The Indispensable Man

There is only one man who is indispensable in American history, he was born 287 years ago, yesterday. Of course, we are talking about George Washington. Lieutenant General commanding the Continental Army (by Act of Congress the senior general of the US Army in perpetuity) unanimously elected President of the Constitutional Convention, the first and the only unanimously elected President of the United States, twice, and a farmer.

Henry (Light Horse Harry) Lee eulogized him as “First in War, First in Peace, and First in the heart of his countrymen, which he remains. King George III of Great Britain called him when he resigned his commission at the end of the Revolution, “The Greatest Man in the World”.

One of his warnings which should be much in our mind is his distaste for political faction or party. In the farewell letter, he left us as he left the presidency (itself an act that stunned the world), he said (Hat tip to the Victory Girls.)

I have already intimated to you the danger of parties in the State, with particular reference to the founding of them on geographical discriminations. Let me now take a more comprehensive view, and warn you in the most solemn manner against the baneful effects of the spirit of party generally.

This spirit, unfortunately, is inseparable from our nature, having its root in the strongest passions of the human mind. It exists under different shapes in all governments, more or less stifled, controlled, or repressed; but, in those of the popular form, it is seen in its greatest rankness, and is truly their worst enemy.

The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge, natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism. But this leads at length to a more formal and permanent despotism. The disorders and miseries which result gradually incline the minds of men to seek security and repose in the absolute power of an individual; and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction, more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation, on the ruins of public liberty.

The rest at the link (above).

Washington also penned the classic statement of American religious tolerance in his justly famous letter to the Hebrew Congregation of Newport, RI in 1790. It is here.

I was in response to a letter presented to Washington by the congregation when he visited Providence, which is not so well known. (hat tip to PowerLine.

Permit the children of the stock of Abraham to approach you with the most cordial affection and esteem for your person and merits ~~ and to join with our fellow citizens in welcoming you to NewPort.

With pleasure we reflect on those days ~~ those days of difficulty, and danger, when the God of Israel, who delivered David from the peril of the sword, ~~ shielded Your head in the day of battle: ~~ and we rejoice to think, that the same Spirit, who rested in the Bosom of the greatly beloved Daniel enabling him to preside over the Provinces of the Babylonish Empire, rests and ever will rest, upon you, enabling you to discharge the arduous duties of Chief Magistrate in these States.

Deprived as we heretofore have been of the invaluable rights of free Citizens, we now with a deep sense of gratitude to the Almighty disposer of all events behold a Government, erected by the Majesty of the People ~~ a Government, which to bigotry gives no sanction, to persecution no assistance ~~ but generously affording to all Liberty of conscience, and immunities of Citizenship: ~~ deeming every one, of whatever Nation, tongue, or language equal parts of the great governmental Machine: ~~ This so ample and extensive Federal Union whose basis is Philanthropy, Mutual confidence and Public Virtue, we cannot but acknowledge to be the work of the Great God, who ruleth in the Armies of Heaven, and among the Inhabitants of the Earth, doing whatever seemeth him good.

For all these Blessings of civil and religious liberty which we enjoy under an equal benign administration, we desire to send up our thanks to the Ancient of Days, the great preserver of Men ~~ beseeching him, that the Angel who conducted our forefathers through the wilderness into the promised Land, may graciously conduct you through all the difficulties and dangers of this mortal life: ~~ And, when, like Joshua full of days and full of honour, you are gathered to your Fathers, may you be admitted into the Heavenly Paradise to partake of the water of life, and the tree of immortality.

Done and Signed by order of the Hebrew Congregation in NewPort, Rhode Island August 17th 1790.

Moses Seixas, Warden

I can’t think of another man, anywhere, at any time, who was a better man, or a better leader for his, and all, people.

Happy Birthday, Sir.

The Changing World Order

Sumantra Maitra opens his article in The Federalist this way…

Albert Einstein allegedly once said that it is the definition of insanity to do the same thing over and over again, and expect different results. Nothing reflects this more than the foreign policy communities in the two Anglosphere capitals in London and Washington, D.C.

The reactions to the speeches and trip of Vice President Mike Pence and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to Europe signifies a long overdue change in foreign policy orthodoxy, and the meltdown in commentariat circles has been a sight to behold.

He then discusses a few of those reactions from people like Anne Applebaum, Nicholas Burns, and especially Natalie Nougayrede, all of whose arguments he describes as utter nonsense. He’s correct.

He’s correct because they are positing a situation that hasn’t existed since the early 90s if it ever did. Amongst other things Ms. Nougayrede explicitly tries to equate Europe with the EU, which is not what is to be seen on the ground.

The liberal foreign policy establishment is now so vehemently opposed to Trump that they have forgotten the countries in Europe currently opposed to American isolation were also the very same countries that once opposed American overreaction.

Back in 2003, Germany and France were at the forefront of protests against the United States opposing Iraq, and sided with Russia against the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Fast forward a few years, and those same countries are arguing for Russian gas in Europe while moaning about American retrenchment. One might wonder if the only thing that will please Western Europeans is Americans silently continuing to carry the security burden of Europe, while being lectured about morality by their overlords in Brussels. Except that would be unsustainable in the long term, as Bob Gates predicted in 2011.

Many of you know that while I supported the invasion of Iraq, I am troubled. Not that it was not justified, it was, irrespective of WMD. What troubles me more than anything was that once again American (and British) forces were committed to battle with no plans to win the peace that followed their success. Too many instances of this phenomenon is one of the reasons that the American people are less and less willing to commit our troops to these endless wars.

As Professor Michael Desch said, for good or for bad, the United States does not have shared interests with a certain set of countries, or even a set of common values, the way it did 50 years back. Time has changed, geopolitics have changed, and with that, the balance of power is also changing. China is a far bigger threat to the United States than Russia is, and with the terrible cost of nation-building in the Middle East, the relative power of the United States is equilibrated with other powers.

But that’s pure geopolitics. There’s another far more important aspect that is barely mentioned, at least in policy circles. The U.S. grand strategy in Europe has been a continuation of the Anglo-American strategy for the last 500 years: to ensure there’s no unified political union that can be a potential hegemon in Europe, and thus pose any future challenge.

But that was predicated in the idea that nation-states of Europe would be free. The E.U. as an institution was there to help cement peace between Germany and France, but the E.U. as a trade/military hegemon was not part of that American calculation.

Of course, the E.U. military is nowhere comparable to that of the United States, regardless of the Franco-German wish for a European army. But the E.U. is already a trade rival, and E.U. and U.S. interests differ with regard to Russia, Iran, and China. None of those is going to go away anytime soon, and the rift could continue to grow.

I think that rift will continue to grow, and if the UK manages to leave the EU perhaps very quickly. The UK, like the US, and unlike any other European power is primarily a maritime power, known and respected around the world. Part of the reason both of us have always used that Westphalian settlement was to keep from having trouble in the back yard. Philip II of Spain, Napoleon, Hitler, and Stalin were all broken on it.

I think it entirely possible that the Visegrad countries will align with the US/UK, as will Poland, which has deep ties with both of us anyway. I’m no longer sure that defending Poland is any longer a strictly eastward facing matter though.

He ends his article with this paragraph, and I can’t improve on it.

Pence and Pompeo are correct in saying the world has changed and one should look at it as it is instead of how it ought to be. One can only hope the European heads of states, as well as our Anglo-American foreign policy establishment, understand this simple truth––that everything in life consists of a choice which leads to a consequence, and living under an American order or facing China and Russia on one’s own is a perfectly valid scenario.

75 Years: The Mighty Eighth and American Exceptionalism

Something we don’t talk about too much is that while almost any nation will defend itself, one of the ways that America is exceptional is our willingness to defend freedom for other people as well as ourselves. This has been quite evident in the last century. It was brought to my attention by this from Vassar Bushmills at Unified Patriots 

[…]

    Why is it conservatives never come right out and say that the willingness of American men and women to die for the cause of not just liberty, but other men’s liberty, is a defining characteristic of American spirit? I know Ron Paul doesn’t agree, nor do Libertarians, for that matter.

But I can say this…go tell Putin’s new generation of America-haters that those 250,000 white crosses in Europe are shoulders they stand on as well. While Europe bears even more Russian graves than American, no slander ever accused any Russian of dying for the liberty of the French. But the fact that Americans have, and have shown in recent history they are still willing to ensures that none of their generation will ever die trying to repeat what their forbears did so well.

For that you owe America, not Putin, moi priyatyel.

And because of that willingness to die for other’s freedom, we now have the amazing sight of Europe, for most of us, our homelands, becoming not proud countries as before, but willing colonists, no longer willing to stand on their own feet, for all their whingeing, they are simply a protectorate of the United States. All those famous names, with only a few exceptions like Britain and Poland, have sold their sovereignty to us, and increasingly to Brussels. Sad, but the truth.

Vassar is absolutely correct, in neither 1917 nor 1942 was there any essential American national interest in the European war. In fact, it’s is quite possible that if we hadn’t stood with China in the 1930s, Japan might not have attacked us at all, we probably would have lost the Philippines, which if I recall correctly, were scheduled for independence on 4 July 1942 anyway, but, not a lot else.

In other words, we made it our business. And when Americans do business, we damned well do business. Göring’s Luftwaffe had a propensity to bomb civilians, and there’s an old rule about that, it’s called

Dresden in 1945

Dresden in 1945

Sow the Wind: Reap the Whirlwind

and on 13 February 1945, it came true as the US 8th Army Air Force in combination with the RAF Bomber Command burned down (in the first man-made firestorm) the city of Dresden. It caused far more casualties than Hiroshima, by the way.

But that’s toward the end of the story, 75 years ago today, that same Air Force, the Mighty Eighth mounted the first of a series of strikes which have become known as Big Week. The targets included:  LeipzigBrunswickGothaRegensburgSchweinfurtAugsburgStuttgart and Steyr but, the real target was the Luftwaffe, all of these cities were crucial in aircraft production.

The time would come, on 4 June 1944 when General Eisenhower would be able to tell the forces assembled for Overlord that “if you see aircraft, they will be ours” and it was nearly true, anywhere in Europe that summer.

But it was expensive, many of those crosses that Vladimir spoke of above are here, in Cambridge, England. Most of these men were in the Mighty Eighth. And these were only the ones that made it back to base, many others were in those aircraft that blew up, or crashed, or just plain never got home. In fact 75 years ago today, we lost sixty aircraft, that is 600 hundred men, and many more were wounded and killed in aircraft that came home. To the point that 8th AAF took higher casualties than any other like size unit in Europe. And higher in World War II than the whole United States Marine Corp.

Cambridge American Military Cemetery, England

And so, it went until the unconditional surrender of Germany and Japan in 1945.

And here is a clip from one of my all-time top five favorite movies Twelve O’Clock High, that speaks to what it took.

Little Easton St. Mary’s Church, Essex England

And interestingly, this story was supposedly based on the 100th Bombardment Group H, which came to be known as “The Bloody Hundredth” because of its losses. If you happen to be around Thorpe Abbotts in Norfolk, England, you will find that their control tower and some other buildings are now a museum dedicated to the 100th. This is how we and the British really established that special relationship that the politicians like to talk about, but it has much more to do with our peoples than our governments. For more about how the English remember the 8th USAAF go to The Eighth in the East.

But, you know the story doesn’t end on VE and VJ day does it. On VJ day America had 14,000,000 men in uniform, a navy far stronger than the rest of the world combined, an incomparable strategic bombing force, not to mention the world’s only atomic bomb, and over half of world domestic product. Never before or since has one country so dominated the world as on that September afternoon on the deck of the USS Missouri.

So what did America do?

It demobilized just as fast as it could, started making civilian goods and loaning giving money to Europe and Japan to rebuild their industries to be far more modern than American ones. It’s what we do.

But think about this, if we had been the imperialists that everybody wants to call us today, well who exactly was going to stop us in 1945. The British, who came out of the war probably second best were exhausted, and everybody else was flat on their back, except maybe the Russians, and the German army was more than willing for a rematch backed by the United States.

And when the Soviet Union started threatening Europe, the old names came back, for the 8th United States Air Force is still here, still the premier strategic bombing (and now missile) force in the world, even now, after the defeat of communism, still on guard.

But the time is coming when the world is going to have to take care of itself when we have to concentrate on getting our own house in order, and that time may be coming soon. So if you’re one of those NATO countries that we’ve been defending for the last century, you might want to think about defending yourselves, America may not always be there to cover you.

Heed not the sighs and sermons,
Go, gallant lads, again.
Let some folk think of Germans—
We think of Pole and Dane.
March 19, 1944

 

Deep State, Brexit, Trump, and Paranoia

There has been lots of hot air expended about all the nonsense (fake news included) since Donald Trump won the presidency. I put my thinking hat on a while ago and came to my own conclusions. So did R.S. (The Other) McCain. They’re pretty much the same. Here some from his post yesterday.

There was a lot of weird craziness in Andrew McCabe’s 60 Minutes interview, including the hare-brained scheme to secretly record President Trump’s conversations and invoke the 25th Amenidment, but perhaps nothing was more revealing than when the fired FBI official said this:

“I was speaking to the man who had just run for the presidency and just won the election for the presidency. And who might have done so with the aid of the government of Russia, our most formidable adversary on the world stage,” McCabe said of the meeting with President Trump. “And that was something that troubled me greatly.”

This is paranoia. […]

Let’s talk a bit about geopolitical reality: China is an economic rival to the U.S., and has been making military moves in the South China Sea. In any long-term military/diplomatic strategy, protecting America’s allies and interests against Chinese aggression is a major consideration. Meanwhile, the regime in Iran is a destabilizing force in the Islamic world, sponsoring terrorism, threatening Israel, and working to obtain nuclear arms.

Given the seriousness of these geopolitical threats, why would McCabe speak of Russia as the greatest “adversary” to America?

In a word, Brussels.

Yup. That’s what I see as well. We like the British have a bunch of political operatives masquerading as civil servants (two lies for the price of one: they are neither civil nor do they think of themselves as servants, of God, let alone the British and American people).

Stacy gives an excellent thumbnail description of European (including Russian) diplomatic history, mostly since 1914, but the main thrusts go back at least to the Napoleonic era, and likely farther. In fact, they form the lynchpin of the Westphalian system.

That’s all very well, I can understand how Brussels and Moscow got to this point, but what on earth makes any of this of more than cursory interest of the United States, let alone the paramount one. But here is your explanation as to why all these years after the demise of the Soviet Union, NATO still exists and maintains a cordon sanitaire around Russia.

Many Americans have always had an inferiority complex vis a vis Europeans, thinking them cultural icons compared to our bumptious people. They may have a point. So did many Romans view Greece. Regardless, America has the power, Europe is simply struggling to control a pretty small sandbox, and in Brexit, they stand to lose their only world power.

Europe has become a backwater, jerkline continent, of no real account to history. It’s almost a continent-size theme park, although there is little reason to go to Germany, you can find equivalent violence in Chicago or Baltimore. It has become irrelevant.

The real action in the world for the foreseeable future will be in Asia. Against China in the east and against Iran in western Asia. Europe has opted to have no role in either of these, although a free Britain (along with the Commonwealth) will have a large one.

Stacy comments:

This obsession with preserving the European Union explains why the same people who hate Trump also oppose “Brexit,” because a re-assertion of British sovereignty threatens the E.U.-centric mentality of the elite, in quite the same way that Trump’s “America first” approach offends those who want to see the U.S. “lead from behind.” Even though Andrew McCabe was never elected or appointed to any post that would require him to have an opinion on U.S. foreign policy, it is obvious that the former deputy FBI director had absorbed the establishment elite’s worldview, including their paranoid fear of Russian influence.

And there he speaks an obvious, but not well known, truth.

Sir Walter Raliegh had a clear understanding of this when he wrote:

For whosoever commands the sea commands the trade; whosoever commands the trade of the world commands the riches of the world, and consequently the world itself’

Since 1588 the people that have exercised that power have been British and/or American. You’ll remember 1588 as the time that Britain broke Imperial Spain at sea as Spain attempted to conquer the island. We finished the job 300 years later at Manila Bay. Now Europe tries, as they’ve been doing from one direction or another since 1067, hasn’t worked yet, no reason it should now. Even less reason for the line of battle ship of America to follow in the wake of the cock-boat of Europe.

Wednesday Video

Ennui has set in with me. I just don’t see anything I really want to write about today, so  let’s have a video. How about a complete change of pace? How about Victor Davis Hanson on World War II? Yeah, that works for me, and probably you, as well.

Enjoy!

The Venezuelan Implosion

In case you missed it in the uproar over the Covington Kids (God bless them) over the last few days the situation in Venezuela has come to a head.

A few days ago there was what looked like an attempted military coup which was put down. Only two days later the President of Venezuela’s National Assembly, Juan Guaido, has declared Maduro’s presidency as constitutionally illegitimate. He has been recognized as the legitimate head of the government by the United States, Canada, Brazil, Colombia, Peru, and others. Mexico and Bolivia have not. Maduro has severed diplomatic relations with the US and given US diplomats 72 hours to leave. The State Department has replied that Maduro is no longer head of Venezuela’s government and we are not leaving, quite brave on Pompeo’s part, or foolhardy, depending on how things turn out.

And so that is the situation now in the country with the largest oil reserves in the world, and with a government that Bernie Sanders would be proud of, as people fight over rats to eat and haven’t seen toilet paper in years.

Now what?

The big powers in the western hemisphere are the US, Brazil, and Colombia. Brazil has a pretty new, right-wing populist government under Jair Bolsonaro, and yes, there are many parallels and comparisons to Trump. There were also reports that the refugees from Venezuela played a part in his election, after years of a left-wing rule of their own.

So Brazil is somewhat weaker than it has been but it is still the neighborhood leader and an ally of the US. Colombia tends to follow Brazil.

Maduro is backed by Cuba, Iran, and Russia. In other words, the usual suspects. Solve this correctly, and we not only save many, many Venezuelan lives but we also damage terrorism in the western hemisphere quite a lot. Both matter.

It’s probably (according to most analysts) a bad idea for the US to get directly involved militarily, but it would also be very unwise to sit by idly.

I think Brandon J. Weichert has it reasonably close to right in The Spectator when he says this.

From its perch in North America, the United States can do much to support a humanitarian aid mission into Venezuela (air dropping supplies, for instance) while lending covert assistance to Colombia, Brazil, and Venezuelan dissidents. Yet, the most powerful punch that the United States could pack would not be through overt military force, but rather through covert action and diplomacy.

For instance, Cuba is key regional problem in this scenario. Cuba has been the conduit through which Iranian, Russian, and Chinese support for the Maduro regime has flowed. America must impose harsh sanctions against Havana until it ceases its illicit involvement with Maduro. I never understood why the Obama Administration attempted to normalize relations with Cuba. It only empowered Havana to misbehave more in Latin America.

Also, the United States Southern Command must be given greater resources. At present, USSOUTHCOM is woefully underfunded and has few military assets that it could deploy to help buttress American allies in the region. Some U.S. Navy warships should be diverted from other theaters and sent to operate under the command of USSOUTHCOM.

The essential element in this scenario would be American leadership as opposed to direct American military intervention. While this method may take longer and, therefore, prolong human suffering in Venezuela, this is the only viable option. After all, freedom isn’t free, and the United States has had ample evidence over the last several decades that it cannot fight for other peoples’ independence.

The locals must do the heavy-lifting here and the United States being a global power must put pressure on the outside forces (namely Cuba) that are empowering the Maduro regime’s disgusting reign.

That sounds pretty sensible to me. There’s always resentment when US troops are involved, but something needs to be done, and Brazil (and perhaps Colombia) is likely the best one to do it, with US backing and support. Both have borders with Venezuela. Nor would it hurt to have a USN presence to hold the ring.

And as the local superpower, and acting in accordance with long tradition, going back to President Monroe, it is the American role to let our South American neighbors figure out their own problems, without other powers sticking their noses in.

I also note that the hospital ship USNS Comfort is close to wrapping up a mission to various South American countries. It probably should be extended if necessary in the area.

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