A Victor Not a Butcher

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I posted this review at Amazon.com.


One of my favorite figures from American history is Ulysses S. Grant.  He was the greatest general of the Civil War, and perhaps in American history, with three Confederate armies surrendering to him. He was not such a great president, though better than most give him credit for being. The corruption in American politics during his administration was not his fault and, in fact, was endemic throughout the country.  He did stand up for the rights of the freedmen and the native Americans, and this perhaps along with his victory over Lee accounts for the hostility with which many contemporary and Southern sympathizing historians have treated him. It is all too commonly believed, even today, that Grant was a butcher who defeated Lee by sheer weight of numbers, without regard to the casualties he inflicted.

Therefore, it was a real treat to read Edward H. Bonekemper’s Ulysses S. Grant:  a Victor, Not a Butcher. Bonekemper shows conclusively that far from being a butcher, Grant was, in fact a master of strategy and misdirection. In his western campaigns, Grant skillfully achieved his goals; the capture of Vicksburg and the Mississippi, driving the Confederates out of Tennessee, etc. with a minimum of casualties. The toll was heavier in the east, against Lee, but as Bonekemper points out, while Grant suffered as many deaths in the eighteen months he commanded the Army of the Potomac as all of the previous commanders had in three years, nevertheless, Grant had developed a winning strategy on a national level, which coordinated with Sherman’s march to the sea brought the South to its knees.

Some reviewers have commented that Bonekemper  brings nothing new in this book, no new research or any revelations to one already familiar to the course of the Civil War. This is true, but I think it serves as a helpful introduction to a sometimes-neglected military genius.


Message from a Saudi Prince

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Prince Turki al-Faisal, former ambassador to the US has written an op-ed piece in the New York Times. Essentially he is saying that if we don’t allow the Palestinians to declare their statehood this month at the UN, then Saudi Arabia won’t be our friend anymore.

The United States must support the Palestinian bid for statehood at the United Nations this month or risk losing the little credibility it has in the Arab world. If it does not, American influence will decline further, Israeli security will be undermined and Iran will be empowered, increasing the chances of another war in the region.

Moreover, Saudi Arabia would no longer be able to cooperate with America in the same way it historically has. With most of the Arab world in upheaval, the “special relationship” between Saudi Arabia and the United States would increasingly be seen as toxic by the vast majority of Arabs and Muslims, who demand justice for the Palestinian people.

Considering that Osama bin Laden and 15 of the 19 hijackers on 9-11 were Saudi nationals and Saudi Arabia is still funding radical mosques and madrassas all over the world, and is one of the most oppressive nations on Earth, one would think that with a friend like that, we hardly need any enemies.

Israel should see the Palestinian bid for statehood not as a threat, but as a chance to return to the negotiating table and prevent further conflict. Recent polls show that up to 70 percent of Palestinians say they believe there will be a new intifada if the deadlock is not broken shortly; this should encourage Israel to seek peace with the moderate Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas.

I can’t imagine why Israel would see a Palestinian state as a possible threat. Just because a majority of the Palestinians want to destroy Israel. Look at the map above. See how vulnerable Israel would be against a hostile Palestine.

The 2002 Arab Peace Plan must be the starting point for negotiations; a two-state solution based on the 1967 borders is the only realistic foundation on which to restart talks, seeing as how the Oslo Peace Process has proved fruitless.

Why has the peace process proved fruitless? Because the Palestinians don’t want peace or a two state solution. They want a one state solution with no Jews. I don’t really believe the Saudis are particularly sincere either.

Although Saudi Arabia is willing and able to chart a new and divergent course if America fails to act justly with regard to Palestine, the Middle East would be far better served by continuing cooperation and good will between these longstanding allies.

American support for Palestinian statehood is therefore crucial, and a veto will have profound negative consequences. In addition to causing substantial damage to American-Saudi relations and provoking uproar among Muslims worldwide, the United States would further undermine its relations with the Muslim world, empower Iran and threaten regional stability. Let us hope that the United States chooses the path of justice and peace.

A couple of questions:

1. If Prince Turki al-Faisal and Saudi Arabia are so concerned about justice in that part of the world, why don’t they take up the cause of the Kurds in Turkey, the Christians in Iraq and Egypt, or the Shiites in their own kingdom, all of which are being treated far worse than the Palestinians?

2. If the Palestinians want their own state, why don’t they show that they deserve one by learning to live at peace with their neighbors? This means openly acknowledging Israel’s right to exist, renouncing the use of terrorism, even against “Zionists”, and taking out the anti-Semitic propaganda from their media and school curricula. Maybe after five or ten years with no incidents, the Israelis will feel secure enough to allow a Palestinian state.

3. By the way, why have the other Arab states in the region ever taken in the Palestinians? Has Saudi Arabia ever offered these refuges a home and a chance for a new life?

If I had to choose between having either Israel or Saudi Arabia for an ally, it really isn’t a difficult choice. I would go for the country that has religious freedom and doesn’t treat women as sub-humans. I hope President Obama feels likewise

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