More Musings of a Realist in Wonderland


Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

I have just a short thought for the day and plan on writing more again tomorrow and in the coming days. In the days before I travelled to Gettysburg and today I have continued to immerse myself in reading, study, reflection, and writing. Of course this is in addition to normal life and work, so it is a premeditated pursuit of knowledge, as well as truth, which never leaves me disappointed. 

I have been continuing to work on the first couple of chapters of my Gettysburg and Civil War text and I am now convinced that these two chapters, comprising close to 350 pages of text will have to become one or two books as I begin to edited them, and find a publisher. That will leave over 700 pages dealing with the Gettysburg campaign and the battle itself, and that section will also continue to grow. 

But as I do this I am reminded that indeed I am a “Realist in Wonderland.”  I am reminded how, despite how successful the campaigns of the American military have when fighting opponents that behave the way we expect them to at the operational level; my study and observations are like so many others that since the Second World War show me that we win battles but don’t win many wars. 

Actually there is no mystery to this. The simple fact is that the United States does not have a coherent national strategy, what Clausewitz called policy, and as such, our military force used almost exclusively used as a hammer to fulfill policy objectives when when we have so many other non-military tools in our strategic arsenal. 

I was reminded of this as I was revising the first chapter my Gettysburg text which is nearly 200 pages be a book in its own right. As I continue to research the connection between strategy in the American Civil War I read the works of other military historians and theorists I see just how much that disconnected from any rational political policy that war cannot be justified. This is what Clausewitz said nearly 200 years ago, and which, Abraham Lincoln, William Tecumseh Sherman, and Ulyesses S. Grant demonstrated in the Civil War. 

Those men connected national strategy to military strategy and the operational art, while the Confederates never were able to develop a national strategy that matched their military, economic, and diplomatic capabilities. As such, even the Confederacy’s  best general, Robert E. Lee, who was one of the most prolific commanders at the operational level of war, who like so many other great military leaders, and our own military leaders of the past 30 years, 70 if you go back to Korea, never was able to translate operational success to actually winning a war.

 Clausewitz understood this all too well, the act of war is not an autonomous event, and unless it is connected to rational policy it is madness. 

Pretty soon I will post something from that text revision, but I am not ready to just yet, what I am working on is difficult, because my first instinct is always to pursue conciliation with are enemies and try to limit the destructiveness of war.  But the fact is that the more that I study history, the more I am convinced, as repulsive as it may sound, that the nature of war never changes and that if we continue to attempt to abide by rules of behavior that our enemies do not follow, all of the death, carnage, and devastation of the wars that we have been fighting for over a decade and a half will have been for nothing. To paraphrase British historian Hew Strachan, if the facts to not support theory, you do not suppress facts, but change the theory in light of the facts. Sadly, every American political administration, Republican and Democrat, since the end of the Cold War, as well as the Congress has ignored this basic truth when committing this nation to war. In light of history, that is inexcusable. The fact is that we need leaders like Lincoln, Grant, and Sherman and not like Jeffeeson Davis and Robert E. Lee if we are to ever emerge from this war without end without destroying our nation in the process, and handing its destiny over to the likes of Donald Trump or supposedly Christian religious zealots. 

As unpolitcally correct as this may sound, especially coming from a man who is a liberal and progressive, I have to admit that as Sherman said, “War is cruelty. There is no use trying to reform it. The crueler it is, the sooner it will be over.”  If there was a way way to undo this timeline and go back before 9-11 which brought a measure of fear and vulnerability to the people of the United States as we have ever experienced, and the misbegotten Bush Adminstration invasion of Iraq, the terrible effects of which are still with us and not going away, I would do so. But real life is not science fiction, and we cannot alter the timeline. We can only deal with it the best that we can. 

At this point I do not know how I will post these things. I might post sections of the text or I might write something that flows out of them. Whatever I do, you will see it here first. 

We have to do better. 

Until tomorrow,

Peace,

Padre Steve+ 

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1 Comment

Filed under civil war, History, Military, News and current events, Political Commentary

One response to “More Musings of a Realist in Wonderland

  1. I am very interested in your work. I have always been interested in the details of the Civil War.

    Is there a spot giving your bio? I am a retired United Methodist elder.

    All the best! -Roger

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