Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Lincoln and the Laws of War

An article in Slate entitled Lincoln's Laws of War has generated some interesting commentary by Volokh conspirators Eric Posner and Ilya Somin. Glenn Reynolds adds to the mix this post at Kenneth Anderson's Law of War blog.

It's unfortunate that Professor Posner ruins some otherwise decent points by buying into the Sherman/Total War nonsense:
For many historians of the laws of war, Lincoln was no hero. It was under Lincoln, and with his approval, that the modern concept of total war was invented—this was Sherman’s march through Georgia. It would be perfected by the Nazis and reach its apotheosis at Hiroshima.

As I've pointed out before, the idea that Sherman's march through Georgia was akin to, or even a precursor of, the Nazi devastation of Poland or Russia is ludicrous.

About the illustration:
An angered response to false Confederate peace overtures and to the push for reconciliation with the South advanced by the Peace Democrats in 1864. (See also "The Sportsman Upset by the Recoil of His Own Gun," no. 1864-32.) Confederate general Robert E. Lee and president Jefferson Davis (center) stand back-to-back trying to ward off an attack by Northern officers (from left to right) Philip H. Sheridan, Ulysses S. Grant, David G. Farragut, and William T. Sherman. Sheridan points his sword at Lee, saying, "You commenced the war by taking up arms against the Government and you can have peace only on the condition of your laying them down again." Grant, also holding a sword, insists, "I demand your unconditional surrender, and intend to fight on this line until that is accomplished." Lee tries to placate them, "Cant think of surrendering Gentlemen but allow me through the Chicago platform to propose an armistice and a suspension of hostilities . . . " The 1864 Democratic national convention in Chicago advocated "a cessation of hostilities with a view to an ultimate convention of the states, or other peaceable means" to restore the Union. Davis, unarmed with his hands up, agrees, " . . . if we can get out of this tight place by an armistice, it will enable us to recruit up and get supplies to carry on the war four years longer." Farragut threatens with a harpoon, snarling, " rmistice! and suspension of hostilities'.--Tell that to the Marines, but sailors dont understand that hail from a sinking enemy." Sherman, with raised sword, informs Davis, "We dont want your negores or anything you have; but we do want and will have a just obedience to the laws of the United States."

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