A reader named Sam Grant wrote us to take issue with a Gates of Vienna post from last week. His response is posted below.
The Wrongheadedness of Calls for Civil War in Europe
by Sam Grant
In a Gates of Vienna post on November 9, 2007, one reads:
Naser Khader is Islam’s Trojan horse in Denmark. “Tongue-in-cheek” they will grant all rejected asylum-seekers a work and residence allowance. In reality this means that any Muslim anywhere who can make it to Denmark and shout “asylum” is granted “work” (Islamo-lingo for lifelong welfare provision) and residence. No need anymore for other regulations such as green-cards or family-reunions with cousins, uncles, extra wives, aunts, parents and grandparents. Just shout “asylum” — that’s all, folks.
If this party “New Alliance” gets any influence at all, Denmark is one step closer to the inevitable civil war. Which isn’t a bad thing entirely — the sooner, the better.
Sadly, this post isn’t the only one in its vein at GoV. It should be the last.
The sentiment that civil war cannot come soon enough is madness. Let us begin with the obvious. The horrors of war are real. A passage from Schiller’s Wilhelm Tell (pdf format):
STAUFF. Oh wife! a horrid, ruthless fiend is war,
That smites at once the shepherd and his flock.
GERT. Whate’er great Heaven inflicts, we must endure;
But wrong is what no noble heart will bear.
STAUFF. This house—thy pride—war, unrelenting war
Will burn it down.
GERT. And did I think this heart
Enslaved and fettered to the things of earth,
With my own hand I’d hurl the kindling torch.
STAUFF. Thou hast faith in human kindness, wife; but war
Spares not the tender infant in its cradle.
This dialogue is the case for rebellion.
Let us continue with what ought to be obvious: justified and necessary counts for nothing, if there is no reasonable prospect for victory. He who thinks he has justification and necessity nailed, is not finished with the task of making the case for war.
Hope for victory springs eternal; every man believes himself and his own brothers in arms the best of the best. It might even be true, on occasion. But in war, quantity has a quality all its own.
The history of the American Civil War bears this out. Having lost an election, the South determined on secession. Many southerners believed that Yankees were cowards and city folk, hence soft. Others believed that Yankees cared more for money than anything else, and would give up the fight as not worth the trouble once Southerners had demonstrated their determination. A few prescient southerners saw better. Sam Houston was one.
– – – – – – – – –
Another, Robert Toombs, commenting on the decision to shell Fort Sumter (Toomb’s warning) insisted that the attack “will lose us every friend at the North. You will wantonly strike a hornet’s nest…. Legions now quiet will swarm out and sting us to death. It is unnecessary. It puts us in the wrong. It is fatal.” (Toombs didn’t understand that his cause was in the wrong, whatever the details of the path to secession. But that is another story.)
Finally, it bears noting that what Europe faces at the moment is no emergency warranting civil war. There is no necessity, no justification, for this. If Europe shall be ruined by immigration from hostile shores, that ruin will run to completion all the quicker if native Europeans fall to killing each other.
Europe has time to think things through, and can make arrangements that meet the danger by peaceful and lawful means. Calls for war will be met first with laughter and derision. Then, if they are persuasive to a sufficient mass of hotheads who translate hot words into action, these calls will be met with a forceful legal response. This talk of civil war is, after all, seditious.
If the hotheads are numerous enough and determined enough that the law cannot go where it must to make arrests, then one has one’s civil war. But with what weapons are those now counseling war to fight? Words won’t cut it. Arson and kitchen knives and private arsenals of rifles and pistols won’t cut it. This kind of war results, if married to desperate courage, only in carnage and defeat. If not backed by that kind of determination, it becomes a farce. The putsch goes down to ignominious defeat.
And if, somehow, the revolution carries the day, backed by mass sentiment and defections from the armed forces, well, under such circumstances, an electoral victory would have been much simpler and far less painful.
He who cannot win an election, cannot expect such daydreams to come to pass. If you can win the election, then do so, and spare us the trauma of war. If you cannot win it now, then have patience, and settle down for a long campaign of educating the public. If you are right, in the end, you may well prevail. If you are not, you probably won’t prevail, but then, you shouldn’t, should you?