Sunday, December 20, 2009

2009 in Review, Part 1.5

Part One is here.

There are a few late developments that fit into the "domestic and foreign affairs" bucket that I didn't get around to last time. There are three things in particular that I'd like to touch on before moving to Part Two.

The President's Style: The one thing you must understand about this man is that he's a ruthless pragmatist. Nothing that he does makes any sense at all unless you realize this. He's a liberal in his heart of hearts, sure enough, but he's also keenly interested in what can actually be done. He seems to recognize that the perfect is the enemy of the good. This is unusual in a liberal politician. It's unusual in modern politicians, period. We've become accustomed to "my way or the highway" stonewalling. I won't necessarily agree with everything that he does, but I do like the way he uses the process to let Congress define the zone of possible agreement.

The Coming Republican Crack-Up: I've been expecting one for a few years now. The Reagan coalition amongst social conservatives, fiscal conservatives, and national security conservatives is falling apart at the seams. The only remaining question is: who's going to be in control of the GOP apparatus when the dust settles? We probably won't know until after 2012, but one possibility intrigues me. What if the Tea Party crowd bolts the GOP entirely, and makes a run of it as a real third party? I hear grumbling along these lines. I don't know if it's going to get any traction, but it could. A weak Republican party becomes less attractive for conservative politicians, from organizational and fund-raising standpoints both. There comes a point when a third party might well make sense. Long odds, I agree, but it could make life very interesting for a few years.

Epic Fail, Military History Department: Speaking of the Tea Party, Michelle Bachman recently compared them to the Light Brigade, immortalized in the famous poem by Tennyson. I wonder if anyone ever told Rep. Bachman that Balaclava was a defeat, not a victory? Probably not: the Crimean War wasn't what you'd call important, and isn't studied much unless you're a history buff or an officer candidate. I fear that most of my knowledge thereof comes from George MacDonald Fraser's Flashman series rather than from actual history books. Still, Balaclava provides a good study in how not to draft orders. Depending on who you talk to, the fault lay with the overall commander Lord Raglan, or his adjutant Brigadier Airey, or the courier Captain Nolan, or the cavalry chief General Lucan, or with Lord Cardigan who actually led the charge. The truth is probably some combination of all of the above. We will probably never know. Of the five men involved, only Captain Nolan had knowledge of the process from end to end, but since he ate a cannonball during the charge, he was unavailable for comment afterwards. The end result of Raglan's vague, poorly-drafted order was that a brigade of cavalry charged into a valley fortified with cannon on three sides, to attack the battery at the far end; the result was pretty much what you'd expect. In any case, a Balaclava experience isn't anything I'd want to see happen to a group I had fond wishes for; one must therefore assume that Rep. Bachman didn't really understand what she was talking about. Mind you, the Charge was awesome, in the same sense that the attack of Torpedo Squadron Eight at Midway was, and the Spartans' last stand at Thermopylae; but I'd rather not re-enact any of them. But if the Tea Partiers really want to re-enact the British Cavalry at Balaclava, more power to 'em.

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