When is a first strike not a first strike?
When it's Anticipatory Retaliation.

May 19, 2004

The War On Terror and It's Cousins

Bravo Romeo Delta

There has been a fair amount of talk likening the current War on Terror to other conflicts in American history. And, like all analogies, these fall short in particular instances. Or, as Mark Twain said, "History doesn't repeat itself, but it does rhyme."

Without rehashing some of the various proposed rhyme schemes, one conflict in particular has been gnawing at the back of my skull for attention.

That conflict would be the Plains Indian Wars. Granted, there are a lot of dissimilarities, but a couple of points tweaked my interest.

First, the absolute disparity in what constituted moral behavior in war. Indians scalped and engaged in other acts that whites viewed as atrocities, while the western way of total warfare was seen as an abomination by Indians. Both sides found themselves locked in an increasingly bitter feud that crept, by increments, to a nearly genocidal fever pitch.

Secondly, there is a passing resemblance between the difference in social structures between the two groups. On a most basic level, Indian loyalty was generally to the tribe above all others (the Algonquin roundtable notwithstanding), in much the same way that much of the Arab world tends towards clan loyalty. On the other hand, you found a western government steeped in traditional western values and immersed in a very western outlook.

Third, there was a marked difference in the ability of both factions to fight wars. The Indians were, by and large, raiders and weren't terribly good at European-style pitched battles. By the same token, Arab armies don't tend to be terribly effective in mechanized warfare and have chosen terrorism and guerilla warfare as their prime mode of engagement.

Fourth, the role of the agricultural lands in the future of the United States could be seen as a very rough parallel to the strategic importance of petroleum products for the globalizing world.

Fifth, the ever-shifting array of alliances, proxy wars, client combatants and otherwise Byzantine political arrangements marked the unsteady progress of the war over the course of decades. Similarly, we've been engaged in the Middle East for decades in a swirling maelstrom of alliances, treachery, and political machinations.

All in all, this could simply be a whim, but there were enough features in common to at least give me pause, even if the match is not complete.

While it seems that Wretchard of the Belmont Club has already alluded to this issue, I swear I thought of it on my own. At any rate, his comparison to the Civil War is definitely worth a gander.

Launched by Bravo Romeo Delta at May 19, 2004 12:51 AM

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