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January 31, 2011

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ajay

Precedents: the Red Star Belgrade supporters' club, which turned into the Tigers paramilitary unit during the war. A sort of genocidal version of the Pals' Battalions. (There were Pals' Battalions formed from football clubs and their supporters: 16th Royal Scots, for example, which included 800 Hearts supporters and eleven players, went over the top on 1 July 1916. 75% casualties in the first 48 hours.)

And, I suppose, more distantly, Berlusconi and Forza Italia.

In Egypt, you'll probably find that the football clubs are one of the bits of civil society that has an organisational hierarchy and yet is relatively unsurveilled.

jamie

Also the Bad Blue Boys, the Dynamo Zagreb ultras who fought as Croatian militia.

"In Egypt, you'll probably find that the football clubs are one of the bits of civil society that has an organisational hierarchy and yet is relatively unsurveilled."

Yes, Simon Kuper's good on that in Football Against the Enemy.

dsquared

Blah blah Casuals United, English Defence League blah. Can't really think of anything interesting to say about them though. Perhaps one too many quadruple espressos for me this morning.

Alex

They'd be more likely to form part of a thuggish loyalist paramilitary force dedicated to beating up protestors? Come to think of it, don't Rangers fans partly fulfil that role in Northern Ireland?

ajay

I don't think they were football fans who then became paramilitary thugs; I think they were thugs all along.

Richard J

...but using football supporting as a useful cover? It's not implausible when you consider the paranoia both the Nazi and Soviet regimes showed about any form of voluntary organisations outside the control of the state (which generally seems to be the common origin of 'the Nazis banned [innocuous sounding, possibly woo-y] activity X' stories.)

ajay

No, I mean that the difference is that Arkan's mob were originally just a football supporters' club that turned into a paramilitary unit later. What you have in NI are paramilitaries, some of whom support Rangers. But they didn't start out as non-paramilitary Rangers fans, and the Rangers supporters clubs weren't the structure that turned them into paramilitaries.
That isn't as clear as it could be, sorry.

David

In the early days of the war, the Croatian soldiers put Dynamo Zagreb crests on their tanks etc, since they didn't have any other way of showing their nationality.

ajay

the paranoia both the Nazi and Soviet regimes showed about any form of voluntary organisations outside the control of the state

Pretty much any non-state organisation can serve as the substructure of a resistance movement. Students' unions, churches, mosques, trade unions, Masonic lodges obviously; but also sports clubs, chess clubs, etc.

Myles

Perhaps one too many quadruple espressos for me this morning.

I have had them before in advance of large exams, but mostly they just leave you completely feeling like roadkill aside from a supernatural level of focus on the matter at hand and complete obliviousness to anything else.

Richard J

Brett Holman's just retweeted a Maurtitian activist claiming that while the army isnt entirely convinced about Mubarak, the Air Force is 100% behind him - true, he came from there, but Air Forces do seem to be hotbeds of whatever the local equivalent of ultramontanism may be.

jamie

Do they not loveth Mubarak? Hath he not bestowed 200 F-16s upon them through his fruitful relationship with the United States? When the Brothers take over McDonnell Douglas, the Egyptian airforce will discover the virtues of reform. Dependent airforces are the comic opera element in allied armies, especially since they're never really meant to be used. They're where regime prestige comes from.

Incidentally, have you heard the joke about the Soviet foreign minister telling Nasser after the 67 war that his new consignment of MIGs was ready to go, but if he thought it would save time he'd be happy to blow them up on the ground in Russia.

Richard J

I suppos the obvious data point here is Dubya.

ajay

Air Forces do seem to be hotbeds of whatever the local equivalent of ultramontanism may be.

Aircrew should never, ever be allowed near the levers of political power.

George W Bush.
George HW Bush.
Tailgunner Joe McCarthy.
Charles Lindbergh.
Donald Rumsfeld.
Randall "Duke" Cunningham.
"B-1 Bob" Dornan.
Two of the Keating Five: John McCain and John Glenn.
Hermann Goering.
Reinhard Heydrich.
Jerry Rawlings, dictator of Ghana.
Hafez al-Asad, dictator of Syria.
Hosni Mubarak, dictator of Egypt.
Italo Balbo.

Richard J

Counterpoint: George McGovern.

ajay

And the point about an air force is that it can't hope to stage a coup by itself because it doesn't have the manpower, but it can disrupt a coup with air attacks. Also, it's relatively small in manpower terms, so it's cheap to keep paid off. This is made much of in "How to Stage a Military Coup", IIRC.

Note: this is why the Wehrmacht's flak units were Luftwaffe, not Army. They could be relied on not to protect a rebellious army from counter-attacks by a loyal Luftwaffe.

ajay

I will grant you George McGovern. Though we don't really know what he would have been like in power.

Richard J

And the point about an air force is that it can't hope to stage a coup by itself because it doesn't have the manpower, but it can disrupt a coup with air attacks.

I'd quibble with this point, actually - you don't really need a large force to launch a coup, just one that's in the right place at the right time, and airbases tend to be clustered close to capital cities with large amounts of career military folk on tap... If I were to plan a coup in the UK, the Rock Apes would feature a lot in my plan.

ajay

I'm not sure how many real coups have actually followed that plan, Richard. Yes, airbases can be near capitals - not always that near, though, because they'd get in the way of the civilian airport. But you know what else is even nearer the capital? The Presidential Guard, in its barracks, with its tanks. Your collection of repurposed base security troops and ground crew would last about 15 minutes.

Getting the air force on side for your coup is great - or at least getting them to stay on the ground - but you can't do a coup with just the air force.

dsquared

Tony Benn and Rajiv Gandhi?

ajay

I'm not sure Tony Benn should have been allowed near the levers of power either, based on what happened.
I didn't know Rajiv Gandhi was a pilot. Checking, I see that he flew for Indian Airlines; I am willing to adjust my statement to "Military aircrew should never, ever be allowed near the levers of political power".

Richard J

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_coups_d%27%C3%A9tat_and_coup_attempts

Looking at the list is interesting - air forces have launched lots of coups, particularly in the 50s and 60s, but few have been successful.

Thing I only just realised: For a spell in 1957, San Marino had a full blown constitutional crisis.

skidmarx

Norman Tebbit. According the The News Quiz he's currently going by the name Nick Clegg.

Chris Williams

ajay - revise back. Tebbitt.

If I was going to launch a coup with my air force (and why not?), I'd flog the F16s to the Taiwanese, and invest in Pucaras, A1s, and helicopter gunships. Or equivalent. Which might explain the prevalence of F16s in trophy airforces.

Luttwak is at the top of the B&T reading list, I presume?

Alex

Aviator exclusion watch: Hosni Mubarak!

Seriously, the F-16 airshow was very odd. It was completely disconnected from everything else and made no sense at all whether as an attempt to scare people, a final warning, or what. Also, they showed up, beat up downtown Cairo six times, and then went bingo fuel and headed home. That was it - they weren't relieved. Just this bizarre dadaist gesture that could have done as well for a victory roll for the revolution as for a menacing show of force.

I do wonder if someone just thought "Hey, when are we going to get the opportunity to do a supersonic low pass through Tahrir Square and over or maybe under the 6th October Bridge again?"

Chris Williams

It's like the Luftwaffe's bit in _The Longest Day_, and about as welcome, but about as effective.

Richard J

Alex> They've spent today dropping leaflets warning protesters to be peaceful. I presume the message there is basically 'today it's paper, tomorrow it's high explosive'.

Phil

The not-Ceefax story about the planes buzzing Tahrir Square concluded by adding that a column of tanks had also turned up at the square, but had been forced to withdraw. Which, if true, says quite a lot about the attraction of air power, but also about its limits.

Richard J

I'm actually being semi-serious when I note that Omar Sharif coming out in favour of the demonstrators is a very encouraging sign.

(Observation: the subtext to his Wikipedia page is fascinating.)


Jakob

ajay: I wouldn't have thought the Flak units were Luftwaffe in case of (genuine, shooting) inter-service civil warfare; rather just a result of Der Dicke's desire for as many men in his service as possible.* Most of the Luftwaffe's officer class were from the Heer anyhow weren't they?


*Which was encouraged under the political system - see also the SS/Waffen-SS/Police nexus.

ajay

I wouldn't have thought the Flak units were Luftwaffe in case of (genuine, shooting) inter-service civil warfare; rather just a result of Der Dicke's desire for as many men in his service as possible

I can't remember the source for this offhand but I definitely read it somewhere, possibly Keegan, "The Second World War". I'll check.

Tebbit: very good point.

I'm actually being semi-serious when I note that Omar Sharif coming out in favour of the demonstrators is a very encouraging sign.

I disagree. Haven't you seen "Doctor Zhivago"? He doesn't have a good record on things like this.

Richard J

And come to think of it, he got fucked over in Lawrence of Arabia too.

Stephen

Also: "Night of the Generals".

Tom Scudder

Precedents: the Red Star Belgrade supporters' club, which turned into the Tigers paramilitary unit during the war. A sort of genocidal version of the Pals' Battalions.

...

And, I suppose, more distantly, Berlusconi and Forza Italia.

And still more distantly, the Blues and the Greens in old Constantinople.

ejh

I actually am watching this on Sky this week, since it's the only English-language channel on the TV in our Madrid hotel room. It is, of course, shite, since apart from the rare moments that an actual Arab pundit gets on, they specialise in

(a) "today Tony Blair said"
(b) "today in Washington"
(c) interviews with tourists trying to leave.

As the missus said the other day, if people have actually gone on holiday to Egypt, apparently either not realising this was going on, or not realising it might be dangerous, how useful are their opinions going to be? And how hard would it be to contact actual resident, lived-there-for-years Brits, who might indeed have something interesting to say? (Not hard at all, I reckon, seeing as I saw a French channel interviewing somebody from a French school in Cairo.)

ejh

Re: Egyptian football, is it still the case that the Zamalek v Al-Ahly game has to be refereed by somebody flown in from outside the country?

Alex

Ejh: the Daily Mash nailed it.

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