When France was invaded by Germany in 1940, they (and the British) were crushed in the opening battle and the British (and some French) were forced to evacuate at Dunkirk. In most telling of history after that, it is a brief statement that when the Germans resumed their offensive towards Paris and the rest of France, the French were quickly defeated. There wasn’t much to tell, as it goes – and most histories then concentrate on how the French went about surrendering. But it didn’t really have to be that way.
In the disaster, the French government called Maxime Weygand to command France’s armies – he had been a prime aide to Marshall Foch in the First World War and it was hoped that he had learned something of fighting a successful battle from him. It didn’t work out that way. Weygand, of course, was an experienced commander – an expert, as it were. What he choose to do was to line what remained of the French forces in a continuous line from the coast to Switzerland and issue solemn orders for the men to fight to the finish. This they actually did – the defeat of France was mostly not the fault of the fighting troops (there were panics at some crucial moments, but such things happen in wars even in the best of armies). They were, of course, defeated – because they didn’t fight a battle in the real sense. They just stood where they were and, eventually, Germany’s overwhelming weight of numbers wore them down until they broke.
There was another way to do it, though. Charles De Gaulle, then a brigadier general only recently given command of a new French armored division and then brought into the government as an assistant Minister of War, offered the idea that all of France’s remaining tanks and motorized forces should have been grouped into two large masses and when the Germans broke through the main line, launch counterattacks against any exposed flank the Germans offered. As DeGaulle put it, that would have at least been a battle, rather than a debacle. And if you think about it, it might even has stopped the Germans. It certainly would have made them pay a much higher price for victory…might have changed the whole course of the war. There was a huge debate among the French as to whether to surrender or to move the government to France’s Algerian colony and continue the war from there. The defeatists – among whom a leading light was Weygand – wanted to surrender. De Gaulle wanted to fight. The defeatists won the day…but, in the end, Weygand is merely remembered as the man who quit and then truckled to the Germans while De Gaulle is a towering hero for the ages.
I bring this up because in 2016, we essentially faced that – spread our forces in a thin line and let our opponents grind us down, or concentrate our force in a mass of maneuver and take the fight to them at their vulnerable points. We had our people who wanted to essentially surrender and see if we could use servility to induce our opponents into being nice, and we had other people who wanted to roll the dice and take whatever risks were necessary in the hope that some victory, even if imperfect, resulted. You know how it came out, at least in the short term. The crushing – and, perhaps, permanent – defeat was averted.
I’ve watched on Twitter as the “blue checkmark mafia” went nuts these past few days – first over Trump’s insult to Mika, then over Trump’s tweet about body slamming CNN. I’m serious: they have really lost it. Found one particular Conservative actually asserting he wished Obama were back in office. Do you realize how stupid that would be? We’d now have a permanent liberal majority on the Court. We’d not only have all the regulations Obama put into place in 2016, but a host of additional regulations. Our productive economy would still be getting killed so that cronies of the Democrats could get special advantages. All Executive agencies would continue to be used against Democrat opponents. It just goes on and on like that…but, “wish Obama was back”. Why? Because Trump put out some outrageous tweets?
I’ve checked Trump’s Twitter feed – I don’t follow him because my basic principle on Twitter is to follow no one who is too famous (you can always easily look them up – and when they tweet something interesting, usually a couple hundred people in your feed will retweet it). But, I decided to go through it.
Tweet 1: lauding our armed forces.
Tweet 2: noting the stock market is up.
Tweet 3: a pledge to keep fighting for the American people.
Tweet 4: razzing CNN with that body slam.
Tweet 5: pledging to take care of our veterans.
Tweet 6: pledging to keep using social media to communicate with the people.
Tweet 7: razzing CNN.
Tweet 8 and 9: pointing out that use of social media helped him win in 2016.
Tweet 10: noting a concert in honor of our veterans.
Two out of ten razzing CNN, the rest just talking up various things, including a couple of important issues. But over the last day, it was Tweet 4 which everyone obsessed about. This isn’t a problem with Trump, folks: it is a problem with people who hate him and thus pick out the things they don’t like, and make out like it’s the end of the world. Get a grip, people.
I hate to break it to our experts, but the people Trump insults are, well, worthy of being insulted. I don’t do it. You don’t do it. And that’s fine – but Trump does it, and he’s fully justified in doing so. I’ve been thinking and trying to remember a time when Trump launched the first punch in one of these social media battles, and I can’t recall any. I’m sure there were some, given the nature of things – but I’ll bet the overwhelming bulk is Trump responding. And with Mika and Joe, Trump had a lot to respond to. These were not people making nice-nice and then set upon by an arrogant bully…they were slinging mud fast and furious for months, and then Trump let them have it back for a moment. An argument can be made for Trump to hold fire – but, on the other hand, President Bush (whom I’m still proud to say I supported), didn’t hit back…and he was just as mercilessly raked over the coals. If the only upside for Trump in being polite is that once he’s out of office he’ll be favorably compared to the current GOP leader, then I can see why he’d choose to fight back. And, another thing: a refusal to hit back is often interpreted as a sign of weakness. Bottom line: if you don’t want Trump getting into a social media battle with you, you’re best bet is to not insult him. I don’t see him too often going after anyone who argues policy with him…in fact, I think he’s ok with honest disagreement about the best way forward. Might even want to hear about a different way forward; he doesn’t seem worried about someone else coming up with the best idea (even though he might make it his own and later laud himself on his brilliance in doing what someone else thought up).
Another thing: I don’t see any upside for Conservatism in helping the left to destroy Trump. I’ve been told that it is wrong for me to refuse to criticize Trump on all and sundry – but I still don’t see it. There will be plenty of criticism from the left for Trump’s tweets…the world doesn’t need my input on that. And Conservatism doesn’t need me helping to destroy the only possible vehicle I’ve got at the moment to advance Conservative principles. My view is that if Trump says some outrageous thing, let others talk about it…let’s, instead, talk about policy and how we can convince Trump to advance as much Conservatism as possible. That seems to me to be a far more constructive use of my time and effort.
We’ve got a situation here – we managed to deflect our opponents in 2016. We’ve got a real chance to do things, but we’re also still very much at a strategic disadvantage. It’ll take years – perhaps decades – before we can really shift the balance of power enough in our favor that even a periodic loss of power won’t undo what we’ve accomplished. The Democrats are playing a long game, and so should we. They are expecting to be back in power in the by and by and their job, as they see it (and they are right to see it like this, from their perspective) is to hamstring Trump and the GOP as much as possible. To prevent as much undoing of Progressive policies as possible. To keep as much as they can of what they had on January 19th, 2017. Our job is to press back as much as we can – to start eroding what they did; to take away not just the results of their power, but the things which allowed them to achieve those results (Trump greatly reforming the EPA is one very crucial thing in this – and just one of many important reforms he’s doing). Helping tear down Trump just means the Democrats get back into power faster – and thus can more easily reverse what has been done. Support Trump – get him re-elected in 2020 and try to get Pence in there in 2024, while doing our best to keep GOP control of Congress and the States, is what we need to do..so that slowly, step by step, we can gain the real, long-term power necessary to reform our nation.
The Never Trump people wanted us to line up and be defeated in 2016 – so that we could graciously surrender and hope for the best. Now they are trying to defeat their own side, so they can get around to that gracious surrender Trump robbed them of. I prefer to stick with Trump – holding what power we have and attacking where we can, getting what victories which present themselves. Hoping that we’ll be able to keep our opponents at bay long enough to enact deep, real reform. I prefer, that is, the battle in hope rather than the surrender in hope. Maybe I’m wrong – and maybe even if I’m right it won’t work. But I’d rather be defeated after a battle than after a debacle.