My Photo

Sic Semper Tyrannis 2007

Blog powered by Typepad

November 2016

Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
    1 2 3 4 5
6 7 8 9 10 11 12
13 14 15 16 17 18 19
20 21 22 23 24 25 26
27 28 29 30      

« "The Queen" | Main | "Islam, Monotheistic but not Monolithic" »

January 28, 2007


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.


Well, I suppose I would lead off by saying (what I have said before, as most Sic Semper's know) that the Civil War was a war that should never have been fought.


600,000 dead.

One hundred years of lynching, the most vile kind of racial discrimination, etc. following the end of the war.

To preserve the Union? Why on earth should there not have been two nations between Canada and Mexico? The highest number possible was the number of "States" that were corralled into signing off on the first Constitution. Why would two have been so bad?

Slavery? I have already pointed out that the issue of the war for the slave population was not even remotely satisfactory.

And slavery was dying. The black population of Petersburg was 50% free in the last days of the war. This was the trend.

And finally, to quote Colonel Lang, "Wars are bad." All wars. You have to have a truly sensational argument to go to war. The U.S. has a lamentable history of seeking wars that don't make sense.


The closest historical parallel I can think of is with the Athenian's disastrous Sicilian Expedition, in which an imperial democracy - whipped on by demagogues and extremely shady merchants with corporate and economic interests in militarily controlling Italy and even Carthage - essentially lost control of its reason and in a fit of ignorant, purple patriotism sent all its armed forces off to an extremely distant place about which no one knew very much, thus leaving themselves wide open militarily to their ancient Greek enemies the Spartans if anything went wrong on the expedition. It did. Athens navy and army were effectively destroyed. The Athenian Exchequer evaporated under the demands of war. The Spartans conquered and sacked Athens.

Alcibiades was a mixture of Tony Blair's seemingly high-flown rhetoric and Richard Perle's cold-blooded treachery. He also had the looks of Lenoardo di Caprio. But the plebian philosopher Socrates also yanked from this catastrophe the theory of universal human love which has haunted the world ever since.

There are parallels, too - geographically, especially - with Xenophon's Persian Expedition and Crassus's misadventures.


I'll have a go at your post arbogast:

First, according to your final comment all wars are bad and you have to have a truly sensational argument to go to war. Perhaps true but I, respectfully, would argue that it is irrelevent to military studies since human history is filled with constant warfare. Someone must always advance and someone must always believe the sensational argument because we've been doing it for at least the 5000 years that we have a written record. Interesting in terms of psychology and human evolution but you have to judge each wars outbreak on its individual merits and deficits. So the Civil war was a war that shouldn't have happened but it did - the question then is why? (Especially in light of your evalution that it should not have happened!)

My number one root cause - nationalism. The modern concept of nationalism was new and was the dominant ideology of the 19th century. All over the world nationalistic revolutions took place repeatedly and all involved military force and, in many cases, a north/south cultural parallel to our Civil War. Examples would include the dozens of revolutions/civil wars throughout Europe from 1820 to 1848, the wars of Spanish liberation in South America and the Meiji restoration in Japan in the 1860's. Not to leave out the unification of Germany and Italy in the 1860's and 1870's. Granted there are numerous differences in all these events but there is also one major unifier - a militaristic approach to enforcing national unity on the larger society. Lincoln was the US version of a world-wide phenomenom the swept through the 19th century and into the 20th.

Chris Marlowe


I have frequently wondered the same thing; it is something I don't bring up easily because for most Americans, criticism of the union is a sensitive subject.

Over the past six years of the Bush administration, and the Republican party's southern strategy under Karl Rove, I believe that American politics has become seriously skewed. The south holds 1/3 of the US population, but with a larger part of the population which votes on values and which embraces Christian fundamentalism, and which rejects economic multilateralism, I sometimes wonder if having a separate southern nation would not be a better thing.

Sometimes when a union doesn't work, separation is better.

If you would like to delve more into the subject, I'd highly recommend the book by Kevin Philips, American Theocracy. The website is at Philips was a Republican political advisor in the sixties and seventies, but became disgusted by the Bush family and Karl Rove's policy of wedge issue politics.

My own feeling is that Rove's approach may be so divisive and polarizing that it could lead to the breakup of the US. In the past few months this has changed; the country has united in its rejection of Bush/Cheney. But who knows how long this will last?

If things start turning south on the economic front, politicians would most likely return to wedge issues to turn out the vote.

Chris Marlowe


Change a few names and a few nouns, and you have the current Iraqi invasion and occupation.

Except Alcibiades didn't need a shady Cheney character to tell him what to think, and he had a much better command of language. He knew how to sell a war himself.


The Revolutionary War should not have happened either. The British should have let the colonies go.

Chris Marlowe

I would rank the Japanese invasion of China in 1937 as truly disastrous.

The Japanese thought that they could quickly defeat China, simply through the vastly superior quality of their equipment and fighting force. To counter this, the Chinese switched to a combination of guerilla warfare, and into a policy of exchanging land for time. The Chinese also moved to engender western sympathy for Chinese efforts to defend their homeland, these efforts were led by Madame Chiang Kai-shek, who was western-educated and spoke fluent English.

In December 1937, the Japanese, in an effort to frighten the Chinese into submission, attacked the Chinese capital of Nanjing (Nanking) and massacred 300,000 civilians. This had the opposite of its intended effect, and hardened Chinese resolve to resist.

The Nationalist Chinese government moved the Chinese government inland, and set up a new capital in Chongqing (Chungking), which became the wartime capital. The Japanese set up a Chinese puppet government in Nanjing led by Wang Jingwei.

The Japanese were unable to secure a strong defense line in China due to their limited numbers, and only held major cities on the eastern coastline. In addition, they controlled major railway lines. However, they were unable to control the countryside, which was controlled by Chinese guerillas. On the diplomatic front, Japan was becoming increasingly isolated because of its aggression in China. The Nationalist Chinese government received military aid from Germany and the Soviet Union. American public opinion also gradually turned against the Japanese; at the time, Japan depended on the US for oil supplies.

Before Pearl Harbor, the US declared an oil embargo on Japan. The rationale for the Japanese invasion of the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia) after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor was for the Japanese Empire to secure its own oil supplies which would not be dependent on the Allies.

In the end, the Japanese were fighting on too many fronts, and it was not able to compete against the industrial might of the United States. This eventually led to the defeat of the Japanese in 1945.


Something very much akin to Nationalism must have been prompting Lincoln, who was extremely ambiguous about how to cope with the problem of slavery.

Lincoln did not show a moment's hesitation to slaughter tens of thousands of his own troops or the enemy's. One is almost tempted to place the Gettysburg Address beside Bush's inflated rhetoric for all the humanity it really contained.

One must recall that the South was not interested in conquest. Not at all, I believe. Hence, Lincoln was throwing away the lives of his troops for a concept, not for survival. Sort of like Bush.


There will always be war because it is coded in male genes from evolution between competing tribes. There will always be delusional bullies like Dick Cheney and a military force is necessary to counter the ones on the other side. But, after watching it for a year from the relative safety of a LZ, one has to say that the enterprise is outstanding fucked up and has to be avoided at all costs. My only thought when the Iraq Invasion went forward with the 3rd ID still transshipping through the Suez Canal, “this is totally fucking crazy”. It has only gotten worse.

The problem with military history is that it puts a veneer of sanity on a putrid bloody hell.

Chris Marlowe

I don't know if any of you have seen the documentary "The Fog of War", which is mainly an interview of Robert McNamara, and how the Vietnam War unfolded from his position as defense secretary.

One point which is not mentioned enough, and came through very clearly in the documentary, was that it was not only until Robert McNamara visited Hanoi in 1996 or 1997 that he learned how the NVA and Viet Cong presented the war to the Vietnamese, and that it was a defensive war against first French and then American aggression, which was striving to prevent Vietnamese unification.

It gradually became clear to McNamara that his initial premises about the war were simply not right when meeting with some of the commanders on the NVA side, who were now old and retired.

It was really amazing to see that in the documentary, here was the DEFENSE SECRETARY in the US government who was making decisions to send more American young men to fight and maybe die in Vietnam, and HE DID NOT FIND OUT WHAT THE VIETNAMESE WERE FIGHTING AND DYING FOR UNTIL 1997? Mind you, the Vietnamese lost some 3M casualties in the Vietnam war. There simply is no way to pretty this up!

If my understanding is correct of NVA and Viet Cong propaganda is correct, socialism and communism was not as big a component as it was made out to be by the Americans, that is, as a war to prevent the spread of international Communism. In fact, it was probably played down in order to bring in non-communists on their side to form a united front against the Americans.

Of course, in the sixties, American politicians were so wrapped up in the threat of the Soviet Union and world communism, that it saw the Vietnam conflict also through these tinted glasses.

I don't know if I'm correct in this understanding, but if there are Vietnam vets or others who know more about this, I'd be interested in hearing more about the propaganda side of the war.

One thing that documentary made clear to me is that politicians think that somehow war can be "managed" and political goals can be reached, but then it swiftly turns into an out of control Frankenstein which just destroys and devours property and human lives, and often lays the seeds for future human conflicts.

Which brings us to the present. The Iraqi war, as presented by the Bush administration, is a war against an extremist form of Islam and against "freedom"; something Bush has never defined clearly, especially when you consider how he has suspended habeas corpus, and until very recently, instituted wiretaps without court approval. On the Muslim side, this is seen as a war of naked western aggression against the Muslim countries in order to control their natural resource, oil.

So who knows what Americans are fighting and dying for now?

If Vietnam is a useful reference, then it means that the American politicians (Bush and Cheney) are continuing to lie about what the other side is fighting for. My reaction is very simple: I'm convinced that American politicians will tell any lie to justify their cause for war, and in American democracy, the only choice the American people have is which pack of lies they prefer to buy.

Otherwise, they are all alike.


"The Revolutionary War should not have happened either. The British should have let the colonies go."
I just read Rough Crossings. A lot of slaves did not agree.

Actually Iraq looks more like Suez than anything. The illusion of British Imperial power was punctured by indebtednes.

Colorado Bob

I love kicking these cans around, but I just wanted to drop in and post this fellow's site. He was a brit civilian contractor in Vietnam and has just started writing about it. It's pretty interesting stuff.


Chris Marlowe

I just found this about Rough Crossings on the Amazon page for the book. Really fascinating.

From Publishers Weekly
[Signature]Reviewed by Adam HochschildHas there ever been a patch of history more celebrated than the American Revolution? The torrent is endless: volume after volume about the glory of 1776, the miracle of 1787 and enough biographies of the Founding Fathers to stretch from the Liberty Bell to Bunker Hill and back again. The Library of Congress catalogue lists 271 books or other items to do with George Washington's death and burial alone. Enough!By contrast with the usual hagiography, distinguished historian Schama has found a little-known story from this era that makes the Founding Fathers look not so glorious. The Revolution saw the first mass emancipation of slaves in the Americas—an emancipation, however, not done by the revolutionaries but by their enemies. Many American rebel leaders were slave owners. To hit them where it most hurt, Britain proclaimed freedom for all slaves of rebel masters who could make their way to British-controlled territory. Slaves deserted their horrified owners by the tens of thousands. One, who used his master's last name, was Henry Washington; another renamed himself British Freedom. The most subversive news in this book is that the British move so shocked many undecided Southern whites that it actually pushed them into the rebel camp: "Theirs was a revolution, first and foremost, mobilized to protect slavery." Even though they lost the war, most British officers honored their promise to the escaped slaves. The British commander in New York at the war's end, where some 3,000 runaway slaves had taken refuge, adamantly refused an irate Washington's demand to give them back. Instead, he put them on ships for Nova Scotia.And there, nearly a decade later, another saga began. More than a thousand ex-slaves accepted a British offer of land in Sierra Leone, a utopian colony newly founded by abolitionists, which for a few years in the 1790s was the first place on earth where women could vote. Sadly, however, financial problems and the British government's dismay at so much democracy soon brought an end to the self-rule the former slaves had been promised. Schama once again gives his readers something rare: history that is both well told and well documented. In this wonderfully sprawling epic, there are a few small errors about dates and the like, and perhaps a few more characters than we can easily keep track of, but again and again he manages to bring a scene, a person, a conversation dramatically to life. Would that more historians wrote like this. (On sale Apr. 25)Adam Hochschild is the author of, most recently, Bury the Chains: Prophets and Rebels in the Fight to Free an Empire's Slaves, a National Book Award finalist.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


Indeed, the roots of war are fundamental in our genome. We are, at our core, barely-evolved hairless monkeys with delusions of grandeur. We share 95%+ of our genome with the great apes, complete with the fundamental biological underpinnings that lead to war -- the desire to follow an Alpha Male leader, the division of the world into "us" which are fully human and "them" which are not, the hooting and howling and flinging of feces which occurs when "us" meets "them" (think two troops of monkeys meeting in the jungle, and what occurs at that time... or watch any political talk show that has "right wing" and "left wing" guests hooting and howling and flinging feces at each other... it is like a mirror). We are fighting against millions of years of evolution with the puny tool of a brief 50,000 years of civilization, and civilization, alas, often loses. The result is war.

Regarding disasterous wars, I once wondered how 1.2 million colonists in thirteen colonies scattered across the Atlantic seaboard could defeat one of the world's major superpowers to gain their independence. It seemed ridiculous on its face. There is no way that they would have the manpower or economic capability to defeat a major superpower. The combined population of the colonies was barely more than the single city of London! But there were some disturbing similarities: lack of a draft (resulting in very expensive recruitment costs), a refusal to raise taxes to pay for the war, extremely long and expensive supply lines, and successful informational and guerilla warfare on the part of the rebels destroying the ability to buy or forage for supplies locally thus making it very expensive to maintain a Crown army upon colonial soil. Once the other two superpowers weighed in on the side of the rebels and made those supply lines even more untenable, it became financially impossible -- the Crown ran out of lenders willing to loan it money, was unable to raise further armies to send to the Americas once the expeditionary force under Cornwallis was destroyed (there were still 40,000 British soldiers on American soil at the time, but they were used for defensive operations in Canada and the ports that were the logistical lifeline, and not available for offensive operations), and was forced to sue for a humilating peace.

I suppose the lesson is that battles are won by weapons and tactics. Wars are won by logistics. And the locals always have the logistical advantage -- they live there, after all. That does not bode well for U.S. ambitions in Iraq, given the currently-successful level of informational and guerilla warfare being undertaken there against U.S. interests...

You might want to look at an interesting paper by the Army War College on the logistical problems that faced the British during the Colonial Rebellion, then sit back and think about problems that have occurred in Iraq. Note that this particular paper focused upon the logistical issues facing the British efforts. Said logistical issues also had direct financial consequences to the bankrupt Exchequer which are not covered by that particular paper.


The politics of war is prior to the science of logistics.

As mentioned above Schama ultimately doubts the wisdom of the promise of British freedom in a society appalled by the recent slave revolt in Surinam. While slaves fought bravely for them and were of great aid in defensive construction their military value was slight. The British didn't have the supply chain even to feed them. Cynically given only to slaves of rebels the liberating pledge terrified London's Tory allies in the South.

The hypocrisy of the rebels is often appalling but Rough Crossings also makes clear that they had much support in the British polity. Ironically English abolitionist were prominent advocates of their ideals.

In The Terror Andress points out that Americas first civil war ends brutally. The proportion of the population displaced is comparable with the more famous consolidation of revolutionary power in France.

Part of the reason the American planters rose was London applying newly arrogant models developed in India to the colonies. The same models would fail disastrously leading to the Indian Mutiny. The Indians did not have the French on their side and were crushed. It's only after the Mutiny that London really hits its Imperial stride.



Slavery was dying so quickly that the southern states first campaigned vigorously to have it legalized in new states admitted to the union (in order to preserve a veto over abolition in the Senate) then, when it became apparent that strategem would fail, seceded en masse, then fought an extremely bitter four year war in an effort to give their secession practical effect, and finally surrendered that objective only after every resource had been exhausted and its territory overrun by the Army of the Potomac. Even at that the Union had to resort to a brutal scortched earth policy in an effort to drive home to the Confederacy the futility of further resistance.

If slavery was in fact dying it sure put up one hell of a fight on the way out. I personally doubt slavery was really in any mortal danger prior to the war however because it was the basis of most of the wealth in the South, which is exactly why Southern elites resisted abolitionism so fiercely (and coincidentally why the postwar South was never again like it's antebellum counterpart). Indeed johnf doesn't have to go back all the way to ancient Greece to find an example of how demagogues can manipulate public opinion in favor of policies that actually benefit only a narrow section of society -isn't the Civil War itself an outstanding example of this phenomenon?

What can be said for the Civil War however, unlike many wars, is that it did settle two things conclusively, or at least as conclusively as the vicissitudes of time allow anything to be settled: abolition of slavery, and the preservation of the union. You can argue that either of both of these outcomes is undesireable, but that's another topic. If the war had ended with a Confederate victory it seems safe to say the future history of the US and, in all probability, the world would have been dramatically different however. Would a divided America have been able to play a pivotal role in both World Wars and the Cold War, for example?

I think the argument for the necessity of the Civil War is ultimately a holisitic one: that the US is greater than the some of its parts, and that apart both halves would have been significantly less than they are together.

Chris Marlowe:

The tragedy with McNamara and many of his peers is that American elites, accustomed to understanding geopolitics through the prism of the Cold War, saw Vietnam primarily as a struggle between Communists and non-Communists (more often than not right wing authoritarians), and hence one which fitted into a pattern with which they were familiar and comfortable. What they failed to appreciate is that many and perhaps most Vietnamese where nationalists first and communists second, and that for them the war was much more in the character of a struggle for national liberation from foreign powers (first the French, then the Japanese, finally the Americans) than an ideological conflict between communism and anti-communism (for lack of a better shorthand descriptor of what the West actually stood for, which is more easily defined as a negative).

W. Patrick Lang


"A Maoist?" Well, at least you were not a revisionist deviationist "Trot."


I don't think it is correct that slavery in the US was other than productive and profitable in agribusiness. The evidence indicates to me that planters, on the whole, were better farmers than they are generally thought to be and quite involved in the study of agronomy, etc.

I think slavery would have died out in the American South on a state by state basis before 1900, but it would have gone because of a general change in consciousness in the white population and a sense of the inappropriateness of such an institution to the modern West. Something like Brazil. pl


The argument that cotton was "white gold" and a bonanza for the Southern planters is correct. Cotton was the raw material of the industrial revolution in the United States and Europe.

We shall leave to one side the benefits of the industrial revolution, if any.

And cotton was built on slavery. Not the slightest doubt about it.

So, yes, the South didn't want its economy turned upside down.

But slavery was dying. Why was Petersburg half free? Why did Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, etc., etc. have such incredible trouble swallowing their heritage of slavery. Colonel Lang is right. It would have died.

So, you have to balance its eventual death against one dead body for every seven slaves freed. One dead body for every seven slaves freed. If that is an appropriate balance, then we must reinstitute the draft quickly in the United States so that enough of us can die to "free the Iraqi people".

And then finally:

"I think the argument for the necessity of the Civil War is ultimately a holisitic one: that the US is greater than the some of its parts, and that apart both halves would have been significantly less than they are together."

That kind of Messianic thinking, that kind of Uber Mensch ideology is exactly what has murdered millions in the past. You cannot possibly be saying that North Americans would not have fought Hitler. Or united in the Cold War. Can you? And even if you are, you are consigning 600,000 young men to an early grave for a doubtful principle.

Chris Marlowe

So what was the Civil War all about?

1. States rights versus centralized federal power

2. The institution of slavery

3. A combination of the two, plus other factors

Chris Marlowe


I have some more questions about slavery.

If cotton was the "white gold" of the southern economy, and this created demand for the institution of slavery, then what led to the gradual phasing out of slavery, and all the freemen in Petersburg?

Were there economic reasons; that is, did it become cheaper to hire sharecroppers than to use slaves, or was it social repudiation of the institution of slavery in the south? Were there abolitionists in the south who supported the CSA? Were cotton prices falling? If demand for American southern cotton was falling in price, what was replacing it?

In the Reconstruction period after the Civil War, southern state governments instituted laws which limited the rights of African-Americans re voting rights, property ownership, etc.; and many of these laws were in effect until Martin Luther King and the Civil Rights Act of 1965 came along.

My limited understanding of the history of civil rights in the US is that Abraham Lincoln wanted to work to elevate former slaves and blacks to full citizen status after the Civil War, but all of this was cut off with his assassination. For practical purposes, there was a form of apartheid, which was passed off as "separate but equal". Effectively, the dream of equality was delayed for 100 years.

This was eventually rectified on the legal side with the Civil Rights Act of 1965, but all of us know that racism continues to exist in subtle forms all over the US.(I do not claim the US is special in this respect; it's like this in most societies when it comes to skin color. The lighter, the better.)

I would like to know more about the forces at work against the institution of slavery; can you tell me more?

Chris Marlowe

Even thought the Iraqi war has gone badly, there is plenty of space for it to turn even worse, according to this Brookings Institution report:

Funny how you have to go to the UK media to get these kinds of reports.

I guess the US corporate media figures that too much democracy and freedom of speech during our war on terror is not a good thing.

W. Patrick Lang


On slavery, has anyone ever read "Time on the Cross" the econometric analysis of slavery? It was more or less suppressed and reudiated by its authors when they found they were no longer invited to dinner parties. pl


I have not read "Time on the Cross", but I studied under a professor whose specialty was the plantation economics of Louisiana. His conclusions: For cotton plantations, in general they were quite profitable until the Civil War, when low-cost Egyptian cotton started hitting the market and depressing prices. For sugar plantations, the rising cost of slaves over time due to the extraordinary infant mortality rate amongst pregnant slaves resulted in it being cheaper to hire Irish and Italian immigrants and free whites than to use (expensive) slaves, due to the high mortality rate from malaria and other mosquito and water-borne diseases in the sugar fields (better a "free" man die than an expensive slave) and the fact that, unlike cotton, sugar did not need constant care during the growing season thus slaves would be underutilized for much of the year. Sugar planters near the northern edge of the sugar belt, where it hit the cotton belt, could rent out their idle slaves to cotton planters, but sugar planters further south generally found large-scale slavery not economically viable as the price of slaves increased.

His most interesting research was studying the books of failed cotton plantations. He found that there was considerable "churn" in plantation ownership over time, and that the notion of a static planter class did not seem supported by the evidence. He found that the most common cause of failure had nothing to do with the profitability of the plantation system as a whole, but the fact that those books were a mess. I.e., an inability to manage finances was the primary cause of the failure, and if the finances had been properly managed, the plantation would not have failed. Even the books of profitable plantations were a mess, with arithmetic errors being common and misunderstandings of the basic principles of accounting being rife. He also studied the journals and letters of planters in an attempt to figure out exactly where their money was going, and lists of assets at the time that plantation ownership changed due to death to try to get a handle on the infrastructure requirements of raising cotton in the plantation era. His conclusion, unpublished at the time and probably not published since due to its controversial nature, is that plantation owners by and large were not the "genteel well-educated planters" of the post-war myth, but, rather, were common businessmen who possessed an education that was at best rudimentary, pointing out that the asset lists he studied contained few books beyond those relating to agriculture and that the journals and letters he studied were barely literate and certainly could not qualify as the writings of a well educated man with a classical education. At the time his textbook on Louisiana history was required reading in every Louisiana high school, thus publication of a controversial paper could have possibly cost him significant amounts of money. Thus why he had not published a paper based on this research.

In any event, I suppose the following seems clear enough: 1) The slave-based plantation system was very profitable for cotton, and it is unlikely that economic reasons would have ever caused its demise (at least not until the mechanization of cotton farming starting in the 1940's), and 2) slavery in the sugar plantation system was not profitable, and eventually would have died out (much as what happened in Brazil). So from an economic point of view, the notion that slavery would have died out "naturally" in the South and thus the Civil War was unnecessary is not supported by the facts. Unlike the cotton and manioc plantations of Brazil, slave mortality was not high in the cotton plantation system, and thus replacement costs for deceased workers were not an economic hinderance there as they were in the sugar fields of Brazil and South Louisiana. In the end, only moral outrage could end slavery -- that, or a President detirmined to destroy the economy of a region of the country that had rebelled against its lawful government. To which the South could certainly say, "Mission accomplished!", given that the economy of the South really did not fully recover until the post-WWII period.

W. Patrick Lang


I'll bet it isn't all that bad a "tux." May I suggest that it might be helpful to a discussion of slavery that you read the book I mentioned. pl


When I saw your "War is bad" quote attributed to Col. Lang, I couldn't help but remember this -

"There will always be small wars. Let us try to avoid the big ones". pl (From the original "Concert" from December's Sic Semper Tyrannis, comment section.(It's actually become a favorite quote of mine)

My take is throughout history that whenever one (country, tribe, city-state, religious group, etc.) had an opportunity to screw another (country, tribe, etc) over for their own benefit, seldom was the opportunity passed. Simplistic, I know.
To paraphrase the Athenian stance in the Melian debate 'The strong do what they will and the weak must accept what they must' has been all too common. Yes, we have more toys now - but how far are we now from our red-eyed early ancestors? Which leads to the conclusion that even a country that may be 'enlightened' must always have a strong defense.

As far as slavery goes, I always saw a parallel with Saul of Tarsus (Paul of the scriptures)and John Newton, the British former slaver who wrote Amazing Grace - who also had an epiphinany like Paul enroute to Damascus - when the scales from his eyes fell.
My work and training is of an artist, I'm a blues guitarist and my "education" was in the humbler parts in the black parts of town and cities in the south and midwest. I've been mentored by the best, whether it was BB King, Albert King, Albert Collins, Otis Rush, Lowell Fulson and a host of others. These have been my "professors." And while I no longer work the juke joints anymore, (I've been playing guitar with Etta James for twenty years now) it has never failed to amaze me how such beauty (the music) could come from such misery and ugliness.(slavery) I would certainly be remiss if I did not state that my deep appreciation for other cultures stemmed from growing up as a military dependent and being exposed to other cultures. I appreciate the privilege of coming here and learning from Pat and all of you.


>> Cotton was the raw material of the industrial revolution in the United States and Europe.

Let us, in the interests of accuracy, posit that cotton was *a* raw material of the industrial revolution, not *the* singular material. It would be difficult to envision the IR as having occurred without coal or iron.


Tom S

Arbogast neglects the fact that the South was seeking to increase the number of slave states through fair means or foul ("border ruffians," anybody?)

The Civil War was certainly a national tragedy. Had the South been less intransigent in its dealings with northern democrats and non-"black" republicans, it probably would not have happened. The South imagined a mortal threat where none existed, and it became self-fulfilling.


Pat keeps on bemoaning the lack of a Washington like figure in Iraq. Now Larry is at it in his assessment of the NIE. Give them time chaps. Without the centuries old foundation that evolving British political life provided there would have no founders and only men of will. Unlike the American planter gentry Iraqis are encumbered by the baggage of five millenia of civilization. A very dark hour is coming in Iraq. Cometh the hour, cometh the man. Unfortunately he may be more of an Islamist Ho Chi Minh with the patience for decades of struggle rather than yeomanly Washington in his brief war.

Most civil wars don't end until one faction either subjugates or ejects the other. You could say Washington did achieve this. A quarter of Americans remained loyal to the Crown. The Indians with some foresight given what would come if the rebels won mostly sided with the Crown. While many a Tory suddenly discovered Patriot sympathies and would plead with the new order for return of property the flight of the American Loyalists was substantial: 700,000, 1 in 30 Americans. The Southern Loyalists would flee in 1783 taking 75,000 slaves with them.

The relatively robust unity that Americans achieved afterwards is in part thanks to the rebels definition of themselves against their often High Church Tory enemies. That unity was far from perfect with state and sectional elite economic interests often were pursued rather than the broader national good. Structurally flawed, it would fall apart in 1861.

As in Iraq today its distressingly obvious that many of the founders company were men with their eyes set on the economic main chance. In the aftermath of the revolution corrupt tory grandees were ousted often only to be replaced by equally rapacious "Great Men" of the Commonwealth. The effectively disenfranchised back country people who had often been the zealous shock troops of the continental army felt the hand of the gentry and urban plutocrats upon them just as before. The rich effectively shifted the tax burden onto the poor, called it a great good and demanded deference (little has changed in American politics). But the revolutionary leveling spirit did not die with the revolution. This rowdy often hyper-religious rabble striking fear amongst their betters would be a force in shaping the US Constitution towards some practicality.

This typo ridden paper covering the post-revolution Shays rebellion with its religious back ground of the New Light Stir makes interesting reading:
"Most importantly, it set two visions of the Revolution at odds, visions
which, in vastly altered forrns, remain at odds. One sought the steadying hand of a
wealthy, educated elite with the leisure and ability to direct the affairs of state. At
the same time, this notion of patrician republicanism was becoming more and
more u~imoored from its ancient wellsprings, drifting further aiid further into the
world of the mwltet. The other, opposing and alternative vision, the vision of the
Regulators, rejected the class assuinptions inherent in the patrician worldview. It
asserted the dignity of people regardless of their pecuniary, worldly success.
Informed by a moment of transitioii, chaos and upheaval, the Regulators sought to
enact a 11ewly democratic ideology through the vehicle of local, traditionalist
resistance. The co~ltradictionsb etween the ideality and reality of the Revolution
first erupted in Shays, and made contemporaneous Americans almost universally

W. Patrick Lang


I do not "bemoan' the absence of an Iraqi Washington. I merely point out that there is non such on the horizon. pl

Dimitar Vesselinov

The Peninsular War
"The Peninsular War was a major conflict during the Napoleonic Wars, fought on the Iberian Peninsula by an alliance of Spain, Portugal, and Britain against the Napoleonic French Empire. Known as the Spanish War of Independence (Guerra de la Independencia Española) in Spain and in other countries, and as Invasões Francesas (French Invasions) in Portugal, the war began when French armies occupied Spain in 1808 and lasted until the Sixth Coalition defeated Napoleon in 1814.

The Peninsular War was one of the first wars of national liberation and the first guerrilla conflict (a term coined for this war). Its course was largely dictated by Spanish irregulars and the failure of Napoleon's large armies to pacify the people of Spain. French units in Spain forcibly hugged their vulnerable supply lines, were always in danger of being cut off and overwhelmed by the partisans, and were unable to achieve decisive results."

See also:


Nomination for Disastrous Campaigns
in the Category of Unforeseen Effects

1911 Italian Campaign in "Libya" and against the Ottoman Empire in General

Italy invaded and eventually took what is now Libya, but then known as the Turkish (Ottoman Empire) provinces of Tripolitania and Cyrenaica. Specific reasons vary, but territorial aggrandizement appears to have been the primary motivation.

The Turks were not generally able to offer much support to the resistance in Libya and soon had its hands full with the Balkan Wars and Italian naval actions around the Dardanelles and in the Red Sea. The Italians in Libya got off to a rocky start and almost had their 20,000 strong initial invasion force wiped out by Arab horsemen backed by a small group of Turkish regulars. Reinforcing to about 100,000 troops the Italians were essentially able to control the main coastal areas.

Having bigger fish-to-fry in the Balkans, the Turks recognized the Libyan occupation in late 1912. During this official stage of the war the Italians also occupied Rhodes and the Dodecanese islands: which for various complicated reasons they were allowed to hold onto through WW2.

The unofficial part of the war involves another 20 years of at times brutal repression and fighting to finally pacify the natives. Various efforts included (circa 1929) building a wired wall 300 kilometers long, 2 meters high and 3 meters wide, and concentration camps to isolate the guerrillas. The campaign finally ends for good in 1931 with the execution of the main rebel leader.

The unintended consequences:

Italy's attack emboldened the various Balkan States to attack the Turks and started the very bloody series of wars in 1912-13 known as the Balkan Wars (1 and 2). It was these wars that led to the Balkans being referred to as the tinderbox of Europe and are in the background of the Archduke's assassination. Given the complex nature of the Balkan Wars, I have seen some (obviously ironic) comments that WW1 was simply the third Balkan War. The Turkish Empire completed its collapse through WW1 and the Grecko-Turkish War (1919-1922). The collapse which started with the Italian attack in 1911.

Tom S


Mustafa Kemal was among the Ottoman officers sent to Libya to assist the native forces against the Italians, giving him his first experience in combat.



Yes, the campaign is full of interesting little events and "firsts". The firsts include first use of airplane for reconnaissance, first aerial photography, firsts aerial bombing. The Italians also made use of dirigible-like craft at one point; which may also be a first. Benito Mussolini, not yet in power, was arrested for fomenting anti-war riots.

The various histories of the war are oddly disparate in their focus. Most ignore the huge later efforts to pacify the native Arabs after the peace treaty was signed.

It strikes me as odd how this war is almost never mentioned in even detailed history's of the run up to WW1, and only very much in passing by the few histories of the Balkan Wars that I have read.


With reference to McNamara.
I went to Vietnam purely in the spirit of adventure. It took me some years to become disillusioned with the war and begin to love the Vietnamese more than the Americans. Besides the corruption of the Republic of South Vietnam and the pitiless imposition of communist dogma from the north there was a people who were very proud and wanted only peace unity and independence.
The North was able to harness the patriotism, deceitfully perhaps, but the South really had nothing to die for.
In your Civil War the North offered Unity the South division.
In Vietnam the North offered Unity and the South division.
The Unity of a people is a stronger motive to die for.
In my blog, I am trying to retrace my own feelings at the time I am no kinder to myself and the life I led than I am to your people. I think I stayed long enough to learn and change. Some Americans did but they were never listened to. To understand Vietnam it was necessary to suffer in love, sickness and blood. All my blogs have been joined in my web site

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been saved. Comments are moderated and will not appear until approved by the author. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Comments are moderated, and will not appear until the author has approved them.

Your Information

(Name and email address are required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)