If we set aside the pretense that this – thing – is an election, and look at it as it is better understood – as a military engagement – then it goes from intolerably dull, to rather fascinating.
Hilary Clinton is not a great general, but a very good one – perhaps as good as Robert E. Lee in his generalship, and he was nearly great. Donald Trump has fought and lost an epic battle by reason of his own flaws in generalship.
The election resembles the Battle of Cannae to me. Clinton set out a strategy, organized the operational progress, and drilled the tactical skills of her army to such a degree that they executed their operations flawlessly and effortlessly. Her operations resembled Hannibal’s plan in the ambush at Lake Trasimene – not inherently brilliant, but astonishingly effective.
We Americans have become simpletons in understanding military matters. We imagine all struggles to be that of two sole gladiators, not of armies. It is the reason we frequently misunderstand what is going on. It is the reason that the USSR fell to the surprise of the United States and its CIA. That utterly baffled our intelligence divisions, because we could not appreciate strategic organization and its collapse. In World War II, the difference between the Nazis and the Fascists did not hinge on subtleties of Hitler’s personality or Mussolini’s – it was the function of the organizations which they commanded.
Her victory – and I am calling this election as a fait accompli – was a work of Jomini, or perhaps a demonstration of what McClellan might have been like, had he a lick of initiative or balls. Hilary managed a precisely structured machine that was effectively used. The media campaign and destruction of the GOP/Trump machine was flawless. This machine has been built for eight years on the wreckage of her ignominious loss to Obama, where she lost from the character flaw of arrogance, and perhaps too much reliance on Bill Clinton. I suspect that she respects his insight a little too much. I think she learned to keep her own counsel; and this is promising about her capacity to become President. But her machine has been continuously tuned since 2008, and it performed flawlessly.
Remember, the Hilary Clinton Machine is not the sort of thing that we pretend that “political organizations” are. It is much closer to the darkness of Nixon than to the happy-horseshit chatter in the civics class. That is fairy-tale politics, as phony as the pretense that the televised “debates” were debates. The strain on one’s credulity to even half-heartedly take that assertion seriously causes the critical minds of the rest of the world to boggle in trying to comprehend American elections.
Her career over the last eight years has shown embarrassing sloppiness, such as the e-mails and the failure to firewall her involvement in the Clinton Foundation. Those are problems of poor PR, not of character flaws; I do not think there is much to be said for her character, as it all is eclipsed by ambition.
The Battle of Chickamauga in the US Civil War contained an isolated and singular f*ckup by Union General Rosecrans. He moved his troops inexcusably, so as to create a horrific gap in the Union lines, which were torn apart. Trump is that bad a general, as Rosecrans. His conduct of the campaign reminds me of the actions of Guy of Lusignan and his the idiot Crusaders in the Battle of the Horns of Hattin in the 1100’s.
Guy would have triumphed had he only stayed in his castle and hidden under his bed for a year, perhaps less. Saladin, his opponent, showed unimpressive judgment in threatening to invest an impregnable castle in a siege which was utterly impossible to execute. Guy obligingly rode out of his utterly defensible castle to an utterly indefensible landmark which was thoroughly overrun, Guy’s army destroyed.
Trump is that bad a general.
He commanded a militia movement, with all its strengths and weaknesses. Militias are neither effective in movement nor in communication. Once he won the GOP nomination, he failed to exploit the GOP for its capacity as a signals corps or election advisors. The reason that militias essentially went extinct in the 1800’s is their weakness above. The few independent militias of the North in the Civil War were ineffective to the point of nonexistence.
On the other hand, the “Army of the Confederacy” was more a confederacy of armies; local aggregates of militias combined under State authority, and assembled into a field force. This was American military strategy; the North followed Prussian strategy, which was much the inferior. The North won on the ability for industrial might – enough machine regiments can crush less tightly organized forces merely under their weight. That is Late Napoleonic warfare; barely a shadow of that of early Napoleon, and given its fullest expression, and loss, at Waterloo.
[To be continued]