Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Feminizing Masculinizing the Nature of War

Bryan Fischer, a proponent of the view that Christianity requires more killing, actually has an interesting point about the Medal of Honor--it seems to have gone all girlie on us.  He writes:
We have feminized the Medal of Honor.

According to Bill McGurn of the Wall Street Journal, every Medal of Honor awarded during these two conflicts has been awarded for saving life. Not one has been awarded for inflicting casualties on the enemy. Not one. ...

When we think of heroism in battle, we used the think of our boys storming the beaches of Normandy under withering fire, climbing the cliffs of Pointe do Hoc while enemy soldiers fired straight down on them, and tossing grenades into pill boxes to take out gun emplacements.

That kind of heroism has apparently become passe when it comes to awarding the Medal of Honor. We now award it only for preventing casualties, not for inflicting them.
In the narrow sense, he is correct: lately  our recent habit has been to give medals for saving lives, not taking them.  Beyond that, I think he makes a critical error.  I wouldn't claim to be an expert on the theology of Christian slaughter.  But I think he is all wrong on the purpose of war.  The purpose of war is to win.  Killing is incidental.   If killing were the criterion, then the greatest general of the 20th Century would be Sir Douglas Haig. who drove the flower of British manhood in World War I at places like the Somme and Ypres.  Concentration on killing is one of the reasons we had such a terrible record in Vietnam: with such a glorious body count, we couldn't get our minds round the idea that we might not have won.

True that a lot of people get killed in wars, and that plenty of times you have to kill to win.  Ulysses S. Grant made a sad demonstration of that truth in the Overland Campaign.  But you can  make an instructive comparison with Grant's great companion-in-arms, William Tecumseh Sherman in Georgia. For white southerners, Sherman lived on (and, I suspect, still lives on) as the great villain of the piece.   Yet the point of the March through Georgia is that, comparatively speaking, it wasn't all that bloody.  Sherman won it by proving he could do anywhere, do anything: he made the Confederacy his bitch.  But in terms of sheer bloodshed, it is one of the less dramatically bloody in recent history.

Fischer buttresses his argument with a quotation:
The object of war is not to die for your country but to make the other guy die for his.
But the source is instructive: it is George C. Patton, concededly an effective general, but one who seemed really to enjoy the killing part, at least as long as it was others who died. Patton's bood lust was strong enough that it made some of his own colleagues uncomfortable. It's not a good example for somebody who is trying to create a responsible theory of war.

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