alien & sedition.
Wednesday, January 10, 2007
  The Long March

The Old Stone House
Under the command of Alexander, Haslet's Delawares and Smallwood's Marylanders were surrounded by the British grenadier and Scottish 42nd Black Watch. The Brits were amazed at the valor of these two groups. But they destroyed them anyway. Alexander tried to save his troops and ordered an organized withdrawal. Through the Gowanus Creek they withdrew, except for 200 Marylanders led by the war hero, Mordecai Gist. At the Cortelyou House, Gist and his men counter attacked and nearly broke the British lines. Alexander had ordered his sixth counter attack when fresh British troops arrived. And Gist and his fellow Marylanders had to fight their way back to the American Line. Only 9, including Mordecai Gist survived. But the offensive on what is now known as the Stone House, allowed the rest of Alexander's Army to survive. 256 died at the Stone House, [and were buried] in an unmarked grave. [From]

Over at Digby's place, poputonian contrasts the desperate gambling of our current Commander-in-Chief to the prudence of our first C-in-C. In September 1776, with the American army in danger of being encircled and destroyed in New York, General Nathanael Green wrote to George Washington urging him to make a strategic withdrawal rather than risk everything in a symbolic stand.
Washington then gathered his generals for a council of war, as Greene had suggested, and revealed the results in a letter to Congress on September 8th:

"On every side there is a choice of difficulties.
"In deliberating on this great question [of retreat], it was impossible to forget that history, our own experience, the advice of our ablest friends in Europe, the fears of the Enemy, and even the declarations of Congress demonstrate that on our side the war should be defensive.

"It has been even called a war of posts, that we should on all occasions avoid a general action or put anything to risk unless compelled by a necessity into which we ought never to be drawn. The Arguments on which such a system was founded were deemed unanswerable, and experience has given her sanction.

"With these views, the honor of making a brave defense does not seem to be a sufficient stimulus when the success is very doubtful"

But how would George Surrender-Monkey Washington tell Congress he was going to cut and run? Actually, that part was easy because of who he was:

"I am sensible a retreating army is encircled with difficulties, that declining an engagement subjects a General to reproach, and that the common cause may be affected by the discouragement it may throw over the minds of many.

"But when the fate of America may be at stake on the issue, when the wisdom of cooler moments and experienced men have decided that we should protract the war [by retreating], if possible, I cannot think it safe or wise to adopt a different system."

This was always about America to George Washington, a belief in country that was larger than himself.
Poputonian's point, of course, is about the difference between a real leader and patriot, who would choose the wise course of action regardless of whether it might be called "cowardly," and a fraudulent and self-centered commander, who will send American troops off to pointless death and dismemberment in a sacrifice to his own vanity, his fever dreams about a "place in history."

There's another lesson to draw from this, though. Washington could afford to retreat, again and again, because time, geography, and the nature of empire were on his side. The Americans didn't lose every battle in the Revolutionary War, but they lost most of them. It didn't matter.

Bush will ask for sacrifice. But the empire will never sacrifice as much as the insurgents, because the empire can leave. The insurgents cannot. The failure of our commanders to grasp this lesson is one of the most fundamental blunders the United States has made in Iraq.

The Iraqi insurgents are no American revolutionaries. I won't speak to what they are, but it's beside the point anyway. There is no military solution before a political solution. It is fundamentally impossible.

And that's what Washington knew, and that's why he won.

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