Tag Archives: abraham lincoln

How many generals would Lincoln have fired to win in Iraq & Afghanistan?

Summary: After eleven years our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have produced no gains for America, despite the expenditure of money plus our troop’s work and sacrifice. Generals rotated in and out of senior command to punch their tickets, but unrelated to their actual performance. What would Lincoln have done?  This is #9 in a series about the rot at the top of our military; at the end are links to the other chapters.

“As matters stand now, a private who loses a rifle suffers far greater consequences than a general who loses a war.”
— “A failure in generalship“, Paul Yingling (Lt Colonel, US Army), Armed Forces Journal, May 2007

In the field Grant wore a private’s uniform and coat.

An essential step to winning the Civil War:
…..firing generals for poor performance

John C. Fremont was relieved by Lincoln on 2 November 1861 for exceeding his authority by issuing an emancipation order (this might have pushed slave states in the Union to join the Confederacy). He was later given new commands. He resigned his command on 26 June 1862, declining to serve under General Pope. He remained on the bench for the rest of the war.

John Pope was relieved of command on 12 September 1862 due to his defeat at the Second Battle of Bull Run.

Don Carlos Buell was relieved on 24 October 1862 by General in Chief Henry W. Halleck, who said “Neither the country nor the Government will much longer put up with the inactivity of some of our armies and generals.”

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A thought for and about Memorial Day

Summary:  Memorial Day should not be a time for self-congratulation or celebration. What is it about?


Not all the deeds done by our troops have been glorious, nor have all their missions been just or even good.  But that is our responsibility, as the citizens of the United States.  Our men and women in uniform served this nation.  Most contributed their time and energy.  Many contributed much more.  Some contributed all they had to give.

That’s what we should remember on this day.


Speech by President Lincoln

Gettysburg, Pennsylvania
19 November 1863

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate — we can not consecrate — we can not hallow — this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here.

It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced.

It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.


Two ways to celebrate Memorial Day

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American faux history: could we have avoided the Civil War?

Summary:  The campaign of Ron Paul reminds us of two of the three great lies that comprise such a large fraction of American history: slavery, stealing land from the Indians, and the role of government in US economic development.  These not only exacerbate divisions in our society but provide a weak foundation for us — preventing us from clearly understanding our past and charting a course for the future.  Here we take a brief look at slavery, part one.  Tomorrow see Why did the South leave the Union?

Six hundred thousand Americans died in a senseless civil war. No, {Lincoln} should not have gone to war. He did this just to enhance and get rid of the original intent of the Republic. It was that iron fist … Slavery has phased out in every other country of the world. The way I’m advising it should have been done is like the British Empire did, buy the slaves and release them. How much would that have cost compared to killing 600,000 Americans and where it lingered for 100 years? I mean the hatred and all that existed.
— Ron Paul on MSNBC’s Meet the Press, 23 December 2007 (transcript here; Paul forgets that slavery was not phased out in Haiti}

The American civil war is one of the most intensily studied events in US history, so that a layperson can only touch a small part of it.  But some aspects of its history are so clear we need not read the whole to find the answer.  Such as a reliable guess as to whether we could have avoided the Civil War.

The easy answer is yes.  With perfect foresight anything becomes possible.  Would Russians have supported Lenin in 1918 if they knew what the future held for them?  Would foreknowledge of 1945 have changed the way Germans voted in 1932, when they gave the NAZIs a plurality?  Much of American revisionist history — mythology to support politics — assumes that people can in effect know the future.  With such perfect knowledge we could have avoided the civil war and won in Vietnam.  They believe counter-factuals should guide our actions, not actual history.

Unfortunately history operates differently, so the opeational answer is no.  The civil war had deep historical roots, so only massive tinkering with time could have prevented it.  Here we examine some of those factors.


  1. Two reasons why the Civil War was the only path for America
  2. Paying to buy the slaves
  3. Would slavery have died out soon without the war?
  4. What about the British colonies in the Caribbean?
  5. For More Information

(1)  One reason why the Civil War was the only path for America

To see two reasons why the civil war as unavoidable, see “The Economics of Emancipation” by Claudia Dale Goldin (Prof Economics, Harvard), published in The Journal of Economic History, March 1973.  She looks at US the economics of slavery and emancipation in the US and other western hemisphere nations.  It’s a comprehensive rebuttal to the faux history so eagerly believed by American conservatives, such as Ron Paul.

Here we look at two aspects of Goldin’s paper, slaves as a capital asset and the determination of southern whites to avoid a multi-racial society.  This is only an excerpt from her well-researched article.

This paper illuminates one particular aspect of the theme of this session, property rights in man. It will deal with various emancipation plans: those actually enacted in various slave societies; those discussed by legislators who debated slave and antislave proposals; and those which, being purely fictional, have become part of counterfactual history.

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R.I.P., G.O.P. – a well-deserved end

Summary:  This post describes one long-standing weakness which has helped bring the party crashing down (this is a forecast, assuming that the next few elections further diminish its role on the national, state, and local levels).

Note:  The title is an exaggeration, a long tradition on the FM site.  The GOP’s time as the dominant party are over for the foreseeable future (not that we can see far into the future, these days).  The party survives with a strong regional base and a firm hold on its role in our political apparatus as one of the two major parties. 

The fall of the GOP from dominance is attributed to many different causes, mostly trivial, by experts.  Instead let’s look at the long history which has, with the inevitability of Fate in a Greek tragedy, undermined the foundation of our conservative party.  A timeline tells the tale, with the dates providing markers (milestones) along this complex social evolution.  One in which the GOP has been mostly either on the bench or in active opposition.  The Democratic Party has done most (not all) of the heavy political lifting, and deservedly gained the long-term benefits from this.

The Republican Party gains power, then sells its soul to keep it

22 September 1862 — President Lincoln (Republican) issues the Emancipation Proclamation.

The Compromise of 1877 — Settling the disputed election of 1876, Republican Rutherford B. Hayes gains the White House over Democrat Samuel J. Tilden — in exchange for a final end to Reconstruction.  The South becomes a stronghold of the Democratic Party, and Blacks lose many of their gains from the Civil War.

The Civil Rights Era – the GOP passes the baton of progress to the Democratic Party

25 June 1941 — FDR (Democrat) signs Executive Order 8802.  From Wikipedia:

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A report card for the Republic: are we still capable of self-government?

The salons of our Versailles-on-the-Potomac ring with gossip about the election.  Every day brings exciting news… about Michelle’s and Cindy’s dresses, changes in the lineups of each team’s gladiators, the daily score of money raised, and new fantasies about the “true” values and beliefs of each candidate.

Listening to this bustle, I wonder if we remain capable of self-government?  Or, like the Romans of the late Republic, have we grown weary of the burden — and wait for someone to govern us?  To shed light on this, let’s compare the political rhetoric and literature of America’s past with today’s.

  1. The Lincoln-Douglas Debates
  2. The Federalist Papers
  3. Presidential inaugural addresses and State of the Union Speeches

(1) The Lincoln-Douglas Debates of 1858:  7 debates, 3 hours each

Take a look at the transcripts of the Lincoln-Douglas debates (also see Wikipedia). They read like term papers of today’s college sophomores.  They are longer, more complex and sophisticated than the “debates” of today, in which candidates volley sound-bites with journalists.

(2) The Federalist Papers, 1787-88  (the text)

Consider the Federalist Papers.  Originally published as 77 articles, the demand was so great that they were reprinted and eventually published in book form (with 8 new chapters).  They were political literature directed at the American people:  merchants, farmers, and professionals (as defined at the time, male and white).

What if the New York Times were to publish the Federalist Papers, one chapter every Sunday for 85 weeks?  Would they have a large audience?  More likely they would have to donate the advertising space to Public Service advertisements and charities.

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Some good news (one of the more important posts on this blog)

This blog discusses geo-politics, from an American’s perspective.  Today that means discussing threats and dangers, resulting largely from years of mismanaged public policy.  We need not fear the future, despite the tough times coming soon.  This remains a great nation, not because of our past but because of us and our polity.  We differ from almost every other nation.  The difference consists of our commitment to our political order, of which our Constitution is the foundation.  In this we are like Athens more than our neighbors, as explained in this excerpt from Allan Bloom’s Closing of the American Mind (the book I most strongly recommend reading):

For the ancients the soul of the city was the regime, the arrangements of and participation in offices, deliberation about the just and the common good, choices about war and peace, the making of laws.  Rational choice on the part of citizens who were statesmen was understood to be the center of its regime.  … Pericles {in his Funeral Oration, as given by Thucydides} says nothing about the gods, or the poetry, history, sculpture or philosophy of which we think.  He praises Athens’ regime and finds beauty in its political achievement…

This is even more true of America, unlike Athens not famous for its philosophy, art, or culture.  The Americans who sat through the long hours of the Lincoln-Douglas debates would, I believe, have understood this.  When this is again true of America we will, I believe, find that the many threats we face no longer seem so dangerous.

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