THE USUAL SUSPECTS ‌ The Most Civil of Wars 

Just because it's civil doesn't mean it's unwinnable

As a prominent media figure and celebrity, I've got a pretty wild night life. However, between giving DNA samples to Anna Nicole's estate and helping Britney shave her head, I've managed to make time for a series on the History Channel called The Revolution.

One episode recounts the British "southern strategy" that brought the war to Charleston in 1780. The British, under Gen. Cornwallis, then set off into the Carolina upcountry, looking for Loyalist support against the American revolutionaries. Part of their strategy was to arm local militias to fight for King and crown. Carolina Patriots responded by creating militias of their own. Instead of fighting for or against independence, South Carolinians turned on each other. The war became a pretext to settle old scores between families, grab land, and loot, or, occasionally, to torture each other to death.

As the History Channel narrator gravely intoned: "The southern strategy had unleashed a civil war."

And, in the modern TV sound bite world, everyone knows that once a war is a "civil" war, it magically transforms into an unwinnable Vietnam-like struggle that inevitably results in a) defeat for the American military; and b) a lot of insufferably ponderous and unwatchable Oliver Stone movies.

Which is why the British defeated the American patriots and successfully re-established the monarchy of King George III over the colo -- ooops.

Wait -- but I'm almost sure I heard my buddy Bill Maher say the other night that the reason we can't win in Iraq is that it's a "civil war." NBC practically took out ads bragging it used the "CW" words in their broadcasts. And didn't every self-righteous Democrat explain their vote for the "You're Going To Lose, But We're Sending You Anyway" resolution was because no American should die in an "unwinnable" civil war?

But there was Republican Bob Inglis (S.C. 4th district), representing much of the Upstate where Americans fighting both for and against democracy waged a civil war, announcing that Iraq is hopeless. And perhaps word hasn't reached Congressman Inglis, but in the Upstate, democracy won.

How is that possible?

No historian disputes that much of the fighting in America involved neighbors against neighbors, many of whom cared little, if at all, about the concepts of democracy or self-rule. It's also true that, like the Sunnis of Iraq, there was a solid minority of Americans who always supported the monarchy and took up arms to defend it.

In fact, if a reporter from Ye Olde Newsweeke had visited the Carolina backwoods in 1781, he could have accurately reported that a bloody "civil war" was underway. There was enough blood and butchery from both sides to keep a colonial Keith Olbermann telling lame "Poor George (Washington)" jokes every night.

And yet, somehow, American democracy managed to defeat British monarchy. The good guys (Patriots) won. The bad guys (British) lost. And the once-divided colonists found a way to become united (mostly) Americans.

We didn't do it alone. The French were vital to the American victory, as hard as that is to imagine today. But if Lafayette's first visit had been to the Carolina upstate, he and the French fleet might have declared "Sacre Bleu -- this is a bloody civil war!" and sailed off to the nearest bordello.

If I understand the current complaints about Iraq, we can't stay and fight because it's a civil war. So the French would have been wise to abandon the American revolution, too. Instead, they stayed in the bloody, messy, confused war of hypocritical American slave-owners fighting for freedom and helped create America.

Too bad the French didn't have Nancy Pelosi. Think of how much better off the world would be today. Right, Sen. Kerry?

The war in Iraq is also partially a civil war. But even the most ardent Bush-bashers admit that, like our Revolution, it's also something else. There are many Iraqis, both Sunnis and Shias, who want modernity, prosperity, and peace. That's why Shia Iranian agents are training Sunni terrorists. The Islamists also know this war is more than just a "civil" one.

If the Democrats get their way and we let the civil war in Baghdad drive us from the wider war in the Middle East, we will lose relatively little. The French didn't need our puny war in the Americas, either.

But the victory for the Islamists will be a great one, and will help set the course for the Islamic world for a generation.

All we have to do is have the same amount of guts as the French. It's hard to set the bar any lower than that.


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