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January 17, 2014

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Dan Hardie

The Solomon Hughes article that you linked to is not merely stupid but also genuinely contemptible. It has an awful lot in common with Gove's anonymous smear campaign about the commemoration plans.

Hughes informs us: 'The only way to properly reflect the feelings of those who lived through the first world war is to ignore Gove and sign up to the No Glory campaign at www.noglory.org.'

Click on the link, and one finds that 'noglory.org' wants us to sign a petition already signed by a collection of luvvies and fashionistas (the late Roger Lloyd Pack, Simon Callow, Vivienne Westwood ad hoc genus) leavened by one or two genuine wankers (Tony Benn, Billy 'Not Even Unintentionally Funny Anymore' Bragg). And it thinks we must read a bunch of articles on the war by such towering historians as Mark Steel.

So, Solomon thinks that we don't properly respect the sufferings of those who fought in the Great War unless we do as he bids and sign up to the dozy and ignorant ignorant rhetoric peddled by the normal collection of 'politically aware' minor celebrities, stand-up comics and op-ed writers?

Since I have no intention of signing the 'No Glory' petition, I guess that I am refusing to properly reflect on, say, my paternal grandfather, who fought on the Western Front and in Italy and who lived the rest of his life, in my father's sad memory, as a broken man.

Thanks for the lecture, Solomon, but if you imagine you have even the slightest authority to tell me that there is only one way to 'properly reflect' the tragedy of the Great War, and that that way involves signing some dumb online petition got up by a bunch of geniuses who don't seem to have read a single serious book on the war between them, then you know what you can do to yourself.

Both the grotesque, and borderline racist, Gove briefings, and the Solomon Hughes/Billy Bragg/Tony Benn/other-assorted-cretins campaign are doing the same thing. To borrow Dan Davies's brilliant satire of reactions to 9/11, all these fools are saying is 'Why the death of several million people in the Great War means we should support my politics'.

I'll be commemorating the Great War this year as I always do in November, by reading about it, and thinking about what I've learned from my reading, and hoping that I might possibly act more honestly and intelligently as a result. But if this doesn't appeal to anyone, you can go and sign a petition endorsed by Tony Benn and Billy Bragg. It's the only way to properly reflect on the carnage, I hear.

Dan Hardie

Shorter Dan: What's the only thing as contemptible as a jelly-bellied flag-flapper? A self-appointed Wilfred Owen.

Igor Belanov

I don't think Billy Bragg is intentionally or unintentionally a comedian, and to describe him and Tony Benn as 'wankers' is frankly ridiculous. It does seem somewhat worrying to me that you appear to want politics kept out of war, or discussions about war. Most people commemorate World War One fairly quietly every November, while this is clearly a reaction against the glorification of a war that has, if anything, decreased steadily in popularity even since it finished. But, as you say, you can commemorate the war in whatever style you want, fortunately. You just don't need to be quite so smug about it.

Zwollenaar

If anyone is interested in studies of the war which shine a light on lesser known areas, Maartje Abbenhuis' study of Dutch neutrality, "The Art Of Staying Neutral" is a fascinating account of the lengths the Dutch had to go to to avoid being dragged into the conflagration.

It's a fascinating case study on the concept and machinations of precarious neutrality highlighting the expert diplomacy, bribery, turning a blind eye and sheer good luck which combined to keep The Netherlands out, especially as the war became more desperate towards its conclusion.

des von bladet

What's the only thing as contemptible as a jelly-bellied flag-flapper? A self-appointed Wilfred Owen.

What a presumptious presumption of these persons! Official Wilfred Owens can of course only properly be appointed by a committee of eminents chaired by Lord Greighton-Goode, or by a Siegfried Sasson with a balloon on the moon.

Chris Williams

I think that No Glory might have originated in Friends House.

Dan Hardie

Igor: 'It does seem somewhat worrying to me that you appear to want politics kept out of war, or discussions about war.' This is bullshit, and anyone who has read what I've posted on this blog on the Great War, or any other war, knows that.

A large cheque will be sent to the first person who can actually produce evidence that I have said I 'want politics kept out of war, or discussions about war', as Igor is pretending to believe.

When one says, as I do above, that professional historians should be closely involved in commemoration of the war, or that people should read the history of the war- or, indeed, when I post rather detailed comments in other B&T threads about the politics of the First World War, it's fairly obvious what I think on the subject.

What I said above is that I don't agree that signing up to the vacuous propositions of a collection of luvvies, SWP sympathisers and tired hacks constitutes, in Hughes's absurd phrase, 'the only way to properly reflect the feelings of those who lived through the first world war'. Nor does anyone with a working brain and an aversion to fourth form debating tactics think that saying this constitutes 'taking the politics out of discussion of war'.

I'm on for good faith discussions with anyone, of whatever views, and I rarely make the accusation that someone is arguing in bad faith. But I think, in all honesty, that Igor is certainly arguing in bad faith, because no-one with basic literacy could read any of the many comments I've made on B&T on the Great War and seriously believe I 'want to take politics out of discussing the war'.

I was the one who started the discussion about how disgusting it was that Gove was going around smearing the Culture Secretary because her department wanted to commemorate Indian and West Indian troops, for example. That is an example of 'taking politics out of discussing the war'? Spare me. It's not even worth telling 'Igor' that if he wants to tell lies, he should tell intelligent ones, since that's clearly not something he's capable of.

If anyone wants to argue honestly on any subject, I hope I'll always reply in kind. But I'm not pretending I feel anything other than a kind of bored contempt for some sad, pseudonymous little man who trots out dishonest arguments in a schoolboy effort to 'win a debate'.

Igor Belanov

"all these fools are saying is 'Why the death of several million people in the Great War means we should support my politics'."

Those were your words. If someone invokes a political argument that deals with WW1 then they are unlikely to be doing it to support someone else's politics. Hence my interpretation.

If you want to get all high and mighty about conducting internet-based arguments then maybe you should avoid calling relatively unoffensive people, such as Tony Benn and Billy Bragg, 'wankers'. You might differ from them on certain points of view, but I would rather you didn't go over the top on such things.

Chris Williams

One thing that Benn and Bragg have in common is that they've both been in the armed forces.

Dan Hardie

Yes, calling a Labour politician a 'wanker' is a dreadful offence, even if the politician in possible fawned over Saddam Hussein or spent the 1970s wrecking a Labour government from within. No doubt Igor is desperate to condemn the foul fellow who wrote this about Gordon Brown:

'I said awhile back that it’s difficult to find the right word for Gordon Brown. Looking over at Justin’s latest notes on the atrocity, the right word suddenly struck me.

'He’s a wanker. A 100%, solid gold, honest to goodness, 24 carat wanker. And that’s all there is to him. He’s nothing other than a wanker: and once you’ve called him a wanker there’s nothing left to say. He is, precisely, a wanker.

'I don’t mean this just as vulgar abuse. After all, wanker has substantive meaning and descriptive value beyond its status as an insult. It describes a personality in a way that – say – nutter or dickhead doesn’t, a combination of self-obsession, minor-key malice and bedrock lack of empathy. It’s not just a general category for people you find offensive in some way.

'...This is, of course, the opposite of the way in which he presents himself and it must be difficult to get up in the morning, look in the mirror and see a wanker staring back. You throw your heart and soul into misdirection: make them think I’m a financial genius, please make them believe I’m a moral paradigm, let them think I’m mildly autistic and a big clunking fist, that I’m spiky and awkward and brooding…anything, but please, God, if you exist, don’t let them think I’m a wanker.

'Well it worked for a good long while, at least for those of us not actually acquainted with the man. But what a tragedy. What must it be like to generate false flaws to conceal real ones, then to rise to a position where all the decisions have to be made in public, where the wanker within inexorably reveals himself to everyone. The Prime Ministerial wanker. The wanker at the top.'

...Do you know, there's a total of *eighteen* uses of the word 'wanker' to describe Gordon Brown in that filthy blog post? Why, 'Igor' must be furious with the scoundrel who wrote this scurrilous libel. As soon as 'Igor' reads this he'll be typing up a furious condemnation of the person who called Brown a 'wanker' in such detail, vowing never to take anything he said seriously, and probably boycotting his blog.

This 'Jamie Kenny' fellow and his disgusting 'Blood and Treasure' website are absolutely beyond the pale! Wanker- a Labour Prime Minister? Disgusting.

Of course, if 'Igor' doesn't make some such furious condemnation of Jamie, we'll end up assuming that he's just some bad-faith troll who works himself up into a state of synthetic rage because he's desperate to 'win' comment threads but can't put an intelligent argument together. And that would be wrong, of course.

ajay

Further to Chris' point, I'd be inclined to give Tony Benn's views on what Great War veterans would have wanted quite s bit of deference, because he's of an age to have known a lot of them personally, and I'm not: I've just read a few books about it.

Igor Belanov

I never realised comment threads were an Olympic sport. I do agree that I clearly need a lot of practice if I'm going to do any good in Rio.

Yes, calling a Labour politician a 'wanker' is a dreadful offence, even if the politician in possible fawned over Saddam Hussein or spent the 1970s wrecking a Labour government from within.

Billy Bragg might not be a comedian, but you clearly are.

Dan Hardie

'Igor Belanov': a cliché for every occasion, and an intelligent argument for none.

Dan Hardie

Ajay points out that Benn was old enough to have talked to the veterans of the First World War. Quite true, and those veterans themselves will have had many different views on war, from pacifism (a few people, at least by 1939) to bellicose nationalism (probably even fewer people, but still some) via all the many points in between. It was, surely, quite a common journey for a lot of British Great War veterans in the interwar era to go from angrily rejecting all war, to fearing that there might be another conflict, to finally accepting that there was no way left to resist Hitler but fight him.

Since the veterans didn't speak with one undivided voice on what the war meant for politics, we would be arrogant fools to claim that one single political view, and that alone, speaks for all the veterans of the Great War.

In fairness to Bragg and Benn, they haven't made that stupid and offensive claim on NoGlory's behalf- it was Solomon Hughes that did so. What is worse, because it comes from a man with some actual political power, is the way that Her Majesty's Secretary of State for Education presumed to make the same kind of claim on behalf of his own home-brewed ideology.(Quite possibly ajay and Chris W agree on these points.)

Chris Williams: 'One thing that Benn and Bragg have in common is that they've both been in the armed forces.'

Yes, they have, like me. Bragg left the army after a few months, immediately after completing his basic training. Benn completed flying training (quite dangerous) but was never in combat. (Not his fault- he was born too late to fight.) I have been in combat but not on anything like the scale or with the lethality of the Western Front. I read the accounts of the First World War, or the great battles of the Second World War, and realise I experienced nothing comparable.

Members of the Second World War generation, like the First, had similar experiences to each other but strongly divergent politics. Tony Benn served in the RAF; Denis Healey, a few years older, served in the Army, saw action, and won the Military Cross at Anzio. They were both from the same wartime generation and yet they disagreed, with real bitterness, on many of the most serious political issues of the day. And no doubt there were issues where both of them were wrong and people who had never served in the military were right.

I found my military experience very valuable. But it hasn't put my views on the First World War, or on anything else, beyond disagreement.I can be wrong about the First World War or about any other conflict, and so can anyone else who has served in the military.

seeds

I'd be inclined to give Tony Benn's views on what Great War veterans would have wanted quite a bit of deference, because he's of an age to have known a lot of them personally

Including his father, who served in the RAF in both wars. (Wikipedia etc suggest that in the Great War he was awarded the DSO, DFC, Croix de Guerre, and Croce di Guerra.)

dsquared

I am thinking of raising a petition to the effect that there are really very few lessons to be learned from the Great War (even "well that sucked" was actually something that could have reasonably been predicted at the time), and that the fact it is now a hundred years ago makes it less relevant to our situation today, rather than more.

johnf

On the Luton riots my grandfather was in the Canadian army and family legend has it was involved in the Kimnel Park riots.

Also there was something about a short-lived Soviet being set up somewhere in Western Canada.

Alex

Lessons: "If you're going to base your security policy on alliances with very closely integrated war plans, it's a good idea to make the casus foederis completely clear and tell everyone what it is".

Another: "If on the other hand your policy is based on deterrence by uncertainty, it's a good idea to make sure you don't pre-commit to anything that restricts your options".

It is true that both of these seem to have been internalised quite thoroughly.

That said, number three: "Countries with dramatically uneven development and powerful, unaccountable covert-action focused intelligence services are NOT YOUR FRIEND, even if they are your ally" seems to be harder to get across.

Yes, I have been reading Christopher Clark, and it is really quite amazing how similar Serbia in 1914 and modern Pakistan are.

Chris Williams

Those might be the important lessons for leaders, but my own personal take-awsy from 1914 is for me as one of the led, and it involves a massive reluctance to go off and do something silly and/or evil, or support others doing this, just because I'm told that is in 'my' 'patriotic interest' to do so. Shorter: "resist nationalism".

Whenever anyone asks me why I don't stand up for the UK's national anthem, I explain that it's all because of the First World War.

seeds

Although, as trite an observation as it may be, sometimes the most obvious lessons are the most important ones. "This might suck" may have been easily predictable, but it clearly wasn't predictable enough to stop it all going ahead... And there have been conflicts since where the strong likelihood of it sucking for all concerned probably should have been emphasised in advance.

Jakob

On the alliances point, I understand that one of the reasons given for splendid isolation was that a British government could not be bound by decisions made in a previous parliament, and so alliances couldn't be guaranteed. At what point did this attitude change? IIRC, neither the Entente Cordiale nor the Triple Entente were formal alliances in the sense that the documents signed committed the UK to respond militarily.

Alex

OK, another lesson: "be really suspicious of Very Serious People making up policy on their own hook".

ajay

I understand that one of the reasons given for splendid isolation was that a British government could not be bound by decisions made in a previous parliament, and so alliances couldn't be guaranteed.

Really? Because surely that would cover not only alliances but also all other treaties, and 18th-19th century Britain signed plenty of treaties. I thought Splendid Isolation was just about avoiding alliances so we wouldn't get drawn into, oh, a massive Continental war or something.

Chris Williams

I think that if there was a diplomatic break point, then it was the Anglo-Japanese Alliance of 1902.

ajay

Related, here's a history question: how often have nations ignored mutual defence treaties, and what happened to them?
I'm thinking of clearcut cases only, where A and B have a treaty of mutual defence, and when B gets attacked by C, A refuses to do anything.

Richard J

There's something in The Sleepwalker's introduction precisely on that point (or possibly Showalter's book on Tannenberg - I'm flipping between the two at the moment). Depending on how you define it, non-cooperation is the employed strategy about 10-30% of the time, from memory.

We shall astonish the world with our ingratitude &c. (which I also seem to vaguely recall is like 'lions led by donkeys' as a quote floating around for ages before it found a specific event to get attached to.)

Jakob

Chris: Thanks (and I got round to watching _Weekly Wipe_ yesterday; greatly enjoyed your bit!)

ajay: The claim was somewhere in Massie's _Dreadnought_ (but on which of the 1000+ pages I do not recall..._) That aspect struck me as slightly implausible as well, but perhaps the reasoning was only applied to matters of actual alliance?

Barry Freed

Yes, I have been reading Christopher Clark, and it is really quite amazing how similar Serbia in 1914 and modern Pakistan are.

Consider this a request for a Ranter blogpost please.

And I've just ordered The Sleepwalker's.

Bleg: I have a dream project for the schlachtbummler coming up. I work for a large cultural institution that has several hundred unprocessed maps from WWI. There are all kinds of maps: battlefield/trench, training, propaganda, newspaper, commercial, etc.in English, French, German and Russian covering all parts of the conflict. I've been pushing to do something with these for the upcoming centenary for a while and it looks like I'm going to be able to have a go at it. Does anyone have any book recommendations? I suppose it's high time I give that copy of Imperial Military Geography I ordered a read. And I've read some of Peter Chausseaud's work which I thought highly of (although not his latest). I'm specifically looking for anything that's like Chausseaud that deals with cartography and the Great War that I might have missed although I still have a lot of reading to do. Also does anyone know of any good websites dealing with cartography and the war?
Any interesting takes on the topic from the schlachtbummleriat here would be very much appreciated.

Barry Freed

And I've read some of Peter Chausseaud's work which I thought highly of (although not his latest)

Clarification: I mean that I haven't read his latest, of course; not that I didn't think highly of it.

ajay

There's something in The Sleepwalker's introduction precisely on that point

Thanks. The only one I can think of is Turkey's refusal to join in WW2 despite its tripartite treaty with Britain and France, but that's arguable; the Turks took the view that before May 1940 the Allies didn't look like they needed help, between May and June, gosh! it was all happening so fast!, and after June then technically France (in the Vichy sense) wasn't an ally of Britain any more, so their treaty obligations lapsed, and anyway there was a getout clause where the Turks didn't have to do anything that might risk war with Russia.

des von bladet
(Political scientists who have studied the question used to think that in only 25 per cent of cases did allies act as their treaty partners expected, which makes you wonder why statesmen make treaties in the first place. A more statistically sophisticated analysis of wars between 1816 and 1965 gets the proportion up to 75 per cent, but that still leaves plenty of room for chance. Those who took Europe to war in 1914 had every reason to be uncertain.)
Richard J

Thanks Des - that's precisely what I was (it turns out badly) trying to remember.

Alex

Example from 1914: Italy. The Triple Alliance couldn't have been any more activated, but the Italians said maybeanothertime, and of course eventually changed sides.

Chris Williams

Barry - this guy:
Birger Stichelbaut (2011) “The first thirty kilometres of the western front 1914–1918: an aerial archaeological approach with historical remote sensing data”

Barry Freed

Thanks Chris, nice GIS and georectification tie-in there too which is perfect for us. I may be in touch via email concerning this project in a few weeks.

Chris williams

Do so - I am also fishing in similar waters.

Barry Freed

I'd thought as much. Will do.

Dan Hardie

Richard: '(which I also seem to vaguely recall is like 'lions led by donkeys' as a quote floating around for ages before it found a specific event to get attached to.)'

In John Terraine's 'Smoke and fire', he quotes a letter to the Times published when Alan Clark's 'The Donkeys' came out. Clark was the one who quoted two German generals (I think he said it was Ludendorff speaking to one of his staff - it will be easy to check) that the British soldiers were lions, but they were led by Generals. Clark didn't give a source for this remark, but as we all know, it's gone into popular memory as something that was definitely said.

The letter-writer to the Times pointed out that almost exactly the same things had been said, about the French soldiers and their Generals, in the Franco-Prussian war, and he gave his source. He asked Clark to reply and give him a source for First World War Generals saying the same things, and Clark never did. So it looks like there probably was a 'lions led by donkeys' conversation, except it took place in 1870.

Alex:'Yes, I have been reading Christopher Clark, and it is really quite amazing how similar Serbia in 1914 and modern Pakistan are.'

I'd strongly recommend Anatol Lieven's book 'Pakistan: a hard place'. Whilst I doubt I know all that much about Pakistan now, I certainly knew vastly less before I'd read Lieven. A lot of very good reporting backed up by some impressive reading and a number of very provocative points: notably on the similarities, rather than the differences, between India and Pakistan, and also Lieven's insistence on how a societal breakdown due to the military or Islamism is extremely unlikely. I doubt Lieven would subscribe to any 'Pakistan in 2014 is Serbia in 1914' thesis, gangs of Black Hand-style thugs shooting up Mumbai notwithstanding.

Dan Hardie

Dsquared: 'I am thinking of raising a petition to the effect that there are really very few lessons to be learned from the Great War (even "well that sucked" was actually something that could have reasonably been predicted at the time), and that the fact it is now a hundred years ago makes it less relevant to our situation today, rather than more.'

One very striking thing about Europe before August 1914 is i) almost nobody did predict 'war is really going to suck. About the only major exception I can think of is a Polish-born Jewish banker called Ivan Bloch, who published a six-volume work in 1898 predicting that future European war would be a tactical stalemate producing enormous casualties, backed by massive social mobilisation which in turn would make compromise peace deals very difficult. Everyone else tended to think that war would be much as it had been in 1866 or 1870: quick and decisive.

A lot of the Socialists declared themselves against imperialist war, of course, but even most of them seem to have bought into the 'quick war' notion. That notion in turn meant that when mobilisation began in 1914, the various Continental Socialist and Social Democratic parties were much more easily persuaded than they might otherwise have been that this was not an 'imperialist' war but a war of self-defence. After all, it was all going to be over quickly and relatively cheaply...

I'd also note that the lack of prediction wasn't because the Europeans of the late 19th and early 20th century were thick: on the contrary, it's astonishing just how vibrant the high culture of each European Great Power was in 1914.

It seems to me that these illusions are all very much *not* irrelevant to 'our situation today', and that knowing about them is likely to be rather useful to 'our situation' at various points in the future.

dsquared

I'm not sure this is right. Marx & Engels were always predicting mass slaughter in capitalist wars, which was basically why the socialists (including your namesake Keir) were against it. Anyone who had seen the American Civil War could have made the same predictions that Bloch (who I hadn't heard of before, thanks) did.

And from the point of view of the ordinary man watching the football on the Anfield, Hillsborough, Elland Road or any of the other stands named after Spion Kop, there was always a bit of a clue about the way in which the British aristocracy was planning to conduct its war. "Be Prepared" in the Scouts motto originally had the context "be prepared to charge the enemy not caring whether you die or not".

The more I look at this, the more I get the impression that not getting into horrific continental wars is a bit like not investing in subprime mortgages - the trick is not so much any amount of factual information that you can learn, it's having the strength of character to not convince yourself that a stupid course of action is in fact sensible just because everyone's doing it.

Chris Williams

Bloch gets a namecheck in Wells' _The Land Ironclads_, which is, incidentally, perhaps the shortest and best evocation of the way that the British have tried to wage war in the C20th. As for 'over by Christmas', one man who planned for a three-year war from the off was Kitchener. Not very obscure.

chris y

Also this analysis from Stolypin's predecessor as Russian Interior Minister, a few months before it all kicked off. But there weren't more than half a dozen people in Europe who were doing this king of work seriously, and all of them were marginal at the time they were doing it.

The point about the lessons to be learned from the American Civil War is made from time to time, but European staffs thought it was too small scale and conditions were too different to provide strategic lessons. And was there anything to be learned from it that couldn't be learned from the Crimea, if you were open to it?

ajay

Jakob re Britain not signing alliances: hmm, interesting. I will check Massie.

Des: very interesting, thanks. Alex: yes, 1914 Italy of course.

One very striking thing about Europe before August 1914 is i) almost nobody did predict 'war is really going to suck.

"The lamps are going out all over Europe"? I suppose that was said in August 1914.
I hadn't heard of Ivan Bloch (aka Jan Bloch, aka Jean de Bloch) - interesting. Here's a bit more:
http://www.historytoday.com/paul-reynolds/man-who-predicted-great-war
It also notes the disagreement that Bloch met at RUSI from cavalrymen (wrong) and gunners (who were, partly, right).

"Be Prepared" in the Scouts motto originally had the context "be prepared to charge the enemy not caring whether you die or not".

Whaa?

dsquared

Dan does have a good point about the socialists though, who seemed in large numbers to have discovered that "This Time It's Different" (the four most expensive words in the English language according to John Templeton, albeit that I don't really agree with it as an investing proverb) and that unlike most capitalist wars, this one was wholly justified and likely to be quick and easy, the moment it was declared.

Richard J

And Lord Kitchener, too.

I've actually got a 1912 training manual at home. General Haking's [1] Company Tactics. Read with the benefit of hindsight, it's an interesting mixture of sound common sense, assumptions of Anglo-Saxon superiority, and a useful reminder that the insistence on attack and aggressiveness wasn't ignoring the arrival of the magazine rifle, the machine gun, etc. but a deliberate response to it; the theory was that the less time you spent exposed to the enemy fire by fruitless skirmishing, the lower your overall casualties should have been.

Which, AIUI, is not dissimilar to modern tactical orthodoxy - I suppose the key point is that with mortars, radios, assault rifles etc., the imbalance of fire-power between defender and attacker is much more even that it was in 1914, when you had your Lee-Enfield and a gun battery unable to see a damn thing because of the smoke.

[1] Notorious in the ANZAC mythology.

ajay

Which, AIUI, is not dissimilar to modern tactical orthodoxy

"Offensive action" is still taught as one of the principles of war at Sandhurst, along with security, surprise, concentration of force, etc.

I think (hypothesising wildly) the swing might not be so much between offensive and defensive superiority, as between which bits of the find-fix-destroy-assess cycle were the most difficult. Nowadays we have any number of ways to do the "destroy" bit effectively; accurate artillery, precision air etc. The tricky parts are the "find" and "fix" bits; working out where the enemy is and making sure he stays there long enough to be destroyed. But in 1914 it was the "destroy" bit that was tricky. We knew where the Germans were. They were in that 400-mile-long ditch over there, and they'd still be there tomorrow. But getting at them with fire was extremely difficult.

Alex

Also Lieven's insistence on how a societal breakdown due to the military or Islamism is extremely unlikely. I doubt Lieven would subscribe to any 'Pakistan in 2014 is Serbia in 1914' thesis

I quite agree that a societal breakdown of Pakistan due to the military or Islamism is extremely unlikely, in fact, I blogged in that sense when neither popular nor profitable. Serbia wasn't a failed state, and neither is Pakistan. That's not the point.

Instead, it was quite a robust state, but one whose political culture tolerated a lot of violence in the normal course of business, and which (partly as an effect, partly as a cause) relied heavily on secret intelligence activities. It maintained territorial claims based partly on religion against its neighbours. A key method they adopted was sponsoring non-state guerrilla/terrorist movements in these areas and at home, both to intimidate internal opponents and to pursue foreign policy goals.

As is the way, both the intelligence apparatus and its clients became very influential and completely unaccountable, and the relationship between the patron and the client increasingly ambiguous, as the clients infiltrated the apparatus and the apparatus infiltrated the state it supposedly served. That the clients were supposedly independent was important because they could be deniable, but it also meant that they could make policy independently. Their deniability was important because it meant they could be used as an asymmetric counter to the superior army of the regional superpower.

Provoking the regional superpower was important to the politicians who patronised the spooks because it drew attention away from why the only modern thing in this state was the army and why the standard of living was so much worse than that enjoyed by the allegedly oppressed compatriots over the border in the regional superpower. Also, the struggle over the irredenta generated an ideological framework for a nation that was otherwise a bit vaguely defined.

Remind you of anywhere?

Chris Williams

'Assess' was also a problem, when artillery cut wires, and portable radios had yet to be invented. That's why a lot of the RFC's job by 1918 was 'contact patrols' - looking out for signals from the ground which would say if an objective had been taken or not, and thus if the barrage could move on.

I have a Gale and Polden (if you don't recognise the publishing house, go away and find out) promotion manual for NCOs, spring 1915. There's lots of comedy 'fire and movement' info which had stopped being useful in Western Europe about 4 months previously, and there's nothing on trenches. But the doctrine is steeped in the axiom that quick firing artillery makes an infantry advance very dangerous, so it's best to get it over with, or go round the sides. It was not written by stupid people who hadn't noticed the arrival of the 75 QF and the machine gun: quite the reverse.

ajay

'Assess' was also a problem, when artillery cut wires, and portable radios had yet to be invented. That's why a lot of the RFC's job by 1918 was 'contact patrols' - looking out for signals from the ground which would say if an objective had been taken or not, and thus if the barrage could move on.

Good point.

Also, to Dan and everyone else: could you please stop recommending interesting books for me to buy! My six hypothetical children need feeding and they'll starve if I keep on staggering home late on payday evening having blown my week's wages at Foyle's yet again.

Richard J

I have a Gale and Polden (if you don't recognise the publishing house, go away and find out) promotion manual for NCOs, spring 1915. There's lots of comedy 'fire and movement' info which had stopped being useful in Western Europe about 4 months previously, and there's nothing on trenches. But the doctrine is steeped in the axiom that quick firing artillery makes an infantry advance very dangerous, so it's best to get it over with, or go round the sides. It was not written by stupid people who hadn't noticed the arrival of the 75 QF and the machine gun: quite the reverse.

Precisely the message of Haking's Company Tactics. I've been meaning to write a guest post here for ages about the pathos behind the original owner of my copy.

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