The Immortal Memory

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

Image via Wikipedia

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

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

Today is the anniversary of a battle to rank with Salamis, with Waterloo, and with Yorktown. For today the English-speaking peoples with their concepts of individual liberty and rights took control of the sea. We have never relinquished it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

HMS Victory

HMS Victory , HM Naval Base, Portsmouth

The Admiral in command is Horatio, Lord Nelson.

Or to give him his full name:

Admiral Lord Nelson

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

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

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

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

And the Times reported:

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

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

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

The traditional music to follow the toast is Rule Britannia.

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

The Harrying of the North


Normans burning Anglo-Saxon buildings, in a scene from the Bayeux Tapestry

This month is one that is amazingly rich in history, especially English history, and so we are going to have several posts in the remainder of the month. I’m thankful because personally, I’ve had nearly all the politics I can stomach – maybe a bit more. Maybe you’re at the same point, if so, welcome to a rich history.

Today, James Aitcheson tells us about the Harrying of the North. If you thought the Anglo-Saxons were easily conquered by the Normans, you have something to learn, as well as something about how ruthless the Normans really were.

The Battle of Hastings is the most famous event of the Norman Conquest, but it was only the opening engagement in the invader’s consolidation of power in England. For several years afterwards, the country was riven by internal conflict as the Norman’s fought to extend their rule, climaxing in a notorious campaign known today as the ‘Harrying of the North’.

The Harrying, which took place over the winter of 1069–70, saw William’s knights lay waste to Yorkshire and neighbouring shires. Entire villages were razed and their inhabitants killed, livestock slaughtered and stores of food destroyed. This scorched-earth operation is one of the defining episodes of the Conquest, not just from a military-political perspective but also in terms of how it has shaped modern perceptions of the Normans as a tyrannical and merciless warrior class. But why were such brutal measures considered necessary and why was the north in particular targeted?

By the winter of 1069, the Norman war machine had been active in the field for more than three years. Throughout 1067 and 1068 there had been a succession of localised revolts and incursions by foreign foes in various corners of the country – Devon, Kent, Herefordshire and the midland earldom of Mercia – although each of these was swiftly put down. Castles were established, including in the major towns of Warwick, Nottingham, York, Lincoln, Huntingdon and Cambridge, in an effort to quell the disturbances and impose control. Nevertheless, it is important to recognise that, even by the beginning of 1069, William was still not master of the entire kingdom. His authority extended no further north than York and it was in the region beyond that the greatest threat to his rule lay.

William’s early attempts to bring the northerners under his heel had involved appointing native English earls to govern them: first Copsig and then Gospatric. Both appointments had been dismal failures: the former was assassinated by a rival in 1067; the latter defected in 1068 to the midland rebels. Finally, in January 1069, William sent one of his own men, Robert Cumin, at the head of an army to conquer the region by force, only for them to be ambushed and slaughtered at Durham.

Worse was to come. That summer the Normans found themselves at the centre of a perfect storm, as their enemies all began marching at once.  Foremost among them was a coalition of Northumbrian noblemen, including Gospatric but led by Edgar Ætheling, then around 17 years old and making a fresh bid for the crown, having already been briefly acclaimed king in London following Harold’s death in 1066.

The Northumbrian threat was compounded in August when a Danish invasion fleet numbering some 240 or 300 ships – depending on which source we believe – arrived in the Humber.

via The Harrying of the North | History Today Read it all!

A desperate matter, for both sides, and far from the romantic image of brave knights and fair ladies. It’s always been a hard and dirty business, conquering people, and the English were plenty stiff-necked in those days, as they were in 1940.

Freedom of the Seas

We are the world’s most prolific trading nation, we inherited this title someplace in the late 19th century from Britain, the traditional “Nation of Shopkeepers” Why is this, how did it occur and what does it mean?

Note that my title does not refer to the UN Law of the Sea or anything other than the traditional meaning.

We all know that the Britain we rebelled against was a mercantilist nation, whose ruling class believed that colonies existed for the benefit of the motherland, hence duties on sugar and tea and most of the articles of domestic life. It also led to a ban on manufacturing in the colonies. That all well and good, for the motherland, anyway. The American colonists weren’t particularly happy about it, however, seeing as they believed (as it said in their charters) that they were Englishmen with all the rights and duties pertaining to that status.

A side note that we should make in these times is that those colonies were almost all corporations. Yes, they were, from Virginia and Massachusetts Bay on down to Georgia. Free associations of people banding together for a common purpose. And you thought America wasn’t grounded in business, what could be more American than that, the very founding of the 13 colonies was by business. The Empire in India came about similarly, most of the conquering was done by the British  East India Company, the government took over later.

Anyway, the mercantilist vision wasn’t working all that well. First, the Americans revolted and made it stick, then they screwed up the triangular trade with the ban on the import of slaves after 1800, and then they were taking a lot of the trade in British bottoms away, too.

It was time for a rethink. A goodly part of the British upper class (as with America) had read their Adam Smith and were beginning to think about capitalism instead of corporatism. Obviously, it wasn’t anywhere near this clear-cut. We can’t say that on 2 February 1809 Britain abandoned mercantilism, it was a gradual shifting of view and traces of mercantilism remain to this day, that’s part of what tariffs and VAT taxes are about.

But by the time the Napoleonic Wars had ended, Britain looked around and found that they made far better profits by trading with everyone from Andorra to Zimbabwe, and ruling only enough to keep their shipping (and Navy) supplied. They also found that with other maritime powers in the world (The United States, the Dutch, and maybe the French) while their profit was lower (per item) but there were many more items.

From this came a new doctrine: Freedom of the Seas. Essentially this doctrine was pretty much the American position leading up to the War of 1812. International waters are free for the passage of all upon their peaceful pursuits. It has always been modified in time of war. The blockades of the Confederacy in the Civil War, of Germany (and England via the U-Boats) in World Wars 1 & 2, and of Japan in World War 2. They are still being used as sanctions against such countries as Syria and Libya today.

By 1815 Great Britain had found that the free republics of South and Central America had become quite large trading partners as had the United States (which had no small maritime fleet either, up till the Civil War when the Confederate raiders made insurance too expensive, the US was usually rated second only to Great Britain itself).

You may recall that I have referred to the War on the Barbary Coast (where Marine Officers got their sword), this was all about freedom of the seas, the Barbary coast pirates (an early form of state sponsored terrorism) were in the habit of demanding tribute for passage through the Mediterranean and often got it. When the USS Philadelphia went aground off the Tripoli Harbor, was captured and the crew enslaved the United States got fed up. Here’s a short story from Wikipedia.

Burning of the USS Philadelphia

Burning of the USS Philadelphia, via Wikipedia

She cruised off Tripoli until October 31, 1803, when she ran aground on an uncharted reef off Tripoli Harbor. Under fire from shore batteries and Tripolitan gunboats all efforts to refloat her failed, and she surrendered; her officers and men were made slaves of the Pasha.

The Philadelphia was too great a prize to be allowed to remain in the hands of the Tripolitans, so a decision was made to recapture or destroy her. Under the guise of a ship in distress in need of a place to tie up after having lost all anchors in a storm, on 16 February 1804 a volunteer assaulting party of officers and men under LieutenantStephen Decatur, Jr. boarded her from the ketch Intrepidand burned her where she lay in Tripoli Harbor. Horatio Nelson, known as a man of action and bravery, is said to have called this “the most bold and daring act of the age.”

Eventually, the Pirates learned that American ships were formidable fighters and pretty much left them alone after a regime change or two.

Meantime after the defeat of Napoleon, Great Britain had become anti-slavery and acting (again in consort with the United States) had forbidden the slave trade to the new world. They also provided the muscle to enforce the Monroe Doctrine, because their trade with Latin America was too great to risk losing. They also opposed the annexation of Texas by the US for the same reason.

Bases for the fleet in anticipation of the Panama Canal was one of the unstated reasons for the Spanish-American War, where we flirted for the first (and thankfully) last time with an Empire. We gained Puerto Rico, the Hawaiian Islands, and the Philippines (temporarily) from that conflict.

During the last half of the 19th Century, while we weren’t paying much attention to it, we became the largest trading nation in history, first as an importer and then as our industrial revolution went on as an exporter. This was also the era when the American harvest became an important thing worldwide. We had begun to feed the world and do it better than it had ever been done before.

By World War 1 we had become indispensable, although nobody really knew it yet. But the U-boat campaign nearly starved Great Britain, and the Allies nearly bankrupted themselves buying from such companies as Colt and Winchester. (And you thought the 2d Amendment was about politics, it’s about freedom, all over the world.)

At the end of the war, in the Washington Naval Conference, Great Britain ceded to the United States naval parity, knowing that it would turn into superiority. Here begins Britain descent into the second rank of powers, and the American duty of freedom of the seas.

It took a while for Americans to realize it of course, until 7 December 1941 to be exact. Since then we have never looked back, the paramount fleet in the world has been supplemented with both the paramount Army and Air Force. Is there really anybody in the free or quasi-free world that would have it any other way. Do we, or the Australians, or the South Koreans, or even the Indians, really want control of the seas to reside, even partially, with the Chinese?

Freedom of the Seas mostly kept the peace for most of the 19th Century with the Royal Navy in charge, and for the last 65 years with the United States in charge, those two periods have witnessed the largest growth in living standards all across the world ever seen. And it has averted many wars, including the unthinkable: a thermonuclear war between the United States and Soviet Russia in October of 1962, when the maritime exclusion zone was instituted (selectively, to be sure) around Cuba. Control of and freedom of the seas has been America’s first line of defense as long as there has been America.

Here’s John F. Kennedy’s take:

“Events of October 1962 indicated, as they had all through history, that control of the sea means security. Control of the seas can mean peace. Control of the seas can mean victory. The United States must control the seas if it is to protect your security….”

President John F. Kennedy, 6 June 1963, on board USS Kitty Hawk.

We seem to be seeing a resurgence of the isolationism that we had before the Second World War, their shortsightedness led to the Second World War. As much as we need to change the paradigm in Washington D.C., and we really, really do. I don’t think we want to risk World War Three, either.

First published on 13 December 2011.

Fifteen Years


I wrote the following five years ago today. It still seems appropriate now for the fifteenth anniversary of that horrid day.

There isn’t one of us who doesn’t remember what we were doing. I was having a day off and was watching Good Morning, America and I will remember to my dying day Diane Sawyer’s “Oh, my God!”.

I was very lucky, though, although I have family working in the financial district, I lost no one close to me. But in a very real sense they were all my family; the workers, the Firemen and Police doing their everyday heroics, the passerby. They were all our family: the family of the free. For this was an attack on freedom. For this was an attack on the free market system and the military that protects it.

To me then and now it hearkened back to another ‘Day of Infamy‘: 7 December 1941, both in the manner of the attack, a sneak attack on a peaceful country, and in how I instantly understood, as I never had, what my parents and their generation had felt on that awful Sunday afternoon.

And I knew something else, even as they had, I now lived in a country at war, where nothing short of victory was acceptable. I thought my country was united in that, I still think most of it is. I also knew that the retribution of America and her allies would be terrible and no interference by anyone would be tolerated. For indeed “They had sounded forth the trumpet that shall never call retreat”.

And I was heartened by the reaction of the world, especially this:

Nobody ever showed their support better, which is not surprising, after all, the Queen has known us well since she was Princess Elizabeth driving an ambulance in the Second World War.

Another thing I understand now was my Dad’s and his generation’s respect for Roosevelt even if they disagreed with almost all of his policies, he was the war president. I now have that feeling, even love, for George W. Bush.

We really are an exceptional nation, nobody in the world, outside of the Anglosphere understood our determination, in Bevin Alexander’s words “to proceed door to door in the very heart of the Arab-Muslim world, to make clear that we were ready to kill and to die to stop our society from being undermined, and to say, gun in hand, to the people, and to the governments who permit terrorists to exist, “What is it that you don’t understand about leaving our country alone?”” And I find it notable that those stalwart Allies of the Anglosphere are marching forward to the battle in step with us, as it has been for nearly a century now.

And so, almost before we knew what was happening the first counterattack was underway. It ended in a smoking hole in Pennsylvania, it was a very expensive counterattack but it was successful. And like the targets of the attack itself, it was conducted by ordinary Americans, no different than you and me.  The counterattack launched with that simple command, “Let’s Roll”.

The time for our superb military had not yet come. But it would, with dire consequences for our enemies.

Bin Laden should have studied us better, for indeed the man who said this was half American:

We have before us an ordeal of the most grievous kind. We have before us many, many long months of struggle and of suffering. You ask, what is our policy? I will say: It is to wage war, by sea, land, and air, with all our might and with all the strength that God can give us; to wage war against a monstrous tyranny never surpassed in the dark, lamentable catalogue of human crime. That is our policy. You ask, what is our aim? I can answer in one word: It is victory, victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory, however long and hard the road may be.

The American people are difficult to turn into an enemy, for we much prefer to be everyone’s  friend, but attacking the homeland will do it, every time. There is no more fearsome enemy in the history of the world than the aroused people of America.

A quick look back will show this. On 7 December 1941 the battleship USS Arizona was sunk on battleship row in Pearl Harbor. 35 months later, the other old battleships of the 7th Fleet, also sunk at Pearl Harbor, sank the Japanese fleet at Leyte Gulf, in the last surface gun action ever fought. The new battleships in the 3rd fleet were off chasing the IJN’s aircraft carriers. Moored close to the Arizona is the USS Missouri on whose deck 11 months after Leyte Gulf, in Tokyo Bay, Imperial Japan surrendered. Yes, we are impatient, and sometimes fickle, but do not mess with our homeland.

It never fails to amaze me how much the enemies of the United States rely upon the goodness and restraint of the United States. The Taliban who supported al Qaeda knew that their sheer existence beyond the next 30 minutes depended exclusively on the forbearance of the United States.

If we were the imperial power that we are so often accused of being, Afghanistan would now be the world’s largest sheet of glass. If a city rebelled against Imperial Rome, the retribution was that every living thing, right down to the dogs, was put to the sword, the city was destroyed and the ruins sown with salt, so nothing would grow. I dare you to find Carthage on a current map.

Instead, we very carefully target our retribution on those that we believe are guilty. Indeed, we have developed weapons that allow us to target an individual  from several hundred miles away. Instead of our massive air raids in World War II we now use a stealth aircraft with individually targeted missiles. I have seen reports that say that the Pakistanis, when they see one of our drones overhead, calmly go about their business, knowing that only the target is in danger, as opposed to the panic when their own air force is attacking.

This is the way that America, a country that values each and every human life makes war.

This is America the Avenger. Not on the innocent people of cities and countries, but upon the malefactors hiding in its back streets and hills.

This is America at war. Not destroying cities and countries but only individual enemies.

This is America, the superpower that can destroy any country on Earth in an hour but chooses to put its own sons and daughters at risk to find only the guilty.

This is America, where steel from the World Trade Center now is incorporated into the bow of the USS New York, leading the ship into harm’s way.

This is America, the first revolutionaries, who learned to control the revolution, but not to let it die and slip back into tyranny, about whom our President said, long ago:

  We dare not forget today that we are the heirs of that first revolution. Let the word go forth from this time and place, to friend and foe alike, that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans—born in this century, tempered by war, disciplined by a hard and bitter peace, proud of our ancient heritage—and unwilling to witness or permit the slow undoing of those human rights to which this Nation has always been committed, and to which we are committed today at home and around the world.

Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty.

and who later that day also said:

  Now the trumpet summons us again—not as a call to bear arms, though arms we need; not as a call to battle, though embattled we are—but a call to bear the burden of a long twilight struggle, year in and year out, “rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation”—a struggle against the common enemies of man: tyranny, poverty, disease, and war itself.  Can we forge against these enemies a grand and global alliance, North and South, East and West, that can assure a more fruitful life for all mankind? Will you join in that historic effort?

  In the long history of the world, only a few generations have been granted the role of defending freedom in its hour of maximum danger. I do not shrink from this responsibility—I welcome it. I do not believe that any of us would exchange places with any other people or any other generation. The energy, the faith, the devotion which we bring to this endeavor will light our country and all who serve it—and the glow from that fire can truly light the world.

This is the America that I grew up in and love, and I will not allow the destruction of, from without or within. For above all others, this hill, with its city gleaming bright, is worth dying for and worth living for.

Many things have happened since President Kennedy said those words on a cold January morning.

The Berlin Wall was built up and torn down.

The World Trade Center was built up and knocked down.

The specter of the Soviet Union no longer threatens the world.

The threat of Islamofascism has arisen from the shadows.

From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an iron curtain that had descended across the Continent, has now been lifted.* Old and proud states of eastern Europe have been liberated. Many having seen what America believes, in action, have become proud allies of America.

Al Qaeda decided that the old American will had been eroded and has had that illusion shattered, and is on its way to destruction. Almost weekly we hear of the demise of more of its leadership as America again sorts out the guilty from the innocent.

Many things have happened since 9/11/01 also. How will it all work out? We will never know. This is the eternal war between liberty and slavery.

As Cassandra of Villainous Company put it on 27 June 2005:

Our own Revolution was not without blemish. Innocent men were tarred and feathered. Families torn asunder. People bled, and suffered and starved. There was even [shudder] terrorism. But it lit a flame that has burned brightly for over 200 years. There are signs that this is happening in the MiddleEast: Arabs are looking at election day in Iraq and Afghanistan and demanding democratic reforms in Egypt and Lebanon and Kuwait. The fire in men’s (and women’s) hearts is spreading.

We would like certainty. We would like painless progress. We would like closure. We will not get any of those things.

On July 4th we must ask ourselves, what do we believe? Our military – brand new immigrants who enlist before the ink is dry on their visas – believe in those words so strongly that they will lay down their lives to spread the fire of democracy. They also believe (as I do) that their purpose is to serve American foreign policy aims, no matter how abstract and long-term they may seem. No matter how difficult to explain to the American people. No matter how frustrating in the short term.

What kind of world will we bequeath to our grandchildren? It may be that long before we know. But our actions today will have an incalculable effect on that far-off tomorrow. And if our policy is not firmly grounded in the spread of those long-ago words:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights

…then I wonder if we shall not be the first Americans who fail to pass the blessings of liberty on to the next generation?

“The only thing necessary for evil to triumph. is for good men to do nothing.” – Edmund Burke.

And so as we remember and celebrate the lives of the victims of that horrible day ten years ago, so we must also renew our determination that their sacrifice and the sacrifices of our military since shall not have been in vain. For as another President said:

It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Ultima Cumaei venit iam carminis ætas;
Magnus ab integro sæclorum nascitur ordo.
iam redit et Virgo, redeunt Saturnia regna,
iam nova progenies cælo demittitur alto.

From the  Eclogue of Virgil:

which translates as follows:
Now comes the final era of the Sibyl’s song;
The great order of the ages is born afresh.
And now justice returns, honored rules return;
now a new lineage is sent down from high heaven.

* Adapted from Sir Winston Churchill at Fulton, Missouri.

So, I said and believed then, five long years ago. Do I still? I want to, but as the wastage of our young people in foreign wars, for no good purpose continues, as well as the degeneration of our society. I have come to doubt that our leadership has the interest of America in its heart. Perhaps it does, and I misread the signs. I hope so. Or perhaps we will see a change in direction, for truly all things are possible, under God.

In the meantime, we must carry on, such that if this Republic shall last for a thousand years, our descendants will remember us with pride.

Of Danegeld and Iranians

s749518301978605088_c4_i3_w640From Fortune Magazine

The controversial $400 million payment that the U.S. sent to Iran in January, just as four American hostages were released—a planeload of Euros, Swiss Francs and other currencies—was only the first of three American cash deliveries to the country, the Obama administration reportedly told lawmakers on Tuesday.

During the 19 days following the first shipment, the U.S. sent two more planeloads of cash, totaling $1.3 billion, to Tehran, reports The Wall Street Journal. The two planeloads, which passed through Europe on Jan. 22 and Feb. 5, followed the same route as the earlier payment, a congressional aide who was briefed told the Journal. In the first payment, an Iranian cargo plane picked up the money in Geneva.

via TREASON: Obama admits he really payed 1.7 BILLION to the Iranians – The Right Scoop

Ralph Peters called it a bribe, and the post that I took that quote from calls it Jizya. In neither case do I think they are exactly wrong, but I think it something else.

When we combine it with the continuing naval harassment in the gulf, it reminds me of something.

We all know that Obama is not fond of the Anglo-Saxon part of his heritage, or indeed of England/Great Britain/ the United Kingdom, many would add the United States to the list. That’s as may be, but it begs the question, has he learned the lessons that came down in that heritage? We learned many years ago about this.

More than a century ago Rudyard Kipling brought our attention to our ancient wisdom, when he wrote


A.D. 980-1016
It is always a temptation to an armed and agile nation
To call upon a neighbour and to say: —
“We invaded you last night–we are quite prepared to fight,
Unless you pay us cash to go away.”

And that is called asking for Dane-geld,
And the people who ask it explain
That you’ve only to pay ’em the Dane-geld
And then you’ll get rid of the Dane!

It is always a temptation for a rich and lazy nation,
To puff and look important and to say: —
“Though we know we should defeat you, we have not the time to meet you.
We will therefore pay you cash to go away.”

And that is called paying the Dane-geld;
But we’ve proved it again and again,
That if once you have paid him the Dane-geld
You never get rid of the Dane.

It is wrong to put temptation in the path of any nation,
For fear they should succumb and go astray;
So when you are requested to pay up or be molested,
You will find it better policy to say: —

“We never pay any-one Dane-geld,
No matter how trifling the cost;
For the end of that game is oppression and shame,
And the nation that pays it is lost!”

And that is why Saxon silver was found all over the Viking world, they hadn’t learned that yet, and that is also why at the end of the Viking age, we find the King of Norway and the Duke of Normandy contesting the Danish heir to the English throne.

Anyone who was bullied as a child knows the answer, though. When confronted on the schoolyard, win or lose, one must stand up to the bully, or the bullying will continue. Too bad that our PC Administration never learned that lesson. Even Thomas Jefferson learned; that’s how the USMC got their sword, right in that neighborhood, in Lybia to be exact.

And as we are relearning to our sorrow, nobody respects the man who pays the Danegeld.

Reminded me of this, as well

They used to say that you don’t have to worry about that angering the United States because they might drop a couple of hundred bombs on you. You have to worry about angering the United States because they might drop two bombs on you.

Who should rule Syria? Nobody

Here’s a bit of common sense:

The long civil war in Syria is still far from conclusion. Any real possibility of rebel victory ended with the entry of Russian forces last autumn — but while the initiative is now with the Assad regime, the government’s forces are also far from a decisive breakthrough. So who, if anyone, should the UK be backing in the Syrian slaughterhouse, and what might constitute progress in this broken and burning land?

It ought to be fairly obvious why a victory for the Assad regime would be a disaster for the West. Assad, an enthusiastic user of chemical weapons against his own people, is aligned with the most powerful anti–western coalition in the Middle East. This is the alliance dominated by the Islamic Republic of Iran.[…]

Not a friend of Western Freedom, then.

In November last year, David Cameron claimed to have identified 70,000 ‘moderate’ rebels ready to challenge Islamic State in the east of Syria. That figure was a myth. Yours truly was among the very first western journalists to spend time in Syria with the rebels. I recently returned from a trip to southern Turkey, where I interviewed fighters and commanders of the main rebel coalitions. With no particular joy but a good deal of confidence, I can report that the Syrian rebellion today is dominated in its entirety by Sunni Islamist forces. And the most powerful of these are the most radical.

The most potent rebel coalition in Syria today is called Jaish al-Fatah (Army of Conquest). It has three main component parts: Ahrar al-Sham (Free Men of the Levant), a Salafist jihadi group; Jabhat al-Nusra, until recently the official franchise of al–Qaeda in Syria, now renamed Jabhat Fatah al-Sham; and Faylaq al-Sham (Legion of the Levant), whose ideology derives from the Muslim Brotherhood branch of Sunni political Islam.

Nor here, either. I fail to see any reason we should not root for both of these bunches to lose. Nothing in either their belief systems or their actions leads me to believe they have anything in common with anybody concerned with freedom.

Like the author, I see no chance of Syria emerging from this mess as a unified state, that gone with the hot wind of war. Two of the contenders, one backed by Russia and Iran, the other by Saudi Arabia (and others) offer no chance of freedom to Syrians, or even much chance of living really. But there is a third choice, and amazingly, the US and the UK stumbled into them.

The West, too, has established a successful and effective patron-client relationship — with the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces. Dominated by the Kurdish YPG, but including also Arab tribal forces such as the Sanadid militia, this is the force which is reducing the dominions of the Islamic State in eastern Syria, in partnership with western air power and special forces.

In contrast to the sometimes farcical attempts to identify partners among the Syrian Sunni rebels, the partnership with the Syrian Democratic Forces works. Weaponry does not get passed on to or taken by radical jihadi groups, because the SDF is at war with such groups. Training and assistance produces a united force with a single chain of command. And this force captures ground and frees Syrians living under the vicious rule of Isis.

I learned long ago, when I first read von Clausewitz, not to mention Liddell Hart, that one is wise to reinforce success and starve failure. This would appear to be a very good example of this, And so we should.

What matters is that three outcomes be avoided: the Assad regime should not be permitted to reunite Syria under its rule, the Islamist rebels should similarly not be allowed to establish a jihadi state in the country, and the Islamic State should not be permitted to remain in existence. By strengthening the alliance with the SDF, utilising it and its allies to take Raqqa and destroy Isis in the east, and then allowing its component parts to establish their rule in eastern and northern Syria, these objectives can be attained. For a change, the US and its allies have found an unambiguously anti-Islamist and anti-jihadi force in the Middle East which has a habit of winning its battles. This is a success which should be reinforced.

via Who should rule Syria? Nobody

Indeed it should. And you know the other thing, as long as the SDF fights and holds their own (or wins) the other sides can not even start to get complacent. Liddell Hart famously said this

Helplessness induces hopelessness, and history attests that loss of hope and not loss of lives is what decides the issue of war.

And that has a goodly bit to do with keeping the common people’s hope alive.

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