Our New Friend, al-Qaeda
The wars go on!
We’re not against them. We might as well be against stomach gas – it will happen whether we like it or not. Real wars, as we’ve been exploring recently, are glorious and moronic. But zombie wars are just sordid are pathetic.
A new item in the Wall Street Journal tells us that our enemy’s enemy is becoming our friend.
“In the three-way war ravaging Syria, should the local al-Qaeda branch be seen as the lesser evil to be wooed rather than bombed?
This is increasingly the view of some of America’s regional allies and even some Western officials. In a war now in its fifth year, in which 230,000 people have been killed and another 7.6 million uprooted, few good options remain for how to tackle the crisis.”
These are not real wars. There are no real war aims, no enemy worthy of the name, and no real victories. Instead, they are zombie wars. They go on and on… with changing targets and shifting alliances. Why do we never win?
Vetting process …
Cartoon by Steve Breen
Because too many people benefit from losing… The media, the military, the contractors, the politicians, the lowlife defense contractors in Northern Virginia, the grandstanders in Congress, the CIA, the NSA … all have been zombified.
Jon Basil Utley in the American Conservative:
“America doesn’t “win” its wars, because winning a war is secondary to other goals in our war making. Winning or losing has little immediate consequence for the United States, because the wars we start, Wars of Choice, are not of vital national interest; losing doesn’t mean getting invaded or our cities being destroyed.”
Instead, the contracts get rolled over. The promotions keep coming. The money flows. Politicians get elected. And the zombies prosper. In some ways, these zombie wars are better than real wars. Fewer people are killed – at least fewer of our people.
But it must be hard for a real soldier to fight a zombie war and retain his self-respect. He must pass the statue of Marshal Michel Ney, hang his head, and “hold his manhood cheap.”
A blast from the past …
Cartoon by Ted Rall
A Real Hero
Ney – there was a real fighting man and a real hero. His life is almost fantastic. So many battles. So many close encounters with death. So much raw courage. So much bravado. And so little regard for his self-interest.
It was on this day 200 years ago that Ney was leading the charge in a magnificently lunatic campaign. The irresistible force of his cavalry divisions met the immovable object of the British infantry squares – bristling with rifle bayonets – in the final clash at Waterloo.
But among the hundreds of other battles and skirmishes in which Ney almost died, Napoleon’s Russia campaign stands out. Ney was one of the 300,000 soldiers who invaded Russia… and one of the 10,000 who got out alive.
Ney went all the way – to Moscow and back – fighting the enemy and the freezing cold the entire way. He got his fourth wound, in the neck, at Smolensk and then was wounded again at Leipzig.
On the retreat, Ney commanded the rear guard, as the army desperately tried to make its escape. Temperatures fell to -22°F. Food ran out. The wagons sank in the mud during the day and froze in the mud at night.
The soldiers of the Grande Armée were shot, hacked to death, starved, and frozen… battling against fierce mounted Cossacks and regular Russian troops… over thousands of miles of barren territory.
And there, always on the move, was Ney – fighting, organizing, leading, and driving his men onward… while charging the enemy to drive them back. It was Ney who covered the retreat over the Berezina River into Poland. And it was Ney who was the last Frenchman to leave Russia. Napoleon named him the “Prince of Moscow.”
Marshal Ney supporting the rear guard during the retreat from Moscow
Painting by Adolphe Yvon
After the Guns Went Silent …
Back at Waterloo, it was Ney who charged the British cannons and dispersed their defenders. But Ney didn’t muster infantry or artillery support. And he failed (nobody knows why) to spike the British cannons when they were in French possession… which would have rendered them useless for the rest of the battle.
Did Ney charge too soon? Should he have coordinated better with his infantry and artillery divisions? Was he responsible for losing the battle?
After the cannons went silent and Napoleon limped back to Paris with what was left of his army… the complaints against Ney multiplied. And then, Bonaparte gave up. And the war was over.
The new government, once again under the Bourbons, wanted Ney’s head. He was tried for treason and found guilty. But unlike David Petraeus, who got nothing but a slap on the wrist for betraying his nation’s secrets, Ney got the firing squad.
Ney took command, just as he had always taken command of the troops before him:
“Soldiers, when I give the command to fire, fire straight at my heart. Wait for the order. It will be my last to you. I protest against my condemnation. I have fought a hundred battles for France, and not one against her… Soldiers, fire!”
The execution of Marshal Ney inspired a great many paintings. In this one, the soldiers seem reluctant to do the deed.
Painting by Edouard Armand-Dumaresq
This painting of Ney’s execution is full of symbolism. The dead body of Ney is lying in the dirt, while the army he once led is turning its back on him …
Painting by Jean Léon Gérôme
The above article originally appeared as “Our New Friend, al-Qaeda” at the Diary of a Rogue Economist, written for Bonner & Partners. Bill Bonner founded Agora, Inc in 1978. It has since grown into one of the largest independent newsletter publishing companies in the world. He has also written three New York Times bestselling books, Financial Reckoning Day, Empire of Debt and Mobs, Messiahs and Markets.
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