Short Blade or Long
Meditations on Ukraine, Patton, and the Alamo.
Guest Column by William E. Becker
The two little birds buzzing around my head are: what are the Russkies gonna do and what is Merrick Garland gonna do? Those are the only two questions worth considering at this moment.
I’m reminded of a moment in Patton. His Third Army is headed for Berlin and the heart of the Reich with the greatest malevolent intent Patton could muster, which was a lot. Then on a valley ridge the American column encountered the Nazi tanks, just as the good guys were running out of gas. So they fought it out all night and into the morning, coming down to hand-to-hand combat in the end. Brutal, devastating, definitive, great courage in the face of murderous depravity by everyone—which is the situation in kill-or-be-killed situations. You don’t know if you'll live or die, but you will kill everyone that is a threat, without hesitation.
Then Patton realized that he had the right weaponry at the right place at the right time to plunge a dagger into the heart of the Nazis. However, he was also well aware that this was a transient moment. And, unfortunately, the moment passed without the elements necessary to strike and take advantage of a prime opportunity to short-circuit the looming bloody ending.
If LB and Lou Neu were correct and at least reasonably accurate in their 2017 piece, then we can assume the gangsters are directing this war through Putin. And, if he fails, another may replace him with the same malevolent intent: Murder Ukraine. There's really no other way to express what the Russians are trying to do: MURDER UKRAINE. Ukraine, a valiant stand-in for all democracies in the world.
I’m reminded of another moment in the seemingly eternal human conflict between dictatorships of every nature and the predilection of the predatory universe we live within. That moment was 186 years ago in Gonzales, Texas, east of San Antonio, not far from my house. There, some 32 volunteers from the Gonzales and the DeWitt colonies were separating from their families, fathers replacing some sons who wanted to go but were told, “You take care of the family now,” and the sobbing and anguish of a permanent departure as the men galloped to meet their destinies—never to return except as memories such as this. They rode hard through the night and in the early morning hours, three days before the final battle, they literally fought their way into the Alamo. Fought to buy a total of 13 precious days for Sam Houston’s small army to mount a counter-attack—which they would do so 46 days later, at San Jacinto.
The sacrifice of the Alamo set up the victory, but it was two teenagers, 16 and 18, that would preserve the valor of the Alamo for all time. Their story, recounted in their own words years later in The Quarterly of the Texas State Historical Association, is one of the more definitive first-person accounts of the actual capture of Santa Anna, after the Mexican general had initially escaped the battle scene. The younger boy wanted to shoot the prisoner, but the other insisted on taking him back to Gen. Sam. Others would claim to have captured him or helped. However it happened, having Santa Anna in person allowed the Texas forces to get him to sign the Treaties of Velasco, which led to the recognition of Texas as a nation by world powers, and eventually the United States. Without that recognition, the future of Texas would have been in doubt and the role of the Alamo would have been greatly diminished.
Mexico kept attacking Texas over the next nine years, up to and near San Antonio in the Battle of Salado Creek, some 80 miles from where I sit. On March 6, near the 150th anniversary of the Alamo, I woke up long before daylight at the ranch in Smithwick and walked up on a plateau north of our house. I sat there in the chilly pre-dawn hours. A fresh norther was blowing just like that final morning in 1836. I remained still as a rock until the sun rose, a silent, motionless vigil to another time and place without which I would not exist. That time and place has always affected me deeply. I always empathize with those making their final stands against tyranny. Always.
Today, we are approaching another moment where the forces of dictatorship and death are attacking a democracy. Should we join the fight? What would allowing the war to continue buy us in real world terms? The common screech, the ballyhooed fear, is full nuclear war.
Have the gangsters suddenly decided they have stolen enough and produced enough human misery that they can retire from the world? I don’t think so. Are they dumb enough to kill the goose that laid the golden egg—that is, Western civilization? That would be profoundly stupid, considering their business. The mob took over Russia to expand their business, not kill it forever. Of course, if it came down to their deaths and the world, who knows?
Personally, I think there is more bluff and bluster to the nuclear threat that Putin has stated and repeated. To me, it is a mark of desperation. The vast stolen rubles from the Russian economy have flowed into Western real estate, investments, hidden off-shore LLCs and luxury goods, not into Russia’s internal nuclear system. Yes, they have nuclear submarines, probably their most dangerous element, and tactical nuclear weapons for the battlefield, but I wouldn’t have much confidence in their other capacity. I think that, being gangsters, they’re trying to get away with what they can: corralling Belarus as a partner and securing parts of Ukraine in the most destructive manner possible. And I expect they want more, maybe now, maybe later. If the gangsters follow their regular M.O., they won’t stop until someone stops them. Sooner or later we must fight them; we must attack and counter their expansionism. They are already well established in the U.S.; that must be stopped, too, for the successful conclusion that would release us from their mad grasp.
That brings us to the President and the Attorney General. My best-case scenario is that Garland is waiting to pull out the whole range of Russian influence—most of it all at once, something that encompasses hundreds of people, maybe well over a thousand. The seditious conspiracy conviction of the insurrectionist Oath Keeper six days ago was a big, big step that opens the door for such speculation. I think that this extends to an international level as well. President Biden has been extremely legal-minded in his language leading up to these moments, as opposed to being incendiary or abusive. There is a legal edge to most everything we’re doing, which to me does not exclude direct action in Ukraine. One element is about taking prisoner every gangster leader and the Russians who abetted their plans and actions, and putting them on trial, here and in The Hague.
So, to me, for the last several days, I’ve had the feeling that Biden et. al are just waiting for a good place and the propitious moment to ram the dagger home—to kill them in their tracks. As a hunter, I will tell you that you can shoot a skunk in the right place in the neck and sever its spine, and it won’t spray. This is like that. There’s always a way if you can find the right situation and moment to execute it. I think this applies more to Biden, a little less to Garland.
We haven’t been investing those billions of dollars in the Defense Department and Pentagon for nothing. We have invested so many times more than the Russians—hell’s bells, we’ve probably had more stolen by defense contractors every couple of years than the whole Russian GNP. That much. It’s coming to the moment to use it. If it doesn’t work, we’re doomed anyway.
Although where I’m from, you know we’ll fight to the last person.
Remember the Alamo.
William E. Becker is a Native philosopher currently retired in his native central Texas.
Photo credit: Bypassers. The Alamo.