Sunday, September 01, 2013

What Is Frightening?

That the things I have been worrying about since the President drew his bold red line have been echoed by Laughing Wolf over on Black Five.  It is sobering to know someone else has been comparing the sitting President with the fictional Robert 'Bob' Fowler from Clancy's Sum of All Fears and finding the real President wanting in comparison.

Or the alliances in the region are mobilizing in much the same way they did in 1914 in Sarajevo.  One madman kills a noble that almost no one knew about and the gears of war started to turn as all the years of treaties came into effect as Austria tried to browbeat Serbia into giving up the assassin.  So the Serbs called in their Russian allies while Austria called in Germany.  And it just escalated from there.  What resulted from all of that smart diplomacy was four years of brutal carnage that killed millions and set the stage for a greater conflict.

An even more brutal question to ask will there be a US lead alliance in regards to the murky issue of who gassed whom in Syria?  The British Parliament just said no to Prime Minister Cameron's request for supporting the Americans, the first time they have said no since 1782 and the American Revolution.  The French and Germans are going soft as well; they should when it concerns American consistency, they just have to look at the series of slights and insults this Administration has delivered to England along with betraying European missile defense for a nebulous promise from Russia.  A Russia that supplies Europe with a majority of the natural gas it will need to stay warm this winter.  A Russia that supports the Assad regime in Damascus.  Europe sees more downsides than upsides for joining the American charge.

Then there are the Middle Eastern nations to look at.  Iran likes Assad in power and has threatened Israel if the US attacks.  Saudi Arabia finds itself wanting Assad in power in order to keep the Muslim Brotherhood out of power.  Saudi Arabia is also supporting the current government in Egypt for the same reason - fear of the Muslim Brotherhood.  And the United States, because of the decisions of this Administration, finds itself in opposition to Saudi Arabia, a long time ally, and supporting the Muslim Brotherhood both in Egypt and Syria.  Turkey has refused to assist the United States in regards to Syria so Greece had to be asked to allow the US to use Greek air bases.

If this is not a powder keg with a fuse lit, then I do not know what is.  And for what reason is the US getting involved when there are no geo-political reasons that can protect American interests?  Because of one reported attack on civilians by someone using chemical weapons.  No one knows if it really was Assad's forces that did it or even the rebels themselves that did it by accident.  This is far worse in murkiness than when USS Turner Joy thought it was being attacked by North Vietnamese torpedo boats.  But we have a President who said this was a Red Line even though in the past when Saddam used nerve agents on Kurds or Assad's father obliterated a town with artillery to stop a Muslim Brotherhood insurgency no one protested so loudly that these heinous attacks were used as reasons to depose either tyrant.

As Laughing Wolf said, we are going to be held hostage to the least stable actor in this drama.  Isn't that a cheery thought.  So if you are a devout praying person, please pray harder.

Addendum on the parallels from 1914.
There is the diplomatic war that was fought in concert with the war effort.  England wanted the neutral powerhouse the United States to enter the war on their side.  Wilson became President in no small part because he promised to keep the country neutral to the conflict that was devouring Europe so people with similar feelings voted for him. 

Churchill as First Sea Lord engaged in stratagems that are a bit shabby and dishonest viewed from this end of history; from painting British ships in American colors to putting war materials aboard passenger liners, but what he wanted was England to emerge victorious.  Meanwhile the Royal Navy was hunting German U-boats where they could.  All these actions forced Germany to abandon the cruiser rules and turn to unrestricted warfare on the open seas against any ship they found. 

So the German U-boats became wolves prowling for kills.  Any kills.  It was scant comfort to the families of the dead from these attacks that Germany had followed the rules of war by announcing a zone around England where unrestricted warfare would be prosecuted.  The Huns in the U-boats were now butchers.  The same was not used to describe German commerce raiders but those ships did not skulk below and strike from hiding, instead they still operated under the cruiser rules and treated their captured as well as could be expected.

Another arrow in the cap that helped tilt American opinion in favor of England was a master stroke of counter-espionage by British spooks.  I am referring to the famous Zimmerman telegram where Germany's Foreign Minister tried to entice Mexico into attacking the United States.  That really incensed the American public when it became news and further destroyed any warm feelings that sections of the populace felt towards Germany.

The sinking of the RMS Lusitania was just the final act that brought the US into WWI on the British side.  While the US tried to stay out of the war, events conspired against the President that stripped him of any freedom of action.  And that is how the United States entered World War I on the side of the Serbian assassin since England was an ally of the Russians who were the ally of the Serbs who sheltered the assassin.


TiminAL said...

I love your writing Anna. Please do so more often.

rickl said...

Good post, Anna. That is more or less what I'm thinking. This has all the potential to escalate in unknowable ways.

Anna said...

TiminAL and rickl thanks.

I will try to write more.

rickl said...

Just a minor quibble: The sinking of the Lusitania was not the "final act" that led to American involvement.

At the beginning of the war, most Americans believed that it was strictly a European affair and none of our business. There were millions of Americans of both British and German ancestry, so there was no consensus on whose side we should get involved, if any.

The sinking of the Lusitania in May 1915 definitely tipped the balance of public opinion towards England and away from Germany, but, following some stern diplomatic exchanges, the Germans dialed back their submarine warfare after that and averted an immediate crisis.

Wilson was re-elected in November 1916 with the slogan "he kept us out of war", but then Germany resumed unrestricted submarine warfare in early 1917, and that was the last straw. Wilson asked Congress for a declaration of war in April 1917.

rickl said...

I just looked up "Zimmerman Telegram" on Wikipedia. I was familiar with the term, but didn't know the details.

That also happened in early 1917 and coincided with the resumption of unrestricted submarine warfare. Taken together, they were provocations that the U.S. could no longer ignore.


Somewhat off topic, I am interested in World War I. I need to learn more about it. It marked the beginning of truly modern warfare.

At the start, armies consisted of the age-old triumvirate of infantry, cavalry, and artillery. Despite technological innovations such as railroads, the telegraph, machine guns, and breech-loading artillery firing high-explosive shells, the basic composition of armies and their strategy and tactics would have been recognizable to generals as far back as Napoleon, and probably even earlier.

But in their efforts to break the stalemate, both sides utilized all sorts of new technology, like airplanes, submarines, depth charges, poison gas, motorized transport, and tanks. I'm sure I've left some things out.

Both airplanes and submarines existed at the beginning of the war, but they were still in their infancy and had never really been utilized in warfare. At the start, airplanes were small, frail, and slow, and were basically used as scouts for observing enemy positions and troop movements, similar to how Union forces used tethered balloons in the Civil War.

By war's end, there were specialized aircraft for almost every modern role, such as fighters, bombers (both tactical and strategic, and including zeppelins), ground attack, infantry support, and photographic surveillance.

Anonymous said...

Hey Anna! Did you see that Hayao Miyazaki has announced his retirement? No more!

Also, please come back!


Anna said...

Thanks for the corrections rickl, what I get for going from memory while writing. If I have inspired you to learn more of history, that makes me very happy.

One of the most haunting scenes from the movie War Horse captures in one brutal scene how military technology had changed whilst military tactics were still mired in the mud of Waterloo. I am referring to the British cavalry unit charging through the head high wheat to fall upon an unsuspecting German camp. They charge through keeping the skeer up and then Maxim's offspring in the tree line mow men and animals down in mechanistic indifference.

We will see EC.

Anonymous said...

"We will see EC."

No one else has been dedicating cosplay links to me since you've gone!


ConservativeMonster said...

The War Horse scene was gripping.

Captured the shock of being on the receiving end of a calvary charge, just as it runs into entrenched machine guns. Though the video clip I found only implied the destruction of machine gun fire. (in the clip, the horses run through the machine guns sans riders)

Do you know if that scene was based off a specific battle?

ConservativeMonster said...

Results from digging on my own ...

Wiki plot summary for the movie didn't turn up anything.

The Battle of Moreuil Wood (1918) had some similarities - calvary charge, high casualties (25% men, 50% horses), fighting Germans in woods.

Also found neat story of a horse that led that "Last Great Calvary Charge".


Larry said...

and then after the war Churchill blamed the US for the rise of Communism and Fascism in Europe because we did not mind our own business and stay out of the war.

Hence my general dislike for Sir Winston Churchill.

Anna said...

Got the exact quote there Larry? Link?

Fi, I think the charge was based on reality but like many in the oral tradition of Greece spiced up to make the point even more clear.