"Anyone who has ever looked into the glazed eyes of a soldier dying on the battlefield will think hard before starting a war."
Otto Von Bismarck (1815--98), Prussian statesman. Speech, August 1867, Berlin.
"We used to wonder where war lived, what it was that made it so vile. And now we realize that we know where it lives, that it is inside ourselves."
Albert Camus (1913--60), French-Algerian philosopher, author. Notebooks, volume 3 (1966), entry for 7 September 1939
"There never was a good war or a bad peace."
Benjamin Franklin (1706--90), U.S. statesman, writer. Letters to Sir Joseph Banks, 27 July 1783, and Josiah Quincy, 11 September 1783 (published in Complete Works, volume 8, edited by John Bigelow, 1887--88).
The American way of war has always had a remarkable degree of moral inconsistency associated with it. From the beginning, we have the example of George Washington, who insisted upon the humane treatment of prisoners of war (in sharp contrast to the way American soldiers were treated by their British captors). Contrast this with Andrew Jackson, whose practices in the early Indian Wars and the War of 1812 were brutal, presaging America's wars and policy against the Native American population for the rest of the century.
The Civil War brought the concept of "total war" into the American system of warfare, with the actions of Union Generals Grant, Sherman, and Sheridan authoring the basic textbook that the rest of the world was to copy and expand upon for the last one-hundred and fifty years. Destroying your enemy's will to fight, so that abject, unconditional surrender of the enemy is the sole objective of your military, began to embed itself into the minds of the American military as war's real goal.
Our next three wars--the completion of the Indian Wars, the Spanish-American War, and the Philippine Insurrection--lacked the necessary elements for the use of a strategy of "total war" against our enemies. The Native American tribes were far too diverse and anarchistic to destroy all of the tribes will to fight at once: they had to be dealt with one by one. The Spanish-American War was not a war where we had any desire to conquer Spain: only take her Caribbean and Pacific colonies. The Philippine Insurrection was similar to the Indian Wars, except we inherited the rebellion from Spain; putting it down was a part of solidifying our seizure of the Philippines. It was not a generalized uprising, but primarily limited to the Muslim dominated Islands of the Southern Philippines. The Philippine Insurrection is of note for no other reason than the many similarities between it and our current difficulties in the Middle East.