Monday, April 12, 2010

Lance Corporal Robert Alexander Hood (1895 - 1917)

 
Robert Alexander Hood1 was born in 1895 in a small village north-west of Waterloo, Ontario, Canada. He went to France in 1916 when he was only 21 years old. Robert fought with the 73rd Battalion and he was killed in action at Vimy Ridge on this day, April 12, in 1917.

Canadians "celebrate" the battle of Vimy Ridge as a great Canadian victory. It was part of the larger Battle of Arras, which in turn was a diversionary attack in support of the larger Nivelle Offensive carried out by the French Army. About 3,600 young Canadian men were killed during the four day battle and 7,000 more were wounded. This is just a small fraction of the casualties on both sides during World War I.

We need to be very careful not to glorify war while remembering all those young mean and women who died in a war that never should have been fought. I will eventually go to Arras and visit the large memorial erected by the Canadian government (see below) but I will do it in order to reinforce my view that war is folly and the deaths of soldiers like Robert Alexander Hood should never have happened.

There is never any glory in war and it's nothing we should ever be proud of.



1. He was a cousin of Ms. Sandwalk's grandfather.

28 comments:

  1. I keep wondering why people talk about the WWI vets fighting and dying "for freedom". WWII, yes -- there was a viciously totalitarian, expansionist ideology on the other side. But AFAIK WWI was largely the result of a DSW among the remnants of the old European empires.

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  2. Fritz Fischer's 'Germany's Aims in the First World War' showed that Germany was a very autocratic, anti-democratic, militaristic state bent upon complete domination of Western Europe and carving out an empire in Eastern Europe, including the annexation of Poland and the Baltic States as immediate aims. A Europe dominated by a _successful_ autocratic, anti-democratic, militaristic Germany would indeed have been a serious blow against 'freedom'. The Treaty of Brest-Litovsk demonstrates the scope of the ambitions of Germany's military leadership (which is to say Germany's leadership by that time).

    There wasn't the eliminationist program against Jews and slavs that WW2 would see, but the German military was rife with anti-semitism, anti-polonism and anti-slavism, as recent works on the German military in WW2 show (without looking it up, I'd suggest Wolfgang Wette's 'The Wehrmacht: History, Myth, Reality').

    Success for Germany in WW1 would have validated their form of government and shut democracy out of Europe but for Britain (and possibly a subserviant, Vichyish, form in France). It would have validated war as a normal tool of statecraft and, for that matter, as inherently enobling, as it was viewed in militaristic Germany.

    War often, maybe even generally when it comes to wars between nations rather than feudal lords, become about something other than or beyond what caused them.

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  3. Thank you for this post. Even though there is no glory in war, we should never forget those who fought and died in them.

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  4. Great Britain and France went to war in 1914 because they were allied with Russia. When Austro-Hungary declared war on Serbia, Russia mobilized. This brought Germany into the war as Austria-Hungary's ally and Great Britain and France supported Russia.

    So we have a situation where, in defense of "freedom," Great Britain and France go to war to defend Tsarist Russia.

    Very strange.

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  5. Prof. Morans' analysis of WW 1 is greatly oversimplified. The real cause of the 1ST World War was the decision of the Kaiser to challenge the British Empire on the high seas by building the High Seas Fleet which led to the great Dreadnaught race between Germany and Britain. Absent that occurrence, it is doubtful that Great Britain would have joined the Triple Entente. With Britain a non-participant, it is doubtful that France would have challenged Germany and, without the support of France, it is doubtful that Russia would have entered on the side of Serbia. Absent Russian support of Serbia, Germany almost certainly would have insisted on a peaceful settlement between Austria and Serbia. The naval arms race between Britain and Germany made war inevitable.

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  6. Mark Twain once wondered aloud why death in war 3was more honorable than death from having been "run over by an autymobile."

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  7. SLC says,

    Prof. Morans' analysis of WW 1 is greatly oversimplified.

    No kidding?

    I was making the point that Word War I was not fought to preserve democracy or freedom.

    Let's assume for the sake of argument that your "complex" (?) analysis is accurate. It means that about 10 million people died fighting over which country could have the most Dreadnaughts.

    Wasn't that a glorious way to die?

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  8. I would completely agree with Prof. Moran. It was fought because of the ambitions of the Kaiser who was jealous of the British Empire developed during the reign of his grandmother, Queen Victoria. It's a textbook example of why arms races usually end in a war. The only reason the arms race between the US and the former Soviet Union didn't end in a war was because of the development of nuclear weapons. The hydrogen bomb made war far too expensive an undertaking for the US and former Soviet Union to engage in.

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  9. Larry (comment 7) refers to "Word War 1". If only it had been a word war! Better jaw jaw than war war.

    In the 1930s, on Armistice Day (11th November) in southern England my grandfather used to take his young family to the usual church service. After that they would also quietly walk up to the local German war cemetery as a reminder that this was not a celebration of victory but a commemoration of the sacrifices made on all sides and a reminder of the devastation that war wreaks on all its participants and their families. I'm still amazed at the generosity of spirit in that simple and open-minded action.

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  10. SLC says,

    I would completely agree with Prof. Moran. It was fought because of the ambitions of the Kaiser who was jealous of the British Empire developed during the reign of his grandmother, Queen Victoria.

    I think there are (at least) two common errors in your statement.

    1. You attribute the behavior of nations to an individual. This is common when propaganda leads to demonizing the enemy. In 1914 the German Emperor was NOT an absolute ruler. His meddling in foreign affairs contributed to the situation but no country is blameless.

    2. You attribute blame to the losing side. It would be just as valid to blame the "ambitions" of Great Britain to be the only world power in the 20th century. And it would be just as valid to blame France for seeking to avenge their defeat in the Franco-Prussian War.

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  11. I have to confess I've never understood the circumstances surrounding WWI, but there are some interesting insights expressed here!

    Now Larry do believe there are any circumstances where you personally could justifiably support one side in a war? Or are you an unqualified pacifist?

    I want to do a tour of the WWI sites in France at some point; so you never know, I might see you there!

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  12. Re Larry Moran

    1. The Kaiser was entirely responsible for the decision to build the High Seas Fleet. Once that decision was made, the British Government had no choice but to answer in kind as Great Britain was totally dependent on imports, especially of foodstuffs, and this required the ability to protect its merchant ships. There was no reason for this decision, other then the Kaisers' personal pique at his grandmother, Queen Victoria. Militarily, it made no sense for Germany which was a land power. Interestingly enough, Hitler made the same mistake in the run up to WW 2 by building the super dreadnaught battleships Bismarck and Tirpitz, totally unaware that such vessels were obsolete by that time.

    2. It is certainly true that France was rather bent out of shape by the loss of Alsace and Lorianne in the Franco-Prussian war of 1871 and was eager to reverse that decision. However, without the support of Great Britain, there wasn't anything the French Government could do about it as, by that time, Germany had greatly surpassed France in both population and industrial production.

    Re Mike from Ottawa

    Actually, antisemitism in Germany was no worse then it was in France and Great Britain during the early years of the 20th century. Dreyfus Affair anyone.

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  13. SLC says,

    1. The Kaiser was entirely responsible for the decision to build the High Seas Fleet. Once that decision was made, the British Government had no choice but to answer in kind as Great Britain was totally dependent on imports, especially of foodstuffs, and this required the ability to protect its merchant ships. There was no reason for this decision, other then the Kaisers' personal pique at his grandmother, Queen Victoria.

    In addition to Great Britain and Germany, the following countries expanded and strengthened their navies by building dreadnaughts before the beginning of World War I.

    France
    Russia
    Austria-Hungary
    Italy
    Japan
    USA

    Several other countries (Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Turkey and Greece) purchased deadnaughts from the main powers. Spain and the Netherlands had long term plans to expand their high seas fleets at the outbreak of World War I.

    That naughty Queen Victoria (who had been dead for several years before the naval arms race started) sure pissed off a lot of people! :-)

    SLC, you need to stop and think about what you're saying. Germany has lots of coastline on the North Sea and the Baltic and they had colonial aspirations in Africa and elsewhere, just like many other European countries. Do you honestly think that Germany was going to abandon the high seas to a potential enemy? Do you honestly think there was no strategic value in building a high seas fleet? Do you honestly think that the Kaiser had such complete control of the Reichstag that he could waste enormous sums of money on a personal pique?

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  14. Timothy V Reeves asks,

    Now Larry do believe there are any circumstances where you personally could justifiably support one side in a war? Or are you an unqualified pacifist?

    I believe that all wars result from a failed policy of peace. In that sense all wars are avoidable.

    Unfortunately we live in the real world where people often fail to do what's best. Sometimes it is necessary to react to a failed policy such as by declaring war on Germany in September 1939 when Poland was invaded. Most civilized countries recognized at that point that Germany had to be stopped.

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  15. ...I largely agree with that point of view.

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  16. Re Larry Moran

    1. Oh come on Prof. Moran. The Dreadnaught building programs of the nations mentioned in your list didn't amount to a hill of beans compared to those of Britain and Germany, at least until Wilsons' 1916 proclamation that the US would have a navy second to none.

    2. Germanys' High Seas Fleet contributed nothing to the German war effort in WW 1 (neither did Great Britains'). The two fleets spent most of the war at anchor in Scapa Flow and Wilhelmshaven, meeting only once at the Battle of Jutland, a German tactical victory and British strategic victory, after which, the German fleet retired to its ports and remained there for the rest of the war.

    3. The Kaiser was, indeed, not a dictator but there is no doubt that it was his influence that caused the construction of the High Seas Fleet, IMHO, one of the greatest boondoggles in history.

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  17. @SLC:

    "There was no reason for this decision, other then the Kaisers' personal pique at his grandmother, Queen Victoria."

    It's a bit more complicated than that. There were those in Imperial Germany who saw their ambitions to dominate Europe and eventually be Top Nation might be thwarted by a Britain that could sit on her island and support Germany's opponents on the Continent safely beyond Germany's reach. Tirpitz became the embodiment of the idea that Germany should not find herself in the position Napoleon had faced of dominating the Continent but unable to force a permanent peace on his terms as long as Britain was inviolable. The Kaiser was very much a member of that faction. That he also had his pique at his British cousins certainly helped, but it was not the genesis of the German ambition to challenge Britain at sea. Kaiser Willi's prestige in Germany was not sufficient by any stretch of the imagination to get the funding needed for the naval program in the absence of powerful support from German nationalists (and industrialists).

    "Actually, antisemitism in Germany was no worse then it was in France and Great Britain during the early years of the 20th century. Dreyfus Affair anyone."

    Not that anyone had actually said it was, but I'd note there is no real British equivalent to the Dreyfuss affair and the Dreyfuss affair was, albeit far too slowly, resolved with his exoneration by the French themselves. The anti-semitism in the German military was strong and subject to no such embarrassments as the French anti-semites suffered.

    "2. Germanys' High Seas Fleet contributed nothing to the German war effort in WW 1 (neither did Great Britains')."

    I assume you mean "Great Britain's" to refer to the Home Fleet rather than the Royal Navy, but in either case you are mistaken. The Home Fleet was the anchor of the blockade and of Britain's seaborne lifelines. Neutralizing the High Seas Fleet was a critically important element of the naval war that Britain had to win and in that the Home Fleet succeeded entirely.

    The British battlefleet had always been an arm of the Royal Navy with its own role to play in concert with trade protection and blockade which were necessarily the province of the frigates and later cruisers. You can't assess the achievement of the Home Fleet in insolation from the operations of the rest of the Royal Navy, and indeed British grand strategy. One of the reasons Britannia ruled the waves for so long was that the Admiralty seldom made that mistake.

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  18. "So we have a situation where, in defense of "freedom," Great Britain and France go to war to defend Tsarist Russia."

    And in WW2, the UK and Canada ally themselves with the Stalin's Soviet Union in defence of 'freedom'. Your point is?

    One might ask why was France allied with Tsarist Russia in the first place. Opposition to the expansion of militaristic Imperial Germany did make for some strange bedfellows. And, as Fischer made clear, Imperial Germany was strongly expansionist.

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  19. "I was making the point that Word War I was not fought to preserve democracy or freedom."

    By assuming that wars are always about only what they ostensibly started over and not over what was actually at stake. What was at stake in WW1 was whether Germany would be able to so dominate Europe that it effectively became the sole power on the continent, able to order it to suit its authoritarianis, expansionism and militarism. With proper Canadian diffidence, I don't like high-blown terms like 'freedom' used here in its full generality, but freedom in a very meaningful way was at stake in WW1, if not to quite the same madhouse extent as in WW2.

    "You attribute blame to the losing side."

    Losing, per se, does not confer absolution, whether it is, to pick some examples where folk often blame the winners, the American Civil War, WW1 or WW2.

    "It would be just as valid to blame the "ambitions" of Great Britain to be the only world power in the 20th century."

    It wouldn't. First, Britain had given up on being the only world power well before the 20th Century when it accepted that the growing population, industry, science and wealth of the USA would inevitably make her Britain's superior. That America did not militarily challenge Britain was a matter of America's own concerns with internal matters of the Civil War and the conquest of the West and Britain's determination to avoid war with America come what might.

    Second, Germany already was a world power at the time the Kaiser and Tirpitz decided to challenge Britain at sea. In the most important part of the world for these countries, Continental Europe, Germany stood as the pre-eminent economic, industrial, scientific and, critically, military power. It's overseas colonies were scant, but even without extensive colonies (and maybe even because of their lack), Germany was already overtaking Britain for #2 after the USA in most fields other than naval power and, of course, dwarfed British mlitary power on land. Until the USA decided to become a military power, Britain and Germany were the two top powers and until Germany became determined to become sole arbiter of European affairs, Britain's and Germany's interests did not necessarily collide.

    Britain's goal in opposing Germany was not to prevent Germany being a world power, but to maintain it's own independence. Britain's naval power was a threat to Germany as a world power only if Germany managed to unite most of Europe against it (as Napoleon had managed to unite Europe against him). German naval superiority, combined with her ability to beat any other power in Europe one on one, and even the combination of France and Russia together for that matter, together would be a threat to Britain's independence, not merely Britain's status as a world power.

    "In addition to Great Britain and Germany, the following countries expanded and strengthened their navies by building dreadnaughts before the beginning of World War I. France Russia Austria-Hungary Italy Japan USA"

    However, of those countries only the programs of Germany and the USA had the potential to change the overall balance of naval power. Germany's program was designed to do precisely that. Germany's expansion pretty much drove that of all the other European powers, including that of Britain, where Dreadnought itself was in large part a response to the growing German battleship fleet.

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  20. "I believe that all wars result from a failed policy of peace. In that sense all wars are avoidable."

    It is hard to see what 'policy of peace' failed and result in WW1 or WW2. Germany's policy in 1914 was not one of peace as an end in itself but one of expansion of her power, particularly into the naval sphere, to the point where all issues, such as colonial issues, could be decided unilaterally by Germany and Germany would have a free hand in the ordering of eastern Europe.

    WW2 wasn't a failure of a 'policy of peace', since Hitler had no such policy and positively wanted war, preferably over the Sudeten (Mussolini cheated him of that opportunity, a successful policy of peace) and then over Poland. One might say the French and British had a policy of peace and it failed, but that did not cause the war. As Basil Fawlty put it simply, comedically but accurately 'You invaded Poland!' Similarly, Japan's was not a policy of peace, except that of the unopposed conqueror, but of expansion of national power and autarky.

    It appears you place the responsibility for war not on those who seek it or embark on as tool of statecraft like any other, but on those who have war imposed on them. Britain and France, in WW1 and WW2 could have done all the failing anyone could hope for and there still would have been no war absent the bellicose frivolity of the senile Austro-Hungarian Empire (thx to Barbara Tuchman for the words) and the lust for conquest of Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan.

    "Unfortunately we live in the real world where people often fail to do what's best. Sometimes it is necessary to react to a failed policy such as by declaring war on Germany in September 1939 when Poland was invaded. Most civilized countries recognized at that point that Germany had to be stopped."

    The only 'policies of peace' that could have succeeded in restraining Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan were ones of such overwhelming superiority of military force that neither could consider war as an instrument of their policy. Such superiority was never a realisitic prospect in large part because both Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan had abandoned mere calculation of materiel in favour of belief in will and destiny tied to extremist nationalism.

    Quite apart from practicality, I don't see a policy of unlimited commitment of a country's resources to military preparedness sufficient to deter any enemy or combination of enemies as a 'policy of peace'. Apart from an aesthetic objection that making war the focus of the nation's efforts is a strange sort of 'policy of peace', the problem with such a policy is that only one country can ever achieve that position at a time and no country convinced of the necessity of such a policy will lightly give up in the face of a growing challenge. As an example, while Germany had all but achieved such a position of supremacy (only the RN standing in her way), Germany's expectation that a modernizing Russia would, if left to its own devices, eventually overtake it, played no small part in the willingness of Germany to court war by giving the Austro-Hungarian Empire the 'blank check' in the summer of 1914.

    Primary responsibility for war rests with those who seek it for its own sake or choose to use it as an ordinary tool of statecraft, without which there'd be no need for others to try to stop them. And that applies even if the warmonger loses.

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  21. "There is never any glory in war and it's nothing we should ever be proud of."

    As an American and at a minimum, I am immensely proud of what our military accomplished in the Revolutionary War of Independence, the Civil War and World War II. A worthy peace would have been preferable in all cases, but such a peace takes willing parties willing to agree to reasonable terms. When that doesn't happen, war may become necessary. And when it becomes necessary, we may be justly proud about what is accomplished.

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  22. Sinbad says,

    As an American and at a minimum, I am immensely proud of what our military accomplished in the Revolutionary War of Independence, the Civil War and World War II. A worthy peace would have been preferable in all cases, but such a peace takes willing parties willing to agree to reasonable terms. When that doesn't happen, war may become necessary. And when it becomes necessary, we may be justly proud about what is accomplished.

    I'm sure the people of Great Britain, the Confederate States, and Japan all felt the same way at the beginning of those wars. Are you proud of the sacrifices they made? Or is it only the victors that get to be proud?

    It's usually the victors who get to define retroactively what "reasonable terms" meant.

    The American Civil War is a classic example of a war that Americans should be ashamed of. Why in the world would you be proud of the fact that you had to slaughter an entire generation of young men to abolish slavery? What other civilized country had to do that?

    And why are you so proud of the American Revolution (i.e. First Civil War)? Most other British colonies managed to become independent without going to war.

    Now, let's turn our attention to World War II. Are you actually proud of the fact that America stood by while the following countries were attacked by the Axis powers? Poland, Denmark, Norway, Belgium, Luxembourg, Netherlands, France, Great Britain, Hungary, Yugoslavia, Greece, Soviet Union, Egypt, Libya, Albania, China.

    Now let's think about how your claim holds up in the 21st century. America recently decided that the invasion of Iraq had "become necessary." Do you stand by this claim, "And when it becomes necessary, we may be justly proud about what is accomplished."?

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  23. Mike from Ottawa says,

    It is hard to see what 'policy of peace' failed and result in WW1 or WW2.

    If that's what you believe then all I can say is that you aren't looking very hard.

    There are all kinds of things that could have been done to encourage Germans, for example, to seek a peaceful solution to their very real problems. It may not be easy but it's always possible. Part of the solution would have involved weakening the power of the military prior to World War I and of Hitler prior to World War II.

    Similarly, I don't think it was inevitable that America would invade Iraq. I think it was possible in 2002 to convince Americans that peace was a better option. Not easy, perhaps, but possible.

    All wars are avoidable. You have to start with that premise in order to succeed. You seem to be at risk of losing hope in peace. I hope you don't.



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  24. Re Mike from Ottawa

    1. Yes, indeed, the Grand Fleet anchored at Scapa Flow was needed to keep the High Seas Fleet anchored at Wilhelmshaven bottled up in the North Atlantic. What Mr. Mike seems to overlook is that the requirement for a massive Grand Fleet of dreadnaughts was the existence of the large High Seas Fleet of dreadnaughts! Absent the second, no need of the first.

    2. Actually, the fact that the Grand Fleet required large numbers of auxiliary ships, such as destroyers, to defend them against torpedoes, almost proved fatal in 1917 when the Germans launched their submersible campaign against British merchant shipping. Those destroyers would have been much better employed protecting merchant shipping. The First Sea Lord, Admiral Jellico, at the time refused to employ convoys because of the lack of anti-submersible ships. It was only after the entrance of the US into the war when Admiral Sims was sent to London, that the First Lord of the Admiralty was prevailed upon to overrule Jellico and introduce convoying that that threat of Great Britain being starved out of the war was averted.

    3. Without the enthusiastic support of the Kaiser, Admiral Tirpitz was whistling into the wind.

    Re Larry Moran

    Prof. Morans' ignorance of the issued involved in the American Civil War is quite astonishing for a grown man. The situation relative to the abolishment of slavery in the US was totally different then in France and Great Britain. It was the election of Lincoln, who the Southern States feared would emancipate the slaves, that caused then to secede. Once they seceded, Lincoln had two choices: acquiesce in that secession or oppose it by force. Apparently, Prof. Moran is of the opinion that he should have chosen the first option.

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  25. Larry --

    "I'm sure the people of Great Britain, the Confederate States, and Japan all felt the same way at the beginning of those wars."

    I don't doubt that they did, but they were wrong.

    "Are you proud of the sacrifices they made? Or is it only the victors that get to be proud?"

    False dichotomy.

    "It's usually the victors who get to define retroactively what 'reasonable terms' meant."

    The victors usually get to write history.

    "The American Civil War is a classic example of a war that Americans should be ashamed of. Why in the world would you be proud of the fact that you had to slaughter an entire generation of young men to abolish slavery? What other civilized country had to do that?"

    I am not proud that the Civil War was necessary -- that is to our great discredit. But I am proud that we resisted secession and, as a consequence, eliminated the evil of slavery in our midst. Would you rather we have allowed the Confederates to leave the union peacefully?

    "And why are you so proud of the American Revolution (i.e. First Civil War)?"

    Because we were able to throw off the yoke of oppression from a colonizing power. It's surely unfortunate that England sought to maintain and enforce North American hegemony by military and economic force. But I'm proud that of what we accomplished.

    "Now, let's turn our attention to World War II. Are you actually proud of the fact that America stood by while the following countries were attacked by the Axis powers? Poland, Denmark, Norway, Belgium, Luxembourg, Netherlands, France, Great Britain, Hungary, Yugoslavia, Greece, Soviet Union, Egypt, Libya, Albania, China."

    By your expressed standards, we should have stood idly by because "[t]here is never any glory in war and it's nothing we should ever be proud of." On the other hand, in retrospect I wish we had engaged in a preemptive war rather than waiting to be attacked. That said, the fact that we were able to defeat fascism and return much of the world to relative freedom is something about which we can and should be justly proud.

    "America recently decided that the invasion of Iraq had 'become necessary.'"

    We were wrong about that in my estimation.

    "Do you stand by this claim, 'And when it becomes necessary, we may be justly proud about what is accomplished.'?"

    Yes.

    "There are all kinds of things that could have been done to encourage Germans, for example, to seek a peaceful solution to their very real problems. It may not be easy but it's always possible."

    This is a lovely sentiment, worthy of Neville Chamberlain even. Sadly, it's not supported by a shread of evidence.

    "All wars are avoidable."

    I am touched by your sweet faith. But it's delusional.

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  26. SLC says,

    Prof. Morans' ignorance of the issued involved in the American Civil War is quite astonishing for a grown man.

    Coming from you, I take that as a compliment. :-)

    It was the election of Lincoln, who the Southern States feared would emancipate the slaves, that caused then to secede. Once they seceded, Lincoln had two choices: acquiesce in that secession or oppose it by force. Apparently, Prof. Moran is of the opinion that he should have chosen the first option.

    Nope. That's not my opinion.

    Thanks for asking.

    But just out of curiosity, what would have been so bad about letting the Confederate States become a separate nation? They would have abolished slavery on their own in a decade or so.

    BTW, there might have been one or two minor historical events that led to the situation in 1860 when Lincoln was elected. By then it was probably too late to save the union.

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  27. Re Larry Moran

    1 What would have been so bad about allowing the Confederate States to secede is that other sections of the country, particularly New England might have followed suit. Instead of one strong country, the area called the USA would have eventually consisted of 4 or 5 relative weak countries. Possibly good for Canada but not so hot for the outcomes of WW 1 and WW 2. Absent the intervention of the USA, particularly in WW 2, Prof. Moran might well have observed the triumphal march of Hitlers legions through the streets of Toronto, Montreal, and Ottawa and the triumphal march of Tojos' legions through the streets of Vancouver. In addition to the triumphal marches through the streets of New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, San Francisco, et al.

    2. What makes Prof. Moran believe that slavery would have been abolished within a decade of Confederate separation? In 1864, General Robert E. Lee proposed to Jefferson Davis, the Confederate president, in his role as the latters' military adviser, that male slaves be offered their freedom in exchange for service in the Confederate armies. Despite the perilous condition of the Confederacy at that point in the war due to the heavy losses at places like Gettysburg, Davis turned him down, remarking that freeing slaves would invalidate the Confederate cause.

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  28. Dr. Moran writes: "I think it was possible in 2002 to convince Americans that peace was a better option. Not easy, perhaps, but possible."

    I am going to disagree slightly by saying I believe it would have been rather easy. After simply telling the truth about three points (Iraq wasn't responsible for the 9/11 attacks; Saddam Hussein was not closely allied with Al Qaeda; and the evidence for Iraqi WMDs was rather tentative), what else about the Iraqi situation would have persuaded the American public that it was worth going to war?

    "But just out of curiosity, what would have been so bad about letting the Confederate States become a separate nation? They would have abolished slavery on their own in a decade or so."

    Letting the South become a separate nation considered without the slavery issue, nothing so bad that I can think of (setting aside SLC's statements that events nearly a century later provide some sort of retrospective reason). But just as I can't credit SLC's thought that future events legitimized the Civil War, I also can't credit a cheerful prediction that the South would have abolished slavery on its own, particularly in light of the survival of Jim Crow laws into the 1960s, when they were set aside by the command of the federal government (through laws passed over Southern senators' resistance), not through action by the Southern states themselves.

    "BTW, there might have been one or two minor historical events that led to the situation in 1860 when Lincoln was elected. By then it was probably too late to save the union."

    There I agree with you. But being able to look back at such events and realizing their roles in what happened later is not the same as being able to persuade the responsible actors at the time to behave differently. It is so depressingly often that a "policy of peace" to avoid wars or other killings on mass scales fails. I'd love to see human behavior change in this respect, and I try to work toward that end, but damn, the light if it exists seems to be at the end of one very very long tunnel.

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