then there's settlement. Emigrate to the colonies! Oversee the harvesting of agricultural produce and raw materials to shipped off to wherever - probably one's own country - and buy stuff from back home and elsewhere in the Empire, like a true patriot! This wasn't very profitable in pre-industrial economies like Colonial North America, but it caught on big-time in the 19th century.
    • Some countries (particularly England, the Netherlands, Russia, and later, Belgium) were pretty up-front about their reasons behind colonial imperialism being largely economic; to them, the "bringing civilization to the savages" line was a retroactive justification applied after the colonial empires had already been carved out. Sort of like how Biblical justifications for slavery and theories of racial inferiority only developed once the african-atlantic slave trade had already got going in earnest. The Scramble for Africa was partly triggered by the Long Depression of 1873-1896, as the Europeans sought to find new markets for their goods. Notably, however, this is not the case for Spain, France, and (outside of Africa) Portugal, where missionary activity was part of the colonization process and the overall idea was that natives were meant to be integrated and assimilated, not marginalized or exterminated.
  • As mentioned earlier, countless examples of yellow journalism purposely inciting wars purely from their sensationalistic rhetoric exist throughout history. The least controversial is probably the Trope Namer for yellowsheets: The Spanish-American War, created nearly out of whole cloth by Pulitzer and Hearst.
    • While this does count as an example, it should be noted that they did not create a war nearly out of wholecloth. America had a long and vital strategic interest in Cuba, and for them it needed to be neutral. Simply put, the war and the forces that brought it about go far further than some journalists wanting to get a good story. They were not a cause, but an effect.
  • A fascinating subversion: Fritz Thyssen, a German industrialist of the 1920s and 30s, supported Those Wacky Nazis at first. After all, he was a devoutly Catholic and very conservative German nationalist, and the Nazis promised to "reawaken" and more importantly unite Germany (good), get rid of those Dirty Communists and their Social Democratic fellow-travellers (good), and abolish those pesky unions (very good). Plus, Adolf Hitler was from solidly-Catholic Austria and had previously aspired to become a Benedictine monk! What Could Possibly Go Wrong?? And then the Nazis took over, and the needs of industry were subordinated to the desires of the state and Nazi Pary; those desires were for war. One problem: Thyssen was perfectly happy making goods for peace. As far as he was concerned, peacetime gewgaws were selling wonderfully, and being forced to make guns and tanks for the Nazis was a tremendous, profit-sucking pain in the ass. Thyssen quit the Nazi Council of State and cut all his connections to the Nazi Party in 1938; when the war started a year later, he sent a letter to Hitler expressing his disapproval of the war and moved himself and his family to Switzerland.
    • Of course, Thyssen wasn't exactly a saint (he fired all his Jewish employees when the Nazis asked him to, and he let the Nazis take over his factories after he moved out in the hopes that he could have them back someday), but the point still stands.
    • It should be noted that Nazi Germany would often replace machine tools lost to strategic bombing raids by taking them from industries that were not weapons related. The result was that by December 1944 German weapons and ammunition production reached its highest levels for the entire war... while all the other German industrial sectors had pretty much collapsed.
  • The crusades are often represented as such. Though anyone who does a little research could tell that they were neither fun nor profitable for the crusaders. Quite the contrary.
    • Losing a war is hardly ever fun or profitable, and that particular situation and the crusaders' mindset didn't lend themselves to any plans.
      • The Crusades, not counting the few ill conceived ones that had no actual chance of success, were overall quite successful. The whole "Crusades were a failure" mindset comes from focusing exclusively on Jerusalem and the fact the Christians lost it by the end of the Crusades period.
    • While the belief is common, it is inaccurate. The profitability from the Crusades was an unexpected effect. Prior to the Crusades, there was not much long distance travel being done. The Crusaders, out of necessity, ended up establishing a lot of long range routes for basically the first time since the fall of Rome. After establishing these routes, traders started to use them.
      • Not to mention the knowledge gained from the Crusades and trade routes ended up more or less ending the Dark Ages.
      • In any event "Crusade" was a recruiting slogan with attitude problems and in practice melded seamlessly with the general trend of war between Christian and Muslim states.
    • Arguably the Crusades were not so much war for fun and profit as travel booking for fun and profit. The main profit was not in movable plunder, there was not much conquered land to divide and what there was was rather poor agriculturally. However the spinoff was a giant travel industry to get pilgrims back and forth and protect their valuables.
    • Crusades (plural) were a phenomenon large whether in territory, time or power structures. They obviously included multiple players with different motivations (including "screw over my hated rivals"), and changed along the way. Just from what L.N. Gumilev highlighted in Black Legend, one of the reasons was that Europe under Papal guidance used "go conquer Jerusalem" to dump the excess of warlike barons, hoping they'll get lost one way or another. Which backfired badly:

Gone the barons, returned the knights. And they became even worse: more vicious, sneaky, foresightful and avaricious. Conquests of Eastern cities appeared to be great luck, but it all turned out ephemeral. Constant war with Muslims on the border of Jerusalem Kingdom was fruitless and disappointing for the sincere Crusaders — and there were those, too.
And the insincere ones didn't speak out. The war fed knight-monks of two orders: Johanniters and Templars, and was impossible to stop without being accused of heresy, with all the usual consequences. «Look, he's the one who doesn't want to fight for the goals proclaimed by Pope!». Which is why on the East the war constantly smouldered and on the West it blazed.

  • A series of coups in Latin America in The Seventies were literally for fun and profit. Or at least for profit.
  • Smedley Butler was a Major General in the U.S. Marine Corps, who, between 1898 and 1931, participated in military actions in the Philippines, China, in Central America and the Caribbean. After his retirement, he became an anti-war activist, and wrote that he was "a high class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street and the bankers". He also wrote a book called War is a Racket.
  • From the time some cave man clubbed another on the head to take his stuff and onwards.
  1. (Note, however, Rule of Acquisition #34: "Peace is good for business")
  2. Silhouette Formula 91
  3. Gundam F90: Formula Wars 0122 Super Famicom game
  4. No, it doesn't make sense in context either