The Sinking of the Lord Clive
The Sinking of the Lord Clive by Jeff Thomas
The image above is of the 18th-century home of friends in Colonia, Uruguay. Today, sitting on their back patio on the Rio de la Plata, I looked out at a small yellow buoy in the harbour that marks the final resting place of the Lord Clive, a large, 60-gun British warship from the 18th century.
In 1763, we British, already at war with Spain, decided to expand the venture to the New World. The Lord Clive arrived in Colonia, Uruguay, and began firing into the tiny town. With her heavy contingent of cannon, her captain was confident that he could do enough damage to make the Spanish inhabitants surrender. After extensive bombardment, the Spanish had still not raised the white flag; however, the crew of the Lord Clive had managed to set fire to their own ship. The crew abandoned ship.
Local accounts of the event have it that, swimming ashore, the English crew apologized for bombarding the town and asked for mercy. Not surprisingly, the Spanish killed them.
Of course, this is not the outcome that’s described in English history books. Although the defeat of the British on that day is acknowledged, the folly is not. Although historians will generally acknowledge a defeat, they’re often reluctant to mention any idiocy on the part of their own military. And so any English-language version of the story tells a different tale from the account above.
This is a great pity, as much can be learned from historical idiocy. Since it’s rarely taught, military leaders often make the same idiotic mistakes that their predecessors made.
As an example, we can look at the adventures of the US today and observe their serial invasions over the last fifteen years in the Middle East and elsewhere. These adventures are being pursued ostensibly “to make the world safe for democracy.” However, whenever the US takes over a foreign country, it puts in place a puppet government—not exactly the textbook definition of “democracy.”
And, of course, warfare is very costly. Choosing to invade multiple countries at the same time, as the US has been doing over the last fifteen years, is even more costly.
And the US government never misses an opportunity to portray the Russians as evil aggressors—an appellation far more suited to the US. On one occasion after another, Russia has sought to tone down the level of aggression, whilst the US has been conducting a shoving match with the Russians, goading them into conflicts.
This is extraordinarily foolish, as it would take very little to light the fuse of direct warfare between the US and Russia. Over the centuries, quite a few countries have challenged Russia, but Russia has always proven to be a very hard country to defeat. Although American films about World War II tend to portray the US as having won the war against the Germans, it was the Russians who did the lion’s share of the job. Even when poorly armed and poorly prepared, Russia simply throws another ten or twenty million men at the problem and ultimately wears out any attacker. Russians don’t necessarily like war any more than any other people, but they do have astonishing staying power. They’ll grimly see a war through, long after their opponents have lost heart.