Comparison of With God on our Side and Ballad of the Green Beret

Comparison of "With God on our Side" and" Ballad of the Green Beret"

" With God on our Side "- A critical review of American military history

Bob Dylan's song critically reviews the military history of the American nation. After having thought about the wars fought and the wars still to come , the narrator finally comes to the conclusion that God cannot possibly be on his nation's side, although always stated by its


Dylan takes the role of an American innocent who at first believes everything he was taught in school .After having given an enumeration of wars , he starts to do some thinking and then finally realizes that there has got to be a difference between what he was told about the objectives of American military actions , fighting on God's behalf, and reality.

2.2. Different Attitudes

Both " Ballad of the Green Beret" and " With God on our Side " deal with the American military forces  yet from totally different angles.

In his song , Sadler portrays a perfect soldier. He describes heroes in uniform fighting for "freedom's land". The author gives an outward description of the U.S. Special Forces in combat.

Dylan's song illustrates a thought process the narrator goes through . Here , the emphasis lies on a personal experience .The author uses this to make it possible for many people to identify with the narrator and therefore come to the same conclusion. The conclusion is : God is not on the side of nations fighting wars.

While " Ballad of the Green Beret " states that the Green Berets are fighting for freedom and against suppression , " With God on our Side " reveals the real reasons for fighting. Dylan picked out wars in which the reasons for combat were mostly for reasons of financial nature. He wants to express his feeling that , again , there's a gap between things told and reality.

Sadler's song glorifies American soldiers as brave and fearless men , immaculate in character.

The same soldiers that are glorified in Sadler's anthem , are made fun of in Dylan's song. He sarcastically calls the soldiers who cruelly have killed Indians and Spaniards heroes. In this context , it becomes evident that Dylan's slaughtering men cannot have God on their side and that they are not really suitable idols.

The first stanzas of " With God on our Side" illustrate the official interpretation of American military heritage , which are very alike the clichés Sadler presents of the American soldiers.

The tone of both texts is very different. Unlike the patriotic , uncritical " Ballad of the Green Beret " , "With God on our Side " conveys a severe criticism by using sarcastic , bitterly ironic even aggressive expressions ( You don´t count the dead with God on your side " / Six millions in the ovens they fried " / If God is on our side , he'll stop the next war ) .

"With God " not only conveys general criticism of warfare , but Dylan especially points out the horrors of the American past that are usually employed to glorify great achievements.

The Special Forces refer to God as the " Champion of the oppressed" in their prayer and acknowledge their dependence on him . Dylan refers exactly to the attitude conveyed in those lines when saying that the American army claims fighting on God's behalf. "Ballad of the Green Berets " contains all the statements Dylan revolts against : namely America has always got God on its side , soldiers are heroes and wars are necessary to obtain a free Western world.

Dylan unmistakingly makes it clear that -in theory- God and War are two things that do not go along well with each other , yet in reality are closely linked. ( see prayer of Green Berets).

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