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April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review

After 150 years, the choices made at Gettysburg still reverberate

By George Will



JewishWorldReview.com | In the 1780s, the son of a farmer in south-central Pennsylvania purchased from his father 116 acres where two roads intersected. He laid out 210 lots for a town he named for himself. He was James Gettys.

What happened when two armies collided there 150 years ago was, some might argue, not the most important battle in American history or even the Civil War. The 1777 defeat of the British at Saratoga won French support for the American Revolution. The Battle of Antietam (Sept. 17, 1862) enabled Abraham Lincoln to redefine the war by issuing the Emancipation Proclamation. The Battle of Midway sealed Japan’s fate.

But the Revolution would have succeeded without French assistance: No distant island could govern this continent. Japan’s defeat was assured when its attack on Pearl Harbor enraged a continental superpower. And in spite of Antietam, which repulsed the first invasion of the North, secession could still have succeeded if Robert E. Lee’s second invasion had shattered Northern support for the war by smashing the Union army at Gettysburg.

Antietam would have shortened the war, saving hundreds of thousands of lives, if Gen. George McClellan, among the most disagreeable figures in U.S. history, had pursued the retreating Lee. But Antietam was most important for what it enabled Lincoln to proclaim 106 days later. Gettysburg was most important for what it achieved, not for giving the president an occasion to deliver an address there 139 days later.



Studying history serves democracy by highlighting contingencies: Things did not need to turn out the way they did; choices matter. Since Hegel, Marx and other 19th-century philosophers decided that history is History — a proper noun, an autonomous force unfolding an inner logic — humanity has been told that vast, impersonal forces dictate events, nullifying human agency.

But they don’t. Choices matter. They certainly did during the first three days of July 1863 at the town of 2,390 people seven miles north of the Mason-Dixon line. In “Intruder in the Dust,” William Faulkner famously invoked the tantalizing power of possibility:

“For every Southern boy fourteen years old, not once but whenever he wants it, there is the instant when it’s still not yet two o’clock on that July afternoon in 1863, the brigades are in position behind the rail fence. . . . That moment doesn’t need even a fourteen-year-old boy to think This time. Maybe this time with all this much to lose and all this much to gain: Pennsylvania, Maryland, the world, the golden dome of Washington itself.”

But before what is remembered as Pickett’s Charge — mostly a brisk 19-minute walk — headed toward Cemetery Ridge, choices made by Lee and some of his generals had put victory beyond the reach of valor. They were, however, choices.

Books about battles, historian Allen C. Guelzo says tartly, have “acquired among my academic peers a reputation close to pornography,” war being, in their eyes, chiefly a manifestation of American savagery. But, he says dryly, one cannot discuss the 19th century without discussing the Civil War era, whose “singular event was a war.” And one conducted, not least at Gettysburg, with an “amateurism” — a “bewildered, small-town incompetence” — that magnified its bloodiness.

The theory that it was the first “modern” or “total” war is, Guelzo acutely says, refuted by “the silent witness of places like Gettysburg, where almost all of the buildings that sat in the path of the battle are still [there]” because the technology of war was too limited to destroy them. A stray bullet killed just one civilian — Mary Virginia Wade, who picked a bad time to bake bread.


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For those whom Guelzo calls the war’s “cultured despisers,” the Union cause was mere dull democracy, whereas “emancipation makes a better story for our times.” But as Lincoln said at Gettysburg, the war’s ultimate purpose was to preserve the Union in order to prove democracy’s viability. “Unless the Union was restored,” Guelzo says, “there would be no practical possibility of emancipation, since the overwhelming majority of American slaves would, in that case, end up living in a foreign country, and beyond the possible grasp of Lincoln’s best anti-slavery intentions.”

Lee was, a colleague said, “audacity personified.” His temperament and intellect were mutually reinforcing, his aggressiveness serving his strategic understanding: The South would lose a protracted defensive war. After Antietam, Lee said: “If I could do so, I would again cross the Potomac and invade Pennsylvania.” Hence a small crossroads town became the hinge of American, and hence world, history.

Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes what many in the media and Washington consider "must-reading". Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.

George Will's latest book is "With a Happy Eye but: America and the World, 1997-2002" to purchase a copy, click here. Comment on this column by clicking here.

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