Born fighting : how the Scots-Irish shaped America

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They could look back upon religious heroes who died rather than submit to that which they thought wrong, heroes named Ali and Hussein, who claimed descent from the Prophet -- as some Scots-Irish will claim descent from Robert the Bruce. Far too often we as Americans assume that our ways are the only ways.

We have a kind of arrogance that leads us into trouble. There can be a real nobility to the American spirit, as shown by the generosity of this country to willingly give of its wealth to rebuild Europe through the Marshall plan, an offer made to the nations of Eastern Europe but rejected by Stalin. But our arrogance in our own sense of superiority can lead us to misunderstand what confronts us when we engage other societies, economically, politically and especially militarily.

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In Vietnam the Tet offensive was a military disaster fro the N Vietnamese. But it was a political success. That was partly the fault of the American leadership, which had continually understated for political reasons the size of the forces we were facing. Thus the American people were unprepared for the ferocity of the campaign, its breadth, the daring of sappers fighting their way into the American Embassy compound in Saigon. And those who argue that it was a military defeat for the Vietnamese forces arrayed against us are correct, but miss the point -- the leadership in Hanoi was fully prepared to accept those kind of losses repeatedly because they were unwilling to have their will broken, because they were fighting for their concept of their nation, and were willing to risk all that the Americans fighting 12, miles from whom would be unwilling to continue the fighting necessary to kill enough of their opponents as to effectively end opposition.

We might note another kind of arrogance - the belief that we could in Iraq make an example that would effectively intimidate other nations in the region so that we could impose our will. Lessons are learned, but as teachers and administrators in schools often learn when the seek to impose order and discipline by force of will, it may not be the lesson that is intended. Other nations know that they cannot stand up directly to the force of the US Military machine, but that does not eliminate other forms of conflict. And if enough people are sufficiently committed, such asymmetrical warfare can be effective in breaking the will of the superior force as the application of overwhelming power is intended to be in breaking the will of weaker nations.

I am not a military expert. My service in the Marines was limited in scope and length, serving as I did only stateside in non-combat units. I am also not an expert in cultures of other nations, as historian or anthropologist or sociologist. I do read, and absorb, and think. I read contrasting points of view, and weigh as best I can the evidence each presents, before I attempt to come to conclusions. I think the only long-term impact of attempting to impose our will by the use of force will be the destruction of the United States as a democracy.

That is the strategic blunder upon which this administration has embarked. And I think it could well have been seen as a blunder, an embarkation upon an unrealizable goal, before we even started, had there been people willing to pay attention to things other than ideology and aspirations of grandeur and power and riches.

We the People: The Scots-Irish & American Politics.

Let me be clear. I do not think that Jim Webb has drawn all the lessons he could from what he has studied and experienced, about which he has written not only in this book but elsewhere. He has demonstrated -- and not just in this book - an ability and a willingness - to learn history and to see how it might apply in different situations.

Eugene McCarthy once said that one problem in the cold war conflict was that Americas' national game was poker while that of the Russians was chess. By this he meant that we have far too great a tendency to think in shorter periods of time.


I realize that many of the Neo-Cons would argue that they are thinking in the longer term, as for example they attempt to ensure access to if not control of the world's supplies of petroleum. But to me that is still tactical, not strategic. Had we continued down the path of exploring alternatives to a petroleum based economy begun under Carter but abandoned under Reagan our own vulnerability would be so much less, and we would have developed the kinds of technology that would have brought great economic benefit as we sold to other countries.

The conflict over resources is one example where our vision is far too short.

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Our total misunderstanding of other cultures, of the motivations of other peoples and other societies, has seen us repeatedly make blunders that were completely avoidable, as the conflict in Iraq demonstrates on both the tactical and strategic levels. Webb's book can help us understand things about our own society that can reshape our thinking and our actions, politically, ethically, and on other levels as well.

If we do not seek to understand the validity from his viewpoint of the person who opposes us, we have no choice but to attempt to destroy him, and in that attempt we may destroy ourselves. The lessons we can derive from learning about our differences at home are equally important in our relations with other nations, other peoples who may either be scattered across multiple nations, or striving as are the Kurds for the nation they never had. Community This content is not subject to review by Daily Kos staff prior to publication.

Recommend Unrecommend Add to Blog. Bruce Springsteen has Irish roots in Co Kildare.

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Luxury Irish skincare brand launched in award-winning hotel and spa. How you can stock Irish jewelry and clothing in North America. Where have all the Scots Irish gone? Numbers way down James O'Shea. Jun 14, The census survey showed 3 million Americans with Scots Irish ancestry in From this point onwards, the author concentrates on their enormous impact on American culture and way of life. As a result, the Scots-Irish headed for the mountainous areas in Pennsylvania where they named a town Donegal and then into the Appalachians and down into the Southern States.

Ironically some newly arrived Highland immigrants, who had suffered most from royalty back home in Scotland, took the Loyalist side in the war. The Appalachian Hillbillies were Scots-Irish who developed country music from their own traditional sources. The author goes on to point out that the percentage of the Southern US population who were slave owners was tiny. The Civil War was essentially a clash of interests between a growing industrial north and a very rural south and the right to retain slaves was of little importance to the most of those heavily Scots-Irish who fought in the Confederate ranks.

According to the author, the Confederate soldiers fought out of Celtic-style loyalty in support of their kith and kin against the Northern Yankees. Of course there were Scots- Irish on both sides in this horrific war, but the Scots-Irish were predominantly on the southern side. The author points out that the Confederate flag incorporates the cross of St. In more recent times, Scots-Irish descendants who changed from Presbyterianism to becoming Baptists and Methodists, sowed the seeds for the emergence of the Bible Belt.

The author singles out Jackson first elected President in , of an Ulster father and fiercely anti-British Presbyterian mother, as a typical unyielding Scots-Irish fighter, who defeated the British at New Orleans in and waged bloody war on the Indians.

The final chapters of the book are autobiographical and reveal the hurt of a decorated Vietnamese war veteran at the attitudes of many of those in the New England area to him on his return.