Who ever thinks about how many ways of war there are?


In chapter three of the book AN INDIGENOUS PEOPLE’S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES, readers are introduced to “America’s first way of war.”  It’s a grim, but probably necessary, project for us to think about our country’s ways of war.


In 2005 military historian John Grenier published THE FIRST WAY OF WAR: AMERICAN WAR MAKING ON THE FRONTIER, 1607-1814.   Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz quotes his description to open chapter three, titled “Bloody Footprints.”  Here is the text:


Americans depended on arts of war that contemporary professional soldiers supposedly abhorred: razing and destroying enemy villages and fields; killing enemy women and children; raiding settlements for captives; intimidating and brutalizing enemy noncombatants; and assassinating enemy leaders….In the frontier wars between 1607 and 1814, Americans forged two elements—unlimited war and irregular war—into their first way of war.


Those morally abhorrent practices have influenced America’s warmaking ever since.  Proposing moral distinctions between forms of the fundamentally depraved practice of war itself seems strange to me, like ranking forms of racism or slavery,  but there it is.  A graphic description of the kind of war used against the Indigenous Peoples on this continent, and now for the war of terrorism in the “war on terrorism.”  

Our souls’ search for redemption, to say nothing of innocence, in this historical milieu is fraught with difficulty, to say the least. 

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