During the earliest days of the Civil War, more than 150 years ago, the Northern press was demanding action by the federal government against the rebels. Just to show how naïve the country was, the New York papers were running banner headlines that read “On To Richmond,” as if capturing the rebel capital ought to be the goal of the federal army. Capturing Richmond, however, was just a symbol of the rebellion. The real target was the Army of Northern Virginia. None of the federal generals seemed to realize that until years later when General Ulysses S. Grant was given command of all the Northern armies.
More significantly, when the federal army started to move south toward Manassas, Va., during the summer of 1861, nearly every step of the way was reported in Northern newspapers! The point was that the rebels didn’t need an elaborate intelligence operation to find out what the federal army was doing. It was all being reported in the papers. The result? By the time the newly formed federal army lumbered its way to Manassas, the newly formed rebel army was there waiting for them. The battle, called the Battle of Bull Run because of a small stream that ran through the area, could have gone either way. Neither army was prepared, and late in the day the federals were routed and retreated back to their camps around Washington. The rebel army didn’t follow and, at least for a while, nothing much happened.
What’s the point in retelling the story of another Civil War battle, you ask? The point is you don’t tell your enemy what you’re planning to do. What relevance does that cardinal principle of warfare have to do with anything going on today? Do you suppose the Syrians have any idea that we’re planning a limited strike against them?