Chris, if that is your interpretation of my words, I am deeply saddened at my inability to express myself more clearly. As the son of a West Pointer who was a combat pilot in World War II, and then an intel officer in Europe during the height of the Cold War, and then a bomber pilot in the Strategic Air Command in the 60s, I learned from him and his colleagues that there are moral and ethical limits beyond which no soldier of honor may venture. Yes, there were American soldiers who burned down villages and massacred the innocents — I have not forgotten My Lai, or Wounded Knee or a dozen other sites where inhumanity was practiced; as a writer on U.S. military issues for more than 30 years, I am sensitive to the horrific acts of brutality war engenders in some men (and how some men don’t need a war to be inhuman), and I would never be an apologist for such terror.

The point to the passage you cite is not to wage total war absent morals and ethics; it is, rather, to realize that the opposing force is willing to wage total war, has been waging total war, and will not only yield no quarter, but will, if it had its way, burn down the village — the Constitution — in order to save itself and those who follow its misbegotten messages of hate and social discord. If we choose to fight back, we must use every resource available to us — from vigorous, full-throated defense of our principles, to rigorous get-out-the-vote campaigns, to whatever social media and news media inroads we can make.

Of course I draw the line at sinking to the level of our opponents, but at the same time, I think it would be foolhardy not to press as hard as we can to deprive them of a disaster-laden victory. Punching down is the act of a coward; punching back is the act of a realist.

Journalist, former Capitol Hill staff (House and Senate), former Cabinet speechwriter, editor, photojournalist and bird photographer. Top Writer Quora 2016–2017

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