Friday, January 27, 2006

Stand and Fight!

According to Pulitzer Prize-winning historian David Hackett Fischer in his wonderful Washington's Crossing, the battle of Trenton and the battle of Princeton a few days later weren't only great symbolic victories for the Americans.

Both battles, and the less famous second battle for Trenton between them, when the British retook the town, at heavy cost, only to have Washington's army slip away in the night to go on to take Princeton, did have important symbolic value to the Cause. They gave Washington's men confidence, convinced them that they could stand up to the British, and inspired most of those whose enlistments were up to stay on and fight. And they rallied the country. 1776 had been a hard year and spirits were flagging. But after Trenton and Princeton there was a renewed sense of hope, and thousands of men rushed to join the Army and many citizens who were torn between their loyalty to the cause of Independence and their sense of self-preservation---why sacrifice yourself to a hopeless task?---became wholehearted Patriots.

But, says Fischer, the battles and the quasi-guerrilla war that followed, which he calls the Forage War and which raged up and down and back and forth across New Jersey all the rest of the winter, had a military significance that went beyond the questions of how many troops were lost on either side and who held what ground when the day was done.

Fischer makes the case that the Forage War broke the confidence of the British army and from that point on the Revolution was pretty much a done deal.

The British commanders hadn't had any respect for the Americans as soldiers. It was always a shock to them when the Rebels stood and fought. They were certain that if they could corner Washington's army and fight it on open ground in a real battle, they could destroy it and the Revolution at once. They were probably right, but after Trenton and Princeton and the Forage War, it began to dawn on them that Washington was never going to give them that chance.

From here on out, Washington would decide when, where, and how the war would be fought. From here on out, although it might look otherwise at times, the Americans were on the offensive and the British were fighting a defensive war.

The Americans would always be outnumbered, always outgunned, out-supplied, out-trained, sometimes outmaneuvered, and occasionally outfought---but they could not be beaten and not outshot. The Americans were deadly in their aim and they knew to pick off officers first. No matter what sort of whupping you gave them today, they would be back again tomorrow. Every "victory" would come at a heavy price.

Many of the best British officers decided that they would never win the war. British politicians, on both sides of the question---there was significant support for the American cause, at least as a fight for the rights owed British citizens if not as a fight for complete Independence, all over England---decided the same thing. From then on, only King George had his heart in the fight. For the rest of the war the British army was often fighting to keep from admitting they were losing.

You might have gotten ahead of me here and decided I'm working my way to a point about the war in Iraq. I don't blame you. There is one to make. The lesson of Vietnam was that we had forgotten the lesson we taught the British, and the lesson of Iraq is becoming that we forgot the lesson we learned in Vietnam about the lesson we taught the British.

But I'm actually thinking about the upcoming fight against Smiling Sammy Alito.

John Kerry and Ted Kennedy are at work trying to rally the troops to a filibuster.

The Democrats are going to lose it. We know that going in. If they filibuster, the Republicans will break their own rules, throw out the compromise, and get rid of the filibuster.

Lindsay Graham, one of the Republican architects of the "compromise" has already admitted that the Democrats were hornswaggled. The Democrats who "negotiated" the "compromise" left it to the Republicans to decide when it was ok for the Democrats to fillibuster. There is no situation short of the President's nominating someone to the federal bench who shows up at his confirmation hearings in a pointy hood and bedsheet that the Republicans will grant is extreme enough to warrant a filibuster.

The first time the Democrats try to fillibuster a Bush nominee will be the last.


Because we don't want them to be able to use it to stop President Hillary's judicial nominees.

The fight must cost them.

And if managed well it will cost them more than the filibuster later on. It will cost them now.

It will be fun to see Bill Frist's head exploding on national television.

It will be fun to see the Republicans set back on their heels by the shock of seeing the Democrats actually stand and fight.

It will be fun to see Bush spending political capital he doesn't have to get his man in and fun to see them try to spin a purely partisan win on the numbers as some kind of larger victory.

It will be fun to see a "popular" President have to prove he is, which he can't.

It will be fun to watch the few remaining Republicans with consciences squirm.

It will be fun to watch the few remaining Republican pragmatists have to decide whether or not the filibuster is worth saving for they will need it.

It will be fun, and inspiring, to see Democrats stand and fight.

A lot of us have a sense that the Democrats in Congress have decided that it's not worth fighting any battles they can't win. That's the definition of surrender, though, isn't it? Discretion is the better part of valor is not a rallying cry.

They seem resigned to waiting hopefully for the next election and keeping their fingers crossed while Patrick Fitzgerald and Ronnie Earle and the prosecutors in the Abramoff Affair---The Case of the Utterly Corrupt Republicans as it should be called---do any fighting that needs to be done.

They've been resigned to fighting a defensive war.

For a moment last fall, when Harry Reid shut down the Senate, the Republicans were thrown on the defensive, shocked by the sight of Democrats fighting back.

It's time to shock them again.

If the Democrats want to win elections this fall they need to rally the citizenry. They need to convince us they can fight.

Harry Reid wants to fight, but I think he doubts the troops are behind him. Call and write your Senators and tell them what you want them to do.

"Stand and fight!"

The battle cry's being raised everywhere on the web, but this morning I happened to read it again in this post by Leah and this one by Lambert, both at Corrente; and as always I got to where I needed to get---in this case Dave Johnson's postings of Kerry's and Kennedy's battle cries at Seeing the Forest---by following the links provided by Avedon Carol.


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