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Where war can lead

By John E. Carey - posted Tuesday, 9 January 2007

On April 12 and 13, 1861, at Charleston, S.C., forces in a state of rebellion against the United States bombarded the US Army garrison at Fort Sumter. On April 15, US President Abraham Lincoln declared a state of insurrection and called for 75,000 volunteers to enlist for three months of service.

At Christmas, 1861, The Charleston Mercury noted, “there is anything else than ‘peace on earth and good will to men,’ yet the present situation and the prospect before us afford ample cause for gratitude. We are not perhaps so well off as we might have been, but are intact as a nation, and after many months of war with a people much superior to ourselves in numbers and resources, have proved our ability to maintain our independence.”

In both the North and the South in 1861, wise solons thought the American Civil War would be quickly concluded without much loss of life. The hell of the American Civil War had not yet dawned on the consciousness of Americans.


On June 28, 1914, a gunman assassinated Franz Ferdinand, Archduke of Austria and Prince of Hungary and Bohemia. A war started, but many thought it could not last long.

By Christmas of 1914, armies were engaged along a 500-mile front. Still, there was a sense that the fighting forces were all gentlemen. The Christmas Truce of 1914 provided a brief respite from the carnage of World War I. Soldiers of both sides laid down their arms, climbed out of their trenches and celebrated together along the Western Front.

Few had, as yet, envisioned massed air forces dropping bombs, mustard gas attacks and casualties (military and civilian) numbering over 37 million.

After the attack on Pearl Harbour, President Franklin D. Roosevelt told the US Congress and the world that December 7, 1941 was “a date which will live in infamy”. Did he fully understand the duration of the impending conflict, the numbers of casualties the world would have to endure and the impact of nuclear weapons on the future of the planet?

Probably not.

The US involvement in Vietnam started innocently enough. In 1954 liaison officers with the newly established United States Military Assistance and Advisory Group deployed to the Republic of Vietnam. For the next eight years, US activities in Vietnam consisted mainly of advisory and staff responsibilities. This began to change in mid-April 1962 when the US started to deploy helicopters to Vietnam to assist the South Vietnamese with logistics.


Following the Gulf of Tonkin incident in August 1964, the US commitment to South-East Asia expanded. The advisory and assistance phase of the Vietnam War ended and the US now began to deploy combat troops in great numbers.

Men like US Defense Secretary Robert McNamara knew that America would be successful in Vietnam.

While speaking about Iraq, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld told listeners of Infinity Radio in November 2002, “The idea that it’s going to be a long, long, long battle of some kind I think is belied by the fact of what happened in 1990”.

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First published in Peace and Freedom on January 2, 2007 and the Washington Times on January 4, 2007.

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About the Author

John E. Carey has been a military analyst for 30 years.

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All articles by John E. Carey

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