.As Secretary of State John Kerry superintends the United States' encounter with his Iranian counterpart in negotiating a nuclear agreement, one is drawn to contemplate the Charge of the Light Brigade 160 years ago.
Cavalrymen back in the thick of that 673-member British military unit about to meet their Russian enemy in the Battle of Balaclava no doubt had high hopes their officers were clear about the enemy and what it was about.
Turned out they weren't, and thus we have Tennyson's famous lines describing the conflict and its outcome:
Half a league, half a league,
Half a league onward,
All in the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred…
Into the jaws of Death,
Into the mouth of Hell.
Lest the day come when some bard describes the Obama Administration leading the United States and its allies into the "valley" and "jaws of Death" and "the mouth of Hell" there are questions one would like to pose to our plumed leadership at the head of the brigade, like President Obama, Secretary Kerry, National Security Advisor Susan Rice, as well as those in the Congress who do not comprehend the nature of the existential threat:
• Do you really understand the characteristics of a religious passion?
• Do you grasp the unyielding commitment to an apocalyptic vision?
• Do you realize that negotiations in such circumstances do not fit the neat parameters and styles of traditional diplomatic arts?
British aristocrats trying to win the peace with Germany prior to the Second World War saw Hitler but they did not see Hitlerism. Chamberlain was thus misled into believing that "Herr Hitler" treated their polite conversations as a gentlemen whose personal word and honor would trump his ideology.
Hitlerism was a religious system, a syncretizing of what Winston Churchill would call "perverted science" along with Aryan mysticism, liturgically expressed before vast Goebbels-produced congregations, in an atmosphere laden with Wagnerian hymnody.
Dainty diplomacy is no match for such an encounter.
That's why in the present moment one increasingly feels like a hapless rider wedged in the middle of the 1854 "Charge of the Light Brigade.. There's even an eerie historic repetitiveness in that the battlefield then, the Crimea, is one of the zones of foreign policy concern now.
A "light brigade" in the old cavalry days was a lightly armed and thinly armored force. The "heavy brigades" fought the major battles, but the mission of light brigades was limited to reconnaissance, quick raids and small skirmishes.
The problem on that day in 1854 and this in 2015 is not so much the lightness of courage in the warriors and strength in their steeds as the fact they were under uncertain, confused, conflicted leadership. The top British command over the Crimea war zone consisted of highly regarded professional soldiers, but they behaved that day like lightweights.
It was certainly not the collapse of the Russian lines that lured the light brigade into the "valley" and "jaws" of death and the "mouth of Hell," but the vacuum in its own leadership structure. The deadly void had been created by jumbled signals, a lack of vision for the whole battlefield, and even petty jealousies within the senior staff.
Who fills the leadership vacuum now? Who will fill it in 2016? From way back here in the pounding herd, one is tempted to despair. However, there is ample proof that God intervenes in human affairs, and that time's track is taking history toward the great destination and purpose of it all.
But this is an apocalyptic vision, a spiritual perspective. We in the light brigade of the West have been told repeatedly by many of our Very Important People and their High Institutions that apocalyptic concerns belong to the religious nuts, and that spiritual issues are irrelevant.
The opponent today is spiritually passionate and apocalyptically envisioned, while the light brigade is passionate mostly for its new gadgets, breakthroughs in sexual boundaries, and foisting about for new denied rights over which to be indignant.
These are among the reasons we are now the light brigade led by lightweights.
There are, however, those among us who, like the sons of Issachar in their day and Winston Churchill in his, understand the contemporary times and what we must do. They are the people – a small remnant, perhaps, as in the worst of ancient Israel's times – who really do believe that "if My people, who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land."
We must not neglect our tactical defenses, and negotiating from strength, but we must recognize that the battles today center on the spiritual, and summon us to our knees. If we and our leaders don't understand that reality we are the light brigade, led by lightweights.