Tuesday, December 19, 2006

The Surge, Now and Then

Bush and St. McCain have latched onto this "surge" idea for the military in Iraq, although this is directly counter to the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group.
In an interview with The Washington Post, Bush said he has asked his new defense chief, Robert Gates, to report back to him with a plan to increase ground forces. The president did not say how many troops might be added, but said he agreed with officials in the Pentagon and on Capitol Hill that the current military is being stretched too thin to deal with demands of fighting terrorism. (emphasis added)
But, wait a minute, the entire Joint Chiefs of Staff are also against a surge!
The military chiefs do not favor a troop buildup in Iraq but see supporting and strengthening the Iraqi army as pivotal to stabilization, the Post said, citing sources familiar with the officials' thinking.
Now, I am restricted by Goodwin's rule from making the obvious analogy here. Just think Stalingrad and Moscow. But another one occurs to me.

The time is October, 1854 (I had originally mis wrote "1984"), and the place is Balaclava. The British and the Turks were fighting the Russians in the Crimean War. (Think about that for a moment, the Brits, who later got decimated by the Turks at Gallipoli, were allies against Russia that would soon be linked to England by marriage. History makes for strange bedfellows.)

In a way, this is like Gettysburg. Few people, except Civil War Buffs, remember the details of the battle except that it was ferocious. Everyone should remember Lincoln's address at that battle site commemorating the soldiers there.

So, this is what people remember of the Battle of Balaclava:
Balaclava is a battle honour for all the British regiments that took part. It is usually a pre-condition for a battle honour that the battle is a victory for British arms. Balaclava was a strategic defeat. The Russians captured seven guns and at the end of the battle held the ground they had attacked. Against this the three episodes in the battle; the Charge of the Heavy Brigade, the Thin Red Line and the Charge of the Light Brigade, are such icons of courage and achievement for the British Army, that it is not surprising the military authorities awarded Balaclava as a battle honour to the regiments involved. (emphasis added)
Get that, the British lost the battle. (I guess they sort of "won" the war.) I'm not sure about the charge of the Heavy Brigade, but the charge of the Light Brigade has certainly stood for the intense stupidity of throwing troops at a situation without thinking and having them decimated. All we have to do is read some of Tennyson's Poem:

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.

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.


Reel'd from the sabre stroke
Shatter'd and sunder'd.
Then they rode back, but not
Not the six hundred.

For Bush, "winning" in Iraq is about Honour. And that Southern American concept is long, long gone.

As a final note, I was unaware that the Battle of Balaclava was where the phrase "The Thin Red Line" originated. You learn something new every day.

No comments: