Sunday, March 25, 2007

Not a new idea about war...

The impersonal and indirect nature of much of warfare these days is one of the prime attributes I have noticed. Some of this can be attributed to the invention and use of the airplane. Some of it is attributable to the development of more powerful and longer range weaponry. Compare the relatively short distance between combatants in the American Civil War and the much greater distance between combatants in Vietnam or Bosnia. One of the more vivid depictions of the horrors of war is that presented in Widow of the South by Robert Hicks - now out in paperback. The book tells the story of the Battle of Franklin (TN) and its impact on nearby residents and the people involved in the battle and its aftermath. For me, the most memorable description is that of the Confederate officer who died standing up because he was so closely surrounded by his dead comrades that he could not fall! Warfare then was highly personal and awful in its impact! In the midst of that brutality, though, there were episodes of humanity at its best such as the Christmas-time truces and the aid rendered to wounded enemy combatants. War then was "up close and personal" as the modern cliche strains to say. I think it is an inescapable conclusion - not the only one, mind you - that the impersonality and indirect nature of modern combat makes the resort to arms much more likely and easier to justify by those who direct such awful adventures.

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