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"Each individual should allow reason to guide his conduct, or like an animal, he will need to be led by a leash."
Diogenes of Sinope


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Thousand Flowers tapestry (15th Century) - Beaune, France (detail)

Monday, March 03, 2014

Crimea then and now

As the crisis unfolds in Ukraine, it is enlightening to read accounts of a previous confrontation between the West and Russia - the Crimean War of 1853-1856, when Britain, France and the Ottoman Empire confronted Russia over control of Ottoman territories bordering the Russian Empire (including Ukraine). One is struck particularly by the mealy-mouthed response by western leaders to the current aggression compared to the belligerent oratory of the 19th century.

Browse through the Hansard record of the debate about war with Russia in the British House of Commons on March 31 1854. Here is Lord Palmerston, Leader of the Opposition:
The question we have to consider is this, whether Turkey is to lie prostrate at the feet of one great overwhelming Power—whether one Power is to bestride the globe from the north to the south, from the Baltic to the Mediterranean, to dictate to Germany, to domineer in the Mediterranean, to have the whole of the rest of Europe at its mercy to deal with as it pleases—or whether that Power shall be taught that there are limits even to the ambition of a Czar—that there are limits even to the conquest of a military empire, of which one may say that the whole territory is one great camp, and the population one recruiting depĂ´t—and that in spite of the power which a Sovereign may be able to sway—in spite of the military resources which he is able to command—that there does exist in the Powers of Europe a respect for the principles of national independence—that there does exist in the Powers of Europe a determination to resist the overwhelming encroachments of any Power, be that Power what it may—and that we are able, as we are willing, since resort to arms has become necessary, to maintain in arms, by sea and by land, the liberties of Europe and the independence of nations.
Compare that to alleged master-orator Barack Obama's speech today:
It would be a clear violation of Russia’s commitment to respect the independence and sovereignty and borders of Ukraine, and of international laws. And just days after the world came to Russia for the Olympic games, it would invite the condemnation of nations around the world. And indeed, the United States will stand with the international community in affirming that there will be costs for any military intervention in Ukraine.
The events of the past several months remind us of how difficult democracy can be in a country with deep divisions. But the Ukrainian people have also reminded us that human beings have a human universal right to determine their own future.
Right now, the situation remains very fluid. Vice President Biden just spoke with prime minister -- the prime minister of Ukraine to assure him that in this difficult moment, the United States supports his government’s efforts and stands for the sovereignty, territorial integrity and democratic future of Ukraine.
I also commend the Ukrainian government’s restraint and its commitment to uphold its international obligations. We will continue to coordinate closely with our European allies, we will continue to communicate directly with the Russian government, and we will continue to keep all of you in the press corps and the American people informed as events develop.
Thanks very much.
There will be costs! Condemnation! We're going to continue to coordinate closely with our allies!  We'll keep you informed as events develop!

Good god, this guy's the leader of the free world and this is the speech he gives while Russian troop carriers are rolling into the Ukraine?

As Bette Davis said in All About Eve - "Fasten your seatbelts. It's going to be a bumpy night."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The Charge of the Light Brigade
BY ALFRED, LORD TENNYSON

Half a league, half a league,
Half a league onward,
All in the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.
“Forward, the Light Brigade!
Charge for the guns!” he said.
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.

“Forward, the Light Brigade!”
Was there a man dismayed?
Not though the soldier knew
Someone had blundered.
Theirs not to make reply,
Theirs not to reason why,
Theirs but to do and die.
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.

Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon in front of them
Volleyed and thundered;
Stormed at with shot and shell,
Boldly they rode and well,
Into the jaws of Death,
Into the mouth of hell
Rode the six hundred.

Flashed all their sabres bare,
Flashed as they turned in air
Sabring the gunners there,
Charging an army, while
All the world wondered.
Plunged in the battery-smoke
Right through the line they broke;
Cossack and Russian
Reeled from the sabre stroke
Shattered and sundered.
Then they rode back, but not
Not the six hundred.

Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon behind them
Volleyed and thundered;
Stormed at with shot and shell,
While horse and hero fell.
They that had fought so well
Came through the jaws of Death,
Back from the mouth of hell,
All that was left of them,
Left of six hundred.

When can their glory fade?
O the wild charge they made!
All the world wondered.
Honour the charge they made!
Honour the Light Brigade,
Noble six hundred!