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Thursday, July 13, 2006

The Blogs of war

While checking a fact I intended to use in a response to a friend's comment, I stumbled across a bunch of quotes that had been uttered by one man.  These quotes sounded so fresh and applicable to our current conflict that I was amazed to find that they were attributed to a man who had never even set foot in this part of the world.

See if you can guess the source... and the war about which he was speaking:

Every attempt to make war easy and safe will result in humiliation and disaster.

This war differs from other wars, in this particular. We are not fighting armies but a hostile people, and must make old and young, rich and poor, feel the hard hand of war.

War is cruelty, and you cannot refine it; and those who brought war into our country deserve all the curses and maledictions a people can pour out.

War is cruelty. There is no use trying to reform it. The crueler it is, the sooner it will be over.

War is the remedy our enemies have chosen, and I say give them all they want.

You cannot qualify war in harsher terms than I will.

If you want to end a war, you must end citizens support

The object of war is a more perfect peace.

Give up?  The man who spoke and/or wrote these words was General William Tecumseh Sherman, and he was referring to the U.S. Civil War.  Of course, I saved his best W.T. Sherman quote for last in hopes it might temper some of the rhetoric and testosterone (yes, including mine) currently flying around the blogosphere:

It is only those who have neither fired a shot nor heard the shrieks and groans of the wounded who cry aloud for blood, more vengeance, more desolation.   War is hell.


Posted by David Bogner on July 13, 2006 | Permalink


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The answers to the problems that plague the world, one can find in history.

How about this quote by Joseph Reed, General Washington’s personal secretary and closest confidant.

“When I look around, and see how few of the numbers who talked so largely of death and honor are around me, and that those who are here are those from whom is was least expected… I am lost in wonder and surprise… Your noisy sons of liberty are, I find, the quietest in the field”

Posted by: Also A Chussid | Jul 13, 2006 6:33:28 PM

Sherman was right and he didn't play games. Be safe.

Posted by: Jack | Jul 13, 2006 6:42:18 PM

Sherman was correct. Get it over with as soon as possible. Foxnews was reporting that the two kidnapped soldiers are going to be flown to Iran. No confirmation from other sources.

As, always, be safe.

Posted by: seawitch | Jul 13, 2006 6:48:00 PM

BJ: War is hell.
Hawkeye: No - war is war, hell is hell. And of the two, war is much worse.


Posted by: Tonny | Jul 13, 2006 7:43:11 PM

I've never been in a battle, BH. But I do hope the Israeli government will take whatever steps necessary to defend and endsure the security of its citizens.

Posted by: Irina | Jul 13, 2006 8:18:33 PM

Amen. What would the blogging equivalent of "deaf ears" be? Blind eyes? Numb fingertips? Either way, I hope this post doesn't fall on them.

Posted by: PP | Jul 13, 2006 9:03:32 PM

Well said, David.

You and yours have been on my mind. Stay well!

Posted by: Jim | Jul 13, 2006 10:36:53 PM

Everyone else is wishing you safety. I'll wish you victory.

Posted by: Doctor Bean | Jul 13, 2006 11:08:12 PM

I don't even have to finish them to know they're Sherman. His speech before razing Atlanta is absolutely incredible - I wish I could find the article I wrote for my college's paper about Israel 3 years ago. I bet that it all stands true today...

Posted by: Ezzie | Jul 14, 2006 12:41:59 AM

I'm not sure if you can find it, but he has a line about destroying the opposition and the resources of those who support them until they decide that they no longer want to support them. It's a really sharp quote.

Posted by: Ezzie | Jul 14, 2006 12:43:02 AM

[sorry for triple comment]

* It's a bit more than the ones you have, I mean...

Posted by: Ezzie | Jul 14, 2006 12:43:55 AM

War is a serious thing; may it end soon, and successfully. Take care & be safe...

Posted by: Steve Bogner | Jul 14, 2006 5:51:57 AM

It seems that by implication (via your choice of quotes), if not overtly, you are comparing Southerners of the 19th century to Muslim terrorists (please see your second quote).
I would argue, that while it's a good thing the Confederacy lost - they were an army and were legit soldiers. They were not like Hamas and Hezbollah.

Posted by: Peach | Jul 14, 2006 6:31:33 AM

There's a reason why Sherman was responsible for many of the North's atrocities furing the civil war. He simply destroyed everything in his path.

If your position is that the Israeli Army should act likewise, then what pray tell is the point of even talking about morality in the context of discussing the IDF and how did the IDF manage to be more moral in the past? And what makes us different from Hamas?

Posted by: Michael Brenner | Jul 14, 2006 7:06:04 AM

Peach - Exactly, which is why such action is even more justified in this case.

(David, did I mention I really like Sherman? Just checking.)

Posted by: Ezzie | Jul 14, 2006 11:01:00 AM

Also a chusid... One can find a historical quote to support pretty much any position. :-)

Jack... The residents of Atlanta might argue that point. :-)

Seawitch... Thanks. I happen to agree with Sherman that if you are going to fight a war, let it be total war... otherwise there is no end to it.

Tonny... Thanks, I'd forgotten that scene.

Irina... You and me both.

PP... Wow, an 'amen' from PP! I must be living right. :-)

Jim... Wonderful to hear from you, Jim. I appreciate your concern. It means a lot.

Doctor Bean... Thanks. Some lose track of that goal. :-)

Ezzie... That is pretty much the quote I was looking for and never found it. The closes I got was the penultimate quote in the first list.

Steve... Deadly serious. Thanks.

Peach... Yes, there was an organized Confederate army, but the Union troops had to deal with snipers and irregulars throughout the south. It was one of the reasons Sherman chose such a ruthless approach to unrestricted warfare on the southern population centers. I don't think anyone can honestly argue that without his brutal march to the sea the civil war might have dragged on for decades.

Michael Brenner... Oy, you don't give up do you? What you call 'atrocities' broke the South's will to continue. Sherman determined (quite correctly IMHO) that in order to take away the Confederacy's ability to wage war he needed to completely demoralize its citizen support for the war effort. War is an atrocity, but if you are going to engage in it you have to go all the way. It is worth noting that I have a much bigger problem with the way President Johnson treated the south during reconstruction than with how General Sherman carried out his military comapigns. There was no need to brutalize a defeated society... but there was a reason to brutalize a society that had yet to admit defeat.

Ezzie... Yeah, I sensed that. :-)

Posted by: treppenwitz | Jul 14, 2006 2:08:06 PM


You missed on my friend
"There is many a boy here today who looks on war as all glory, but, boys, it is
all hell. You can bear this warning voice to generations yet to come. I look
upon war with horror."
- General William Tecumseh Sherman

Posted by: Andy McCarthy | Jul 14, 2006 10:55:08 PM

"Michael Brenner... Oy, you don't give up do you?"

Why would I? You haven't convinced me of anything.

"What you call 'atrocities'"

Not only me, but this is not what Israel is doing anyway, and Sherman didn't kill many civilians.

"broke the South's will to continue."

Property destruction. And the South did not exactly work with the rest of country for a long time after that.

"Sherman determined (quite correctly IMHO) that in order to take away the Confederacy's ability to wage war he needed to completely demoralize its citizen support for the war effort. War is an atrocity, but if you are going to engage in it you have to go all the way."

I suppose you could say that. I see your point, without necessarily agreeing with it. But this is not a civil war. There are three players. Right now the Lebanese are angry with Hezbollah. But much more bombing, and that anger will be displaced with anger at Israel, which is exactly what Hezbollah wants. It is same problem in the territories. We are not negotiating to make the Palestinians part of and subservient to Israel. We are trying to make them less subservient to Hamas. It seems to me that demoralizing the citizenry drives them into the arms of these groups rather than priming them for some surrender. After all, the IDF certainly bombed the hell out of Beirut in the 1980s, which is how Hezbollah got popular in the first place. It did not make the people surrender.

This is the structural problem with your argument. In the context of a two-sided war between sovereign states, like, say World War II, where it is you or the other guy, total warfare and subsequent victory entails a surrender to you because there is no one else to surrender to. You beat the other sovereign.

In states where the central government is weak, this calculus does not work because there is always the Islamist element which acts outside of the government and undermines the sovereignty of the state. (This is also one reason why Africa is such a mess, and why Iraq continues to be a mess despite the election of a government and the writing of a constitution.) We can beat Lebanon and Lebanon might surrender, but Hezbollah will not join, and little is accomplished. We can defeat the PA, which we essentially have, and Mahmoud Abbas can ask to negotiate, but Hamas will not join. Indeed, these organizations will directly benefit from Israeli victory because it will prove their point that the moderates are weak.

Posted by: Michael Brenner | Jul 14, 2006 11:16:30 PM

Thinking of all of you - go well.

Posted by: Z | Jul 15, 2006 9:56:46 PM

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