In 1864 the Civil War between the states had been dragging on for over 3 years. Soldiers on both sides were being slaughtered by the tens of thousands on blood-drenched battlefields. It appeared that both sides had fought to a stalemate, and war fatigue or weariness was beginning to set in big time, especially in the North. Although the Union had superior forces, its incompetent generals were continually being out-manuevered by the Confederacy’s more clever Robert E. Lee and his generals. (At one point in 1864, Confederate troops had come within 5 miles of the White House.) Northerners were becoming sick of the on-going bloodshed and mayhem. There was a growing feeling in the North that the South should be allowed to leave the Union, and keep their slaves, if that’s what it would take to end the bloody conflict. President Abraham Lincoln himself, believed that his re-election effort due in November of that year would almost certainly fail, because of the public’s sour mood.
And then, suddenly, the Union finally got its act together. For years, Union troops had been led by incompetent or timid leadership, that was largely responsible for the ensuing stalemate. But with the appointment of Ulysses S. Grant as Commanding General of all Union forces, and William T. Sherman as head of the Union armies marching through the deep South, the Union’s fortunes improved dramatically. Sherman’s march through the South was unparalleled, and left a trail of total destruction of Confederate resources. When Sherman’s troops captured Atlanta on September 3, 1864, burning most of it to the ground, it was apparent to everyone that Confederate aspirations were doomed. The mood in the North improved dramatically, as it was believed that the war would quickly come to an end, and Lincoln easily won reelection. He would live to see passage of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution that would ban slavery forever. The problem was, however, that war weariness resulted in Union troops leaving the South on its own, too quickly.
Lincoln was assassinated in April 1865, and was succeeded by his Vice-President, Andrew Johnson from Tennessee. Johnson’s primary objective was to ensure that the country returned to normalcy as quickly as possible. So he pulled Union occupying forces out of the South in short order, leaving the Southern states to their own devices. But as what usually happens when the good guys leave the scene and a vacuum is created, did occur. Evil moved in to fill that vacuum. Each Southern state quickly passed strict segregation laws which made blacks second class citizens. Poll Tax legislation was also enacted which effectively barred most blacks from voting in all elections. These laws and practices, known as Jim Crow, effectively kept blacks in a state of semi-slavery for the next hundred years, until they finally started to break down in the 1960s.
Now fast forward to the outbreak of World WarI, in 1914, or a hundred years ago. The war pitted Germany against the allies of Britain, France and Czarist Russia. As I’ve written before, that conflict soon broke down into a despicable nightmare of trench warfare, where again, troops on both sides were being killed by the tens of thousands. Being stuck in the trenches was a hellish existence of mud, filth and disease. It was estimated that more soldiers died from disease, than from bullets or bombs. Again, that conflict was stalemated and people around the world were sick of it all. But President Woodrow Wilson, after being reelected in 1916 on a platform that said-“he kept us out of war”-decided that U.S. forces did, indeed, have to go overseas in order to break the stalemate. Shortly thereafter, the Bolshevik revolution took place in Russia, which then pulled out of the war. That meant that Germany had to be concerned with fighting the war on only the western front. But with the infusion of fresh American troops the stalemate was finally broken, and the Allies went on to victory. But the trouble, once again, was that the good guys pulled out too soon, leaving a vacuum for the bad guys to fill.
With no Allied forces left in Germany, it was open season on hate and deception. A little man, with a funny mustache and bad haircut, who had been a Corporeal in WWI, nevertheless found that he had enormous powers of persuasion to peddle his hate-filled invective, and beyond all odds, rose to become dictator of Germany. With no U.S. forces left on the continent, Adolph Hitler and his Nazi troops were left unfettered to rampage through all of Europe. It was only the British Royal Air Force (RAF) that prevented Hitler from taking England too, at least until the U.S., unwillingly, finally came to the aid of Allied forces. But not until 60 million lives were lost during that bloody conflict. The U.S. had finally learned its lesson the hard way, and this time, kept U.S. forces in Europe
after the war’s end. Today, almost 70 years since the end of WWII, U.S. troops and bases are still stationed in England, Germany, Italy and other countries.
So, we now come to present day world events. The U.S. has been at war in Afghanistan for 13 long years and has just pulled out of Iraq after 10 bloody years that cost 6000 American military and civilian deaths, and tens of thousands more of severely wounded American troops. Talk about war-weariness. Who isn’t sick of it all. Who doesn’t want us to just get out of Afghanistan and be done with the Mid-East once and for all. The trouble is, as we’ve seen before, when the good guys leave, evil comes in to fill the vacuum. And like clockwork, evil has made a grand entry into Iraq upon our departure. A terrorist group with the initials ISIS, that makes Al-Qaeda look timid, has suddenly captured thousands of square miles in Iraq and Syria, all the while committing unspeakable crimes and murders, and threatens further gains and advances. They recently beheaded a British journalist, just for kicks, I presume, and they threaten to gobble up the rest of Iraq. The current U.S. Administration’s response has been to launch a few lackluster bombing raids against ISIS trucks and other vehicles.
So the question is, do we launch a full throttle military assault on ISIS and other similar terrorist organizations, while it still can be done relatively cheaply in terms of lives lost and resources expended. Or do we sit back and watch events unfold from the sidelines. Each day that we delay meaningful action, they get stronger, and a future conflict becomes more costly. Will it take a repeat of 9/11 to make us realize that we don’t have the luxury of not taking military action. Evil, as I’ve said before, is a bottomless pit, and if the good guys don’t act to crush it in its infancy, it will just keep spreading across the planet. Yes, we’re all war-weary, but sometimes you just have to put all that weariness behind you, and do what needs to be done.