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Unexamined Premises

 

Unconditional Surrender

Unconditional Surrender.

The Weekly Standard has a timely piece out today, commemorating the 150th anniversary of Ulysses S. Grant’s appointment by President Lincoln to command the Union armies; as the story by Geoffrey Norman notes, Grant was only the third man in American history to attain the rank of Lieutenant General (three stars), after George Washington and (a brevet commission) Winfield Scott:

 He arrived without ceremony. No pomp, no pageantry. It was as far in spirit from Caesar’s entry into Rome as it could possibly have been. He had come to Washington to be made only the third lieutenant general in the nation’s history (George Washington and Winfield Scott were the others) and to assume command of all the Union armies and, consequently, the direction of the war from Texas to Virginia. He was being asked—commanded, actually—by civilian leadership to save the Republic…

Grant may not have come face to face with Lee, but he had learned, much earlier in the war, not to worry too much about the man on the other side of the hill, whoever he was. That man was sure to have his own problems. He learned this lesson after his first action in the war and recalled that the enemy commander “had been as much afraid of me as I had been of him .  .  . a view of the question I had never taken before but it was one I never forgot afterwards. .  .  . Even to the close of the war, I never experienced trepidation upon confronting an enemy, though I always felt more or less anxiety. I never forgot that he had as much reason to fear my forces as I had his.” The lesson was valuable.

Stonewall Jackson had once said much the same thing, in fewer words, to an excited subordinate: “Do not take counsel of your fears.”

The Republic was finally saved when Lincoln found Grant, the one man besides himself who understood that if the Union was to be preserved, then the only way to attain that end was through complete and total victory. Which led to the total warfare practiced by Grant and his able deputy, Sherman. The most merciful way to wage warfare is overwhelmingly, until the opponent’s means and will to fight are broken; the only acceptable exit strategy is the unconditional surrender of the enemy. Assuming that you can actually bring yourself to name the enemy and treat him as such.

There was a time when the U.S. used to fight that way, culminating in the total victory of World War II over the Germans (with considerable Russian help) and the Japanese. In the 73 years since the attack on Pearl Harbor, however, that lesson, so hard won, has been largely forgotten. The bogus “virtue” of compassion and the military insanity of “proportionate response” have been allowed to infect command decision-making, with the sorry result that the wars in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan were allowed to drag on for a decade or more, to no good result. Vietnam was lost the day Congress pulled the plug on the South Vietnamese during the weak Ford Administration, and as for Iraq — left unfinished by Bush I, needlessly re-prosecuted by Bush II and botched by Obama — and Afghanistan, the less said the better. So much heroism to so little effect. Grant would have known how to finish all three of those wars, and saved countless American and foreign lives in the process.

The only stinkburger I can smell is the one wafting westward from Congress and the White House, and we’ll be enjoying the aroma for a long time to come.

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Top Rated Comments   
"Ho Che Minh was ready to negotiate terms of surrender."

Utterly ridiculous. LBJ never even demanded that North Vietnam surrender. LBJ didn't want North Vietnam to surrender. What the hell would LBJ have done with all of them if they surrendered to American troops? LBJ just wanted North Vietman to stop supporting the VC and if North Vietnam had agreed to that, well quess what, it would have only been for a limited time.

"the Tet offensive failed (and it failed miserably)"

Tet was not something that "failed miserably". LBJ and the Pentagon had told the American people that the enemy was not even capable any longer of mounting more than an occasional small local offensive and Tet (during 1968, the year of the Tet offensive, 14,000 were KIA) showed the American people that LBJ and the Pentagon had been bald faced lying to them and for years, and that put the "writing on the wall".
21 weeks ago
21 weeks ago Link To Comment
How I stumbled and fumbled when a simple man, a young black mechanic, asked me, "So what are we doing there?"

Right to the heart of the matter.
That was during my rah-rah phase.

Actually, a favorite fantasy is still Bush announcing that the bomber fleet is on the way, with Mecca as the first target... he then leans forward, with a murderous stare, and says, "NOW dance, motherf****ers"
21 weeks ago
21 weeks ago Link To Comment
"Vietnam was lost the day Congress pulled the plug on the South Vietnamese during the weak Ford Administration"

That's not what the U.S. Army War College and H.R. McMaster have said.

An excerpt from the U.S. Army War College Quarterly - Winter 1996-1997: "The leaders of the United States in the crucial years of the early and mid-1960s failed to come up with a strategy that would produce victory. Instead, they simply poured in more and more US troops and materiel into South Vietnam. They misled the public by insisting we were winning the war and thereby prepared the war for defeatism and demagoguery later on. The American people could not be expected to continue indefinitely to support a war in which they were told victory was around the corner, but which required greater and greater effort without any obvious signs of improvement.

Norman Podhoretz, who believes that American intervention in the Vietnam War was “an attempt born of noble ideals and impulses,” has concluded that “the only way the United States could have avoided defeat in Vietnam was by staying out of the war altogether.” His judgment, in retrospect, appears to be as reasonable as any. The United States intervened in the Vietnam War on behalf of a weak and incompetent ally, and it pursued a conventional military victory against a wily, elusive, and extraordinarily determined opponent who shifted to ultimately decisive conventional military operations only after inevitable American political exhaustion undermined potentially decisive US military responses. Even had the United States attained a conclusive military decision, its cost would have exceeded any possible benefit. Vietnam was then, and remains today, a strategic backwater, and the US decision to fight there in the 1960s was driven by a doctrine of containing communism that in the 1950s was witlessly militarized and indiscriminately extended to all of Asia. Bernard Brodie observed in the early 1970s that “it is now clear what we mean by calling the United States intervention in Vietnam a failure. We mean that at least as early as the beginning of 1968 even the most favorable outcome could not remotely be worth the price we would have paid for it.”
*
"The [Vietnam] war was only made possible through lies and deceptions aimed at the American public, Congress, and members of Lyndon Johnson’s own administration. Contrary to Robert McNamara’s claims of ignorance and overconfidence during the period 1963-1965, the record proves that he and others were men who not only should have known better, but who did know better. These men and the decisions they made during those crucial months mired the United States in a costly war that could not be won at a cost acceptable to the American public"
- H.R. McMaster, author of “Dereliction of Duty: Lyndon Johnson, Robert McNamara, The Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Lies that Led to Vietnam.” graduated from West Point in 1984. He has taught at West Point and received his Ph.D. in military history from the University of North Carolina in 1996.


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21 weeks ago
21 weeks ago Link To Comment
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All Comments   (55)
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Notice how the president spends a lot of time in places where people haven't fully developed their political ideas (or lived in the real world on their own for very long) or military bases where booing the president isn't the best idea of the century?
21 weeks ago
21 weeks ago Link To Comment
Amen amen amen. Too many "leaders" don't know the first rule about fighting. Which is when in a fight fight until the other side quits.

And I am proud of you for making the Nam point. Far too often ignored.
21 weeks ago
21 weeks ago Link To Comment
I wish one day that the USA stops in its tracks and starts to retreat into itself again. To heal itself. To strengthen its economy and its military. To rebuild its culture and society. To not give anyone reason to fear it. But, in case there is a country or a people that does not fear it or ignores it own self interest, to be faced with complete and total destruction. "Bombed back into the stone-age" if you will as I think General Curtis Lemay once said.
No "occupation", no "boots on the ground", no "nation rebuilding". Just complete and utter devastation. Let those peoples or country suffer for the arrogance of their leaders. If there are Americans that would whimper over "propotionate response", send an EMP and shut everything down and let the population deal with its leaders.
How did we ever get to a point where absolute surrender was NOT THE POINT? Call me crazy, I guess.
21 weeks ago
21 weeks ago Link To Comment
Is anyone here at PJM aware of Sheriff Arpaio's criminal investigation and "universe -shattering" evidence?

Anyone? Bueller?
No?
That's a real stinkburger!

Shame on you PJM and commenters!
21 weeks ago
21 weeks ago Link To Comment
You're way off-topic here. Please let us all know when Sheriff Joe comes up some real evidence.
21 weeks ago
21 weeks ago Link To Comment
America's greatest General was Lee....and a slew of his underlings.
21 weeks ago
21 weeks ago Link To Comment
Most of my lineal ancestors served in Wright's Brigade, Anderson's Division, Longstreet's Wing then Hill's Corps, Lee's Army, so I know a bit about this subject.

Grant and Sherman WON the damned war! They won it by understanding modern warfare as warfare had come to be defined in the 1860s. Lee was a masterful leader; his men would have charged Hell with a penknife for him. But, Lee won battles, at least until the end, and Grant won The War.

Lee never had or even attempted to have an overall strategic view of The War. Granted: it wasn't his job until the very end when it was hopeless. Lee was the commander of the Army of Northern Virginia and Lee protected Northern Virginia superbly as long as he had the resources to protect it. When Lee could not longer protect Northern Virginia and attempted to lead his Army to the hinterlands, he found that the hinterlands had been denuded of Confederate assets and there was no sustenance and little support for his Army.

Lee brought the "flower of Southern manhood" to the ANV, and left the other armies with what was left. Were that not bad enough, Lee cast off those he found "inconvenient" to the other Armies. When Georgia Governor Joe Brown demanded Gen. Johnston's head for his ceding so much of Georgia to Sherman, Lee offered up John Bell Hood who should have been discharged for disability. Instead of Johnston's slow, calculated resistance to Sherman as he tried to keep Atlanta in Confederate hand until the '64 election, the Confederacy got Hood's aggression, and he wildly threw his Army against Sherman and utterly destroyed it. Sherman presented Atlanta to the Union and ushered in a second Lincoln term. I don't think The South could have won The War under any circumstances, but any hope that it might have had was finished with the fall of Atlanta and Lincoln's re-election. If that weren't enough the laudanum-addled Hood simply finished off his Army at Franklin, TN with charge after stupid charge. So much for the Lower South.

So, you want to define "greatest general." Lee was a superb battlefield commander. Grant won the War; Lee didn't.
21 weeks ago
21 weeks ago Link To Comment
I recently viewed a cable TV produced program on Lee and Grant that summed up this discussion rather succinctly. Paraphrasing, if you wanted a brilliant tactical general, select Lee; if you wanted a brilliant strategic thinker, select Grant. I agree with this assessment but would add that Grant wasn't much of a slouch tactically, either.
21 weeks ago
21 weeks ago Link To Comment
>> I don't think The South could have won The War under any circumstances

All it had to do was not lose. What good did invading Maryland and Pennsylvania do for the Southern cause?

Longstreet was the best battlefield commander on either side. As for generalship, Vicksburg and Chattanooga were masterful, as was the chase of the ANV from the escape from Petersburg to Appomattox which Grant directed, not leaving the final chase to Meade who was the titular head of the army.
21 weeks ago
21 weeks ago Link To Comment
No general in history has ever dominated a battlefield so completely as Grant at Vicksburg. It took years before it was really understood what really happened there.
21 weeks ago
21 weeks ago Link To Comment
"Gravitas" used to be so important to the lefties, once, for about five minutes!

Obama uses childish, low-brow rhetoric because he has a childish, low-brow mind. He's middle-management smart, at best.So this black Babbitt says stuff like:
"all wee-wee'd up"
“[Republicans] can come for the ride, but they gotta sit in back.”
"But I don't want the folks who created the mess to do a lot of talking. . . . I don't mind cleaning up after them, but don't do a lot of talking."

Mussolini for Morons is a good affirmative-action intellectual -- meaning, no intellectual at all.
21 weeks ago
21 weeks ago Link To Comment
and he has to talk in terms his base can understand.
21 weeks ago
21 weeks ago Link To Comment
Winning the hearts and minds of the enemy is the cowards way to fight a war. Death and distruction along with total surrender works much better.
21 weeks ago
21 weeks ago Link To Comment
Someone whose initials are 'B.O.' shouldn't be throwing terms like 'stinkburger' about willy nilly.
21 weeks ago
21 weeks ago Link To Comment
B.O. leading our troops from a position of weakness, of not believing in the mission and hampering them at any aspect of letting them win.

Frank contrast to Grant, Sherman and others, that knew that war is hell, and the best way to win it, is to wreck that hell on the enemy and try to make the war as terrible as possible for the enemy, which is the best way to make the war the least terrible for your own troops, because they then have a clear cut mission to win. None of this B.S. by B.O. about declaring a war over with no clear winner.
21 weeks ago
21 weeks ago Link To Comment
"Style over substance" sums up way too much anymore.
............
What might be particularly distressing is that the ____-in-WH will remain comfortably secure, untouched, and unaccountable in a kevlar bubble wrap cocoon the rest of his life paid for by the taxpayer victims of his _____ and with $Ms coming in from his hidden supporters, sycophants, idolaters, and enablers. Using our tax dollars will the U.N. make him SecGen just to spite us? I was so looking forward to his absence from the news. Dignity - shignity. His disdain for America is deeply frightening.
21 weeks ago
21 weeks ago Link To Comment
We will be paying for his luxuries for the rest of his life.
How he must delight in that.
21 weeks ago
21 weeks ago Link To Comment
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