Lead, Follow, or get the Hell out of the Way

HT_spencer_stone_alek_skarlatos_anthony_sadler_jt_150822_16x9_992

via ABC News, Spencer Stone, Alek Skarlatos, and Anthony Sadler

Is, of course, a very old American maxim. Back when the world was young and I had just met Jess, I used it in connection with a British academic who was irritating her. Jess, being a sensible girl, who loves America nearly as much as I love Britain, proceeded to mutter it at an academic function she attended, about some footless thing that nobody could decide, choice of wine or something like that. Needless to say, it raised a few eyebrows, leading the gentlemen with her to comment about the company she was keeping. Me.

4159So I’m going to do this story backward. On that train in France the other day, there was a 62-year-old British IT guy, an expat living in the south of France. Now, I don’t know about you but that is not where I’d first look for a hero – but that’s where we found one.  His name is Chris Norman He said he thought this:

“I saw someone running down the aisle to the front of the train. I stood up to see what was happening and saw a man with what I think was an AK-47,” he said.

“My first reaction was to sit down and hide. Then I heard an American say, ‘Go get him’. I decided it was really the only chance, to act as a team and try to take down the assailant.

“My thought was, I’m probably going to die anyway, so let’s go. I’d rather die being active, trying to get him down, than simply sit in the corner and be shot.”

“Either you sit down and you die, or you get up and you die. It was really nothing more then that,” he said.

Well, Kipling once wrote that:  “A brave heart and a courteous tongue. They shall carry thee far through the jungle, manling.” I hope Mr. Norman will forgive me if I call BS on that. I bet his thought process ran more like this, a toast by American general John Stark of New Hampshire. It goes, “Live free or die: Death is not the worst of evils.” because Chris Norman is by any standard a hero. He saw a chance to fix something and he took that chance, he didn’t lead, but he followed effectively, not many men would have, especially since we have all seen how docile the Brits have become. The same is true for that off-duty French train conductor. Damned good men, both of them.

But the Americans! Well, I happened to be listening to the BBC when the story broke, arriving with the information that the were marines. Without disrespect to anyone, I thought, of course, later the story changed that it was two soldiers and an American civilian. OK, if you look at the pictures they’re wearing their hair pretty high and tight, so it’s a more or less natural mistake, and besides no leatherneck could have done it any better. Think about that for a minute, a junior Air Force medic, an Oregon National Guardsman, in Britspeak, a territorial, and a civilian friend of theirs, running to the sound of the guns. Are they heroes? You’re damned right they are! It was nearly a perfect anti-terrorist operation. What flight 93 could have been with some more luck.

And that Air Force medic, Spencer Stone, who nearly had his thumb cut off by this thug, still had the guts and presence of mind to provide basic aid to a Frenchman who had either been either shot or knifed in the neck, I’ve read both, don’t know which is true, doesn’t really matter at the moment.

It was once written that:

“The truly amazing thing about me is that, as a product of this amazing country, I am utterly ordinary. However, once I leave the borders of these United States, I start to grow in power and influence until I become someone who can do anything; feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, protect the weak and clothe the shabby”.

And that pretty much applies here, utterly ordinary Americans, until some fool on a French train opened up with an AK, and then, well the adults in the train took over, three young American guys. And from what I read, he’s a lucky terrorist, he didn’t maintain his weapon, and it jammed, so they merely subdued him, instead of letting him tell Allah all about it, and his failure.

Kipling also wrote: “For the strength of the Pack is the Wolf, and the strength of the Wolf is the Pack”. And that my friends is why terrorism doesn’t work on free men, it does not account for the sheepdogs, not all of whom wear uniforms.

And gentlemen in England now a-bed shall think themselves accursed they were not here, and hold their manhoods cheap whilst any speaks that fought with us.

A few years ago, in one of the documentaries about the war in Europe, they interviewed a Dutch woman about the day that the Americans liberated her town.

She stated she knew they were Americans because ‘they walked like free men’.

We still do.

 

Peace is Our Profession

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Stategic Air Command

Strategic Air Command; via Wikipedia

In still another demonstration of the consequences of decline of American leadership, as the seventieth anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki approach, we are once again forced to confront the horrific moral problems of the use of nuclear weapons.

As is, or should be, well-known, Truman and American leadership had no doubt at all about the morality of the use of atomic weapons in the case of Imperial Japan. As stated here:

It was to spare the Japanese people from utter destruction that the ultimatum of July 26 was issued at Potsdam.  Their leaders promptly rejected that ultimatum. If they do not now accept our terms they may expect a rain of  ruin from the air, the like of which has never been seen on this earth.

And the real justification is this:

Hiroshima and Nagasaki were nuked 70 years ago. 34 years ago Paul Fussell wrote this important essay, ‘Thank God for the Atom Bomb’.

21 year old 2nd Lt. Fussell commanded infantry in WWII France. Later, he had to sit around waiting to invade Japan and die. That was the general expectation of the vets of the European theater – they didn’t think they’d survive Japan.

Then Aug 6th happened.

When the atom bombs were dropped and news began to circulate that “Operation Olympic” would not, after all, be necessary, when we learned to our astonishment that we would not be obliged in a few months to rush up the beaches near Tokyo assault-firing while being machine-gunned, mortared, and shelled, for all the practiced phlegm of our tough facades we broke down and cried with relief and joy. We were going to live. We were going to grow to adulthood after all.

Do read that essay linked above, and the link here and think about that last line. One Million American soldiers and most of the population of Japan thought that in August of 1945.

The essay ends this way:

Harry Truman was not a fascist but a democrat. He was as close to a genuine egalitarian as anyone we’ve seen in high office for a long time. He is the only President in my lifetime who ever had experience in a small unit of ground troops whose mission it was to kill people. That sort of experience of actual war seems useful to presidents especially, helping to inform them about life in general and restraining them from making fools of themselves needlessly – the way Ronald Reagan did in 1985 when he visited the German military cemetery at Bitburg containing the SS graves. […]

Truman was a different piece of goods entirely. He knew war, and he knew better than some of his critics then and now what he was doing and why he was doing it. “Having found the bomb,” he said, “we have used it. . . . We have used it to shorten the agony of young Americans.” The past, which as always did not know the future, acted in ways that ask to be imagined before they are condemned. Or even simplified.

Paul David Miller writing in The Federalist did a pretty good summarization of the case for the moral use of nuclear weapons.

Because nuclear weapons are so big, they are hard to use in a discriminating way. Drop one bomb and you are almost guaranteed to kill far more people than is militarily necessary.

It would be easier to argue for the immorality of all weapons under the guise of pacifism—all weapons, all war, and all violence are always wrong—but that is neither what the president argued nor what most Christians or most citizens instinctively believe. According to the just war tradition, Biblical passages like Genesis 9 and Romans 13 permit—even obligate—states to wage war in pursuit of a just cause. As part of the covenant God established with Noah and his descendants after the flood, God mandated that we pursue violent offenders with the sword: “From his fellow man I will require a reckoning for the life of man” (Genesis 9:5). God specifically did not reserve for himself the duty to strike down violent aggressors, but chose to delegate the task to us. This is the foundation of the state’s legitimate coercive authority and the reason most Christians have not been pacifists. “Rulers do not bear the sword for no reason,” Paul wrote (Romans 13:4), “They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.” The “sword” is a violent, coercive tool: states exist under God’s mandate to uphold order in this fallen world.

States can, therefore, wield weapons. Why not nuclear weapons? The best moral argument against nuclear weapons, as opposed to other kinds of weapons, is that they violate the just war principles of discrimination and proportionality. The principle of discrimination says that in fighting a war justly, we are obligated to discriminate between enemy combatants and civilians and avoid harming the latter as much as possible. This is a simple extension of our obligation to love our enemies and our neighbors: we should strive to kill as few of them as necessary. Because nuclear weapons are so big, they are hard to use in a discriminating way. Drop one bomb and you are almost guaranteed to kill far more people than is militarily necessary. Hiroshima was the headquarters of Japan’s Second General Army and Nagasaki was a major industrial center for war materiel, both legitimate wartime targets—but the nuclear bombing of those cities killed up to 250,000 people, almost all civilians.

Continue reading: In Defense Of (Some) Nuclear Weapons.

He does a good job here and I think you should read the whole thing. One place where I think he falls down a bit, is in making a clear delineation between tactical and strategic. What he says was true, in the early 60s and perhaps through part of the 70s, but with the deployment of Minuteman III, Peacekeeper, and Trident, American strategic warheads returned to around 120-800 or so kiloton range with a circular error probable (CEP) of approximately eighty to one hundred and twenty meters. They are the ultimate smart bombs, specifically designed to destroy Soviet missile silos, and thus actually fall under counterforce rules. The countervalue weapons are all gone from the American inventory.

Remember the heady days in the early 90s when history had ended, and we had a ‘peace dividend’ to waste on corrupt programs? Those days are gone, Father Time has restarted the clock, and the most horrendous part of recent American foreign policy is that now, seventy years after the first use of atomic weapons, we again must contemplate the moral way use them again.

Experience is indeed the best teacher, and we threw away ours in a dream of eternal peace, one hopes that relearning the lesson is not as expensive as it could be.

“On Point” with Tomi Lahren

I thought this went up yesterday, but my files say different. So here it is!

Well, this may or may not be the way to win friends and influence people. But it is an excellent example of the use of a declarative sentence.

I couldn’t agree more with her

Iran, Hubris, Appeasement, and Despotry

Jonathan S. Tobin had some thought on the Iran treaty, they’re good thoughts, well presented, so let’s look in on them.

Following through on its strategy of trying to make Congressional approval of the Iran nuclear deal irrelevant, the Obama administration pushed through a resolutionimplementing the agreement today at the United Nations Security Council. Both Congressional Republicans and Democrats attacked that move, but that did not deter the president and his foreign policy team from following through on their plan to make an end run around Congress. This arrogant slight to the legislative branch will add fuel to the fire of critics of the Iran pact as they push to shame Democrats into making good on their past promises to insist on an agreement that would, at the very least, live up to the administration’s past promises about inspections and transparency. Yet even in the face of this presidential chutzpah and staggering betrayal of principle, the odds still heavily favor his effort to get the necessary votes from his party to sustain this strategy. Thus, while those Democrats who view their campaign pledges about both the Iranian threat and the security of Israel as still binding should be focusing on the gaping holes in the agreement, they should also ponder the presidential hubris that is at the core of this effort to marginalize their Constitutional obligation to weigh in on the most important foreign treaty signed by the United States.

That arrogance was on display yesterday as Secretary of State John Kerry and Energy Secretary made the rounds of the Sunday morning talk shows. Their blithe assurances about the deal make the U.S. safer could be dismissed as mere hyperbole but their insistence that there is “no such thing in arms control as anytime, anywhere,” inspections of nuclear sites is not only a lie. It is also a direct contradiction of their past pledges on the issue. Indeed, Moniz specifically said, “We expect to have anywhere, anytime access” to Iranian military sites in April during an interview with Bloomberg.Kerry has been navigating a similar zigzag course on a host of other issues regarding the deal including that about Tehran coming clean on past military nuclear research.

Continue reading Presidential Hubris and Arrogance Drive Appeasement of Iran.

I have no argument with anything he says here, but some extension may be in order.

I usually don’t refer to this mess as appeasement, and for a reason. Chamberlain was a good, decent, and honorable man. He sincerely believed perhaps that Munich would work, and he knew that Great Britain was not ready to fight the war. The analogy I use is that Britain at the time of Munich, was in much the same spot as the United States was at the time of the Argentia Bay meeting, just starting to spool up for the fight, and with a very divided population, just coming to grips with the fact that Hitler wasn’t the comic-opera figure that they had been making fun of since at least 1933.  See Charles Utley for the best explanation of the kerfluffle of the (6-year-old Queen’s Nazi Salute). Like him, my first thought was that quote from the blitz.

When she was advised by the Cabinet to send her children (Princess Elizabeth and Princess Margaret Rose) to Canada to avoid the blitz she gave a straight forward answer: “The children won’t go without me, I won’t go without the King and the King will never leave.”

That tells you all you will ever need to know about the royal family.

Iran is a completely different case, the United States can eliminate Iran whenever we care to exert ourselves, I’m rather amazed we haven’t, given the provocation. There is simply no great power contest here as there was in 1938. This is a simple sell-out of American principles (at least since 1945), and the hubris of attempting to use the UN to override the Congress is simply a continuation of Wilson’s attempt to sell off American Sovereignty to anyone but America, combined with what has become traditional for this administration, a blatant disregard for American Constitutional law.

This administration has always and continuously followed those precepts, to denigrate America in the world, and to subvert the checks and balances that have served us so well. That the current Democratic Party has gone along with this is no surprise. It has been their policy since 1972. But the feckless, mendacious, acquiescence of the rest of Congress, to their own detriment, is hard to understand, and even harder to stomach.

We have about a year and a half of this despicable president left, and then, hopefully, a major rebuilding job, if, and only if, we get our heads out of sand (or other less pleasant places) and elect people who know what it means in the modern world to lead, to have principles, in other words, to be an American. If we don’t, America, and Western Civilization itself, are likely doomed by 2020, since Europe has surrendered, and the UK seems to have lost whatever principles it ever had. It’s hard to believe Cameron has the same job as Chamberlain, let alone Churchill, he’s such a mealy-mouth cretin. And in any case, as Nigel Farage said last Friday, the EU will bleed Briain dry supporting the ones who will not work in southern Europe. A sad end for a people who have been prosperous since King Alfred the Great established the very first nation-state.

And those are the stakes, for Congress right now, and for us as citizens in the next year. Is America to continue, dragging civilization along, or simply sink into the abyss with Rome and the others. It’s up to us to decide.

Trinity

70 tears ago yesterday, the world changed. When the world’s first atomic device was triggered in New Mexico. I note that this, the American atomic program is still the fastest to ever yield a result, even though it had to do all the theoretical work, as well. I have deep qualms about the fact that the Iranians will apparently be joining this exclusive club, so far we have kept this genie bottled up. But there is still plenty of time for J. Robert Oppenheimer’s prediction, and quote, to come true.

I am become Death,

The Destroyer of Worlds

from the Bhagavad Gita.


In a sadly related event, yesterday is also the anniversary of the launch of Apollo 11, the first landing of human beings on the moon, and their safe return.

Also, in 1960,  USS George Washington a modified Skipjack-class submarine successfully test fires the first ballistic missile while submerged.


97 years ago today, Czar Nicholas II and hs family were executed by the Bolsheviks.


And today, in 1054, three Roman legates break relations between Western and Eastern Christian Churches through the act of placing an invalidly-issued Papal bull of Excommunication on the altar of Hagia Sophia during Saturday afternoon divine liturgy.

Overall, probably not our best day, as human beings.

 

 

A (Victorious) Nation of Shopkeepers

English: The Duke of Wellington

English: The Duke of Wellington (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On 15 June 1815, just over two hundred years ago, and coincidentally the six-hundredth anniversary of the signing of Magna Charta. Charlotte, the Duchess of Richmond gave a ball in Brussels. It was a glittering affair. Attending amongst many other famous names was Sir Arthur Wellesley, soon to be the first Duke of Wellington, and excepting three general officers, all the high command of the army of the Seventh Coalition. Many of them would die or be badly wounded in the next few days.

For on the 16th, the Battle of Quatre Bras took place, leading to the climax today, with the Battle of Waterloo, and the surrender and final exile of Napoleon Bonaparte to St. Helena, where for the rest of his life, the Royal Navy would make sure he would cause no more trouble.

It was a hard-fought battle, and you can easily find out more but for me, Robert Southey, in writing about an earlier English victory that would blaze down history, that at Blenheim that made the Duke of Marlborough, pretty much said it all

“With fire and sword the country round
Was wasted far and wide,
And many a childing mother then,
And new-born baby died;
But things like that, you know, must be
At every famous victory.

“They said it was a shocking sight
After the field was won;
For many thousand bodies here
Lay rotting in the sun;
But things like that, you know, must be
After a famous victory.

“Great praise the Duke of Marlbro’ won,
And our good Prince Eugene.”
“Why, ’twas a very wicked thing!”
Said little Wilhelmine.
“Nay … nay … my little girl,” quoth he,
“It was a famous victory.”

“And everybody praised the Duke
Who this great fight did win.”
“But what good came of it at last?”
Quoth little Peterkin.
“Why, that I cannot tell,” said he,
“But ’twas a famous victory.”

One other thing connected the Duke of Marlborough with the Duke of Wellington.

As well as the steadiness under fire of the soldiers that the Duke of Wellington called “scum, the very scum of the earth” commanded by officers who bought their commissions in hope of getting rich on war booty. Free enterprise warfare (sort of) and it didn’t work out too badly.

But that says something as well, doesn’t it. We commented earlier this week that there is a stubbornness in the English, there is a point beyond which, if they are pushed, they tend to wreak a terrible vengeance, whatever the cost, and it has been so since at least 1066. Magna Charta is part of that story with the humbling of a king that thought he was above the law.

It also shows up when the British took on the French in the Second French War and lost the Mary Rose at the Battle of the Solent in 1545.

Then we come to the famous one, The Armada when Imperial Spain mounted a full on Crusade against Elizabethan England. England’s royal navy not only showed them off but started the decline of Imperial Spain which the US Navy would complete at Santiago and Manila Bay in 1898.

This, of course, cleared the way for the First British Empire, That empire featured the colonies that would become the United States. Interestingly, from this point, the only major war Britain lost was the American Revolution, and I would posit that we inherited along with the traditions that include the rule of law, our full share of that stubbornness. It’s often been said that the American colonies even then could not be conquered. I think it’s true, but I think it has more to do with the people than anything else, conquering India really should have been harder than to reassert themselves in the colonies. But India succumbed and the United States didn’t.

The first empire is the setting of course for the coalition war that ended Louis XIV’s pretensions to combine France and Spain (It was called the War of the Spanish Succession for a reason). This is the war that Marlborough so stunningly waged, the first in modern times when England campaigned in Europe, to very good effect. It also was a bit of a religious war, you’ll find that England’s allies were mostly Protestant and were opposing the Catholic powers of France and Spain.

The French revolution divided English society along much the same lines as the American one had. Some supported the revolt and some the king, but when the revolution ran its course into the Terror and all semblance of rule of law was lost, opinion solidified, and when France decided to export the revolution, the war began.

And so, when Napoleon became emperor, it got pretty serious. In 1805, Napoleon gathered barges and troops around Boulogne to invade Britain, an existential threat not seen since the Armada, and not to be seen again until 1940. That threat was ended for all time at Nelson’s Victory at Trafalgar, as were the French pretensions to superpower status. It also enabled Wellington to wage the peninsular campaign that kept Portugal from falling and kept the war going in Spain as well.

Napoleon set the stage for his defeat when he decided to hold off on England and invade Russia instead, leading to the destruction of the Grand Army, and his abdication in 1814. he escaped and “The Hundred Days” ensued, ending at Waterloo.

And that set the stage for the growth of the Second Empire, one built more on trade than on the discredited theory of mercantilism that had cost Britain the First Empire. Other than opposing Russia’s drive to the Black Sea in the Crimean War (allied to France) Britain pretty much stayed out of European politics and war. This period saw the decline of France and the rise of Germany. Which at the beginning of the twentieth century led to first the Great War and then the Second World War, as the spread of Germany’s empire was checked, and indeed Germany herself all but destroyed. In large part because Hitler repeated many of Napoleons mistakes, and the British fought him off in the same old way. And then came the Cold War in which Britain and the United States managed to destroy the Soviet Empire without firing a shot in the main theater.

So, is there a common thread here? I think there is, and it’s one shared by all the English-speaking people. Leave us alone. We’ll take care of business, calmly and professionally, but if you choose to mess with us or our freedom, well, as usual, that bard of the English speaking people said it well.

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