Culture Behind Americans At War Term Paper

Length: 14 pages Sources: 9 Subject: Military Type: Term Paper Paper: #82646531 Related Topics: Mussolini, Marine Corps, American Civil War, Roaring Twenties
Excerpt from Term Paper :

American Way of War

The history of the American Way of War is a transitional one, as Weigley shows in his landmark work of the same name. The strategy of war went from, under Washington, a small scale, elude and survive set of tactics practiced by what seem today to be relatively "quaint" militias, to -- in the 20th century -- a full-scale operation known as "total war." True, "total war" was not a concept invented by the Americans in the 20th century. The North eventually practiced "total war" against the Confederates when Sherman's campaign left utter destruction of civilian territory in its wake. The ancient Romans practiced it when, under the direction of Cato, they destroyed Carthage because its mere existence, they felt, posed a threat to their prosperity. In the 20th century, however, "total war" received an enormous boost of technical support when the inventors of the atom bomb detonated their weapon for the first time -- and later watched in horror as it was used not once but twice to destroy civilian populations in Japan. "Total War" was launched in Vietnam and it has been used in the Middle East in the wars that followed 9/11. As Weigley has observed, "the strategy of annihilation against Germany in World War II so added to the brutalizing of war that apparently they could not but blur the moral vision of their authors."

"Moral restraint," as Weigley calls it, was gone. It has never yet looked back. This paper will explain how we have arrived at today's American Way of War, which is one of brutal indifference, where strategic attacks are performed by remote control and result in the deaths of thousands of civilians, though the proposed target be a mere handful of "terrorists"; a way of war that is used for geopolitical purposes rather than for the ideals of the Founding Fathers, such as Washington, who himself faced the cannons, unlike most of today's national leaders; finally, it is a way of war, which has been practiced with some consistency since Washington's farewell, except that now it is practiced on a much larger scale, with much grander technological ability, and much fewer apparent scruples.

The American Way of War was made possible thanks to a little justification called "Manifest Destiny," penned by an obscure editor named John L. O'Sullivan in an 1845 essay, which espoused Protestant America's God-given role in the domination of the Western frontier. The essay provided a national power-structure of White Anglo-Saxon Protestants the "justification" it needed to conquer the West -- and to turn against its own States, when they wished to secede, and conquer them as well. It is essential to outline the culture of America before proceeding, because that culture plays an integral part in the adoption of the American Way of War that we know today.

The first European schools to be established in America were not Harvard or Yale or the other East-cost Ivy League schools of renown, but schools erected by the Catholic missionaries who followed Columbus to the New World. They were, for the most part, established in the southwestern part of the nation, and today's cities remind us of their Catholic heritage -- San Francisco, Santa Fe, San Diego, San Jose, San Antonio, etc. However, with the recall of the Jesuits to Europe in the 18th century, European missionaries were replaced by English conquerors. It was these same conquerors who waged war against the Native Americans -- the same Native Americans that the missionaries attempted to peacefully convert (or die trying). The White Anglo-Saxon Protestants of England and Northern Europe came to America out of a sense of religious fervor or to escape persecution. These were, foremost, of Puritanical sense, and it was this same Puritanism which informed the generations of Americans who grew up in their shadow. Thus, the same country that could go off to slaughter Europeans in two world wars could outlaw the sale of alcohol, the possession of marijuana, and the solicitation of women for


But that was all to come -- in the 20th century -- and in the years leading up to it, the American Way of War is visible and visibly based on the Puritan doctrine that American Protestants are the Elect -- and everyone else is just in their way.

So, the American Way of War was fought under the banner of "Manifest Destiny" -- it was claimed that the grabbing of lands from natives (whether Mexican or Native American, or Filipino -- as was seen in the Spanish-American War -- or Middle Eastern, as has been seen time and time again since 9/11 as American military bases sprout like mushrooms in the near East) was their right as WASPs. The Mexican-American War was a war of cultures: Mexico had recently won its independence from Spain, and though it suffered internal convulsions, it was united against an independent Texas.

As retired U.S. Marine Corps General Smeadly Butler said, "War is always a racket."

The racket in this case was geopolitical. The English had ambitions for northern California, and the American Expansionists wanted a port on the Pacific so that they could deter any such ambitions. Mexico stood in the way. The U.S. offered it millions for the territories, but Mexicans were not inclined or prepared to negotiate any such transactions. The U.S. was not in any position to wait. General Taylor received orders from President Polk to take the Rio Grande. It was a declaration of war. So goes the American Way of Negotiation: if the counterpart cannot be bought, take what is wanted by force.

There were those who objected, of course. Young Whig Abraham Lincoln was such a one. (Fifteen years later he would have no such objections to waging war against his own countrymen -- such is the power of political ambition: it allows one's moral compass to turn with the way the winds of favor are blowing). In fact, Lincoln's denunciation of Polk's war-making privileges could just as easily have been applied to him when he dared to "reinforce" Ft. Sumter in order to make Davis blink and open fire with the first shots of the bloodbath that takes the ironic name of Civil War.

The Mexican-American war began on 13 May 1846, with the U.S. invading Mexico on two fronts. And just as the American Way of War has always done, it made the military grow by leaps and bounds. Before the war, the army stood at a mere 6000 -- after, it had more than 100,000. And just as the army grew, so too did the territory of the U.S. -- by more than a million square miles. The nation could now install the new railroads that would soon connect east and west coasts, moving material goods from production site to storefront and persons from home to frontier and back again. It would be these same railroads that the secessionists dared to disrupt with the withdraw from the Union just a few short years later.

The Civil War was not a war over slavery -- though the topic was a hot-button one at the time and even served several political pundits as a handy excuse for waging war against the South. Nor was it a war over cultures, though the South was essentially a "different world" from the North, Southerners seeming merely to go through "the formula of living" without the disruptions of novelty impinging upon their retirement.

No, the primary reason for the war was the same as always: business. The Constitution which did not, in effect, forbid secession -- and therein, it was argued by the Southern States, allowed it -- did forbid the waging of war by the President without Congressional consent. Nonetheless, Congress has rarely been an impediment to the Executive Office's decision to make war. When Lincoln sent a ship to Ft. Sumter, he intentionally provoked Davis's hand, after Davis had made clear that he wanted Ft. Sumter evacuated of its Union troops.

The American Way of War showed its true colors throughout the first half of the 1860s. War profiteers were numerous: Brooks Brothers, for example, was commissioned to supply the Union soldiers with uniforms -- it did so with cheap materials that dissolved in the rain. And men who could succeed at no other station in life, like U.S. Grant, found their stride in combat: Grant, for example, was a disaster in civilian life, but was fearless in battle and inspired his troops, whom he led with more confidence and guts than he did brains.

The war was conducted without mercy from the start. Lincoln was determined to hold the Union together, whatever the cost -- though by the end of the war, he would be laying the blame for the war on the "sins of men," whom God was punishing through war.

Lincoln's freeing of the slaves has gone down as one of the greatest moments in American history -- yet in comparison to what…

Sources Used in Documents:


Butler, Smedley. War is a Racket. LA: Feral House, 2003.

Chollet, Derek and James Goldgeier. America Between the Wars. NY: Public Affairs,


Debs, Eugene. "Anti-War Speech," 16 June 1918. Web. <>
Brace, 1920). Web. <>

Advocate, 22 Jan 1903. Web.
Turner, Frederick Jackson. "The Frontier in American History" (NY: Henry Holt and Company, 1935), Chapter 11. <>
General James Rusling, "Interview with President William McKinley," The Christian Advocate, 22 Jan 1903. Web.
John Hay, "Open Door Circular," 6 Sept 1899. Web. <>
Woodrow Wilson, War Message to Congress, 2 Apr 1917. Web. <>
Woodrow Wilson, Fourteen Points, 8 Jan 1918. Web. <>
John Maynard Keynes, The Economic Consequences of the Peace (NY: Harcourt Brace, 1920). Web. <>
Eugene Debs, "Anti-War Speech," 16 June 1918. Web. <>
Benito Mussolini, What is Fascism, 1932. Web. <>
Franklin Roosevelt, War Message, 8 Dec 1941. Web.
Harry Truman, The Truman Doctrine, 12 Mar 1947. Web. <>

Cite this Document:

"Culture Behind Americans At War" (2014, December 02) Retrieved January 21, 2022, from

"Culture Behind Americans At War" 02 December 2014. Web.21 January. 2022. <>

"Culture Behind Americans At War", 02 December 2014, Accessed.21 January. 2022,

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