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When Michael Pennington presented the play on the British stage back in the eighties, he let out a huge sigh of relief when Harfleur subsequently capitulated, as if to indicate that these blood-curdling threats had all been a gigantic bluff — a view of the matter born out by his subsequent instructions to his occupying troops as they were about to enter the town to “use mercy to them all” as well as by his subsequent precept given to Fluellen (III.6) “that in our marches through the country there be nothing compelled from the villages, nothing taken but paid for, none of the French upbraided or abused in disdainful language. For when lenity and cruelty play for a kingdom, the gentler gamester is the soonest winner.”
All very admirable, no doubt, and a good motto for our troops in Iraq. Yet there is also an important point made by the idea of the weak being “guilty in defense” against the strong when they have no chance of winning. Although as it turned out the Iraqis could depend on American and British tender-heartedness, it would be a poor rule of warfare that did not recognize the greater probability of one’s enemy’s offering no quarter. After all, it was a British Admiral, John “Jacky” Fisher, who said that “the essence of war is violence; moderation in war is imbecility.” In doing so he was expressing also the philosophy of the American General William T. Sherman.
Thus it would be, to say the least, unwise to take up arms in a hopeless cause in the expectation that one’s enemy will prove imbecilic. Would it also be criminal? Fortunately, it now looks as if we shan’t have to answer that question. The Iraqi people now dancing in the streets really do appear to be innocents. Let’s hope they are content to remain so.
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
The debacle of this president’s administration is both a cause and a symptom of the decline of American values. Unless Congress impeaches him, that decline will go on unchecked. An eminent jurist surveys the damage and assesses the chances for the recovery of our culture.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
The American Christmas, like the songs that celebrate it, makes room for everybody under the rainbow. Is that why so many people seem to be hostile to it?
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?