Sunday, April 25, 2010

Shortbread Tins

This month's battle over at GFT: CullodenCome sample some shortbread and discussion...


  1. Great post Chief! Of course I'm biased because I'm about as Scottish as an American can get - have a clan name, visited what used to be my clan lands, got married in Scotland, used to compete in a Scottish pipe band, etc.

    I visited the battle site about 15 years ago and it's hard to imagine that one of the most important events in Scottish history took place in an otherwise nondescript (for Scotland) location. Thanks for a great read!

  2. I'll do almost anything for buttery shortbreads :)

    My great-grandad was from Dundee area, so I'll be over in a wee bit.

  3. Andy: Interestingly, that area south of the Water of Nairn and east of Inverness seems to draw combatants like a raree show - the DB for May is going to be Auldearn, 1645, which was fought less than a day's hard walk from Drumossie Moor. More Jacobite clusterfuckery, too, only this time they managed to muddle through.

    The thing that gets me about Culloden is the pointlessness of it for the Jacobites. They really never should have fought there. They got lucky twice, at Prestonpans and Falkirk, but they tried the Highland Charge trick one time too many, on a ground and against a commander perfectly prepared to destroy it.

    It never fails to amaze me the number of times that one combatant (or both) rush towards a fight which avoiding, or finding a different way to approach, would have been vastly more beneficial to them. Our ability to fool ourselves seems like a bottomless well, from Culloden to the Korengal Valley.

    Mmmm. I likes me some shortbread, too, Lisa. Looking forward to hearing your comments.

  4. Our ability to fool ourselves seems like a bottomless well, from Culloden to the Korengal Valley.

    Agreed. BTW, did you hear that we've pulled out of the Korengal?

  5. As I noted over at your main cite, Chief, this was an enthralling read. I liked it a whole lot. It also occurs to me that you and Scottish dudes such as Andy might like this neat book I read when it was first published:

    It's an easy read and it's worthwhile, even though, as the critics say, there is some hyperbole in there. But no matter how one slices it, although the Scots may have been kind of shitty at matters martial, they have had a decided impact on our world.

    Especially our American world. The story of the Scots-Irish, which is actually what most Americans of Scottish ancestory are, is fascinating and illustrative of how Celts just can't get along, esp. when there's some neat religious strife mixed in. The Scots-Irish who emigrated from Ulster to the American colony weren't just anti-British: they despised the Brits, which means they were more than ready for a dandy little revolution. Payback can come in many forms. Don't think the Brits weren't aware of the ethnicity of the most vociferous revolutionaries.

    Me, I'm one of 'em. William Clarke of Lewis and Clarke fame is a great-whatever grandfather. That makes George Rogers Clarke of Northwest Territory fame a great-whatever uncle. T. Jefferson is a cousin. In fact, that entire branch of my family comes from Charlottesville, with one old great-whatever uncle having a school at UVA named after him. Oh, and of course, lest we get too carried away with famous forebears, one must also acknowledge that there are undoubtedly some bigoted Southern rednecks in that same gene pool.

    Any time you wonder why I'm bullheaded, contentious and fond of lost causes, just look at my roots. I'm a Celt. It's my birthright.

  6. "site," not "cite." Spell check won't help such gaffes.

  7. Andy: I did see that. I can't remember where I read it, but the article had a couple of great quotes; the American officers and civil affairs types were talking about all the road-building and improvement they wanted to do and the Afghans were all saying "Fuck yer road and fuck you. We LIKE our valley the way it is."

    Pretty well sums it up.

    Publius: Good book. And I think I mentioned in the post that in the long run the Union was good for both English and Scots. Certainly the Scots contributed a hell of a lot of the people who made the Industrial Revolution a going concern and the British Empire the biggest dog in the pound for over 200 years...

    But we have our weaknesses, and being aggressively stupid is one.

    My grandfather taught me this, a little leftover 17th Century bigotry:

    "Here's to good King William the Fourth
    Who saved us from Popes and Popery,
    Rogues and roguery,
    Knaves and knavery,
    From brass buttons and wooden shoes.
    And whomsoever denies this toast
    May he be crammed, jammed and slammed
    Into the Great Gun of Athlone
    The gun fired into the Pope's belly,
    The Pope into the Devil's belly,
    The Devil into Hell
    And the key in an Orangeman's pocket.
    And here's a fart for the Bishop of Cork."

    We're good haters, us Scots-Irish Prods

  8. Yeah, good haters. My clan opposed Robert the Bruce and suffered for it, and later was split during the Jacobite era - some fought for the Brits and some for the Jacobites. There are hardly any left in Scotland thanks to a series of bad clan Chiefs who became so indebted that almost everyone was force to immigrate to Canada in the 1700's. Some, including my ancesters, moved down to the colonies before the revolution.


    Thanks for the recommendation. I've read a similar book on the Irish and I agree that hyperbole and that genre go hand-in-hand.


    We "surged" a bunch of troops into the Korengal to cover the withdrawal and made a deal with the local leaders - If there were no attacks on our forces during the withdrawal, then we wouldn't destroy our bases and the surplus fuel and food supplies they contained. We left, there were no attacks.

  9. Andy: Thing is, the whole Korengal business was silly from the get-go. My understanding is that the place has never had much to do with who-the-hell-ever was standing up in Kabul. The locals there mostly wanted to be left the hell alone. Since our stated mission in A-stan is to "pacify" the place for our stooge-of-the-month-and-his-merry-band-of-thieves in Kabul (oh, wait, sorry, the "government of Afghanistan") there wasn't really much point in going in there, no? Pay the local chiefs to fight the Talibs, if you want, slip in a couple of spies and agens provocateurs...but why bother with the snuffies? All it was ever going to do - all it did - was piss the locals off.

    There seems to be a lot of that going around in our Asian adventures.

  10. Chief,

    We did fuck up early there and earned the hostility of the locals from the beginning. More than that though, that valley and the others nearby were part of a supply and transit line system from Pakistan to Kabul and the rest of Afghanistan, and that's one reason the Korengal and the surrounding areas were probably the most contested terrain in Afghanistan. Both of Afghanistan's Medal of Honor recipients were for engagements in the area - LT Murphy and the famous "Lone Survivor" incident with the SEALs was only one valley to the east of the Korengal. Personally, I don't think we ever had much impact on the supply and fighter transit routes - the terrain is extreme and there's simply too much area for any reasonable force to cover.

  11. "I don't think we ever had much impact on the supply and fighter transit routes"

    That was my take, too, and the reason that I thought from the moment I heard about the FOBs and combat outposts being set up there that having troop units in the Valley made no sense. The presence of the snuffies just made our interest visible, helped drive the local G's further into the tules and made our lives more difficult in general.

    My understanding is that the local rulers have dealt with a lot of these Afghan hillbillies the way we have with ours; left most of the heavy lifting to the local "law enforcement" (who, in turn, turns a blind eye to the sort of thing that'd just piss the locals off, like clamping down on smuggling and personal feuding) and using the local proxies to skim the intel cream off the top.

    Sure, it's critical terrain, but there has to be a point where you match your METT-T to the objective and figure out the economy of force...and then add to that the likelihood of going wrong when you're trying to impose the national government (in a place which either ignores or loathes the national government) through armed force (in a place where armed force is a familiar currency for the locals) wielded by foreign troops (in a place where the locals hate foreign troops).

    IMO the "big picture" reality is that there's no way for us to keep a lid on the Korengal or Afghanistan as a whole long-term. We HAVE to - assuming we really do have a strategic interest in the joint, which is arguable - hand it over to a local proxy. Sooner is better, since foreign troops are hated everywhere; it's the nature of having armed foreigners policing you, it'd piss off a Quaker. The fact that we've been there, what, eight years now and are still leading from the front militarily? I think we've missed the window. Period. We've now so thoroughly compromised any locals willing to work with us that I don't think we can leave anyone on the throne in Kabul and feel safe that he's going to stay there.