Opinion: On the Prevalence of Nelson

Nelson. He always comes up as the first name, and I don’t think he should. Now, let me say that I am a great admirer of Nelson for the victories he won and for the mindset he carried on (of decisive close combat). ‘Nelson’s Patent Bridge for Boarding First Rates’ is a definitive example of a brilliant mind that adapted to situations in a quick and comprehensive manner. Victories at the Nile, Copenhagen, and Trafalgar are similarly choreographed — any naval lord would have been happy to win them. But it was not anyone who did — it was Horatio Nelson.

And yet that should not blind us to the fact that there were tens of men of similar capacity and capability in the Royal Navy. To name a few Edward Hawke, Richard Howe, John Jervis, George Rodney, James Saurmarez, and Edward Pellew deserve to be ranked in the highest echelons of the serving officers in the late 18th century (and early 19th). If two names were to be picked from the above, then Nelson should be placed in context alongside Richard Howe and John Jervis. Theirs were, after all, the previous victories for Great Britain. Nelson’s victories may have been ‘greater’, but it should also be kept in mind that the Glorious First of June was the greatest victory in nearly a century. Cape St Vincent outdid that in a matter of years. The Nile followed after, and Trafalgar only after that. It was a succession of victories.

It is indeed the type of men that Horatio Nelson served with that allowed his personality to grow into the fighter he became. Thereby, the laurels he won also reflect on the men he served with, and that — if nothing else — is the reason why we should keep those names in mind.

The other angle that the subject is worth looking at is knowing general history. It might be argued that it is best if we know some basics and that Nelson is part of these basics. Though in theory it would be worth agreeing with such an argument, I could also liken it to saying that it is enough to know the Sun exists alongside the Earth. A comparison too extreme? Perhaps. My point is that all knowledge is worthwhile, and to pretend in our daily discourse (which does ever so often touch upon the history of Britain where two names crop up — Nelson and Wellington: and I disagree with both, but the story of Wellington I shall leave for a different time) that they were there alone, giants of men, commanders of legions, is wrong.

Nelson and his achievements are a follow-on to the morale of the sailors from the increased rations & salaries agreed to by Lord Howe, and the victories won in the beginning of the war. Every step builds upon the previous, and we should strain ourselves to realise that it was only a man who died in 1805. He was an admiral and, indeed, a very fine admiral, but his work was carried on as successfully by his colleagues who continued to sail the oceans.

The next time one thinks of Nelson, let that thought be supported by the campaigns and blockades of France enforced by John Jervis, or the Indian Ocean campaigns won by Edward Pellew, or something else entirely. Let us think in systems, for our histories are the product of systems. Nelson is a thought, a single solitary thought. The Royal Navy fighting for twenty years against the French and Spanish is a system. Nelson is a branch in that system, one of many branches. The laurels might well rest on some of the other ones every now and then, for the other heads also deserve them.

Opinion: On Syria & Interventions

The topic at hand these days is Syria, and whether the West should intervene. Given that nearly everyone in the West has already said what they think of these matters, I thought it only proper to describe my own as well. I have tried to base mine on logical reason and thought, which is to say that I have aimed to steer away from using emotions as a guideline on how to act in an instance like this.

My basic claim is that the West (or, at the very least, Europe) should not interfere in the Syrian civil war.

The question of chemical weaponry use in the past (and, potentially, in the future) is irrelevant in a more than a few ways — firstly, the West has used more destructive ammunition against both civilians and military personnel compared to any other denomination of countries. Thereby, a moral justification would first imply the complete renouncement of our own past actions which no political leader has suggested.

Secondly, chemical warfare is separated from ‘normal’/regular warfare by the simple fact that the bullet has been replaced by a gas. For either side, therefore the conflict did not change with the use of chemical weaponry since people died before and will die until the conflict is brought to a resolution. It is artificial to now say that “country’s own citizens are sacrosanct, and we will ensure military protection against further onslaught” when two years have gone by only with the mutterings of  “stop, please, it is not supposed to go like this”.

Now, I’ll come back to the original point and mention that it is not even confirmed that chemical weapons were used. Mind, I think it more likely that they were used — around a ratio of 80-20 for the weapons having been in use. Overall, this is a point that is far easier to determine than the next one while both are incredibly relevant in this matter. Namely, the question of who was the side to use the chemical weaponry.

The convention at present seems to be that the Syrian government ordered a chemical attack against its citizens. Unfortunately, without seeing the “proof” that the US intelligence agencies claim to have, logical reasoning would presuppose that given the following statement, ‘the Syrian government is in a conflict that it is slowly winning against an opposition that is varied in nature’ is true, the conclusion based on that statement would be ‘the Syrian government has nothing to gain by implementing methods that anger the West’.

Thereby, the logical answer to the question ‘Who gains from the apparent use of chemical weaponry in Syria?’ would be ‘the opposition to the Government’.

The opposition has the most to gain through framing the Government as if they had used chemical weaponry. The standpoint that the West would take could easily define the rest of the war as an aerial mop-up of Syrian forces while the opposition expands its power-base through the rest of the country.

Additionally, it is necessary to note that any benefit to the opposition that comes through Western use of force will be inherently against the interests of the West by way of the opposition consisting of a variety of different parties, some of whom are declared Islamist fanatics and al-Qaida allies.

From a Western point of view, I am of the opinion that if the present UK Government declares war on Syria, it will find itself in a far more difficult position for re-election — an important matter for the ruling Coalition. Likewise, a necessary point to consider is that none of the Western governments have considered the provision of military equipment (missiles, plane fuel at mission levels, etc) in their present budgets, implying that war would increase borrowing and lead to further cuts, increased borrowing, or raised taxes.

Any consideration of realpolitik would, therefore, quickly determine that even if there were justifiable moral reasons to support the side which chemical weaponry were used against, there can be no justification for supporting the opposition. There is no need or reason, however, to support Mr Assad’s Government.

In conclusion, therefore, it is apparent that the West should not intervene in the conflict in Syria and has more to lose from intervention than from not the opposite.

What Have I Been Reading?

Since it has been a long time from my last post (more or less two months) — not including the one from yesterday — I thought it might be prudent to give a short overview of what I’ve read up to this point.

‘Artemis Fowl’ was the last book I seem to have commented on here. Naturally, after reading Eoin Colfer’s work, I have taken up quite a few new ones as well as a number of ones I knew from the past. I have tried to write them out in a list so that there would be an overview somewhere, and here you go.

New Books:

  • ‘1Q84: Part 3’, Haruki Murakami
  • ‘The Client’, John Grisham
  • ‘Arctic Drift’, Clive Cussler
  • ‘Tarnished Knight’, Jack Campbell
  • ‘Guardian’, Jack Campbell
  • ‘Black Wind’, Clive Cussler
  • ‘Captain Vancouver’, E.C. Coleman
  • ‘The Glorious First of June’, Sam Willis
  • ‘Starter for Ten’, David Nicholls
  • ‘Diamond Queen’, Andrew Marr

I probably have a number of things to say about the majority of these books, and I will do my best to get round them (or the memorable ones at least) at some point in the near future.

What I have also been reading though are the old books, the ones I was supposedly familiar with. These are the ones I have revisited since March:

  • The Empire trilogy by Raymond Feist and Janny Wurts
  • ‘The Hobbit’, J.R.R. Tolkien
  • ‘One Day’, David Nicholls
  • ‘The Madman’, Kahlil Gibran [And I know I am not consistent with the spelling of his name.]
  • ‘Siddhartha’, Hermann Hesse
  • ‘Into the Black’ series by E. Currie

And I am of a mind that some of these deserve a look into as well. It always does astound me how ‘The Hobbit’ changes when I read it again… but I hope to get back to that in the not too distant future.

I’ll do my best to comment on these books I’ve mentioned, but I am sure some will be left out. I would only hope that the better ones will be the ones included.

Until that time, then…