King Canute in Afghanistan
The Times writer, Carlotta Gall, has obviously made an effort to balance optimism and pessimism about the situation in Afghanistan, and the article includes what was probably intended to be a very optimistic assessment by Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who visited Kabul last Sunday.
"I am convinced that the additional military capability will certainly start to allow us to turn the tide."
Henry of Huntingdon, the 12th-century chronicler, tells how (King Canute) set his throne by the sea shore and commanded the tide to halt and not wet his feet and robes; but the tide failed to stop. According to Henry, Cnut leapt backwards and said "Let all men know how empty and worthless is the power of kings, for there is none worthy of the name, but He whom heaven, earth, and sea obey by eternal laws." He then hung his gold crown on a crucifix, and never wore it again.
King Canute got wet and repented, but the arrogance of our kings is incurable, although the thrones they set up in Vietnam were long since washed away, and our empire in Iraq is even now dissolving like sand-castles under the tide.
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