March 17, 2014

"How James Blunt saved us from World War 3"

The Crimea incident is likely seen by Moscow as payback for NATO's Kosovo War of 1999. 

The scariest moment of the Kosovo War came at the end on June 12, 1999 when Russia, who had lost a few million men by choosing to defend Serbian honor in 1914, suddenly sent a small force to seize the Pristina airfield ahead of the NATO forces. 

James Blount / Blunt
NATO commander Wesley Clark ordered combat. (He told the press, "We know we will be able to work this out, as soldiers always do," which the American media told us was reassuring, but didn't strike me at the time as auspicious.)

Fortunately, the lead NATO soldier on the spot was the most charming officer in the British Army. Granted, that's an impossible assertion to prove, but Captain James Blount did become an international pop singing sensation six years later with "You're Beautiful." 

From The Independent in 2010:
How James Blunt saved us from World War 3 
Kosovo, June 1999. Serbia has withdrawn from the campaign. Hundreds of thousands of refugees wait over the border to return to their homes. A column of 30,000 Nato troops is advancing towards Pristina airfield – a crucial strategic position.

Unexpectedly, the Russian forces, reach the airfield first; Russia, Serbia's patron, is hoping to stake a claim in the occupation. The soldiers are pointing their weapons at the incoming Allied troops. "Destroy!" orders the US general over the radio – instructions from the very top. World War Three is on the cards. Enter crooner James Blunt. Crisis averted. 
Blunt was then 25, a captain in the Life Guards and the lead officer at the front of the Nato column.

The Life Guards are the senior regiment of the British Army, dating to the Restoration of King Charles II after the Puritan interlude. As the original element of the Household Cavalry, they are the personal bodyguards of the monarch. Their colonel is the Silver Stick-in-Waiting. (Or something like that. This is all very Lewis Carrollish to me.)
He risked a court martial by refusing to obey those orders from General Wesley Clark to attack the Russian forces. 
In a BBC radio interview last night, Blunt said: "I was given the direct command to overpower the 200 or so Russians who were there. I was the lead officer, with my troop of men behind us... The soldiers directly behind me were from the Parachute Regiment, so they're obviously game for the fight. 
"The direct command [that] came in from General Wesley Clark was to overpower them," he said. "Various words were used that seemed unusual to us. Words such as 'destroy' came down the radio. We had 200 Russians lined up pointing their weapons at us aggressively ... and we'd been told to reach the airfield and take a hold of it. That's why we were querying our instruction." The end result was a victory for British common sense. "Fortunately," Blunt recalled, "up on the radio came General Sir Mike Jackson [commander of the British forces], whose words were, 'I'm not going to have my soldiers start World War Three.' He told us, 'Why don't we encircle the airfield instead?' And after a couple of days the Russians there said, 'Hang on, we have no food and no water. Can we share the airfield with you?'"

From The Telegraph in 2005:
Blunt, of course, is by no means the only current exponent of Posh Rock. Dido went to Westminster. Radiohead were formed at Abingdon. Coldplay's Chris Martin went to Sherborne. Even so, the music industry still insists on the pretence of proletarianism. A concerted attempt is being made to downplay the whole Harrow-Sandhurst-Life Guards aspect of Blunt's life. His Army career is portrayed almost as an accident, into which he stumbled. In the words of his website biography, "One day he was sleeping off a hangover at the back of a lecture hall and the next thing he knew he was in Kosovo with a gun and a guitar strapped to the side of a tank, wondering who he could possibly sleep with to get out of this war." 
In fact, soldiering is in his blood. The Blunts have been a military family for more than 1,000 years, ever since their Danish ancestors arrived in England in the 10th century. 
 
The Blounts are not Norman arrivistes.
   

53 comments:

Big Bill said...

Great story! One thousand years of family life in a country gives you a real appreciation. Thank God it was a young Blunt and not a young Rahm at the head of that column.

By the way, in that music view link is Blunt really taking his clothes off on some glacier in a snowstorm and then jumping into the freaking Arctic Ocean from 30 meters in the air?

I'd like to see Justin Bieber do that ... and not resurface.

Anonymous said...

http://www.theblaze.com/stories/2014/03/18/jaw-dropping-former-u-s-treasury-secretary-makes-bombshell-claim-about-russia-and-2008-financial-crisis/#

Protocols of elders of Cathay and Rus.

Anonymous said...

There is no limit to the idiocy of a chain of command. This episode is an unusual exception.

Crimea is a tinderbox, and all sorts of fools are queuing up to push us over the edge.

One of the worst aspects of the Malaysian airliner disaster is that it is focusing our attention away from Ukraine, thus allowing the neo-marxists in the White House and the EU to replay 1914 with impunity.

Anon.

Anonymous said...

well done, him

Anonymous said...

Re Kosovo, here is a BBC story from March 2000. For those of you that think the US is an honest broker, read this excerpt. Jamie Rubin is basically telling the BBC that we deliberately proposed a plan knowing full well the Serbs would be forced to reject it. We then persuaded the Albanians to accept it knowing full well it would never be implemented. But, it would give us the excuse necessary to begin bombing the Serbs.

"That meant the Serbs rejecting the plan and the Albanians accepting it," Assistant Secretary of State Jamie Rubin told me.

Then, he added, there would be clarity where previously there had been confusion, clarity as to who was to blame, as to who Nato should oppose and who Nato should support.


I wonder how often this actually happens where the US proposes some poison pill of a deal just to get some nation on the record for having "rejected" peace.

Peter the Shark said...

Great story,yes but this - "The Crimea incident is likely seen by Moscow as payback for NATO's Kosovo War of 1999. " is really a stretch. Crimea is simply Crimea, and Russians have been unhappy about losing it since 1992.

Auntie Analogue said...


Perhaps Obama, Kerry, and McCain can persuade James Blunt to encircle Crimea?

Dave Pinsen said...

I remember reading about this. It's crazy enough to be true. It's scary that a man like Wesley Clark made it to the top of NATO. John McCain maybe be similarly nutty, but at least he never made it that high up the chain of command.

Jack Amok said...

Reminds me of The Pig War in 1859. There was a dispute between the US and Great Britain about who owned the San Juan Islands (in Puget Sound). The Governor of Vancouver ordered the local Royal Navy squadron to shell the American army detachment on the island. The Captain in command of the squadron refused, and the Admiral (who was away at the time) backed the Captain up when he got back.

Anonymous said...

This would be the same General Wesley Clark who gave us this quote.

“There is no room in today’s Europe for ethnically pure countries.”

Rasputin said...

What frequently strikes me about old noble types like James Blunt is that they seem to be so much *better* than the rest of us. He's smart, courageous, handsome, charming, morally principled, humble and even has a sense of humour.

He's a tanker, so presumably he's tiny, but I can't really think of any defects apart from that.

And he's not really an abberation, reading about the British Empire you come across those sort of types all the time.

reiner Tor said...

This is a very interesting topic, but I'm sure people are anxiously awaiting your take on flight MH370. Well, OK, maybe you don't know what happened (even I have no clue), but maybe you would have a few interesting thoughts or angles that no one has thought before.

Steve Sailer said...

Malaysia is a traditional hotspot for nautical piracy.

reiner Tor said...

Protocols of elders of Cathay and Rus

Yeah, it's strange, especially since in September 2008 it was the Russian finance minister who called the US Treasury Secretary to ask if American banks had withdrawn credit lines from Russian companies in retaliation for Georgia... because that's what the Russians suspected at the time. (A few days later it turned out it was just because of Lehman.)

Anonymous said...

Anglo-Saxons (and Danes) go home; Britain for Britons (or Brythons).

Anonymous said...

"He's a tanker, so presumably he's tiny,"

Listed as 5'7". Probably an inch or 2 shorter IRL.

Felix M said...

Wikipedia's entry on Wesley Clark shows that he's certainly intelligent and courageous. But it also suggests poor judgement in the political arena, including several other mistakes during the Kosova dispute.

Congo Sam said...

Let's not go crazy admiring the Old Public School Chaps too much. They put Britain where it is now, and that's not even mentioning the ones who reported to the KGB.

Anonymous said...

Auntie Analogue said...

Perhaps Obama, Kerry, and McCain can persuade James Blunt to encircle Crimea?


McCain can go over and meet Russian officials in Crimea and use his composed, diplomatic skills. "Please get out of here. Please get out of here."

Anonymous said...

Wonder if Blount/Blunt is any relation, however attenuated, to Sir Anthony Blunt, noted art historian and traitor?

Anonymous said...

Actually, the Life Guards are not the oldest regiment in the British Army. Yes, they were established by Charles II but the Coldstream Guards were established by the Commonwealth in 1650. They later supported the restoration of the monarchy and upon them the British army was founded. The Royal Horse Guards also date from the Commonwealth, so predate the Life Guards.

The Puritan officers and soldiers of the two Commonwealth regiments may have given Charles II some concern, hence the Cavalier Life Guards.

Anton Chigurh said...

"The Blounts aren't Norman arrivistes."
HILLARIOUS

Toddy Cat said...

Wesley Clark was a classic example of the Peter Principle in action. He was a great lower ranking officer, but he simply did not have the judgement to be a general, as the Pristina incident shows. Another prie example of the U.S. military's deeply flawed "up or out" strategy.

Anonymous said...

Apart from saving us from World War III, Blunt is also responsible for some moderately amusing parodies:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nHHl60l5nko

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cVGoOBTmDA8

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6_4n7kmA5wM

panjoomby said...

it would take the entire band "one direction" to save us now.

Anonymous said...

"Let's not go crazy admiring the Old Public School Chaps too much. They put Britain where it is now, and that's not even mentioning the ones who reported to the KGB"

The people most responsible for where Britain is today are the people who dominate the banking mafia and the media - same as the US.

The English boarding schools do have a particular ethos which a certain type of person (who is that way inclined already) takes seriously and leads them to behave in ways that make them very good officers.

On the other hand there is a also a nepotistic and snobbish private ethos which has a negative effect.

So, sweet and sour.

Mr. Anon said...

"Anonymous Anonymous said...

This would be the same General Wesley Clark who gave us this quote."

And the same General Wesley Clark who volunteered military assistance to Janet Reno during the Waco siege.

Dan said...

Although his distant Kinsman started World War Ireland.

Enough Green already!

http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Blount,_1st_Earl_of_Devon

Dan said...

His most famous distant relation is this handsome fellow.

http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Blount,_1st_Earl_of_Devon

George from Canada said...

Given this information, I think it would be wiser if Prime Minister Harper send Justin Bieber to Kiev instead of attending himself. I don't think this would be a problem as they both appear to use the same hair stylist.

What could possibly go wrong?

Anonymous said...

An american officer would have fired at them without impunity.

However Blunt disobeyed the order because it was an American general who gave the order.

The British guards who shipped a million ex russians to USSR after WWII did not disobey their orders from Attlee.

Anonymous said...

Maybe they descend from a particularly charming Dane who talked his way through the Harrying of the North?

Whiskey said...

Wesley Clark was one of the Clinton promotions. Clintons love the guy. The military is chock-a-block with Clinton promotions, one of the reasons for the rotteness of the US High Command.

Anonymous said...

Since WW2, the Brits have mainly waged war on lesser armed peoples. Mostly wogs in Asia/Africa, bog wogs in Ulster ... almost forgot the Argies in the Malvinas. Blount, Lord Marlborough, or even Winston Churchill himself would never had fired on those Russians. They don't have the balls for it and the Russians would have shot back.

This reminds me of a quote from the movie "Stripes" by Harold Ramis's character:


I've always been kind of a pacifist. When I was a kid, my father told me, "Never hit anyone in anger, unless you're absolutely sure you can get away with it." I don't know what kind of soldier I'm gonna make, but I want you guys to know that if we ever get into really heavy combat... I'll be right behind you guys. Every step of the way.

Montgomery's Little Secret said...

If he was a southern Dane (Wiltshire, Oxford) he probably had ancestors who harried the north. I'm guessing that Harold's Huscarls immediately signed up with William ASAP. They knew a victor when they saw one. Those that survived the Day at Hastings at least.

hbd chick said...

you've been watching Top Gear again, haven't you? (~_^) (here's the episode that aired last month on bbc america where blunt told that story to jeremy clarkson.)

Oswald Spengler said...

Now the question is "Who will save us from World War G?"

Kibernetika said...

Russia hasn't forgotten this. We in the West hardly noticed it. Maybe we were all reading Fukuyama, because the NYT had him on its fashionable list.

Quite frankly, the USA has been poking the bear with a stick since "Clinton the First" (let's assume that there will be at least a second installment in this, one of the three major US dynasties, i.e., Kennedy, Clinton, Bush).

Reality and its punk kid, history, have an annoying habit of not conforming to our elitist notions of what should happen.

The post-Soviet Russian government always had a clear understanding of its enemies. Guess who they considered the worst threat? Were they wrong?







Anonymous said...

"I remember reading about this. It's crazy enough to be true. It's scary that a man like Wesley Clark made it to the top of NATO"

I worked for NATO from 2008-2011. When I was there, they put a woman working in HR, whose position was getting eliminated, in a military analyst position. Of course they did not renew my contract, for the non important job as computer programmer.

Anonymous said...

I remember this incident. Scary to think about what might have happened. And America has no vital interest in Serbia at all. Such madness.

Anonymous said...

Anon:

Anglo-Saxons (and Danes) go home; Britain for Britons (or Brythons).

Actually, the Danes (Angles) and Saxons were probably always there as long as there was a there, there. Total population replacement of densely populated lands by groups of people rowisg ashore on 18 man boats is preposterous.

There isn't much of any evidence that Celtic Britons ever lived anywhere but the West country, Wales, and Cumbria.

Anonymous said...

The United States cruelly dropped bombs on Serbia for 78 days in 1999.

Just out of curiousity......what did Serbia ever do to the USA?

Hunsdon said...

Think about that for a moment: a US serving general officer was willing to get into a shooting fight WITH THE RUSSIANS over Pristina airport.

Anonymous said...

Interesting story, but,

"The Life Guards are the senior regiment of the British Army, dating to the Restoration of King Charles II after the Puritan interlude."

The Coldstream Guards are older. They were formed under Oliver Cromwell and were in part responsible for that Puritan interlude. The Grenadier Guards are older still (although there's a dispute about this...)

Keep up the good work!

Anonymous said...

The United States cruelly dropped bombs on Serbia for 78 days in 1999.
And we got those chinks who were too stupid to leave Belgrade.

Aivirt said...

Two pieces of trivia. Mr Blunt is now engaged to the daughter of the current Duke of Wellington (a family with admirable military antecdents). Photos indicate that she's a bit taller than he is.

ATBOTL said...

Returning Kosovo to its rightful owners and generally slapping down Albanians is major cause for nationalists across Europe. "Kosovo is Serbia" is a banner seen at soccer matches in many countries. The behavior of Albanian immigrants in Europe and the USA has not endeared them to people. I can tell you they are the most widely disliked ethnic group in NYC.

Anonymous said...

"Total population replacement of densely populated lands by groups of people rowisg ashore on 18 man boats is preposterous."

Whereas coastal populations moving away from the coast because of pirate raids is both perfectly plausible, exactly what historians closest to the events said happened and well-attested at other times in history.

Raid first, invade second.

Anonymous said...

"The Life Guards are the senior regiment of the British Army, dating to the Restoration of King Charles II after the Puritan interlude."

"The Coldstream Guards are older."

The distinction here is between "senior" and "older."

The Life Guards are "senior" because they are the oldest Royalist regiment. The older regiments were Cromwellian and therefore naughty regiments.

Anonymous said...

Actually, the Danes (Angles) and Saxons were probably always there as long as there was a there, there.

According to what evidence? Genetic studies seem to show that the Germanic admixture is much stronger near the eastern coastal areas, formerly the Saxon Shore and later the Danelaw (and obviously in the islands to the north), but it's still admixture.

What evidence is there of large Germanic presence before 5th Century?
[quote]Total population replacement of densely populated lands by groups of people rowisg ashore on 18 man boats is preposterous.[/quote]That would be a straw man since raiders, mercenaries and conquerors/colonists were almost always very few in number (whether Romans, Saxons, Jutes, Danes, and later Normans.). In other words, in Britain, the so-called Anglo-Saxons aren't.
[quote]There isn't much of any evidence that Celtic Britons ever lived anywhere but the West country, Wales, and Cumbria.[/quote]Romans before the coming of the Saxons, Angles and Jutes seem to report Brythonic tribes outside Wales and Cumbria.

In any case, Wikipedia actually has a fairly good summary on the topic:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anglo-Saxon_settlement_of_Britain

Anonymous said...

Montgomery's Little Secret said...
If he was a southern Dane (Wiltshire, Oxford) he probably had ancestors who harried the north. I'm guessing that Harold's Huscarls immediately signed up with William ASAP. They knew a victor when they saw one. Those that survived the Day at Hastings at least.


Er, no. William had his own, expensive, household troops to feed and reward. Many Saxon Huscarls and earls lost their status and lands, to be given to the Norman conquerors. Quite a few of the Saxon upper class males left England and some even ended up as Varangian Guards in Byzantium, as did many defeated Danes.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 3.18 428pm-

And what militarily equal powers has the US waged war on since 1945?

While I recognized then and now that Blunt's action was a very problematic one from the point of view of both chain of command and coalition warfare, still there is a tradition in both countries' services of the system backing junior officers when seniors order something really pointless and stupid. Which captures Clark's order to a tee.

anonymous 3.18 at 828pm-

agree entirely with your point that total population replacement was an overdone thesis. A lot of the recent genetic work suggests that the bulk of the population of "England" of present day borders was not changed that much by even the Celtic "invasions" let alone the much more recent Saxon or Danish ones. There were massacres and expulsions, and some wholesale replacement at the elites levels, but on the whole the more likely process was linguistic and cultural replacement of the culture of the conquered by that of the conquerors.

Of course, that more likely contradicts your second point. The Danes and Saxons were not "always there", since their languages and cultures were not found in Roman Britain and were only emergent even in their homelands at that time. But the great mass of the people of Saxon and Danish England WERE the former British inhabitants to some very large extent, now Germanized in their speech and ways of life.

Not unlike France. There were never enough Franks to demographically replace all the Romanized Gauls either.

Anonymous said...

I remember all this going down as I was a reservist on a senior staff in Europe. The point of not attacking the Russians has been belabored enough. But one thing you're missing is how the Russians grabbed that airport. Very interesting. Similar behavior in the Crimean and in Afghanistan (even in a way in Berlin). I think when we deal with these guys we have to watch out for the fait accompli. Georgians were morons not to bomb the South Ossetia tunnel.