restricted access 8. Ending the US Civil War: Reconciliation and Transitional Justice
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c h a p t e r 8 ENDING THE US CIVIL WAR WELL Reconciliation and Transitional Justice david a. crocker In his widely acclaimed study of the ending of the US Civil War, historian Jay Winik dramatically narrates the war’s last month and argues that Northern and Southern leaders ended this deadly conflict well.1 During a mere but momentous thirty days, these political and military men— especially President Abraham Lincoln and generals U. S. Grant, Robert E. Lee, William T. Sherman, Joe Johnston, and Nathan Bedford Forrest —avoided the bad endings of most civil wars and internecine conflicts when they decided and acted to reconcile adversaries and create one nation where before there had been only loosely allied states. Winik asserts that most civil wars ‘‘end quite badly, and history is rife with lessons that how wars end is every bit as crucial as why they start and how they are waged.’’2 In this chapter I analyze and evaluate Winik’s account through the lens of what has come to be called transitional justice .3 Policymakers and scholars of transitional justice critically consider how countries or regions—following conflict between or within states—do and should reckon with past wrongs and make (or fail to make) transitions to a better future. Argentina and Chile, South Africa and Uganda, Cambodia and East Asia are only a few of the nations or regions that have taken up transitional justice challenges. I distinguish the transitional justice perspective from two others. First, the just war tradition 145 146 david a. crocker normatively evaluates the starting and conducting of war. Usually the con- flicts treated are those between states, but the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission is one example of a country’s employing the just war tradition to assess a conflict internal to a country. As many chapters in this volume show, scholars working within or in relation to this tradition are considering to what extent, if any, the just war tradition can be extended to illuminate jus post bellum as well as jus ad bellum and jus in bello. A second policy and—at least implicitly—normative framework is Amnesty, Reintegration, and Reconciliation, or AR2. The aim of AR2 to improve the long-term peace building potential of the military doctrine known as Disarmament, Demobilization, and Reintegration, or DDR. In DDR, security forces demobilize combatants by putting the latter in secure locations and disarming them. In AR2, which complements rather than competes with the just war tradition, the emphasis is on armed reconcilers building long-term peaceful relations among former adversaries.4 Transitional justice is also concerned with reconciling former enemies and long-term development, but it depends less on military and more on government and civil society actors. Moreover, although the goal of reconciliation is important in transitional justice, those who work in this framework (a) evaluate various ideals of reconciliation and (b) balance reconciliation with other goals such as truth and justice. In this chapter, I will leave open the question of whether these three traditions might complement or overlap each other. The chapter proceeds in two steps. First, it summarizes Winik’s account of those Civil War leaders—especially Lincoln, Grant, Lee, Sherman , Johnston, and Forrest—whose decisions and actions, Winik argues, reconciled Northern and Southern combatants (and noncombatants) and importantly contributed to forging a new and unified nation. Second, although there is much that is appealing in Winik’s account, the second section argues that his focus on April 1865 (a) distorts our understanding of the war by overemphasizing the goal of North-South thick reconciliation among combatants and underemphasizing the black (and white) goals of racial justice and interracial democracy. Winik’s account, I argue, does not break sufficiently with the view that postconflict Reconstruction, in contrast to reconciling events of April 1865, was an unmitigated failure imposed by radical Republicans, Northern ‘‘carpetbaggers,’’ and Southern ending the us civil war well 147 ‘‘scalawags.’’ Drawing on Winik’s work in conjunction with that of Eric Foner, Benjamin G. Cloyd, David Blight, and other Civil War historians, I assert an alternative interpretation of April 1865. Rather than seeing Appomattox and what followed as a bright shining moment that mitigated the alleged evils of Reconstruction, it is better to see April 1865 (and its reconciling leaders) as part of a larger, slower, more protean transition from slavery to racial justice and from states’ rights and selfdetermination to enhanced national...


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