What is total war? How is total war different than most wars fought before WWI?
Total War: No Mercy
Wars of the past have always been more orderly in a sense than modern wars. This is because in the past, people tended to follow the rules of war, the ones where one must be honorable to thy foe, and all those details. Wars in the past, usually ended with a series of decisive battles, rather than prolonged warfare.
In the modern era, the idea of Total War is defined as :"Total war is warfare that includes any and all civilian-associated resources and infrastructure as legitimate military targets, mobilizes all of the resources of society to fight the war, and gives priority to warfare over non-combatant needs. The American-English Dictionary defines total war as "war that is unrestricted in terms of the weapons used, the territory or combatants involved, or the objectives pursued, especially one in which the laws of war are disregarded." (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Total_war).
What does that entail? Pretty much in modern war nothing is off limits. We saw this in the Battle of Bolimov (WW1), where Germans started to use chemical warfare on their opponents. What Total War pursues, is the complete annihilation of the enemy by any means necessary, this could be from exterminating the entire other faction, to just nuking some cities and be done with the war.