You have to figure there have been more fights over the Confederate battle flag than there ever were under it.

After all, the Civil War lasted only four years. Controversies over the flag have been around for decades.

Sometimes these flare-ups merit the consternation and make valid points; other times they don't. Charleston County Council's recent attack on The Citadel is definitely an example of the latter.

County Councilman Henry Darby got upset recently after somebody pointed out to him that there is a Confederate Naval Jack - what most people erroneously call the "battle flag" - hanging in Summerall Chapel on El Cid's campus.

As an aside, the real battle flag is square.

Anyway, Darby accused the military college of "trying to preserve the Confederacy" and wants to withhold nearly $1 million from the school until they take down the flag.

You know, there are debates, and then there is the Molotov cocktail toss.

Look, this isn't the Statehouse dome and this argument is neither heritage nor hate.

It's blackmail.

What's the intent?

If you walk into Summerall Chapel, you have to look hard left the second you step inside to even see the flag.

It simply is not visible anywhere else in the cavernous, and beautiful, chapel.

The Naval Jack has been hanging there for 75 years. It is one of 57 flags on display, including the Christian flag.

It's a safe bet most cadets don't even notice it. Darby didn't when he was a student getting his master's degree there seven years ago.

Fact is, the flag is not in a position of sovereignty - it is part of a historical display in a chapel that, the school contends, is also a memorial. The names of alumni killed in various military conflicts are displayed on the walls.

Incidentally, you could make a good case that The Citadel is one of the most appropriate places to display that flag. After all, cadets arguably fired the first shots of the war.

And it's important to preserve all history, good or bad. Otherwise we don't learn from it.

The other point is a little more subtle. Sometimes you have to look at intent in these debates. The intent of hanging these flags originally was to improve acoustics in the chapel. They chose historical and state flags. True story.

The Citadel has shown itself to be most reasonable and transparent during this ordeal. They aren't trying to re-fight the Civil War, and they certainly aren't trying to shove the flag in anyone's face.

Bottom line, having the Naval Jack in that spot is not preserving the Confederacy any more than the California flag hanging in Summerall Chapel preserves Burbank.

Look away, look away

Councilman Elliott Summey did as good a job defusing this situation as could be done.

He pointed out that the flag is probably protected by the state Heritage Act, which was supposed to end these skirmishes. Fat chance.

So County Council voted to approve the money for The Citadel unless a state attorney general opinion says the flag is not protected.

That's about as reasonable and non-controversial as it gets. Sure, council members could have dismissed Darby's concerns and probably approved the appropriation with five votes. After all, that money is for the school's stadium, and Citadel athletics bring millions in economic impact to Charleston every year.

Of course, if they had, you might have seen this turn into a national story, and get all sorts of other groups involved.

Frankly, my dear, we don't need any more drama.

Councilman Joe Qualey was the lone vote against the compromise because he believed that a funding commitment made years ago and the flag are two separate issues.

And he's absolutely right.

This should never have come up.

But now that it has, council is handling it as well as can be expected. Sure, there may be internal politics at play in this "compromise," but the important thing is that Darby's concerns will get a hearing - and The Citadel will eventually get its money.

Any other outcome and, well, this is another old time that will not be forgotten.

Reach Brian Hicks at bhicks@postandcourier.com.