Total war is “warfare that uses all possible means of attack, military, scientific, and psychological, against both enemy troops and civilians” (Total War, 1966). It was the prevailing military doctrine applied by combatant nations during the Second World War. Allied and Axis military planners specifically targeted civilian populations. In the cases of German and Japanese strategists, the war was fought as much against indigenous populations as against opposing armies. The massacres and genocide directed against civilian populations at Auschwitz, Dachau, Warsaw, Lidice, and Nanking and countless other atrocities are a dark legacy of the 20th century. An important doctrine of the air war on all sides was to bomb civilian populations, so that the cities of Rotterdam, Coventry, London, Berlin, Dresden, and Tokyo were deliberately attacked. It is estimated that the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki killed, respectively, 70,000 and 35,000 people (Jablonski, 1965). In your opinion and based on our readings, is the practice of total war by individuals or small and poorly armed groups different from its practice by nations and standing armies? How so or how not?
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