Total War: conflict of unlimited scope in which a belligerent engages in a mobilization of all available resources at their disposable whether human, industrial, agricultural, military, natural, technological or otherwise, in order to entirely destroy of render beyond use their rivals capacity to continue resistance

  • The practice of total war has been in use for centuries but it was only around 1850 that it was identified by scholars as a separate class of warfare
  • In total war there is less or no differentiation between combatants and noncombatants (civilian), than in other conflicts as nearly every person from a particular country or opposing area, civilians and soldiers alike can be considered to be part of the war effort
  • The French Revolution introduced some of the concepts of war
  • The new republic found itself threatened by a powerful coalition of European countries
  • The only solution of the new government was to pour the state’s entire resources into an unprecedented war effort
  • This was the advent of conscription
  • The model for total war was WWII: The London Blitz, The Bombing of Conventry, Cologne, Estresden, the Siege of Stalingrad, fire bombings of Japanese towns, and the later use of atomic weapons leave no doubt about the total of the conflict

Limited War: Korea, Vietnam, Gulf War I, Gulf War II, Afghanistan were all characterized by the restrained use of weapons and military options

  • In total war, the goal of the government has been to bring about the surrender of the enemy
  • The objective military function is to achieve the enemy’s surrender at a minimal cost of resources/ national treasure
  • Total war is also an unambiguous concept  and generally understood by those doing the fighting
  • Limited Wars on the other hand imply limited goals and as such are ambiguous and complex concepts
  • This uncertainty requires that the government and the military constantly explain and rationalize the reason for the conflict
  • A task that comes increasingly difficult as time passes as casualties mount
State of ViolenceIntensity GroupLevel of IntensityName of IntensityDefinition
Non- ViolentZero1Latent ConflictA positional difference over definable values of national meaning is considered to be a latent conflict if demands are articulated by one of the parties and perceived by the other as such
2Manifest ConflictA manifest conflict includes the use of measures that are located in the stage preliminary to violent force.  This includes verbal pressure,  threatening explicitly with violence, or the imposition of economic sanctions
ViolenceLow3CrisisA tense situation in which at least one of the parties uses violent force occasionally or sporadically


(Israel- Palestine)

Medium4Severe CrisisA conflict is considered to be a severe crisis if violent force is used repeatedly in an organized way for a short time without much destruction
High5WarA violent conflict in which violent force is used with a certain continuity in an organized and systematic way.  The conflict parties exercise extensive measures depending on the situation.  The extent of the destruction is massive and of long duration
author avatar
William Anderson (Schoolworkhelper Editorial Team)
William completed his Bachelor of Science and Master of Arts in 2013. He current serves as a lecturer, tutor and freelance writer. In his spare time, he enjoys reading, walking his dog and parasailing. Article last reviewed: 2022 | St. Rosemary Institution © 2010-2024 | Creative Commons 4.0

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Post comment