The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

The New Crimean War

Posted on | March 1, 2014 | 39 Comments

The latest headlines via Memeorandum:

Putin’s War in Crimea Could Soon
Spread to Eastern Ukraine

The New Republic

Condemnation isn’t enough for
Russian actions in Crimea

Washington Post

Explainer: The Budapest Memorandum
And Its Relevance To Crimea

Radio Free Europe

Russia wresting control of Crimea from Ukraine

Russian ‘invasion’ of Crimea
fuels fear of Ukraine conflict


What caused this? What happens next? Is there anything that the U.S. could have done to prevent it? Such are the questions being asked today, but my mind — steeped in history — turns back to the Crimean War of 1853-56. It was during this conflict that the French army used rifles firing the minié ball which, when employed on the battlefields of the American Civil War, did so much to lengthen the casualty rolls and, ultimately, prolong the conflict. Rifled musketry increased the advantage to defenders, often allowing troops holding earthwork trenches to inflict casualties at a ratio of 3-to-1, 4-to-1 or even more. At Fredericksburg, Virginia, in December 1863, Burnside sent seven Union divisions to assault Longstreet’s line on Marye’s Height, resulting in more than 6,000 Union casualties compared to only 1,200 for the Confederate defenders. In Grant’s main assault on Lee’s position at Cold Harbor, Virginia, on June 3, 1864, the Union losses were as high as 7,000, while the Confederates suffered just 1,500 casualties.

Military history isn’t much studied anymore. Maybe I’m the only person whose mental processes automatically connect “Crimea” + “minié ball” and thence to Cold Harbor. Probably more people — not many, but more — will remember that it was during the Crimean War that Florence Nightingale gained fame as the “ministering angel” of the battlefield.

War was once regarded as a romantic endeavor. It was not until the 20th century, after the horrors of two World Wars, that sane men cured themselves of the romantic view, but there are still madmen in the world. Unless they are deterred by credible military opposition, we shall likely see more “romantic” death from these madmen.



39 Responses to “The New Crimean War”

  1. richard mcenroe
    March 1st, 2014 @ 6:19 pm

    Too many wars have begun because neither side believes the other will take it all the way. The others start when someone like Putin is SURE someone like Neville Obama won’t take it all the way.

  2. Bob Belvedere
    March 1st, 2014 @ 6:20 pm

    Dead Solid Perfect, Stacy.

    The present situation seems to contain elements from the build-ups to both WWI and WWII. As History never repeats exactly, this is not surprising. There may well be other elements from other conflicts that will fit in the present mix.

    And this is why the studies of Military, Political, and Cultural Histories must be carried-out. For the security of the nation, we must understand the thinking, past and present, of our enemies* and and, yes, allies.

    *The book to read on Russian Culture is
    The Icon And The Axe by James

  3. Bob Belvedere
    March 1st, 2014 @ 6:23 pm

    Add to thank, Richard, that Leftists who are in ‘Obama’s’ position often feel compelled to take it all the way because they, at some point, end up feeling they have to prove that they are not the weaklings they really are deep down.

    And then they fight wars without honor, happily engaging in cruelties and brutalities, because, of course, being Leftists, they have no Morality.

  4. Mike G.
    March 1st, 2014 @ 6:24 pm

    Great minds think alike. Earlier today, my wife and I were discussing this and I remarked…”Obama, the Neville Chamberlain of our time.”

  5. ThomasD
    March 1st, 2014 @ 6:35 pm

    Neville Obama will not take this standing up, except perhaps from the tee box.

    Neither with the western Europeans.

    If/when the shooting starts Ukraine will be bloodily reunited under the Russian banner.

    The only ‘positive’ of the whole sad affair will be that the other former Soviet bloc states (Poland, etc.) will get an abject lesson in the need for self reliance, and the utter worthlessness of the Euroweenies..

  6. Bob Belvedere
    March 1st, 2014 @ 6:42 pm

    Winston Churchill on 05 October 1938:

    All is over. Silent, mournful, abandoned, broken, Czechoslovakia recedes into the darkness. She has suffered in every respect by her association with the Western democracies and with the League of Nations, of which she has always been an obedient servant. She has suffered in particular from her association with France, under whose uidance and policy she has been actuated for so long. The very measures taken by His Majesty’s Government in the Anglo-French Agreement to give her the best chance possible, namely, the 50 per cent, clean cut in certain districts instead of a plebiscite, have turned to her detriment, because there is to be a plebiscite too in wide areas, and those other Powers who had claims have also come down upon the helpless victim.

    Sing with me! – Seems like ooold times…

  7. rustypaladin
    March 1st, 2014 @ 6:48 pm

    “Maybe I’m the only person whose mental processes automatically connect “Crimea” + “minié ball” and thence to Cold Harbor.”

    My first thought was of “The Charge of the Light Brigade” but I don’t think any of the powers that be even have the balls to get anybody in position to reenact that military debacle.

    Putin is taking what he wants because he knows nobody will bother to stop him. What should worry us is after this next presidential election he may wind up with a “Poland” moment when he oversteps himself.

  8. Shawny
    March 1st, 2014 @ 7:10 pm

    Yep, no honor, no morality, no loyalty and no balls. That would be our pathetic failure of a commander in chief.

  9. Adjoran
    March 1st, 2014 @ 7:14 pm

    We were never going to intervene militarily. But when we were strong and respected, even feared, despots like Putin were less likely to invite our ire. With President Sissyboy McStompypants, we project only weakness and vacillation, and the bad actors are encouraged by the lack of a strong American presence in the world.

    1055 days to go.


    In an unrelated (maybe) outrage, the new movie “Non Stop” features a terrorist trying to murder everyone on a plane. He’s a United States serviceman who lost family on 9/11 in the World Trade Center. Yes, an American military 9/11 family member is the bad guy. A muslim doctor is a good guy.

    Be sure to tell everyone you know, so no one buys tickets to this abomination without knowing.

  10. Adjoran
    March 1st, 2014 @ 7:17 pm

    That is unfair to Chamberlain. He was at least trying to rebuild the British military at the time and saw himself as buying time for that. He was mistaken. Obama doesn’t care, he sees American weakness as a feature, not a bug.

  11. ThomasD
    March 1st, 2014 @ 7:46 pm

    The difference today is Europe has gone far too soft, they are not willing to do without Russia’s natural gas, much less endure the sacrifices of re-militarization.

    Plus nukes (which also greatly explains the former points.)

    Absent the nukes there would be a major land war in Europe.

  12. ThomasD
    March 1st, 2014 @ 8:09 pm

    Depends on the Ukrainians. Are they ready to give up what they fought so hard for in the Maidan?

    The bloody angle of Spotsylvania comes to mind.

    Went there once, it is a shockingly small place.

  13. ThomasD
    March 1st, 2014 @ 8:11 pm

    New version of an old (lefty) theme – the twisted Viet Nam vet.

    Inevitable as the sunrise.

  14. richard mcenroe
    March 1st, 2014 @ 8:26 pm

    Ya just saved me and the feeyancy about forty bucks. Thanks. And so much for Liam Neeson.

  15. Dana
    March 1st, 2014 @ 8:40 pm

    Half a league, half a league,
    Half a league onward,
    All in the valley of Death
    Rode the six hundred.
    “Forward, the Light Brigade!
    Charge for the guns!” he said.
    Into the valley of Death
    Rode the six hundred.

    “Forward, the Light Brigade!”
    Was there a man dismayed?
    Not though the soldier knew
    Someone had blundered.
    Theirs not to make reply,
    Theirs not to reason why,
    Theirs but to do and die.
    Into the valley of Death
    Rode the six hundred.

    Cannon to right of them,
    Cannon to left of them,
    Cannon in front of them
    Volleyed and thundered;
    Stormed at with shot and shell,
    Boldly they rode and well,
    Into the jaws of Death,
    Into the mouth of hell
    Rode the six hundred.

    Flashed all their sabres bare,
    Flashed as they turned in air
    Sabring the gunners there,
    Charging an army, while
    All the world wondered.
    Plunged in the battery-smoke
    Right through the line they broke;
    Cossack and Russian
    Reeled from the sabre stroke
    Shattered and sundered.
    Then they rode back, but not
    Not the six hundred.

    Cannon to right of them,
    Cannon to left of them,
    Cannon behind them
    Volleyed and thundered;
    Stormed at with shot and shell,
    While horse and hero fell.
    They that had fought so well
    Came through the jaws of Death,
    Back from the mouth of hell,
    All that was left of them,
    Left of six hundred.

    When can their glory fade?
    O the wild charge they made!
    All the world wondered.
    Honour the charge they made!
    Honour the Light Brigade,
    Noble six hundred!

  16. Guest
    March 1st, 2014 @ 9:19 pm

    And let’s not forget that essentially it was the result of the islamic theft of the Holy Land. And the “Charge of the Light Brigade” took place on the same peninsula. Those “cannons to the right and left” were Russian. History repeats itself.

  17. StrangernFiction
    March 1st, 2014 @ 9:26 pm

    Comparing Obama to Chamberlain is ridiculous. Obama is much more like Hitler than Chamberlain.

  18. StrangernFiction
    March 1st, 2014 @ 9:27 pm

    Very unfair.

  19. DaveO
    March 1st, 2014 @ 9:34 pm

    If Putin is smart, this little war will be a dress rehearsal and we will watch very closely because the Russian Army has improved the quality of its kit, its training, and has enough sea and air forces to keep the logistics flowing. Hagel is not mentally equipped to handle the complexity of sustained violence. All of this adventurism will cost Russia money, and Putin does not want to pay for the Ukraine’s poor and needy – just ensure it is lockstep with Russia in it’s economic sphere – and will withdraw most forces before winter. In the meantime, Obama is looking like Putin’s b*tch and it is very obvious. I image Europe will start putting money in the GOP’s coffers rather soon.

  20. WarEagle82
    March 1st, 2014 @ 10:02 pm

    I was afraid this would happen. I have asked more than once if anyone really believed that Germans and French and Englishmen would risk war on behalf of Ukraine.

    They weren’t willing to do so nearly 80 years ago when it came to Czechoslovakia and we all know how that ended up.

    The Ukrainians fought Russian “liberators” well into the 1950s after the Nazis were expelled from Soviet territory. Perhaps Putin has forgotten this historical detail. If he somehow believes military action against Ukraine will be brief and painless, then he should ask Sarah Palin to give him a brief history lesson.

    We all know that Obama and Biden got their foreign affairs credentials from ACME Corp. so we can only expect moronic, ineffective bumbling from that pair. They manage to make Wile E Coyote look like a genius.

  21. WarEagle82
    March 1st, 2014 @ 10:11 pm

    If Putin is smart, he won’t start something that could possibly destabilize all of Eastern and Central Europe.

    No doubt, Russia could deal a sharp blow to Ukraine. But, the Ukrainians fought a protracted partisan war against their Russian “liberators” that lasted well into the 1950s.

    Wars are easier to start than end.

  22. Linda
    March 1st, 2014 @ 10:32 pm

    Great post. Why is ‘peace thru strength’ so hard for the left to understand? My husband is also steeped in history and offers a minor correction: Fredericksburg was Dec 1862 not 1863. How he knows these things off the top of his head I will never understand.

  23. richard mcenroe
    March 1st, 2014 @ 10:47 pm

  24. richard mcenroe
    March 1st, 2014 @ 10:49 pm

    People like Putin never believe they will lose control.

  25. Bob Belvedere
    March 2nd, 2014 @ 12:29 am

    The fictional character known as ‘Barack Hussein Obama’ certainly is engorged with the Spirit Of Appeasement.

  26. Bob Belvedere
    March 2nd, 2014 @ 12:32 am

    The Viking Spirit endures in the hearts of the Ukrainians.

  27. Matt_SE
    March 2nd, 2014 @ 4:33 am

    Waitaminute…did this “Tennyson” guy rip that off of the excellent Iron Maiden song?

  28. Matt_SE
    March 2nd, 2014 @ 4:37 am

    Another unfair aspect, as pointed out by someone at NRO, maybe:
    Chamberlain was operating from a position of profound weakness vs. Hitler.
    Obama is the president of the world’s only superpower.

  29. Matt_SE
    March 2nd, 2014 @ 4:51 am

    I know there’s been a lot of wailing, gnashing of teeth and pulling of hair about this, but I still have a contrarian opinion:

    Ukraine is broke. Someone will have to bail it out. Putin doesn’t want to do that, and would like to sucker the west into it. He can’t invade and get the bailout…nobody is going to bail out an occupied country.

    So far, the “invasion” has consisted of Russian troops touring the Crimean peninsula. In concert, pro-Russian militia (?) have taken the city halls/airports of several cities. This, in a region that is historically very pro-Russian (and ethnically Russian to a great extent, too). Ukraine wasn’t going to invade Crimea; the Russians are defending against no one.

    That the Ukrainian government calls this an invasion doesn’t make it so. They have a self-interest in drumming up support.

    I think Putin is rattling his sabre in order to heighten tensions. This is accompanied by small-scale threatening moves. He’s trying to increase the urgency of western involvement, though he’s planning on that being financial.

    I admit, this is all theory. If Russian troops start moving inland, past the point of majority Russian ethnicity/support and especially towards Kiev, then I’d admit this was an invasion.

  30. Dana
    March 2nd, 2014 @ 11:26 am

    Not sure about Iron Maiden — since I don’t know to which song your have referred — but perhaps Jimmy Buffett: Fins to the left, fins to the right . . .

  31. Quartermaster
    March 2nd, 2014 @ 11:49 am

    Zer0 will do nothing except rave, as he usually does. In this case there is little we can do. There was little we could have done at our peak because of the logistical problem of supporting even a brigade combat team there.

    OTOH, so much for the reset.

    The Soviet March from Command and Conquer fits here. Here’s the version with the lyrics. Pay particular attention to the last line of the refrain.

  32. Quartermaster
    March 2nd, 2014 @ 11:54 am

  33. WarEagle82
    March 2nd, 2014 @ 1:25 pm

    What portions of international law regarding territorial sovereignty are confusing to you? “Russian troops” are NOT “touring the Crimean peninsula.” Russian forces have left their bases and occupied large portions of the territory that the world recognizes as the sovereign territory of the Ukraine.

    The presence of large numbers of ethnic Russians do not change this issue.

    If it did, the you just gave Mexico the right to invade and occupy any part of the United States they might want to. And scores of other nations might make the same claims on their neighbors. And this is exactly what Hitler claimed when he sent his Wehrmacht “touring” in Czechoslovakia. I for one am not eager to watch Vlad Putin drag the world into another disastrous adventure in Eastern Europe.

    Do you host a show on “RT” or something?

  34. Dana
    March 2nd, 2014 @ 1:55 pm
  35. Dana
    March 2nd, 2014 @ 2:02 pm

    Matt offers silliness:

    Ukraine wasn’t going to invade Crimea; the Russians are defending against no one.

    [laughing out loud] Ukraine didn’t have to invade the Crimea; it was already their territory!

    I admit, this is all theory. If Russian troops start moving inland, past the point of majority Russian ethnicity/support and especially towards Kiev, then I’d admit this was an invasion.

    There was another government leader who once said something like that, concerning the ethnic Germans who lived in the Sudetenland.

  36. Cube
    March 2nd, 2014 @ 2:24 pm

    What makes you think any European leaders would even consider using their own nuclear weapons or allow them to be used on their territory by others? It is difficult to imagine any circumstance, including their own survival where the Europeans would have the nerve to use conventional forms of violence in their own defense, let alone invoke the specter of mushroom clouds. Surrender is much easier and far more familiar.

  37. Cube
    March 2nd, 2014 @ 2:45 pm

    The Left has little experience with strength and even less of it being used for good. They are more used to surrender or tyranny.

  38. Russia’s “Uncontested Arrival” in Ukraine’s Crimea Region and Weekend Links
    March 2nd, 2014 @ 3:29 pm

    […] Other McCain has many good blog posts up including this one by Stacy on “The New Crimean […]

  39. ThomasD
    March 3rd, 2014 @ 4:54 pm

    Nothing ‘makes me think any European leaders would even consider using their own nuclear weapons.’

    And nothing I said implies anything of the sort.

    What I said is that the existence of nuclear weapons makes any serious conflict unlikely. In the minds of western Europeans – leaders or otherwise – the Ukraine, and the people there in, are weak beer. Whereas for Russia a southern zone of control that extends to the Black Sea is an existential necessity.

    A necessity Europe recognizes. Conventional war therefore risking a nuclear response Europe will not go to war – in any form- over Ukraine.