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Difference Between All Out War vs Limited War: What is the difference between limited war and total war?

What is the difference between total war and limited war? In simple words, a total war means comprehensive warfare that includes all the resources of a nation, not just the armed forces or military. A limited war, on the contrary, is a narrow or finite term, here all resources of the nation are not involved, and the aim behind it is a specific conception or postulation.

How a total war is different from a limited war? The main difference between a total war and a limited war is the purpose or the aim. In total war, the nations involved may sacrifice everything including their civilians, economy, and infrastructure to get the victory.  A limited war is just the opposite of this, the whole nation is not sacrificed, rather resources are used keeping the main goal in mind. In this section, you can find the simple and easy-to-understand differences between these two terms along with examples of wars explaining their type.

What is the meaning of Total War?

Total War can be defined as a fathomless or interminable war situation between different nations where the combatant or oppugnant is fully engaged and is eager to get the victory even if it has to put in its all resources. These resources could be its economic resources like agricultural or other industries, military, civilians, natural & technological resources, and even the infrastructure of the country.  Even if the belligerent has to do rationing of its resources for the people of its country, it will do everything in its capacity to defeat the opponent or to make it surrender. The leading examples of total war are World War1 and World War 2.

In total war, there is no limit on the weapons as well, the hostile country is free to use all kinds of weapons including nuclear weapons, or other weapons that could lead to mass destruction.

What is the meaning of Limited War?

Limited War can be defined as a war front or a war-like situation where the whole nation is not involved. Based on the conflicting agenda which could be political or even geographical, the government engages its resources and military. The use of weapons is controlled in the limited war, it could also be a cold-war-like situation with no use of weapons at all. Some of the examples of a limited war include the Korea War, Afghanistan War, Vietnam War, and Gulf War I & II.

What is the difference between Total War and Limited War?

To understand the difference between total war or all-out war and limited war, we have compiled a list of differences in the table listed here:

Difference Total War Limited War
Aim The aim is to get the enemy nation to surrender or to get the victory The aim is limited, limited objectives like a conflict over some territory or certain political behavior or agenda of the opponent country.
Scope Scope is unlimited Limited scope
Resources Mobilized All the resources are mobilized, which can help defeat the opponent nation like human resources, technology, infrastructure, agriculture, etc. Limited resources are mobilized, and the government focuses on resource mobilization and deploying those which are crucial for the specific purpose.
Civilians Involved Generally, civilians are not involved
Weapons No restriction on the use of weapons, even nuclear weapons are involved Use of Conventional weapons and nuclear, chemical, or other mass destruction weapons are not involved.