It’s always about resources, they say. That is why wars are fought. One country has what another wants. But for a democratic republic, that’s a lie propagated by people who don’t want to talk about the ideas and whose ultimate desires are just a bigger share of the pie. As a kid studying history, I choked on this explanation. Plus, if you have a little logic, you can disprove things.
Revolutionary War is a case in point. The resource supposedly was the land—who gets it, Britain or the colonies? Nonsense. We fought for Liberty. Liberty is defined as the ability to follow what’s in your head--your conscience, your faith, the dreams you have. Liberty loomed large to colonial Americans especially after The Great Awakening, a religious revival. And so the Declaration of Independence has 22 line items, almost all about the abuse of power (i.e., violations of liberty) by the crown. Note that men, women, Indians fought for Liberty. Molly Pitchers manning cannons and women sharpshooters at Saratoga. Men, who had a good living as landed gentry and leaders, became hunted rebels. A bigger piece of the pie? Naw, “Give me Liberty or give me death!” And Liberty was won, mostly by the fact that the Brits couldn’t conquer an armed populance who just kept coming from the rocks and trees after Concord to the Battle of Cowpens. A people motivated to demand that they should live free.
War of 1812, I was told in school was The Stupid War, with little reason for fighting except to protect New England merchants. Really? People fight for nothing? It began from two quarrels with Britain. First our young men were being forced into British naval seamanship for the most dangerous jobs. Secondly, Britain had given the States land all the way to the Mississippi, but then fomented Indian tribes with propaganda and weapons in that raw land west of the Appalachians. During the colonial period, the crown had forbidden Americans to share the Christian faith with Indians. USA built a navy and held their own against the greatest navy in the world. True, many American settlers were greedy for the land over the mountains. An area about the size of Kentucky was uninhabited (held as game preserve by 7 tribes). But they were also romantic. In the 1890 census, 2 million people had part native American heritage. In all Indian wars, skirmishes and violent encounters to that time, the US Army kept statistics of 73,000 deaths of Indians. That’s a lot more romance than fighting. Old World diseases were the real killers of Indians, whittling down the population from Columbus at 5 million to 1776 at 1.5 million to 1890 at 200,000. In 1814, the greatest army in the world invaded and captured Washington DC by just walking into town. That night a category 2-3 hurricane blew in. In the aftermath of flooding and mosquitoes the Redcoats lost 1/3 their army and Britain called off the invasion. In the end, USA got freedom of the seas and freedom from British interference provided we leave Canada alone. And a deep abiding sense that not us, but God had saved the nation as the last verse of Francis Scott Key’s poem, turned anthem, said.
Mexican War. It actually started when Mexico wouldn’t recognize the Treaty of 1824 with Tejas Province calling for free elections and other rights. The Mex government had invited loads of Anglos into the state as a buffer of suckers against the Comanches and Apaches. But Tejanos fought alongside Anglo Texians for freedom. They won, but in the aftermath Tejanos were badly treated. A house divided soons falls and Texas amassed huge debt with no way to pay. Law and order was chancy. Finally, somewhat reluctantly, US Congress agreed to accept them as a state in 1845. Mexico wanted Texas back and was willing to fight for it. But Texas didn’t want Mexico and their dictators. USA fought for the Texans and won decisively. In the aftermath, Mexico ceded a vast territory which they hadn’t really done much to claim. ( There were only 14,000 Mex ranchers in California in 1848. The following year of the gold rush, the population doubled.) The Mexican President said that the Anglos wanted too much freedom and was glad to be rid of them. Carlos Del Rio, a freedom loving illegal I knew, said USA made one terrible mistake by annexing the SW part of the country from Mexico. “Should have annexed the whole darned country so we could all be USA Americans!”
Civil War was fought over slavery and the union but slavery was the big issue. History books tell all this baloney about how all southerners wanted states rights and it’s the cotton/tobacco economy, stupid. That’s stupid! Only 10% of southerners owned slaves. Lincoln was ardently abolitionist and rejected an eleventh-hour Crittendon treaty that would have forever guaranteed slavery but preserved the union. Yet he was a plurality winner and had only slim mandate. So often he argued in the first part of the war for the union to persuade racist Democrats in the North to join the war effort. In 1862 he signed Emancipation Proclamation that only applied to Southern states in order to keep border states loyal. West Virginia peeled off and the border states stayed. But by 1863, Northerners had died for the cause and anti-slavery became increasingly the Cause. Part of the reason was that slaves were escaping, fleeing north, volunteering to fight. As comrades, whites found it hard to reject the blacks via racism. The War turned with the fall of Vicksburg in the west and Gettysburg in the east, then cascaded with Chattanooga and Atlanta. The problem for the South was that they had founded their republic on white supremacy and there were pockets of unionists and abolitionists throughout the south as well as rebellious slaves. They often held back about 1/3 the troops to quell slave rebellion when the North advanced. Many southerners switched sides. Southern atrocities against black union captives were horrifying and motivational for the North. The 1864 Democrat jingle, Nigger Doodle Dandy, backfired from their racism. When Sherman marched through Georgia, his army actually grew by 13,000 as slaves and sympathetic Southerners joined ranks. Meanwhile, “states rights” were abrogated by the Confederacy early on with Jones and Winton forming rogue states. The South lost the war of ideas as much as the battlefield.
Spanish-American War, World Wars, Korea and Vietnam, Iraq. USA is constantly accused of fighting for resources and greed, but if you read the details, it was always about ideas. If greed was the overriding cause, war wouldn’t start between democratic governments. They’d just negotiate market arrangements. The almighty buck doesn’t make free men want to fight and die. Resources as a war motivation is from the amoral, fair-share obsessed left. And historians tend to be liberals so this is what gets written in textbooks. Malarky. Colin Powell said it best, “We have only asked for enough land to bury our dead.”