Limited war

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A limited war is a war carried out by a state that uses less than its total resources and has a goal of less than total defeat of the enemy.[1] Very often it is the high cost of war that makes limited war more practical than total war.[2] In a limited war a state's total survival does not depend on the outcome of the war. For example, when Augustus sent his Roman legions to conquer Germania, the fate of the Roman Republic was not at stake.[2] Since 1945 and the advent of nuclear weapons, limited war has become the normal type of warfare.[3] Following World War II, because of its world position, the United States has found itself involved in a number of limited wars.[4] The Korean, Vietnam, Persian Gulf and Iraq wars were all examples of limited wars.[4] The goal of at least one of the parties in a limited war is to maintain its freedom and preserve itself.[3] Often the strategy used, especially against a much stronger enemy, is to draw out the fighting until the other side gets tired and finally decides to quit.[3] This worked for George Washington in the American Revolutionary War.[3] Although the British Army was the strongest army in the world at the time, the war dragged out until the British got tired of the war draining its resources.[3] Today the Taliban and other Islamist groups keep their wars going trying to wear out their Western world enemies.[3]

Problems with limited war[change | change source]

Limited wars are rarely successful.[5] From the time of the Roman Republic to modern times, limited warfare has usually not had the desired results.[5] It also runs contrary to what military leaders are taught, which is to win at all costs. Those who make policy often choose the middle ground of limited war when faced with decisions between total war or do nothing at all.[5] The only problem with doing nothing is the example of Adolf Hitler.[6] While the world powers did nothing, he continued to invade weaker countries until finally a world war was all that could stop him.[6]

“In war, there is only one tactical principle which is not subject to change. It is to use the means at hand to inflict the maximum amount of wound, death, and destruction on the enemy, in the minimum amount of time.” General George S. Patton.[7]

Historical examples[change | change source]

The concept of limited war is not new.[8] The military theorist Carl von Clausewitz (1780-1831) wrote about two kinds of war. In the first kind, the goal is total destruction of an enemy. When that is not possible, the second type is limited war.[8] This is most often because one of the parties to the war does not have the capability of completely annihilating their enemy.[8] The Napoleonic wars (1803-1815), World War I (1914-19) and World War II (1939-1945) are considered total wars.[8] Any war that is limited by geography, resources, goals or a war that is intentionally limited by the participants is a limited war.[8]

References[change | change source]

  1. "limited war". Dictionary.com. Retrieved 17 September 2016.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Ian Bertram (13 September 2016). "The Return of Limited War". RealClearDefense.com. Retrieved 17 September 2016.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 Taylor Dinerman (27 October 2011). "The Limits of Limited War". Gatestone Institute. Retrieved 17 September 2016.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Spencer D. Bakich, Success and Failure in Limited War: Information and Strategy in the Korean, Vietnam, Persian Gulf, and Iraq Wars (Chicago; London: The University of Chicago Press, 2014), p. 2
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 David Ignatius (9 October 2014). "The problem with America's limited wars". The Washington Post. Retrieved 17 September 2016.
  6. 6.0 6.1 "Hitler's Aggression: Could Adolf Hitler have been Deterred from Launching WWII?". U.S. History in Context. Gale Cengage Learning. Retrieved 17 September 2016.
  7. Ron Ewart. "Sacrifice of American lives where their sacrifice was and is essentially for naught". Canada Free Press. Retrieved 17 September 2016.
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 8.4 "Misconception of Limited War". Academia. Retrieved 17 September 2016.
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 J. Rickard. "Crimean War, 1853-1856". The History of War. Retrieved 17 September 2016.
  10. Andrew Lambert, The Crimean War: British Grand Strategy against Russia, 1853–56 (Farnham, Surrey, England; Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2011), p. 33
  11. Andrew Lambert, The Crimean War: British Grand Strategy against Russia, 1853–56 (Farnham, Surrey, England; Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2011), p. iv
  12. Lawrence D. Freedman (Fall 1982). "Reconsiderations: The War of the Falkland Islands, 1982". Foreign Affairs Magazine. Council on Foreign Relations, Inc. Retrieved 17 September 2016.
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 13.3 Kennedy Hickman. "The Falklands War: An Overview". About Education. About, Inc. Retrieved 17 September 2016.
  14. 14.0 14.1 14.2 14.3 Stephen Peter Rosen, 'Vietnam and the American Theory of Limited War', International Security, Vol. 7, No. 2, (MIT Press, Fall, 1982), p. 88

Other websites[change | change source]