Jim Walsh's Big Hairy Weblog Thingy

Thursday, January 19, 2006

The Ultimate Oxymoron: "Civil" War

Adam Kirsch, in the online New York Sun, has a review about a new book on the Civil War:

[Author Harry Stout] approaches the subject from a valuably different perspective. He is primarily interested in both sides' conduct of hostilities, as judged by traditional notions of just war, and in the failure of the country's moral authorities - the clergy and the press - to concern themselves with that conduct. The Civil War was fought in a just cause, Mr. Stout argues, but it is by no means clear that it was a just war. "It is possible, and, I believe, reasonable," he writes, "to conclude that the right side won in spite of itself.

The key insight of Mr. Stout's innovative study is that the very cost of such battles, far from provoking civilian scrutiny of military strategy, only increased both sides' reliance on thoughtless religious and patriotic rhetoric. As befits a religious historian, Mr. Stout is especially interested, and especially disappointed, in the way the clergy fell into lockstep with the government and the military.

As the French say, plus ca change...

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