Democracies Are More Likely To Win “Total Wars” Than Totalitarian Regimes.’

2177 words - 9 pages

The term ‘total war’ has been attributed to a small number of conflicts. The term was originally coined by the German military officer Erich Ludendorff in his book ‘The Total War’. Previous to this the renowned military theorists Carl von Clausewitz and Antoine-Henri Jomini both touched on the raw principles of ‘total war’, but failing to ever recognise the term Ludendorff went on to fashion. It was not until the 1950s that the term re-emerged to describe the nature of the conflict during the First and Second World Wars, whilst a number of wars previous to this have characteristics of ‘total wars’, the primitive state of national economies and refusal to fully mobilise the economy purely for war can explain why these conflicts were more ‘limited’ than ‘total’.
Historians suggest that despotic central power regimes were catalysts towards their own downfall as a result in their lack of ability to effectively run and motivate the home front and military during times of conflict. The state of Austro-Hungary during the early 20th century exemplifies this, beset with internal frictions and hostilities even during the First World War. The problems faced by the Hapsburgs in Austro-Hungary were encapsulated by Stephen P. Duggan who stated “Austria-Hungary is doomed unless she resolutely applies a surgeon’s knife and cuts down deep, cuts out the cancer of race strife with all its roots” . It was without question the lack of representation for the numerous ethnic groups in Austro-Hungary which accelerated its collapse in 1918. More recently, historians have suggested the nation’s problems could have been solved by introducing a democratic “self-government for each of the races and federalism for the empire” , indeed, by the outbreak of war in 1914; the Hapsburgs were already clinging on to power, a distinct absence of democratic procedure along with a nation suffering from a lack of self-identity was integral to the empire’s dissolution.
When analysing the principal differences between the governance of democracies and totalitarian regimes during times of war, there are a number of factors which support the argument that democracies are more likely to win conflicts. For a start, as Dan Reiter and Allan Stam illustrate “when governments must answer to the will (and anger) of the people, they start only those wars they are confident they will win” . The very nature of democracy attaches a level of accountability to the government, and this politician-citizen link is crucially maintained, which usually reassures citizens and prolongs their support for the administration; something that is a fundamental characteristic especially for war-time governments. It follows from this that democracies are rarely driven by the ideology of a single figure, and if such a person is apparent, their views and opinions are usually counteracted by other officials and colleagues. Leonard Schapiro speculates that, “had Hitler been born, say, in a Buckinghamshire village...

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