Archive for the 'Why I miss the British Empire' Category

Mar 25 2015

The benign dictator

Lee Kuan Yew passed away on 23 March. He was 91. For those who don't know ( and you really should know this) he was the first Prime Minister of Singapore and was the founder of much of what we consider modern Singapore. As he himself said, Singapore is his legacy. That applies for both good and not so good.

Now truth in advertising, I love to be in Singapore. Its where I want to live, (as well as Japan) and I have been there 18 times. I love the place. When Lee Kuan Yew became the prime minister of Singapore in 1959, he assumed control of an ethnically divided, impoverished territory lacking in natural resources. In his 31 years in office—followed by another 21 in advisory roles—Lee transformed his country into one of the world’s most prosperous societies, a major business and transportation hub boasting a per capita GDP of $55,000.  I was often grateful for the quality of life he masterminded there.

But that quality of life came with a price and a dark side-and any eulogy of the man has to take that into account:

He will be remembered as the father of his country, a political street fighter who cut his teeth in the struggle against colonialism. Some will recall an unapologetic taskmaster — a leader more respected than loved — whose pragmatism lifted a Southeast Asian backwater into a sleek metropolis and global business hub. Others will recall the politically incorrect pundit who became an outspoken champion of “Asian values” and a sharp critic of American-style democracy. Each is correct, and captures part of the man. But to these remembrances one more should be added: Lee was the most successful dictator of the 20th century. (emphasis added-SS)

It’s a verdict that will please almost no one. For his admirers, he is a singular historic figure, not an autocratic strongman like those who eventually lorded over other former colonial outposts. He may not have been a Jeffersonian democrat, they say, but he was no dictator. On the other end of the spectrum, dissidents and democrats will take umbrage at the notion of an illiberal, authoritarian leader being remembered fondly at all. Still, Lee was one of the most universally celebrated statesmen of the last 50 years. American presidents, British prime ministers, apparatchiks from the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP), and European officials all lined up to heap praise on the leader of this authoritarian duchy…………..

…..When Lee retired from office in 1990, Singapore had some of the world’s busiest shipyards, cleanest streets, top schools, lowest taxes, best healthcare, and most efficient public services. The so-called “little red dot” had become one of the world’s most livable cities, a magnet for skilled foreign workers and the multinational corporations who hire them.

But the miracle wasn’t without its price. Lee kept his political project on a tight leash, dampening free speech, muzzling his critics, and squashing political opposition before it could take root. The ruling People’s Action Party is rightly considered synonymous with the government because it has won every election since 1959. Singapore didn’t have a single opposition leader in office until 1981, and until 2011 there have never been more than four opposition members serving in the parliament at one time. On one hand, Lee’s political machine was unquestionably effective at delivering results for Singapore. In most years, it’d be hard for any political party anywhere to compete against PAP’s record of accomplishment. That said, when it came to ensuring their political future, Lee and his cohort were incredibly gifted at putting their finger on the scale.

 

As I said, I really do like the place, even with all its faults, and people who are less enlightened then I am, tend to think I overlook them. Its not true and never has been. If you go back through my posts since 2005 you will see I have been pretty even handed in my reporting. I admit, I do like a place where I can go out for a piece of pizza or a piece of ass with the same general ease, and in my mind that was always one of Singapore's pluses.  But there was much, much more to the city than just my hunger. And Singapore is a great place to eat. ( as well as do other things….   cheeky ). Its services and general atmosphere are unmatched anywhere, especially the United States. Singaporeans solved problems efficiently and in ways the world could and did learn from -specifically with respect to health care and housing. The United States, being exceptional and all, did not seem to take the lesson on board. I still bridle angrily at people who say that Singapore's solutions cannot be applied to the United States. Its completely wrong , they could be, and would work.

That said, there were troubling aspects to the place too and still are. Just ask this guy.

My driver, a middle-aged Chinese guy, recognizes me. For most of my working life I was forced into exile overseas. Despite graduating from Cambridge in 1983 with a first-class honors degree in economics, no one in my home country would employ me. But in 2008 I decided to return home anyway and last year I stood as candidate for the Opposition in the general elections. My driver is sneaking surreptitious glances at me in the mirror. Finally he says:“JBJ. Very good man!”

I tell him he’s right and he goes on:

“But in the end very poor. Selling his book on the street corner. I buy a copy. Very sad, lah!” Then after some thought, “That’s what happens when you go against the gahmen (government).”

He is referring to my father, Joshua Benjamin Jeyaretnam. When I was a boy growing up in Singapore my father had been one of the highest-earning lawyers. He was also the first Opposition politician to get a seat in parliament, breaking a 16-year monopoly by the PAP. He was subjected to multiple defamation suits and perverse judgments which forced him out of parliament and out of his law practice and eventually bankrupted him.

Kenneth Jeyaretnam then goes on to ask the question of Mr. Lee that we all should ask, could not the government have found a way to have prosperity, progress and innovation without sacrificing central control and whilst not repressing freedom?  I personally think the answer is yes, especially because there are examples that prove me right, but Mr. Lee would not have agreed with that answer at all. Perhaps at the start he needed a tight grip-for the Communists where a real and persistent threat. But later-not so much:

During his last decades in public life, the Singaporean regime became increasingly critical of the American-led notion that human rights—including democracy—had worldwide applicability. In an interview published in the Atlantic in 2013, Lee argued that “Americans believe their ideas are universal—the supremacy of the individual and free, unfettered expression. But they’re not—and never were.”?

There is one other aspect of the society he crafted that I, for one, find particularly troubling and its not unique to Singapore, the Middle East and other parts of Asia have it too-namely the fact that a part of Singapore's success rests on the backs of an underclass of foreign workers, that will never enjoy the benefits of the prosperity that has been brought there."Singapore cannot compete with cheap labor overseas so it brings the cheap labor to Singapore, with no minimum wage there is no bottom to how cheap this labor can be. Not surprisingly this exploitation has fueled an explosion in GDP but not in real wages, which have stagnated or fallen." Specifically for me, and since this is women's history month, the exploitation of so many people troubles folks a good deal.  The fact that American feminists pay ZERO attention to the plight of these women, is just grounds to shout at them repeatedly.

Singapore is a mixed bag to be sure-but its a better bag than most places, ( light years ahead of Shopping Mall USA) and a lot of that was do to the vision of Lee Kuan Yew. “People want economic development first and foremost,” he said in an interview printed in his 1998 book, The Man and His Ideas. “The leaders may talk something else. You take a poll of any people. What is it they want? The right to write an editorial as you like? They want homes, medicine, jobs, schools."

That they got. At what price they paid-that is what will be the discussion in the years to come.

No responses yet

Jan 21 2015

American Sniper

A FB friend posted a link to the following blog post: entitled "Why I almost walked out of American Sniper". No it's not a quote from Michael Moore-its a quote from a supporter of the country and the military. I can agree with her logic, up to a point :

You need to see this movie because you live in a bubble.

Stated plainly, we complain about dumb things most of the time. We live in comfort and freedom, and for the most part, we’re blessed beyond measure. We complain about bad hair days and people who get on our nerves and when we run out of coffee or get cut off in traffic and the fact that we hate Mondays. And yet we have the opportunity to live in peace. Meanwhile, all over the globe, children are born into war zones and suffer unimaginable torment at the hands of Evil.

This is why I almost left during the movie. As a Social Studies teacher and a student of the world, I’m well aware of the atrocities committed throughout the world historically and in present day. But I’ve only read about them. I’ve only heard about them. I’ve never had to witness them with my own eyes. Sure, American Sniper is a movie and it’s a dramatization of events, but it’s realistic. It’s horrible. And it truly shows how Evil is alive and working in our world.

Not only was I sobbing at various points throughout this movie, I found myself praying, “Come, Jesus. Come.” I almost couldn’t take it– this realistic depiction of evil. I don’t want to believe that people are capable of doing such horrible things to each other, but they are. Oh, they are.

The bubble around me popped. You can’t watch a movie like this, see the horrible things that man is willing to do to another man (or woman or child), not just in the name of a god or of an organization, but in the name of hatred, and go back to your cushy life and pretend the horror doesn’t exist.

Our soldiers face this evil every day on the battlefield and they persevere. They press on. They fight it and try to protect freedom because that’s one of our basic rights as humans. And they make split-second decisions that we pray we never, ever have to make. This is why we are grateful– because they have to make the decisions and carry out the actions we never, ever want to have to face.

 

It is right there at the end where her logic breaks down. Evil? Really? Then why are we not dispatching legions of American Snipers to the remaining six continents?  Evil things are happening there every day but we do not stage armed interventions by equally brave men. And why don't we you ask?

Because we don't have the resources to solve every problem on the planet.

And because most of the time-its not in our national interest.

Evil exists all over this world. As we were fighting in Iraq, un-counted 1000's were dying in other wars in Africa of the twin evils of neglect and lack of resources to fight problems such as disease, bad infrastructure and starvation. Yet not once did the President rise to the podium in front of Congress and challenge us to go fight them. Chris Kyle and those like him were never sent out to help them. Nor should they have been.

And on those two points I must disagree with Jennifer Hale. Chris Kyle went through a lot. Of course his service should be honored as should that of every other soldier who served in this despicable and unnecessary conflicts throughout the first decade and a half of the 21 st century. If anything it proves James Fallow's point regarding "The tragedy of the American Military", namely that, "the American public and its political leadership will do anything for the military except take it seriously. The result is a chickenhawk nation in which careless spending and strategic folly combine to lure America into endless wars it can’t win."

If we don't follow the statement through the logical question, namely "Why was Chris Kyle there in the first place and why did the nation so callously send him into a war the country had no business plunging into?" then we really are not honoring his sacrifices or worse yet learning real lessons from them. Cue Fallows again:

Too much complacency regarding our military, and too weak a tragic imagination about the consequences if the next engagement goes wrong, have been part of Americans’ willingness to wade into conflict after conflict, blithely assuming we would win. “Did we have the sense that America cared how we were doing? We did not,” Seth Moulton told me about his experience as a marine during the Iraq War. Moulton became a Marine Corps officer after graduating from Harvard in 2001, believing (as he told me) that when many classmates were heading to Wall Street it was useful to set an example of public service. He opposed the decision to invade Iraq but ended up serving four tours there out of a sense of duty to his comrades. “America was very disconnected. We were proud to serve, but we knew it was a little group of people doing the country’s work.”

"Either war is finished or we are"  says Herman Wouk.  I fully agree with the sentiment. But I question whether the majority of Americans do. I think not. They will see the movie in a "yellow ribbon" kind of way- "the people at the [movie theater will] feel good about what they’ve done to show their support for the troops. " But they will never think the problem all the way through. They will never rise in righteous anger that Chris Kyle had to be sent there in the first place, endure the things he had to endure-and have it all matter for nothing. That's right nothing. Iraq is still a basket case, no better than when we found it. Because in the end , Chris Kyle was failed by his leadership, he was failed by his country and he was failed by the people of his country who never asked the probing questions that might have prevented the entire ordeal in the first place. As Kipling wrote after his son's death in the disaster that was the First World War, "If any question why we died/ Tell them, because our fathers lied."

We do the veterans no good service if we choose not learn from the effort-and solemnly resolve not to repeat the  mistakes that placed them in such a harsh place to begin with. Without those questions, its not worth the time or the effort to contemplate the rest. We have to think it though to the end.

3 responses so far

Jan 10 2015

Busy week.

And what a sad week it has been too.

The news from Paris is sad, tragic and sadly, all too expected in this day and age. In solidarity with the right of a free press to publish what it wants to and not be subject to censorship at the point of a gun- I am republishing one of the Charlie Hedbo cartoons. Oh, and fuck Mohammed too.

 

1100719

And maybe I'll publish another one too.  And while I am at it, fuck Islam. (Click to see propely).

299854-charlie-hebdo-collage

As angry as this apostate religion makes me; as disgusted as I am with their stupid dietary laws, the shitty way they treat women, the clothing things they make women wear-and how frustrated I am that these people will not assimilate into European society, I also have to think hard on what the facts really are.

Contrary to the assertions of some, Islam is not overrunning Europe:(click to see properly)

20150110_gdc999_3

 

A disgruntled and radicalized minority is indeed a problem as this week has once again shown us. But one needs to remember the world has over a billion Muslims. They are not going away and we can't kill them all-no matter how much some of our neocon masters would like to try. And I also have to remind myself that it is a minority. Most of the Hijab wearing set here in Germany just want to live their lives. (and they speak better German than I do).

So yea, I am disgusted and angry. I'm tired of Islam's sickness infecting parts of the world I like. I want the women to take off the hijabs and abayas, put on some dresses and shoes and dress like a Western woman.  But in the end, cartoonist Joe Sacco may have it right. And with his cartoon I will close. My deepest and heartfelt condolences to the families of those who lost their lives this week in and around Paris. The Western World HAS to prove that it is better than these thugs. ( Click to see the cartoon properly-its worth reading).

joesaccoonsatire1200

7 responses so far

Dec 23 2014

It is time for the airing of the grievances.

It is the 23rd of December and we all know what that means. It's time to break out the Festivus pole.

And it is time to break out the airing of the grievances.

 

 

 

And let me tell you, this year I have lots of them. With a lot of people. One reason I am not able to blog much anymore, besides the hectic schedule I am now keeping is that underneath it all, emotionally, I am tired. I am tired of what passes for knowledge in the blogosphere-such as it is-these days.

Take this complete bit of mental stupidity from the Phibian. He is referring to Barak Obama and a completely flawed push poll done by Navy Times

He threw away what we won in IRQ, it slowly back filling that mistake and is doing the same in AFG after a half decade of advertising retreat … so yea.
 

It is a tired old trope, and worse yet, there is no truth to it whatsoever. Phibian continues to defend our misadventures in these two particular hell holes-and this is spite of the rather significant shift in opinion by the folks who were charged with executing both of these mistaken foreign policy adventures. Let's be clear, the war in Iraq was a huge mistake and the only people who "threw any thing away" was the Iraqi people themselves. As I said, any other viewpoint is just plain wrong and should be meet by a cheery, "fuck you". Same is true in Afghanistan.  "Ultimately it's up to the Iraqis as a sovereign nation to solve their problems," [President Obama] said, "We can't do it for them."

Now that does not excuse us from the horrendous mistakes we made-most important of which was starting the damn war in the first place.

The view of the Iraq hawks – from liberal interventionists, such as his former secretary of state Hillary Clinton, to neo-conservatives, such as his former Republican presidential opponent John McCain – is that the US and its principal allies Britain and Australia bear little or no responsibility for the disaster unfolding across Iraq.

In their eyes, it is Obama's fault for either failing to intervene in the Syrian civil war in 2011-13 or withdrawing US troops from Iraq in late 2011.

It is argued that by failing to authorize air strikes on Damascus and arm the rebellion against Assad's regime during the early stages of Syria's civil war, the administration created a strategic void for the extremist Islamists to exploit ruthlessly. Meanwhile, the "premature" decision to pull US forces out of Baghdad helped scuttle the semblance of sectarian peace that the Americans had brokered following the president Bush's surge of US troops in Baghdad in 2007.

Both accounts are wrong.

Start with the latter. It is true that the end of the American presence in Iraq nearly three years ago helped remove all that was keeping the sectarian rivals in check. But it is also true that the Bush administration in October 2008 pledged to withdraw all US troops by the end of 2011.

Remember, too, that during lengthy negotiations on keeping US forces engaged in Baghdad, the Iraqi government – representing a clear majority of Iraqis (not to mention its sponsors in Tehran) – demanded all remaining Americans would be subject to Iraqi law. This refusal to provide the same kind of guarantees that every nation offers to residual US forces was a condition to which no US government would agree.  

Moreover, the president's withdrawal of US troops from a widely unpopular war by the end of 2011 fulfilled an election mandate. To this day, a clear majority of Americans don't think the original decision to invade was worth it, nor do they support a major intervention today.

Phib, being a surgeaholic, wants desperately to cling to the myth that decision to invade Iraq actually achieved anything worthwhile. Unfortunately, the body of evidence-and,  regrettably the loss of 4, 486 American lives for nothing-tells us otherwise.

Which leads us to his snarky analysis of the poll. It is probably true that by and large the military would prefer a more conservative President. But his summation that the troops loved Bush and hate Obama, is not supported by the facts-or the details of the Navy Times poll. By and large many troops ( and there is a big difference by age and time in service) support his policies , even if they don't support the man. Furthermore, Bush may have talked a good game about how much he loved the troops-but in truth his decisions were bad for the military and no amount of rose colored thinking can change that.  Certainly it is not loving the troops when you squander a lot of lives. The most accurate data we have are on U.S. military casualties: 6,648 service members have died in Iraq and Afghanistan to date, a large majority of the deaths occurring under Bush's presidency. So spare me the "Bush cared, Obama doesn't" nonsense. When you send people to die for nothing, you are an uncaring, unfeeling,  son of a bitch. And that's what Bush did overall. He squandered the first 8 years of the 21st century.

What Phibian's post and more importantly the Navy Times poll does do is allow the service members to avoid blaming the real source of most of their problems, the uniformed leadership itself, from the consequences of some pretty bad decisions. If you read the comments on the post-for the most part they back up what I am saying ( as well as make you despair of the humanity of these people)-they can't bring themselves to talk in facts and numbers, just tired old tropes that were proven false a long time ago.

Furthermore, the military tends to grade itself on a curve as LTG Bolger pointed out, holding a higher opinion of it self than is probably warranted. Its a special kind of conceit and stupidity to think that simply, had a Republican been in office, things would be better for the military. Given the current state of the economy and the currently stated economic policies of the current front runners in the GOP it would have been equally as bad. But they would have certainly been deployed more and more of them would be dead. For nothing.

For me, that's the only thing that matters. Obama has brought our senseless participation in Iraq and Afghanistan to an end. That's what I elected him to do and that's what he did. Too fucking bad if Navy Times readers don't like it. And trust me-a lot of people still don't love George Bush either. Thus endeth the rant for today.

One response so far

Aug 27 2014

Can’t believe I missed it.

Yesterday was Women's Equality Day. And I totally forgot about it. I'm so depressed. wink

1345834204117_6316877

After all, there are some hard facts of life:

sammiches

And while you are at it-get me a beer:

1-carlsberg

Ok Honey?

asian_girls?

 

No responses yet

Jun 13 2014

When do we get to blame the Iraqis?

I woke up this morning to see articles blaming the current situation on Iraq-on our failure to leave troops there. John McCain is living up to his reputation of never meeting a war he did not want Americans to fight. They are trotting out the "I told you so" brigades to say its Obama's fault for living up to a SOFA agreement that his predecessor negotiated.

This is the 21st century. At some point Arabs have to take responsibility for their own stupidity and the burdens brought on by a slavish devotion to an apostate religion. What I find so interesting in our current discourse is that no one, and I do mean, no one, ever blames the Iraqis.

And according to Dr. Adam L. Silverman, perhaps we should.

Iraqi Sunnis have been telling us, explicitly, since as far back as 2007 when we started partnering with the Anbar Awakenings guys that as soon as they had a chance – read as soon as we were gone and conditions were right – they were going to go after the Shi’a. They are specifically and especially interested in going after the expatriate Shi’a that we had empowered and put in charge: Maliki and his Dawa Party and the Hakim’s and their ISCI Party and its Badr Corps militia. The Sadrists are not too high on their list of favorites either. By not actually listening, and by listening I mean hearing what they said and observing their behavior in order to get a fuller understanding of their messaging, we have helped to make this worse.

 

You remember 2007 don't you-the year the surgeaholics were telling us the surge was "saving Iraq"? And nay sayers like me were saying the Iraqis-as the Arabs they are were not worth saving.

And time would appear to be proving me right.

Once they realized they could run out the clock on us, they did. As a result we are no longer there to play referee and other events have diverted our attention. That is why now is a good time to settle scores. Syria is stuck in a Civil War, which provided the Levantine al Qaeda affiliate a way back into Iraq. They have capitalized on the dashed hopes and angers of a lot of Iraqis and scores are now being settled. Some of this is just vengeance, but some of it is also the process of state and societal formation, regardless of whether we like the potential outcome of that process. For all that we do not like to think about these things, state and societal formation, or reformation, is usually violent. It is often serially violent as well. There will be periods of violence – challenges to the established order or by the order to consolidate power, as well as to determine who gets to be included within society and who is to be partially or fully excluded. These periods will be interspersed with periods of calm. It is not, however, a quick or even easy process. The US has gone through this, though we like to ignore or forget it unless we have no other choice.

 

Read the whole article, it is worth your time. Arabs are nothing, if not remarkably consistent in their ability to screw up a good deal.

3 responses so far

May 26 2014

Second of two Memorial Day Posts

I paraphrased this bit of writing from Herman Wouk a couple of years back. I still think its a marvelous bit of writing and particularly appropriate as "America begins to leave the world stage". Not because it was forced to-but because of those who feel that merely dying for your fellow servicemen is sufficient justification for their ever being there in the first place. It is not-and it is important to remember on Memorial Day above all days. For every wartime death is an unnecessary tragedy, created because the world chooses to solve its problems, after 6000 years, with the fighting and dying of young men ( and now, even more sadly, women-who are supposed to serve a different role in our world)-for conflicts that shall not be long remembered. I post this because I think since, 1991, American casualties have been equivalent to those of the British Empire in the 20th century-men who were also fighting for their contemporaries, fighting to preserve an order that still needs to exist-but were sold out by their own civilian leadership. 

Of course we should honor their sacrifice on this day. But it only has real meaning if we honor the volunteers who died in these two wars by taking a lesson from these losses and work to keep this kind of stupidity from happening again. I am going to tell you this again Phib, the Afghans were never worthy of the sacrifice that was made on their behalf-and the effort expended to try to help them has accelerated our march from the world stage.  That is why it is worth reading this passage-we honor their efforts to our very soul. But if we don't find a better way to run our planet-then we have failed these valiant souls deeply. "Either war is finished, or we are!"

I've been out of pocket this weekend-down in Pensacola, playing golf at AC Read, watching the boats go across the sound, and catching up with some friends. He let me in on some very sad developments happening in our Navy-which I will proceed to document later this week. This, however, being Memorial Day, I thought I would pass on something different concerning remembering the fallen-from one of my favorite authors: Hermann Wouk. In the book is a  fictional correspondent's report, Sunset at Kidney Ridge, reflects on the decline of the British Empire; it serves roughly as the emotional midpoint of the book. While written about the path of the British Empire, I find Alastair Tudsbury's thoughts have applicability to our situation and our continuing struggle in the War without End. I have transcribed the entire piece, word for word ,  from Wouk's novel, War and Remembrance, Chapter 49.

Here then is Sunset at Kidney Ridge:

SUNSET ON KIDNEY RIDGE

By Alstair Tudsbury

By wireless from London. This dispatch, dated November 4, 1942 was the famous British correspondent's last-dictated shortly before he was killed by a landmine at El Alamein. Edited by his daughter and collaborator, Pamela Tudsbury, from an unfinished draft, it is reprinted by special permission of the London Observer.

 

The sun hangs huge and red above the far dust-streaked horizon. The desert cold is already falling on Kidney Ridge. This gray sandy elevation is deserted, except by the dead, and two intelligence officers and myself. Even the flies have left. Earlier they were here in clouds, blackening the corpses. They pester the living too, clustered at a  mand's eyes and the moisture in the corners of his mouth, drinking his sweat. But of course they prefer the dead. When the sun climbs over the opposite horizon tomorrow, the flies will return to their feast.

       Here not only did these German and British soldiers die, who litter the ground as far as the eye can see in the fading red light. Here at El Alamein, the Afrika Korps died. The Korps was a legend, a dashing clean- cut enemy , a menace and at the same time a sort of glory; in Churchillian rhetoric, a gallant foe worthy of our steel. It is not known if Rommel has made good is escape, or whether his straggle of routed supermen will be bagged by the Eight Army. But the Afrika Korps is dead, crushed by British arms. We have won here, in the great Western of Africa, a victory to stand with Crecy, Agincourt, Blenheim, and Waterloo.

        Lines from Southey's "Battle of Blenheim" are haunting me here on Kidney Ridge:

They say 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.

        The bodies, numerous as they are, strike the eye less than the blasted and burned out tanks that dot this weirdly beautiful wasteland, these squat hulls with their long guns, casting elongated blue shadows on the pastel grays and browns and pinks of the far-stretching sands. Here is the central incongruity of Kidney Ridge-the masses of smashed twentieth-century machinery tumbled about in these harsh flat sandy wilds, where  one envisions warriors on camels or horses, or perhaps the elephants of Hannibal.

        How far they came to perish here, these soldiers and these machines! What a bizarre train of events brought youngsters from the Rhineland and Prussia, from the Socttish Highlands and London, from Australia and New Zealand, to butt at each other to the death with flame- spitting machinery in faraway Africa, in a setting as dry and as lonesome as the moon?

       But that is the hallmark of this war. No other war has ever been like it. This war rings the world. Kideny Ridge is everwhere on our small globe. Men fight as far away from home as they can be transported, with courage and endurance that makes on proud of the human race, in horrible contrivances that make one ashamed of the human race.

         My jeep will take me back to Cairo shortly, and I will dictate a dispatch about what I see here. What I am looking at, right now as the sun touches the horizon, is this. Two intelligence offices, not fifty yards from me, are lifting the German driver out of a blasted tank, using meat hooks. He is black and charred. He has no head. He is a trunk with arms and legs. The smell is like gamy pork. The legs wear good boots, only a bit scorched.

          I am very tired. A voice I don't want to listen to tells me that this England's last land triumph; that our military history ends here with a victory to stand with the greatest, won largely with machines shipped ten thousand miles from American factories. Tommy Atkins will serve with pluck and valor wherever he fights here after, as always; but the conduct of the war is slipping from our hands.

          We are outnumbered and outclassed. Modern War is a clangorous and dreary measuring of industrial plants. Germany's industrial capacity passed ours in 1905. We hung on through the First World War by sheer grit. Today the two giants of the earth are the United States and the Soviet Union. They more than outmatch Germany and Japan, now that they have shaken off their surprise setbacks and sprung to arms. Tocqueville's vision is coming to pass in our time. They will divide the empire of the world.

          The sun going down on Kidney Ridge is setting on the British Empire, on which-we learned as schoolboys-the sun never set.  Our Empire was born of the skill of our explorers, the martial prowess of our yeomanry, the innovative genius of our scientists and engineers. We stole a march on the world that lasted 200 years. Lulled by the long peaceful protection of the great fleet we built, we thought it could last forever. We dozed.

          Here in Kidney Ridge we have erased the disgrace of our somnolence. If history is but the clash of arms, we now begin to leave the stage with honor. But if it is a march to the human spirit toward world freedom, we will never leave the stage. British ideas, British institutions, British scientific method, will lead the way in other lands, in other guises. English will become the planetary tongue, that is now certain. We have been the Greece of the new age.

      But you object, the theme of the new age is socialism. I am not so sure of that. Even so, Karl Marx, the scruffy Mohammad of this spreading economic Islam, built his strident dogmas on the theories of British economists. He created his apocalyptic visions in the hospitality of a British Museum. He read British books, lived on British bounty, wrote in British freedom, collaborated with Englishmen and lies in a London grave. People forget all that.

         The sun has set. It will get dark and cold quickly now. The intelligence officers are beckoning me to their lorry. The first stars spring forth in the indigo sky. I take a last look around at the dead of El Alamein and mutter a prayer for these poor devils, German and British, who turn and turn about sang Lili Marlene in the cafes of Tobruk, hugging the same sleazy girls. Now they lie here together, their young appetites cold, their homesick songs stilled.

"Why twas a very wicked thing!"

Said Little Wilhemine

"Nay, nay my little girl"  quoth he-

Pamela Tudsbury writesThe telephone rang just at that moment, as my father was declaiming the verser with his usual relish. It was a summons to the interview with General Montgomery. He left at once. A lorry brought back his body the next morning. As a World War I reserve officer, he was buried with honors in the Brisitsh Military Cemetery outside Alexandria.

The London observer asked me to complete the article. I have tried, I have his hand written notes for three more paragraphds. But I cannot do it. I can however, complete Southey's verse for him. So ends my fathers career of war reporting-

"It was a famous victory"

*     *       *

Yes it is a piece from an American novel, with a British slant. However I think if you try, you can substitute American battles, American names, and American cities and see the analogies to our present day. It is true that not all of the comparisons are apt-the Soviet Union is no more and it is pretty clear socialism has been discredited-however substitute "Globalization and rampant unregulated profit taking" and Tudsbury's prediction holds true. And I would also point out-as much as so many people try to deny it, whatever we Americans have in the way of honor and virtue, we learned it from the British.

If we seek to honor the sacrifices of the brave Soldiers, Sailors, Airman and Marines who have fallen today-we must also ask ourself what are we doing to make this country a better place to live for their children and their families. For in the end, that was what they were fighting to defend, a free society that improves itself, not simply falls back into the evils they fought so hard to protect us from.

Andrew Bacevich wrote recently:

Americans once believed war to be a great evil. Whenever possible, war was to be avoided. When circumstances made war unavoidable, Americans wanted peace swiftly restored.

Present-day Americans, few of them directly affected by events in Iraq or Afghanistan, find war tolerable. They accept it. Since 9/11, war has become normalcy. Peace has become an entirely theoretical construct. A report of G.I.s getting shot at, maimed, or killed is no longer something the average American gets exercised about. Rest assured that no such reports will interfere with plans for the long weekend that Memorial Day makes possible.

You should find that trend very scary-I know I do.

No responses yet

May 23 2014

Musings of a moron

David Brooks, also known here by the not so affectionate moniker of “Chunky Bobo”, has written a column so absurd that you just have to shake your head in stupefaction that this man still has a job-much less a respected position in American journalism. Like McMegan-it appears that Chunky Bobo has thrown in the towel on making democracy work-and has instead decided to go down the path that Lenin led the Russians down almost a 100 years ago.

According to Brooks,  it is all the government’s fault-while the actual voters who are the machine that makes a good democracy work, are to be held guiltless:

It’s now clear that the end of the Soviet Union heralded an era of democratic complacency. Without a rival system to test them, democratic governments have decayed across the globe. In the U.S., Washington is polarized, stagnant and dysfunctional; a pathetic 26 percent of Americans trust their government to do the right thing. In Europe, elected officials have grown remote from voters, responding poorly to the euro crisis and contributing to massive unemployment.

According to measures by Freedom House, freedom has been in retreat around the world for the past eight years. New democracies like South Africa are decaying; the number of nations that the Bertelsmann Foundation now classifies as “defective democracies” (rigged elections and so on) has risen to 52. As John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge write in their book, “The Fourth Revolution,” “so far, the 21st century has been a rotten one for the Western model.”

 

Brooks’ solution. Send for the sycophants and call on the wisdom of Lee Kwan Yeu:

A new charismatic rival is gaining strength: the Guardian State. In their book, Micklethwait and Wooldridge do an outstanding job of describing Asia’s modernizing autocracies. In some ways, these governments look more progressive than the Western model; in some ways, more conservative.

In places like Singapore and China, the best students are ruthlessly culled for government service. The technocratic elites play a bigger role in designing economic life. The safety net is smaller and less forgiving. In Singapore, 90 percent of what you get out of the key pension is what you put in. Work is rewarded. People are expected to look after their own.

These Guardian States have some disadvantages compared with Western democracies. They are more corrupt. Because the systems are top-down, local government tends to be worse. But they have advantages. They are better at long-range thinking and can move fast because they limit democratic feedback and don’t face NIMBY-style impediments.

Really? China? A model for free people to follow? It is hard to believe Brooks actually wrote that line and believes it. Yet it would appear he does.

There is just one big problem with Brooks’ prescription-he has not examined all the side affects that come with the cure. While I am a believer that some of the Singaporean programs could be applied to good effect in the US- it is important to remember that Singapore is not, by any remote stretch of his Gaultian imagination a real democracy-or a place where equality and freedom of speech are thriving. There are more than a few facts that Brooks is leaving out of his narrative.

Specifically, Brooks slants his narrative to make it look like the Sinagaporean system does not have anything in place that he hates, such as universal access to health care. Or mandated ( and strongly enforced) mandates to pay in to both employers and employees. Ask yourself how that is going to go down with his teabagger friends. When Brooks makes the statement that 90% of Singapore’s pensions come from employees, he is either flat out lying, or showing his ignorance once again. ( A citizen is required to provide 20% of his income to his CPF fund, but he also gets an employer contribution of at least 5 and mostly 14%.). And it has to be looked at in context-Singapore provides services to its people that , based on Chunky Bobo’s other pronouncements, are an anathema to the true believer in Burkean Bells. Well financed and run public transportation for one.

And of course, either through ignorance or just plain deceitfulness-he ignores the fact that there is a tiered system of Singapore’s populations that would not welcome American ideas of equality of all under the law. Or put another way-a lot of Singapore’s progress is built on the backs of people who don’t enjoy the benefits of the government he suggests, and are in fact marginalized by the same government. Ask Filipinos and Bangladeshis how much of this Guardian State idea benefits them. This as they work for wages that are well below what their Chinese employers would ever see.

And you could also ask Mr. Brooks how much he enjoys a one party state, where criticism of the government is allowed, but only to a certain point. And folks who try to bring opposite view points are harassed and or sued out of existence. Kind of forgot that little detail, didn’t you David?

Brooks is wrong about what is broken. American Democracy is not broken-at least the model of it is not. The participants in that model however are badly broken-especially those residents of one political party, that to put it idly has gone completely insane. Our country used to get things done, now we have the most unproductive Congress in years. And its because of a collective freak  out by people who ought to know better-over the election of a black man to the white house. As I have said before, I don't think it is necessarily racist-but it is part of an effort to marginalize one political party. It is crazy. And it happens because a certain percentage of the American population proves itself to be really stupid.

However, this is typical Bobo. He fancies himself as a member of the elite. He forgets that under Singaporean rules-he can't. He's not Chinese. But Bobo would never take the time to learn that.

 

 

 

No responses yet

Jan 06 2014

There was never a chance………..

Phib, in one of his repeated themes, bemoans the fact that we did not give ourselves a chance to "succeed" in Afghanistan. "All it required was about another four-five years of patience. Of course, that 4-5 from now is based on an alternative history where we did not announce our retreat in DEC 09 … but what is, is. District by district "Shape, Clear, Hold, Build" was a solid way to do it – but just as it was getting roots as the surge soaked in, we stopped feeding it. The following results will be sadly predictable."

Complete and total horseshit.

This is a peculiarly American disease where we always place the blame everywhere but where it really lies. This is how we get pundits like William "The Bloody" Kristol- who,  incidentally, could not be bothered to serve one day in his miserable life, but is more than willing to send other people's children to die for his right to earn six figures a year-advocating war with out end in the Middle East.

Didn't give it enough time? We will have been in that Godforsaken country for over 13 years. How much f*cking time do we need? Or more correctly, how many chances do the Afghans get before we tell them to go f*ck themselves?

Two facts here are really important. One, the clock did not stop ticking in Afghanistan just because we invaded Iraq. So the very idea that we could "just pick up where we left off" and somehow, magically we would have a peaceful and stable Afghanistan, by spending ten plus years-losing Americans-to create what? And two, the patience of the American people is not unlimited-and we are long past the point of patience with any of the wars for most reasonable Americans.

A land of people who refuse to help themselves. This, by the way is backed up by over a 100 years of Afghan history. This is what we are getting today, it is what we would have gotten 10 years from now-it will pretty much always be that way as long as the country is saddled with albatross of Islam.

Want to know the day we "lost" Afghanistan? March 19,  2003. That's the day the United States in one of the most stupid moves in its history, foolishly invaded a land that had not attacked it, and in the process metastized what was a essentially a localized disturbance into the world's blood stream. One could even make the point that we could look further back-to the point where a man like George Bush, under the advice of some pretty questionable characters, decided that the United States could somehow accomplish the impossible and eliminate terrorism from the earth. Rather than pursue the vengeance that our public opinion required in the aftermath of 9-11, the grey hair allowed himself to be diverted into what has now quite well been proven, to be a worthless, damn fool ideological crusade.

And what do we have to show for it? Nothing of substance.

Oh sure, Bin Laden is dead, but as it turned out, that had nothing to do with clear, hold, and build. And Al Queda has been disrupted-but again, that happened with out years of counterinsurgency. We have lost over 6000 fine Americans dead and almost 50,000 wounded for the "right" to stay in a backward nation from over a decade, however. What did they suffer for?

Nothing of value Phib. Nothing of value. And that was true in 2009, as assuredly as it is today. Put the blame where it belongs and leave it there-on the Afghan people.

Now that is what I will drink more over. The  tendency on the part of policy makers — and probably a tendency in the part of some Americans — to think that the problems we face are problems that are out there somewhere beyond our borders, and that if we can fix those problems, then we'll be able to continue the American way of life as it has long existed. I think it's fundamentally wrong. Our major problems are at home in the US.

Starting with the idea that we can somehow "fix" people who are unfixable.

 

4 responses so far

Jan 05 2014

Countdown to catastrophe-January 5th, 1914

Back in 1914:

Henry Ford, unlike his current day counterparts, recognized that a well paid work force made for a better workforce-and more consumers. So wages were doubled from $2.40/9-hr day to $5.00/8-hr day.

George Reeves, the actor who would play Superman in the 1950's was born. So too was  Nicolas de Staël, a French-Russian painter.

In France, in 1914, the leadership of France rested with President Raymond Poincare , and Prime Minister Rene Viviani.  In 1914 she was the second largest colonial power in the World and the largest in Africa. She had, on paper anyway, the largest Army in Europe. France was allied with Britain and Russia  as part of the Triple Entente. In January 1914 the French Army had 47 divisions (777,000 French and 46,000 colonial troops) in 21 regional corps, with attached cavalry and field-artillery units. Most these troops were deployed inside France with the bulk along the eastern frontier as part of Plan 17. France also had the ability to muster a further 2.9 million men during a crisis-and did so in the summer of 1914. France was itching to get back Alsace and Lorraine, territories they lost in 1870-and regarded as "French".

 

 

No responses yet

Jan 03 2014

Countdown to Catastrophe-3 January 1914

Today on the path to war:

The musical "Sari" opened in New York City.

Jean Louvel, Flemish pianist/conductor/composer was born today. ( As an aside J.R.R. Tolkien was born this day in 1892).

 Stephane Raoul Pugno, composer, dies at 62

In Britain, at this time, King George the V was the King of Great Britain and Emperor of India. HH Asquith, a liberal,  was the Prime Minister. The major issues of the day were Home Rule for Ireland, increasing labor strife, demands by women to vote, and the management of the Britain's vast world wide empire.

And finally-as a matter of background-in an event that was to have lasting implications all the way up to World War I, in 1521, Martin Luther was excommunicated by Pope Leo X from the Roman Catholic Church. 

 

 

 


 

HH Asquith, a liberal was the Prime Minister

No responses yet

Dec 26 2013

And its Boxing Day

And since the weather sucks here-I am off to Portugal for a long weekend before New Years. There to stay in a historic hotel and see historic sights. As well I should be.

Till I get back-Have a great weekend!

037c243e0dd9992e4a25c44bae922fac

 

No responses yet

Dec 06 2013

Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela passed away at the age of 95 yesterday. Clearly the world has lost a great man. He was great not just because of his struggle against apartheid-but when the tables finally turned, he did not give into the natural instincts to take vengeance on his oppressors-but to seek a middle path that made a nation that needed all of its citizens regardless of the color of their skin. South Africa will now find out if his legacy can survive or if the nation will go down the same rathole that other nations have gone down. Given the track record of his successors, I am less than totally optimistic.

Now cards on the table-I am one who is very much ambivalent about British colonialism. While I recognize its racial underpinnings and the foolishness there in, at the same time I side with Niall Ferguson who made the conclusion that the nations that were once part of the British Empire have, in general, fared much better than those that were not. In spite of the many bad things that British colonialism engendered-the simple truth about Africa remains that there are too many nations on the continent and until they start to unify and put their tribalism behind them,  they will accomplish little of greatness.

And thanks to Nelson Mandela, South Africa could be a leader in that process. His legacy is unique one.

Which is why I shake my head in such complete astonishment, at the sheer buffoonery of some commenters -who have keyed on just his early life. Nelson Mandela's life cannot be examined in an American context. Those who try to do so are fools and idiots.

I advise anyone who rants and raves about the idea of Mandela being a communist, to go back and read "Cry The Beloved Country" sometime. And then go read it again. Apartheid stayed afloat on a river of violence and oppression, and while South African tried to halt the advance of history, the world went on to pass it by. What made Mandela great was that when he finally got the chance to assume power-he well understood the powder keg of emotions that had been repressed for so many years-and worked to make the transition to black majority rule a lot more orderly than many would have expected. For the complicated world of South Africa, that was nothing short of a miracle.

Most Americans who rant and rave about Mandela's Marxism don't understand context-nor do they appear to understand much of South African history since the "vortrekkers" arrived in the 1800's.  First and foremost, Mandela was an advocate of economic and social justice. There is nothing wrong with that-and if anything he was ahead of his time. "The enemy of my enemy is my friend". The National Party used the fear of communism much to its advantage all through the 60's and 70's. And like it or not-the United States aided them for a long time in that effort. Or do we forget the fact that even Saint Ronnie aided and abetted apartheid?

Ronald Reagan was angry. It was October 1986, and his veto against the Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act had just been overridden — and by a Republican-controlled Senate, at that.

He had appeared on TV a month earlier to warn Americans against the Anti-Apartheid Act, decrying it as "immoral" and "utterly repugnant." Congress disagreed, and one month later, it produced the two-thirds majority needed to override Reagan and pass tough new measures against South Africa's apartheid government. These measures included a ban on bank loans and new investments in South Africa, a sharp reduction of imports, and prevented most South African officials from traveling to the United States. The Act also called for the repeal of apartheid laws and the release of political prisoners like African National Congress (ANC) leader Nelson Mandela, who had spent the last 23 years in prison.

It is difficult to fully comprehend the evils of apartheid today. Blacks were denied citizenship and the right to vote. They were forcibly relocated into impoverished reservations. People of color were barred from operating businesses or owning land inside white areas, which comprised most of the country. Sexual relations or marriage between people of color and whites was strictly forbidden. Racial segregation was enforced in public areas, including schools, hospitals, trains, beaches, bridges, churches and theaters. To enforce apartheid, the government often resorted to police brutality, the imprisonment and assassination of political dissidents, and the murder of black protesters.

The United States had a complicated relationship with South Africa. Hawks in the U.S. national security complex had argued since 1948 that South Africa was an important ally in the fight against communism. Their arguments persuaded presidents from Truman to Nixon to stifle criticisms of apartheid in the interest of maintaining good relations with the white South African government, whose leaders surpassed Joseph McCarthy in their anticommunist zeal.

Reagan thought he was right. But he was wrong. And so are people who are fixated with Mandela's so called "communism". Like a lot of my viewpoints of today and yesteryear-the world in the aggregate has rejected them. I my long for the sun never setting on the British Empire and all male warships-but the world has passed those ideas by. It is what it is.

Let me repeat. You cannot look at Nelson Mandela's life through any prism but a South African one. Go back and study some of the history.

And then honor a truly great man who hopefully set his country on better course than many of his counterparts in Africa. He's not Ghandi. But South Africa is not India either. 

"What's the difference between a terrorist and a freedom fighter?" Which side of the aisle you are on. 

And never forget he lost 27 years of his life to a prison cell. That changes people.

God speed and give you rest and peace, Mr Mandela.

 

One response so far

Nov 24 2013

The chance of precipitation just went up.

Not rain falling, but bombs. Dropped from Israeli planes.

The western powers signed an interim agreement with Iran last night. As expected a certain, rather stubborn group of folks is not happy about that one bit:

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu characterized the agreement signed with Iran early Sunday morning as a historic mistake.

Directly contrasting US President Barack Obama who praised the agreement as opening a "new path toward a world that is more secure,"  Netanyahu – speaking at the weekly cabinet meeting — said the world has become more dangerous as a result.

"What was agreed last night in Geneva is not a historic agreement, it is a historic mistake," he said. "Today the world has become much more dangerous because the most dangerous regime in the world took a significant step to getting the most dangerous weapon in the world."

For the first time, he said, the leading powers of the world agreed to uranium enrichment in Iran, while removing sanctions that it has taken years to build up in exchange for "cosmetic Iranian concession that are possible to do away with in a matter of weeks."

Netanyahu said the consequences of this deal threaten many countries, including Israel. He reiterated what he has said in the past, that Israel is not obligated by the agreement.(emphasis mine)

That last sentence is the key one. The whole last week I was on travel, the Israeli press was having kittens over the idea that the west might do anything less than bomb, bomb, bomb, Iran. Which never made much sense to me. For one thing-Iran is the size of Europe, its a big country, and the chances that the Israeli Air Force can get all the things it needs to in one strike ( which is all they would realistically get) are low indeed. Secondly the idea of getting us to do the dirty work for them is full of traps and problems for the US.  Not to mention that starting a 4TH war in over a decade is just plain stupid. Thanks GWB, Thanks a lot. Because of your stupid wars-we are in this mess to begin with.

The interests of the US and Israel do not always align. This is going to be one of those times. And Israel will just have to accept that fact.

But I am convinced they won't. They will continue to push and prod to get their way. That's how they do business.

"And by the way, we still expect our over 4 Billion dollars in US aid next year. Got that?"

The apocalyptic rhetoric started in Israel almost immediately:

The deputy speaker of parliament, Likud MK Moshe Feiglin, said on Saturday the interim agreement signed between Iran and the Western powers was tantamount to the Munich Agreement of the late 1930s.

“Like Czechoslovakia at that time, which was not party to the discussions that effectively sentenced it to death, Israel today watches from the sidelines how its existential interest is being sacrificed by the Western powers,” Feiglin said.

“Any rational person understands that we are in the midst of a process leads to a nuclear-armed Iran,” he said. “For years I have warned about the dangers of the strategy adopted by Israel towards the Iranian nuclear threat.”

Feiglin said that entrusting foreign powers to secure Israel’s defense interests is “disastrous” and “much worse than that which led to the Yom Kippur War.”

The lawmaker called on the Israeli government to declare an immediate end to all contacts with the West over the Iranian question and to make clear that it would not be bound by the agreement signed.

I can't wait to see what our group of AIPAC funded  whores Congressional stooges has to say about it on Monday.

Some problems are just tough-and there are no easy solutions, especially military ones-and its even tougher when over 60 years of stupidity has gone into the problem of relations with Iran, who are not Arabs.

I will say this again, two things actually. First, one can admire and respect Israel and its citizens-and give them support-without agreeing with everything they ask for. And that leads to my second point, most Americans do not understand Israel at all. They think they do-and they think its a transplanted version of America in the Levant. Trust me,  its not-its a different society. They use language and view their situation in a very different way than we do. And they always will. Furthermore-Israel is indeed a melting pot of cultures-and not all of those cultural traditions are ones we would like if we knew the details. That still does not stop us from being supportive-but supportive does not mean, contrary to what Rev Hagee and the members of AIPAC believe, a blank check.

So buckle up boys and girls, 2014 is going to be an up and down ride.

"The Lord is our Shepherd says the psalm, but just in case, its Iran we gotta bomb!"

?

3 responses so far

Oct 25 2013

People who always f*ck you over.

Today is the 25 th of October. And I can't think of a better reason to celebrate this day than it is the annversiary of another excursion into futility-namely that of the Charge of the Light Brigade! As is my custom, I repost an analysis I did here, many yeasrs back. Still seems true. Substitute Lord Luncan for Mr. XXXXXXXX and the rest remains the same.

As is my custom, I am reposting this post I first did in 2005. Given the current state of events in both the US and Afghanistan these days-its important to remember this exercise in futility.

Background:

"The war is popular beyond belief"
Queen Victoria to the King of the Belgians
 

The proximate cause of the war was a dispute about over who had precedence at the holy Places in Jerusalem and Nazereth. Tempers frayed, violence resulted, and lives were lost. Tsar Nicholas I of Russia demanded the right to protect the Christian shrines in the Holy Land and to back up his claims moved troops into Wallachia and Moldavia (present day Rumania) then part of the Ottoman Turkish empire. His fleet then destroyed a Turkish flotilla off Sinope in the Black Sea. In an early instance of propaganda, British newspaper reports of the action said the Russians had fired at Turkish wounded in the water. According to one source, "Russian domination of Constantinople and the Straits was a perennial nightmare of the British and with the two powers already deeply suspicious of each others intentions in Afghanistan and Central Asia, the British felt unable to accept such Russian moves against the Turks. Louis Napoleon III, emperor of France, eager to emulate the military successes of his uncle Napoleon I and wishing to extend his protection to the French monks in Jerusalem allied himself with Britain." (Remember, Turkey controlled the holy land….).

So the war began in March 1854 and by the end of the summer, the Franco-British forces had driven the Russians out of Wallachia and Moldavia. The fighting should have ended there, but it was decided that the great Russian naval base at Sevastopol was a direct threat to the future security of the region and in September 1854 the French and British landed their armies on the Crimean peninsula. This set the stage for the battle of Balaklava, of which the Charge of the Light Brigade was a part.

 

The Charge itself:

1.Half a league, half a league, Half a league onward,All in the valley of Death Rode the six hundred."Forward, the Light Brigade!"Charge for the guns!" he said:Into the valley of Death Rode the six hundred. 2."Forward, the Light Brigade!"Was there a man dismay'd?Not tho' the soldier knew Someone had blunder'd: Their's not to make reply, Their's not to reason why, Their's but to do and die: Into the valley of Death Rode the six hundred.

The light brigade consisted of the following units: The 13th Light Dragoons were placed on the right of the front line, the 17th Lancers in the center, the 11th Hussars on the left but slightly behind the regiments to the right of them. The 4th Light Dragoons and the 8th Hussars formed the second line. Here is what the battlefield and the valley they rode up looks like today

3.Cannon to right of them,Cannon to left of them,Cannon in front of them Volley'd and thunder'd; Storm'd at with shot and shell,Boldly they rode and well,Into the jaws of Death,Into the mouth of Hell Rode the six hundred.

4.Flash'd all their sabres bare,Flash'd as they turn'd in air,Sabring the gunners there,Charging an army, while All the world wonder'd:Plunged in the battery-smokeRight thro' the line they broke;Cossack and Russian Reel'd from the sabre stroke Shatter'd and sunder'd.Then they rode back, but not Not the six hundred.

 

If you expand the picture you can see the arrow pointing to the right shows the valley the Brigade rode through. From the history of the 13th Hussars: The first line consisted of the 13th Light Dragoons on the right and the 17th Lancers on the left. Lord Cardigan placed himself alone in front of the line, a little on the left of the center. The 13th and 17th then moved off, and when they had covered rather more than 100 yards the 11th Hussars, who were in the second line, moved off also. In due course, and at about the same interval, came the 4th and the 8th. During the day the 11th had been on the left of the first line, but the narrowing of the valley and the width of front occupied by the Cossack battery at the east end necessitated a contraction in the first line. As it was, the 17th Lancers overlapped the right of the battery, and the 11th Hussars, in support, just brushed the guns with their right flank. The 11th it will thus be seen, did not actually cover the 17th but charged down the valley nearer to the Fedioukine Hills. The 11th the 4th, and the 8th were in echelon. Consequently the 4th came into the battery full front, while the course of the 8th was as against the Russian left. Captain Nolan started to ride with the charge, and it is believed took up a position in the interval between the two squadrons of the 17th At any rate, it would appear that thence he darted out when he rode obliquely across the front of the advancing line. You can see the set up on this map: 

 

Not exactly an envelopment………. The brigade lost over 400 men out of a starting figure of 673. Small, in comparison to the 16,000 that died of the cold and disease that came from the botch the British made of logistics in the Crimea during the following winter and summer….. Nevertheless, what went wrong? In a word, leadership…lack of it. A commander failing to take account of the fact that he was on a hill and could see what was going on and his troops could not! Add to that a whole lot of class and professional rivalry, coupled with some petty bickering and outright loathing, and you get a recipe for failure: George Charles Bingham, 3rd Earl of Lucan, in overall command of the cavalry and subsequently promoted to Field Marshal, was an imperious andover-bearing aristocrat who was promoted to high position over more proficient professional officers because of his social connections. He let a personal quarrel with his brother-in-law – Lord Cardigan, commander of the Light Brigade- reach such a point that their respective staffs refused to co-operate and an order from Lucan to Cardigan was misconstrued, leading to the charge. Thomas James Brudenell, 7th Earl of Cardigan was a "stupid, overbearing, arrogant, vindictive" general whose ancient title and great wealth overcame his inability to command in the eyes of the military leadership. To make matters worse, the 'galloper' who delivered the message, Captain Nolan, despised both of them. This background lead to a fatal miscommunication:

It appeared that the Quartermaster-General, Brigadier Airey, thinking that the Light Cavalry had not gone far enough in front… when the enemy's horse had fled, gave an order in writing to Captain Nolan, 15th Hussars, to take to Lord Lucan, directing his Lordship 'to advance' his cavalry nearer the enemy…….When Lord Lucan received the order from Captain Nolan, and had read it, he asked, we are told, 'Where are we to advance to?' Captain Nolan pointed with his finger to the line of the Russians, and said, 'There are the enemy, and there are the guns', or words to that effect, according to statements made after his death…

There is an interesting picture of Lord Cardigan and Lord Luncan painted in the "Flashman" series of books. From another text though, it is clear neither were were well liked: "At the time, Lord Cardigan was known to be a "blockhead" and Lord Lucan was considered a "pedant""

5. Cannon to right of them,Cannon to left of them,Cannon behind them Volley'd and thunder'd; Storm'd at with shot and shell,While horse and hero fell,They that had fought so well Came thro' the jaws of Death Back from the mouth of Hell, All that was left of them, Left of six hundred.

6.When can their glory fade? O the wild charge they made! All the world wondered.Honor the charge they made,Honor the Light Brigade, Noble six hundred. Copied from Poems of Alfred Tennyson,J. E. Tilton and Company, Boston, 1870

I shall leave it to others to make any kind of a connection to this history and current events. However it is interesting to hear the rhetoric of the time. Anything here sound familiar?

"I believe that if this barbarous nation(Russia) the enemy of all progress……should once succeed in establishing itself in the heart of Europe,it would be the greatest calamity which could befall the human race"

Lord Lyndhurst in a speech to the House of Lords

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

No responses yet

Next »

  • Categories

  • Previous Posts

  • ISSUES?

  • Want to subscribe to my feed?

    Add to Google
  • Follow me on Facebook!

    Just look for Skippy San. ( No dash).
  • Topics

  • Meta