American Elephants


February 22 is George Washington’s Real Birthday, Not Some Ginned Up “President’s Day” by The Elephant's Child

Imagine, you just turned 43 years old, and suddenly you find yourself Commander in Chief of a ragtag American army, such as it was. The battles of Lexington, Concord and Bunker Hill had already been fought when Washington arrived in Massachusetts, and had established that the British could not break out of Boston. Once Washington placed the captured British cannon on Dorchester Heights, the British evacuated by sea.

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Washington had been named Commander in Chief by the Second Continental Congress, meeting in Philadelphia in June 1775. He was forty-three years old. There was not yet any American army for him to command, only the militias ringing Boston, but the delegates of the increasingly rebellious colonies were seized by fury for action and for war. “Oh that I was a soldier,” wrote John Adams, a radical lawyer from Massachusetts. “I will be. I am reading military books. Everybody must and will, and shall be a soldier.”

Adams never became a soldier, but Washington had already been one. He had served in the Virginia militia during the French and Indian War twenty years earlier, rising to the rank of colonel. In his old age, Adams would describe Washington’s selection as a political compromise—a southern commander, to lead what would at first be a mostly New England force—engineered by congressional wise-men, including Adams. But Congress did not have many other officers to choose from, Israel Putnam, of the Connecticut militia, was, at 57, too old. Artemas Ward, the commander of the Massachusetts militia, was incompetent and suffering from the stone.
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The state begins in violence. However lofty the ideals of a new country or a new regime, it encounters opposition, as most new regimes and countries do, it must fight. If it loses, its ideals join the long catalogue of unfulfilled aspirations.

At six o’clock on the evening of July 9, 1776, the soldiers of the main American army, stationed in New York, were paraded and read the Declaration of Independence. General George Washington, Commander in Chief, hoped this “important event” would inspire them, though when some soldiers joined a mob in pulling down a statue of George III, he deplored their “want of order.” Over the next two months the American army and its commander, orderly or not, were unable to offer much in defense of the Declaration’s sentiments. …

During the summer, the British assembled, on Staten Island and in the harbor, the largest expeditionary force of the eighteenth century: ten ships of the line, twenty frigates, and 32,000 regular troops. On August 22, most of those troops began moving to Gravesend Bay on Long Island, in what is now southwest Brooklyn. Anticipating a possible landing there, Washington had posted more than a third of his own force of 19,000 men on Brooklyn Heights, and on a line of hills to the south. But he expected the British to attack him on the harbor side of his position, where they could bring the guns of their ships into play. On the morning of the 27th, the British slipped a force through the hills five miles away in the opposite direction and hit the American front line from before and behind.
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These are excerpts from Richard Brookheiser’s Founding Father: Rediscovering George Washington, which he calls a moral biography, which has two purposes: to explain its subject, and to shape the minds and hearts of those who read it—by showing how a great man navigated politics and a life as a public figure. Brookheiser says “If Washington’s contemporaries were too willing to be awed, we are not willing enough. …We have lost the conviction that ideas require men to bring them to earth, and that great statesmen must be great men. Great statesmen are rare enough in their world. We believe they are mythical, like unicorns.” They are not.

According to recent studies, our kids don’t know anything about George Washington, nor do most adults. There is some speculation that the problem is big fat books. People are more apt to read thin books that don’t scare them about the time involved. Answering that need is a new biography by the great British historian Paul Johnson. The paperback is only $8.71, and a hardback is available.

ADDENDUM: The picture above is a forensic reconstruction of Washington as a General, and Commander in Chief. Getting a likeness is hard. You get one thing just a little off, and you have lost the resemblance. Washington’s skin was pale, we are told, and he burned in the sun. I don’t think the tricorn hat gives even as much protection as a baseball cap, so I’m sure he appeared much more weathered, with squint lines (no sunglasses). His real hair was reddish. But nasty Stuart Gilbert did him real dirt down through the ages by overemphasizing the distortions of false teeth, and getting a poor likeness. Remember that, every time you look at a one dollar bill. It was deliberate.

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Today is the Real George Washington’s Birthday by The Elephant's Child
February 22, 2018, 1:19 am
Filed under: Art, History, Military, Politics | Tags: , ,

That’s why we left the header up for the last two days. The picture at the top is a great deal more what George Washington looked like than the familiar image on the dollar bill. That was a dirty trick played by portrait artist Gilbert Stuart. In the days before photography, we had to rely on portraits of varying expertise done by those who chose to be artists, not all were particularly successful at it.

Portraits are hard. if you have ever had a portrait taken at a photo studio, you received a sheet of proofs from which  to choose the one that pleased you most. The you that you are most familiar with is the one in the mirror. Unless you make a lot of faces at yourself, there are a lot of expressions that you do that you are unaware of. Others may look at the proofs and choose a completely different one, and they are all you. In Washington’s day you were entirely dependent on the artist, and for the most part most people didn’t have a bunch of mirrors. And different people will see different things. A face is mobile and expressive. I post the following piece every year on Washington’s birthday, because I really hate the Gilbert Stuart portrait and believe, with a great deal of justification, that it was a dirty trick. I want you all to believe in the George Washington shown here, and in the header. Believe in the life mask by Jean Antoine Houdon, which is the most likely correct.



The Left Always Goosesteps by The Elephant's Child
January 14, 2018, 6:42 am
Filed under: Freedom, History, Military, The Constitution, The United States | Tags: , ,

Nazi Germany, 1943, the “Goose Step”

Adolph Hitler reviewing the troops

China, troops in review

Cuba, Salute to Castro

Cuba, again

North Korea, Troops in Review


North Korea, Women’s troops


Vietnamese troops

American Expeditionary Force in Vladivostok, January 1918


U.S. Army, St. Patrick’s Day Parade 2013

ADDENDUM: Why do the world’s worst dictators want their military to do the goose step? If you’re at home, try it. It’s painful. Would take weeks of practice to get it right. Then try it with an imaginary rifle held across your chest, (a yardstick or mop handle would do) Then try to imagine the mind of the dictator. Free countries in the West just don’t do that nonsense.



When it’s Over, It’s Really Over. by The Elephant's Child

In the American political system, the President gets to hold office for either 4 years or 8, and when he or she is done, when a new president is elected, the previous president returns to civilian life. They are no longer a leader, no longer an official, just another past president, and once more a private citizen. Obama seems to be having a hard time accepting that, as do some of the people from his administration. No more titles. No more limelight. You had your turn and it is over.

George W. Bush was most gracious. He worked at rehabilitation for members of the military who were wounded during his administration. He paid honor to them with his paintings. He carefully did not interfere with Barack Obama’s turn. Obama knows that, but doesn’t seem to understand that it is an example for him as well.

The Twenty-second Amendment of the United States Constitution limits the number of times one can be elected to the office of President of the United States. Congress proposed the amendment by two-thirds of both the House and Senate on March 21, 1947. Ratification by the requisite 36 of the then-48 states was completed on February 27, 1951.

Mr. Obama is having a hard time being a private citizen. He was following President Trump in his visits to foreign leaders for a while, turning up for a visit right after Trump’s. Tacky.  It must be hard seeing your successor undo many of your presumed accomplishments, and even worse—see the economy respond in such vigorous approval. Is he hoping for a coup?

But that’s how it works. Americans were so thrilled when George Washington’s army defeated the British and sent them packing, that some wanted General Washington to become an emperor or a king, but Washington would have none of it. That was a most important step in the American presidency, and was recognized as such by other nations. The founders worked carefully to make sure that they were defining the presidency correctly to prevent future emperors or kings.

In many ways, the presidency is something of a thankless job. Things you wanted to do didn’t get done or there was deep resistance, or you were outvoted. You don’t get do-overs, and you don’t get to decide how the historians will think of you, no matter how glorious your presidential library turns out to be. You get to keep the honorific titles as a courtesy. Losing candidates also have a hard time accepting reality. Works better if you understand from the beginning the limits of the office. We probably tell our presidents too often that they are the most important man in the world. They are, but only briefly, then it’s over.



ISIS Has Lost 98 Percent of The Territory It Once Held by The Elephant's Child

ISIS has lost 98 percent of the territory is once held. The so-called Caliphate has been dramatically reduced. The big gains come after years of micromanaging of the war, and the rejection of a more aggressive strategy that could have shortened the conflict. Obama was very concerned that he might be blamed  for civilian deaths, and his rules of engagement were onerous. Individual target determination was being done in the White House, which added weeks and weeks of time. The limitations actually resulted in greater civilian casualties according to retired Air Force Lt. General David Deptula, the former head of U.S. Air Force Intelligence.

The latest American intelligence assessment says there are fewer than 1,000 ISIS fighters remaining in Iraq and Syria—down from a peak of nearly 45,000 just two years ago.

U.S. officials credit nearly 30,000 U.S.-led coalition airstrikes and regional partners on the ground for killing more than 70,000 jihadists. Meanwhile, only a few thousand have returned home.

The remaining ISIS strongholds are concentrated in a small area along the border of Syria and Iraq. ISIS, at one point, controlled an area the size of Ohio.

While ISIS has been largely defeated, it continues to call on followers around the world to conduct terror attacks during the holidays with a new message sprouting up on Tuesday, and a suicide attack in Kabul on Christmas with ISIS claiming responsibility. It’s part of the terror group’s effort to expand influence into Africa and Afghanistan. The U.S. envoy to the anti-ISIS coalition warned late last week not to expect a complete defeat anytime soon.

The remaining ISIS strongholds are concentrated on the border between Iraq and Syria. ISIS once controlled an area the size of Ohio. They are continuing to call on followers around the world to conduct terror attacks during the holidays. Deptula said the fight with ISIS could have ended much sooner if President Obama had given his commanders in the field more authority. “He micromanaged the war.” Deptula said. “We could have accomplished our objectives through overwhelming air poser in three months, not in three years.”

Al- Qaeda has apparently reappeared in Syria according to Joshua Geltzer , a visiting professor at Georgetown Law School, and author of  “U.S. Counter-Terrorism Strategy and al-Qaeda: Signalling and the Terrorist World-View.” The center for al-Qaeda now seems to be in Syria, not Afghanistan. There is progress, but the threat of terrorism is still intact.

ADDENDUM: John Hinderaker reports at Powerline that Radio Farda is reporting that demonstrations have broken out across Iran, “against high unemployment, a stagnant economy with inflationary prices and expensive overseas military interventions are spreading unpredictably fast in several cities.”

On Friday, protests spread to Kermanshah in the west, Tehran, Esfahan in central Iran, Rasht in the north, Ahvaz in the southwest and even Qom, the religious capital of Shiite clergy in Iran.

Some of the protesters, at least, chanted for a return of “Reza Shah,” the dynasty that was overthrown by the mullahs in 1979.



Pearl Harbor and the Legacy of Carl Vinson by The Elephant's Child

U.S. Navy Photo by Photographer’s Mate Third Class Dusty Howell

Today is Pearl Harbor Day. Seventy-six years ago, the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, and suddenly we were full participants in the war that had been raging in Europe and China. Those who were old enough to experience the war are dying off, and soon there will be no one who remembers. From the current state of our colleges and universities, they seem to be turning out students who know nothing about history at all.

Seventy-six years ago on December 7, 1941, carrier planes from  the Imperial Japanese fleet attacked Pearl Harbor, Hawaii in a surprise attack on the home of the U.S. Pacific Fleet. It was followed a few days later by an attack on the Philippines.

The surprise attack on the fleet killed 2,402 Americans, sank or submerged 19 ships, including eight battleships damaged or destroyed. Just four days later, Germany and Italy declared war on the United States.

Victor Davis Hanson writes today of the contribution of one Democratic Congressman from Georgia, Carl Vinson. Do read the whole thing.

The Japanese fleet had missed the three absent American carriers of the Pacific Fleet. Nonetheless, Japanese admirals were certain that the United States was so crippled after the attack that it would not be able to go on the offensive against the Japanese Pacific empire for years, if at all. Surely the wounded Americans would sue for peace, or at least concentrate on Europe and keep out of the Japanese-held Pacific.

That was a fatal miscalculation.

The Japanese warlords had known little of the tireless efforts of one Democratic congressman from Georgia, Carl Vinson.

For nearly a decade before Pearl Harbor, Vinson had schemed and politicked in brilliant fashion to ensure that America was building a two-ocean navy larger than all the major navies of the world combined.

If you have a history buff on your gift list, get them a copy of Dr. Hanson’s brilliant new book: The Second Word WarsIf you’re feeling generous, add With the Old Breed by Eugene Sledge.

The photograph is of the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson



“We Came, We Saw, He Died” She Joked. by The Elephant's Child

Hillary. Could not vote for her. She is a compulsive liar, and not a very good one. She keeps getting caught out. But I also knew that Mommar Gadhafi was a brutal dictator, and not a very nice one. But he kept his troublesome country in line. He had had nuclear ambitions, and when he saw Iran’s Saddam Hussein being dragged out of his hidey-hole and what happened to him, he discarded his ambitions thoroughly.

Hillary, as Secretary of State, not only ignored the rumbling of terrorists and revolutionaries in Syria, refused to send help to her ambassador and his aide, and extraction for the former Seals contractors who were attempting to save the embassy people, but decided to promote the end of the Gadhafi reign, apparently unaware of the fact that sometimes we have to support ruling bad guys in the interest of larger causes. Our ambassador died, unnecessarily, as did his aide and the two former Seals. Libya promptly descended into chaos, which continues.

Today USA Today reported:

Black Africans are being sold in open-air slave markets,  and it’s Hillary Clinton’s fault. But you won’t hear much about that from the news media or the foreign-policy pundits, so let me explain.

Footage from Libya, released recently by CNN, showed young men from sub-Saharan Africa being auctioned off as farm workers in slave markets.

And how did we get to this point? As the BBC reported back in May, “Libya has been beset by chaos since NATO-backed forces overthrew long-serving ruler Col. Moammar Gadhafi in October 2011.”

Under President George W. Bush, in 2003, the  United States negotiated an agreement with Libyan strongman Gadhafi. If Gadhafi would give up his weapons of mass destruction peacefully, we would not try to depose him. The Obama administration wasn’t much on continuing anything done by Bush, and in an operation spearheaded by Hillary Clinton, the United States went ahead and overthrew him. That has an effect on our options with North Korea.

The overthrow turned out to be a debacle. Libya exploded into chaos and civil war, and refugees flooded Europe, destabilizing governments there. But at the time, Clinton thought it was a great triumph — “We came, we saw, he died,” she joked about Gadhafi’s overthrow — and adviser Sidney Blumenthal encouraged her to tout her “successful strategy” as evidence of her fitness for the highest office in the land.

Uh huh.

 




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