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Friday, April 06, 2007

I will not mock the Brits

When the Iranian "students" seized the U.S. Embassy and 66 American hostages in Tehran in November 1979, I was a young adult, finishing my last year of law school. It was hard to resist drawing an inference that my entire adult life as an American was likely to be filled with such national humiliations.

Interest rates and inflation around twenty percent would be the norm for the rest of my life, I thought. Gas lines would only be common every two or three years, if we were very lucky. It would be a few months yet before images of American helicopters burning at the Desert One rescue staging site would fill the media, but comparable images of American helicopters being pushed off carrier flight decks during the scramble out of Saigon in April 1975 were still vivid.

My fears and concerns had peaked a few months before the embassy seizure, when the leader of the Free World had given a nationally televised speech based on a just-concluded touchy-feely session he'd held with a collection of wise advisers at Camp David. As a result, our President had concluded that we were facing a "national crisis of confidence":

I want to speak to you first tonight about a subject even more serious than energy or inflation. I want to talk to you right now about a fundamental threat to American democracy....

The threat is nearly invisible in ordinary ways. It is a crisis of confidence. It is a crisis that strikes at the very heart and soul and spirit of our national will. We can see this crisis in the growing doubt about the meaning of our own lives and in the loss of a unity of purpose for our nation.

It's too bad that this pithy and appropriate expression was not around back then: "Well, duh!" Yes, that's about all we could all agree on — that things weren't the way they ought to be in America.

As his prescribed cure, however, Jimmy Carter told us that we had to "face the truth," and then just "have faith." We all just needed to try harder and to think happy thoughts. I'm sure as he read his speech-writers' words before delivering this speech, he thought to himself, "Yeah, this will be inspiring! This will help us start a real turn-around!" But so un-inspiring, so depressing, so ridiculously irresponsible was this performance that it became known as Carter's "malaise" speech, even though he didn't actually use the word "malaise." It was like a bad Henny Youngman joke: "Did you see the President's speech last night on the national apathy crisis?" Answer: "Naw, not interested, don't care."

Malaise, of course, was but a symptom; Carter, his party, and their policies were the disease. That much is evident from the one thing that Carter did, amazingly, get right in that speech: "We are at a turning point in our history," he said; "There are two paths [from which] to choose."

And sure enough, Ronald Reagan, bless his soul, rescued us from malaise by brilliantly spotlighting the path to recovery. In November 1980, a year after the hostages were seized, American voters rejected the path to malaise; and that election did begin the national turn-around. Ronald Reagan led; he took action; and he inspired, whereas Carter had just mouthed the words. Our national enemies trembled, flinched, blinked, and retreated — including the mad mullahs who released our hostages simultaneously with his inauguration. And as a direct result of the Reagan Revolution, the America of my adult life has turned out to be very different — and vastly better in almost every important way — than what I had anticipated back in November 1979.


This week, Britain has also suffered a national humiliation at the hands of the Iranians — a humiliation that in many respects is similar to the one inflicted by Iran upon America in 1979-1980. Britain's humiliation, in fact, was supervised by one of those very same "students" who seized the American embassy and hostages in 1979! He, for one, no doubt feels that the glory days of his youth have returned. He has bearded the British lion, yet retains his hand and his fingers.

There are substantial numbers of clear-eyed, clear-thinking British who are as sorrowful and ashamed of their country's standing today as I was of the United States' standing during that earlier hostage crisis. They have my sympathy; I join them in their grief.

But I will not now mock their country, not even for rhetorical purposes intended to illustrate how far their nation's fortunes have fallen. I can't tell you yet — and probably neither can they — who Britannia's next Churchill, Reagan, or Thatcher will be. And neither can I say how far they yet are from dawn, nor whether these events represent the darkest pre-dawn hours. Indeed, I fear that more grim events are ahead for the Brits — just as I fear the incipient Neo-Carterism of the Democratic Party in the U.S. and the possibility that after the 2008 election, they may drive us back to 1979 all over again.

Nevertheless, if there's another nation in the world, besides my own beloved country, that I can admire and revere and respect and, yes, love, then it's the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. The sun has long since set upon their empire, but I deny that there's a never-ending night in store for either them or us. That Mr. Ahmadinejad still has all his fingers, and that the lion may have gone a bit flabby and altogether too reluctant to show its teeth, does not mean that the lion is now and forever after will be toothless.

If there's a message I could send to those British people who are despondent today over their country's national humiliation — if any of them should happen to stumble upon my humble blog across the transatlantic fiber optics of the internet — it's this:

Buck up, cousins. We know that this incident came about despite, rather than because of, your nation's genuine and enduring character. Those of us Yanks who have the wits and the sense to appreciate your sorrow, share it; and we will cheer with you when things turn around, as we know they inevitably will.

Posted by Beldar at 05:51 PM in Global War on Terror | Permalink


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(1) Jinnmabe made the following comment | Apr 6, 2007 8:08:21 PM | Permalink

Well said, sir. As an Anglophile of the first order, I feel exactly as you do. Sad and embarrassed for them, but not with one ounce of desire to mock. I hope they pull through, and not just because it'll be damn lonely without them.

(2) David Blue made the following comment | Apr 7, 2007 1:30:46 AM | Permalink

Well said, Beldar.

(3) DRJ made the following comment | Apr 7, 2007 8:32:45 PM | Permalink

I hope you are correct but I fear the British are as lost to us as the Canadians. Our best ally is and will be Australia.

(4) nk made the following comment | Apr 7, 2007 10:15:46 PM | Permalink

All's well that ends well. When people don't die, it's a good thing. And there's someone who even considers it a victory for the West.

Also, it reminds me of a line from the most macho movie ever made, "Once Upon A Time In The West", which my priest would say is a sin to watch on such a Holy Day.

Cheyenne to Mr. Morton: "I don't have to kill you now, bastard. I know where to find you."

(5) David Blue made the following comment | Apr 8, 2007 3:39:22 AM | Permalink

"Our best ally is and will be Australia."

I've read this before in sundry comments on conservative sites. I strongly disagree.

In the invasion of Iraq, the Americans sent hundreds of thousands, the British sent tens of thousands, we sent thousands, and the Poles sent hundreds. But for Poland it was about two hundred and for us about two thousand, while it was around forty thousand from the United Kingdom.

Who loves ya, baby?

Besides, it's not a competition. The more we stick together, the better it is for all of us.

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