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Editor's Note: In the interests of a vigorous debate, and giving folks a fair chance to respond, I have chosen to allow some forcefully worded posts to go forward, but I have also come to the conclusion that this debate is creating a great deal of heat while actually destroying light. I will therefore call for the last posts on this topic to be in by Friday, and I will put out a compilation of them on Monday, after that this thread is closed. 1st Reply: From: Kuehn, John T Dr CIV USA TRADOC <email@example.com> Subject: Re: REPLY: Laws of War (3) Date: March 15, 2010 6:33:31 PM EDT To: H-NET Military History Discussion List <H-WAR@H-NET.MSU.EDU> Martin Smith wrote: "I happened to have served, and I think that general "savagery" is apt, and many veterans would agree. .... RJD: have we forgotten the horrors of Vietnam? Have we forgotten that an estimated 1.4 million Vietnamese died; forgotten the air war that detonated over fifteen million tons of U.S. ordnance; forgotten that the military sprayed more than nineteen million gallons of deadly herbicides, including dioxins, which poisoned the country. " I was trying to stay out of this but this response seems a perfect opportunity to point out the use of the logical fallacy known as a "red herring." the red herring in this case being an emotional recitation of Vietnam horrors (with not context whatsover) in a disucssion, I thought, of the air campaign conducted by US forces most recently in 2003's Operation Iraqi Freedom. I do not see the obvious link, other than the phenomenon known as war and the fact that these two involved American--two wars that were almost 30 years apart, by the way. Next fallacy: Mr. Martin followed the above with: "Is that humanitarian?" When I was a doctroal student my major professor used to savage me for posing a "false dilemma" question. This is a legal rhetorical trick--if one says yes one is imply all those horrible unvalidated things in the preceding narrative are humanitarian. That would make one a "monster." If one says no one validates the horrible claims. I suspect we can construct any number of horrible things that the Khmer Rouge, Vietcong, or North Vietnamese did (torture for one, genocide in some other cases--remember Hue) and then put Mr. Martin's question right behind it. Were those things humanitarian. See the logical problems here. Finally, after being precisely NON-dispasstionate, and rhetorically subjective to boot, Mr. Martin writes this: "I think this listserve needs to return to a more dispassionate voice and scholarly inquiry. We could argue ad nauseum about such issues." Well, Okay. John T. Kuehn, Ph.D. CDR USN (ret) Associate Professor of Military History CGSC Ft Leavenworth "In good conscience we are eager to meet you frankly, and invite and offer cooperation….I can speak officially only for our United States. Our hundred millions frankly want less of armament and none of war." President Warren G. Harding, November 12, 1922 at the Washington Naval Conference 2nd Reply From: Terino, John Civ USAF AETC ACSC/DEW <John.Terino@MAXWELL.AF.MIL> Subject: RE: H-WAR Digest - 15 Mar 2010 (#2010-60) Date: March 16, 2010 12:43:56 PM EDT To: H-NET Military History Discussion List <H-WAR@H-NET.MSU.EDU> Once again, I must urge Mr. McIntosh to be correct in what he asserts and references in the context of this discussion. The book is titled "The Lessons of Terror: A History of Warfare Against Civilians: Why it has always failed, and why it will fail again" not "The Lessons of War" I agree, in general with the major point that you assert regarding that what has transpired in the distant past is relative to what has happened in the recent past and even today. So, it appears the essence of the discussion is twofold: 1) What happened long ago is relevant to what happens today and 2) The US is a practitioner of total war and influences how we fight today. Since I have already agreed with the first point, I will address the second. What is total war? Is there more than one relevant definition? If we take total war as meaning combat and conflict directed against the entirety of a state (political structure, industrial/economic structures, military organization, and the population as a whole), than I think it would be safe to argue that the United States has waged total war no more than 3 times. First, to defeat the Confederacy. Second, against many Native American tribes. Third, in World War II. And even in these cases, there are a lot of instances that argue that America's campaigns in these conflicts were not even in their conduct of total war. For instance, Sherman's march to the sea was not replicated throughout the South. The campaigns against the Native Americans waxed and waned in their level of totality. Even in World War II, as has been posted elsewhere on H-War recently, the issues regarding what racial prejudice did to change the motivation and conduct of fighting troops made the conduct of military actions at the tactical level different in Europe and the Pacific. the War of Independence, the War of 1812, the Mexican-American War, the Spanish-American War, World War I, the numerous excursions in the Caribbean and South America, Korea, Vietnam, Desert Storm, and even OEF, and OIF are difficult to describe as total wars against the military, civilians and political structures. Again, the caveat here must be based on the definition of total war. A war to defeat a government utterly can be accomplished without an accompanying campaign of desolation in the countryside or with the direct targeting of civilians. So the pertinent question regarding the posting and Mr. Carr's book is this, what about the conduct of recent American operations leads anybody to claim that actions in Iraq and Afghanistan are total. Is the United States indiscriminately targeting civilians? Is the United States deliberately targeting civilians? Are American military forces attempting to win at all costs? I would submit the answer to these questions is a definite "no." So how total are the objectives of the United States? It would appear from all the evidence available that the United States military has conducted its operations in Iraq and Afghanistan in a limited fashion. It has deliberately attempted to avoid destroying civilian infrastructure numerous times, it is currently refraining from exploiting indiscriminate use of airpower, it has been employing a level of precision targeting of airpower and artillery assets that is unprecedented in military history, and has deliberately established policies and procedures to allow civilians to evacuate areas where major operations would occur. Yes, the United States had stated goals of toppling governments, but it has not sought to completely deny civilians what is need for modern living (water, electricity, food) and it has not destroyed structures, roads, and factories indiscriminately. So, I am at a loss to figure out what is relevant regarding Mr. Carr's book to the issue at hand other than the outstandingly obvious to any historian, the relevance of the past to the present. How is the United States deliberately targeting civilians in this conflict with military force? Where is the body of evidence to support any contention that the United States is being particularly brutal, savage, or total in its operations in the Middle East? John Terino Air Command and Staff College Maxwell Air Force Base, AL 3rd Reply From: firstname.lastname@example.org Subject: Re: REPLY: Laws of War (3) Date: March 15, 2010 7:13:29 PM EDT To: H-NET Military History Discussion List <H-WAR@H-NET.MSU.EDU> Martin Smith wrote- <<have we forgotten the horrors of Vietnam? Have we forgotten that an estimated 1.4 million Vietnamese died; forgotten the air war that detonated over fifteen million tons of U.S. ordnance; forgotten that the military sprayed more than nineteen million gallons of deadly herbicides, including dioxins, which poisoned the country>> Given these questions were addressed to me specifically, I am obliged to answer as best I can. Ah yes, the horrors of Viet Nam. A war I studied starting about 1964, and in which I served in '68 in an unusually wide experience, where I have returned three times in the last four years to work on an underground charity for crippled ARVN veterans still facing official discrimination under communist rule (for them, their children and grandchildren), and which many of my VN friends left either after a sojourn in "re-education" or as Boat People, or both. Some of them double refugees, that is, having fled he North in '54, and then the South in '75 or thereafter. Their stories are ones to break your heart and leave you in stunned admiration of their survival drive. Actually, it was 1.4 MM Northerers who died, plus the 250K ARVN, plus the 30K+ Southerners assassinated by the VC, plus the other Southern civilians who died in crossfires or as collateral damage, plus the 4000+ murdered by the VC in Hue, plus the 50,000+ killed by deliberately aimed NVA shellfire on the roads during the final campaign that ended the war. But that's not the end of it, there are the 60K who were executed in the year after the fall of Saigon, and the 800K who spent from 3-18 years in re-education camps, where the death rate ran to about 30%. There were also thousands of deaths among the people uprooted from urban areas and forcibly relocated to "New Economic Zones", and lastly, there were thousands more deaths among those who were drafted to fight in subsequent campaigns in Laos and Cambodia. (We can leave out the thousands who died fighting the later Chinese invasion.) But the high infant death rate in the period 1975-85 due to the widespread malnutrition caused by the imposition of the unworkable communist economics on the country might also be attributed to the politburo. It becomes difficult for many of us to accept some idea that in fact the USA was the bad guy in this conflict, and that it was a good thing that the communist North managed, with tremendous aid from Russia and China, to "liberate" the South, after we reneged on the pledge made to the South in order to get them to accept the badly flawed Paris Accords. Particularly in light of the recent crackdown on any and all who have advocated democracy in Viet Nam, and the suppression of various religious institutions in both the Catholic and Buddhist populations. Viet Nam today is still a totalitarian country, where basic freedoms are not always observed, and the oligarchy of the families with members in the politburo is the real power, while rampant corruption contributes to the difficulties of much of the population. Yes, we bombed the country heavily, but the fact that we dropped four times as much tonnage on the congested population centers of Hanoi and Haiphong as fell on Dresden, and killed perhaps 1600 people compared to the 30,000+ in Dresden, is a dramatic a bit of evidence of how carefully those bombs were aimed as one could possibly ask for. (In another post, there was mention of American "savagery", which again is difficult to match up with such tremendous precision bombing specifically to avoid civilian casualties.) Not to neglect the "we poisoned the country forever" legend of herbicide use. The Ranch Hand 20 year study of the sizeable group of men who more than anyone else absorbed the trace element of dioxin (1 part in 2,000,000 in Orange, less in the other herbicides, absent altogether from some) demonstrated that there is in fact no statistically significant effect of their exposure. Political considerations have forced the VA to allow for numerical "association" of maladies with alleged exposure, which is a back door run around rigorous statistical analysis. Even the Vietnamese government has backed off their dramatic claims of herbicide effects, since it turns out that their incidence of birth defects puts them squarely in the middle of the distribution of such problems in 155 countries. They are now asking for millions of dollars to clean up the four "hotspots" where the herbicides were stored and distributed, which are the only areas (quite limited) where analysis shows an actual residue of chemicals in the soil. (Both the phenoxy-acetic acid derivatives that were combined to make up Orange were in use in the USA for years prior to the war, and one of them is still readily available at your local garden store and WalMart.) [In full disclosure, I should mention that my degrees are in Organic Chemistry, and I have a good grasp of basic Statistics, which I have used in my profession for many years, and have written numerous articles and also one book.] Yes, people have and continue to argue these matters, but as time has gone on, more of the real facts of the war have slowly emerged. The massive amount of misleading, biased, and sometimes simply false inputs about the war is only slowly coming under closer examination and effective rebuttals. There is no compelling of anyone to accept a different point of view on this controversial matter, but at the very least, it should defuse the kind of overemotional comment seen above. R J Del Vecchio 4th Reply From: email@example.com Subject: Re: REPLY: Laws of War (3) Date: March 15, 2010 9:45:42 PM EDT To: H-NET Military History Discussion List <H-WAR@H-NET.MSU.EDU> Mac McIntosh wrote- <<Mr Carr has as a major point in his book that what has transpired in the distant past is absolutely relative to the discussion of moden times and the behavior in the comparative recent past>> We are all entitled to our opinions, but I don't think the fact that the British Navy used to flog men to death on occasion during the Napoleonic Wars would be relative to a discussion of discipline in that navy today. The Romans crucified people on a very regular basis, but I don't think that has anything to do with the criminal justice system in Italy today. Nor do I consider it reasonable to say that the carpet bombing of Japanese cities in WW2 has some sort of close connection to what the US Air Force does today or has done in any of our conflicts during or since the Vietnam War. One could as easily say that since your great grandfather fought for the Confederacy, your attitudes about dissolving the Union absolutely must be influenced accordingly. Certainly there will be individuals among a large population that will have attitudes related to those of their fathers, grandfathers, and perhaps great grandfathers, but they are a minority in this society today. Were that not true, we could not have an African-American in the Oval Office. A last comment on savagery- the individual acts of combat can and often do revert to savagery, that is only to be expected under the stresses of immediate life&death situations. One form of PTSD is not related to what a person saw or suffered, but what they themselves did in the heat of combat. For a civilized, reasonably genteel person, the memories of absolute fury and mad dog ferocity that wound up with other human beings dead and blood on one's hands, literally or figuratively, can be haunting. Such things cannot be avoided altogether no matter what one wishes. But savagery as a policy is a very different thing, and that can be avoided. The two pages of current Rules of Engagement for our troops are solid testimony to our intensive attempts to avoid anything remotely like real savagery. It is puzzling that such controls are well known, as are the prosecutions of soldiers in incidents from Abu Ghraib to Haditha, yet some will still believe our military is not that different than the hordes of Ghengis Khan. R J Del Vecchio ----- Original Message ----- From: Scott Hendrix <hendsn1@GMAIL.COM> Date: Monday, March 15, 2010 16:24 Subject: REPLY: Laws of War (3) To: H-WAR@H-NET.MSU.EDU > 1st Reply > > From: Roger Helbig < > Subject: RE: REPLY: U.S. Bombing of Iraq (was Most Law Abiding Adversary) > Date: March 12, 2010 9:58:03 PM EST > To: H-NET Military History Discussion List < > > > > What might be most instructive is a scholarly approach that compares the > Russian attack on Grozny, Chechnya, the German attack on Warsaw, the US > battles in Fallujah, the Shock & Awe campaign that began the 2003 Iraq war, > the bombing of Taliban units and Tora Bora, Afghanistan in 2001, and perhaps > other bombing campaigns. I lead with Grozny, because I believe that the > internet is heavily suffused with claims that the US actions in Fallujah > were a Grozny like offensive that leveled the city. As RJD so carefully > points out, the B-52s did not rain bombs on Baghdad nor on Fallujah. > > Roger Helbig > > > > 2nd Reply > > From: Martin Smith < > Subject: Re: REPLY: U.S. Bombing of Iraq (was Most Law Abiding Adversary) > Date: March 12, 2010 11:01:16 PM EST > To: H-NET Military History Discussion List < > > > > I happened to have served, and I think that general "savagery" is apt, and > many veterans would agree. RJD writes, "the American military have > maintained and in fact steadily over decades increased their concern for > conducting warfare in as humanitarian fashion as possible." RJD: have we > forgotten the horrors of Vietnam? Have we forgotten that an estimated > 1.4 million Vietnamese died; forgotten the air war that detonated over > fifteen million tons of U.S. ordnance; forgotten that the military sprayed > more than nineteen million gallons of deadly herbicides, including dioxins, > which poisoned the country. Is that humanitarian? > > I think this listserve needs to return to a more dispassionate voice and > scholarly inquiry. We could argue ad nauseum about such issues. > > -Martin Smith, > > UIUC Doctoral Candidate > > > 3rd Reply > > From: Mac McIntosh < > Subject: : REPLY: U.S. Bombing of Iraq (was Most Law Abiding Adversary) > Date: March 12, 2010 11:42:22 PM EST > To: H-NET Military History Discussion List < > > Mr. Del Veccchio is somewhat quoting me out of context here , for I was relaying what Caleb Carr had to say about the U.S. Military in his book : The Lessons of War. And further to the point -- Mr Carr has as a major point in his book that what has transpired in the distant past is absolutely relative to the discussion of moden times and the behavior in the comparative recent past . The fact that I happen , on this particular point , agree with Mr. Carr and while I do not agree with all he has to say in his book -- I do think his book is quite relevant to the discussion at hand . Mr. Carr believes that what happened in the past is pertinent to the current situation as a rationale for why the U.S.A. fights as in does with total war as the guide. I too initially found Mr. Carr's words disturbing . At one time ,at least, I also was of the opinion that we must win at any cost. Let the military do what needs to be done -- after all it that not what war is all about . But having experience war and it's costs and having read Mr. Carr's book I am having a great many second thoughts. > > Mr. Del Vecchio wrote: > > > ---------------------- > Walter James McIntosh wrote- "the U.S. Military machine at the top of the > list of those that engage in total war and generally has the aim of the > enemy's total attrition and has a policy of killing civilians to forcibly > end their support of the enemy government" and referred directly to the > bombing of Baghad as a "recent example of American savagery". > > It would be nice if perhaps some attention were paid to the fact that > what transpired in the distant past is not truly relative to a discussion > of modern times, and behavior in the comparatively recent past. > > > > > > > -----Original Message----- > From: H-NET Military History Discussion List [mailto:H-WAR@H-NET.MSU.EDU] On > Behalf Of Scott Hendrix > Sent: Friday, March 12, 2010 3:00 PM > To: H-WAR@H-NET.MSU.EDU > Subject: REPLY: U.S. Bombing of Iraq (was Most Law Abiding Adversary) > > ------------------ > OK, perhaps this is down a notch in emphasis. > > May I suggest that when a post is allowed to use an inflammatory phrase > such as broadly accusing our military of general "savagery", it is pretty > much guaranteed to generate some heat, particularly among any of us who > have served. > > RJD > > ------------------------------------------------------------------------- > ---------------------- > Walter James McIntosh wrote- "the U.S. Military machine at the top of the > list of those that engage in total war and generally has the aim of the > enemy's total attrition and has a policy of killing civilians to forcibly > end their support of the enemy government" and referred directly to the > bombing of Baghad as a "recent example of American savagery". > > It would be nice if perhaps some attention were paid to the fact that > what transpired in the distant past is not truly relative to a discussion > of modern times, and behavior in the comparatively recent past. > Societies, like people, do evolve over time, and the average American > soldier today has little in common with those who murdered Indians at > Wounded Knee, nor does the average US general speak or act like Sherman. > We are witnessing as I write incidents in Afghanistan where our soldiers > have to face a totally unprincipled, ununiformed enemy, renowned for > slaughter of their own countrymen on the basis of super fundamentalism, > while trying to keep track of Rules of Engagement that take two pages of > text to cover. We have suffered casualties during the lengthy delays it > takes to get supporting arms approved, if in fact they are approved. We > have two of our own soldiers on trial for perhaps bloodying the nose of a > fanatical enemy responsible for the killing of Americans and his own > countrymen. > > Savagery is the prolonged rape, torture, and slaughter of 300,000+ > Chinese civilians in Nanking, savagery is the merciless and often brutal > massacre of at least 20% of the population of Cambodia by Pol Pot's > forces, savagery is the use of poison gas by Saddam Hussein against > entire villages of Kurds. > > WW2 was a total war, and the practice of bombing civilian populations > began with the Axis powers, not the Allies. Hiroshima was chosen as a > city that had been relatively untouched by the mass bombing such as had > laid waste most of Tokyo, so that the destructive power of the A-bomb > would be quite clear. The use of those bombs was to convince the > warlords of Japan that resistance was futile, and it was either surrender > or have the entire society destroyed. Would it have been more ethical to > invade Japan and have to slaughter with machineguns the millions of > Japanese civilians who had sworn to attack American forces with spears, > swords, and old rifles? Not to mention have the deaths of hundreds of > thousands of US military as well? > > Had the US forces called in waves of B-52 bombers to level most of > Baghdad, which would have killed probably well over 100,000 people, one > might have said they were engaging in truly objectionable overkill with > no real purpose. The comparatively limited bombing was an example of > restraint, not of savagery. > > While there are the occasional tragic or objectionable incidents > involving US soldiers, the American military have maintained and in fact > steadily over decades increased their concern for conducting warfare in > as humanitarian fashion as possible, given the basic brutal nature of any > war. Casually referring to their actions as savagery is seriously > inappropriate. > > R J Del Vecchio > > > ----- > For subscription help, go to: http://www.h-net.org/lists/help/ > To change your subscription settings, go to http://h-net.msu.edu/cgi-bin/wa?SUBED1=h-war > ----- ----- For subscription help, go to: http://www.h-net.org/lists/help/ To change your subscription settings, go to http://h-net.msu.edu/cgi-bin/wa?SUBED1=h-war ----- ----- For subscription help, go to: http://www.h-net.org/lists/help/ To change your subscription settings, go to http://h-net.msu.edu/cgi-bin/wa?SUBED1=h-war -----