Should The Global War on Terrorism Be Fought as a Limited War or Total War?

A number of scholars accept as true that global terrorism, including the September 11th 2001 attacks in America, ought to be battled by means of good-police work as opposed to military responses.[1] The aftermath of the September 11th attacks should not have been colored with the military incursions into Afghanistan as well as Iraq, which subsequently led to American occupations in the countries.[2] The occupations have as of now lasted many years, with no end in sight and have cost America trillions of dollars. The US approach to global terrorism, which should be a quest for civilization; should be that of a limited-war as opposed to the to total-war approach adopted during the 2nd World War, which involved the enlisting of a complete fiscal as well as military mobilization; this is because limited-war saves on America’s finances, attracts many volunteers and does not significantly interfere with Americans’ livelihoods.

A country should only decide to use a total-war approach if it has limitless resources; financial as well as personnel, which is quite rare.[3] There are quite many ills associated with adoption of the total-war approach as indicated by the US involvement in the 2nd World War.[4] The approach required the expending of a lot of resources by the US troops in the warfare, which required diversion of resources for other priority areas, to the war. The large expenditures which went into the 2nd World War affected all the facets of American life, and required lots of sacrifices from almost all the Americans.[5] The effects of the total-war approach then are quite comparable with the effects which such an approach would have now.[6]

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A total-war approach leads to exhaustion of a country’s resources through large investments into warfare. The approach during the 2nd World War led to the transformation of the entire US economy into one which primarily fixated with the need to provide armaments and also to foot the costs which went to the manufacturing of materials which were required for the war. There government and the general citizenry did not have enough resources to support the production of commercial goods or support the country’s enterprises in general. Thus there were slumps in the enterprises’ profitability as well as a marked shortage of commercial goods.[7]

The approach necessitated an overwhelming conscription of new officers into the military forces’ ranks as opposed to their long-held tradition of having all-volunteer personnel bases. The war saw the number of Americans serving in the armed forces, not all by way of volunteering, rise up to 16 million.[8] The heightened conscription of new military recruits because of the needs of the war interfered with their personal career goals as well as affected the basic tenets and image of the country’s Armed Forces; that of having recruits volunteering to join them.[9]

The total-war approach is also associated with widespread inconveniences and strife within the populations. During the 2nd World War, each and every one American citizen was affected by the warfare in his or her day to day life. The Americans subsistence was put in jeopardy by the way by way of widespread rationing of food supplies. As more and more men joined the armed forces, the women were forced to take up the masculine roles in the manufacturing sector, roles which they were scarcely prepared for.[10][11] Thus the total-war approach, almost always, leads to marked transformations within the social structures within populations as happened in the US during the 2nd World War.[12] The ills associated with a total-war approach are not faced if a limited-war approach is adopted.

Michael Pollan, The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals (New York: Penguin, 2006), 99–100

The factors which lead to the adoption of the latter approach include limited resources, both financial and human, as well as the need to ensure that public life is not adversely affected.[13] The appropriateness of the latter approach is seen in the some efforts put in place by the US in the wake of the September 11th attacks. The limited-war approaches in pursuit of global terrorism have, and continue to have, virtually no widespread negative effects on the American life aspect of American life, save for the limited number of military personnel actually fighting the war.[14]

The need to ensure that public, commercial and social life is not adversely affected is usually one of the primary factors which have countries deciding to use limited-war approach in warfare.[15] The US, in pursuit of international terrorists and the interest groups and governments which support them, has been keen to preserve commercial, public and social life, ensuring that they are not adversely affected. The approach has ensured that the US commerce has been left unscathed by the antiterrorism limited-war efforts.[16]

There has been virtually no re-allotment of industrial budgetary allocations to purposes of purchase of armaments as well as meeting the expenses related to manufacturing of war materials.[17] On the social front, the limited-war approach has ensured that the day to day American life stays put; it has largely remained unbothered ever since 9/10, with only a few Americans making some sacrifices that may affect their  day to day life.[18]

The other factor which has been decisive in the adoption of the limited-war approach is that of the limited personnel which the government requires for the limited war assignments. Throughout the efforts of pursuing suspected international terrorists, together with the interest groups and governments which support them, the US has sustained an all-volunteer recruitment policy for the military, unlike in the 2nd World War. In the latest efforts, less than one percent of the officers serving in the military force in the various countries are civilians.[19][20]

Most importantly, in pursuing suspected international terrorists, should use a limited-war approach so that the public does not experience the adverse collateral effects of the warfare. It is important to also note that the September 11th attacks, or any other terrorism acts, are not war’s actions and thus should not be perceived as representing existential dangers to the US. The resources and few human lives being put on the line in the pursuit of terrorists can be further downscaled through heightening of reasonable diplomatic onslaughts as well as police-work.[21][22]

The 2nd World War was an entire-war wedged against existent enemies.  Following the declaration of the war, the complete valor of American economy as well as manpower was drummed up for purposes of the war, and to speed up its conclusion. In contrast, the war against terrorism targets indescribable as well as even phantom adversaries, created through international American military actions. This has led to the perpetuation of a war-situation with no end in sight, but then which minimally affects the Americans. The US should continue relying on the limited-war approach in pursuit of international terrorism.

 

 

Bibliography:

Carr, Caleb. “Terrorism: Why the definition must be broad.” World Policy Journal 24, no.1 (2007): 47-50.

Deflem, Mathieu. “Reading terrorism and terrorists: Review essay.” Theoretical Criminology 9, no.2 (2005): 231-236.

Fearon, James D. ‘Rationalist Explanations for War.” International Organization 49, no.3 (1995.): 379–414.

Goodwin, Jeff. “A theory of categorical terrorism.” Social Forces 84, no.4 (2006): 2027-2047.

Poulos, Paula. A Woman’s War Too: U.S. Women in the Military in World War II. Washington, DC: National Archives and Records Administration, 1996.

Reiff, Mark K. “Terrorism, Retribution, and Collective Responsibility”, Social Theory and Practice 34, no.1 (2008): 209–42.

Toby Rider, Findley Michael G. and Diehl Paul F. “Just Part of the Game? Arms Races, Rivalry and War.” Journal of Peace Research 48 (2011): 85-100.

Witkowski, Terrence H. “World War II Poster Campaigns: Preaching Frugality to American. Consumers,” Journal of Advertising 32 (2003): 69-82.

Young, Joseph K. and Michael Findley. “Can Peace Be Purchased? A Sectoral-Level Analysis of Aid.” Public Choice 1, no.1 (2011): 365-381.

 

[1] Mark Reiff, “Terrorism, Retribution, and Collective Responsibility,” Social Theory and Practice 34 (2008): 215.

[2] Caleb Carr, “Terrorism: Why the definition must be broad,” World Policy Journal 24, no.1 (2007): 49.

[3] Terrence Witkowski, “World War II Poster Campaigns: Preaching Frugality to American Consumers,” Journal of Advertising 32, no.1 (2003): 72.

 

[4] James Fearon, “Rationalist Explanations for War,” International Organization 49, no.3 (1995): 400.

[5] Terrence Witkowski, “World War II Poster Campaigns: Preaching Frugality to American Consumers,” Journal of Advertising 32.1 (2003): 72.

[6] Jeff Goodwin, “A theory of categorical terrorism,” Social forces 84.4 (2006): 2030.

[7] James Fearon, “Rationalist Explanations for War,” 404.

[8] Terrence Witkowski, “World War II Poster Campaigns: Preaching Frugality to American Consumers,” Journal of Advertising 32.1 (2003): 72-74.

[9] Terrence Witkowski, “World War II Poster Campaigns: Preaching Frugality to American Consumers,” Journal of Advertising 32, no. 1 (2003): 73.

[10] Joseph Young and Findley Michael, “Can Peace Be Purchased? A Sectoral-Level Analysis of Aid,” Public Choice 1, no.1 (2011): 374.

[11] Paula Poulos, A Woman’s War Too: U.S. Women in the Military in World War II (Washington, DC: National Archives and Records Administration, 1996), 327.

[12] James Fearon, “Rationalist Explanations for War,” International Organization 49, no.3 (1995): 380.

[13] Mark Reiff, “Terrorism, Retribution, and Collective Responsibility,” Social Theory and Practice 34, (2008): 235.

[14] Mathieu Deflem, “Reading terrorism and terrorists: Review essay,” Theoretical Criminology 9, no. 2 (2005): 236.

[15] Jeff Goodwin, “A theory of categorical terrorism,” Social forces 84, no. 4 (2006): 2040.

[16] Caleb Carr, “Terrorism: Why the definition must be broad,” World Policy Journal 24, no.1 (2007): 50.

[17] Rider Toby, Michael Findley and Paul Diehl, “Just Part of the Game? Arms Races, Rivalry, and War,” Journal of Peace Research 48 (2011): 95.

[18] Mathieu Deflem, “Reading terrorism and terrorists: Review essay,” Theoretical Criminology 9, no. 2 (2005): 234

[19]Jeff Goodwin, “A theory of categorical terrorism,” Social forces 84, no.4 (2006): 2027-2047.

[20] Mark Reiff, “Terrorism, Retribution, and Collective Responsibility,” Social Theory and Practice 34 (2008): 240.

[21] Caleb Carr, “Terrorism: Why the definition must be broad,” World Policy Journal 24, no.1 (2007): 49.

[22] Jeff Goodwin, “A theory of categorical terrorism,” Social forces 84, no.4 (2006): 2035.

 

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