Opinions on Total war

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For other uses, see Total war (disambiguation).

Total war is a war that may include any and all civilian-associated resources and infrastructure as legitimate military targets, and accepts significant civilian or other non-combatant casualties as collateral damage as a result of an attack on such targets. The word total refers solely to the range of acceptable targets and means, not to the extent of destruction. American-English Dictionary defines "total war" as "[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."

In the mid-19th century, scholars identified "total war" as a separate class of warfare. In a total war, to an extent inapplicable to less total conflicts, the differentiation between combatants and non-combatants diminishes and even sometimes vanishes entirely as opposing sides can consider nearly every human resource, even that of non-combatants, as nevertheless part of the war effort.

Certain actions regardless of legitimacy or illegitimacy can characterize total war, such as:

  • ^ Edward Gunn. "The Moral Dilemma of Atomic Warfare", Aegis: The Otterbein College Humanities Journal, Spring 2006, p. 67. NB Gunn cites this Wikipedia article as it was on 27 September 2005, but on only for the text of the song "The Thing-Ummy Bob".
  • ^ On the Road to Total War: The American Civil War and the German Wars of Unification, 1861-1871 (Publications of the German Historical Institute). German Historical Institute. August 22, 2002. p. 296. ISBN 0-5215-2-119X. 

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