70 years after Operation Vittles

Yesterday, although few noticed, was the 70th anniversary of something that in time would lead eastern Europe to freedom. It marked the last flight of the US Air Force in Operation Vittles, the Berlin Airlift.

For almost a year the USAF and the Royal Air Force had supplied everything that the western sectors of Berlin had required to survive, from food to coal. The Soviets had cut off all land communication with the city, and while some thought we should simply run an armored force up the road, cooler (and perhaps wiser) head prevailed. The parallels to the Cuban Missile crisis are striking.

For the first time since World War II, American bombers were stationed in East Anglia, England, reoccupying some of the bases that had been used to attack Germany. This time they were B-29 Superfortresses capable of carrying atomic weapons to Moscow.

Caroline D’Agati at The Federalist has some thoughts, as well.

After its devastating defeat in the Second World War, Germany was on the precipice of doom. Its cities were in ruin, the people were demoralized, and its enemies were at the gates. The nation was divided into four sectors, controlled respectively by the victorious Allies: France, Great Britain, the Soviet Union, and the United States.  […]

By then, U.S. President Harry Truman and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill [By the way, that is incorrect, Clement Atlee was the Prime Minister, although Sir Winston undoubtedly agreed. Neo] believed Stalin and the intellectual contagion of Communism presented a far greater threat than resurgent German fascism. The Western Allies knew that a stable, democratic German republic would be an essential barrier to halting the spread of Communism into Western Europe.

On the other hand, Stalin knew that poverty and chaos would only make the German people more open to Russia’s proxy or outright rule. An unstable world, still reeling from the agonies of two world wars, was up for grabs to whichever ideology offered people their best chance for stability and peace. By the spring of 1948, the stage for the first battle of the Cold War had been set. [….]

Hoping to get the Germany economy back on its feet, the Western Allies introduced a new currency—the Deutschmark—to the Western-controlled sectors of Germany and Berlin. Rightfully, Stalin saw this as a challenge to his power. In protest, on June 24, 1948, he launched a blockade on land, sea, and rail, denying all supplies to the still-devastated city of Berlin.

With the bombed-out capital still in ruins and a bitter winter approaching, Berliners needed food, clothing, and, above all, coal to heat homes and power rebounding German industry. Americans like Dionne, the British, and the French were going to make sure they got it. “Operation Vittles,” which later became known as the Berlin Airlift, was under way.

With Berlin 110 miles deep into the Soviet sector, the Airlift posed an enormous logistical challenge. The C-54 aircraft that Dionne worked on required constant maintenance due to the Airlift’s round-the-clock flights with heavy cargo.

“The heavy loads of landing after landing just seared the tires,” Dionne explained to the audience. We had to change the tires all the time.” It’s no wonder. At the peak of the Airlift, on April 16, 1949, 1,398 flights carrying more than 12,940 tons were flown to Berlin within just 24 hours. That’s an average of one flight every 62 seconds.

American Airlift pilot Col. Gail Halvorsen even took it upon himself to drop candy in little parachutes to the children of Berlin as a token of friendship and affection. Born into chaos, most children didn’t even know what candy was; many were so poor they didn’t have shoes. This gesture encouraged the people of Berlin that the Western Allies were sincere in their desire to re-build Germany as a free, self-sufficient republic.

Think about that for a while, nearly one flight a minute for eleven months, by the heaviest transport aircraft our countries possessed. And yes, the French provided airfields, seaports, logistical support, and air traffic control. It was an allied effort, and the commitment of the western allies saved Berlin and perhaps Germany as well.

The next test would be halfway around the world, in Korea, we weren’t as successful, but there too, we held the line.

America Goes to War

We all, if we are old enough, remember the horror we felt 18 years ago this morning. I happened to be home and watching the morning news, never, not once in my life have I been so shocked, and yes, angered. But we all were, I still remember the picture of a German destroyer coming alongside one of our warships on a NATO exercise,  rails manned, stars and stripes at the foretruck, and a homemade sign on the bridge, “We are with you”, it said.

We talk of this every year, as our parents and grandparents talked of Pearl Harbor, and it was the same kind of thing, out of the blue, mass casualties, and a coming together. Sadly that last didn’t last very long. My remembrance of the day is here, and I’ve spoken of the heroes of the day before as well, here. Both are, I think, worth rereading.

But we are continually learning more, and seeing people in a new light. Garrett M. Graff published in Politico last week an excerpt of his book: The Only Plane in the Sky: An Oral History of 9/11. Even the excerpt moved me to tears and a huge respect for all those mentioned in it. I’m not sure how ‘fair use’ plays out here, but I think we should be all right with his chosen excerpt, and perhaps a couple pictures. I hope so, I want you to read this.

Gary Walters, chief usher, White House: It was a little bit before 9 a.m. when Mrs. Bush came downstairs—I met her at the elevator. As we were walking out, I remember we were talking about Christmas decorations.

Laura Bush, first lady: My Secret Service agent, the head of my detail, Ron Sprinkle, leaned over to me as I got into the car and said, “A plane has hit the World Trade Center.”

Condoleezza Rice, national security adviser, White House: I thought, Well, that’s a strange accident. I called the president. We talked about how odd it was. Then I went down for my staff meeting.

Matthew Waxman, National Security Council, White House: I had started about six weeks earlier as Condi Rice’s executive assistant. At about 9:00 o’clock, we would have a daily Situation Room meeting for the national security adviser and all the senior directors. It was during that meeting that the second plane hit.

Mary Matalin, aide to Vice President Dick Cheney: I was with the Vice President when the second plane hit, and we knew instantly that this was not an accident.

Condoleezza Rice: It was the moment that changed everything.

Matthew Waxman: We went into full crisis response mode.

Mary Matalin: We went right into work mode. While we were in his office making calls to New York, making calls to the president, making calls wherever they needed to be made, the Secret Service barged into his office.

Dick Cheney, vice president: Radar caught sight of an airliner heading toward the White House at 500 miles an hour.

Lewis “Scooter” Libby, chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney: We learn that a plane is five miles out and has dropped below 500 feet and can’t be found; it’s missing. You look at your watch and think, Hmmm, five miles out, 500 miles an hour. Tick, tick, tick.

Dick Cheney: My Secret Service agent said, “Sir, we have to leave now.” He grabbed me and propelled me out of my office, down the hall and into the underground shelter in the White House.

Mary Matalin: My jaw dropped and the jaws of my colleagues dropped because we had never seen anything like that.

Condoleezza Rice: The Secret Service came in and they said, “You have got to go to the bunker.” I remember being driven along, almost propelled along. We had no idea where it was safe and where it wasn’t. We didn’t think the bunker of the White House was safe at that point.

Dick Cheney: They practice this—you move, whether you want to be moved or not, you’re going.

Gary Walters: The Secret Service officers started yelling, “Get out, get out, everybody get out of the White House grounds.” I remember early on, the chaos. People running, screaming. Fear was in my mind.

Christine Limerick, housekeeper, White House: The look on the faces of the Secret Service agents who were told that they had to stay—I will never forget that because we had at least the opportunity to flee.

Ian Rifield, special agent, U.S. Secret Service: We were fairly confident that plane was going to hit us. The supervisor in the [Secret Service’s] Joint Operations Center basically said, “Anybody who survives the impact, we’ll go to an alternate center, and we’ll continue.” It wasn’t a joke.

Dick Cheney: A few moments later, I found myself in a fortified White House command post somewhere down below.

Commander Anthony Barnes, deputy director, Presidential Contingency Programs, White House: Vice President Cheney arrived in the bunker, along with his wife. The PEOC is not a single chamber; there are three or four rooms. The operations chamber is where my watch team was fielding phone calls. Then there’s the conference room area where Mr. Cheney and Condi Rice were—that’s the space that had the TV monitors, telephones, and whatever else.

Mary Matalin: It took a while for everybody to actually get to that area. It hadn’t been used for its intended purpose—which was to be a bomb shelter—since its inception.

Commander Anthony Barnes: Shortly thereafter, I looked around and there was Condi Rice, there was Karen Hughes, there was Mary Matalin, there was [Transportation Secretary] Norm Mineta. Mr. Mineta put up on one of the TV monitors a feed of where every airplane across the entire nation was. We looked at that thing—there must have been thousands of little airplane symbols on it.

Mary Matalin: The vice president was squarely seated in the center. It was emotional, but it was really work, work, work. We were trying to locate first and foremost all the planes. Identify the planes. Ground all the planes.

Commander Anthony Barnes: That first hour was mass confusion because there was so much erroneous information. It was hard to tell what was fact and what wasn’t. We couldn’t confirm much of this stuff, so we had to take it on face value until proven otherwise.

At 9:59 a.m., those inside the bunker—as well as millions more glued to TV screens around the country—watched in horror as the South Tower fell.

Mary Matalin: We saw the building collapse.

Commander Anthony Barnes: There was a deafening silence, and a lot of gasping and “Oh my god” and that kind of thing.

Mary Matalin: Disbelief.

Commander Anthony Barnes: There are four or five very large, 55-inch television screens in the PEOC. We would put the different news stations—ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC—on those monitors. I remember Cheney being as flabbergasted as the rest of us were sitting there watching on these monitors. Back in those days, a 55-inch TV monitor was a really big TV. It was almost bigger than life as the towers collapsed.

Dick Cheney: In the years since, I’ve heard speculation that I’m a different man after 9/11. I wouldn’t say that. But I’ll freely admit that watching a coordinated, devastating attack on our country from an underground bunker at the White House can affect how you view your responsibilities.

Mary Matalin: We had to go right back to work.

Richard Clarke, counterterrorism advisor, White House: Many of us thought that we might not leave the White House alive.

Matthew Waxman: One of the things we were all very conscious of down in the PEOC was that the White House Situation Room was staffed with our close colleagues and friends who were staying in those spots despite a clear danger. The Situation Room, which is only half-a-floor below ground, was abuzz with activity, from people who wouldn’t normally be posted there, but who felt duty bound to stay there to help manage the crisis. Especially early in the day, there was a palpable sense that close friends and colleagues might be in some significant danger.

Ian Rifield: There was a sense of frustration too, because we were sitting there. Everybody wanted to fight back. We’re trained to go to the problem, and we were sitting there. There was a lot of tension in that regard. You wanted to do something to protect the complex and the office of the president even better than we were, but we were doing the best we could with what we had. […]

Commander Anthony Barnes: I was running liaison between the ops guys who had Pentagon officials on the phone and the conference room [in the PEOC] where the principals were. The Pentagon thought there was another hijacked airplane, and they were asking for permission to shoot down an identified hijacked commercial aircraft. I asked the vice president that question and he answered it in the affirmative. I asked again to be sure. “Sir, I am confirming that you have given permission?” For me, being a military member and an aviator—understanding the absolute depth of what that question was and what that answer was—I wanted to make sure that there was no mistake whatsoever about what was being asked. Without hesitation, in the affirmative, he said any confirmed hijacked airplane may be engaged and shot down.

Col. Matthew Klimow, executive assistant to the Vice Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Richard Myers, Pentagon: No one had ever contemplated the need to shoot down a civilian airliner.

Major General Larry Arnold: I told Rick Findley in Colorado Springs [at NORAD’s headquarters], “Rick, we have to have permission. We may have to shoot down this aircraft that is coming toward Washington, D.C. We need presidential authority.”

Major Dan Caine, F-16 pilot, D.C. Air National Guard, Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland: I handed our wing commander the phone to talk to the high levels of government to get the rules of engagement.[…]

Col. Matthew Klimow: It was a very painful discussion for all of us. We didn’t want the burden of shooting down the airliner to be on the shoulders of a single fighter pilot, but we also didn’t want to have that pilot go all the way up the chain of command to get permission to shoot. It was decided the pilots should do their best to try to wave the airplane off, and if it’s clear the airplane is headed into a heavily populated area, the authority to shoot can be given to a regional commander.

THE CALL

Lt. Heather “Lucky” Penney, F-16 pilot, D.C. Air National Guard: This sounds counterintuitive, but when the magnitude of the situation hit me, I really lost all emotion. It was really much more focused on, What are the things I need to do to enable us to protect our capital? What are the things I need to do to facilitate us getting airborne?

Brigadier General David Wherley, commander, D.C. Air National Guard, Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland: My translation of the rules to Sass was, “You have weapons-free flight-lead control.” I said, “Do you understand what I’m asking you to do?” [Sasseville and Penney] both said yes. I told them to be careful.

Lt. Col. Marc Sasseville, F-16 pilot, U.S. Air Force: As we’re going out to the jets, Lucky and I had a quick conversation about what it is that we were going to do and how we were basically going to do the unthinkable if we had to.

Lt. Heather “Lucky” Penney: We would be ramming the aircraft. We didn’t have [missiles] on board to shoot the airplane down. As we were putting on our flight gear in the life support shop, Sass looked at me and said, “I’ll ram the cockpit.” I made the decision I would take the tail off the aircraft.

Lt. Col. Marc Sasseville: We didn’t have a whole lot of options.

Lt. Heather “Lucky” Penney: I had never been trained to scramble [mobilize] the aircraft. It would typically take about 20 minutes to start the jets, get the avionics systems going, go through all the preflight checks to make sure the systems were operating properly, program the computers in the aircraft. That’s not even including the time to look at the forms, do the walk-around of the airplane, and whatnot. We usually planned about half-an-hour to 40 minutes from the time you walked out the door to the time that you actually took off.

Col. George Degnon, vice commander, 113th Wing, Andrews Air Force Base: We did everything humanly possible to get the aircraft in the air.

Major General Larry Arnold, commander of the 1st Air Force, the Continental United States North American Aerospace Defense Command, Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida: Bob Marr quotes me as saying that I told him that we would “take lives in the air to save lives on the ground.”

Lt. Heather “Lucky” Penney, F-16 pilot, D.C. Air National Guard: Seeing the Pentagon was surreal. It was totally surreal to see this billowing black smoke. We didn’t get high. We were at about 3,000 feet. We never got above 3,000 feet, at least on that first sweep out.

Lt. Col. Marc Sasseville: There was all this smoke in my cockpit. It made me nauseous to be honest with you—not from an Ugh, this stinks, it was more from an Oh my God, we’ve been hit on our own soil and we’ve been hit big. I couldn’t believe they had gotten through and they managed to pull off this attack.

Lt. Heather “Lucky” Penney: The real heroes are the passengers on Flight 93 who were willing to sacrifice themselves.

Lt. Col. Marc Sasseville: They made the decision we didn’t have to make.

There is much more at Politico and  I really want you to read it all. It includes the transcripts and remembrances of the phone calls and cockpit voice recorder from Flight 93.

Too often we talk about heroes, and often we exaggerate. We don’t here, from Vice President Cheney right down to the passengers and crew that took down flight 93, we can truly say,  The soul of the United States of America in action.

Thus ended the first day, many would follow.

 

The Minefield Called Nationalism

I think most of you are familiar with Steven Hayward. He’s one of the principals at the PowerLine Blog that we refer to often I’d call it nearly essential, even though I don’t always agree with it, the reasoning is almost always impeccable. Here, he is writing for Law and Liberty and it is superb.

Like “America First,” another term that has elbowed its way back into our politics, the word “nationalism” has a lot of baggage that one might have hoped the airline of history would have lost in transit by now. The noted political theorist John Dunn called it “the starkest political shame of the twentieth century, the deepest, most intractable and yet most unanticipated blot on the political history of the world since 1900.” At the same time it is, said Dunn, “the very tissue of modern political sentiment, the most widespread, the most unthinking and the most immediate political disposition of all, at least among the literate populations of the modern world.”

Every government’s primary obligation is to protect the interests of its citizens first before anyone else’s, so “America First” ought to be unobjectionable in the abstract.

As Steven says, “America First” got a bad name from our isolationists in the days leading up to our involvement in the Second World War. While I can understand and sympathize with their thought, they were wrong, our conception of the world depended on the victory of the Anglophone powers.

The “German Question”

First, let us finish the historical picture. Is it possible for an entire continent to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder? Or, to put the matter more directly, is the twitchiness about nationalism partly a proxy for what might otherwise be recognized historically as “the German question”?

When, after 1989, it became possible to reunite the communism-sundered East Germany and West Germany, European nervousness about this was accompanied by the qualms of Germans themselves about their national identity. I observed many times in classrooms with European students that, when asked whether individual students regarded themselves as citizens of “Europe” or citizens of their native country, it was always the German students who were the most likely—sometimes the only—ones who tended to identify as “citizens of Europe” first.

It is hardly an exaggeration to say that Germany’s lingering war guilt acted, and still acts, as a drag on the mood of the entire Continent. Remember what Sir Humphrey Appleby, in the old British television series Yes, Minister, quipped: Germany went into the European Union “to cleanse themselves of genocide and reapply for admission to the human race.” (Or you might prefer the parallel joke, that the purpose of NATO was to keep the Americans in, the Soviets out, and the Germans down.)

An aside is that Sir Humphrey has become an astute guide to European and British politics in the last few years. Thus what we all thought was comedy becomes real life, or at least, black comedy.

There is some evidence that the trauma of the world wars and the Holocaust contribute to a higher degree of general risk-aversion among Europeans than Americans. Europe is where, after all, “genetically modified organisms” meet consumer trepidation that is off the chart as compared to the response in, say, the United States or Canada. Invoking “nationalism” among Europeans is as scary as trying to introduce GMOs in their supermarkets. (Would that Europeans had just as much skepticism of the risks of NGOs as they do of GMOs.) [Amen, Neo]

Europe’s culture of risk-aversion would be insufficient, though, to explain the Europeans’ anti-nationalist unease absent a much more powerful and insidious factor: what Sir Roger Scruton calls the Western Left’s “culture of repudiation”—or, in Pascal Bruckner’s useful label, “the tyranny of guilt.” There can be no sensible or benign nationalism when wide swaths of the intelligentsia of Europe—its universities, its media, and politicians like Emmanuel Macron and Angela Merkel—are embarrassed by or hostile to historic European civilization as a whole. (It should go without saying that same applies to the American intelligentsia.)

This is all very true, and it is why Europe is badly underperforming its potential, to the point that to many of us it looks suicidal. Britain is somewhat better, but only somewhat, to expect any initiative for much of anything from Europe has become a fool’s errand. The Brits did, on the other hand, manage to vote for Brexit, and appear to be staying the course, even against the opposition of their pusillanimous so-called elite.

“When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another.” The meaning here is unmistakable. While natural rights might be universal, securing them requires the nation-state—a “separate” nation-state, as the clause after that one says. And you can’t have distinctive nation-states without some kind of nationalist self-definition. The Declaration implicitly acknowledges that even universal rights will require, in practice, particular regimes that will be the product of history as much as reason. There is nothing to fear from a prudential understanding of this essential point.

And that is why Britain so badly needs the support of the United States at this time. A friend wrote years ago that we are the only ones still willing to go out into the world to address evil. Her words have become settled truth, but still, we too have our elites, who think their European counterparts are correct.

Read his article, I’ve not done it even close to justice here.

But Steven also reminds us that a few years ago one of the great nationalistic slogans was coined here:

We have nothing to fear but fear itself

Is a Trade Deal a Panacea?

About this Anglo-American trade deal, which John Bolton says will be a reality. Actually, he says we can do a lot of mini ones, sector by sector, sounds good to me, as it does to a lot of Brits. A bit of a dark cloud over it comes from Stumbling and Mumbling via our friends at Notes on Liberty.  They say this:

Brute facts tell us this. As part of the EU, the UK and Germany have the same trading rules. Last year, however, Germany exported $134bn of goods to the US whereas the UK exported only $65.3bn. Per head of population, Germany’s exports to the US were therefore 60% higher than the UK’s. Much the same is true for other non-EU nations. Last year Germany exported $11.8bn to Australia whilst the UK exported just $5.9bn, a per capita difference of over 50%. German exports to Canada were $12bn whilst the UK’s were $7.3bn, a 28% per capita difference. German exports to Japan, at $24.1bn were 2.2 times as great per head as the UK’s. And German exports to China, at $109.9bn were three times as great per capita as the UK’s $27.7bn.

Now, these numbers refer only to goods where Germany has a comparative advantage over the UK. But they tell us something important. Whatever else is holding back UK exports, it is not trade rules. Germany exports far more than the UK under the same rules.

As for what it is that is holding back exports, there are countless candidates – the same ones that help explain the UK’s relative industrial weakness: poor management; a lack of vocational training; lack of finance or entrepreneurship; the diversion of talent from manufacturing to a bloated financial sector; the legacy of an overvalued exchange rate. And so on.

There is truth in that, but I don’t think it’s the whole truth. One, Germany is something of an outlier, it has designed itself to be dependent on exports, in a sense it is like China that way. And also like China, that makes it vulnerable to events elsewhere.

But there is something else that bothers me with the UK, yes, but even more with all of Europe. They appear to have no confidence in themselves, the EU is essentially an economic Maginot line, not designed to make the members more profitable but to prevent them from going broke.

I pay more attention to the UK, so I see it more there, but I think it pervasive. I see few innovations coming out of any of these countries. The British, like us, used to idolize their inventors and entrepreneurs, now they seem to envy them and attempt to destroy them. And above all, they appear to have become welfare babies, completely unwilling to take a risk, no matter how well-considered. This is especially prevalent in the political realm where absolutely no one will call out the politically correct nonsense that Westminster insists on. This is the primary reason for the Brexit debacle, and perhaps including a fair amount of corruption, as well. Even to the point where the British are losing essential freedoms, like speech, as the government tries to protect the useless mouths. And then there is the seditious BBC (and Channel 4), if you think CNN is fake news, you should try these!

Now mind, this is probably not a majority of Britons (or quite a few other nationalities in Europe) but it does appear to be a majority in the City of London/Westminster, in other words in the political/government/big business sphere. For Britain to truly prosper as it once did, it will somehow have to overcome the blob that is holding it back.

That is something a trade deal cannot do for the British. In truth, we’re fighting the same battle.

And Looking Across the Ditch

Yesterday we took a look at the status of Brexit, since that post the worst candidate for Tory leader has dropped out, which seems like a good thing. But let’s take a look at Europe.

The European Parliament elections have put an end to the “far right.” From now on, the EU’s ministers and bureaucrats will have a new nationalist right complicating their machinations. The attempt to identify elite preferences with majority rule under the false rubric of centrism has failed. For the first time, the center-left Socialists & Democrats and the center-right European People’s Party have failed to win a majority. Instead, an anti-EU bloc has emerged in the European Parliament, the very institution intended to fix the famous democratic deficit of the EU while sanctioning “centrism” continent-wide.

This immoderate centrism will no longer be able to label populists as undemocratic. These so-called populists in several countries now control the government. They achieved this by democratic decision in free and fair elections: think here of Poland, Hungary, and Italy. Populism is a popular choice for the European Parliament: England, France, and Italy bear this out. Unless elites propose to elect another people, as Bertold Brecht joked, they’ll just have to stop calling it “far right.” […]

We are experiencing a politics of maneuvering between elites that still hold the highest offices in the EU and counter-elites hoping to replace them, change the structure of the EU, and even destroy some EU powers. The command of the high EU offices is still powerful enough to exclude the nationalists from EU coalitions, since there are alternatives on the center and left, but that will expose the center as its own faction or what Pierre Manent has referred to as the “immoderate middle.” Expect the nationalists to make this conflict worse by undermining the legitimacy of the European Parliament. They will work to subvert the European institutional consensus—to expose entrenched corruption and to expose the technocratic consensus as partisan, and to defend each other from Article VII sanctions (loss of voting rights) which the European Parliament threatened against Hungary in 2018.

This is a good moment for the nationalists to size up their adversaries’ ideas about the situation Europe now faces, adrift somewhere between America and China. Europe has neither the economic growth nor the technology to compete with either of the two, but EU officials keep saying they want to be independent of NATO on security and foreign policy even as China is buying its way into the EU and introducing new technologies over which it has a near-monopoly, such as 5G infrastructure. Before the 2008 financial crisis, the EU was not only the future of Europe, but political alternatives were inconceivable—they had no expression. EU politicians and their compliant press applied the epithet Eurosceptic to such views. But the failure to deal with the financial crisis, among other crises, has mainstreamed opposition to the EU on a number of levels in Europe—and it’s now storming into the European Parliament itself.

What champion of the EU consensus will fight it? The self-appointed leader of Europe is French President Emmanuel Macron. His presidency has not exactly been met with great success. The French people in many ways have given him their own vote of no-confidence, from months of street protests (“yellow vests” movement) to the victory of Marine Le Pen in the European Parliament elections, his own party coming in a close second, with only 22% of the votes. His great unpopularity, which plagued both his single-term predecessors, portends problems for the Fifth Republic. But Macron is still an elected president with very considerable powers.

There is quite a lot more, read it all at The European Union and the Fate of Nations.

I think that is true, once again (albeit by quite different means) Great Britain is moving to prevent a single power from dominating Europe. This time, not the government, but the people. It’s a wise move, even though continental Europe is becoming irrelevant, as both China and the United States move well beyond it. It needs Britain far more than it thinks. That I suspect is part of the trouble with Germany and France. Remainers often chide Brexiteer as ‘Little Englanders’. But like so much with the left, it is projection. What I see is little Europe and global Britain.

Britain isn’t the largest power in Europe, nor has it ever been. But, like, and perhaps even more than, the United States, it has a cachet for the rest of the world. It is the foremost font of ‘soft power’ because of who and what it has been in the modern world. I commented last weekend at the Hong Kong demonstrations and the number of the old colonial flag, Union Jack in the canton, and royal arms in the field, 20 years after the colony was ceded back to China. That’s no accident.

Nor is it an accident that all the countries that promote freedom share the Union Jack. Britain, of course, and Australia, and New Zealand, But the old flag of Singapore also does, as does Canada’s Red Ensign. The US also has a historic flag featuring the Union Flag in the canton. In fact, that was the flag raised in Philadelphia on 4 July 1776.

That’s a lot of places that remember the heritage of the British, show me the comparable heritage of the French, or the Germans.

Titus Techera ends his article with this:

As soon as he won the vote in Italy, Salvini moved to talk to other populist victors, having already formed a new European party for nationalists. Is it even possible for nationalists to have an alliance across borders? On what principle of justice? They will invariably have competing, contradictory claims and no institutional arrangements where leaders can pledge their loyalties and arrange to defend each other from the institutional claims of the EU, much less from the enormous influence of the German economy. Whether national politics or the continent-wide arrangement of institutions and economic interests wins will go a long way to deciding the future of Europe.

I’m inclined to say, of course, they can, if they are mature enough to do it. Like the US, Britain, and Canada will give way on minor gripes to each other, so can these countries. Whether they will is a different question.

To conclude, what the nationalists can do is shake the confidence of the centrists and mount a minority assault on decisions in the various EU institutions, since they cannot control EU offices. We will find out whether the various EU institutions are weaker or stronger than they have hitherto seemed. But we will also learn how aggressive the shift from the political center to the Greens and Liberals will make the majority. There is no tranquility or common purpose in sight.

And it is even possible, although unlikely on their own, that they shake the whole edifice down and allow Europe once again to be a group of independent nations trying to look out for their people.

“Bois de la Brigade de Marine”

Neptune/Overlord captures our imagination because of its scale and its mission of liberation, but the 6th of June is one of those days fraught with history.

Only twenty-six years before the Normandy landing one of the most remarkable actions in American arms happened.

The British made an attack early that year that was thrown back, and the French made one that nearly broke their army, and finally, as the Germans counterattacked the 3d US Infantry division was thrown in. Here is where it won its sobriquet “Rock of the Marne”, as Paris only a few miles away was saved.

Then it was time to counterattack, This fell to the 2d US infantry, and its 4th (Marine) brigade was tasked to attack into the Belleau Wood. It is interesting that the 2d Infantry Division would come ashore 26 years later on Omaha Beach on D+1, and would be the first unit dispatched to Korea from the US in 1950. The Indianhead hasn’t missed much in the last century.

As they formed up, the French told them it was impossible, to retreat, and got the reply from Marine Capt. Lloyd Williams who replied, “Retreat, Hell, we just got here.” This is the only Army formation to have ever been commanded by a Marine officer, Major General John A. Lejeune later the Commandant, and for whom Camp Lejeune is named.

One of the NCOs leading the charge was two time Medal of Honor winner (there are only 19 in history) Sgt. Major Daniel Joseph “Dan” Daly. One in the defense of the American consulate in Peking in 1900, and one in Haiti in 1915. He would be cited for a third here but would receive the Navy Cross. This was the man who called to his people, “Come on you sons of bitches, do you want to live forever?” Now carved in stone at the Marine Corps museum near Quantico, VA.

It took them three weeks to clear the woods, and 9000 casualties, more casualties than the Marines had taken in their entire history. The battle foreshadowed if anything the battles they would fight such as Peleliu in the Pacific a few years later.

This is where the Marines won one of their favorite descriptors, allegedly from the German Kaiser himself as Teufel Hunden (Devil Dogs). The German commanders rated them as a Stormtroop, they had nothing higher.

That offensive would go on for six months, ending on 11 November 1918, when the Germans surrendered.

In a failure of censorship, they were mentioned by name in the States thus leading to almost all heroic exploits being credited to them. A bit unfair but one can see how it happened. But it rather soured relations between the Army and the Marines for a generation, MacArthur always seemed to suffer from it, as did a young Artillery captain in the 2d Infantry Division himself, named Harry Truman. Eventually, they got over it, mostly.

On the other hand, General Pershing said this, “The deadliest weapon in the world is a United States Marine and his rifle.”

Belleau Wood no longer exists, it is the “Bois de la Brigade de Marine”, the Wood of the Marine Brigade.

The 5th and 6th Regiments won the French Croix de Guerre in the fight. They would win it twice more before the end of the war. And so the current members of the units and its organizational parts (including Marines and by special order their naval medical personnel) are authorized to wear the fourragère.

If you were to visit Aisne-Marne American Cemetery, you would find that it is laid out in a T shape, with a lane leading to the chapel. The chapel is built on the 4th Brigades trenches.

Not something we should be forgetting, in fact, a centenary we should be celebrating, as American arms took on the best in the world, for nearly the first time, and won.

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