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.

Reflections from the Comments

noseart_us_04Yesterday, on my post Rattlesnakes and Kings Trevor Nagle made a comment that brought something out that we should talk about some, because it is important. Here is his comment.

November 4, 2013 at 11:06 am This isn’t an Obama thing at all, rather a several decades move to reduce the individualism expressed by servicemembers on their uniforms. In fact, we saw this under Bush Sr. in the move to prohibit unit and squadron deployment-specific patches on flight suits and flight jackets. We saw it in 2000 with the prohibition of multicolored t-shirts allowed under flightsuits. The effort is not POTUS-specific, but the continual ebb and tide between allowing individualism and insisting on uniformity. As an aircrewman, I resented the changes we saw under Bush Sr. and Clinton, but it really wasn’t ever about the Man in the Office, so much as senior leadership reacting to situations that could be (errantly, in my opinion) chalked up to as attitudinal displays of individualism in the military. And in hindsight, it never really was that big of a deal….and neither, I’d argue, is this.
A couple of things here, I like Trevor, and I respect his teaching on leadership a lot. His blog is a wonderful source of information.
Also, I looked at this story for a while before I decided to write about it for exactly the reason he said. I chose to go with it in part because it gave me a vehicle to talk about some American history that we don’t talk about all that much, and to tie it into the present day.
That said, I think part of our trouble, maybe a large part, is that we immediately assume the worst of our opponents lately. That’s true on the left, and it’s becoming more and more true on the right as well.
We seem to be starting on the path of demonizing each other, and while I try not to do that, I do it some too. Part of the reason, is that I just plain get tired of listening to the abuse directed my way, and decide to throw some back. I’d like to say I’m going to quit, but I’m probably not, at least not always. And that’s a sad thing.
Part of the reason America has worked in the past is that we have always assumed that while the other guys may have been stupid, or misguided, greedy, or many other things; almost never have we questioned his patriotism. Now we are starting to do that, I understand it, because in some cases, I do too. But it is a very bad thing if untrue, and worse if true.
In this particular case, I suspect Trevor is correct. As he says at some times our military has encouraged (or tolerated) a lot of individualism, witness the nose art from the aircraft in World War II, at other time it has projected a uniformly (pun intended) drab image. It’s sort of a fashion in the military that comes and goes. It matters and can lead to resentment but it’s not earthshaking and even the guys involved know it.
We are in this country dealing with very important things, which include the proper sphere of the government. In some ways we are very like the generation that crafted the Constitution. We may well be deciding the course of our country for somewhere between the next generation and the next century. It behooves us to think rationally, not to mention long, hard, and objectively about these matters. These are issues, and this includes Obamacare, that will fundamentally affect how America looks and performs far into the future.
We need to try to not be distracted by trifles, like whether the SEALs wear a patch with the Navy Jack, or their unit crest or whatever. It’s not a mission critical thing for them, let alone a strategic issue for us as the United States.
We need to keep our heads clear and our eyes open, and live up to the vision our founders had of a free, happy people who could prosper, in this vast and bounteous land.
Now that we have that straight:

Back to the battle.


Rattlesnakes and Kings

First official salute to the American flag on board an American warship in a foreign port, 16 November 1776. Painting by Phillips Melville, depicting Continental Brig Andrew Doria receiving a salute from the Dutch fort at St. Eustatius, West Indies, 16 November 1776.

First official salute to the American flag on board an American warship in a foreign port, 16 November 1776. Painting by Phillips Melville, depicting Continental Brig Andrew Doria receiving a salute from the Dutch fort at St. Eustatius, West Indies, 16 November 1776.

And so we have a kerfuffle. It seems that the President , or at least someone in the executive branch has ordered the US Navy Sea. Air, Land (SEAL) Teams to quit wearing a patch depicting what is commonly referred to as the “First Navy Jack”.

Naval_Jack_of_the_United_States.svgThe patch is a subdued replica of the jack shown to the left. It is supposed to be the jack flown by the USS Andrew Doria, at St. Eustatius on 16 November 1776, when the ship fired a salute to the Dutch fort, which the fort returned, this being the first salute rendered to United States colors by a foreign power. It is also the jack flown by the senior ship of the fleet on active service, That currently is The USS Nimitz, which is sort of a moot point since by order of President Bush, the Navy has been flying it during the course of the Global War on Terror from all ships.

The stripes of course, as they always do, symbolise the 13 united colonies, even as they do on our current flag. The rattlesnake is perhaps the oldest symbol of what would become the United States, it dates back to 1751, and was used by Benjamin Franklin in 1754, during the French and Indian War in his famous woodcut, reminding the colonist to work together.

As we moved into the Revolution it was a motif that was both familiar and distinctive, as well as something apparent to Americans, a wise man does not tread on rattlesnakes after all. Something of the temper of Americans, then and now, is also implied in both its warning and the use of the word “me” rather than a collective pronoun. Americans have always been an individualistic lot, given to amorphous associations as necessary but more inclined to be responsible for themselves, with a limited, and Christian caring for their neighbor, but not willing to grant that it was anything but an individual duty to help succor the poor and unfortunate. A hard people? Perhaps, but also a just people.

Gadsden FlagThe most famous, today anyway, rendering of the rattlesnake motif is , of course, the one designed by General Christopher Gadsden in 1775, which is shown to the left. I also note that the Gadsden Flag was used by Commodore Esek Hopkins, the first commander-in-chief of the Continental Navy as his personal flag, It was flown from the mainmast. This same arrangement on the yellow background was used on the drums of the oldest military force of the country, the Continental Marines. It’s a motif, and a warning as well, that the opponents of the American people over the centuries have come to agree with. Most people and countries who have disregarded that warning have not come to good ends.

And I note that except for the naval use, neither of these have ever been symbols of the government of the United States, only the higher standard as emblems of the People.

And so, I find it rather petty, and anti-history for the president to deny the SEALS the use of one of the oldest symbols of the country, and the navy, sadly I’m not surprised.

Perhaps that’s why the President doesn’t like rattlesnakes



English: Washington, D.C. (Jan. 16, 2007) - Su...

English: Washington, D.C. (Jan. 16, 2007) – Susan Ford Bales, daughter of President Gerald R. Ford, speaks to an audience of 300 during the official naming ceremony of the USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78), the first aircraft carrier in the Ford class of carriers. U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Shawn P. Eklund (RELEASED) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

From Wikipedia

Mythical creature
Leviathan is a sea monster referenced in the Tanakh, or the Old Testament. The word has become synonymous with any large sea monster or creature.

From Thomas Hobbes’s Leviathan

Sometimes a man desires to know the event of an action; and then he thinketh of some like action past, and the events thereof one after another, supposing like events will follow like actions. As he that foresees what will become of a criminal re-cons what he has seen follow on the like crime before, having this order of thoughts; the crime, the officer, the prison, the judge, and the gallows. Which kind of thoughts is called foresight, and prudence, or providence, and sometimes wisdom; though such conjecture, through the difficulty of observing all circumstances, be very fallacious. But this is certain: by how much one man has more experience of things past than another; by so much also he is more prudent, and his expectations the seldomer fail him. The present only has a being in nature; things past have a being in the memory only; but things to come have no being at all, the future being but a fiction of the mind, applying the sequels of actions past to the actions that are present; which with most certainty is done by him that has most experience, but not with certainty enough. And though it be called prudence when the event answereth our expectation; yet in its own nature it is but presumption. For the foresight of things to come, which is providence, belongs only to him by whose will they are to come. From him only, and supernaturally, proceeds prophecy. The best prophet naturally is the best guesser; and the best guesser, he that is most versed and studied in the matters he guesses at, for he hath most signs to guess by.

A sign is the event antecedent of the consequent; and contrarily, the consequent of the antecedent, when the like consequences have been observed before: and the oftener they have been observed, the less uncertain is the sign. And therefore he that has most experience in any kind of business has most signs whereby to guess at the future time, and consequently is the most prudent: and so much more prudent than he that is new in that kind of business, as not to be equalled by any advantage of natural and extemporary wit, though perhaps many young men think the contrary.

Two things, one a simple mythical creature, one a group of complex thoughts about experience, with no relation:

One word.

Or are they completely separate?

Or do they intersect?

Here maybe.

On 9 November 3013 the United States Navy will launch and christen CVN 78, The USS Gerald R. Ford.

This will mark the beginning of a new class of aircraft carriers that will be in service for the next 94 years. With exception of the hull, virtually everything has been redesigned to make the Ford class more capable and more powerful than in the Nimitz class. This new class of carrier will build on the legendary performance of the Nimitz class carriers and will provide 25 percent more combat capability, increased service life margins throughout the ship to handle the aircraft and weapon systems of the future including unmanned aircraft and futuristic directed energy weapons, as well as driving down the total ownership cost of the ship by $4 billion over its 50 year service.
The ship’s island is smaller and moved farther aft than on the Nimitz class and that there are no rotating antennas on atop the island. This is because CVN 78 will be the first ship to get the new dual-band radar that operates with phased array radars similar to AEGIS.
The smaller island and its location farther aft also provides for more flight deck space that combined with new weapons elevators and a NASCAR pit stop refueling concept will allow us to rearm and refuel aircraft faster to turn them around for the next mission. The net result is a 25 percent increase in sortie generation rate as compared to a Nimitz class carrier.

Continue reading CVN 78

I wish to have no connection with any ship that does not sail fast;

for I intend to go in harm’s way.

Captain John Paul Jones, USN


English: The U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS Yo...

English: The U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS Yorktown (CV-5) in Dry Dock No.1 at the Pearl Harbor Navy Yard, 29 May 1942, receiving urgent repairs for damage received in the Battle of Coral Sea. She left Pearl Harbor the next day to participate in the Battle of Midway. USS West Virginia (BB-48), sunk in the 7 December 1941 Japanese air attack, is being salvaged in the left distance. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I mentioned yesterday that we are going to do quite a bit of history this week, I wasn’t kidding. This is a week that plays host to several battles that changed the course of history, or didn’t, which can, of course, be as significant. Yesterday was one of those. because of the British (plus Canadian and Australian) strategic win at Jutland, the English speaking peoples continue to this day to rule the oceans and guarantee free trade and work for freedom everywhere.

Today we go halfway around the world and twenty-six years forward in time.

Here’s the situation: On 7 December 1941 the Imperial Japanese Navy struck at Pearl Harbor disabling the US Pacific Fleet‘s battleships, and destroying most of the airpower in Hawaii, Shortly thereafter they struck Clark Air Base in the Philippine destroying the largest concentration of American strategic airpower outside of the continental United States. Shortly thereafter the Japanese invaded the Philippines, Singapore and elsewhere. The Prince of Wales and the Repulse were sunk off Singapore and the fortress (which had no rear) surrendered..

It was a busy spring, on 18 April Colonel Doolittle mounted his raid on the Japanese Home Islands from the deck of the USS Hornet. Between 4 and 8 May the United States Navy and the Australian Navy, under Frank Jack Fletcher fought the first naval battle between aircraft carriers where surface units never saw in each other against Shigeyoshi Inoue of the IJN. On 4 May the Japanese took Tulagi  but were surprised by airstrikes from the USS Yorktown.

On 6 May Lt. General Wainwright surrendered all Allied forces in the Philippines to the Japanese army.

Back in the Coral Sea, the Americans on the 7th sank the light carrier Shoho, on the 8th the Shōkaku was heavily damaged while the Americans had the Lexington critically damaged (it was scuttled) and the Yorktown was damaged. Both sides lost a lot of aircrew as well. And the invasion of Port Moresby was deferred.

In the meantime, American signal intelligence people were trying to figure out what the Japanese were planning and by doing a bit of trickery they deduced that the Japanese, who were pretty ticked off by the Doolittle raid, had a plan to invade Midway, and mount at least a raid in the Aleutians. Midway is about 1200 or so miles northwest of the main Hawaiian Islands and was mostly a military outpost. later it would become the main submarine base for the war on Japan. But not today.

Today, one of those amazingly complicated Japanese plans began to unfold, as the carrier air strike came in against Midway, there was adequate warning because of the radar installations and a return strike by army B-17s and B-26s was ordered reinforced by nearly every other combatant aircraft on the island. To very little effect, except that the Japanese strike commander radioed that a second strike was needed.

In the meantime, Midway reported the position of the various fleet units that they had sighted to Pearl Harbor where Nimitz was able to relay the information to the fleet, as opposed to Yamamoto sitting on the Yamato hundreds of miles from the battle observing radio silence. If you remember Yorktown had been damaged fairly badly at the Coral Sea a month ago, by herculean efforts the Pearl Harbor base had got it usable for this battle. So the Enterprise, the Hornet, and the Yorktown would be available for the battle against the IJM with four carriers.

And so Admiral Spruance, filling in for Halsey who was on the beach with a skin ailment, found out where the Japanese carriers were and ordered a strike. The range was long and it seems at this distance that Halsey’s staff wasn’t all it could have been. Because the aircrew were told to look for the fleet where it wasn’t [I’m skipping a lot here, more than a few books have been written about this day] Spruance decided that assembling the strike was taking too long (and burning too much gasoline as well) and ordered a general attack. The dive bombers went down the wrong track, but the torpedo bombers, which were the most effective anti-ship weapons but very slow and vulnerable, found the Japanese first.

Ensign George Gay

In a heroic effort three torpedo squadrons were wiped out, VT-8 had a single survivor, ensign George Gay of Valparaiso, Indiana.

This is the high water mark of the Imperial Japanese Navy. They had just destroyed the American Schwerpunkt, and were in position to resume the offensive. Or were they? The scout plane from the cruiser Tone had reported the American fleet although it took a while to establish its composition, and the Japanese were rearming the aircraft for a maritime strike instead of a second strike on Midway. And then Wade McClusky, leading the dive bombers spotted a Japanese destroyer making high speed and followed its lead and found the carriers. When the torpedo attacks were coming in the Japanese combat air patrol had come down to combat them and hadn’t regained altitude yet, when the dive bombers appeared.

They attacked into the undivided attention of every gun in the Japanese fleet. In the next 5 minutes the Imperial Japanese fleet lost three carriers, and would lose the fourth as well. The return strike would cost the Americans the Yorktown. The Japanese could not replace the carriers and even more they could not replace the trained airmen. After this battle the Japanese would never again be on the offensive, and soon they would face overpowering odds, as American production started to get into high gear.

This was the day, only 71 years ago when the United States Navy both won World War II in the Pacific, although never doubt that there was an incredible amount of desperate fighting to come, and secured the control of the sea down to our own day.

Military historian John Keegan called it “the most stunning and decisive blow in the history of naval warfare.” It was Japan’s worst naval defeat in 350 years.

Thus we see the twin thrusts of American leadership once again, the daring gamble leading up to and through Midway, which served to keep the cause alive and then the massive firepower which began to completely overwhelm the Japanese. To the point that in 1945 there was disagreement on whether to invade Japan or just starve the entire country to death, all sides should thank their God(s) that the atomic bomb offered a third way.

The World Changed that Day, in Thirty Minutes, on decisions made by men probably in their 30s


The Skagerrak

The British Grand Fleet imposing the blockade ...

The British Grand Fleet imposing the blockade of Germany at the outbreak of war in 1914 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We’ve talked several times here of Trafalgar and the importance of “those distant storm-tossed ships” on the modern world, and it is nearly impossible to overstate. One could make the case that Trafalgar was the sunrise of Victorian England with all the changes in the world that wrought. Today we are going to discuss tea-time in that world. Saturday was the 97th anniversary of the Battle of Jutland

You see in that era Britannia really did rule the waves, using the rule that Royal navy should be more powerful than the next two most powerful navies. This started getting expensive with the rise of Imperial Germany, the United States and Imperial Japan. In fact the Kriegsmarine‘s building program was part of the reason that Great Britain went to war in 1914, some commentators had been saying since at least 1905 that they were going to have to fight the Germans, best to get it over with. It’s also the reason that Great Britain signed an alliance with Japan which gave Japan some fruits of victory in World War I. In addition, the brilliance of the naval treaties in 1921 is in here, Great Britain agreed to equality with the United States Navy, and the alliance with Japan was changed to merely a pledge to consult.

But, anyway, the Germans were big believers in Admiral Mahan’s “fleet in being” and in truth they did tie down lots of the Royal Navy in home waters. The problem was that the British had declared a blockade of German controlled Europe, and just as had happened in the Napoleonic wars it was working quite well. And yes, it was again causing friction with the “great neutral”, the United States. You’ll recall that the Napoleonic blockade led to the War of 1812. It didn’t come close to that level in World War I, not least because America was even more irritated by the German U-boats.

So, the stalemated war in the west continues, Great Britain is doing OK (at least superficially) because of the transatlantic trade and the Empire, but Germany and its allies are starting to starve, nobody had considered the effects of a long war (who ever does?). In Germany things are bad and getting worse, this was the reason that Lenin was shipped off to Russia as well.

But the German decided they had to break the blockade, this is one of the first demonstrations of the limitations of submarine warfare, or any other area-denial weapon, like drones. So, the German come up with a plan.

The German battlecruisers sail. Battlecruisers were one of those ideas that were supposed to get around the limits of technology, they were sleek ships, and fast, and armed much like a full battleship. This was accomplished by skimping on the armor, the thin skin reduced weight which allowed the engines of the day to move the ship much faster. Eventually the problems were solved, the American fast battleships in World War II, like the Iowa, were faster than even the battlecruisers, and that is why they are often considered the most powerful gunships to ever sail.

So the German battlecruisers sail, the plan is to draw out the British battlecruiser force and lead it into an ambush set by the High Seas Fleet. The Brits show up, actually a bit before the Germans expect them and obligingly do about what the Kriegsmarine expected. The British find out all about the limitations of battlecruisers as 3 of them blew up when hit, leading Admiral Sir David Beatty commanding the battlecruisers to comment to his flag captain, “Chatfield, there seems to be something wrong with our bloody ships today.” What was wrong was that they were not really designed for a fleet action.

Eventually Beatty turned his fleet around and with the High Seas Fleet following led the way back to the British Home Fleet under Admiral Sir John Jellicoe and sort of a reverse ambush was achieved.

It was an expensive battle in which the British did not look especially good (the Germans looked better actually). Tactically the High Seas Fleet won but strategically, because of (amongst other causes) the return to port of the High Seas Fleet, where it would stay, the British won. After the Armistice the High Seas Fleet would sail one more time, to Scapa Flow to surrender. That plan led to the US Secretary of the Navy to propose a building plan that would have overawed the combined British and German fleet which is one of the things that let to the Washington conference.

Rather than surrender the High Seas Fleet scuttled itself, probably to everyone’s relief.

But the blockade continued and eventually Germany would declare unrestricted submarine warfare leading to the intervention of the United States on the Allies side, and the defeat of Imperial Germany. It also led the United States and the United Kingdom to begin to see that our interests were common enough for us to be starting to think about cooperating more with each other.

Naval superiority would pass to the United States Navy in 1921, the traditions of the Royal Navy, would continue to resonate in both navies to this day, and hopefully far into the future.

Control of the Sea is the Trump for Land Power

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