General Douglas MacArthur on “Blowback”

· Military History

Those in charge of handling the the course of a war, whether its onset, or its continuation, have the responsibility to their country of making sure that the objectives will be met.  These national objectives must however fall within the framework of what is accepted by international law, whether the Geneva Convention(s) or United Nations Declarations.  Whether or not one agrees with some specific declaration of that organization, the trend seems to be towards maintaining peace –  which is what United Nations advertising during its 25th anniversay year at least indirectly emphasized, by mentioning, if I remember correctly, that it had prevented conflicts from taking place.

War for war’s sake brings revenge, now often called blowback.  We will here arbitrarily first refer to the mythical seizure of the Sabine women, which resulted in an initially successful revenge attack upon the Romans.  The Sabines gloated that while the Romans might have known how to seize the former’s daughters, the latter, as men, knew how to fight.

Romulus, the mythical founder of Rome (having dispensed with his twin brother Remulus), then cried out for his own blowback.  His victory was at best partial.  It was the Sabine women, who, having accomodated themselves to living in Rome, threw themselves into the midst of the battle, and entreated the warring factions not to leave widows, and orphaned daughters and their children behind.

In modern times, there are many examples.  Some Internet pages claim that the problems of the Mid-East are the result of failed policy – or bad wars.  In Nazi Germany, the fighting was prolonged because the idea of an unconditional surrender with a country totally devestated was unpalatable.

Better than suggesting that the continuation of a war was the inevitable result of an adversary’s actions, is to quote what should, or might have been taught, at a military academy.  General Douglas MacArthur seems to have understood blowback very well, because he advised against trying Emperor Hirohito of Japan for war crimes: claiming that “a vendetta for revenge will thereby be initiated whose cycle may well not be complete for centuries, if ever.” (Paul Manning, Martin Bormann: Nazi in Exile, [Secaucus, N.J.: Lyle Stuart, Inc., 1981], p. 127, and verifiable as found in certain Google Books, if the quote is inserted into the search engine.)

Both the terms “if ever”, and “for centuries” might be considered as exaggerations, but there is, in a way, one conflict which indeed has a multi-millenary existence: that of Afghanistan.  I am a bit tired of hearing it called “the graveyard of empires”, but perhaps the reader is unacquainted with that term.  Alexander the Great tried conquering territory there over 2,300 years ago, (as this article fragment from Foreign Affairs will show, and for a review of the last 200 years, try this New York Times article).

The Marshall Plan, in the opinion of some, was something of which Germany and Italy was not deserving.  On the other hand, we see little of any kind of revanchism coming out of these countries, as opposed to underdeveloped countries which seem to be able to handle “perpetual war”.  On the other hand, I am left wondering if there was a least one country which the United States had not defeated in war, but for one reason or another, has apparently let bygones be byones.


April 13, 2019

© 2019, Paul Karl Moeller

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