The Corner

1863, 1943, 1963

JPod:  To Prof. Conversino I can only say what I say to anyone who draws analogies between this Iraq war and the Civil War, or WW2:  Are you willing to do to Iraq what Sherman did to the South?  Are you willing to fire-bomb their cities, or drop atom bombs on them?  If not, why are you making these analogies?

This is an optional war, not a “crisis war.”

The Prof.:

“When things got rough and the sacrifices exceeded our pre-war expectations, we could have cut deals and declared ‘victory’ in 1863, 1943 or 1963.  Even though, again to paraphrase Mr. Derbyshire, during these earlier conflicts our leaders got us into situations we never wished to be in and were never asked whether we would wish to be in, we recognized our moral obligation, ‘as citizens of a democratic polity,’ was to fight and win, not cut and run.”

Me:  What we recognized was, these were wars of survival.  If the Iraq war is as critical to our survival as those earlier wars, then by God, let’s do what we have to do to win it — scorched earth a la Civil War, fire bombing of civilian populations a la WW2, whatever.  I’m all in favor of winning wars, and perfectly fine with CW or WW2 methods.  If we had dared fight Vietnam the way we fought the CW and WW2, we would have won it. 

America can win any war it wants to win.  Trouble is, we don’t want to win this one, not if it means we have to give up our sentimental fantasies about “building democracy” and getting people to appreciate how nice, how really nice and good we are.   

John Derbyshire — Mr. Derbyshire is a former contributing editor of National Review.

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