Conservatives for War Criminals?

WAR AND CONFLICT BOOK ERA:  CIVIL WAR/LEADERS

I regularly get bulk e-mails from a website called Clash Daily, which is run by a fellow named Doug Giles. Their stuff is your typical Tea Partyish fare, but it tends toward a more in-your-face attitude. It also has a masculine vibe with frequent articles about guns, hunting, etc. Of course, it often contains the unfortunately typical advocacy of military internationalism that is associated with three-legs-of-the-stool “conservatism,” but I generally just write that off as par for the course.

I could not, however, simply write off this article, absurdly titled “General William Tecumseh Sherman: What’s Not to Love About Him?” My first reaction was “You have got to be kidding me!” Oh I don’t know … maybe the fact that he was a BARBARIC WAR CRIMINAL! The author is S.C. Sherman, who states that he is distantly related to the brutal General. Mr. Sherman is apparently a writer of some accomplishment. Well, Mr. Sherman should stick to fiction, because his grasp of history stinks. In general, I believe that a person should not take shots at someone else’s relatives, but with General Sherman I think I can be excused a public figure exception.

My second question was “Why is this foolishness on Clash Daily, a supposedly conservative website?” That the South represented the conservative element in the War Between the States is not really debatable. That the South and the regions where predominantly Southerners migrated remain the bulwark of conservative sentiment (such as it is) in this country is not really debatable either.

Do people like Mr. Sherman not look at electoral maps? How does he think his presumably precious Republican Party would fare without the states Gen. Sherman carried on total war against? Compare the votes of Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina etc. to the votes of, for example, Connecticut and Massachusetts, especially when you control for demographics. Mr. Sherman hails from Iowa. So Mr. Sherman, who did your state cast its vote for in 2008 and 2012?

Too be honest, Mr. Sherman does not really make a case for the Union cause in the War is his ode. He seems to simply take it for granted. He is from Iowa, so perhaps some grace should be extended to him since I’m sure he was taught the victor’s version of history in school, but it’s not like there hasn’t been a vigorous debate on the right in the last decade or so about the legitimacy of secession, the virtues of Lincoln, etc. Where was Mr. Sherman when this debate was raging? Imbibing only mainstream conservative sources? Such obliviousness is hard to excuse. Perhaps he should familiarize himself with the conservative case for the South before he opines again.

Actually, Mr. Sherman dedicates the bulk of his essay to praising the concept of total war and Gen. Sherman’s conduct and advocacy of such. This is perhaps more disturbing than his apparent cluelessness about the South. But this attitude of contempt for the generally accepted rules of war is a common theme among a certain type of “conservative” interventionist.

Not all “conservative” advocates of interventionism are crusading Wilsonians as the neo-conservatives are. A lot are more Jacksonian, and don’t necessarily support wars to spread democracy, but do believe in the ruthless pursuit of victory over our perceived enemies once the battle is engaged. Aside from the moral issues related to total war, the problem with most of these ostensibly conservative Jacksonians is that they accept uncritically the same internationalist assumptions and threat exaggeration that is characteristic of the Wilsonian crusaders. A familiar theme among the Jacksonians is that certain wars have dragged on and gone less favorably than possible because the military had its “hand’s tied” by political concerns at home. This was a common theme among defenders of US intervention in Vietnam and is still casually tossed around on the right today. One hopes that many of the people who repeat this boilerplate haven’t really thought seriously about the implications of what they are advocating.

Based on Mr. Sherman’s Amazon bio, I presume he considers himself a Christian. May I suggest that he familiarize himself with the history and origin of the rules of war before he scoffs at them again. They were clearly motivated by Christian concerns and traditional notions of chivalry, and Christianity played a primary role in their development and formulation. One needs only a Wikipedia level of familiarity with the issue to realize this. Mr. Sherman makes clear in his essay that he believes concerns about the right conduct of war are motivated by liberal muddle-headedness and espoused only by liberal and establishment bedwetters. Does Mr. Sherman believe that Christianity and chivalry are manifestations of liberalism?

Mr. Sherman clearly has a lot to learn, but I am also disappointed that Mr. Giles, who is himself a pastor, allowed this blatant advocacy of barbarism on his website. It is neither Christian nor conservative, and has no place on a website that purports to be both.

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