Chesterton on “The American Creed”

English: G. K. Chesterton, 1920s. Silver gelat...

English: G. K. Chesterton, 1920s. Silver gelatin print. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If you read here much, you already know how much I like G. K. Chesterton. In 1922 he visited America and he was struck by the questions he was asked as he came through customs. In fact, he compared them to the Spanish Inquisition, and he made it into a compliment, because of all the countries of the world, only America is founded on a creed, and a written one at that.

In many ways it seems that we have lost that specialness, maybe I should say exceptionalism, lately, and if we do, I think we lose the essence of America. I say that because America, since the time of John Winthrop, has never been a strip of dirt, or a bunch of people; it has been an idea. Steven Hayward on the Powerline Blog spoke of this yesterday, and I think it to be very important, as well.

Here’s GKC’s comment:

It may have seemed something less than a compliment to compare the American Constitution to the Spanish Inquisition. But oddly enough, it does involve a truth, and still more oddly perhaps, it does involve a compliment. The American Constitution does resemble the Spanish Inquisition in this: that it is founded on a creed. America is the only nation in the world that is founded on creed. That creed is set forth with dogmatic and even theological lucidity in the Declaration of Independence; perhaps the only piece of practical politics that is also theoretical politics and also great literature. It enunciates that all men are equal in their claim to justice, that governments exist to give them that justice, and that their authority is for that reason just. It certainly does condemn anarchism, and it does also by inference condemn atheism, since it clearly names the Creator as the ultimate authority from whom these equal rights are derived. Nobody expects a modern political system to proceed logically in the application of such dogmas, and in the matter of God and Government it is naturally God whose claim is taken more lightly. The point is that there is a creed, if not about divine, at least about human things.

Via Chesterton on “The American Creed” | Power Line.

A Defense Department of Lawyers

I’m chary of Bill O’Reilly’s proposal to outsource the war on terrorism to a newly formed mercenary army for many reasons. Far from the least is the idea of a semi controlled force wandering around the world, we already have too much of that sort of nonsense. For me, it’s also a bit too reminiscent of the Romans hiring barbarian hordes to fight Rome’s battles.

But you know, Jonah Goldberg makes some good points here. American defense policy has become bogged down in the glut of policy and lawyers in the defense establishment. I’m not sure that it is possible for a soldier who know how to fight a war to succeed in the hierarchy anymore, it’s far more concerned with credentials and degrees than it is with effectiveness.

And that I think may be what O’Reilly is seeing as well, I haven’t read into his plan, I’m instinctively against it but, we need to do something, maybe anything, different. Because when the United States, which is immensely more powerful now, than it was 70 years ago when we defeated Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan and then proceeded to face down the Soviet Union for 50 years, can’t defeat a bunch of lightly armed and indifferently organized terrorists, we have a structural problem.

In any case, here is Jonah Goldberg

Fox News host Bill O’Reilly wants a mercenary army to supply the ground forces in the latest installment of the War on Terror.

And it seems the smart set can’t stop laughing. The Washington Post’s media blogger, Erik Wemple, called it an “insane” idea and suggested that allowing O’Reilly to peddle the idea on CBS This Morning was an “insane departure from that show’s standard.” The whole spectacle, Wemple opined, proved that O’Reilly will “never be much of a thought leader in policy circles.”

It’s true that on the left and the right, O’Reilly’s idea is being scorned fairly mercilessly. That’s understandable on the left. Arguably the most hated host at the most hated news network (in large part because both are so successful), O’Reilly could come out in support of the law of gravity and the usual suspects would run the headline, “Fox Host Supports Law Requiring Babies and Puppies to Fall from Great Height When Dropped.”

Continue reading A Defense Department of Lawyers | National Review Online.

Heroes who wait

Zulu-Bourne-Defends-with-Bayonet[1]

[Neo] I can’t speak for you but, I always find it a comfort when the cousins come with us on our military operations. Over the weekend Parliament overwhelmingly voted to join us in the air strikes in Iraq. That gives me some confidence that we may be doing the right thing. They aren’t joining us in Syria, at least yet, and I also understand that, it’s a much more confused situation.

It is indeed ‘A Thin Red  (actually RAF blue, but whatever) Line of Heroes’. If I read correctly they’re committing 6 Tornadoes. And that is a measure of how overstretched HM Forces have become, and how much their budgets have been cut. But you know, as I do, that they will acquit themselves superbly, as always.

That’s all well and good but the reason I’m rerunning this piece of Jessica’s is because we all sometimes forget just how hard it is on those who wait for their loved ones to come back from the war. We shouldn’t, I suspect that in some ways they are more heroic than those who so willingly go in harm’s way for us.

Here’s Jess:

Thin Red Line of Heroes

I don’t know how it is in the USA with civilian/military relations in everyday life, but, as ever, Kipling in his Tommy still sums up the British attitude:

For it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ “Chuck him out, the brute!”
But it’s “Saviour of ‘is country” when the guns begin to shoot;
An’ it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ anything you please;
An’ Tommy ain’t a bloomin’ fool — you bet that Tommy sees!

As a sometime Army wife, I know this all too well.  For a long time, thanks to IRA activity, British soldiers were advised to wear civvies when off duty, and it is indicative of something bad that the first reaction of some of the Top Brass to the brutal murder of Drummer Lee Rigby was to suggest that soldiers might want to revert to that; it is indicative of something right that our soldiers give the old two-fingered saute to such nonsense.

But there’s bound to be a divide between civilians and the military in times of peace when you have a professional army. Although the analogy with Monks might raise an eyebrow or two, there is a parallel (no, not that one).  Soldiers live a life apart. They are trained to do things which ordinary people don’t do, and probably don’t want to do.There has to be a high level of commitment, and at times the dedication to duty means that a soldier puts everything else to one side. Although no soldier’s wife worth her salt would dream of saying so, we all wait in terror for the knock on the door or the telephone call from the CO. Every time we kiss and wave good-bye, we know that for at least one of us, it is the final good-bye. And if your marriage doesn’t come to that honorable end, well the stress and strains on your man and marriage may make it come to another sort of end. The price soldiers pay to serve us all is huge.  But they also serve, who only stand and wait – and love.

Yes, here in the UK on 11 November, Armistice Day, we all remember our armed forces and the glorious dead, and we have pubic ceremonies where we celebrate and congratulate out Armed Forces; but what about the other 364 days? Well, unless there is a particularly horrible series of death, we forget – the ‘we’ being the vast majority of the population who know nothing and care less about our soldiers sailors and airmen.

I don’t know whether it is different in the US, but here, the armed forces are very much the Cinderella services – except when they are needed. Kipling, as ever, said it best:

Then it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ “Tommy, ‘ow’s yer soul?”
But it’s “Thin red line of ‘eroes” when the drums begin to roll,
The drums begin to roll, my boys, the drums begin to roll,
O it’s “Thin red line of ‘eroes” when the drums begin to roll.

But how thin does that red line have to be before it breaks?

Feast Day of Our Lady of Walsingham

pic_old-mapSo, today is the Feast Day of Our Lady of Walsingham. Seems strange, even to me, that a hard-headed old Protestant like me would care. Like many of you, I was raised that the veneration of Saints and such tended very close to idolatry. And it can, Martin Luther, himself, warned of it but, he also venerated Mary, the Theotokos, all his life.

In truth, many of us venerate soldiers, sports heroes, even politicians, in much the same way. In essence it strikes me as little more than a desire to emulate an exemplary person. The Christian overlay provides an opportunity for us to ask them to intercede with God for us, is all.

But, being raised when and how I was, none of this penetrated my thick skull, and I know I was hardly alone. But if we are wise we learn, and we grow as we age. At least for me this is true.

I was introduced to Our Lady of Walsingham by my coauthor, Jess, not long after we met, she made the pilgrimage to Walsingham a few years ago, not long after we were brought together.

With my love of history, I was fascinated by the history, and have written some about it, as has Jess. But that is not the point, today, while she was there, she lit a candle, and prayed for me (yes, I know, not the kind of thing we Lutherans, or in truth most Anglicans) do. Thing is, I felt a peace go through me at almost the moment she lit it, and sundry other effects as well.

There may be other explanations, I suppose, but I haven’t stumbled across them, and it is from that moment that she became my dearest friend, a moment shared across the ocean and half a continent. There are more chapters to tell of this story, but not today, they will have to wait.

Today is the day that I will merely note and ask Our Lady of Walsingham to continue to watch over us, and those we love.

O Mary, recall the solemn moment when Jesus, your divine son, dying on the cross, confided us to your maternal care. You are our mother, we desire ever to remain your devout children. let us therefore feel the effects of your powerful intercession with Jesus Christ. make your name again glorious in the shrine once renowned throughout England by your visits, favours, and many miracles.

Pray, O holy mother of God, for the conversion of England, restoration of the sick, consolation for the afflicted, repentance of sinners, peace to the departed.

O blessed Mary, mother of God, our Lady of Walsingham, intercede for us.
Amen.

Forever Free…

mathew-brady-studio-abraham-lincoln-sitting-at-desk-1861_i-g-40-4017-fmlwf00z We often speak around here of overreaching executive orders but, it is hard to match the one whose anniversary we celebrate today. Today is the anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. For a document that in practical terms did nothing, it only applied where the government’s writ did not run, it changed the world.

“That on the first day of January, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, all persons held as slaves within any State or designated part of a State, the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States, shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free;”

Amongst other thing, it guaranteed. that England and France would not intervene. Giuseppe Garibaldi the Italian soldier and diplomat said this about it:

giuseppe_garibaldi_1866Posterity will call you the great emancipator, a more enviable title than any crown could be, and greater than any merely mundane treasure…It is America, the same country which taught liberty to our forefathers, which now opens another solemn epoch of human progress. And while your tremendous courage astonishes the world, we are sadly reminded how this old Europe, which also can boast a great cause of liberty to fight for, has not found the mind or heart to equal you.” 

via Forever Free… | Practically Historical.

This Parallel Between LBJs And Obamas War Plans Will Terrify You

This is more than a bit worrying. Johnson did an outstanding job of messing up the war effort by his ridiculous micro-management. But one has to admit that he did pay attention. With Obama we’re likely to have the spectacle of micromanagement without supervision. Worse, unimaginably worse in every way.

From the Federalist.

Here’s where it gets spooky. Compare that paragraph to the following quote from the book “American Generalship: Character Is Everything: The Art of Command.” In it, the author recounts a passage from Gen. William Westmoreland’s memoirs about how political interference from a know-it-all president severely hampered the American campaign in Vietnam. The parallels are terrifying:

Westmoreland LBJ Outhouse

Via This Parallel Between LBJs And Obamas War Plans Will Terrify You.

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