Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Military Genius Isn't Restricted to One Side

Over the weekend, my Twitter sidebar helpfully let me know that Robert E. Lee was a trending topic. Normally this means some band of historically illiterate ne'er do wells are trying to get another statue torn down, but not this time. This time, the usual group of people were working themselves into a frothing frenzy because President Trump had the unmitigated gall to refer to General Lee as "A great general".

Mind you, in the context of the larger quote, President Trump was actually talking about General Ulysses S. Grant, the man who finally outmatched Lee in the Civil War, but of course who needs context when you've got a mob to keep perpetually outraged? Personally, I find it incredibly humorous that the same ignoramuses who get dramatically angry at the very mention of American Exceptionalism are suddenly upset that there might be great military leaders who fought against America. But who needs logical consistency anyway?

This brings to mind one of my favorite quotes from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade: "Goose-stepping morons should try reading books instead of burning them."

But in the interest of providing a bit of educational service for any Millenials who slept through the hour of public high school history class devoted to actual Civil War combatants, or who skipped school entirely the day they were covering World War II, here are four of the greatest tacticians of the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries who fought against America.

Robert E. Lee

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May as well start here. Lee is actually an incredibly interesting, and complicated, individual. An American general who fought in the Mexican-American War and became the commander of West Point, he had no desire to lead the Confederate Army. However, when his native Virginia joined the Confederacy, Lee felt he had no choice but to resign his commission and return to defend his home state. Like many men of his time, Lee considered his allegiance to his state as more important than his allegiance to his country.

Among the many excellent books about Lee is a collection of his letters home to his family, collected together by one of his sons. These letters give a fantastic glimpse inside the mind of the man, and reveal a lot of his conflicted decision making.

Then there's Lee's military record during the Civil War. Admittedly he was aided by a series of totally incompetent Union generals opposing him, but from 1861-1863, there's no denying that Lee won victory after victory for the Confederacy as the army made their way north into Pennsylvania.

Lee would never have been as successful as he was, however, without our next man.

Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson
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A tactical genius in his own right, General Stonewall Jackson was Lee's right-hand man. His tactical decisions remain required reading. His death in 1863 deprived Lee of his best general at the worst possible time, and may have changed the course of the war. Had Jackson led the Stonewall Brigade at Gettysburg, perhaps the battle would have turned out dramatically different.

Isoruku Yamamoto

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Another fascinating individual, the architect of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor was completely against going to war with the United States. In fact, after he apologies the the U.S. ambassador for the bombing of the USS Panay in 1937, he began receiving death threats from ultra-nationalists inside Japan.

Despite his opposition to the war, when he realized that its coming was inevitable, he used his position as ensure Japan had the best possible chance of winning. Recognizing America's significant advantages in natural resources and production, he pushed for fast, debilitating strikes that would decisively end the conflict before America could win a war of numbers. His death in 1943 was a huge blow to Japanese moral, although it's debatable whether his skills would have changed anything at that point.

Erwin Rommel

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Yes, an actual German. Not a Nazi though, although that's likely a distinction which would be lost on the crowd who're busy declaring everyone they disagree with as racist sexist Nazi homophobes. Rommel was a brilliant tank commander in World War II, leading the armored blitzkrieg through France in 1940, before taking command of the North African campaign. Loved by his men, respected by his enemies, he was another complex, fascinating individual.

Rommel was never an actual Nazi, as he never joined the party. He was, however, quite ambition, and forged an intense personal friendship with Adolf Hitler. Ultimately he became part of a failed conspiracy to assassinate Hitler, and was given the choice of whether to face a trial that would destroy him and his family, or take the "honorable" way out with the assurance that his family and reputation would remain intact. Rommel chose the cyanide pill.

That's just four names from the last two hundred years who fought against the United States. There are plenty more, and of course one could easily reach back through the centuries for numerous additional examples of brilliant men who fought for the wrong side, for whatever their reasons. Names, actions, and strategies worth acknowledging, not sweeping into some forgotten historical corner because people don't like the banners they fought under.

Monday, October 15, 2018

The End of An Era - Vlog 2018-41

It was an eventful week. I'm now the parent of a teenage boy. My oldest daughter got to experience her first rock concert, as we caught the Lynyrd Skynyrd Farewell Tour. We got our first snow of the year. Finally, a three-and-a-half year long Let's Play of the Star Wars: X-Wing series came to a close as I completed the final mission in X-Wing Alliance.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Ready Player Two! A New Streamer Joins the Fray!

I’m writing this sitting at my laptop, watching my newly minted teenage son conduct a takeover of my Twitch channel and play Star Wars: Battlefront II online. This is a rite of passage that I hadn’t planned, but that seems to suit him perfectly. I’m not sure I recognize this kid. He’s not stuttering, he’s totally confident talking to a camera, and completely unconcerned that there are actual people watching him take on other players around the world.

Sometimes, this boy is so much like me that it hurts. He didn’t want to see a movie this year, just play multiplayer RTS games with me in the morning, go to lunch, then game online and on Twitch for the first time in the afternoon. I probably would have done the same thing at his age if given the choice.

He’s a challenging glimpse into what I was really like at that age. Reality doesn’t always line up with my perceptions. I’m proud of the kid though. A lot of times I’m too close, all I see and hear are the irritating things that I want to correct, and it’s difficult to imagine the butterfly that’s going to emerge from this cocoon. Stepping back like this though, trying to see him through others’ eyes, I think I see it a little clearer. There’s a long way to go, sure, but I think through God’s grace, that he’s headed in the right direction.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Let's Play Ash of Gods: Redemption - Chapter 7b

Thorn's party starts to make their way to Opacum. Mact has been rescued, but there's only one save place left.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Around the Web: The Crew 2 (Xbox One) Review

"What if someone made a racing game that threw almost every class anyone could think of into the mix and just let players race whatever?"

Fun with the livery creator. An MHI theme for this hovercraft seemed about right. Now if only I could add a .50 cal turret on the top.

That seems to have been the question that the designers of The Crew 2 started with, and were fortunate that Ubisoft allowed them creative freedom to do so. At least, that's my opinion in my review of The Crew 2, which is now up at Marooners' Rock.

GeeBee. Statue of Liberty. Party.

While the game overall has some polish issues that aren't present in competing open world racing games such as the Forza Horizon series, the overall package is fun enough to make up for the flaws. Racing Hovercraft, Jet Sprint boats, Monster trucks, aerobatics aircraft and more is more is so much fun that a lot of the "core" driving races feel pedestrian by comparison. It's certainly not an accurate, high-fidelity simulation of anything. Neither is the Ace Combat series. But when the games get hit the fun formula correctly, realism doesn't really matter.

Sadly, there's no helicopter racing category. Yet...

Monday, October 8, 2018

Monday Vlogging: Temporary Single Parent - Vlog 2018-40

Having one half of the parenting team gone for a long weekend really makes a fellow appreciate her efforts more.

One particular observation that kept occurring to me over the weekend is that I don't know how single parent hobbyist streamers make it work. I'm getting off easy, because my wife had the meal plan, lesson plans, and most of the laundry already squared away, so I didn't have to do a major shopping run, plan kids' schoolwork, or spend too much time worrying about the kids having clean clothes.

If I did have to worry about those things, I doubt I would have had time to prep video and blog content for the next week, much less actually sit down and play some games at some late night point.

Friday, October 5, 2018

Let's Play Star Wars: X-Wing Alliance B6M5 - Shuttle Tyderium

Now this is a serious story mission. Granted, there's two other versions of how the Rebels acquired this shuttle before Return of the Jedi, but as far as I'm concerned, this is the one true canonical version.

The toughest part of this is the waiting. I found out the hard way that aborting the docking procedure breaks all of the scripting, so even after the commandos (led by General Crix Madine) tell you that you're clear, you need to wait until the docking script actually completes to exit the station.

Other than that, the main tricks are to keep more than a half kilometer away from any Imperial fighters that could identify the Sabra, and keep the TIE Bombers away from the Tyderium once it launches from the station.