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Home front is the informal term commonly used to describe the civilian populace of the nation at war as an active support system of its military. In the political jargon of militarist or nationalists, it implies the imperative or effective militarization of a society, and a claimed necessity for social servitude to the (claimed) needs of a military command, during a time of war. The view that a society in wartime must function as a component of its executive branch is sometimes called a "teeth and tail " view.
In a modern industrial nation, the fighting "teeth" of combat soldiers, depends to a considerable degree on the "tail" of civilian support services —extending all the way to the factories that build the material. Civilian populations had traditionally considered to be separate from combat, however the expanded destructive capabilites of modern warfare brought with it an increased direct threat to civilian populations. With the rapid increase of warfare technology, the term "military effort" has changed to include the "home front" as a reflection of both a civilian "sector" capacity to produce arms, as well as the structural or policy changes which deal with its vulnerability to direct attack.
This continuity of "military effort" from fighting soldier to manufacturing facility has profound effects for the concept of "total war." By this logic, if factories and workers producing war materiel are part of the war effort they become legitimate targets for attack, rather than protected noncombatants. Hence in practice, both sides in a conflict often commit atrocities against civilians, with the understanding that these are legitimate and lawful targets in war. This military view of civilian targets has profound effects on the equity of applied legal principles on which the prosecution of crimes against humanity are based.
The importance of civilian manufacturing and support services in a nation's capacity to fight a war first became apparent during the twenty five years of the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic wars when the United Kingdom was able to finance, and to a lesser extent arm and supply the various coalitions which opposed France. Although Britain had a much smaller population than France, its global maritime trade and its early industrialisation meant that its economy was much larger than that of France which allowed Britain to offset the French man power advantage.
In the American Civil War, the capacity of Northern factories proved as decisive in winning the war as the skills of either side's generals. During World War I the British Shell Crisis of 1915 and the appointment of Lloyd George as Minister of Munitions was a recognition that the whole economy would have to be geared for war if the Allies were to prevail on the Western Front.
It was not until World War II that the term "home front" actually entered the English language. It derives from a speech by US President Franklin D. Roosevelt, in which he stated that the efforts of civilians at home to support the war through personal sacrifice was as critical to winning the war as the efforts of the soldiers themselves, and that the civilian populace constituted an additional front at home.
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