June 07, 2007

Breaking Memo: Trapped in Fruitless Quagmire with Insurgents, President Considers Withdrawl

Oh, wait a minute. I might have read that too quickly.

It seems that the memo was from 1864, the President was Lincoln, and he told Meade to attack-attack-ATTACK until Lee's Army of Northern Virginia was destroyed, even as "peace Democrats" (gee, this sounds familiar) advocated for surrender and withdrawal.

I wonder if there is some sort of lesson to be learned here.... nah.

Posted by Confederate Yankee at June 7, 2007 06:14 PM

And as Lincoln knew, if we didn't fight them over there, we'd have to fight them over....

...oh, yeah.

Never mind.

Posted by: David Terrenoire at June 7, 2007 08:01 PM

If anyone has ever made a more ridiculous comparison of military situations as this one, I have never seen it.

Equating the US strategic position in 1864 with the situation in Iraq today is quite simply too silly for words. Please--you can do better than this.

Posted by: R. Stanton Scott at June 7, 2007 08:39 PM

And the memo you link to says nothing about attacking! Lincoln is simply observing that if Meade can "complete his work" and destroy Lee's army, the "rebellion will be over." It says nothing about how to do so, and does not order him to "attack, attack, attack."

Do you do this on purpose, assuming that your readers will not click the link?

Or do you really believe that the memo you cite says this?

Your analytical thinking leaves a lot to be desired. No surprise from a "patriot" who worships the heritage of the only serious rebellion ever mounted against the nation I hold dear enough to have risked my life for.

Posted by: R. Stanton Scott at June 7, 2007 08:46 PM

Here's a good comparison of wars. I just can't believe the NYT printed it!

Posted by: jbiccum at June 7, 2007 08:57 PM

Maybe the memo is not a true parallel but there are some similarities between 1864 and 20xx. I put the 'xx' in there because we don't know when our '1864' will come.

The Union Big Three realized the key to winning was depriving the enemy of the will to fight. Today, our enemies are using similar tactics against us and using the media as their primary weapon. It's almost treasonous that the media is too stupid to see this.

Of course, this kind of stupidity in the media is not new. If you read Grant's and Sherman's memoirs, each complain about how the Union press would exaggerate every Confederate 'victory' (even if some battle wasn't one) and downplay any Union victory. The Confederates were victims, not enemies, so the northern press would say. The Confederacy counted on this hoping that the Union would just give up thinking that it's not worth the effort. Doesn't this sound familiar?

Thankfully, Lincoln listened to his generals.

Posted by: Brian at June 7, 2007 09:41 PM


To argue this on a blog limits us, but I'll try to respond to your major points.

The big difference is the use of asymmetrical warfare. The Confederacy surrendered. The officers persuaded their men in Virginia and North Carolina that guerilla war was not a choice.

That makes this a very different ball game.

People here in the south are fond of quoting a Confederate soldier who, when asked by a Union officer why he fought said, "Because you are here."

I think it's of some benefit to consider that response in our current occupation.

Posted by: David Terrenoire at June 7, 2007 09:56 PM

Here's the striking thing about Lincoln's note: he has some idea in his head about how the war could be brought to an end. As he writes, "If Gen. Meade can complete his work so gloriously prosecuted thus far, by the litteral (sic) or substantial destruction of Lee’s army, the rebellion will be over."

If I heard something so forthright from our own Commander-in-Chief, I think I would have a heart attack and die from the surprise. No such luck, though: all we get is vague metaphors about standing up and standing down, or, better still, the President's vision that America's involvement in Iraq will be based on the Korean model, which will have us in Baghdad for over fifty more years.

Second of all, Lincoln was right: with Lee's surrender, the war effectively came to an end. There were still Rebel troops in the field, but the Confederacy, as a military force, ground to a halt at Appomattox Courthouse. In contrast, when was the last time we heard Bush display the same kind of solid knowledge of the course of the war? Not recently, and that's putting it charitably.

It would be best not to compare Mr. Bush with Mr. Lincoln, explicitly or implicitly. Lincoln was, conceivably, the greatest American of the nineteenth century. As a specimen of what our country can turn out, Bush isn't fit to carry Lincoln's stovepipe hat.

Posted by: Doc Washboard at June 7, 2007 11:59 PM

"all we get is vague metaphors about standing up and standing down, or, better still, the President's vision that America's involvement in Iraq will be based on the Korean model, which will have us in Baghdad for over fifty more years."

That's simply because they have no idea how to finish this war. Every strategic option available leads to a loss;

1) Ongoing "stay the course" policy : Further alienation of all groups except Kurds. Continued and steady attacks on US forces and civilians. Weak central government. Effective failed state providing terrorist breeding ground.

2) Harsh measures (A-la Fallujha) same problems, but faster.

3) Total withdrawl. Total loss of influence for the US, probably widespread bloodshed.

4) Country becomes peaceful. Parliament demands US troop withdrawl. Effective Iranian Ally.

5) Country breaks up. Turks at war with Kurdistan, Sunnis at war with Shia. Shia in bed with Iran in the South.

There just isn't a genuinely acceptable outcome from the US perspective. Either you lose Iraq to the Iranian sphere of influence, or you get a constant insurgency and continue to pour money into a black hole for all time.

Hard to be specific about your victory in such a circumstance.

That's why there is a grand difference between the US civil war and this one. In the US civil war there was an acceptable conclusion available.

Posted by: Rafar at June 8, 2007 03:46 AM


True; and that's our biggest problem. The enemy stays low because they cannot beat us face to face, force to force. They stay low and wait for the storm to pass then emerge and fight the only way they know how. If we can figure out how to beat that strategy, that would solve a lot of problems.

Posted by: Brian at June 8, 2007 05:45 AM


Some folks don't like your post none too much.

Obviously, these are two different wars w/ only a few parallels, but the main lesson from both wars, and the presidents involved is PRESS ON. Never give up. Never surrender. I believe this attitude also served churchill very well (yes, yes. a war with few parallels to this one).

While I believe that Mr. Lincoln did not have the moral or legal authority to wage that war, I admire his tenacity and fortitude in the face of CONSTANT scorn, incompetence and defeatism. Even Mr. Lincoln's own Gen. McClellan called him "the original gorilla; incompetent as ever" and "a facille fellow in desperate need of an intellect."

And, as you pointed out, both presidents had/have petulent and seditious factions of the media (and populous) to contend with.

PRESS ON. Never give up. Never surrender.

There is nothing new under the sun.

But, how long before the political tools in the msm question the ~timing of this memo??


Posted by: locomotivebreath1901 at June 8, 2007 09:28 AM

"PRESS ON. Never give up. Never surrender."

almost almost right

we have to take out the stops and git er done

if we cant do that may as well bring our boys home

its better to leave in disgrace than to leave our boys there with one hand tied

Posted by: Karl at June 8, 2007 10:05 AM

"we have to take out the stops and git er done"

I'm curious. What sort of steps would you like to see in Iraq?

Posted by: Rafar at June 8, 2007 01:50 PM

I think it is very inaccurate to say that the Civil War ended because Lee surrendered. In fact, what brought victory in the Civil War is exactly what is missing from the war in Iraq: fighting with the ferocity required in war. It may leave a bad taste in the mouth, but the fact of the matter is that the South was defeated because Sherman burnt it to the ground and because Grant attacked with all the resources available to him by the Northern industrial powerhouse, the Germans were defeated because the Allies bombed them into oblivion. The single deadliest mistake the west has made in the Middle East is to fight small scale conflicts (and through the lens of history, even Iraq is small-scale) without striving for absolute victory (think of Israel and the Arabs: innumerable cease-fires = innumerable casualties). Far from advocating the carpet bombing of civilians, I think it is quite clear that if the violent insurgents are to be beaten, they must be massacred on the battlefield and pursued with unyielding rage. This is war. People kill eachother, die and suffer and it is only justifiable if, in the end, lasting peace is achieved. The terrorists must be "cured" of their desire for war, in the same way the South was cured (the South will NEVER rise again).

Sherman said it first, to attempt to make war clean and easy will only result in embarassment and defeat. Lincoln did not make that mistake, Churchill did not make that mistake, Bush IS making that mistake.

Posted by: K-Det at June 8, 2007 02:39 PM

"While I believe that Mr. Lincoln did not have the moral or legal authority to wage that war, I admire his tenacity and fortitude in the face of CONSTANT scorn, incompetence and defeatism."

What a silly statement? Could you point out anywhere in the Constitution where it says states are allowed to secede? Strangely, it does mention rebellions and how to quash, legally, the United States Congress authorized an Army and gave the President permission to go to war. Sounds like it was legal to me.

Moral authority? Preserving the Union not good enough for you, eh? How about the ending slavery? Not persuasive? Well, if the future of your country is not that important and the enslavement of millions, then, locomative, I'm afraid you don't understand the term "moral."

I cannot believe there are still Southern apologists 150 years after the war. This is a settled question....seriously, it makes the objective reader question your judgment, and I think that's unfortunate.

Posted by: timb at June 8, 2007 03:28 PM


Notice that I pointed out that Confederate armies were still in the field, and that I said that "the Confederacy, as a military force, ground to a halt at Appomattox Courthouse." While Lee's surrender didn't automatically mean that the entire Confederacy was surrendering in a USS Missouri-like fell swoop, Lee's army was a major target near the end of the war, and it was clear to the Union (as evidenced by Lincoln's letter) that a surrender by Lee would take the wind out of the South's sails.

Posted by: Doc Washboard at June 8, 2007 07:13 PM

The South did engage in some guerilla activities during the war (ie: Quantrill's raiders) but after
the war, the likes of General Nathan Bedford Forrest organized the KKK (a militia/death squad)
or sorts; as was the Knights of Carnelia. They focused mainly on the civilian population; and their efforts wore down the American's patients for continuing the occupation. A reality, hat came
in handy in 1876; when they terrorized enough civilians; to make the election close enough to
settle in the Compromise of 1877; which was the
beginning of the Jim Crow era under the Bourbon

Posted by: narciso at June 9, 2007 12:53 AM