Total war is usually understood through its dissolving of the juridical distinctions between governments, armies and people. It is associated with the industrialisation of warfare and the advent of mass social mobilisation. Total war, however, is more than this. It is a modus operandi of violence that, in the broadest sense of the term, demands the destruction of an enemy’s environmental life-world. The targets of this war include the climate regimes, vital urban infrastructures, ecological systems and social networks, together with the neurological and cellular processes that collectively support life and make it possible. Since the essence of such warfare is surprise and uncertainty, especially the dread of not knowing when or where the blow will fall, total war operates through terror. More specifically, it works as environmental terror.
Duffield, M. Total War as Environmental Terror: Linking Liberalism, Resilience, and the Bunker. South Atlantic Quarterly (2011) 110 (3) 757-769. [DOI: 10.1215/00382876-1275779]