Modernly, it seems that most wars are fought with the stated rationale usually being one of two things:
Benevolence - liberating or protecting an oppressed people, removing a dictator, helping to stabilize and bring progress to a region, etc. (Iraq 1 and 2, Libya, etc.) Or;
Legitimate self-defense, or retaliation for an attack (Afghanistan, Pacific Theater of WWII, etc.).
Obviously, the stated rationale of a war rarely tells the whole story. There has to be something in it for the belligerents, or they wouldn’t be fighting each other so hard. Often it’s over resources, territory, or geopolitical self-interest. Now, the warm and fuzzy rationales that most world powers seem to use as their reasons for going to war are probably not entirely untrue, but they’re also probably not in the front of anybody’s mind, either.
Maybe I’m totally off base, but it seems like, back in the day, rulers didn’t really bother with pretext when they initiated a war of conquest. The stated rationale of many wars seemed to be “That place looks nice. Let’s go take it.” I’m thinking the European conquest of the Americas, various wars of conquest between European states, the Indian wars, etc. But that all happened hundreds of years ago.
So, when was the last time a country’s leadership unambiguously said “I want that!” and invaded another country?
Or am I totally wrong? Did leaders who engaged in various conquests always raise some type of selfless or noble pretext, no matter how flimsy?