The Siege of Sebastapol

You do realize that the generals and the rich have always ruled? I mean, the generals and the rich ruled in Athens, in Classical days; in Rome, before, during, and after the transition from formal Republic to (inside joke) Principate; in France during their Revolution; and everywhere since the Industrial Revolution.

It is my job as a writer to advise you, Dear Reader, that the generals and the rich ruled Asians societies, too: the ideological structure of mediation of the domination of the rich through the intellectual hurdle of memorization was a superb governmental reform, but it did produce an over-emphasis on stasis.

Now, given that frame, I draw your attention to the Crimean War. If one — that is, if You, the reader — adopts the framework, outlined in this blog last month, of Orwell’s prescient picture of three super-states, Russia, America, and China, constantly warring over the resources of South and West Asia [what we Eurocentrically-educated tend to call “the Middle East”], Africa, and Latin America, then the Crimean War is in some real sense the first brush (to employ Orwell’s terminology) of Eurasia fighting Oceania.

The Crimean War was basically an exercise, let us recall, in sea power: the leaders of Oceania asserted that their navies could invade the Black Sea, hitherto a Eurasian lake, and at will seize the main Russian Imperial naval base at Sebastopol. [It is the primary function of an effective naval force, surely, to repel naval-borne assaults on the territory of the nation.] Once the siege had been brought to a successful conclusion, that was it: Eurasia sued for peace.

That defeat was traumatic for the Russian political and social sense of itself: the reigning tsar died, possibly of a broken heart, and the new tsar, his son, announced almost immediately an intention radically to revise the social and political arrangements of the Empire. So severely had the defeat shaken the legitimacy of the Autocracy, that he was obliged to abolish serfdom from above, he said, before it was abolished for him from below. Literary expression of the impact was equally shattering. For one example, Count Leo Tolstoy, perhaps — not in my personal opinion, mind you, I’m a diehard advocate of Dostoevsky, but alas! that is a minority view — the greatest writer Russia produced since the death of Pushkin, first burst into public prominence with his dramatic depiction of the siege, Sebastopol. If you, the reader, would like my opinions to cite some authority for the above analysis, wikipedia says

More recently, historians Andrew Lambert and Winfried Baumgart have argued that, first, Britain was following a geopolitical strategy in aiming to destroy a fledgling Russian Navy which might challenge the Royal Navy for control of the seas, and second that the war was a joint European response to a century of Russian expansion not just southwards but also into western Europe.

So if there is, insofar as there is now, a super-state stretching from the Dnieper River to the Bering Straits, its rulers are committed to making any repetition of the humiliation of the Crimean War impossible. Both the elites in charge and the population at large are going to agree on that goal, the charms of Europeanization notwithstanding. The bleating, as I have termed it, of the propaganda babblers of the American Imperial Ministry of Truth, such as that of Michael Ignatieff already cited in the course of this post, amount to transparent warmongering.

But that is what we have come to expect: virtually continuous warfare among three great powers, with no vital interests at stake — except to continue the wars for ever.

About M. Meo

Worked as translator, museum technician, truck lumper, lecture demonstrator, teacher (of English as a Second Language, science, math). Married for 25 years, 2 boys aged 18 & 16 (both on the Grant cross-country team). A couple of scholarly publications in the history of science. Two years in federal penitentiary, 1970/71, for refusing the draft.
This entry was posted in Afghanistan, Empire, Global, Uncategorized, War. Bookmark the permalink.

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