The Immortal Memory

The Battle of Trafalgar by J. M. W. Turner (oi...

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The British Empire got it’s start as a Tudor Enterprise as Henry VIII established the Royal Navy and as men increasingly saw how England could challenge Spain on the sea. Britain was well placed for this as an island off the coast of Europe. And so St Vincent made the now famous remark: “I do not say, my Lords, that the French will not come. I say only they will not come by sea.” And so it has always proved. And part of that was one of the Earl of St. Vincent’s protegé. This is his story.

I’ve referred several times to President Jefferson’s open letter regarding the return of Louisiana to France from Spain, where he commented that “on that day we shall have to marry ourselves to the British fleet and people”, and later commented “that from that day forward France shall end at her low water mark”. This is the day that France (and Spain) would forever lose control of the sea to Great Britain.

Today is the anniversary of a battle to rank with Salamis, with Waterloo, and with Yorktown. For today the English speaking peoples with their concepts of individual liberty and rights took control of the sea.

That battle is Trafalgar. The battle was fought off of the south-west coast of Spain between the British Squadron with 27 Ships-of-the-Line and the combined French and Spanish fleets with 33.

The Franco-Spanish fleet was under orders to sail for Brest to help accomplish the invasion of England, which was, by far, Napoleons most steadfast enemy.

Remember these were sailing ships, completely dependent on the wind. and at Trafalgar there was very little. The French and especially the Spanish were short-handed and had to fill their ship’s companies with soldiers. The British on the other hand had been blockading the coast for years and had been drilled mercilessly. Their commander, himself, had not been off the flagship for more than two years.

Alfred Thayer Mahan in his classic The Influence of Sea Power upon History puts it this way: “Those distant, storm-tossed ships, never seen by the Grande Armee, were all that stood between it and world domination.

And so today, in 1805, the battle was joined. The British had the weather gage, and a very unusual plan. Because of the light wind they would divide their battle line in two, with each squadron approaching the Franco-Spanish line at an acute angle. With a well-trained enemy, this would have been nearly suicidal but, under these conditions it allowed the British to engage the entire fleet and win the battle in a single day.

The British were under the command of a man who had had his introduction to naval war in the American Revolution, he fought in several minor battles off Toulon, was integral in the capture of Corsica, was captain of HMS Captain at the Battle of Cape St. Vincent. At the Battle of Santa Cruz de Tenerife, he lost his right arm, he won a decisive victory over the French at The Battle of the Nile and against the Danes at the Battle of Copenhagen.

At Trafalgar the British fleet went into battle with this signal flying from the flagship:

That flagship is, of course, the HMS Victory, which is now the oldest naval ship in regular commission in the world.

HMS Victory

HMS Victory , HM Naval Base, Portsmouth

The Admiral in command is Horatio, Lord Nelson.

Or to give him his full name:

Admiral Lord Nelson

The Most Noble Lord Horatio Nelson, Viscount and Baron Nelson, of the Nile and of Burnham Thorpe in the County of Norfolk, Baron Nelson of the Nile and of Hilborough in the said County, Knight of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath, Vice Admiral of the White Squadron of the Fleet, Commander in Chief of his Majesty’s Ships and Vessels in the Mediterranean, Duke of Bronté in the Kingdom of Sicily, Knight Grand Cross of the Sicilian Order of St Ferdinand and of Merit, Member of the Ottoman Order of the Crescent, Knight Grand Commander of the Order of St Joachim

as it is inscribed on his coffin in St. Paul’s cathedral, for he was killed by a French marine during the battle.

The first tribute to Nelson was fittingly offered at sea by sailors of Vice-Admiral Dmitry Senyavin’s passing Russian squadron, which saluted on learning of the death.

King George III, upon receiving the news, is reported to have said, in tears, “We have lost more than we have won”.

And the Times reported:

We do not know whether we should mourn or rejoice. The country has gained the most splendid and decisive Victory that has ever graced the naval annals of England; but it has been dearly purchased.

And so tonight in the Royal Navy and the Commonwealth navies, and at least in some places in the United States Navy and even in other navies and places will be drunk the one naval toast that is drunk in total silence:

The Immortal Memory of Lord Nelson and those who fell with him”

The traditional music to follow the toast is: Rule Britannia.

In a remarkable coincidence, the other remaining warship of the period USS Constitution was christened on this day in 1797 at the Boston Navy Yard. While HMS Victory is the oldest ship in commission, USS Constitution (nicknamed “Old Ironsides”) is the oldest warship still afloat and able to sail on its own. Victory is in permanent drydock.

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?

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.

War Weary?

2272458246_b77147169e_zIt seems Washington is convinced that America is war-weary. It’s not a completely inane remark. But I’m not sure that it is exactly accurate either.

I don’t think there is any doubt at all that America is very tired indeed of watching as Washington sends our matchless military into conflicts with one hand tied behind their backs and dragging a weight around behind them. That’s some idea of what the rules of engagement (ROE) that we have forced them to operate under have done to them. Not to mention the number of our guys killed and wounded (often catastrophically) to assuage the conscience of some twit in DC who couldn’t figure out (with the manual) which end the bullet comes out of.

If you say we are tired of fighting wars by rules that politicians designed without reference to the real world. We’d plead guilty, or I would anyway.

I think America is plenty tired of watching our military to which we have given our best young men and women and a large amount of our treasure, be wasted on doing silly crap like trying to build Iraq and Afghanistan into little United States, I’d say Yep, I’m weary of that as well.

You see in this Colin Powell was wrong (he was wrong about a lot of things actually), we’re America, if you anger us enough to get us to  come over and blow your little sandbox to smithereens, it’s your problem, we have no obligation to rebuild it. You angered us deeply, we broke it, you fix it if you can, if not, well, too bad. Let that be a lesson to you, Don’t make us come back. Mostly we figure if all you idiots would settle down, get jobs, or do something productive, pretty soon you’d have enough money to not want to break the china, but maybe that’s just a rule for the civilized world.

I don’t think America is really war-weary, we still love watching our guys do their thing, and making the world safe for Americans. We’re tired of the nonsense we talked about above, but I’ll bet we’d almost all enjoy sitting mesmerized again, as we were watching our guys and girls parade across the Iraqi desert a few years ago, and I doubt many of us will really forget the looks on the crowd’s faces as old Saddam’s statue came tumbling down. I liked that feeling, it had something of Berlin, 1945 about it.

Now they are trying to tell us that the war against ISIS will take at least three years. Three years–why? We gonna build new factories in Kurdistan first, and then recruit Koreans to fight and wait for them to walk over. Or maybe we are going to keep calling one bomb an air raid.

By the way, why are we using smart bombs or Hellfire missiles on a pickup truck with a machine gun and a short squad of idiots, in the middle of the desert? Yeah it makes neat videos, but 50 or so rounds of cal 50 would be at least as effective, and a hell of a lot cheaper

Here’s an even better idea, turn loose the Air Force, and the Navy, for say a week, every sortie they can manage, every target we can find. After that week, we ask anybody who’s still around if they want some more. If they do, how about a Marine Division through Iraq, another one through Syria, and say an armored corp through Kurdistan, should have it done in a couple of weeks. A month at the outside.

Three years, my foot!!

Let’s see, on 7 December 1944 (that’s three years after Pearl Harbor for you kids) Germany was just getting ready for its last gasp in the Battle of the Bulge, on the frontier of Germany itself, the Russians were rolling through East Prussia with most of their troops in GMC deuce and a half’s, and the officers in jeeps. Germany was a smoking ruin, the air forces were running out of targets, and mostly shooting up trains and making the rubble bounce.

On the other side of the world, The Imperial Japanese Navy, the remnants that hadn’t been sunk, was rusting away at its piers, out of fuel. The liberation of the Philippines was well in hand, next month North field on Tinian will welcome the 6th Bomb Group, which will commence to start burning down Japan which is already starving because of the American submarine campaign.

All of that was accomplished in three years, seventy years ago. They must have been supermen compared to us, huh? Since it will apparently take us that long to conquer a piece of the middle east the size of the United Kingdom and held by irregulars with ragtag equipment captured from here and there, instead of two of the foremost militaries in the world in 1941.

And I’ll bet that’s a lot of it as well. Americans are an impatient bunch, we got places to go, people to see, tyrants to topple, and all the rest. We don’t have three years to play around in some damned sandbox.

And if anybody is stupid enough to use the phrase ‘Boots on the ground’ in my presence-he won’t do it twice.

Let’s try something completely novel here. How about this: Decide what we need to do, and then decide what we need to do it. You know, instead of deciding we’ll put in ‘A’ so maybe we can do ‘B’, but what happens when ‘C’ unexpectedly does ‘D’. Now what are you going to do, Genius?

Or maybe we are just tired of leadership that can’t tie its own damned shoes, and is more worried about its cronies getting rich(er) than about the guys carrying the rifles. Maybe war really is too important to leave to the politicians (or the political generals).

“George Patton pick up the red courtesy phone, please.”

Saturday Roundup

Saturday, again. Bill Whittle is not amused with the way the Middle East is going. I like Bill, because while I nearly always agree with him, he lays it out in a logical manner, like I wish I could do half as well. This one is no exception.

God knows, I’ve told Him enough, that I’m no fan of Uncle Joey Biden but, I have to admit he might make a better president than Obama, maybe in 2015?

Pushing ISIS to the gates of Hell, while not optimal, is surely better than managing them, I think.

 

My kind of girl, tough, self-reliant, and proud!

Mollie Hemingway, Senior Editor at The Federalist, tweeted about her kid’s school. Now that is a school I’d send a child to as well.

Laser Cannon! We’ve almost got a laser cannon guys! How awesome is that?

HEL-MD-hires-660x440

Read about it here. You know, this, like Israel’s Iron Dome, is a legacy of Ronald Reagan, himself. It’s a legacy of his hatred of Mutual Assured Destruction. That hatred led to the Strategic Defense Initiative (AKA Starwars) which is now coming to fruition. Yes there really will be Starship Troopers, someday, if we don’t throw our heritage away.

Peggy Noonan on Joan Rivers

joan_riversThere was nobody like her. Some people are knockoffs or imitations of other, stronger, more vivid figures, but there was never another Joan Rivers before her or while she lived. She was a seriously wonderful, self-invented woman.

She was completely open and immediately accessible. She had the warmth of a person who found others keenly and genuinely interesting. It was also the warmth of a person with no boundaries: She wanted to know everything about you and would tell you a great deal about herself, right away. She had no edit function, which in part allowed her gift. She would tell you what she thought. She loved to shock, not only an audience but a friend. I think from the beginning life startled her, and she enjoyed startling you. You only asked her advice or opinion if you wanted an honest reply.

Her intelligence was penetrating and original, her tastes refined. Her duplex apartment on the east side of Manhattan was full of books in beautiful bindings, of elegant gold things on the table, lacquered boxes, antique furniture. She liked everything just so. She read a lot. She was a doctor’s daughter.

Keep reading, here

And yes, Spider Dog

 

 

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