ARC's 1st Law: As a "progressive" online discussion grows longer, the probability of a nefarious reference to Karl Rove approaches one

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

General McClellan, if you are not going to use the Army, would you mind if I borrowed it? - A. Lincoln and War

This post is inspired by the Weekly Standard article by Ed Morrisey

That famous quote in the title of this post, uttered when General George McClellan failed to follow up on his victory over Robert E. Lee at the Battle of Antietam, probably more than any other, characterized Abraham Lincoln's attitude towards war. War was not to be trifled with. War was not something for which one sought public admiration. War was not something one dithered over. War was to be won.

When Lincoln appointed Joseph Hooker to command The Army of the Potomac, Lincoln said in a letter to the general that he was doing so not because of the things Hooker had previously said and done, but despite those things the general had said and done. Lincoln was willing to try anything, even appoint an insubordinate general to command the Union's largest, and most ineffective, army. Hooker had a reputation as a fighter, Fighting Joe Hooker. Lincoln was willing to give him a chance. (Today we mostly remember Hooker for the ladies who followed his army and live on in the name "Hookers" and less so for his calamatous defeat in the Virginia Wilderness.)

It took Lincoln quite some time to find the right combination of leadership that led to eventual victory. It came in the form of men like the alcoholic Grant, the dispeptic and depressive Sherman, the mad Irishman Sherridan, the gallant Reynolds, the hero of Round Top, Chamberlain, the taciturn Southerner who remained loyal, Thomas, and many others. It was men like my distant relative James Wilson engineer and later cavalry leader and fighting men like my great grandfather Johnson, a simple enlisted man, wounded at Antietam (ironically under the command of McClellan). It was they who turned the corner for the Union.

Lincoln reposed his trust, once gained, in these fighting men.

But, like Arlo Guthrie said in Alice's Retaurant, that's not what I came to talk with you about.

All the while Lincoln had to deal with the sniping he received from behind from the Copperheads, the "peace Democrats" of the North.

And that is what I came to talk with you about.

How would Lincoln deal with John Kerry (American troops are terrorizing Iraqi women and children), Howard Dean (this war can not be won), Nancy Pelosi and Murtha (we should immediately pull out), and guys who always have better ideas about how to do, or not do, things and how whatever you are doing is the wrong thing?

Lincoln let success on the battlefield speak for him.

Sherman famously said before setting out on the march to Savannah, "Make 'em howl." And make 'em howl he did. The "Great Lamp Lighter," leaving a trail of ashes and "Sherman's Hairpins" (rail road rails wrapped around telegraph posts), made a statement the enemy could not ignore. They were crushed. The war was over shortly thereafter.

What would the ever-so-sensitive Mr. Kerry have to say about Sherman?

It's a good thing there was not a 24/7 news cycle in Lincoln's day.

President Bush has done his best to emulate Lincoln, that is, he has tried to let success on the ground speak for him. He has tried to let the latter day Copperheads sink themselves. For months the president tried this approach relying on two hugely successful elections in Iraq, the comparatively modest military fatalities, just over 2000 (we lost about 4000 on D-Day alone, and 3000 on 9/11 and never mind Civil War era casualties such as Fredricksburg where there were 14,000 killed and wounded on the Union side in one day or Gettysburg where there were 25,000 killed on both sides in three days of fighting).

Like Lincoln, he has placed his trust in his ground commanders and left it to them to do the fighting with a mimumum of micro-management from across "The Pond." That trust seems well placed. These leaders appear to be both capable and aggressive.

But it has not been enough to satisfy our own Copperheads and their allies in the mainstream media.

Perhaps Bush should channel The Great Emacipator.

Now, isn't that odd, we remember him as The Great Emancipator. That was not his goal, at least not directly or initially. But it is as The Great Emancipator he is lovingly remembered. In sticking to his goal, the preservation of The Union, Lincoln achieved that preservation and a great deal more. And perhaps that too will be our legacy when we have secured Iraq's freedom and progress into the 21st century.

The election of 1864 was by no means a sure thing for Lincoln. The Democrats were headed by no less a personage than George McClellan, the deposed and failed leader of the Army of the Potmac. McClellan was beloved by the troops. But overwhelmingly the troops supported Lincoln despite the horrendous casualties they were sustaining. And like Bush, Lincoln carried the election.

Yet the media and the Copperheads keep up their attacks, undermining the war effort, and sniping at the president and his aides, and most deplorably of all, slandering our fighting men and women.

Bush has responded. I think old Abe would be pleased with this president. I think he would say, "Well done, George, now let's finish the job at hand, and to hell with these Copperhead fellows."

Your Co-Conspirator,
ARC: MontereyJohn

Comments (1)
desert Rat said...

As in 1864, the Democrats would rather see America lose a war than win with a Republican president.