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total war

Powerful Essays
“[B]oth sides had seen, in a sad scrawl of broken earth and murdered men, the answer to the question….Neither race had won, nor could win, the War. The War had won, and would go on winning.”1 These are the words of Edmund Blunden, a British soldier who survived the Battle of the Somme, who came to the realization that nobody could claim victory in the twentieth-century mass warfare, because both winners and losers paid a high price. The new type of warfare launched in the twentieth-century had a great impact on the modern world that went beyond the immediate cost of casualties.2 The psychological, social, economic and technological effect these wars had on those who survived earned this type of conflict a new name: total war, which encompassed all aspects of life. Before 1914, Western society believed in progress, peace, prosperity, reason, and the rights of the individual. During that time, people believed in the Enlightenment, and industrial developments and scientific breakthroughs were a daily reality apparent in the rising standard of living. But World War I crushed all hopes and dreams. It plunged society in an age of anxiety and uncertainty in almost every area of human life. The social impact of total war was also profound. The role of women changed dramatically as the war greatly expanded their activities and changed attitudes towards them. This change was brought about by the total national readjustment and the mobilization of the home front. In order to wage unrestrained warfare, belligerents had to intervene in the economies, diverting production from peacetime goods to the manufacture of munitions and military equipment. Technological advances also took place, which increased the number of “mechanical contrivances”3 such as heavy artilleries, tanks, submarines, and airplanes, which made war an “untrammeled, absolute manifestation of violence”4 as Carl von Causewitz so eloquently put it.
Total war marked the beginning of a revolution in thought and ideas, where turmoil, uncertainty, and pessimism replaced the cherished values and beliefs of peace, prosperity, and progress. Men and women in the West felt “increasingly adrift in a strange, uncertain and uncontrollable world.”5 In his essay “The Crisis of the Spirit” written in 1919, Paul Valéry, one of France’s most outstanding poets, wrote that Europe “doubted itsel...

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... wars because of the types of weapons used. Hand grenades, machine guns, poisonous mustard gas, tanks, submarines, and airplanes were introduced for the first time. During the Second World War strategic bombing was used, as well as the form of combat called blitzkrieg.
The new type of warfare launched in the twentieth century called total war had a great impact on the modern world. It plunged society into an age of uncertainty and pessimism. It also had a devastating psychological effect on the soldiers that survived the war and returned home. In addition, unlimited conflict created a social impact that was seen in the increased participation of women in the economy, and their newly gained right to vote. The “all-out” war involved as well the massive mobilization of the home front and the establishment of the first totalitarian society. The introduction of machine guns, poisonous gases, tanks, submarines, and airplanes made total war extremely deadly. Hopefully, the lessons learned from the past major wars will be applied by today’s society, and efforts will be made to avoid at all costs another total war. World War I and World War II should remain to be the Wars to End All Wars.
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