Month: October 2016

Mosul and Churchill’s Wisdom: Put a Lid on It!

Mosul and Churchill’s Wisdom: Put a Lid on It!

Churchill’s wis­dom speaks to us across the years. Take the con­tro­ver­sy of whether we blab too much in advance about mil­i­tary oper­a­tions, like Mosul.

Mosul’s attack­ers. Not often not­ed, many of them are fly­ing the flag of Kur­dis­tan, not Iraq. They are not broth­ers in arms. (CBC)

In the Octo­ber 19th pres­i­den­tial debate, Mr. Trump said the U.S. and Iraqis for­feit­ed “the ele­ment of sur­prise” in pub­li­ciz­ing the com­ing offen­sive against Mosul. This, he insist­ed, allowed Islam­ic State ring­lead­ers to remove them­selves from the dan­ger zone: “Dou­glas MacArthur, George Pat­ton [must be] spin­ning in their graves when they see the stu­pid­i­ty of our coun­try.” Ear­li­er in the week he had asked: “Why don’t we just go in qui­et­ly, right?…

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Churchill on the Century

Churchill on the Century

Churchill at 47 (Valentine’s post­card)

Who here is in their For­ties? Are you as pes­simistic as he was?

Win­ston Churchill was 48 when he penned some “Reflec­tions on the Cen­tu­ry,” which may arrest you with their prescience—and their eerie rel­e­vance.

His words below are in his orig­i­nal “speech form.” This is the way they were set out on the notes he car­ried with him, how­ev­er well he mem­o­rized his lines. They appear in this style in my col­lec­tion of quo­ta­tions, Churchill by Him­self, but dif­fer from the way you may have encoun­tered them in oth­er books:

 

What a dis­ap­point­ment [this] cen­tu­ry has been.…

     We have seen in ev[ery] coun­try a dis­so­lu­tion,

          a weak­en­ing of those bonds,

               a chal­lenge to those prin­ci­ples,

                    a decay of faith

                         an abridge­ment of hope

                              on wh[ich] struc­ture & ulti­mate exis­tence of civilised soci­ety depends.…

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Nightmare Scenario by Norman Longmate

Nightmare Scenario by Norman Longmate

Nor­man Long­mate, If Britain Had Fall­en: The Real Nazi Occu­pa­tion Plans. Pub­lished 1972, reprint­ed 2012, avail­able from Ama­zon in hard­back, paper­back and Kin­dle edi­tions. 

A recent ker­fuf­fle over drap­ing Nazi ban­ners on beloved British icons reminds me that this has been going on a long time and is per­fect­ly accept­able in exam­in­ing his­tor­i­cal pos­si­b­li­ties. Take the late Nor­man Long­mate, who offered a grip­ping pas­tiche about what might have hap­pened in 1940. As a result, we have a glimpse of a pos­si­ble alter­na­tive.

Longmate’s Yarn on the Worst Possibility First edi­tion, 1972

Lat­er that after­noon with the Ger­mans already in Trafal­gar Square and advanc­ing down White­hall to take their posi­tion in the rear, the ene­my unit advanc­ing across St.…

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