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The Concept of Total War


The following post is a more general statement about war and the weapons of war. I hope some readers find my more historical context of some personal value as they fight whatever modern battles come into their lives and the lives of others in their society. The Oxford English Dictionary cites the first known usage in the English language for the term 'World War' as being in April 1909 in the pages of the Westminster Gazette. "The idea of modern total war," writes sociologist Robert Nisbet, "was born in the famous decree in France of the National Convention, August 23, 1793." This decree resulted in the creation of a mass army, a citizen army, the first in human history in France. Karl von Clausewitz's book On War followed forty years after. Clausewitz wrote, according to Nisbet, "the single most influential book written in modern times on war" in the years 1817 to 1827.

On War, a book on strategy and tactics, on the philosophy of war and the relation between society and the individual, was begun one hundred years before another book on war, a spiritual war, The Tablets of the Divine Plan. In 1793, the same year as the creation of a mass army, a citizen army, the first in human history, as I say above, Shaykh Ahmad left his home in NE Arabia and Bahrain to initiate the process of that spiritual, that total war, a war of quite a different character, characterized in those Tablets by what you might call 'a military metaphor.'

That Shaykh was the founder of what came to be known as Shaykhism; he was also the major precursor of the Babi-Baha'i revelations, religions, which had their origin in the 19th century.-Ron Price with thanks to Robert Nisbet, The Social Philosophers: Community and Conflict in Western Thought, Heinemann, London, 1973, p.70.

Sharper than blades of steel
and hotter than summer heat,
placed somewhere inside,
pervasive, subtle, natural
as the weather, unassuming,
unobtrusive, you'd never know
or guess that this was war.
Reposing on that green Isle
of Faithfulness in that place
of honour in the central square,
a crystal concentrate of exquiste
power---slowly the people came,
citizens from everywhere, feeling
its intolerable beauty, growing
accustomed to its ways. This was
no temperate, limited engagement,
no indecisive contest, a gentle war,
silent, you would not have called it
war or death, but life, ideal forces,
lordly confirmations, rushing from
hidden ramparts, strong fortifications,
impregnable castles razed to the ground,
unbeknownst, the lines of the legions
breaking through, breaking through.
Ron Price
1/10/'02 to 30/3/'15


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