American Ingenuity and Winning Friends, Redux

"No one cares about us, and no one understands exactly what happened, because we are Yazidis. Everyone wants to kill us. Where should we go? I don't have a dream because I don't have a life. That's all I have to say." I think we can do much better Photo courtesy of "Spirit of America"

“No one cares about us, and no one understands exactly what happened, because we are Yazidis. Everyone wants to kill us. Where should we go? I don’t have a dream because I don’t have a life. That’s all I have to say.”
I think we can do much better
Photo courtesy of “Spirit of America”

[OK, I posted this the other day, and with all he nonsense, I’m not sure anybody actually read it, so here its again. i think it a very worthwhile endeavor. Neo]

A while back, Jessica wrote a post entitled We’re Americans, We Act, As always with her articles, it is excellent. it deals with the problems last summer in northern Iraq, and don’t kid yourself, those problems are still there, we have perhaps helped hold the ring, but it ain’t all sweetness and light. Much remains to do.

You’ve all heard me complain about elephantine American/multinational big business and how the little guys can run them into the ground six days a week and twice on Sunday as well, given a level playing field. Nothing has changed on that front either.

And we all know that a S&P 50 firm is agility itself compared with the US Government, even that part that works fairly well, which would be the US Military.

But all problems have solutions, if we have the vision to see them but, that’s the hard part: seeing them. Well actually it’s not, our young men and women in the military, with their butts in the weeds are as adept as anyone in the history of the world at “improvising, adapting, and overcoming”, that’s one of the main reason our military is justly feared by our enemies.

But they are too often stymied by the elephantine bureaucracy of the Pentagon, and even so, some of the things that Captain Lunchbucket thinks would help him get along with his new neighbors are not things that the taxpayers should be buying but, neither should the Captain’s wife, really. Talk about a nightmare, how about a Pentagon program to supply 50 softball bats to a village in Afghanistan? It would likely be cheaper to airlift them to Colorado and give them a lifetime income.

But the American soldier has always been America’s best ambassador, everywhere he goes, his basic goodness reflects well on us, and people are drawn to him. In fact, when I was young I knew many men who flew in World War Two in 8th and 9th US Army Air Forces, the two based in England. they were proud of what they had done in the war. But the ones who had stayed in were even prouder of what they had done in 1948. In something called Operation Vittles, where we (and the British) completely supplied the city of Berlin during the blockade. That was a mission a man could really be proud of. But even in that one, the story we all remember is the pilot who bought candy out of his own pocket and airdropped it to the kids watching the planes land. Improvise, Adapt, and Overcome, indeed.

So how do we harness American entrepreneurial skills to the young soldiers’ needs in the field? We know we can’t do it with a Pentagon program, too slow, too expensive and other reasons as well.

Here’s one way that has worked for 13 years. From the Hoover Institution and the Wall Street Journal learn about Spirit of America and its founder Jim Hake.

American ingenuity: winning friends and influencing people since 1776 (at least).

Here’s the link to Spirit of America

American Ingenuity and Winning Friends

"No one cares about us, and no one understands exactly what happened, because we are Yazidis. Everyone wants to kill us. Where should we go? I don't have a dream because I don't have a life. That's all I have to say." I think we can do much better Photo courtesy of "Spirit of America"

“No one cares about us, and no one understands exactly what happened, because we are Yazidis. Everyone wants to kill us. Where should we go? I don’t have a dream because I don’t have a life. That’s all I have to say.”
I think we can do much better
Photo courtesy of “Spirit of America”

A while back, Jessica wrote a post entitled We’re Americans, We Act, As always with her articles, it is excellent. it deals with the problems last summer in northern Iraq, and don’t kid yourself, those problems are still there, we have perhaps helped hold the ring, but it ain’t all sweetness and light. Much remains to do.

You’ve all heard me complain about elephantine American/multinational big business and how the little guys can run them into the ground six days a week and twice on Sunday as well, given a level playing field. Nothing has changed on that front either.

And we all know that a S&P 50 firm is agility itself compared with the US Government, even that part that works fairly well, which would be the US Military.

But all problems have solutions, if we have the vision to see them but, that’s the hard part: seeing them. Well actually it’s not, our young men and women in the military, with their butts in the weeds are as adept as anyone in the history of the world at “improvising, adapting, and overcoming”, that’s one of the main reason our military is justly feared by our enemies.

But they are too often stymied by the elephantine bureaucracy of the Pentagon, and even so, some of the things that Captain Lunchbucket thinks would help him get along with his new neighbors are not things that the taxpayers should be buying but, neither should the Captain’s wife, really. Talk about a nightmare, how about a Pentagon program to supply 50 softball bats to a village in Afghanistan? It would likely be cheaper to airlift them to Colorado and give them a lifetime income.

But the American soldier has always been America’s best ambassador, everywhere he goes, his basic goodness reflects well on us, and people are drawn to him. In fact, when I was young I knew many men who flew in World War Two in 8th and 9th US Army Air Forces, the two based in England. they were proud of what they had done in the war. But the ones who had stayed in were even prouder of what they had done in 1948. In something called Operation Vittles, where we (and the British) completely supplied the city of Berlin during the blockade. That was a mission a man could really be proud of. But even in that one, the story we all remember is the pilot who bought candy out of his own pocket and airdropped it to the kids watching the planes land. Improvise, Adapt, and Overcome, indeed.

So how do we harness American entrepreneurial skills to the young soldiers’ needs in the field? We know we can’t do it with a Pentagon program, too slow, too expensive and other reasons as well.

Here’s one way that has worked for 13 years. From the Hoover Institution and the Wall Street Journal learn about Spirit of America and its founder Jim Hake.

American ingenuity: winning friends and influencing people since 1776 (at least).

Here’s the link to Spirit of America

Should We (or for that Matter Britain) Have Entered World War I

downloadThis is an exercise in thinking for yourself. it came up in a comment stream (yes, we were off topic) on AATW last week, and it interesting one. There is simply no doubt that the infusion of American arms and money won the Great War for the Allies.

But should we have entered, there is some truth that we entered because Wilson was outraged that the Kreigsmarine ignored his warnings about submarine warfare, and some truth that America was outraged by the Zimmerman telegram. On the other hand it hard to see how we were going to collect the loans we had made to the Allies if we didn’t.

Nor was this a small matter, sometime in 1915 or 1916 the world’s financial center had moved from London to New York, as the British went from being the world’s largest creditor nation to being the world’s largest debtor nation. Without that there is no American century. By the time of the Armistice, Germany was literally starving to death (that’s true in World War II as well, but irrelevant for now). this is when America became the “indispensable nation”. there are lessons in that for us today that we would be wise to take to heart as well.


But to me the more interesting question is this. What if Great Britain had sat out the Great War? Here are four eminent British historians talking about that very idea. Watch the video and then we’ll talk a bit more.

I think I’ve run this before but no matter, it’s quite valuable, and directly on point. One thing that is very hard  for us all is that one can only consider the information they knew at the time.

You heard quite a bit about shopping lists and Bethmann-Hollweg’s demands. If I remember by about October 1914 Germany was so far in debt that she had to make ridiculous claims to pay off her debt, she, of course, didn’t have the British (and then American) banks to hold her hand, and you do remember what happened to Weimar Germany in the 20s, right?

What do I think, overall? From the viewpoint of what we now call Realpolitik there is simply no question, there were no gains available commensurate with the risk of war for Great Britain. And the outcome of her victory could have hardly been worse, if she lost. That is not entirely her fault of course. There are other actors, I, personally would lay a great deal of the blame on the idiotically inexperienced and stubborn Woodrow Wilson But there, are, in fact, no clean hands in this mess.

And the other fly in the ointment is this. Germany should have won anyway, and in 1914. von Moltke the Younger weakened the Schwerpunkt to strengthen the defenses in the Ruhr unnecessarily (the French weren’t coming). That led to the necessary shortening of the right hook and is the reason the First Marne happened instead of the fall of Paris. Then he panicked when he saw the mobilization of Russia proceeding faster than the Prussian plan said they would, and diverted a further three corps from the attack to Hindenburg in the run-up to Tannenberg. When he was told they were coming Hindenburg reportedly said, “Why, I have no use for them. And he didn’t.

They got there after the battle had been fought. So they spent the entire decisive stage of the war riding around on trains across Germany. And so, “the Miracle of the Marne” was actually that the Germans panicked.

And so the whole thing settled into stalemate. The apologists would like you to believe this couldn’t have been foreseen. They’re wrong, it could have been, and should have been. Europe, then as now, believed so much in their superiority that they never looked around. They didn’t have to look far. The 1864-65 campaign of the Army of the Potomac against the Army of Northern Virginia, looks very similar. To change the paradigm was going to take the development of practical combustion powered armored force vehicle which didn’t happen until the 1930s.

And so a clear win for the non-interventionists. Or is it?

Because in the cold logic of realpolitik it seems pretty clear, there remains that nagging little voice, “What of Honor? What of our commitments, and our word?”

And as I sit here in a United States whose feckless government has seemingly forgotten (or never knew) the terms, let alone what they mean. I’m inclined to think they do, other countries need to know what a great power will, in general do. that it will keep its word. And while here, we have been talking of the beginning of the wars of the twentieth century, those wars ended when an American, British, and Polish, person of honor showed the way. Perhaps honor does matter. I think so, i think it makes us better, much better. Otherwise, we are simply a pack of wolves, arguing over the spoils.

A couple of points. World War II is simply not conceivable (at least as it happened without the Great War. I think Churchill correct, when he called them together a new Thirty Years War and the same is true for the Cold War.

Those debating for the proposition in the video have one point that is hard to overstate. It is hard to conceive of an outcome that is worse than what we got.

Perhaps Churchill was also right when he said of the times.

Great Events and Small Men

He excluded himself from that judgement, of course.

The Music of Texas, and the Rest of Us

[First a programming note, the Newman Lecture for this week hit a technical snag, and so will be delayed, likely till next Saturday.  I followed the live Tweeting and I think it worth waiting for, so we’ll merely delay it. Stuff happens!]

So my self-imposed penance for that, and for forgetting the fall of the Alamo, we’ll just present some of the music of Texas.

.

That Mexican Army that was delayed at the Alamo got itself surprised at San Jacinto with a bit of help from an unlikely source.

Yeah, I know that this is the cleaned up Mitch Miller version but, I suspect we all know the story, and like this one. Something about those Texas girls, isn’t there?

Then came the big war, and over Sam Houston’s objections, Texas cast its lot with the South.

Those of us that keep up with history will notice something in that song, in the English speaking world revolutions are fought to restore rights that government has taken away. It’s a tradition that reaches back, at least, 800 years to Magna Charta, and it still lives.

Back in 1898 in that “Splendid Little War” with Spain, well there were a lot of cowboy boots that went up San Juan Hill, with those Yalies.

And you know, it just going on, there were a fair number of those boots flying in those Mustangs and Fortresses, back in the Forties as well. To the point that one officer in the Eighth US Air Force provoked a protest from the Ambassador from Ireland when he commented that the Allies would have lost if it weren’t for Ireland and Texas. But he may have been right, although he actually meant the Irish-Americans.

But you kind of have to feel for the Mexican Army, they’ve always done there best, and twice they’ve won engagements fought to last man but both times the glory has gone to the losers. The first was the Alamo, and the second made this unit famous.

Who are of course no one but the French Foreign Legion

 

 

The Greatest Knight and the End of an Age

English: William Marshal, 2nd Earl of Pembroke

English: William Marshal, 2nd Earl of Pembroke (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One of the things that happens as we grow up (and even older) is that we discover our heroes have feet of clay. That’s because they, like us, are men, not gods, or even demigods. Still some seem to endure, and I suppose I was lucky, mine did better than most.

One of the first men in history that I decided was a hero and a good man to model  my life on was William Marshal, earl of Pembroke. Gallant knight, respected by all of Henry II fractious children, as well as nearly all of the barons of England, signatory of Magna Charta doing his duty as Marshal of England. And reissuing the Charter as Regent of England for John’s son Henry III,

Here’s a bit more about his sojourn as a crusading knight, following the dying request of the young Henry, Henry the II’s son. by Thomas Asbridge in History Today

William Marshal, warrior and tutor-in-arms to the son of Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine, promised his dying charge that he would complete the sacred task of crusading to the Levant. Did he succeed in his mission and fight the forces of Saladin?

One of England’s finest warriors was laid to rest in London’s Temple Church on May 20th, 1219. In his funeral oration that day, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Stephen Langton, reportedly described this celebrated veteran of countless wars – William Marshal – as ‘the greatest knight in the world’. The youngest son of a minor Anglo-Norman noble, Marshal had risen through the ranks to serve at the right hand of five English monarchs. He became a revered tournament champion, esteemed by his peers as the paragon of chivalry and a powerful landed baron of the realm.

Having been on intimate terms with figures such as Eleanor of Aquitaine, Richard the Lionheart and ‘Bad’ King John, Marshal was ultimately appointed as regent for the boy-king Henry III. Fighting in one final campaign, the 70-year-old Marshal successfully stemmed the tide of a major French invasion and baronial revolt in 1217, at the Battle of Lincoln, saving the Angevin (or Plantagenet) dynasty from utter annihilation. Though Marshal is far from a household name today, this remarkable career marks the knight out as one of the most compelling, extraordinary and intriguing figures of the Middle Ages.

Manuscript of the History of William Marshal. Thomas Asbridge.Manuscript of the History of William Marshal.

Marshal was also the subject of the first known contemporary biography of a medieval knight, the so-called History of  William Marshal, written some six years after his death on the orders of his eldest son and now surviving in a single manuscript held in New York’s Morgan Library. This work serves as the key source for Marshal’s life, though inevitably it offers a highly partisan account of his achievements. However, the biography has sparked an enduring mystery about one particular phase of its hero’s career: the time he spent on crusade in the Holy Land.

While still in his early twenties, Marshal was appointed as tutor-in-arms to Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine’s son and heir, Young Henry. In the course of the next 13 years the pair became close associates,  achieving renown on the tournament fields of northern France; but they were also embroiled in two abortive rebellions against Henry II’s overbearing authority. In the midst of the second of these civil wars, in June 1183, Young Henry contracted dysentery and suffered a squalid and agonising death in Aquitaine. As he lay dying, Young Henry charged his friend and confidante with a sacred task. Some months earlier, the Angevin heir had made a commitment to lead a crusade to the Levant (modern Lebanon, Syria and Palestine) and he now begged his ‘dearest friend’, Marshal, to fulfil that vow in his stead, carrying the cloak upon which Henry had affixed his cloth crusader’s cross all the way to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem.

Honouring Young Henry’s request was no simple matter; it involved a challenging journey of more than 2,000 miles, almost to the edge of what was then the known world, but Marshal undertook this last act of service, nonetheless. The best estimates suggest that Marshal set out from western Europe in the autumn of 1183 and probably returned either in late 1185 or early 1186. This places him in the Near East at the precise moment when a titanic struggle was brewing between the Latin Christian crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem and the emerging might of the great Muslim sultan, Saladin. Not surprisingly, the notion of one of the foremost warriors of the Middle Ages arriving in such a contested battleground has sparked both scholarly and popular imaginations.

Over the last century, the leading historians of Marshal’s career – from Sidney Painter to Georges Duby and David Crouch – have all struggled to interpret or to explain his short-lived crusading career. This was largely because the History of William Marshal offered only a brief and frustratingly evasive comment upon the period that its chief protagonist spent in the Holy Land. The History recorded that William performed ‘many feats of bravery and valour’ during his stay, achieving as much as ‘if he had lived there for seven years’, adding that these ‘fine deeds’ were ‘still known about today’ and widely discussed. But Marshal’s biographer then declared that he could not describe these marvellous exploits because: ‘I was not there and did not witness them, nor can I find anyone who can tell me half of them.’

As a result, most historians have been content simply to pass over William’s time in the East in a few sentences. Painter, for example, argued that, as ‘a crusade was the supreme adventure’, William ‘undoubtedly performed [great deeds] against the forces of the redoubtable Saladin’. More recently, Crouch suggested that, while ‘a cynic might conclude’ from the History’s relative silence that Marshal ‘had done very little’ in Palestine, ‘this would be unjust’. Crouch also stated that ‘by no stretch of the imagination could [William’s crusading pilgrimage] be interpreted as a career move’.

- See more at: http://historytoday.com/thomas-asbridge/greatest-knight-or-failed-crusader#sthash.ytlL2Bal.dpuf

Continue reading The Greatest Knight or a Failed Crusader? | History Today.

Yesterday, 2 February was the 114 th Anniversary of Queen Victoria’s state funeral.and so the end of the Victorian age.

Duty, Honor, and Sacrifice

kipling2_1568898cIt’s been an interesting week, hasn’t it? The 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, more news about (not charged) deserter Bowie Bergdahl, and the uproar about the movie American Sniper  bookended by the anniversary of Sir Winston Churchill’s death and funeral.

It has caused me to think a good bit this week on some old (and hard) words, like duty, and honor,  and betrayal, and cowardice, and courage. Wordsworth had this to say about duty

Stern Daughter of the Voice of God!
O Duty! if that name thou love
Who art a light to guide, a rod
To check the erring, and reprove;
Thou, who art victory and law
When empty terrors overawe;
From vain temptations dost set free;
And calm’st the weary strife of frail humanity!

Nothing wrong with any of that, I think. But it doesn’t do much to speak to the sheer terror of doing our duty, in battle, yes but also, for those of us who stay behind and love them. But duty takes many guises doesn’t it? It’s not always our life on the line, sometimes it’s our reputation, and sometimes our livelihood, and sometimes it gets turned on its head and we are threatened if we do our duty. Doing one’s duty is what built the British Empire and the United States as well. One could call it the chief Victorian virtue.

But then as now there were many who failed in their duty. In our relatively soft and relativistic world, many make excuses for them. But our forefathers had a word,and ugly word, for them, which admitted not wiggle room.

That word was coward. And they would apply it even to one who did his duty in a lackadaisical manner, doing just enough to get by, or finding a safe posting. that type of cowardice wouldn’t get you jailed or executed, usually but it would ruin your career, military and/or civilian, and ruin your chances to advance in society.

And the other thing we see in that society is a willingness to pay the price of the policies one believed in, even in blood. And that brings us to todays movie. This is not a happy movie. It is a movie of duty performed, even unto death, set against the Great War, It is also, true.

 

If you can keep your head when all about you
    Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
    But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
    Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
    And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
    If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
    And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
    Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
    And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
    And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
    And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
    To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
    Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
    Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
    If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
    With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
    And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!

That is the kind of discipline and duty that built our modern world, It is also what is required to keep it strong and vibrant.

We’ve some improvements to make, I think.

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