Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Total War

Now this is interesting. An expert on v. Clausewitz dissing the concept of Total War. 

In On War, as well as in his unfinished work Strategie, Clausewitz made it clear that wars are fought to overthrow the enemy regime or something less than this. Maritime theorist Sir Julian Corbett built upon Clausewitz’s work to construct a theory of warfare and gave us the terms unlimited war to describe a conflict waged to overthrow the enemy government (an unlimited political objective), and limited war for a war fought for something less (a limited political objective).   
Rational discussion and analysis of all wars—civil wars, guerrilla wars, limited wars, religious wars, and every other kind of war—fits within this framework by beginning with the starting point of both Clausewitz and Corbett: all wars are fought either for the political objective of regime change or something less than this.  
This is an ironclad foundation for analysis because we have defined what is of utmost importance: what the war is about. Critically, the combatants are often pursuing different objectives, but the opponent’s political objective is an element contributing to the war’s nature and simply part of the reality of war that one must consider when doing their assessment.  
There is no room here for so-called Total War.
 First and foremost, it fails one of the key requirements for good theory. Instead of helping clarify concepts—as Carl von Clausewitz insists good theory should do—the term Total War muddies the analytical waters. Theory and its key terms should produce firm, universally applicable foundations for analysis. The term Total War does not, thus it is useless as a tool for critical analysis.

Hold up a sec. While true enough Dr Goebbels "Totaler Krieg" speech or Dominic Tierney's definitions are not all that definitive, Hans Speier may come the closest with this infamous bit 

Total war has three distinct traits: (1) a particularly close interdependence between the armed forces and the productive forces of the nation, which necessitates large scale governmental planning; (2) the extension of siege warfare involving the nation as a whole in both offensive and defensive actions; and (3) a general vilification of the enemy nation.

Actually, Total War is warfare that includes any and all civilian-associated resources and infrastructure as legitimate military targets, mobilizes all of the resources of society to fight the war, and gives priority to warfare over non-combatant needs. 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.

General Sherman is given almost zero credit, yet it would be helpful to remember Sherman believed that the Confederacy derived her strength not from her fighting forces but from the material and moral support of sympathetic Southern whites. Factories, farms and railroads provided Confederate troops with the things they needed, he reasoned; and if he could destroy those things, the Confederate war effort would collapse.

Meanwhile, his troops could undermine Southern morale by making life so unpleasant for Georgia’s civilians that they would demand an end to the war.

Confederacy's response was to flee in front of Sherman and execute a "Scorched Earth" policy.

Sherman’s “total war” in Georgia was brutal and destructive, but it did just what it was supposed to do: it hurt Southern morale, made it impossible for the Confederates to fight at full capacity and certainly sped up the end of the war.