Saturday, March 31, 2007
If I Were Iranian
It might also be wise to realize that historically speaking, the Brits can be pushed too far, and it usually happens at a point that would puzzle people from another culture. In one way, they are like southerners. They'll be polite right up until they decide you need to be crushed. After that point, they proceed with dogged determination to crush you, completely ignoring any estimation of the odds against them. But when they proceed to the crushing phase, they go berserk in a controlled, calm, dogged and lethal fashion that is rare in the military history of the world.
It must be a cultural thing, because this pattern has held for a long, long time. The words "Tennis balls, my liege" apparently do not have any associations for Edgy Adji, who is supposedly a professor of engineering. My guess is that this will turn out to be one of the best demonstrations ever of the relevance of a sound educational foundation in the liberal arts over a narrow technical education. Unfortunately, our academics are so mired in navel-gazing that they'll never comprehend the inherent force of the argument.
The Iranians are going to push this too far, I think, because the Brits will make them back down one way or another. They are not going to permit any face-saving tactic from the Iranians at this point, whereas the US would allow it. When Blair terminated negotiations that ought to have been a sign. Now the Iranians are going to take it out on the captive troops. Tch, tch. Bad move. Maybe someday the Iranian people will get a nice new capital out of it, like the US did out of the War of 1812.
I'm sure the Iranian foamers are gaining the support of the oligarchs (it really is a theocratic oligarchy at this point) because every time the foamers rattle the sabers the oligarchs get a payoff from the higher oil revenues. Like Mussolini, the foamers tell the oligarchs of their impressive military, and the oligarchs find those cash-backed assurances comforting. The foamers need the extra government money from higher oil prices for payoffs of the Iranian Brownshirts. This has, from the POV of the various interests in power in Iran, been working well. They get paid for threatening everyone, which enables powerful interests not supported by the average person to remain in power. It's nice work if you can get it, but this time I think they've overreached.
Excerpt from Lossing's Field Book of the War of 1812 regarding the strike at Washington:
Such was the disposition of Winder’s little army when, at noon, the enemy were seen descending the hills beyond Bladensburg, and pressing on toward the bridge. At half past twelve they were in the town, and came within range of the heavy guns of the first American line. The British commenced hurling rockets at the exposed Americans, and attempted to throw a heavy force across the bridge, but were driven back by their antagonists’ cannon, and forced to take shelter in the village and behind Lowndes’s Hill, in the rear of it. 33 Again, after due preparation, they advanced in double-quick time; and, when the bridge was crowded with them, the artillery of Winder’s first and second lines opened upon them with terrible effect, sweeping down a whole company. The concealed riflemen, under Pinkney, also poured deadly volleys into their exposed ranks; but the British, continually re-enforced, pushed gallantly forward, some over the bridge, and some fording the stream above it, and fell so heavily upon the first and unsupported line of the Americans that it was compelled to fall back upon the second. A company, whose commander is unnamed in the reports of the battle, were so panic-stricken that they fled after the first fire, leaving their guns to fall into the hands of the enemy.
The first British brigade were now over the stream, and, elated by their success, did not wait for the second. They threw away their knapsacks and haversacks, and pushed up the hill to attack the American second line in the face of an annoying fire from Captain Burch’s artillery. They weakened their force by stretching out so as to form a front equal to that of their antagonists. It was a blunder which Winder quickly perceived and took advantage of. He was then at the head of Sterett’s regiment. With this and some of Stansbury’s militia, who behaved gallantly, he not only checked the enemy’s advance, but, at the point of the bayonet, pressed their attenuated line so strongly that it fell back to the thickets on the brink of the river, near the bridge, where it maintained its position most obstinately until re-enforced by the second brigade. Thus strengthened, it again pressed forward, and soon turned the left flank of the Americans, and at the same time sent a flight of hissing rockets over and very near the centre and right of Stansbury’s line. The frightened regiments of Schutz and Ragan broke, and fled in the wildest confusion. Winder tried to rally them, but in vain. Sterett’s corps maintained their ground gallantly until the enemy had gained both their flanks, when Winder ordered them and the supporting artillery to retire up the hill. They, too, became alarmed, and the retreat, covered by riflemen, was soon a disorderly flight.
Up to this time the conduct of the British had been in accordance with the rules of modern warfare. Now they abandoned them, and on entering the national capital they performed deeds worthy only of barbarians.
When Ross was assured of complete victory, he halted his army a short time on the field of battle, and then, with the fresh Third Brigade, which had not been in the conflict, he crossed the Eastern Branch Bridge. Assured of the retreat of the Americans beyond Georgetown, Ross left the main body a mile and a half from the Capitol, and entered the town, then containing about nine hundred buildings. He came to destroy the public property there. It was an errand, it is said, not at all coincident with his taste or habits, and what was done by him appears to have been performed as humanely as the orders of his superiors would allow. 38 When, on his arrival in the Chesapeake, he had been informed by Admiral Cochrane that he (the admiral) had been urged by Sir George Prevost, the Governor General of Canada (who was not satisfied with the terrible devastation of the Niagara frontier at the close of 1813), 39 to retaliate in kind upon the Americans for the destruction of the government buildings at York 40 and the village of Newark, 41 he demurred, saying that they had carried on the war on the Peninsula and in France with a very different spirit, and that he could not sanction the destruction of public or private property, with the exception of military structures and warlike stores. 42 "It was not," says one of Ross’s surviving aids, Sir Duncan M‘Dougall, in a letter to the author in 1861, "until he was warmly pressed that he consented to destroy the Capitol and President’s house, for the purpose of preventing a repetition of the uncivilized proceedings of the troops of the United States."
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