Chad from Fraters Libertas steps on to my favorite turf; comparative history:

It’s interesting to note how often military battles are invoked for comparisons or metaphors for political battles. Commentary on President Obama’s recent campaign for health care is replete with references to historical military campaigns or specific battles.

Last summer, Senator Jim Demint was the first, but far from the last, to speculate that failure to enact health care reform could be Obama’s Waterloo. At the time, I thought that Stalingrad might be more appropriate as a health care defeat for Obama wouldn’t necessarily be the beginning of the end, but rather the end of the beginning. More recently, we’ve seen speculation that even if health care reform is somehow rammed through, it will be a Pyrrhic victory for the President.

Now, it seems like there’s a new favorite making the rounds with more and more pundits comparing Pelosi’s health care cramdown to Pickett’s Charge at the Battle of Gettysburg. This one does seem to be especially apt at the moment. For like General Lee at Gettysburg, President Obama’s final push on health care is a desperate gamble in the hopes of achieving a smashing victory that will change history. Like Lee’s choice after two hard fought days at Gettysburg, President Obama could have chosen to disengage, to step away from the fight, lick his wounds, and wait for another opportunity.

All of them are good examples.  But I have a better one.


In the winter of 1939-1940, the Soviets invaded Finland; I wrote about the 70th anniversary of the Talvesota, the Winter War, last winter.

One of the defining battles took place near the village of Suomussalmi.  Two Soviet divisi0ns – 30,000 men and hundreds of tanks – charged into terrain that was a lot like the Iron Range; swampy, wooded terrain broken up by thousands of lakes.  The Finnish military – regular citizens with guns who’d done a year of national service in their teens, and got called back to service wearing civilian winter duds and their own skis – knew they couldn’t fight the armored Red juggernaut face to face, outnumber 10 to 1. 

So they faded into the woods, and the dark and the -40 cold, slipping out of cover at night to kill sentries and fell trees across roads and blow up field kitchens (without which fighting at -40 is a pretty dicey prospect) and cutting the Soviets off from supplies, rescue and, eventually, hope.  90% of the Soviets who went into Suomussalmi died, in Finnish hit-and-run ski attacks or from snipers that hid in the woods or, finally, from exposure. 

When Obama and his minions in Congress have to try to justify not only their taxation and spending, but their unprecedented bulldozing of our legislative system, to the people this summer and fall, they may look and feel – rhetorically, at least – like the thousands of Ivans stranded in the Finnish woods.  Tic congresscritters may look and feel a lot like the vaunted Russian tanks after an army of literal and proverbial Davids get done with them.

The Russian printing on the side says David Walz.  I kid you not.

The Russian printing on the side says "David Walz". I kid you not.

.The Russians responded to the crushing defeat (the first of several along their long border with Finland) with huge callup of reserves, following by an immense, relentless, bloody offensive that wore the Finns down.

And that’s where the parallel breaks down.  Because in this battle, the Davids are gaining strength; the lumpen statists are whizzing theirs away as I write this.

Sisu, everyone.

1 thought on “Comparisons

  1. Nice shout out to the Iron Range, Mitch, but too bad most of those Iron Rangers are stubborn DFLers and even more stubborn DFL Finlanders.

    Now if Obama could change THAT, then that would be change I could believe in. 🙂

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