29 November 2006

Persian Gulf Games

The Iranian armed forces held war games recently designed to show exactly what they could do in case of an American attack. Naturally, their potential is painted in the best light possible, but they have experience of how to attack Gulf shipping. It shouldn't be forgotten that the Gulf was the setting for a three-cornered conflict involving Iraq, Iran, and the United States in the past. One element of this was the so-called Tanker War, which was in part what led to American naval intervention. The Air Combat Information Group has a chronological chart showing known attacks on shipping during the whole of the Iran-Iraq war here.

25 November 2006

The Horror, The Horror!

Congo (Zaire, if you're my age) is in the news again for the wrong reasons. The recent election there has simply resulted in objections from the loser. The contrast with the relatively civil response of Americans to 2000 is something that should give pause to those who freely blame the rich nations and imperialism for all the ills that afflict Africa. If you want some background about an earlier revolt, one that led to European intervention, the U.S. Army offers an essay here.

23 November 2006

India 1857-8

In terms of the English-language press, the rebellion in India in 1857-8, which brought together Sepoys and key figures in the traditional native ruling class, has not been a popular subject. It doesn't have much appeal to Americans, who think of different kinds of Indians, and the British tended to ignore it, possibly out of some kind of collective guilt. William Darymple's recent book has been doing well in Britain, possibly because it has accessed the Indian archives, and given a more rounded picture than British readers are used to. However, it was not always so, as this interesting essay explains.

21 November 2006

Leyte Gulf

Evan Thomas's book on the battle of Leyte Gulf is doing well. And there's all sorts of stuff on the web about the battle. Here's a lost-in-action report. Or you can visit the excellent Combined Fleet site to read an in-depth attempt to establish who got sunk first.

20 November 2006

Norway Debate

Leo Amery: Does the Prime Minister concede that our intervention in Norway has been pretty much a disaster so far?
Rt Hon. Neville Chamberlain: It has, but you see what I say to people is why is it difficult in Norway?

Well, not really. I've actually played around with Tony Blair’s recent comments on the al-Jazeera network in an interview, inviting comparisons with the famous wartime Norway Debate that led to the resignation of Neville Chamberlain and his replacement by Winston Churchill. Sadly, the relevant Hansard is not available on-line, at least not that I've been able to find. Something for a scholar-squirrel to dig up and post?

I can't think of any remark that has been so close to public relations disaster by a serving government official short of Gerald Ford's famous comment in his debate during the 1976 presidential election that suggested Poland was not under Soviet control. I don't follow Blair's pronouncements that closely, but I've always had the impression that he likes to reach out to his audience and make them identify himself as one of them. I imagine he thought al-Jazeera's viewers would be unsympathetic to his Iraq policy, and might consider it a disaster. But he let his guard down, and now appears stupid.

You can also read a recent parliamentary debate on British involvement in Iraq here. It is a far cry from a Norway debate, but Blair might have been looking a little Chamberlain-like had he not already agreed to stand down during the next year.