Sunday, December 31, 2006
Saturday, December 30, 2006
Wednesday, December 27, 2006
Monday, December 25, 2006
After the parade, and an exchange of telephone greetings with Bush, Putin, whoever is Prime Minister of Italy this week, all the Great and Good, and all the other Dons in their territories, and a huge multi-course meal with LOTS of several different types of wine; El Jefe, the Heir, SWMBO, his mistresses, the archbishops, the mullahs, various hangers-on, the taste-testers, the heads of El Jefe's major government departments: (Off-Track Betting, Wine Drinking, Knick-Knack Collecting, Take-Out Chinese food and Brandy Snifting), the diplomatic corps and everybody and everything including Bugs Bunny and Aunt Sally, will cruise off to enjoy the holidays.
Sunday, December 24, 2006
The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire was established in 1917 by King George V, grandfather of the present Queen. Not unnaturally, as it was created by a King-Emperor who died asking "How is the Empire ?" -- the Order's motto is: “For God and the Empire.” Seems like an odd Order indeed for an Irishman to want to join. The British monarch is Sovereign of the Order, and the Wikipedia article linked above contains a good general discussion of the Order's history and structure.
Members of the Order are appointed by the Queen, which really means by the Government. According to the British newspaper Daily Mail, Prime Minister Blair delivered the “official notification” of Bono’s appointment in an e-mail beginning “Hi folks.” What a world we live in: For God and the Empire -- Hi folks !
Prime Minister Blair is under a lot of fire in Britain for using the honors system as a means of rewarding his friends and persons to whom he otherwise wishes to show favor. Some other notable recipients of a KBE in the past include Bill Gates (who made it possible for you to read this) and Rudy Giuliani. But Bono ?
The Order was founded, the Wikipedia piece tells us, to “fill gaps” in the existing British honors system, which was skewed towards recognition of military distinction, and distinguished service by civil servants and politicians. Wikipedia says that the Order of the British Empire has “. . .a more democratic character than the exclusive orders of the Bath or Saint Michael and Saint George, and in its early days was not held in high esteem.” Allegedly, this has changed, although one wonders if the author has confused high esteem with becoming modern.
Not everyone approves of Bono’s knighthood. The Mail quotes a member of parliament: “My town has lost many servicemen in Iraq and Afghanistan, but Mr. Blair is more concerned about handing baubles to rock stars." Peter Hitchens doesn't like this either, and writes, also in the Mail:
A whole generation, which likes to tell itself that it is devoted to equality and rejects the hierarchies of the past, falls to its knees and licks the shoes of the new aristocracy of fame and cool.Is there any real distinction between the old bowing and simpering to landed gentry, and the new deference paid to the nobles of rock?The interesting thing is, who is supposed to benefit from this parody of honour? Who is sucking up to whom?
Saturday, December 23, 2006
I have not seen the text yet, but the only sort of resolution that China and Russia would accept would be very watered-down, and reports about changes in the draft before this was done indicates that some watering-down did indeed take place.
Kim Jong Il: Hans Brix? Oh no! Oh, herro. Great to see you again, Hans!
Friday, December 22, 2006
Thursday, December 21, 2006
Tuesday, December 19, 2006
For some -- particularly the political independents who launched him into the political firmament back in 2000 -- McCain might now seem scary. In the 2000 New Hampshire primary, he ran better among independents than he did with Republicans -- and even got some Democratic votes. That will not happen again.
Anyone who knows McCain appreciates that his call for more troops in Iraq is not, at bottom, part of any political strategy. McCain is. . .fundamentally honest, with sound political values. For a long time those values -- a belief in public service, a visceral hostility to the ways of Washington's K Street lobbying crowd and a sense of honor his Vietnamese captors came to appreciate -- obscured the always present but muffled, sound of drums and bugles.
Saturday, December 16, 2006
Friday, December 15, 2006
Troops ! Troops ! Where does he expect me to get them ? Does he expect me to make them ?Napoléon I to the messenger of his field commander, Marshal Ney, asking for reinforcements, at Waterloo, 18 June 1815.
Ann Tyson, in the Washington Post discusses testimony by the Chief of Staff of the Army, General Peter J. Schoomaker, before a congressional commission. Among other things, General Shoomaker says that ". . .without recurrent access to the reserve components [that is, the Army Reserve and the National Guard], through remobilization, we will break the active component." To persons familiar with Vietnam War history during the 1967-69 period, this sounds eerily familiar.
Even a cursory tour of the internet will dredge up plenty of conservative condemnation of Representative Rangel’s modest proposal, which is no doubt a bit of a poison pill, designed to influence foreign policy in the more non-interventionist direction designed by many Democrats and liberals. Reputable conservatives condemn it on both libertarian grounds as the ultimate in involuntary servitude, and on military efficiency grounds.
Think of how much different the war in Iraq would look if the Army were significantly bigger than its current end strength of approximately 500,000. If military history proves anything, it’s that counterinsurgency takes vast amounts of military manpower – precisely what is provided by a conscripted army. If the United States had its Vietnam-era army, or an increased ability to mobilize substantial numbers of soldiers from civil life with reserve obligations: the Army and Marines would have long ago had more than sufficient soldiers to hunt down and destroy the rebels there and the war would have, long since, probably been over. But we have been operating two counterinsurgencies -- don't forget Afghanistan -- on a shoe-string.
No, I don’t think this is politically possible, at present -- I'm certain its not, in fact. I’m not even sure it’s desirable. But I'm not sure it's not either.
Thursday, December 14, 2006
Wednesday, December 13, 2006
. . .the glee with which many in the Washington establishment -- particularly in journalism -- greeted the (glaringly obvious) finding that things are not going well in Iraq suggests an elite so insulated and out of touch that it sees no ill consequences flowing to themselves from a defeat being inflicted upon their country. The appropriate response of serious people would have been concern, perhaps anger. But an elite that sees a big setback in the war against Islamofascism chiefly in terms of its impact on domestic politics is not comprised of serious people.
Tuesday, December 12, 2006
Monday, December 11, 2006
In the eighteenth century, the English ruling classes – squirearchy, merchants, aristocracy – were men hard of mind and hard of will. Aggressive and acquisitive, they saw foreign policy in terms of concrete interest: markets, natural resources, colonial real estate, naval bases, profits. At the same time they were concerned to preserve the independence and parliamentary institutions of England in the face of the hostility of European absolute monarchies. Liberty and interest alike seemed to the Georgians therefore to demand a strategic approach to international relations. They saw national power as the essential foundation of national independence; commercial wealth as a means to power; and war as among the means to all three. They accepted it as natural and inevitable that nations should be engaged in a ceaseless struggle for survival, prosperity and predominance.
Correlli Barnett, The Collapse of British Power, (Humanities Press International, reprint ed. 1987, p. 20).
Mr. Barnett, in this book, and in several of this other works, notably The Audit of War: the Illusion and Reality of Britain as a Great Nation, (published in this country as The Pride and the Fall) wrote extensively on the decline of the British Empire (mostly to the benefit of the United States), caused, as he saw it, by a ruling class that became dominated by “moralizing internationalists” who took their country’s power and position for granted. Sounds sort of familiar, doesn’t it ?
With all the talk about “realism” in the press lately, it seems to me that we often forget what “realism” really consists of. Quite aside from the specific problem of Iraq: there appears to be a widespread feeling among the public that “realism” consists in doing what is convenient -- cutting and running -- coming home and putting up the drawbridges. to walking away from power.
As we power-up our Chinese made Christmas lights, which we can run on cheap electricity, drive our imported cars, use our credit cards like crazed cocaine addicts, laugh at Iranian blustering about a new Holocaust, we seem not to care about whether the Euros or the UN, or India or Borneo runs the world. Let the Chinese have it all eh ? As George McGovern would say "come home, America." Meanwhile we can forget Osama and all the loons trying to kill us and go back to arguing about abortion, gay marriage and Britney’s belly-button.
It’s going to be such an interesting little experiment, isn’t it ? Neo-Isolationism, I mean. It's just divinely ordained that Americans are going to enjoy cheap oil, easy credit, imports and Christmas lights forever, huh ? People are always gonna want American dollars. The world is always going to care what we think, because. . .well, just because, right ? Soft power's where it's at, and we need to learn to work and play well with others, again. As for winning wars, and military power. . .that's all obsolete and beside the point, isn't it ? Surely you believe me. . .or the Pelosi Democrats anyway.
Friday, December 8, 2006
Thursday, December 7, 2006
The French and British, subject to pressure from public opinion, joined in the condemnation and sanctions. However, this carried a real cost – the French and British were already locked in diplomatic struggle with Hitler’s Germany, and the British had problems with Japan in the Pacific. The Americans were living in their isolationist fool’s paradise; Stalin’s Soviets were a rather mysterious and sinister unknown quantity. Britain and France were very, very alone. Militarily and economically overstretched, (this was the middle of the Great Depression), the last thing the two allies needed was another enemy in the form of Italy.
Still, the Ethiopia invasion had been tougher than Mussolini expected, and the Duce was looking for a face-saving way to ease his difficulties. Besides, Mussolini really didn’t like the Germans, much. There was thus room for a deal.
Without discussing the details, the Hoare-Laval Pact amounted to an agreement by the French and British to abandon their mostly rhetorical support of the Ethiopian cause in Italy’s favor. The British Foreign Secretary, Sir Samuel Hoare, and the French Prime Minister, (the later infamous Pierre Laval), agreed on behalf of their governments to use their influence to obtain international sanction by the great powers of Italy’s annexation of part of Ethiopia, and what amounted to recognition of Italian suzerainty over the rest, in return for resumption of cooperation by Mussolini in a common front against Nazi Germany. (Italy had helped block a Nazi takeover in Austria in 1934).
The proposal would end the war in Ethiopia, (at the price to the Ethiopians of a good chunk of their territory and puppet state status), shore up the British naval and military position in the Mediterranean, and get the British and French some cooperation against the Nazis. Whether and how this would have worked out over the longer run is less clear. But for the moment, the Hoare-Laval Pact promised a win-win for everybody. Except, that is, for the poor Ethiopians. . .
But in the age of mass politics, such cozy 19th Century-style deals no longer worked. The arrangement was leaked to the French press in December of 1935, before the governments were ready for the deal to be public – and it immediately collapsed in a worldwide firestorm of media and Franco-British left wing parliamentary criticism. The Hoare-Laval Pact was denounced as generally immoral; as well as a sellout of both the Ethiopians and the League of Nations, which of course it was.
The collapse of the Hoare-Laval Pact had very serious consequences. First, the British and French governments had to disavow the deal. Hoare left the Foreign Office, (King George VI said: “[n]o more coals to Newcastle, no more Hoares to Paris"). Laval’s ministry fell in France, and the ineffectual League of Nations sanctions against Italy on Ethiopia’s behalf, without more, continued.
Much more importantly, Britain and France lost a potential ally, and Hitler broke out of diplomatic isolation. Mussolini gave up cooperation with Britain and France for good, shrugged-off the sanctions, annexed all of Ethiopia, and moved firmly into Hitler’s camp. Instead of getting half-a-loaf, the Ethiopians got nothing at all, and the next time Hitler moved on Austria in 1938 . . . he had Mussolini’s backing, and Austrian independence disappeared till 1955. When war with what became the Rome-Berlin Axis finally arrived in 1939 (Italy entering in June 1940), the British naval position in the Mediterranean was almost fatally compromised by Italian hostility.
Pierre Laval (at the time of the Hoare-Laval Pact an opponent of Germany) would never forget the personal humiliation he suffered at the hands of the French media and left wing politicians. He devoted the rest of his political life to the destruction of the French Third Republic. . .and started down the road that would lead him to control of Vichy France, collaboration with Germany, and a traitor’s death by firing squad in Fresnes prison near Paris on 15 October 1945.
What It All Meant is not so easy to say. In 1940-1941, French and British leaders probably wished that the Hoare-Laval Pact had worked out, in 1945, with the war safely won, they could possibly afford to take the higher moral road, leaving the Italians to wish it had worked out.
The estimable Hugh Hewitt has some points about the composition of the “Study Group” and who was consulted – and not consulted, that appear to me to be well-taken. (Hat tip: Spook 86 at In from the Cold).
Okay, this point is for history nerds only. Interestingly, Mr. Hewitt compares the Study Group’s effort with the Hoare-Laval Pact of 1935, and he means this comparison as a criticism. The Hoare-Laval Pact, popularly reviled both today and when it was concluded, was, in the context of its times -- plain good sense. Unfortunately, despite its diplomatic and military practicality, the Hoare-Laval Pact was far too old world, too much a creature of cabinet-government thinking -- that is, the concerns of unaccountable professionals; too cynical, too clever by half, in other words, for a modern world with a media, run by democratic politics. Wonder if the Study Group report will work out that way ?
. . .the United Nations is at the black heart of contemporary international arrangements. It was founded at cross-purposes, presented to the world as a beacon for peace, when it was designed as a prize ring for realpolitik manoeuvring. It became, by increments of Communist propaganda, the embodiment of a shining crackpot aspiration towards world government. . . Today, it is simply "on the other side".
At its best, it has at least been a clearing house, to avoid war through the unpublicized backroom transmission of credible threats and deadlines to the world's most depraved exponents of misrule. But its membership reflects the plurality of the depraved. The General Assembly is permanently stacked against the interests of all constitutional democracies. It provides a karaoke chamber to enhance the babblings even of despots as tone-deaf as Hugo Chavez of Venezuela.
But it is there, and until the Americans finally take up Jesse Helms's suggestion, to "throw it brick by brick into the East River" -- or remove it to a more appropriate host city, such as Mogadishu -- it will continue to undermine the security and freedom of people everywhere, by its machinations, while its barbarous "peacekeeping" troops rape and pillage defenceless women and children, in Cambodia, Rwanda, Liberia, Haiti, and seemingly any hot spot to which they are sent.