29 March 2007

Rescue Ship

I found a new blog, duly added to my roll, and an interesting note about the future of HMCS Sackville, which people have been able to visit in Halifax, Nova Scotia, but maybe not for much longer.

Edited 10/iv/07
I messed up the link originally, but it should work now.

27 March 2007

What Kind of War

An interesting piece of news analysis reports on the new American strategy in Iraq, taking troops out of the secure bases on the outskirts of towns and redistributing them in 'penny packets' within urban areas. I find it curious they bring up the French experience in Algeria, which while seemingly succesful, proved a public-relations disaster on so many levels.

Unfortunately for the Army, I think the War in Iraq is rapidly turning into a conflict where the operational approach is increasingly irrelevant to victory. The original mission was clear-cut: take out Saddam Hussein. Now it's muddled. Construct a regime that will not be influenced by those hostile to America's interests in the Middle East (Iranian-backed Shias), nor can be tainted by the anti-democratic regimes of Iraq's past (minority Sunni rule), but will not threaten our close allies (hated Israel and the fossilized Saudi monarchy), and will keep the oil flowing (avoid an all-out civil war).

06 March 2007

Mosier vs the British, Round One

Yesterday, I wrote a little about John Mosier's controversial The Myth of the Great War. I decided to make a full reconnaissance into the book, and read the chapter on the Battle of the Marne straight through, rather than rely on the sampling of shorter sections I'd done previously.

On the basis of this chapter, I'd have to say the fury with which Britons have greeted Mosier's work is an overreaction. For English-language readers, the role played by the French in the war has always been understated. No matter how much the British suffered, the French had it worse. The lead review on the Amazon page linked above is particularly egregious in wanting to focus, yet again, on Neuve Chappelle and Vimy Ridge, where the British fought, in spite of the considerable coverage this attack has received compared with the French attack in the Vosges.

That said, the end of the Battle of the Marne chapter really seems to verge on German propaganda. The Germans, short of ammunition, with extended supply lines, and not enough troops to secure them, retreat, but Mosier appears to want us to regard this as "an advance to the rear". The chapter itself discusses battles around Verdun where stout French resistance halts the Germans, and it is subsequent to this that German officers decide to withdraw to a more easily defended position. While the Marne campaign may not have been the "miracle of Marne" of Allied belief, I see no reason to excuse the Germans from having experienced a major setback.

However, the cry of rage emanating from the British Corps of Historians seems unwarranted. That Mosier minimizes the role of the BEF, while promoting a lesser-known Franco-German combat far from Paris, is a matter I would have thought worthy of further discussion, not wholesale censure. Round One to Mosier, I think, on points.

05 March 2007

"The Myth of the Great War" - the Lusitania

This was the title of a 2001 book by John Mosier, not a military historian but a professor of English with an interest in military history. I remember when it came out as being somewhat controversial among British reviewers. (It goes completely against the 'party line' among British historians concerning the BEF.) It did garner a Pulitzer Prize nomination, not that that's necessarily a recommendation, given the manipulation of American publishing prizes.

You'll find a very negative discussion of it by some Brits here. Unfortunately, these comments are long on indignation and short on specific criticism, which I always find is an almost certain indication that the book makes a valued contribution to our understanding of the subject! However, the lead review at the Amazon link quoted above makes some pointed criticisms that should lead one to approach Mosier's book with caution.

Anyway, I'm not in a position to offer a criticism at the moment, never having read it. I'm here to offer a quote that in the circumstances of my "Wilson's War" obsession I found worth including here:

The extent of the aid given before America's formal declaration of war has traditionally been passed over in silence. Neither Allied apologists nor American defenders of President Wilson have been anxious to draw attention to the massive level of American support...Bryan, Wilson's first secretary of state, genuinely wanted America to remain neutral, but he was undercut at every turn, and resigned in protest over the handling of the Lusitania sinking...when a senator pointed out - correctly - that the Lusitania was carrying armaments to Great Britain, he was saved from impeachment only by the testimony of the Harbor Master of the Port of New York. [pp 304-305]