Wednesday, April 9, 2008

“April is the cruelest month…”

The Union general William Tecumseh Sherman said after he burned Atlanta, "I fear the world will jump to the wrong conclusion that because I am in Atlanta the work is done. Far from it. We must kill three hundred thousand, I have told you of so often, and the further they run the harder for us to get them."

Given the sad history of racial oppression in the South for a century after the Civil War, the only thing to regret is that Sherman didn't finish the job.

- Spengler, Asia Times (emphasis added)

Spengler valorizes Sherman, one of our first war criminals, and thinks that we should admire him. Indeed, the postbellum history of most of America’s wars has been marked by an embrace of Sherman-esque brutality from the Indian wars to the Phillipines to Vietnam. There has been no lack of admiration for the man’s methods, regardless of his personal reputation.

There is something far, far more insidious and twisted than cultures of defeat, and these are cults of triumphalism, to which Spengler makes his contribution here. A cult of triumphalism is far more dangerous first of all because it sanctifies violence in a way that Lost Causes cannot do, and because it implies that there are wars that are not only just, but that the victor in war can literally do no wrong (and in any case the defeated deserved whatever they got, according to this circular reasoning, because they lost). A culture of defeat teaches humility and reminds that justice and military strength do not have any necessary direct relationship with one another. Triumphalism teaches the opposite: victory is the proof of righteousness, and not only did the enemy deserve to die, but we should have killed more of them to keep them down longer. Spengler approves here of the abandonment of restraint and total war and endorses the narrative of the victors. In fact, he endorses not just the cause of Unionists, as he specifically does in this case, but the narrative of every victor, whether it is the Mauryans and the Romans or the Mongols, the Ottomans, or the Aztecs… This is the argument of the genocidaire and the totalitarian, and it gives a pass to anyone who would commit genocide against a weaker people.

- Daniel Larison, Taki’s Magazine