Tag Archives: Napoleonic Wars

NEW ZEALAND ATROCITY

Tessa Burrows, AFP | Police cordon off the area in front of the Masjid al Noor mosque after a shooting incident in Christchurch on March 15, 2019.

The deaths of 50 attendees at a New Zealand mosque a week ago shocked the world and have led to international condemnation of right-wing extremism.

The attack follows similar attacks on a synagogue and on churches in the US.   It seems that houses of worship are now targets.   Such attacks have a long history in the Middle East, but now in the West, too.

Hasty judgments and decisions have been made in the last few days that may make things worse.

New Zealand has been spared the horrors of international terrorism, but neighboring Australia has not.   The perpetrator of the NZ shootings was an Australian.   While attacks in Australia have been relatively small, they have mostly been perpetrated by people of Middle Eastern origin.

The one common denominator in these attacks and Friday’s attack in Christchurch are the country’s immigration policies.   Islamic immigration has led to attacks on non-Muslims in many western nations; while the perpetrator of the mosque attack was reacting to that same immigration.   People seem increasingly inclined toward extremism as a reaction against immigrants from other cultures.

Change the immigration laws and these attacks would not take place.

Instead, Jacinda Ardern, New Zealand’s prime minister, has changed the gun  laws.   While it is commendable that New Zealand’s parliament can act so quickly, in contrast to the US Congress, if there is more sectarian violence, this will make it more difficult for people to defend themselves.   Where criminals are concerned, it will drive the price of guns up, as people will always find a way to get what they want.

FURTHER TERRORISM

On Monday, a Turkish immigrant in Utrecht, Holland, held up a tram and murdered three people.

On Wednesday, a Senegalese immigrant bus driver in Milan, was set to blow up a school bus with 51 people on board, most of them school children.   He planned on setting the bus on fire in protest at Italy turning away migrants.   Fortunately, one boy called his parents who contacted the police.   There were, however, some casualties, with children slightly burned.

The number of sectarian attacks seems to be increasing.

Matthew 24 is a chapter in the Bible that predicts end-time events. In verse 7 we read that: “nation will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom.”   A kingdom is a political entity whereas nation is from the Greek “ethnos” – it describes sectarian violence increasing as we approach the end of the age.

It should also be noted that, in Holland, a populist anti-immigrant party was elected to the Senate in the last 24 hours.   Populism is gaining more support across Europe, in reaction to multiculturalism.   Diversity is not appreciated by everybody.   Not all of these people are extremists. If leaders really want to end extremism, they should do something about immigration.

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BREXIT – WILL IT HAPPEN OR WON’T IT?

With just a few days to go until Brexit, scheduled for March 29th, Mrs. May is asking the EU for an extension.   Latest reports say they will let her have until May 22nd, which is the day before the European elections.   However, it is unlikely that it will make any difference, as the search for a “deal” remains elusive.

Division in the British parliament is the worst anybody can remember.   It does not bode well for the future of the country.

“EU leaders will today try to achieve the impossible: navigating a cliff-edge Brexit with a prime minister already in freefall.”    (Jim Brunsden, “The Brexit Slalom,” Brussels Briefing, Financial Times, 3/21)

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NATO @ 70

”Reaching 70 is an extraordinary achievement for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.   Most alliances die young.   External threats change; national interests diverge; costs become too burdensome.   Russia’s pact with Nazi Germany survived for only two years.   None of the seven coalitions of the Napoleonic Wars lasted more than five years.   A study in 2010 by the Brookings Institution, a Washington think-tank, counted 63 major military alliances over the previous five centuries, of which just ten lived beyond 40; the average life-span of collective -defense alliances was 15 years.”   (The Economist, NATO at 70, 3/16).

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GOLAN HEIGHTS

President Trump is to recognize the Golan Heights as a part of Israel.   They have been ruled by Israel since 1967 when they were captured by Israel during the Six Day War.

The strategically important Heights should make Israel stronger and easier to defend.    The decision goes against the United Nations policy on the Golan.

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SYRIA’S THREE CIVIL WARS

“Three new wars have started in Syria.   They are taking place in the three de facto independent areas whose boundaries are becoming apparent as the smoke from the previous battle clears: the regime-controlled area, guaranteed by Russia; the area east of the Euphrates River controlled by the Syrian Democratic Forces, which are primarily composed of Kurdish fighters protected by the United States and Western air power; and finally the area controlled by the Turks and their Sunni Islamist allies in Idlib province.” (Jonathan Spyer, Middle East Forum, 3/18).

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Australian PM pillories Erdogan for ‘reckless’ and ‘vile’ Christchurch comments

(Australian prime minister) Scott Morrison says he will review ties after Turkish president said anti-Muslim Australians would be ‘sent back in coffins’ like in WWI.

(https://www.timesofisrael.com/australian-pm-pillories-erdogan-for-reckless-and-vile-christchurch-comments/)

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MUSLIM COMMENT ON NEW ZEALAND MARTYRS

On March 15, 2019, the Al-Azhar Mosque in Belmore, a suburb of Sydney, Australia hosted an emergency panel discussion following the massacre at the mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand.   One of the speakers, Sheikh Jamil El-Biza, suggested that attack was the result of governments’ and politicians’ defense of freedom of speech.   Sheikh Jalal Chami, another one of the panel members, said that it is an honor for the victims of the shooting to have died for Islam and that Muslims should be happy for them and pray that they are accepted as martyrs.   He said:   “We give our life freely for the sake of Allah and His religion.”   Another panel member, Sheikh Omar Najjarine, said that people in Australia and New Zealand have thoughts of harming Muslims like the Christchurch shooter did.   He also said that he felt jealousy towards the victims of the shooting because they entered Paradise, and he said that it is sad that most people would be thankful if they escaped or survived such a shooting, when they would have lost out on the blessing of dying as a martyr.

Sheikh Najjarine added:   “Who would ever think that a person in a non-Muslim country [who is not waging] Jihad could attain martyrdom.”   (MEMRI, No. 7088, 3/19)

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US SANCTIONS WILL LEAD TO CONFLICT WITH THE EU

Newsletter – Struggle for Global Power Status

(Own report) – The United States is preparing sanctions against European companies participating in the construction of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, according to senior US government officials. German government officials, on the other hand, predict that US sanctions will lead to a confrontation with the whole of the EU.   “We will do everything necessary to complete the pipeline.”   At the same time, the power struggle over the participation of the Chinese Huawei Corporation in setting up the 5G grid in Germany and the EU is escalating.   After the German government indicated that it would not exclude, a priori, Huawei, the US ambassador in Berlin is threatening to reduce cooperation between the two countries’ intelligence services.   US President Donald Trump is also considering calling on countries to pay the full cost of stationing US forces on their soil, plus 50 percent more.   German government advisors are pleading for a “policy of ‘softer’ or ‘more robust’ countervailing power formation.”   Europe’s “strategic autonomy” is at the core of this power struggle.   (German Foreign Policy. 3/14)

 

 

 

 

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FORTY YEARS THAT CHANGED THE WORLD

George Washington and the French and Indian War

I spent a couple of evenings this week watching “The War That Made America,” a 4-hour PBS special made in 2006, to coincide with the 250th anniversary of the French and Indian War.   The intro added the words:   “And it’s not the war you think.”

It is, arguably, the most significant war in American history.   If it had ended differently, we might have been French and Catholic. Instead, we speak English and have freedom of religion.

Prior to 1754 the British had control of the eastern seaboard.   The French were in control of the “Ohio country.”   From Canada to Louisiana, they had a series of forts that controlled the center of what is now the US.   These forts stopped Americans from moving westward.   They were trying to strengthen these forts when conflict arose between Britain and France.

George Washington fired the first shot, as a member of the colonial Virginia Regiment, a provincial militia.   It was the first shot in what was really the first world war, a war that saw fighting in India, the Philippines, Africa and Europe as well as North America.   Outside of the US, the war is known as the Seven Years War.

After more than seven years of brutal fighting, the French were driven out of North America.   The threat from the Roman Catholic Church, which did not tolerate freedom of religion, was over.   The French king no longer ruled over North America, replaced by an English king who was a constitutional monarch.

When told the news that he had lost Canada, Louis XV was talking to Voltaire, the famous French philosopher. In an attempt to console him, Voltaire asked what the French had actually lost. It was, he said, just “a few acres of snow.”

Fast forward fifteen years, to 1775.   This was the year that saw the beginning of major changes that lay the groundwork for the world we now live in.

From Wikipedia:   “In the Hebrew Bible, forty is often used for time periods, forty days or forty years, which separate “two distinct epochs.”   Several Jewish leaders and kings are said to have ruled for “forty years,” that is, a generation.”

1775 was truly the end of one epoch. 1815 was the beginning of another.

  1. MANASSEH SEPARATED FROM EPHRAIM

The forty-year period began with the separation from the “multitude of nations,” of a ”great people,” Manasseh.   The multitude remained united under the Crown.

Then Israel stretched out his right hand and laid it on Ephraim’s head, who was the younger, and his left hand on Manasseh’s head, guiding his hands knowingly, for  Manasseh was the firstborn.  And he blessed Joseph, and said: “God, before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked, The God who has fed me all my life long to this day, The Angel who has redeemed me from all evil, Bless the lads; Let my name be named upon them, And the name of my fathers Abraham and Isaac; And let them grow into a multitude in the midst of the earth.”

“Now when Joseph saw that his father laid his right hand on the head of Ephraim, it displeased him; so he took hold of his father’s hand to remove it from Ephraim’s head to Manasseh’s head.  And Joseph said to his father, “Not so, my father, for this one is the firstborn; put your right hand on his head.”

But his father refused and said, “I know, my son, I know.   He also shall become a people, and he also shall be great; but truly his younger brother shall be greater than he, and his descendants shall become a multitude of nations.”

“So he blessed them that day, saying, “By you Israel will bless, saying, ‘May God make you as Ephraim and as Manasseh!’ ” And thus he set Ephraim before Manasseh.”   (Genesis 48:14-20)

2.  CANADA ALSO BECAME A NATION.

One of the consequences of the US victory at Yorktown was the expansion of Canada and of it becoming its very own nation.  The British had control of the 14th colony, Quebec (Lower Canada), which refused to join the “Protestant Republic” forming to the south.   Britain had conquered Quebec in 1759, guaranteeing the French their Roman Catholicism.   Many of America’s Tories fled to Ontario, then Upper Canada, and, with Lower Canada, formed a new nation of Canada.   Later, in 1867, they would be given independence under the Crown, forming the Dominion of Canada, the first nation of the British Commonwealth.

3.  FRANCE LOSES ITS SUPREMACY TO ENGLAND

The first blow against French domination was struck in 1759 when the British gained Montreal and Quebec.   But it was the 22-year period of on-again, off again, military conflict with France that led to a century of British domination.   The Napoleonic Wars weakened France and strengthened England.   The defeat of Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo, on 18th June, 1815, saw the end of France as a great military power.

4.  The LOUISIANA PURCHASE of 1803, financed by a British bank, gave America the Ohio country and enabled it to expand westward.

5.  NAVAL SUPREMACY

The Battle of Trafalgar on October 21, 1805, one of the greatest British victories of all time, gave Britain naval supremacy.   For over a century, the Royal Navy ruled the seas, protected British territories and the US and ensured the peace.

  1.  ABOLISHMENT OF THE SLAVE TRADE

The trade in slaves ended for the British Empire in 1807. The US followed a year later.   It wasn’t until 1833 that the British ended slavery throughout their empire.   For the US it was thirty years later during the Civil War.   But the end of the slave trade boosted the growth of the British Empire, which was seen throughout Africa as a Liberator.   The West Africa Squadron of the British Royal Navy patrolled the Gulf of Guinea, and was authorized to stop any naval vessel (of whatever country) and free their slaves.   In the fifty years of the Squadron it is estimated that 150,000 slaves were freed.

During the Revolutionary War, the British were supported by most of the slaves in the thirteen colonies, slaves who were promised their freedom at the end of the war.   With defeat, they took those slaves on board ships, many of which went to found a new nation, Sierra Leone, in West Africa.

Three new countries emerged in the 40-year period we are looking at – the United States, Canada and Sierra Leone.

  1.  WAR OF 1812

This war showed that the US was a serious nation.   Canada was, too. The two fought and established their separate identities.   Canadians made it clear they wanted to stay under the Crown.

THE COST OF ARROGANCE

The PBS documentary showed quite clearly the role of the Indians in the struggle for North America.   The French started the war with great advantage – most of the Indian tribes were on their side.   But their arrogance toward the Indians caused that to change.

At the same time, British arrogance toward George Washington cost them the American colonies twenty years later.   They refused to allow Washington advancement in the ranks because he was a “provincial.”   He quit the military in 1758, returning in 1775 to lead the Patriots” against the British.

The DVD is well worth four hours.   You could also read the book “A Few Acres of Snow” by Robert Leckie, “the saga of the French and Indian Wars.”   Published in 2006.

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MAY VISITS GRIMSBY

Mrs. Theresa May, Prime Minister of the UK, visited my hometown of Grimsby this morning.   She was there to make a pitch for her latest Brexit proposals, to be voted on in parliament on Tuesday.   Grimsby is one of the towns that most supported Brexit.   She made it clear that, if her proposals are rejected, the UK might have to remain in the EU.

Even if her proposals receive the support of parliament (a big IF), there is no guarantee that the EU will go along with them.

The people voted to leave the European Union.   Now they are being told it’s not as simple as that.   Why not let the people have what they voted for?   That will never do!

 

 

 

 

BINGE WATCHING RECOMMENDATIONS

war-and-peace

Diane and I spent Saturday night and too much of Sunday afternoon watching “War and Peace”, the BBC adaptation of Leo Tolstoy’s 1869 novel that has been described as the greatest novel ever written.

It’s set during the period of the Napoleonic Wars, concentrating on the years between 1805 and 1812 when France turned its attentions to Russia, arguably Napoleon’s biggest mistake.

It isn’t just about the military and endless battles.   There’s the usual romantic entanglements that make a good novel, which keep you enthralled until the end.

The television series lasts eight hours.  According to a website I checked, it takes 32 hours and 40 minutes for the average person to read the book.   So you can save yourselves almost 25 hours by watching the series, even if you do feel guilty about “wasting” a Sunday afternoon binge watching.

Warning:  once you start, you won’t want to stop!!!

(It’s even led to me starting to read the 3 volume set that has been on my bookshelf for fifty years.)

NETFLIX:  THE CROWN

the-crown

We also binge-watched “The Crown” over Thanksgiving when our eldest daughter, her husband and children were with us.  This is the most expensive online production ever, showing on Netflix.  They reportedly spent over 100 million pounds on it (approx. $125 million).  As it’s the first of four seasons, they will be spending a good $500 million before it’s over.   One newspaper said that Netflix is hoping to bury cable with this and other upcoming productions.

“The Crown” tells the story of Queen Elizabeth II, from her marriage to Prince Philip in 1947, up till the present time.  As flashbacks go back to the Abdication in 1936, it effectively covers her life from the moment she learned she would become Queen when her uncle abdicated, until the present day.   The first series ends in 1955, when Sir Winston Churchill resigned as Prime Minister.    Coincidentally, with the recent deaths of the King of Thailand and Fidel Castro, she is now the only political figure who was around in the 1950’s.

Although many of the conversations that take place in the series are pure conjecture, the production is remarkably accurate in its portrayal of the 1940’s and 50’s and its attention to detail.   The deep spiritual and historical meaning of the coronation is brilliantly conveyed to audiences that are unfamiliar with the biblical significance of the ceremony, which has its origins in the coronation of Israel’s King Solomon and his anointing by Zadok, the priest.

Politically, the series will help people to understand constitutional monarchy.   43 countries around the world are monarchies, not all of them constitutional.   Queen Elizabeth II is Head of State of 16 of those countries.  Each country chose to remain a constitutional monarchy at the time of independence.

All four of us recommend the series and look forward to the following three seasons.

Footnotes:  In one scene Prince Philip says something negative about visiting Australia; in a later episode, he is asked to go there alone for the opening of the Olympic Games in 1956 and, again, expresses a complaint.  I question the series’ interpretation of events here.   Mark Steyn, a Canadian of decidedly conservative views who now lives in New Hampshire, wrote an article some years ago about a dinner he had with others at Buckingham Palace, where he was hosted by the Queen and Prince Philip.  In the article he recounted a private conversation with the Prince in which they both compared and discussed the Canadian and Australian constitutions.   It didn’t seem as if the Prince was not interested in the two countries.  The trips were undoubtedly a challenge as they went by sea and were away from their children for months at a time.    This fact is alluded to in the later episode.

Personal footnote:  Our son was helping his eldest daughter, Paris, prepping her for a test on Canada the following day in her fifth grade exam.   One question was “What kind of government does Canada have?”  Kurt told her Canada is a constitutional monarchy.  It turned out to be the wrong answer.  What the teacher wanted was:  “Canada has its own government.”   Even teachers don’t seem to understand “constitutional monarchy,” which has a very good track record of preserving democracy.

ANTENNA

the-hollow-crown

A third series we’ve started binge-watching (well, every Sunday evening for a couple of hours) is “The Hollow Crown,” adaptations of Shakespeare’s historical plays.  The series is showing in the Sunday night “Masterpiece Theater” slot on PBS.  It stars some of the world’s greatest actors. Somehow, we missed the first series, which we’ve now requested through our public library system.   But we’ve started the second series, which begins in 1422 with the death of Henry V and the ascension to power of his son, Henry VI.   Actually, it was not that simple – the new king was only nine months old, the youngest monarch in English history.  In view of his age, there had to be a regency – and that was the start of his problems.   Out of this came the War of the Roses, a civil war that lasted over thirty years.

SERIOUSLY

“Britain’s oldest manufacturing firm put its business up for sale.  Based in East London, Whitechapel Bell Foundry was established in 1570 and cast the original Liberty Bell in Philadelphia as well as Big Ben and bells for St Paul’s Cathedral.  Fewer churches mean fewer orders for large bells.  But the success of “Downton Abbey” has wrought a new market:  for handbells to ring for tea.”  (The Economist, December 10th.)

 

HOLLYWOOD AND THE BENGAL LANCERS

IRONY

Robert Osborne knows more about movies than anybody in the United States.   He has been introducing movies on TCM (Turner Classic Movies) for over twenty years.   His introductions to old movies are always very welcome and often fascinating.

But he doesn’t know so much about history.

When introducing a 1951 movie titled “Soldiers Three,” a bit of a comedy based on a Rudyard Kipling story, he commented on how, quite often, in Hollywood’s golden period (the thirties and forties) movies were set in India under the British Raj.   He described this as “a time when there were always some Bengal Lancers ready to jump in to help out a noble cause.”   He spoiled this when he added:  “We now know, of course, what really happened in India under the British, that it wasn’t so noble at all . . . ”

This might not have bothered me too much, except that I had just heard something similar from a doctor at the University of Michigan Hospital.   We shared a very amicable conversation about Diego Garcia, of all places.

Diego Garcia is an island in the Indian Ocean that has been turned into a major military base.  The island has been a British possession for two centuries, having been acquired from France following Napoleon’s defeat in the Napoleonic Wars.   According to the doctor, there are only 55 Brits on the island today, while there are over 2,000 Americans.  The Brits have the unenviable task of policing the island, where the only trouble the Americans can get up to involves alcohol!   There really is nothing else to do.   Even swimming is out as the island lies in shark-infested waters.

Towards the end of the conversation, my doctor made a derogatory remark about the colonial period in Africa and how much better off the Africans are now.

I instinctively came to the defense of the colonial period pointing out that this was not the experience my wife and I had – that Ghana and Zimbabwe, the two countries we lived in, were much better off under British colonial rule than they have been since independence.

Which brings me back to Robert Osborne’s comment.   “We now know, of course, what really happened in India under the British, that it wasn’t so noble after all . . . ’’

This is a loaded statement and very misleading, to put it mildly.

There is nothing we know now about colonial India that we did not know under the Raj.  The same can be said about Africa.

What has changed is the attitude toward empire.

The movies Mr. Osborne was referring to, made prior to “Soldiers Three,” a movie frankly not worth watching, were movies like “The Lives of a Bengal Lancer” made in 1935.  They were all pro-British and showed what the British were doing in India, notably policing the North-West Frontier, where hostile tribes were always causing trouble.   This area was arguably the most violent part of the empire during the two centuries of British rule.   Today, it is a stronghold of the Taliban, al-Qaeda and now, of ISIS.   Neither the Pakistani nor the Afghan government has a handle on the situation there.   Looking back, it would have been better to keep it under British control, thereby avoiding 9-11.  Twelve years after independence, the movie “North-West Frontier” (1959) showed the British role in the region in a positive light.

But in the following decades, attitudes changed toward the empire, just as they changed in the United States toward its own history.   Instead of being proud of past accomplishments, in the 1960’s history was taught with a sense of shame.   This self-loathing on both sides of the Atlantic has led to what African-American writer Shelby Steele calls “White Guilt,” the title of his 2006 book.  Whites now feel guilty about everything in their collective past and constantly fork out billions to try to “put things right.”  Those billions have achieved nothing.   Given to Africa and India, the money is siphoned off by the wealthiest people with little benefit to the poor, while in the US, they have produced an underclass perpetually dependent on welfare.

This change in attitude was partly the fault of Hollywood, which started making movies that made Britain and America look bad.

But it can be largely blamed on academia.  Liberal socialist (even communist) intellectuals got control of western universities and started filling the minds of young people with anti-western propaganda.

When asked what Britain had ever done for India, Indian writer Dinesh D’Souza responded with the following words:

‘Apart from roads, railways, ports, schools, a parliamentary system of government, rights, separation of powers, checks and balances, the rule of law, and the English language . . . nothing!’”

The same gifts were bestowed upon the British colonies in Africa and the Caribbean.   Sadly, since independence, many of these countries have endured dictatorships and debilitating poverty as the dictator keeps all the wealth for himself.

This is why people are fleeing their home countries in the millions, seeking a better life, ironically in the countries that used to rule them.   What a pity the Bengal Lancers aren’t around today to take on the noble cause of ridding the world of some of these evil despots!