Sunday, November 25, 2012

Ironic that a man named Mead doesn't understand the US Civil War

Maybe his misunderstanding comes from losing the "e" at the end of the name.  The current Mead sayeth:

An endless war of limited intensity is worse, many Americans instinctively feel, than a time-limited war of unlimited ferocity. A crushing blow that brings an end to the war—like General Sherman’s march of destruction through the Confederacy in 1864-65—is ultimately kinder even to the vanquished than an endless state of desultory war.
This Mead wants massive Israeli retaliation against Gaza regardless of civilian casualties and thinks Americans would agree with him.  He appears to be under the impression that not much happened in the US Civil war prior to Sherman's march, and that single crushing blow was all that counted.

The reality was that it took years of unlimited ferocity to win the Civil War.  The side that had better logistics won the war, and Sherman's march was a logistical success, living off the land while destroying its ability to support the enemy.  Not a lot that parallels Gaza here.

More broadly, I think there's little evidence that shock and awe achieves its psychological goals.  The British, German, and Japanese people didn't break over the bombing raids.  Psychology does have its place - the Doolittle Raid heightened American morale and convinced the Japanese to make the stupid mistake of withdrawing carriers to defend the home islands and to undertake the high-risk attack on Midway.  Brutality by itself, though, won't win wars.

Tangentially related:  Brad DeLong has been live-blogging a history of World War II.  Definitely worth checking out.



No one sings love and betrayal better

But sometimes the oldest version remains he best.

Holly Stick said...

About counterinsurgency not working:


Toby said...

The Confederacy claimed to be a nation state, with the basic functions of maintaining a national defence and slavery.

Sherman's march proved it could do neither, and gave a shattering blow to Confederate self-regard and morale.

Hamas in Gaza is at such a rudimentary level of national statehood that a massive Israeli incursion could hardly reduce it any further. The damage to Israel's image would be ample compensation.

Brian said...

There was a positive psychological effect of the war in that it was so severe that no one in the South wanted to give armed rebellion a second try.

Again though, that was an effect of the whole war, and Sherman's march was only a part of the whole.

Jeffrey Davis said...

What is man that Thou art mindful of him?

Martin Vermeer said...


I would say the same thing in slightly different words.

Sure the Israelis could occupy Gaza -- nothing short of that would end Hamas rule. But what then?

As Colin Powell said, 'you break it, you own it.' Gaza is the one place in Palestine Israel does not care to own. In contrast the US South was still America, inhabited by Americans.

a_ray_in_dilbert_space said...

Actually, George Meade didn't understand the Civil War, either. He had a chance to end the war had he pursued Lee after Gettysburg. Lee was backed up against a flooded Potomac, and Lee let him escape.

Sherman, on the other hand, understood that the people of the south had to be vanquished--mere military conquest would not do.

There is an old adage--generals always plan to fight the last war. It would appear that this Mead is a couple of dozen wars out of date.

cRR Kampen said...

"The British, German, and Japanese people didn't break over the bombing raids."

Oh, well, they didn't suffer too much now did they.
Compared to Vietnam/Cambodja.
Take all explosives (artillery, air, nuclear, name it) delivered by all parties during WW I and WW II together. Multiply that by four. That's what the Vietnamese received.

Of course they, the Vietnamese, that is, won that war.
After which they had to clear the bombed out insanity of US ally the Khmer Rouge for which the NVA deserves the Nobel Peace Prize.