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Total war is a war in which a belligerent engages in the complete mobilization of all available resources and population.

Oxford Dictionaries:

A war that is unrestricted in terms of the weapons used, the territory or combatants involved, or the objectives pursued, especially one in which the laws of war are disregarded.

Encyclopedia Britannica:

Total war, military conflict in which the contenders are willing to make any sacrifice in lives and other resources to obtain a complete victory, as distinguished from limited war. Throughout history, limitations on the scope of warfare have been more economic and social than political. Simple territorial aggrandizement has not, for the most part, brought about total commitments to war. The most deadly conflicts have been fought on ideological grounds in revolutions and civil and religious wars.

From The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979).

Total War

An imperialist war that subordinates to its own interests the entire life and economy of a nation, using the crudest means to defeat and destroy both the armed forces and the civilian population of the enemy. The theory of total war was first set forth in 1935 by the German general E. Ludendorff. It became the basis of fascist Germany’s doctrine of war and was applied by the fascist Germans during World War II.

In the mid-19th century, "total war" was identified by scholars as a separate class of warfare. In a total war, there is less differentiation between combatants and non-combatants than in other conflicts, and sometimes no such differentiation at all, as nearly every human resource, combatants and non-combatants alike, can be considered to be part of the belligerent war effort.

Some people trace the phrase back to the 1935 publication of General Ludendorff’s World War I memoir Der Totale Krieg ("The Total War"). The concept is extended by some authors back as far as Clausewitz’s classic work On War as "absoluter Krieg" (however, the relevant passages have been interpreted in diverging ways by different authors), and to the French "guerre à outrance" during the Franco-Prussian War.

The Concept however dates back much farther to the Book of Numbers in the Bible.

Numbers 33:51-53, 55 Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When ye are passed over Jordan into the land of Canaan;  Then ye shall drive out all the inhabitants of the land from before you, and destroy all their pictures, and destroy all their molten images, and quite pluck down all their high places:  And ye shall dispossess the inhabitants of the land, and dwell therein: for I have given you the land to possess it. ... [55] But if ye will not drive out the inhabitants of the land from before you; then it shall come to pass, that those which ye let remain of them shall be pricks in your eyes, and thorns in your sides, and shall vex you in the land wherein ye dwell.

Genghis Khan, in the 13th century used that concept to conquer large areas of Asia to Europe, it was used by Union Army Generals Philip Sheridan and William T. Sherman in the Shenandoah Valley and the march across Georgia in the War of Northern Aggression.

USAF General Curtis LeMay updated the concept for the nuclear age. In 1949, he was first to propose that a total war in the nuclear age would consist of delivering the entire nuclear arsenal in a single overwhelming blow, going as far as "killing a nation".

Modern Warfare as in Wars after WW2, by Major Powers, have come under the more peaceful ideas of “Rules of Engagement” Limits on targets and ability of attack for military personnel. Some of the protected areas under the “Geneva conventions” are: Hospitals, Schools, Buildings of Worship, Buildings of “Great Historical value”, and relocation centers for civilian population. However the rules apply to both sides, you cannot store military supplies in these areas, you cannot use these for Military staging areas, or strongpoints: Monte Casino is an example.

Under these rules certain people are protected also.

Persons taking no active part in the hostilities, including members of armed forces who have laid down their arms and those placed hors de combat by sickness, wounds, detention, or any other cause, shall in all circumstances be treated humanely, without any adverse distinction founded on race, color, religion or faith, sex, birth or wealth, or any other similar criteria. Pregnant Women are a special case in themselves and are covered under several chapters of the Conventions.

To separate “Civilized people” from the “Barbarians at the gate”, the Rules of Engagement are an important concept, to protect innocent people caught on the battle field is a good thing, however when the “bad guys” use those rules against you, by mounting attacks from school yards, or using human shields, exceptions need to apply. Too often the innocent are caught in the cross fire of belligerent armies, unable to get out of the way, unable to protect themselves, they become “collateral damage” of a battle.

Without “Total warfare” often an enemy can use the collateral damage of women and children as propaganda against us. It does not really matter who kills them they are just as dead, they enemy can kill them and blame us, as is often the case with Terrorists. With “Total Warfare” they are still just as dead, but the damage can then be used to persuade the enemy that the cost of warfare is too high. That is the case with our Media promoting Body counts with the evening news, to persuade us the cost is too high.

I find it interesting that as soon as Obama took over the news quit reporting the daily body count in Iraq and Afghanistan, it became unimportant to them and their agenda.

We are fighting a war with rules and our enemy is committed to total warfare.

How can we win?

God Bless.

Just my thoughts for today.

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  • Hugh, Don't you think that a new type of war is being defined and the terrorist are now being thought of as mere thugs to be taken out by police actions using even tools such as drones. Of course there exist countries that do not buy the new way of war. The new wars are increase-ling being defined as occurring on the net, perhaps also in space. Countries of the West use sanctions against some as a way to force another country to comply with the international will. Obviously this does not work in a lot of cases. Markets are manipulated and currency manipulation occurs. Some of this stuff has gone on in history but not with the fervor that is going on in the 21st century.

    The  world is a dangerous place today and all countries are not on the same page. Geneva rules of war count little.

    There surely will be a WWIII and it will be fought in conventional ways and taking out communications by means never before experienced. Technology dependency by all the big bad boys on the block can result in one to the other making poor decision of the others intentions. I suppose the only way to describe it would be total destruction with possibly cockroaches and ants surviving.

    BTW I do get the meaning of your 'thoughts for the day'. The almighty greed for money, power and who controls resources reigns. Boys like toys and eventually they will want to use them in a big way.


    I am not promoting the good doctors biz but he does have few good points here!

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