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Spengler

More Killing, Please!

July 27th, 2014 - 5:57 am

From Asia Times Online, June 12, 2003

There’s really nothing to add to what I wrote 11 years ago.

SPENGLER
More killing, please!

“I think people are sick of [killing],” said President George W Bush of the Israeli-Palestinian war. The contrary may be true. People may want the killing to continue for quite some time, as the Palestinian radical organizations suggest. A recurring theme in the history of war is that most of the killing typically occurs long after rational calculation would call for the surrender of the losing side.

Think of the Japanese after Okinawa, the Germans after the Battle of the Bulge, or the final phase of the Peloponnesian War, the Thirty Years War, or the Hundred Years War. Across epochs and cultures, blood has flown in proportion inverse to the hope of victory. Perhaps what the Middle East requires in order to achieve a peace settlement is not less killing, but more.

Mut der Verzweiflung, as the Germans call it, courage borne of desperation, arises not from the delusion that victory is possible, but rather from the conviction that death is preferable to surrender. Wars of this sort end long after one side has been defeated, namely when enough of the diehards have been killed.

Don’t blame the president’s provincialism. This has nothing to do with Bushido, Nazi fanaticism or other exotic ideologies. The most compelling case of Mut der Verzweiflung can be found in Bush’s own back yard, during the American Civil War of 1861-1865. The Southern cause was lost after Major General Ulysses S Grant took Vicksburg and General George G Meade repelled General Robert E Lee at Gettysburg in July 1863. With Union forces in control of the Mississippi River, the main artery of Southern commerce, and without the prospect of a breakout to the North, the Confederacy of slaveholding states faced inevitable strangulation by the vastly superior forces of the North.

Nonetheless, the South fought on for another 18 months. Between Gettysburg and Vicksburg, the two decisive battles of the war fought within the same week, 100,000 men had died, bringing the total number of deaths in major battles to more than a quarter of a million. Another 200,000 soldiers would die before Lee surrendered to Grant at Appomattox in April 1865. The chart below shows the cumulative number of Civil War casualties as the major battles of the war proceeded.

The chart is demarcated into sections labeled “Hope” (prior to Gettysburg and Vicksburg) and “No Hope”. Geometers will recognize a so-called S-curve in which the pace of killing accelerates immediately after Gettysburg and Vickburg and remains steep through the Battle of Cold Harbor, before leveling off in the last months of the war. Not only did half the casualties occur after the war was lost by the South, but the speed at which casualties occurred sharply accelerated. The killing slowed after the South had bled nearly to death, with many regiments unable to field more than a handful of men.

In all, one-quarter of military age Southern manhood died in the field, by far the greatest sacrifice ever offered up by a modern nation in war. General W T Sherman, the scourge of the South, explained why this would occur in advance. There existed 300,000 fanatics in the South who knew nothing but hunting, drinking, gambling and dueling, a class who benefited from slavery and would rather die than work for a living. To end the war, Sherman stated on numerous occasions these 300,000 had to be killed. Evidently Sherman was right. For all the wasteful slaughter of the last 18 months of the war, Southern commander Lee barely could persuade his men to surrender in April 1865. The Confederate president, Jefferson Davis, called for guerilla war to continue, and Lee’s staff wanted to keep fighting. Lee barely avoided a drawn-out irregular war.

What will happen now in the Middle East? At the outbreak of the war, Grant and Sherman were unknown. They rose to command because the nerve of their predecessors snapped at the edge of the abyss. The character of the war was too horrible for them to contemplate. Bush’s nerve appears to have snapped, as I predicted ( Bush’s nerve is going to snap, March 4), “The danger is that America will find itself fighting a sort of Chechnyan war on a global scale. President George W Bush cannot wrap his mind around this,” I wrote then. “The blame lies at the doorstep of the neo-conservative war-hawks who persuaded the president that America should undertake a democratizing mission among a people who never once voted for their own leaders.”

For that matter, Ariel Sharon’s claim before last week’s Likud party congress that Israel had achieved victory against terrorism was both accurate and misleading. Wars do not end when they are won, but when those who want to fight to the death find their wish has been granted. Sherman’s 300,000 fanatics could not face the mediocre circumstances of a South without slaves and were willing to die for their way of life.

Three million Palestinians packed into a narrow strip of land one day may accept the modest fate of a small and impecunious people, but their young people do not seem ready to do so. We do not know how many ever will. The killing will continue for some time before we find out. 

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Top Rated Comments   
Impecunious? In a rational (not Judeophobic) world it would be an interesting experiment to end all foreign aid to the Palestinians in order to see if their resentful desire to keep killing Jews/sacrificing own for the cameras could overcome the collapse of the patronage networks in which it is currently located.
17 weeks ago
17 weeks ago Link To Comment
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All Comments   (13)
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As a side note: If I remember correctly General Philip Sheridan's experience with Confederate sympathizers and "Partisans" during the Shenandoah Valley campaign left him with a life long hatred of irregulars. His solution was to kill them, destroy their livelihood, no catch and release. When he was a military observer during the Franco-Prussian war he told the Prussians they were being to soft on the Partisans.
17 weeks ago
17 weeks ago Link To Comment
David -- I am not sure I agree. The amount of time between the Battle of the Bulge and the final collapse was not all that great (less than 6 months). It was also possible that the Germans were sending out feelers to end the War in the West, but continue the fight against the Soviets. As for the American Civil War, the Confederacy may have held out for better terms, like the continuation of some sort of truncated slavery. Even with the end of slavery, the hostility of Southern whites may have encouraged the North to throw the Negroes "under the bus", in order facilitate national reconciliation.

As far as Hamas is concerned, it seems that their strategy makes sense if they put pressure on guys like Abbas, and King Abdullah. If Hezbollah joined the fray, Hamas might actually end up politically stronger than from where they started.
As for the respondent who argued about German propaganda highlighting civilian casualties, there is no way that such information would have gotten through the allied censorship.
17 weeks ago
17 weeks ago Link To Comment
With considerable effort, R. E. Lee persuaded his officers to surrender rather than retreat into guerilla warfare -- so great was Confederate fanaticism. The courage and capacity of self-sacrifice for the South was astonishing as it was motivated by a wicked purpose. The Civil War case seems clear-cut to me. In World War II one could argue that the Germans took more casualties when they retreated than when they advanced.
17 weeks ago
17 weeks ago Link To Comment
Impecunious? In a rational (not Judeophobic) world it would be an interesting experiment to end all foreign aid to the Palestinians in order to see if their resentful desire to keep killing Jews/sacrificing own for the cameras could overcome the collapse of the patronage networks in which it is currently located.
17 weeks ago
17 weeks ago Link To Comment
Brilliant and provocative. More was entailed with the Germans of WW II than Hitler's fanaticism, i.e., it too as a historical background. But first I do want to raise a question re a diff. between your examples and the current Israeli offensive. The Japanese, Germans and Southern Army did not just fight to the end, but were ended by the fight, eventually lost causing much death. Many times, particularly after watching documentaries about the bombing of German cities and the terrible civilian destruction (ca. 500,000+ civilians killed), I think to myself: What if CBS, NBC, Life, Time, etc. had had reporters filming or describing sympathetically all that suffering, e.g., the destruction of Hamburg and its firestorms? What if? Would such massive destruction (collateral necessity to WW II) not have had an inhibitory effect upon the American public's willing to fight, not to speak upon the American bomber pilots (and some documentaries in German tv suggest that years after the war some aged Allied pilots now do have guilt feelings)? I wonder if the then American willingness to use the necessary military force might have been diminised some or alot. Mensch, a camera team of Goebels could have really invoked sympathy for the "German people" being DISproportiantely attacked by the Allies. In other words, a sympathetic reporter might hide the fact that the then "German People" suffer because of their then lethal leaders. What I have driving at is: I see reports in the US press, here in Germany and in some European press -- all pushing a "bleeding-heart" description of quite real sufferings by the "Palestinian people" WITHOUT, as was done in WW II, making it clear anything about the genocidal nature of their leaders. Could it happen that the Israeli offensive might be beaten by sympathy, viz., by the effects of public's identification with the "Palestinian people" while forgetting their leaders? I think Kerry has already played that tune. Here I see a possible difference between the examples mentioned in the article and the current situation of Israel. The article's title is "More Killing, please". Killing, viz., military interventions with collateral death is only possible if the active source is not persuaded, viz., pressured to stop because of sympathy for the losers.

The case of Germany in WW II is related to Germany of WW I. In a recent many part series on WW I ("Weltbrand"), with color in the film, various young soldiers were examined, e.g., of course Hitler, but of interest De Gaullle, Patton and Walter Model (later to be a Feldmarschalol in WW II). Because Germany surrendered before a definitive defeat of the Kaiser's army and because the surrender was interpreted as a "Stab in the Back" (and we know by whom), many German military (from Private Hitler to Lt. Model) held to the explanation that the military had just not held out ("Durchhaltemythe"), had been forced to give up. (Churchill was right about unconditional surrender being necessary so tha the myth of non-defeat would not repeat itself. Even when Model, surrounded in 1945 with 350k soldiers in the Ruhr, was asked to surrender, he refused, refusal not possible for a Feldmarschall. He did differ, however from Feldmarshall Paulus in Stalingrad, who obeyed Hitler to the bitter end, i.e., Model disbanded his army and shot himself. Reading Anna Geifman's "La Mort sera votre Dieu. Du nihilisme russe au terrorisme islamiste", I surmise that the nihilism she speaks of is more interested in death per se than even in victory. Killing or being killed, it is death that is sought. Unformutally Geifman has little to say about the Nazis. Himmler made it clear that the BATTLE, not the victory is real life. And I begin to think that, wlell, maybe the Hamas nihilists want "real" life, namely death. Period!
17 weeks ago
17 weeks ago Link To Comment
There's always a danger that public abhorrence can turn victory into defeat, as in the Algerian War of the 1950s or Vietnam during the 1960s. The Israeli public is in no danger of falling into this trap, I would think.
17 weeks ago
17 weeks ago Link To Comment
The men of the second world war had clear and lucid memories of WW1. The culture of that time was steeped in unadulterated hardcore christian religion. The family unit was still in its primacy.

Men were MEN. And their women demanded that they performed their duties to GOD, Family and country. Because women back then understood that the survival of their children depended upon it.
17 weeks ago
17 weeks ago Link To Comment
Even with cameras in the German cities, the American and British publics would not have suffered the white guilt they do today, though they might have been marginally more sympathetic/their lust for revenge sated earlier. White guilt stems from the idea that now we are acting like the Nazis against some innocent "Jews", as if all forms of alleged racism can be deemed just like antisemitism. As if every "victim" group can replace the Jews. To have white guilt, like today's, first you must stew over the Holocaust and Hiroshima for a couple of decades, before you lose the ability to think seriously about ending wars by defeating a savage, anti-civilizational enemy, instead of calling on the Palestinians to sacrifice enough blood that we can declare them the moral and "world community"- imposed winners.
17 weeks ago
17 weeks ago Link To Comment
Unfortunately, the Arabs are not sick of the killing by a long shot. If the Western news media would focus on what is really important in the region, in fact decisive for its future, it is not Gaza. The Islamic State in Syria and Iraq recently fought a battle in the town of Raqqa in eastern Syria, where they threw out the remnants of the Syrian army and its paramilitary supporters. From the reports it appears that 300 soldiers and other fighters were shot and killed, many beheaded, with their severed heads paraded around after the victory.

Would the BBC like to comment on the significance of that episode? Do they understand what that means? It means ISIS will be moving on Damascus quite soon, and may eventually sack the current "secular" government there.

These type of people, of which Hamas is one small part, are not at all sick of the killing. They are enjoying it because at the end of it all, they expect to be ruling large pieces of territory where there were once phony, European-created Arab states and the not phony, not European-created State of Israel. Hamas, unfortunately for its deluded leaders and followers, will be stuck in their little ruined enclave or will be strung up. The others may be sitting soon in Damascus.
17 weeks ago
17 weeks ago Link To Comment
Posters should be popping up all over Israel that say,

DAYAN! We need you!

The time is now. Turn the "Palestinian" into a Lybian push the borders out to a more defensible shape. The set off a nuke in the Sinai just to show that you mean it.

And for Gd's sake quit listening to the American govt no matter which party is in power.
17 weeks ago
17 weeks ago Link To Comment
Dayan may have been a hero for Israel but he made one tragic mistake
Due to his secular view of the conflict: he allowed
The Arabs to continue the administration of Temple Mount,
Even as the mufti offered to defer to Israeli control.
This one terrible decision of Dyan to cede control of
Judaism's most sacred Holy Place has cost Israel more
In Jewish Blood than any of his wartime accomplishments.
17 weeks ago
17 weeks ago Link To Comment
He is the symbol of Jewish determination. Sharon and he were human with all the character flaws in full view, but he drove the mud hut satan loving death cultists to tears and that is a great thing.

He made mistakes in that he listened to leftists like Ben Gurion and Levi Eshkol instead of follwing through to the defensible boarders he wanted.
17 weeks ago
17 weeks ago Link To Comment
“I think people are sick of [killing],” said President George W Bush of the Israeli-Palestinian war.

Bush being naive or Bush leaving the door open to better outcomes? Ditto his seemingly bizarre comment about Putin. I haven't been sure.
17 weeks ago
17 weeks ago Link To Comment
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