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Thread: War Termination and Conflict Resolution

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    War Termination and Conflict Resolution

    As I alluded to yesterday, I plan to write a paper that's inspired by Spielberg's Lincoln. I think that the movie really highlights Lincoln's understanding of the root cause of the American Civil War: slavery. Without killing slavery, then the conditions for future war over the same issue would remain, despite the results on the battlefield. This is an interesting notion to me since had the war ended in 1862, then it probably wouldn't have ended. It would have only kicked the can down the road with a "false peace of Nicias."

    Here's my first cut at an introduction for the paper. It's going to be until probably the end of the year until I can really develop it since I'm coming up shortly on my busy season with my job, but I'm excited to flesh this thing out.

    "[Conciliation has failed] because it was all on one side . . . There has never been a moment since Lee surrendered that I would not have gone more than halfway to meet the Southern people in a spirit of conciliation. But they have never responded to it . . . The pacification of the South rests entirely with the South. I do not see what the North can do that has not been done, unless we surrender the results of the war."
    One can sense the frustration in the words penned by Ulysses S. Grant after leaving the White House. Having successfully overseen the surrender of the Confederate armies as the General-in-Chief of all Federal armies, he then saw some of the fruits of victory slip through the fingers of the Union with the unsuccessful implementation of Reconstruction as the President and Commander-in-Chief. Since “war is the continuation of politics through other means,” it is critical that strategists understand the linkage of politics to war, and more specifically, the linkage between war termination and conflict resolution, the period in which peacemaking has the opportunity to create “lasting strategic effect.”

    Studying the American Civil War presents a unique case study to explore this. While it was fought on the battlefield for just over four years from 1861-1865, some argue that with the defeat of Reconstruction in 1877, the war did not end until the signing of the Civil Rights Act, nearly a century after the guns fell silent on the battlefield. This long view of history allows for the rich development of strategic insights on peacemaking, to include proximate cause and root cause analysis, assessment and reassessment; policy-strategy match; and assuaging fear, honor, and interest.
    "So little pains do the vulgar take in the investigation of truth, accepting readily the first story that comes to hand." Thucydides 1.20.3

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    Senior Contributor Monash's Avatar
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    I was always of the understanding that the route cause of the war was the the right of States to succeed from the Union. After his election Lincoln repeatedly tried to reiterate his campaign promise that he would take no actions as President to limit or eliminate slavery in those states where it already existed, he even supported a thirteenth amendment proposed by Congress that would have guaranteed the right to own slaves in those states south of the Mason-Dixon line where it was already legal. On the other hand Lincoln was vehemently opposed to the concept of succession right from the onset, e.g.

    First Inaugural Address March 4, 1861: "I hold that, in contemplation of universal law, and of the Constitution, the union of these States is perpetual....It follows....that no State, upon its own mere motion, can lawfully get out of the Union; that resolves and ordinances to that effect are legally void; and that acts of violence, within any State or States, against the authority of the United States, are insurrectionary or revolutionary, according to circumstances. I, therefore, consider that, in view of the Constitution and the laws, the Union is unbroken."

    He made similar pronouncements in various settings on numerous occasions. This is not to say that he supported slavery but it appears he was prepared to tolerate its continued existence in those States where it was already lawful if that was the price of keeping the Union together and avoiding a civil war. This of course brings us to a difficult 'what if' scenario i.e. if the Southern States had been willing to accept a compromise and hadn't attempted to succeed how long would slavery have persisted in the US? Personally I think the industrial revolution and the steady mechanization of agricultural production would have gradually finished it off but in theory could it have persisted well into the 20th century??

    P.S. I realize I'm not a US citizen or a historian but is my analysis incorrect?
    Last edited by Monash; 22 Sep 14, at 10:42.

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    Monash,

    Your analysis is correct, but incomplete. Why was there an issue over so called "state's rights?" It was slavery, and the threat to slavery by increasing Northern representation in positions of Federal power. The South was for federal power before they were against it (the Fugitive Slave Act is the example). "State's rights" is first put forward as a main argument only after the war as part of the "Lost Cause" mythology perpetuated by the South. The American Civil War is an example of where the losers wrote the history.

    The Northern (and border) states, on the other hand, were all for the Union. Thus, the North entered the war not fighting for elimination of slavery. It is a policy goal that originally derives as a means to end the war; eventually, the passions stirred by the war eventually persuaded Northerners to take ever increasing measures against slavery. Lincoln recognizes the need to eliminate slavery by the summer of 1862. It takes him another 2+ years to persuade enough of a majority to agree to the same, resulting in the 13th Amendment, and even then, some of it is only because of the passions created by the war (the parlor scene from the movie with the couple from Missouri calling on the President highlights this).

    Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address, which is used during the movie, addresses a very different tone than that of conciliation from his original inaugural address (although the last paragraph describes the reconciliation that he wants to come after the war).

    Abraham Lincoln: Second Inaugural Address. U.S. Inaugural Addresses. 1989

    Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman's two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said "the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether."
    Last edited by Shek; 22 Sep 14, at 12:41.
    "So little pains do the vulgar take in the investigation of truth, accepting readily the first story that comes to hand." Thucydides 1.20.3

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    Senior Contributor Monash's Avatar
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    Wasn't this in March 1865 just before the end of the war? Not to depreciate the sentiment expressed in your quote but by then Lincoln could afford to be more 'gung ho' regarding prosecution of the war because victory was more or less assured. In fact I'm pretty sure history will show that any democratically elected national leader will make similar statements when addressing voters who have faced the carnage, losses and personal deprivations of war. Just look a the 'end of war' speeches made by various WWII political leaders as an example. (This is not necessarily a matter of rank political opportunism by the way but rather I think a very human desire to find something/anything to say that justifies the misery of it all.)

    The above as an aside, my personal view (based on my limited reading) is that in all probability the social tensions created by the Souths 'addiction' to slavery made any any chance of compromise unlikely. Oh both sides could have patched over their differences in the short term e.g. by adopting the 13th amendment but in all likelihood all that would have achieved would be a few more years of peace.

    I believe conflict over the basic ideals of the rights of the individual vs slavery were inevitable and unavoidable. My (novice) assessment of the whole issue leads me to believe that if the South really wanted to succeed in 'succeeding' then the southern States should have done so sooner rather than later. By the 1860's the industrial capacity and population of the Northern States gave them a clear advantage in any military conflict and this situation only got worse in the following decades. So if the South was to 'succeed' they would have been better placed making the attempt in the 1840's or 50's if not earlier.

    (I'm not an advocate of any such action by the way - just trying to make a coldly rational assessment of the likelihood of success.) In the end the world is arguable better off having the South fail in its attempt at succession. (Mind you it might be a different scenario if they had renounced slavery at the start of the war and emancipated all their slaves. )

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    Monash,

    It was not a matter that Lincoln was “gung ho”. It was the realization that the Union would prevail after all and it was time to pivot to a future which would allow for a peaceful, and successful, reintegration of the Southern population into American society. This included how to bring them back not just into political Americas but also economic and social America. The land of the South had been devastated by the war. Not because of Sherman-like activities. It was because the movement of massed armies in the 19th Century trashed the landscape. Woods denuded for fuel and buildings, pastures and farmland made unusable because they were basic toxic waste sites from human and animal waste. The railroads were in a shambles…there had been no meaningful capital and/or infrastructure improvement int eh South since Sumter. And most importantly, approximately 35% of the value of the Southern economy would disappear. The end of slavery with no compensation devastated the remains of the Southern economy and instantly made millionaires almost penniless. So much of their capital was tied up in the ownership of their slaves.

    And that says nothing about what was now going to happen politically….the end times had come. Blackmen would now have the right to vote…and in may areas of the South the black population outnumbered the whites.

    As for what caused the war… In many ways the ACW was a war between the North & South over the West. As antebellum America moved westward to span the continent the question of slave state or free state was at the forefront of the political minds of the country. Most of the great compromises in Washington in the decades prior to the ACW were ways to address slavery in the territories. The Missouri Compromise of 1820 arranegd that when a pro slave territory became a slave state, a free soil state would eneter at the same time. Hence, Maine & Missouri becoming states together. The Compromise of 1850 was as series of legislative moves designed to prevent the ACW from breaking out 10 years earlier. The Kansas-Nebraska ACT OF 1854was another compromise intended to calm down the rabble rousers. It ended up having the opposite effect and caused a border war to erupt between Kansas and Missouri which presaged the ACW.

    BREAK

    Shek

    Looking forward to the paper when completed!
    “We had been hopelessly labouring to plough waste lands; to make nationality grow in a place full of the certainty of God… Among the tribes our creed could be only like the desert grass – a beautiful swift seeming of spring; which, after a day’s heat, fell dusty.”
    ― T.E. Lawrence, Seven Pillars of Wisdom: A Triumph

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    Monash,

    Lincoln's rhetoric wasn't necessarily that different earlier in the war. His conclusion to the second annual address to Congress (which we call the State of the Union today) sounds the same tone as his second inaugural.

    Abraham Lincoln: Second Annual Message

    Fellow-citizens, we can not escape history. We of this Congress and this Administration will be remembered in spite of ourselves. No personal significance or insignificance can spare one or another of us. The fiery trial through which we pass will light us down in honor or dishonor to the latest generation. We say we are for the Union. The world will not forget that we say this. We know how to save the Union. The world knows we do know how to save it. We, even we here, hold the power and bear the responsibility. In giving freedom to the slave we assure freedom to the free--honorable alike in what we give and what we preserve. We shall nobly save or meanly lose the last best hope of earth. Other means may succeed; this could not fail. The way is plain, peaceful, generous, just--a way which if followed the world will forever applaud and God must forever bless.
    What I think the second inaugural really highlights is the Clausewitzian notion that in war, you must transform blood into political (strategic) effect, and Lincoln's discussion of drawing blood is highly evocative of this notion. As for the second address to Congress, it was given in the shadow of the Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation (which was issued 152 years ago today), with the Emancipation Proclamation to be issued a month later. Lincoln had pushed emancipation to the forefront of the debate and pushed the conversation towards the what was to become the 13th Amendment, although he still had to walk a political tightrope to get there.

    Lastly, the superiority of the North was almost a necessary condition. The North carried a far greater strategic burden than the South during the Civil War. It had to conquer the South, which meant occupying the South. The South merely had to defend the status quo. In fact, at the tactical level, it is desirable to have a 3:1 ratio to have a chance of success on the offense. So, when doing the net assessment, one cannot just look at the North having more toys. They had to have more to make success possible.
    "So little pains do the vulgar take in the investigation of truth, accepting readily the first story that comes to hand." Thucydides 1.20.3

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    Senior Contributor Monash's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Albany Rifles View Post
    Monash,

    The land of the South had been devastated by the war. Not because of Sherman-like activities. It was because the movement of massed armies in the 19th Century trashed the landscape. Woods denuded for fuel and buildings, pastures and farmland made unusable because they were basic toxic waste sites from human and animal waste. The railroads were in a shambles…there had been no meaningful capital and/or infrastructure improvement int eh South since Sumter.

    And that says nothing about what was now going to happen politically….the end times had come. Blackmen would now have the right to vote…and in may areas of the South the black population outnumbered the whites.
    The Union blockade didn't help either cutting off as it did the Souths ability to export and import commodities and manufactured goods. Agreed about the rest to, I can't really see any long term compromise over slavery being either possible or effective. Hope Shek's article is posted here.

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    Agreed, Monash.

    I am looking forward to it.
    “We had been hopelessly labouring to plough waste lands; to make nationality grow in a place full of the certainty of God… Among the tribes our creed could be only like the desert grass – a beautiful swift seeming of spring; which, after a day’s heat, fell dusty.”
    ― T.E. Lawrence, Seven Pillars of Wisdom: A Triumph

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