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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!"

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 trick their enemies into destroying each other, or even try to Take Over the World in the aftermath. They may be terrorists, or just Card Carrying Villains.

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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. Heroes typically struggle to Prevent the War, or end it as bloodlessly and quickly as possible.

It's sometimes implied in narrative examples of this trope that corporations profit from this war, e.g arms manufacturers. Then again, the opposite can also be true, (relative) 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 careful what gets put in the Real Life section, okay?

Compare Corporate Warfare, where corporations cut out the middleman and do the fighting themselves, and Blood Knight, where the fun comes from the fighting itself. See also Avoiding the Great War, when this coincides with WWI.

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    Comic Books 
  • Albedo: Erma Felna EDF: It turns out the Independent Lepine Republic's industrial clans are partially responsible for the second ILR-ConFed war. And the military industry has consumed so much of the ILR economy that they were risking a recession.
  • 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. Even before that, the first two issues of Action Comics in which Superman appeared involved him stopping a war in South America that was started by munitions companies to boost sales.
  • 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 Tintin story 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 in 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.
  • Shakara: There is a planet designed to be a total warzone and hired out by a corrupt Mega-Corp to different factions who want to kill each other without having to destroy their own infrastructure.
  • Col. Rudi Gagarin from Fury (MAX) only cares about the "fun" part.
  • In ROM (IDW), Rom is disgusted when he realizes that many of the higher ranking Space Knights are prolonging the war with the Dire Wraiths rather than trying to end it. It seems that after so many centuries of war, they now care about nothing but fighting for their own pleasure.
  • Robin (1993): Ulysses is obsessed with war and idolizes warlords and generals throughout history, believing that it's the only worthwhile aspect of human history. He attempts to instigate a war when he's eleven and nearly succeeds, and prior to that did kick off a high-casualty turf war between gangs in Gotham.

    Fanfiction 
  • In the Hetalia: Axis Powers / Doctor Who crossover The Men From Earth, the alien Proeliites engineer a world-wide crisis to profit from the war machine, prompting the Doctor to engineer personified nations to combat the crisis.
  • Kyubey flat out tells Merlin and Nimue in A History of Magic that the Incubators instigate wars because strife increases the amount of girls willing to become Puella Magi, thus giving the Incubators more energy to meet their quota. Among other things, they're behind the fall of the Roman Empire and the dissolution of the Round Table. Kyubey also aided in the Manhattan Project because he realized if it wasn't hurried up and used, all countries would stockpile nuclear weapons and risk destroying all of humanity.
  • In The Legend of Korra fanfiction Repairs, Retrofits and Upgrades, Asami is deeply conflicted over whether to help the United Forces against Earth Empire holdouts, not wanting to spread more destruction but realizing the threat the loyalists and the Red Lotus pose to the world and specifically to Korra, eventually delegating the task to Baatar Jr.

    Live-Action TV 
  • 24:
    • In season 2 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 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.
  • Cannon: In "A Flight of Hawks", a band of Private Military Contractors are planning to take over a newly formed African nation to seize control of its mineral wealth.
  • Doctor Who:
    • "Frontier in Space": The Master uses a variety of false flag operations to provoke war between Earth and Draconia, to his personal gain.
    • "The Caves of Androzani": Pharmaceutical mogul Morgus profits off the trade of spectrox, a toxic silk from Androzani Minor's cave bats that can be refined into a highly valuable anti-aging drug. When his ex-business partner Sharaz Jek seizes the spectrox mines in retaliation for Morgus betraying him, the businessman finances a military expedition against him, but deliberately prolongs the war by secretly financing gunrunners for Jek as well (with Jek none the wiser about where his weapons are coming from), tightening the supply of spectrox and allowing him to charge more money for it.
    • "Aliens of London"/"World War Three": The Slitheen 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.
  • Game of Thrones: Littlefinger's modus operandi is to sow the seeds of chaos and crisis because he recognizes these situations can be exploited for his own advancement. It is he who started the War of the Five Kings with a few choice assassinations and calculated acts of treachery to propel himself to the heights of the Vale.
  • Highlander: The Raven featured a villain who made a living of starting wars. He planned something so horrible that even his watcher broke the non-interference rule to prevent it.
  • 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...
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power: When Kemen questions his father sudden decision to not oppose Miriel's decision to fight Galadriel's war, Pharazôn makes it clear what is his true goal for aligning with an Elf that he should hate. He wants to exploit the resources of Middle-earth. He explains to his son that if Numenor helps the low men of Middle-earth and lifts them up, than their king will be forever indebted to them.
  • Merlin had a one-off villain that wanted to incite war between the Five Kingdoms for profiteering reasons. During a peace conference, King Alined instigates a Batman Gambit, using his jester's magical powers to make Prince Arthur and a visiting princess fall in love, thus enraging her Overprotective Dad and starting a war.
  • 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 New Avengers: In "Dirtier by the Dozen", Colonel 'Mad Jack' Miller plans to trigger a war in the Middle East and use the confusion to loot whatever isn't nailed down and disappear before any of the powers involved can work out what has happened.
  • In the final season of Nikita, the villains are a cabal of evil billionaires who plan to start a war between the U.S. and Pakistan in order to enrich their pet defense contractor.
  • 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.
    • The Ferengi are fans of this. They're also fans of peace too; one just has to be a diversified and savvy businessman to take advantage of both. Yes, the Ferengi are chodes.
      "War is good for business." — Ferengi Rule of Acquisition #34
      "Peace is good for business" — Rule of Acquisition #35
    • 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 job-related business deal goes wrong for Quark, he's only got to deal with Odo or some angry bruisers, whereas when a job-related business deal goes wrong for Gaila, he's got to deal with government hit-squads who want to nail his head to a pike, possibly literally. Note the Ferengi Rule of Acquisition #62: "The riskier the road, the greater the profit".
      • At one part, Gaila tries to get Quark involved in weapons trading, but it turns out that Quark actually has a conscience and can't handle the idea of 28 million people dying as a result of his actions.
    • Enterprise: The Romulans used a holoship which could perfectly imitate the appearance and weapons signature of any ship, in various False Flag Operations on the members of the very first Babel peace conference. An alliance of these powers would represent a greater threat to them, while war would eliminate them as threats for years to come. The Romulans' actions instead helped found this alliance, and the rest is history.
  • Tokusou Sentai Dekaranger: The main antagonist, Agent Abrella, is a black market intergalactic arms dealer, who sells weapons, robotic soldiers and giant mecha to most (if not all) of the criminals the Dekarangers faced during the series, and was directly responsible for the outbreak of wars in seven galaxies. He finally decides to confront them directly when their interference causes him to lose a lot of money, and during the finale he says directly that his dream is to make a "world of just currency and crime".
  • An early episode of Xena: Warrior Princess features an arms dealer who kidnaps a princess in order to provoke war between her family and the family of her fiancé, playing off a long-existing feud between them.
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    Music 
  • System of a Down's Toxicity is a retroactive example, since it was released just a week before 9/11 and The War on Terror begun. Still, it includes a lot of references to jihad and the mindless attitude the public has toward war, such as on "Chop Suey!" and "Deer Dance".

    Mythology 

    Tabletop Games 
  • The drow elves of the Underdark in Dungeons & Dragons undertake "wars" of this nature. About once a decade, a noble family in one of the drow's isolated, underground cities will attack and eradicate another noble family to take its power and prestige. This is honestly pointless in the grand scheme of things, as drow perpetuate an endless cycle of internal wars with each other for greedy and petty reasons instead building and expanding their society. This is, of course, what their patron deity Lolth wants, preferring to keep the race constantly warring and backstabbing one another to keep them from wanting to return above ground where she risks losing them to other gods and cultures.
  • 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 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. This 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.
      • Some Orks, particularly among the Freebooterz and the Blood Axez, are smart enough to understand that certain people will give them loot for fighting their enemies for them.
    • 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 themselves lest they die and Slaanesh devour their souls. But 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. The Chaos Gods in particular take the conflict in the galaxy seriously since it is, in many ways, what fuels their very existence.
    • The Necrontyr declared war on the Old Ones using the Old Ones' refusal to share the secrets of immortality as a pretext. The real reason was because the Necrontyr had become spiteful and hateful beings due to their lousy short-lived existences and one of their leaders believed they needed an outlet. The Necrontyr waged a genocidal war on the Old Ones to relieve stress.
  • The Desert Wars in Shadowrun. Notably, they're an Invoked Trope - literally for Fun and Profit; they're televised theater-wide conflicts that are fought for sport. The official story is that two megacorps got into a massive fight over some Lost Technology in Libya and the media got wind of it, exposing it to the world; the corps got to field-test and advertise their technology, the media made a mint documenting it, and there was no collateral damage as it took place in an isolated area. The broadcasting rights turned out to be even more profitable than the lostech (which was destroyed in the fighting), so it became a yearly tradition for Private Military Contractors to meet in that same desert and blow the hell out of each other in front of cameras. Un-officially...
    Findler-Man: Of course the only port of that tale that's true is the fact that the megacorps did start holding war-games in the Libyan Desert and that they were televised. The rest is corporate spin-doctoring and urban legend. The Desert wars were a planned event from moment one. Once again, the megacorps found a use for an otherwise useless piece of land that serves to train their security personnel and make them money while doing it.
    • Unfortunately for Ares, resient go to companies for guns and military hardware. This proved to be their undoing when the Ares Excalibur, a manatech gun became a complete disaster on all fronts for the company, causing massive damage to their reputation.
  • The whole point of Imperial, the players are investors buying warbonds of the 6 greatpowers, each country is controlled by the player who owns the most of their bonds, they normally make them try to conquer a lot off territory (because the more powerful a country is the more their bonds are worth), or use them to protect countries in which they have invested a lot or attack the countries of the competition. However some players make two nations owned by them fight, as destroyed armies no longer consume upkeep, thus their countries have more money left which can be used paying interests to their investors.
  • The Proud Warrior Race Clans from Battletech consider 'we want your stuff and we think we're strong enough to take it' to be a perfectly valid reason to start a war: The Clans refer to a conflict of this nature as a "Trial of Possession". Like everything else in Clan society, however, this process is highly ritualized and low-scale: The attacker will basically show up at the defender's porch, openly declare "we want your [X], and we've brought [Y] amount of warriors along to take it from you" (this is called a batchall), at which point the defender will answer "well we have [Z] amount of people to protect our [X], and if we win we want something of yours in return". The attacker and defender will then hash out a time and place for the battle (as well as how many of their warriors will actually fight and what the defender gets if they win) and the whole thing is fought as a Trial by Combat. Needless to say, when the Clans showed up in the Inner Sphere and started declaring Trials of Possession for entire planets and their populations, most of the Inner Sphere defenders didn't know what the heck they were talking about.

    Theatre 
  • Mother Courage and Her Children: an argument made by most of the characters. Many of them give it as the reason for Sweden going to war, and for them personally going to war (though not actually fighting). Though sometimes they just seem to be repeating it to convince themselves...

    Web Animation 
  • In Red vs. Blue, this is the main motivation behind the Big Bad of The Chorus Trilogy, Chairman Hargrove, whose plan involves exploiting the Chorus Civil War in order to wipe out the planet's population, so that once they're all dead, he can "discover" the planet himself and claim ownership of its invaluable alien artifacts.

    Webcomics 
  • Hero by Night applies this trope to Historical Villain Upgrade, as the supervillain Iron Talon gave the recipe for life-extending alchemy to the Nazis in exchange for the required human sacrifices. Unfortunately, the Nazis tried to industrialize the project, and ended up committing genocide only for the final product to be horribly poisonous. Even Iron Talon didn't want a freaking genocide for five Cast from Lifespan power rings.
  • In Homestuck, this is Meenah's (and Betty Crocker's) main goal in life. Ironically, her Aspect is Life, and her position as her team's leader designated her as a Messianic Archetype.
  • The 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.
    Lee: We want for them the same thing that has held the fiendish races back all these years.
    Cedrik: We want conflict.
    Nero: Destructive, unnecessary conflict.
    Cedrik: The worst thing that could happen would be a victory by one team.
  • Discussed anviliciously in this strip of Scenes from a Multiverse.
  • Serix: Wars between corporations are treated like exciting spectator sports and the combatants are hired last minute from whoever happens to be close enough and accepting jobs, none of whom take the whole affair very seriously. Justified by everyone involved having backup bodies.
  • In Shortpacked!, the pretext used by Sydney Yus to have her nemesis Robin's "world peace" bill (no, it doesn't make sense in context either) repealed is that it's bad for the weapons industry.
  • Yet Another Fantasy Gamer Comic: Lewie the Lich gives rings to rulers so that kingdoms will go to war with each other so that he can raise the dead into zombies.
  • Played with in Housepets!: Keene engineered a water gun war between the cats and dogs of the neighborhood so he could test a new line of squirt guns.
  • My Life at War follows a war between a food Mega-Corp and a Low Culture, High Tech feudal nation. As the series progresses, it becomes clear that neither side's benefactors are making a direct profit from the sunken costs, driving the officers paranoid with confusion.
  • Kill Six Billion Demons: Jagganoth, one of the seven Demiurges who rule the multiverse, intentionally wages war on his own empire, reverse-engineering his victims' technology so he might one day wage a war so great it destroys the multiverse.
  • Schlock Mercenary: Someone tried to set off a civil war in Sol system, and at least some of the parties involved were looking for a profit, based on their preorders of military supplies. Their big problem was skiving off without at least a good faith payment when the plan failed. "Maxim 49: Every client is one missed payment from becoming a target"; the boss of Planet Mercenary rats them out to the United Nations of Sol's military.

    Western Animation 
  • Captain Planet and the Planeteers had a few episodes where the bad guys did this. One of them being "The Ultimate Pollution", where Looten Plunder was selling armaments to two villages in the desert, and the sons of the leaders had to step up to make their respective fathers see they were being played (and save the Planeteers in the process).
  • 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 Disney's Aladdin: The 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.
  • In an episode of Ben 10: Alien Force, Argit (and later Kevin) exploit an ideological war on an alien planet to sell weapons to both sides.
  • The Simpsons: Mr. Burns seems to be fond of this. He once listed among his childhood dreams: "...wiping out nations at the stroke of a pen."
    Mr. Burns: ...And that's how you win an Opium War.
    • Despite being an amoral, unrepentant war profiteer, Burns seems to bring a warped sense of integrity to his profiteering that doesn't show in his management of his nuclear plant. For example, when Mona Simpson helps to destroy his biological weapons facility, he laments that the science of germ warfare is set back by decades. This carries over to his other wartime endeavors:
      Burns: Schindler and I are like peas in a pod! We're both factory owners, we both made shells for the Nazis, but mine WORKED, DAMMIT!
  • In an episode of The Super Mario Bros. Super Show! that parodies Romeo and Juliet, King Koopa instigates a feud between the fathers of said couple in order to make a fortune supplying the two with his arsenal.
  • Varrick in The Legend of Korra believes that "if you can't make money during a war, you just flat-out can't make money." That said, profit isn't his entire motivation for the Southern Water Tribe rebelling against the Northern, as the latter had put the former under martial law before Varrick ever rallied the men of the south. However, Varrick didn't count on the Man Behind the Man being a world-destroying Eldritch Abomination, meaning there was no way he was gonna profit from said war.
    • Come Book Three, he's given up on weapons production, instead focusing or architecture and creating the Avatar world's first cross-country rail lines alongside weird little side projects. He jumps back into warfare in Book Four. He works for Kuvira for a while, but after seeing the Spirit Vine Cannon in action and getting chewed out by his assistant Zhu Li, he has a change of heart.
  • Sky Marshall Wade in Voltron Force, is less interested in actually saving the universe from King Lotor, and is more concern in securing more power for himself, and spends more time and resources fighting the Voltron Force, and oppressing anyone who is against him.
  • Jack Hench from Kim Possible. His company, Henchco, supplies super villains with manpower (why do you think they're called henchmen?) and technology, including a ring that gives the wearer Super Strength, and a helmet that can alter a persons personality (for the evil-doer who isn't feeling evil enough).
  • In an episode of Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Padme and her colleagues are trying to convince other senators to vote against a bill that would order the production of more clones to fight in the war because they both want a peaceful resolution to the war and want the Republic's spending to go to other things like better living conditions. On the opposing side are senators whose homeworlds/corporations they represent would benefit greatly from the bill if it gets passed — the Kaminoan senator is named Halle Burtoni, if that wasn't subtle enough.
  • Yellow Diamond from Steven Universe has quite possibly the most petty and selfish reason for war imaginable; she wants to destroy Earth because her sibling, Pink Diamond, died there, and she's such an emotionally stunted tool that she'd rather eradicate any trace of Pink's existence than deal with her grief. Especially bad because there is legitimate motivation for Homeworld to take over Earth (Homeworld is dying from lack of resources, and Earth is teeming with everything they need to fix it), but Yellow doesn't care about that and just wants to obliterate Earth outright. She literally cares more about not discussing an uncomfortable subject than she does about saving her own planet.
  • Young Justice (2010): When Lex Luthor is called in to mediate between expies of North and South Korea, Red Arrow points out that he's selling arms to both sides through shell companies. However, Luthor says that such profits are a drop in the bucket compared to what he'd make from the economy of a peaceful unified country.


 
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Elliot Carver is willing to start World War III just to boost his TV network's ratings and gain broadcasting rights in China.

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