"A ruler who is unable to advance when he confronts the enemy is not Righteous and one who looks upon the corpses of those killed in battle and mourns them is not Benevolent."
"...war is nothing but the continuation of policy with other means."
"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 to generations yet to come. I look upon war with horror, but if it has to come I am here."
"...war is the most exciting exercise in the world. The real struggle of fighting is more thrilling than the mock opposition of games; the real man-hunt is incomparably more stimulating than the slaughter of animals. War is the great trigger-release of pent-up emotions, and it is apparent that more than one tribe has realized this."
"Now I want you to remember that no bastard ever won a war by dying for his country. He won it by making the other poor dumb bastard die for his country. Americans, traditionally, love to fight. All real Americans love the sting of battle."
"America's wars have been like the rungs on a ladder by which it rose to greatness. No other nation has triumphed so long, so consistently or on such a vast scale, through force of arms. It is a factor as important as geography, immigration, the growth of business, the separation of powers, the inventiveness of its people, or anything else that contributes strongly to its unique identity among the nations of the Earth."
"Politics must continue; war cannot. That is not to say that the role of the warrior is over. The world community needs, more than it ever has done, skilful and disciplined warriors who are ready to put themselves at the service of its authority. Such warriors must properly be seen as the protectors of civilization, not its enemies."
You do not have to be a "hawk" to appreciate the fact that war is an intricate part of the human condition. Though I agree with John Keegan that its relevance in today's more "progressive" societies is somewhat dubious, that does not impact my interest in it as a historical phenomenon.
I'll flesh this out a bit more in the future. Suffice it to say that I firmly believe history cannot be understood except IN ITS PROPER CONTEXT. That is, people who want to cast judgement upon the past from today's perspective (a common trait among revisionists) in every case have personal agendas outside of the historical context which they pretend to address. Much of what passes for history today is, in fact, only social criticism.
I have nothing against social criticism as such (see my Habermas page to confirm this), so long as people don't pretend it's history. History is an analysis of specific events taking place in a specific time and space. To view it through current eyes and current thinking is almost always pure folly and leads to bad scholarship.
They call it "history" for a reason. It's HIS-STORY. It is our story only to the extent that we can place ourselves in the shoes of the past rather than forcing those shoes to fit our entirely modern feet.
Since it is fashionable by some to view the military today as a harbinger of an outworn code, hopelessly ineffectual and undesireable in its application, it is equally held that military history is only the interest of outworn thinkers. To such individuals I merely say, "Frankly, I don't give a damn."
War is a fascinating human endeavor. It is the vortex of politics, technology, culture, passion, reason, chaos, violence, implusiveness, and destruction. There is nothing else like it. We witness battles among the primates and other animals over food and territory. Invariably, this is the origin of war in humanity, and, indeed, the origin of much of our humanity itself.
Ironically, for centuries the ability to make war went hand in hand with what was referred to as "civilization." The better the army, generally speaking, the more sophisticated the socio-economic infrastructure that sustained it. That's one reason Europe was able to kick ass in Africa for centuries, for example.
But, beginning with the American War Between the States things changed. War became decreasingly about the management of armies and increasingly about destroying the will of the people supposed to sustain the armies, the socio-economic structure itself. As it did so, through two World Wars, Korea, Afghanistan, Vietnam, etc. its "uncivil" realities began to outweigh its very necessity.
That we must evolve away from war is imparative and easily seen in more developed civilizations. That we are yet to reach such a stage in societal evolution is not a vice. It is merely a statement of fact. Historical fact, in fact. As long as humanity makes war, I will find it of interest.
Copyright © W. Keith Beason, 1999
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Shiloh - Death Knell of the Confederacy: It was the bloodiest battle ever fought in North American up to its time. It was, perhaps, the most decisive encounter in the War Between the States.
The Atomic Bomb Controversy: An in-depth analysis of the historical controversy surrounding the use of atomic bombs upon Japan in 1945. (Frames Only.)
Preserving the Resaca Battlefield: A site devoted to the political struggle now underway to protect and preserve a piece of our national historical heritage. The State of Georgia hopes to turn this into a beautiful battlfield park. (I'm all for it!)
Lam Son 719: A Wargame This is a game I am currently working on that simulates the military operation Lam Son 719 in Laos in 1971.
My Ancestor Sampson Beason's War Experience: A work in progress.
The Bombardment of Atlanta, 1864: Hood & Sherman at the Dawn of Total War (forthcoming)