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Roger’s Rules

Obama, Kipling, and the Bomb

April 6th, 2010 - 6:45 am

How do you spell “contradiction”?

One common way of spelling it is “wishful thinking.” That’s how Rudyard Kipling spelled it in his harrowing poem “The Gods of the Copybook Headings.” They’re a wise lot, those gods of the copybook headings, but humanity has trouble heeding their lessons:

We were living in trees when they met us. They showed us each in turn
That Water would certainly wet us, as Fire would certainly burn:
But we found them lacking in Uplift, Vision and Breadth of Mind,
So we left them to teach the Gorillas while we followed the March of Mankind.

And where did that lead?

With the Hopes that our World is built on they were utterly out of touch,
They denied that the Moon was Stilton; they denied she was even Dutch;
They denied that Wishes were Horses; they denied that a Pig had Wings;

So we worshipped the Gods of the Market Who promised these beautiful things.
When the Cambrian measures were forming, They promised perpetual peace.
They swore, if we gave them our weapons, that the wars of the tribes would cease.
But when we disarmed They sold us and delivered us bound to our foe,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: “Stick to the Devil you know.”

I wondered, frankly, whether there wasn’t a comedian lurking in the White House, for the new Obama doctrine is called the “Nuclear Posture Review.” The posture in question, though, is self-abasement. Nuclear weapons are fearsome things. We wish they didn’t exist. Therefore we will take steps to reduce our threatening posture in order to appear more emollient. Has no one in Obama’s inner clique heard of the Roman military historian Vegetius: “Si vis pacem, para bellum“: “if you want peace, prepare for war.” The possession of weapons facilitates war: no doubt. But history demonstrates that pacifism and signs of weakness precipitate war. The choice, in other words, is between rhetoric that celebrates peace and comity, and policies that actually achieve it. Obama has once again plumped for the former. The result?

As it will be in the future, it was at the birth of Man
There are only four things certain since Social Progress began.
That the Dog returns to his Vomit and the Sow returns to her Mire,
And the burnt Fool’s bandaged finger goes wabbling back to the Fire;

And that after this is accomplished, and the brave new world begins
When all men are paid for existing and no man must pay for his sins,
As surely as Water will wet us, as surely as Fire will burn,
The Gods of the Copybook Headings with terror and slaughter return!

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