Interesting article by Robert Tombs

There was a typically excellent article by Robert Tombs in the Telegraph recently:

There are some interesting quotes from his article, which have particular reference to the run-up to the Boer War:

“First is that a potential disturber of the peace must think that it can win – but so must those resisting it. No one, however unbalanced, embarks on a conflict they expect to lose. The weaker side backs down.”

“Second, aggressors must think that they can win quickly and at acceptable cost – “over by Christmas” is the fatal illusion, often coloured by ideology.”

“Third, and perhaps most dangerous, is when a potential aggressor thinks that time is running out.”

These almost perfectly sum up the situation that Kruger found himself in towards the end of 1899. Being a barely-educated, Bible-bashing Flat Earther, the old troll was quite sure that the Almighty of the Old Testament would guide the Boers to victory, and many of his inner-circle (and, indeed, across the Boer republics generally) arrogantly held the British army in utter contempt. As ridiculous as it now sounds, there was a widespread belief that a quick, easy victory for the ‘Chosen People’ was theirs for the taking.

More interesting still, however, is Tombs’ third point. Though the more fanatical / rabid / deluded Defenders of the Myth still try (rather pathetically) to deny it, Kruger and his gang had dreamed of driving the British from Southern Africa since at least as early as the mid-1880s, and building their empire ‘from the Zambesi to the Cape’. Their plans had, however, involved waiting until Great Britain was embroiled in another war before embarking on their ‘Crusade’ – perhaps a case of “trust in God… but keep your powder dry”.

Due to their terrible treatment by Kruger’s regime, however, the 1890s saw the Johannesburg Uitlanders in something approaching open-insurrection, and making appeals to the Motherland. Worse still for Kruger and his claque was the arrival of Milner on the scene in 1897 – here was a man who was not going to tolerate Kruger’s nonsense and could see him as the trouble-maker he was.

Finally faced with a man of iron-resolution, and with (albeit half-hearted and on-the-cheap) efforts being made to belatedly bolster the paltry Imperial garrison somewhat, the window of opportunity was closing and Kruger knew that time was running out; sure enough the arrogant old dinosaur went ahead launched his crack-pot invasions despite Britain not being entangled in another major war elsewhere on the globe.

Perhaps needless to say, the Almighty of the Old Testament did not come to aid of his (self-appointed) ‘Chosen People’, and the Soldiers of the Queen were not shattered by a barrage of lightning bolts or struck down by a series of Biblical plagues. Instead, and just as happened in the examples Tombs uses (France in 1792, Germany in 1914 and then again in 1939), Kruger’s dreams of empire and glory ended in complete defeat.

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