Too Monstrous for Remorse - Pt 3
Wednesday, May 18, 2005, 05:04 AM - An Antiwar Military History?

"Scott's Entry into Mexico City," by William Henry Powell


From my "Mexican War" entry for the Encyclopedia of War and American Society. The full entry runs 3,000 words; these are the parts that relate most directly to the "war and society" theme:

The Public Views the War

Politically the war was a highly divisive issue, partly because the Whigs and Democrats genuinely disagreed about its wisdom and objectives and partly because they consciously sought out contrasting stands as a means to win elections. It was clear to everyone that, for better or worse, without Polk’s election to the presidency and his aggressive policy toward Mexico there would have been no war. Although most Whigs voted for the war and for military appropriations to sustain it, they nevertheless tried to make a conflict an issue on which to oppose the Democrats.

On the one hand, Whigs extolled the achievements of the American armies, particularly since the two principal field commanders, Taylor and Scott, were members of their party. On the other, they savaged the Polk administration for causing the war, for misrepresenting the truth in its request for a declaration of war, for mismanaging the war, and for pursuing a war aim—territorial expansion—that was at odds with American values. Republican institutions should expand by example, not coercion, some argued. Others, playing the race card, pointed out that expansion would entail the annexation of a morally degraded people who were “unfit . . . to sustain a free government.”

Perhaps the most famous political document to come out of the Mexican War was a rider to a military appropriations bill introduced in August 1846 by David Wilmot, a freshman Democratic congressman from Pennsylvania. Known as the Wilmot Proviso, it pledged to bar slavery from any territory that might be acquired from Mexico as result of the war. Although never passed into law, it was several times resurrected in various forms and each time produced the same outcome: Southern congressmen and senators voted against it without regard to party. Because it opened the door to the sectional controversy, the Wilmot Proviso was a fateful milestone on the road to civil war, but for precisely that reason it offered little advantage to the Whigs as a campaign issue.
Instead, Whig opposition to the war focused on territorial expansion of any kind. For southern Whigs, “No Territory” rendered further fighting pointless, it preserved sectional harmony, and—by rendering the Wilmot Proviso irrelevant—it protected Southern rights from attack. For northern Whigs, “No Territory” offered the clearest distinction between themselves and the Democrats and, unlike the Wilmot Proviso, did not run the risk of sectional division.

It galled Polk to realize that the Whigs, who opposed the war, might very well reap the benefit from an American victory because Taylor and Scott were both Whigs. He therefore tried to pack the army as full as possible with good Democratic generals, even if they had little or no military experience, and toyed with the idea of making Missouri Senator Thomas Hart Benton a lieutenant general so that he, not Scott, would be the top American commander.

Despite their differences, it could fairly be said that most Whigs and Democrats supported the war effort to some degree. Comparatively few Americans condemned the war outright. Among these were the country’s small but vocal peace societies, abolitionists like William Lloyd Garrison (who condemned the war as one “of aggression, of invasion, of conquest, and rapine”), and, most famously, the transcendentalist writer philosopher Henry David Thoreau, who spent a night in jail after refusing to pay taxes that would support the war and went on to compose “Civil Disobedience,” an essay that influenced Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr.

Yet the war was popular with most people, who overlooked the dubiousness of its origins and objectives and instead were fascinated by the details of its course and conduct. Through newspapers, aided by the recently invented telegraph, they got news of it on an almost daily basis. Nine New Orleans newspapers maintained correspondents in the field; their stories were copied and recopied to other papers across the country. Cheap paperback novels, already popular, shifted their subject matter to provide war themes. James Fenimore Cooper of Leatherstocking fame published serially a novel about the war while it was still underway.

Composers cranked out patriotic songs concerning the war. Playwrights composed plays and collaborated with artists to produce theatrical lectures known as “moving panoramas,” in which long canvas paintings featuring scenes from the war were unrolled from a large cylinder. Other artists produced woodcuts and lithographs depicting the war—Nathaniel Currier of Currier and Ives fame was the most prolific of these. The conflict also saw a few grainy daguerreotypes that were among the first war photographs ever recorded.

The war expanded America’s consciousness of the rest of the world and of its place within it. William H. Prescott’s recently published History of the Conquest of Mexico was widely read by those serving in Mexico, who saw themselves as the martial heirs of Cortes. (Indeed, at the beginning of the war, the secretary of the navy ordered it added to the library of every warship.) Soldiers contrasted their own prosperous republic with a poorly developed country that seemed to have been hobbled by a parasitic military dictatorship and oppressive Catholic Church. At the same time, they were fascinated by Mexican culture. The American adoption of mustaches and cigarettes dates from the Mexican War, as do such word introductions as corral and patio.

The War’s Legacy

The capture of Mexico City gave the United States so much leverage over Mexico, at least in Polk’s mind, that he considered annexing not just the northern provinces of Mexico but the entire nation. Probably this would have led only to a prolongation of the conflict. Fortunately his chief negotiator, Nicholas Trist, stuck to his original instructions and a peace agreement, the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo, was signed in February 1848. Under its terms, Mexico conceded the loss of Texas (with its boundary stipulated as the Rio Grande), and also gave up California and New Mexico. In exchange the United States assumed the claims of American citizens against the Mexican government and also paid Mexico $15 million.

As a result, the United States gained 1.2 million square miles of land: almost half of Mexico’s prewar territory though less than 1 percent of its population (who became U.S. citizens under the terms of the treaty). It also became acknowledged in Europe as the preeminent power in North America, which among other things meant that henceforth, Great Britain considered Canada a hostage to American good will. Although it would take another generation before the United States and Great Britain put the quarrels of 1775 and 1812 behind them, the Mexican War was a major if unintentional step in that direction.

The United States recruited about 90,000 men for the conflict but of these, only about 30,000 served in the field. Victory cost the nation over 10,000 dead, mostly from disease, as well as $100 million in war expenses. (Mexican deaths are estimated at 25,000.) The war poisoned relations with Mexico for decades to come. It also bequeathed an unexpected political nightmare. Polk’s supporters welcomed the war because they believed it would enhance American prosperity and bind the nation more closely together. Instead, it confirmed Whig fears that it would lead to sectional antagonism. No sooner had the western territories been won from Mexico than the question arose of whether and to what extent slavery could be introduced into them. The United States proved unable to contain the issue within its political system. The result was civil war in 1861.

Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3

Too Monstrous for Remorse - Pt 2
Monday, May 9, 2005, 05:07 AM - An Antiwar Military History?
Mexicans living in New Mexico, 1836: 30,000
Mexicans living in California, 1836: 3,200
Mexicans living in Texas, 1836: 4,000 (Anglos: 30,000; African American slaves: 4,000)

". . . For they [the Utopians] account it a very just cause of war, for a nation to hinder others from possessing a part of that soil of which they make no use, but which is suffered to lie idle and uncultivated."

-- Thomas More, "Of Their Traffic", Utopia (1516).

"For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?"

-- Matthew 16:26, Holy Bible, King James Version

Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3
1 comment 1 comment ( 60 views )   |  permalink

Too Monstrous for Remorse - Pt 1
Thursday, May 5, 2005, 03:55 PM - An Antiwar Military History?


"Behind every great fortune there is a crime," wrote the French novelist Honoré de Balzac, and a number of crimes underlie the wealth and power of the United States. One of the greatest of these was the seizure of California and other present-day western states from the Republic of Mexico in 1846-1848. That's not present-day political correctness. That was the view held at the time by many Americans, including writer Henry David Thoreau, Congressman Abraham Lincoln, and Second Lieutenant Ulysses S. Grant.

Ten years ago I co-authored the military history textbook now in use at West Point. I wrote the chapters dealing with the American military history from the end of the American Revolution to the end of the Civil War. The chapters were vetted by the two editors who organized the project, Prof. Ira D. Gruber of Rice University and Colonel Robert A. Doughty of the U.S. Military Academy. They were vetted by two other distinguished military historians. And they were vetted by the officers then assigned to be instructors in West Point's military history department. Each reader focused on different things, and it happened to be one of the officers who objected to my characterization of the Mexican War as "amoral but highly successful." He thought I should delete the word "amoral." Let the cadets decide that for themselves, he wrote. I insisted that the word remain, because without it I thought most cadets would not consider the conflict's morality or immorality at all.

That wasn't because I had a jaundiced view of West Point. On the contrary, I'd been to the place, met the cadets (both on campus and on staff rides to the Antietam battlefield), and even trained some of the officers who served as their instructors. It was just that I knew that military history was an "economy of force" mission for most cadets--whose curriculum focuses heavily on math, science, and engineering--so they were likely to pass right over the Mexican War on their way to the more "important" Civil War. Also I knew that most Americans have trouble believing that American expansion could have happened in any other way than the way it did. To invoke another epigram, this one by Edward Arlington Robinson, "There are mistakes too monstrous for remorse."

But maybe I could have safely excised the word "amoral," because most cadets are obliged to read Grant's Personal Memoirs. And if they miss it while at West Point, they pretty much have to read it when they reach the rank of captain, for it's on U.S. Army Chief of Staff's Reading List and is recommended for company-grade officers. And no one who reads Grant's memoirs can fail to be struck by his eloquent denunciation of the United States's armed extortion of northern Mexico.

Grant's memoirs underscore that you don't have to like the war you're handed. (Of course, whether not liking it has any practical effect is another matter.)

An 1843 graduate of West Point, Grant embarked on active duty during the era in which newspaper editors and politicians had begun to insist that the United States had a "manifest destiny" to expand to the Pacific Ocean. An important step in this expansion was the annexation of Texas, which had been a republic since 1836 but whose independence had never been recognized by Mexico. The government of Mexico had made it very clear that it would regard the annexation of Texas as a hostile act, so as the United States moved closer to such a step, it shifted forces to the Texas-Louisiana border. Among the units shifted was the Fourth U.S. Infantry Regiment, in which Grant served as a second lieutenant:

There was no intimation given that the removal of the 3d and 4th regiments of infantry to the western border of Louisiana was occasioned in any way by the prospective annexation of Texas, but it was generally understood that such was the case. Ostensibly we were intended to prevent filibustering into Texas, but really as a menace to Mexico in case she appeared to contemplate war. Generally the officers of the army were indifferent whether the annexation was consummated or not; but not so all of them. For myself, I was bitterly opposed to the measure, and to this day regard the war which resulted as one of the most unjust ever waged by a stronger against a weaker nation. It was an instance of a republic following the bad example of European monarchies, in not considering justice in their desire to acquire additional territory.

Texas was originally a state belonging to the republic of Mexico. It extended from the Sabine River on the east to the Rio Grande on the west, and from the Gulf of Mexico on the south and east to the territory of the United States and New Mexico--another Mexican state at that time--on the north and west. An empire in territory, it had but a very sparse population, until settled by Americans who had received authority from Mexico to colonize. These colonists paid very little attention to the supreme government, and introduced slavery into the state almost from the start, though the constitution of Mexico did not, nor does it now, sanction that institution. Soon they setup an independent government of their own, and war existed, between Texas and Mexico, in name from that time until 1836, when active hostilities very nearly ceased upon the capture of Santa Anna, the Mexican President. Before long, however, the same people--who with permission of Mexico had colonized Texas, and afterwards set up slavery there, and then seceded as soon as they felt strong enough to do so--offered themselves and the State to the United States, and in 1845 their offer was accepted. The occupation, separation and annexation were, from the inception of the movement to its final consummation, a conspiracy to acquire territory out of which slave states might be formed for the American Union.

Even if the annexation itself could be justified, the manner in which the subsequent war was forced upon Mexico cannot. The fact is, annexationists wanted more territory than they could possibly lay any claim to, as part of the new acquisition. Texas, as an independent State, never had exercised jurisdiction over the territory between the Nueces River and the Rio Grande. Mexico had never recognized the independence of Texas, and maintained that, even if independent, the State had no claim south of the Nueces. I am aware that a treaty, made by the Texans with Santa Anna while he was under duress, ceded all the territory between the Nueces and the Rio Grande; but he was a prisoner of war when the treaty was made, and his life was in jeopardy. He knew, too, that he deserved execution at the hands of the Texans, if they should ever capture him. The Texans, if they had taken his life, would have only followed the example set by Santa Anna himself a few years before, when he executed the entire garrison of the Alamo and the villagers of Goliad. In taking military possession of Texas after annexation, the army of occupation, under General [Zachary] Taylor, was directed to occupy the disputed territory. The army did not stop at the Nueces and offer to negotiate for a settlement of the boundary question, but went beyond, apparently in order to force Mexico to initiate war. It is to the credit of the American nation, however, that after conquering Mexico, and while practically holding the country in our possession, so that we could have retained the whole of it, or made any terms we chose, we paid a round sum for the additional territory taken; more than it was worth, or was likely to be, to Mexico. To us it was an empire and of incalculable value; but it might have been obtained by other means. The Southern rebellion was largely the outgrowth of the Mexican war. Nations, like individuals, are punished for their transgressions. We got our punishment in the most sanguinary and expensive war of modern times.

Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3
4 comments 4 comments ( 86 views )   |  permalink

Rules, Even in War - Pt 6
Wednesday, May 4, 2005, 09:16 AM - An Antiwar Military History?
A month after his code was published as General Orders, No. 100, Lieber wrote Halleck with satisfaction, "I think the No. 100 will do honor to the country. It will be adopted as a basis for similar works by the English, French, and Germans. It is a contribution by the U.S. to the stock of common civilization." Subsequent events proved him correct. The Prussians adopted it lock, stock and barrel to guide their armies' conduct of the Franco-Prussian War (1870-1871) and its language greatly influenced subsequent efforts, such as the Hague and Geneva Conventions, to create restraints on war.

But for my purposes--to repeat a point made in Part 1, my job is to write an entry on the code for the Encyclopedia of War and American Society--I'm interested in the code's influence on subsequent American practice. The original version of "General Orders, No. 100" governed the U.S. Army during the Spanish American and Philippine Wars. A new field manual adopted in 1914 incorporated everything from the original code that remained relevant after the passage of a half-century, while Richard Shelly Hartigan detected echoes of the code even in the 1940 field manual on the laws of war--FM 27-10--that set forth official U.S. policy during World War II. (The current edition of FM 27-10, which essentially dates from 1956 with a few emendations in 1976, may be found here.)

Historian Sir Michael Howard notes that during the mid-nineteenth century, "a consensus was growing that, although war might still be a necessary element in international politics . . . it should be waged, so far as possible, with humanity." He immediately goes on to say that this was the generation that produced "the first comprehensive codification of the regulations for the conduct of war on land," and of course he means Lieber's Code. That's the image we have of the code, and Americans who have never heard of Francis Lieber assume that the United States honors the rules of war, fights according to those rules, and would be very little surprised to learn that, through Lieber's Code, their nation played a significant role in shaping them.

It therefore comes as something of a shock to find that when, during the Philippine War, U.S. commanders had trouble dealing with Filipino guerrillas (insurrectos) and wanted to crack down harder, their solution was not to dispense with Lieber's Code but rather to invoke adherence to the letter of it, for when it came to guerrilla warfare the code was very strict:

Men, or squads of men, who commit hostilities . . . without being part and portion of the organized hostile army, and without sharing continuously in the war, but who do so with intermitting returns to their homes and avocations, or with the occasional assumption of the semblance of peaceful pursuits, divesting themselves of the character or appearance of soldiers--such men, or squads of men, are not public enemies, and therefore, if captured, are not entitled to the privileges of prisoners of war, but shall be treated summarily as highway robbers or pirates. . . . Armed prowlers, by whatever names they may be called, or persons of the enemy's territory, who steal within the lines of the hostile army for the purpose of robbing, killing, or of destroying bridges, roads, or canals, or of robbing or destroying the mail, or of cutting the telegraph wires, are not entitled to the privileges of the prisoner of war. . . . War-rebels are persons within an occupied territory who rise in arms against the occupying or conquering army. If captured, they may suffer death. . . . They are not prisoners of war.


My point is not that these rules were inappropriate or immoral. My point is that, coupled with Lieber's expansive definition of "military necessity," they opened to door to a very harsh program. Brig. Gen. J. Franklin Bell, for example, issued an order which stipulated that if US or friendly native prisoners or unarmed persons were murdered, a prisoner of war would be executed under Sections 59 and 148 of Lieber's Code. “This prisoner of war will be selected by lot from among the officers or prominent citizens held as prisoners of war, and will be chosen when practicable from those who belong to the town where the murder or assassination occurred.” Historian Glenn Anthony May could find no evidence that this provision was actually implemented, but other draconian policies were. Noncombatants were concentrated into zones where they could be kept under surveillance. Food found outside the zones was to be captured or confiscated, and people found outside the zones were to be captured or killed. The number of Filipino civilians who died as a result of such policies is conservatively estimated at 200,000. An [i[Encyclopaedia Britannica article I consulted places the number at between one and three million. The Philippine War remains a notoriously politicized topic and I have never read anything on it I really trust. But it seems plain enough that the Filipino people have no reason to feel grateful to Francis Lieber or his code.

Ultimately the thing that troubles me about Lieber's Code--and perhaps most attempts to create rules of war--is the implicit attempt to stack the deck toward certain kinds of armed violence and away from others. That seems laudable. But I have always believed that if you expect rules in war to be followed, your prescriptions have to be practical. You have to establish rules that the belligerents can follow and have a shot at winning the conflict. The Bush administration today seems to be playing fast and loose with the rules of war because it considers those rules ill adapted to the War on Terrorism. But the terrorists and insurgents employ the tactics they do for precisely the same reason: under the recognized rules of war, the deck is stacked so that they have no chance of winning at all. The Filipino resistance, to revert to the Philippine War, actually began as a conventional conflict by which the Filipinos attempted to defeat the U.S. Army in open battle. It didn't work. The American forces were better led, trained, and equipped--which is pretty much what you'd expect in the circumstances. Having lost the conventional war, the Filipinos were supposed to quit altogether. But their will to fight remained unbroken and they chose instead to continue their resistance by unconventional means. If Lieber's Code ruled that out of bounds, so much the worse for Lieber's Code.

What's the solution? How do you avoid stacking the deck when not stacking the deck effectively means that it is okay for the enemy to use Improvised Explosive Devices, car bombs, hostage-taking, and the like? I suspect that in terms of the laws of war you cannot do so. You have to alter the laws of politics instead. You have to create conditions wherein all the parties believe they have a fair chance of prevailing within the realm of normal politics. Otherwise they will step outside it.

Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3 - Part 4 - Part 5 - Part 6

Rules, Even in War - Pt 5
Tuesday, May 3, 2005, 09:08 PM - An Antiwar Military History?
For all its subsequent fame, Lieber's Code attracted surprisingly little attention at the time of its issuance. My first book, The Hard Hand of War: Union Military Policy Toward Southern Civilians, 1861-1865 (1995), spends several pages on the code and as I did my research I was constantly on the lookout for references to it by Union commanders, but I found almost none. Generals like Grant, Sherman, and Sheridan based their actions on the same laws and customs of war from which Lieber distilled the code, but they pretty much ignored the code itself. Richard Shelly Hartigan, who in Lieber's Code and the Law of War (1983) tried to assemble all significant contemporary comment on the code, could find nothing by any major field commander.

Abraham Lincoln also seems to have paid it little heed, despite occasional offhand statements to the contrary. (For instance, one online source quotes a legal review article claiming that the code was "drafted by Francis Lieber and issued by President Lincoln in 1863." Another calls it "Lincoln’s own military code.") But neither the index to the standard collection of Lincoln's papers nor the index to James G. Randall's four-volume study of Lincoln's presidency have listings for "General Orders No. 100", "Lieber's Code," or even "Lieber, Francis."

The documents that Hartigan did locate that bear upon Lieber's Code do so almost entirely in connection with fairly specific legal matters, primarily the thorny issue of parole and exchange of prisoners (which ultimately broke down over the Confederacy's refusal to consider captured African American soldiers to be prisoners of war), and the use of POWs as forced laborers.

Hartigan's finds also include a rather acid letter concerning Lieber's code, written by the Confederate agent for the exchange of prisoners to his Union counterpart. "Do you recognize the rules of General Orders, No. 100, to be as binding against you as for you?" the agent inquired. Then, calling attention to recent "flagrant outrages" that had occurred during a recent Union raid into tidewater Virginia:

Are they a fair interpretation of your celebrated general order? I am aware that it gives a license for a man to be either a fiend or a gentleman. He can find abundant authority for either role in the order.

I wrote about the raid in question in The Hard Hand of War; it amounted to a series of small expeditions that burned tanneries, destroyed grain, and seized livestock--all pretty standard stuff by that time, in the war's western theater, and done in a controlled manner accentuated by the fact that civilians received receipts for all property taken or destroyed, so that after the war they could receive compensation upon furnishing proof that they had remained loyal to the Union. Nobody needed Lieber's Code to authorize such acts. The War Department had already published a general order encouraging the use or destruction of rebel property in August 1862 (and unlike Lieber's Code, we know Lincoln was both aware of and in favor of the order). In any case, it lay within the recognized limits of the laws and customs of war, as the Swiss jurist Emmerich de Vattel had made clear in his Law of Nations (1758):

Since the object of a just war is to repress injustice and violence, and forcibly to compel him who is deaf to the voice of justice, we have a right to put in practice, against the enemy, every measure that is necessary in order to weaken him, and disable him from resisting us and supporting his injustice; and we may choose such methods as are the most efficacious and best calculated to attain the end in view, provided they be not of an odious kind, nor unjustifiable in themselves, and prohibited by the law of nature.

Comparison of Vattel's chapters dealing with war with Lieber's Code, however, reveals a striking difference in tone. Vattel tended to demarcate the limits of what a commander might legitimately do and then offer reasons why an enlightened commander would do less. Lieber--who once termed Vattel "Father Namby Pamby"--typically established similar limits but his rhetoric invited commanders to be as tough as possible within those limits. "The more vigorously wars are pursued the better it is for humanity," he argued. "Sharp wars are brief." Applied to a later conflict, Lieber's Code produced results quite different from those imagined by those who today admire it from afar.

Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3 - Part 4 - Part 5 - Part 6

Rules, Even in War - Pt 4
Tuesday, May 3, 2005, 09:03 AM - An Antiwar Military History?
A treatise to help justify a policy of retaliation toward secessionist guerrillas was all that Halleck asked of Lieber. But Lieber wanted to go much further. In November 1862 he wrote Halleck urging the U.S. War Department to adopt "a set of rules and definitions providing for the most urgent issues occurring under the Law and usages of war, and on which our Articles of War are silent. . . . For instance: The Spy--Who is a spy? How is the spy to be punished? Paroling [of prisoners of war] - What is it? Who paroles? What punishment for breaking the parole? Who shall be treated as a prisoner of war? etc., etc., etc."

Why did Lieber seek such a thing? It was partly to impose restraint--he rather ponderously noted that "in all other countries the Law of War is much more reduced to naked Force or Might, than we are willing to do it, perhaps now, in this Civil War--but mainly he thought the federal government should regularize procedure in a conflict that sprawled over half a continent: "single wars [do not] extend there [in Europe] over such distances as here." He recommended that a committee be formed to draft the rules and that Halleck--as both general in chief and as a prominent authority on the Law of Nations (Halleck had written a significant book on international law)--should chair it. Halleck demurred--"I have no time at present to consider the subject"--but Lieber persisted, and barely a month after his initial proposal the War Department formed a committee "to propose amendments or changes in the Rules and Articles of War, and a code of regulations for the government of armies in the field." The committee consisted of Lieber and four generals. The generals, as far as I can tell, then sat back and let Lieber do all the work.

The parole issue was perhaps in most urgent need of attention. Even before the committee was created, Lieber had sent Halleck a draft chapter on the subject, and in February 1863 a revised a codified version was issued as General Orders, No. 49. General Orders, No. 100, came out two months later, on April 24, 1863.

You can find a copy of them here. The orders--henceforth known as Lieber's Code or simply the code--are divided into ten sections. Six of them deal pretty directly with guerrilla activity, flags of truce, surrender, prisoner exchange, and the like. Another condemns "assassination;" i.e., proclaiming a combatant or individual to be an "outlaw" and authorizing their death without due process. (This section was pretty obviously inspired by the Confederate government's branding of certain Union officers, especially Maj. Gen. Benjamin F. "Beast" Butler, as outlaws.) The rest cover such broad issues as military necessity, protection of noncombatants, war crimes, and the definition of insurrection, civil war, and rebellion.

The highlights re military necessity: "Military necessity . . . consists in the necessity of those measures which are indispensable for securing the ends of the war, and which are lawful according to the modern law and usages of war. . . . Military necessity admits of all direct destruction of life or limb of armed enemies, and of other persons whose destruction is incidentally unavoidable in the armed contests of the war; it allows of the capturing of every armed enemy, and every enemy of importance to the hostile government, or of peculiar danger to the captor; it allows of all destruction of property . . . and of all withholding of sustenance or means of life from the enemy; of the appropriation of whatever an enemy's country affords necessary for the subsistence and safety of the Army. . . . Military necessity does not admit of cruelty--that is, the infliction of suffering for the sake of suffering or for revenge, nor of maiming or wounding except in fight, nor of torture to extort confessions. It does not admit of the use of poison in any way, nor of the wanton devastation of a district. It admits of deception, but disclaims acts of perfidy; and, in general, military necessity does not include any act of hostility which makes the return to peace unnecessarily difficult. . . . . The citizen or native of a hostile country is . . . an enemy, as one of the constituents of the hostile state or nation, and as such is subjected to the hardships of the war."

Re protection of noncombatants: "The United States acknowledge and protect . . . strictly private property; the persons of the inhabitants, especially those of women; and the sacredness of domestic relations. Offenses to the contrary shall be rigorously punished. . . . This rule does not interfere with the right of the victorious invader to tax the people or their property, to levy forced loans, to billet soldiers, or to appropriate property, especially houses, lands, boats or ships, and the churches, for temporary and military uses. . . . Private property, unless forfeited by crimes or by offenses of the owner, can be seized only by way of military necessity."

Re definitions of insurrection, civil war, and rebellion: " Insurrection is the rising of people in arms against their government, or portion of it, or against one or more of its laws, or against an officer or officers of the government. . . . Civil war is war between two or more portions of a country or state, each contending for the mastery of the whole, and each claiming to be the legitimate government. . . . The term rebellion is applied to an insurrection of large extent, and is usually a war between the legitimate government of a country and portions of provinces of the same who seek to throw off their allegiance to it and set up a government of their own. [Mark G: Which, incidentally, is why the American Civil War is officially known as the War of the Rebellion.] The military commander of the legitimate government, in a war of rebellion, distinguishes between the loyal citizen in the revolted portion of the country and the disloyal citizen. The disloyal citizens may further be classified into those citizens known to sympathize with the rebellion without positively aiding it, and those who, without taking up arms, give positive aid and comfort to the rebellious enemy without being bodily forced thereto. . . . The commander will throw the burden of the war, as much as lies within his power, on the disloyal citizens. . . . [H]e may expel, transfer, imprison, or fine the revolted citizens who refuse to pledge themselves anew as citizens obedient to the law and loyal to the government."

Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3 - Part 4 - Part 5 - Part 6
1 comment 1 comment ( 33 views )   |  permalink

Rules, Even in War - Pt 3
Friday, April 8, 2005, 05:39 PM - An Antiwar Military History?
The driving force behind General Order 100 was Francis Lieber, a German-American jurist who was born in Berlin in 1798. In his twenties, Lieber became a liberal political activist who ran afoul of the Prussian government, which twice imprisoned him. Eventually in 1827 he fled to the United States by way of a brief sojourn in Great Britain. He began to compile the first edition of the Encyclopedia Americana and became a professor of history and economics at South Carolina College (present-day University of South Carolina ). After spending more than two decades in South Carolina, Lieber joined the faculty at Columbia College (now Columbia University ) in 1857.

Lieber focused on the problem of political ethics and of finding the right balance between individual liberty and civic responsibility. During his twenty-two year stint in South Carolina, he produced some of his best work on these subjects: Political Liberty (2 vols., 1838) and Civil Liberty and Self Government (2 vols., 1853).

When the Civil War broke out in April 1861, Lieber's family found that, for them, it was literally a brothers' war. One son joined the Union army and lost an arm in the fighting for Fort Donelson in February 1862. Another joined the Confederate army and died in the battle of Williamsburg three months later. While visiting the former, Lieber met Maj. Gen. Henry W. Halleck, then the senior Federal commander in the western theater. The two shared an interest in international law and struck up a friendship.

In August 1862 Halleck asked Lieber for his views concerning guerrilla warfare. "The rebels," he wrote, "claim the right to send men, in the garb of peaceful citizens, to waylay and attack our troops, to burn bridges and houses and to destroy property and persons within our lines. They demand that such persons be treated as ordinary belligerents." Halleck could hardly have framed the issue more tendentiously.

Lieber, already at work on a treatise dealing with guerrilla warfare, obliged Halleck with a thick manuscript that, predictably, stacked the deck against guerrilla tactics. " Partisans"--officially authorized troops who merely adopted irregular tactics--were entitled to be treated as ordinary belligerents if they carried their weapons openly and wore distinguishing identification (such as armbands). But "self-constituted guerrillas"--i.e., nearly all of them--were simply "freebooters," "brigands," or "assassins," and entitled to nothing but a hemp neck tie. Halleck thanked him for the treatise and ordered 5,000 copies for distribution to the Union army. The purpose, rather obviously, was to provide legal justification for the retaliatory policies that Union field commanders had already begun to adopt.

Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3 - Part 4 - Part 5 - Part 6

2 comments 2 comments ( 36 views )   |  permalink

Rules, Even in War - Pt 2
Thursday, April 7, 2005, 03:20 PM - An Antiwar Military History?
The Ash and the Oak

When men discovered freedom first
The fighting was on foot
They were encouraged by their thirst
And promises of loot,
And when it feathered and bow boomed
Their virtue was a root.

O the ash and the oak and the willow tree
And green grows the grass on the infantry!

At Malplaquet and Waterloo
They were polite and proud,
They primed their guns with billets-doux
And, as they fired, bowed.
At Appomattox too, it seems
Some things were understood.

O the ash and the oak and the willow tree
And green grows the grass on the infantry!

But at Verdun and at Bastogne
There was a great recoil,
The blood was bitter to the bone,
The trigger to the soul,
And death was nothing if not dull,
A hero was a fool.

O the ash and the oak and the willow tree
And that's an end of the infantry.

-- Louis Simpson

Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3 - Part 4 - Part 5 - Part 6

Rules, Even in War - Pt 1
Monday, March 28, 2005, 11:06 PM - An Antiwar Military History?
Some years ago, Robert Fulghum wrote a simple credo that became famous: "All I ever really needed to know I learned in kindergarten." I suspect that many Americans of my generation could say, with equal sincerity and even greater accuracy, "All I ever really needed to know I learned from Star Trek ."

My next entry in the Encyclopedia of War and American Society concerns General Orders 100, better known as Lieber's Code. Published by the U.S. War Department in the middle of the Civil War, General Orders 100 has the distinction of being the world's first official set of ethical guidelines concerning military conduct in the field. When I first began thinking about the entry, a snatch of Star Trek dialogue ran through my head. "There are rules, even in war."

At first the words were comforting. It took me a moment to think of the context. The phrase was spoken by Leonard McCoy, chief medical officer of the Enterprise. That checked--of the three principal characters in the series, Kirk, Spock, and McCoy, McCoy was the one who most closely embodied humanity.

But then I realized that the episode in which he uttered them was "Day of the Dove." In it, an alien entity that feeds on violent emotion provokes combat between the Enterprise crew and a crew of Klingons and then harvests sustenance from the resulting fury and hatred. The "rules even in war" utterance occurs at a point where McCoy, treating a crewman wounded in a melee, looks down at the hapless man and snarls, "Those filthy butchers. There are rules, even in war. You don't keep hacking at a man after he's down."

There may be rules, even in war. But here the rules are invoked not to restrain the violence, but to justify a sense that the enemy is demonic and restraint would be folly. A bit later in the episode, when Kirk and Spock first awake to the reality that a malevolent entity has created the crisis and forms the real threat, McCoy is outraged to hear them suggest the wisdom of a truce with the Klingons.

"A truce?! Are you serious? I've got men in sick bay, some of them dying, atrocities committed on their persons. And you talk about making peace with these fiends? Why, if our backs were turned they'd jump us in a minute. And you know what Klingons do to prisoners. Slave labor. Death planets. Experiments. While you're talking they're planning attacks. This is a fight to the death, and we'd better start trying to win it!"

In the episode, Spock's logic and Kirk's determination carry the day. A truce is, heroically, arranged, and together the Federation and Klingon crewmen literally laugh the alien entity off the ship. But thinking again on "rules, even in war," I couldn't help but wonder if McCoy's exploitation of the phrase to legitimate slaughter carried the real truth of the drama. When I picked up General Orders 100 and read them again, it was with new eyes.
Left: McCoy in a different episode ("A Piece of the Action") cradles a weapon he would dearly love to have had available in "Day of the Dove."

Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3 - Part 4 - Part 5 - Part 6

Military Historians and the Portrayal of Combat - Pt 2
Monday, March 14, 2005, 01:11 PM - An Antiwar Military History?
A couple of days ago I wrote to a friend of mine, Lieutenant Colonel David "Scotty" Dawson, who is ABD [All But Dissertation] in the OSU military history program but currently a Marine Corps reservist on active duty. I told him about an exchange I'd had with a combat veteran in which I expressed a sense of embarrassment about writing so closely in my last book, And Keep Moving On: The Virginia Campaign, May-June 1864 , about the experience of combat. I wondered if my attempt to depict combat would seem in some way tasteless. The veteran assured me that, on the contrary, he and other veterans were honored when historians tried their best to get at the realities of combat.

"I had a funny reaction when I read that email, " I wrote Scotty. "Something let go in me and I just cried. I still do not understand my reaction, but it was very powerful. I guess that's why I wanted to share the exchange with you, because I think you're one of the few people who know me well enough to maybe have some insight into it."

Scotty replied:

While I've been in a combat zone a couple of times, and I even have the Combat Action Ribbon, which I guess officially makes me a combat veteran, I don't consider myself to have seen real combat. One of my academic interests has been the nature of combat and what constitutes combat, and the psychological reaction to it.

Anyway, I have no doubt that your other correspondent has been in "combat" by anyone's definition. While you haven't been there, you academic training and personal experience have equipped you to understand how serious that experience is and, I would guess, has led you to feel somewhat lacking when compared to people who have "seen the elephant." (I feel the same way.) Your other correspondent has been through one of the most profound of human experiences and knows things about himself that most of us will never know. To have him defer to you probably brought these feelings out in you.

There are some obvious Christian parallels here, and I wouldn't dismiss them out of hand. I would note that there are a lot of experiences short of combat that are important and teach one about oneself - your experience in the NG [National Guard], for example, undoubtedly exposed you to a slice of American society most upper-middle class Americans don't meet, and also to the nature of real responsibility (if only in a limited way). At OSU, the lack of real world experience among my fellow grad students used to drive me up the wall - they were like Roman Catholic priests working on being marraige counsellors. I used to alienate them with one liners like "once you've sent someone to the brig, giving a student the F they deserve isn't a big deal," but the fact remains that most of them had led extremely sheltered lives and saw no reason to change that.

In response to the remarks previously posted in Part 1, Scotty wrote:

I think you're right about the reticence of veterans, especially when contrasted with the bravado of trainees (you've heard all the jodies) and the harsh dulling of sensibility experienced by many in combat. We also forget that there are a lot of different responses to combat - I've had a number of combat veterans, who were very nice and decent people, tell me that killing people was fun - but they don't share these feelings outside a very select group. Lots of vets are also able to put their experience behind them. We need to think in terms of a wide range of combat experiences and a wide range of responses to those experiences.


Part 1 - Part 3 (link not yet active)
4 comments 4 comments ( 77 views )   |  permalink


Next