The image above is the 18th century home of friends in Colonia, Uruguay. Today, sitting on their back patio on the Rio de la Plata, I looked out at a small yellow buoy in the harbor that marks the final resting place of the Lord Clive, a large, 60-gun British warship from the 18th century.
In 1763, we British, already at war with Spain, decided to expand the venture to the New World. The Lord Clive arrived in Colonia, Uruguay and began firing into the tiny town. With her heavy contingent of cannon, her captain was confident that he could do enough damage to make the Spanish inhabitants surrender. After extensive bombardment, the Spanish had still not raised the white flag; however, the crew of the Lord Clive had managed to set fire to their own ship. The fire spread quickly and it soon became apparent that the crew must abandon ship, which they did.
Swimming ashore, local accounts of the event have it that, the English crew apologized for bombarding the town and asked for mercy. Not surprisingly, the Spanish killed them all.
Of course, this is not the outcome that’s described in English history books. Although the defeat of the British on that day is acknowledged, the folly is not. Although historians will generally acknowledge a defeat, they’re often reluctant to mention any idiocy on the part of their own military. And so any English language version of the story tells a different tale from the account above.
This is a great pity, as much can be learned from historical idiocy. Since it’s rarely taught, military leaders often make the same idiotic mistakes that their predecessors made.
As an example, we can look at the adventures of the US today and observe their serial invasions over the last fifteen years in the Middle East and elsewhere. These adventures are being pursued ostensibly “to make the world safe for democracy.” However, whenever the US takes over a foreign country, it puts in place a puppet government – not exactly the textbook definition of “democracy.”
And, of course, warfare is very costly. Choosing to invade multiple countries at the same time, as the US has been doing over the last fifteen years, is quite a bit more costly.
Worse, the US government never misses an opportunity to portray the Russians as evil aggressors – an appellation far more suited to the US. On one occasion after another, Russia has sought to tone down the level of aggression, whilst the US has been conducting a shoving match with the Russians, goading them into a conflict.
This is extraordinarily foolish, as it would take very little to light the fuse of direct warfare between the US and Russia. Over the centuries, quite a few countries have challenged Russia, but Russia has always proven to be a very hard country to defeat. Although American films about World War II tend to portray the US of having won the war against the Germans, it was the Russians that did the lion’s share of the job. Even when poorly armed and poorly prepared, Russia simply throws another ten or twenty million men at the problem and ultimately wears out any attacker. Russians don’t like war any more than any other people, but they do have astonishing staying-power. They’ll grimly see a war through, long after their opponents have lost heart.
In addition, China and others have stated their support for Russia, should the US get carried away with its aggression in the Middle East. Both China and Russia have stated that, should the US move on Iran, they will join the fray on Iran’s side.
It would be foolhardy in the extreme for the US government to assume that it could take these powers on and come out of the fight victorious.
But what does this have to do with the burning of the Lord Clive?
Well, as stated above, the Captain of the Lord Clive had a massive warship, capable of doing a great deal of damage as he bombarded houses including the one pictured above. But the crew became so caught up in their zeal for destruction that they failed to extinguish a fire on board the ship and had to dive overboard, surrendering to the Spanish who, by that time were understandably not feeling particularly merciful.
The US is in a similar situation. It’s not exactly in the best shape at home. The economy is on the ropes and a financial collapse may be imminent. The government is rapidly becoming more autocratic and a police state is likely to be instituted in the near future. It will be needed, as funds for entitlements dry up and those who now praise the nanny-state will find that they’ve been lied to all this time. Pension funds also are beginning to fail and people in both the private and public sectors will be more than a bit peevish when they discover that this rug, too, has been pulled out from under them.
If we were to imagine the worst possible future for the US, it might go something like this:
= The US invades Iran, or directly attacks Russian forces in Syria or another third country.
= Russia retaliates and the world takes up sides as World War III begins.
= For the first time in history, the American people are angrier at their own government than they are at the trumped-up enemy their government has chosen to oppose.
= The US government finds that it must fight a full-blown foreign war at a time when it’s fighting a second one at home.
= All of the above takes place at a time when the US is broke and is economically unable to sustain a fight on either front.
= The world turns against the US for causing this fiasco and for the first time, there’s no one standing on the same side as the US.
= The US effort collapses and, like the crew of the Lord Clive, the US, in effect, abandon’s ship and asks for forgiveness from those it has invaded.
In the above scenario, we can imagine that the US would have created a situation that would maximize enmity from the rest of the world. (In 1919, Europe forced the Treaty of Versailles on Germany, not out of necessity, but out of vengeance. It served to cripple the German people for decades thereafter – both socially and economically.)
A final thought: Every night on American television news programmes, pundits, politicians and retired generals perform their sabre-rattling, stating that the world at large had better cooperate with the US or else. Whilst this bravado may appeal to a segment of the American population, the programming is also available to the rest of the world. We who aren’t American and don’t reside in the US, listen to the threatening rhetoric and find it decidedly unsettling. More to the point, the world’s leaders are also observing the programmes. It has a similar tone to the Nazi buildup in the 1930’s. To those outside the US, US leaders are becoming increasingly dangerous.
If this does play out along the lines of the sinking of the Lord Clive, it will be the American people who will pay the price for their leaders’ reckless behaviour.
Reprinted with permission