Thursday, April 05, 2007


ahh the Brits...shame on them...Thatcher, let alone Churchill, would be appalled...Good to be home, after such a journey, but the squabbling has not since ceased in my absence, so it seems! VDH is simply the best writer/philosopher out these days, and he is in top form here - witty, and with moral parables discerning our fate, should we not awake in time. this article links to his blog - "Works and Days", which you should consider daily reading...T

Why It Bothers So…

One can make all sorts of clever arguments—indeed the Brits have, from blaming us to blaming their own—about why this crisis was someone else’s fault, due to a misunderstanding, due to media exaggeration, due to an accident. But what is missing is the simple fact that THIS IS THE BRITISH NAVY. Who would care if the Iranians had embarrassed the Italian Navy, the Russian Navy, or the Chinese Navy? But the Brits? We forget that the entire history of Western navies is predicated on the British experience at sea. The Brits had the greatest admirals, the Brits invented the Man-of-War, dreadnought, battleship, heavy cruiser, and aircraft carrier. The Brits created the very notion of modern seamanship and discipline, and its pantheon of naval heroes like Drake, Cook, Anson, Vernon, Nelson, and Fisher still resonates.

So like the 9/11 attack on the Pentagon and World Trade Center this was an iconic act that sent a message that the descendents of Xerxes finally upped Lord Nelson.

Pictures Worth a Thousand Words

Nancy Pelosi in a Scarf at the nexus of terrorism in Damascus

British sailors in cuffs being escorted by proud Iranian seamen

Sophocles 1974

One could make the argument that by early 1974 it was finally known that the prior Tet Offensive really had been a terrible defeat for the North Vietnamese, that the efforts to rid the South of the Viet Cong were mostly successful, that radically different bombing strategies and ordinance had redirected the damage from rice paddies to communist hierarchies in Hanoi—and that the public absolutely did not care, and could not be convinced that there was a chance to save South Vietnam, and so backed serial Congressional cut-offs of aid.

We may be nearing that same crisis point; that is, at last we have made necessary adjustments in Iraq, are defeating the enemy—and no one cares any more for any news other than that of our departure.

It’s almost like a Sophoclean tragedy, since we know the script from 1974-2007 and can’t seem to stop it: we give up, the government collapses, hundreds of thousands are killed and exiled, our military and diplomatic reputation is shredded, and so we squabble for the next 30 years over the defeat and how we had almost won when we threw in the towel.

The British Vocabulary of the Iranian crisis

Rules of engagement: a diplomatic embarrassment waiting to happen

GPS coordinates: an outdated and inexact pseudo-science, of no value in adjudicating territorial or geographical disputes

Admiral Nelson: dead, irrelevant white male imperialist colonialist—fill in the blanks …

First Lord of the Admiralty: nothing first, lordish, or admirable about it

Naval vessel: a floating liability

Royal Marines: diplomatic personnel

Hostages: can instruct the enemy on power-point

The United States: your only ally, but you’d prefer it a neutral

Europe: neutral, but you’d prefer it an ally.European Union: unified by profit, divided by principle

NATO: The Neutral anti-American Truce Organization

Captives of the Past

The success of a country is almost inextricably connected to the degree of its strangulation by the past: confident societies like Japan, Germany, Italy, Israel, China, etc. don’t dwell on the past in the context of victimhood.

But a stereotypical rule of thumb: when I talk to a Mexican national, he whines about the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo; when speaking to a Greek, the 1967 coup or the 1973 invasion of Cyprus starts the discussion, for an Iranian of any persuasion, it is always 1953 and Mosaddeq. A Palestinian talks only about 1947, and shows some strange rusted key to a house in Jerusalem.

The point is not that there are not legitimate grievances that have had repercussions, but that they are in the past and one must get on with one’s life. Americans don’t talk about the burning of the White House in the War of 1812, and are not obsessed with hating the Vietnamese for that lost war.

The only exception might be Southerners’ obsession with Longstreet at Gettysburg or Albert Sidney Johnston dying at the high water mark at Shiloh. But rarely now are any in the South captives to the Lost Cause, which is always a symptom of an insecure and angry mind, that faults others for the past rather than looks confidently toward the future. And nowhere is this more common than the eastern Mediterranean and Middle East.

Outtake # 10—No Man A Slave

The great march to free the helots starts out in the last month of the year from Thebes. As Melon and Pelopidas trudge together up the pass at Kithairon, they discuss why they are attacking Sparta. Pelopidas tricks Melon into giving him a lesson about why wars break out.

The two talked and were interrupted often by the Sacred Band, especially the younger of the 300, who themselves cared little about the debate, only when they would arrive into Lakonia. Surely Agesilaos must be over the next mountain as they looked down at the great plain of Megara before them.

Melon ignored them all. Instead he laid out what he thought was the thinking of Epaminondas. “Sparta after the fall of the Athenians had to remain preeminent. We disagreed. So we fought battles for 20 seasons. And they ravaged our land each spring. War had no end. Hardly can we remember its beginning. So now the men of our age seek to end it for good. If we cannot make Sparta into a democracy, then we can ring it with democracies I suppose, thought the idea of those crazy hill folk Arkadians voting as if they were civilized is scarier than anything Sparta has done.”

Pelopidas laughed at that, but let Melon finish. “So I think that is why Proxenos and Ainias are already down south as we speak. And if we cannot kill all their hoplites, then we can starve them and make them work for their keep once we free their helots. And I am sure there are thousands already down there as well, to shake up the unfree to meet us at Sparta. So when we go over their pass, the Spartans will understand it is not wise to rile Epaminondas and that their war will always be down there, never again up here.

“If, “Pelopidas shrugged, “if, if we can do all that and more. If, if, if…Yet I fear even with war in Lakonia, and even with Messenia free, and even with the great cities you talk about on her flank, we will leave this war to our children unless we level Sparta and kill her kings. Yes, our Epaminondas must make war so terrible that she can never fight us again.”

Melon laughed “So this was a game all along, Pelopidas! You are no honest philosopher. Much less my pupil! No, you simply wished me to give back your own answers. Dumb farmer me. I say that you are more the fire breather than old iron-gut himself. I saw that the other day in the assembly.”

“I suppose,” Pelopidas offered, but then he took stuck his head closer to Melon’s and in a softer voice went on.

“But sometimes when we have private thoughts, we wish others to say them for us so we can hear how they sound. So others can give voice to the dark truth we prefer ourselves not to utter or even hear, but wish to be aired among all. And because you know war better even than I and you had no belly in the beginning for this great march, Melon, you have taken a great worry off my heart. I know now there is no other way to end this but the way we are marching.”

“No. No, there is no other way,” Melon answered.

Melissos mumbled after them, smiling, “No other way. No other way—no other way than to head south and cut them all down.”

Epaminondas now fell back with them, and taunted them, “Are you now Athenians of this age, who talk and sing while better men of action give them fodder for thought? Leave the world of the clouds of this pass. Come down to the earth beneath our feet. Just remember one thing: either we succeed and prove that Hellas in its old age, is still neither too wealthy nor too clever to play its all. Or we stew. We bicker. We harp finding fancy words about the “good” and what is “wise,” to cover the fear and weaknesses in our hearts. How I hate the cynic.”

With that, the talkers heard the trumpeters’ order to halt and pitch camp and to wait for the 20,000 men at their backs. Melon could already see well the Megarid below, and figured that they had gone some 120 stades while they had talked the first day’s march away.
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