Élan

The French military before WWI cultivated the practise of élan, an attack must not be just effective, it must be dashing.  Perhaps that’s why they wore such colorful military uniforms with impressive cuivres and lost so many wars.  The Japanese military cultivated the element of surprise, as they showed so brilliantly at Pearl Harbor in 1941.  But, they lacked follow-up.  The Al Qaeda terrorists cultivated the element of wanton uncivilized destruction to intimidate and undermine, as practised so brilliantly at The World Trade Center on 9/11/01.  But, they lacked substance, once counter-attacked, like the so-called Islamic State, they faded away.

Élan, brilliance or surprise will carry you only so far in the rigors of warfare.  A sustained campaign is needed.  Careful planning, supply lines, intelligence and dogged persistence may count for more in practise.  An example was the campaign of the British Expeditionary Force led by Gen. Allenby from Egypt to capture Palestine from the Turks in WWI.  The spearhead of that campaign was the Australian Light Horse regiment, that in a show of dashing bravery charged the Turkish lines at Beer Sheva in the last horse charge in history. They attacked from the south, partly out of surprise, but also following the line of the oases and water sources.  If they had not captured the wells of Beer Sheva the horses would not have had enough water to survive.

Recently in The Jerusalem Post there was a report that the Shin Bet Israel security service had thwarted 250 terrorist attacks this year (14/6/18).  Much of this was accomplished by data analysis, listening in to conversations and picking up clues.   There was also a report (18/6/18) that the Shin Bet and Israeli Police arrested a large Hamas cell in Nablus consisting of some 20 members.  They had planned to carry out a suicide bombing in Jerusalem and bombings in other Israeli cities to foment a wave of terror.  Much of the counter-terrorism work goes on under cover of secrecy, but it involves a great deal of élan on behalf of the Israeli services that are legend in their effectiveness.

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The Trail of Tears

I have been watching a TV series entitled “The Men Who Built America: Frontiersmen” on the History Channel.  This tells the story of the famous American heroes Daniel Boone, Andrew Jackson, Davy Crocket and so on.  What is illuminating is the terrible degree of ethnic cleansing, as it is now called, of American Indians (or indigenous people) that took place.  What was unfortunate was that many Indian tribes allied with the British against the American settlement and Government, and so as further wars erupted after the War of Independence was won, it was essentially seen as a fight for survival of the American nation.

The Indians were mainly small and scattered tribes and they would have really been no threat to America, but as the British were considered an effective enemy, this meant that the Americans were motivated to destroy and remove the Indian threat from the eastern US.  The Shawnee chief Tecumseh organized a multi-tribe confederation with the British against the Americans in what is now Michigan as part of the War of !812.  An American army under Gen. Harrison defeated them at the Battle of the Thames River (now in Canada) in 1813 and Tecumseh was killed, thus leading to the breakup of his confederation.   The Indians were then left leaderless and defenseless against American forces.

In the Mississippi territory an armed group of Creek Indians known as the “red sticks” in 1813 massacred ca. 500 white settlers and burnt Fort Mims.  In revenge, Andrew Jackson, with Daniel Boone as guide, led a small army mainly of Tennessee volunteers and upon finding their main camp massacred every man, woman and child.  Then he forced the Creek nation to cede millions of acres of land to the United States, that became mainly the State of Alabama.  Because of this success and his ruthless efficiency Andrew Jackson was then sent as a General to defend the Port of New Orleans against a British invasion.  With a much smaller force (4,500) he defeated the British Army  (12,000) at the Battle of New Orleans.  This propelled him into the Presidency in 1829.

One of his first acts was to introduce the “Indian Removal Act” of  1830 that was passed by Congress and resulted in the physical removal of all major Indian tribes still settled east of the Mississippi River.  This included the Creek, Choctaw, Cherokee, Chickasaw and Seminole nations.  They were forced at gunpoint by the US Army to move west from their ancestral lands to what was then known as Indian territory (later Oklahoma), in many cases a distance of 600 miles on foot.  They were given minimal food and water.  During what became known as the “Trail of Tears” some 18,000 out of a total of ca. 50,000 indigenous Americans died or were murdered.  When I first learned of this atrocity I felt ashamed to be an American.

And yet many Americans, especially liberals, have the gall to criticize Jews and Israelis for their supposed repressive treatment of the so-called Palestinian Arabs.  The American nation is built on the massacre and murder of many nations, indigenous Americans and Blacks.  But, you can’t turn the clock back, America is a fact, and similarly Israel is equally a fact.  To those who think that Israel is illegitimate, not only is it legitimate (under international law and history), but we are the indigenous people of the Land of Israel, and we will not be removed again.

The Irish Potato Famine

We had an interesting lecture on Thurs afternoon at our English Discussion group by Robert Weintraub, a graduate of MIT and the librarian at the Shamoon Technical College in Beer Sheva, on the subject of potato blight and the Irish potato famine.  He started out by telling us about Redcliffe Salaman, a British Jew who in the late 19th and early 20th century was a major expert on potatoes and published several iconic books on the subject.  He was the person who classified potatoes into about 200 varieties and who studied the potato blight scientifically.  By the way, about his name, his parents had many children and ran out of names, so they named him after the area of London where they lived.

The potato blight (phytophthora infestans) is a kind of fungus that first appeared in Mexico centuries ago.  It gradually spread around the world and under the right climatic conditions (warm wet weather) could wipe out a potato harvest in 2 weeks.  The problem in Ireland was that the British overlords had decreed that the Irish, who were mainly impoverished peasants, should live only on potatoes, that were cheap and nutritious, and all the other food produce was exported to England.  Further, the whole of Ireland was growing the same variety of potato, the lumper, that was particularly sensitive to the blight.  There were outbreaks of potato blight in other countries at other times, but the outbreak in Ireland between 1845-9 was the most catastrophic.  Basically the whole potato crop was destroyed, resulting in a terrible famine.  Of the ca. 8.1 million inhabitants before 1845, ca. 1 million perished and ca. 1.5 million were forced to flee, most to the USA (Boston, New York, Chicago and so on).

Unfortunately, in ignorance of the cause and effect of the blight, the farmers dumped the rotting potatoes around their fields and this allowed the blight to spread even more.  Salaman and others conducted scientific and genetic experiments to try to find blight-resistant strains of potato, but were only partially successful, and even until today new supposedly resistant varieties are being produced.  If ever there was an argument for genetically modified (GM) food crops, the Irish potato famine is it.

This was largely a man-made crisis, because the British had forced the Irish to eat only one variety of potato and the cruel irony was that there was plenty of food in Ireland, but the British Government refused to stop the export of the food to England.  So while hundreds of thousands starved, food grown on their land, owned and controlled by the English, was being taken away.  In England there was little sympathy for the Irish, who were Catholic and considered backward.  It was generally felt that they were lazy and untrustworthy and deserved their fate.  Nevertheless, the Queen gave GBP 1,000 to a fund for the relief of the famine. How generous.  So while the potato blight could not be blamed on the English, the subsequent famine was a form of deliberate ethnic cleansing of the Irish people.

Approximately one third of all Irishmen died or left Ireland, a catastrophe in Irish history that resulted in pure hatred of the English and ensured a generation of Irish who were dedicated to expelling the English from Ireland.   After the Easter Day uprising of  1916, it took until 1922 before southern Ireland achieved partial self-rule as the Irish Free State and until 1949 with full sovereignty as the Irish Republic, Eire.

 

The Crown

I have just finished watching the two series of “The Crown,” an original Netflix production created by Peter Morgan.  The first series covers the time from the marriage of Princess Elizabeth to Phillip, Duke of Edinburgh, in 1947, thru the death of King George VI and the ascension of Elizabeth II as Queen in 1952, when Winston Churchill was still Prime Minister.  It ends in 1955 after her falling out with her sister Princess Margaret over her refusal to sanction her marriage to Group Captain Peter Townsend.  Both Claire Foy as Elizabeth and John Lithgow as Churchill are excellent in their roles and have won awards for their acting.  Matt Smith as Phillip in my judgement portrays Philip as rather too feckless and lacks gravitas.  The series won an Emmy for Outstanding Drama Series.

The second series continues the coverage of the reign of Elizabeth from the Suez crisis of 1956, and shows the strains in her marriage, and her continuing problems dealing with the spirited Princess Margaret and her ill-fated marriage to Anthony Armstrong-Jones.  Her relationship with PMs Anthony Eden and Harold Macmillan show them both as weak and indecisive men, “a confederacy of elected quitters” as she described them.  They were brought down by the Suez crisis and the Profumo affair, respectively.  In both cases they lied to Parliament and the country, Eden about collusion with the French and Israelis before the Suez attack, and Macmillan who was misled by Minister of War Profumo over his relationship with Steven Ward and Christine Keeler.

Overall I found the series entertaining and brilliantly produced and I highly recommend it.  I should at this point confess my bias, as a convinced anti-monarchist and this series confirmed my opinion.  I have always viewed the monarchy in Britain as an archaic and obsolete anachronism.  When growing up in Britain I was in a small minority.  I never felt any loyalty to the Crown as such, although I did have loyalty to the country of England (that is part of the UK), and to its culture and history (i.e. not “King and Country”, just “Country”).  I was later happy to declare my allegiance to the Republic of the USA and subsequently to the State of Israel.

In that context, I should mention that my father knew someone who had told him that the Duke of Kent had accidentally killed a woman when opening the door of a train while it was still in motion and he was drunk.  But, as with all such stories, it was hushed up and no mention appeared in the press.  Much of the action in “The Crown” consists of back-room attempts by the Palace lackies to “manage the situation” and quash stories that might reflect badly on the Monarchy.  Similar to Stalinist Russia, no negative stories shall appear in the controlled press.  The only apparent action taken during this whole period by Elizabeth was to fly off to visit Kwame Nkrumah in Ghana in 1961 to persuade him not to go “Soviet.”  Apparently a foxtrot with the Queen did it.  But, in any case a constitutional monarch is not supposed to act spontaneously against the advice of her government. According to “The Crown” she did it because she was insulted by Jackie Kennedy.

Perhaps  the most fascinating topic that came up in the series was the issue of the Duke of Windsor, who had abdicated the Crown as Edward VIII in 1936, due to his intention to marry the divorcee Wallace Simpson, in favor of his younger brother Bertie, who became King George VI, Elizabeth’s father.   Windsor wanted to return to England from his exile in France and resume some role in British governance.  Elizabeth was at first sympathetic.  But, once the true background to Windsor’s support for Hitler and Nazism was exposed she retracted.  How is it that she did not know this background?  My father and most Britons knew of Edward’s sympathy for fascism and Nazism long before WWII and it was known that after his abdication while he was living in Portugal he visited Hitler in Germany, had meetings with him and shook his hand.  It doesn’t take much imagination to realize that Hitler made a deal with Edward to reinstate him as King of England after the Nazis invaded England, which fortunately they failed to do.

There were many other aspects of this series deserving comment, including the horrible mistreatment of Prince Charles by sending him to Gordonstoun, the school run by a German Jewish headmaster who trained his pupils to be little fascists.  But, one scene was iconic, when Queen Elizabeth is tracking a large stag on the moors of Scotland.  In the movie “The Queen,” admirably played by Helen Mirren, she admires the stag and decides not to shoot it, but in the series ‘The Crown” Elizabeth shoots it without any compunction.  That characterizes Elizabeth for me, unfeeling, insipid, patronizing, irrelevant and costly.

A New Approach to WWII

An article in The National Interest entitled “A lot of what we think we know about WWII is wrong,” caught my attention (http://nationalinterest.org/print/blog/the-buzz/lot-what-we-think-we-know-about-world-war-ii-wrong-24656).  The basis of the article, written by James Holland, is his new book “The War in the West: Germany Ascendant,” the first of three volumes.  Most histories and commonly held beliefs about WWII are based on analysis of the battles that took place and the strategies taken by the various actors involved.  Holland claims that his approach is different and provides a new insight into the War, based on detailed analysis of production and comparison of armaments developed and used by each side.

In this “operational” analysis of WWII, the Western Allies had a great advantage.  For example,

  • It is widely believed that the Germans had the best engineered and built arms and tanks. Their “Spandau” machine gun  was considered the best, yet in actual combat it greatly overheated and became very inaccurate and jammed.
  • The dreaded and terrible Tiger Tank, that had virtually impenetrable steel, but was so heavy that it had to stop in order to fire and was grossly over-engineered with a six-speed automatic gear box that was very hard to drive and continually broke down.
  • By comparison the American Sherman tank was much simpler and cheaper to produce, could be driven easily and was robust. And then consider the production figures, the US produced 74,000 Shermans, while Germany built just 1,347 Tigers.
  • In the West, when the men went off to war, the women went off to work in the munitions and aircraft factories.  They were well-fed and committed.  But, in Germany, instead of employing their own people, to a large extent the Germans relied on slave labor to produce their armaments.  This was a big mistake because their production was extremely inefficient and although it was very cheap to employ and hardly feed slave labor, it was also very self-defeating.
  • The British gave highest priority to aircraft production, and managed to build 132,000 planes during the War, while Germany built only  ca. 80,000.
  • Another apparent mistake was that Germany under Hitler built two massive battleships, the Bismark and the Tirpitz, but neglected to build many smaller ships.  Because of their cost and  prestige, Hitler kept these battleships out of battle and when he did commit them they were surrounded by many smaller British ships and sunk.
  • They also failed to build any aircraft carriers and they were crucial since battleships were more easily destroyed from the air, as the Japanese discovered in the Pacific.
  • Also, Hitler and Doenitz put all their eggs in the U-boat submarine basket, but this too failed, not only did they sink a very small proportion of the merchant marine boats (only 1.4%), but the U-boats were destroyed by depth charges and aerial attacks.
  • One could also say that by committing a very large number of soldiers as guards and many administrators in the concentration camps and in the killing of Jews and other undesirables, the Germans failed to use their limited manpower when it was crucially needed.
  • Finally, Hitler had a penchant for super-weapons, including the V1 and V2 rockets that rained down on London and killed about 30,000 people, the first jet plane, that was developed too late and in too small quantities to influence the War, and the atomic bomb, that his scientists, for whatever reasons, failed to develop.  These major projects sapped Germany’s limited resources while failing to critically affect the outcome of the War.

In summary, the Germans produced armaments that were  over-engineered and more expensive than those of the Allies, and they lacked the production capacity to match any of the three main allied countries, Britain, the US and Russia.  This analysis indicates that ultimately the Germans were bound to lose the War.

 

International Women’s Day

There is no doubt that women have been discriminated against, hence the need for a day to focus attention on this issue.  In the West, the main current complaints are first inequality of pay, in general women are paid from 50-80% less for the same job done by men.  For certain tasks women seem to be better suited for the job, such as computer work, including computer assisted design, and anything requiring dexterity, careful thought and flair.  Such jobs become more available as computers and the internet expand.

The other complaint is of course sexual harassment and intimidation.  The Harvey Weinstein case has blown the lid off Hollywood exploitation of young women, as if we didn’t know.  The #metoo phenomenon has caught fire and many wealthy stars are now giving money to a fund to support legal expenses for young women who are being sexually exploited.  However, one must admit that this form of male domination is as old as man himself and it will be very difficult to stamp it out.

In the East, the plight of women is much, much worse.  In most Muslim countries, women are considered as chattel, property, to be bought and sold, more or less as slaves.  They have no rights, no education (most are illiterate) and their views are not considered.  They cannot own property, they cannot travel without the consent of their husband, they cannot even go out and shop without being accompanied by a male relative, usually a son.  In Saudi Arabia, Crown Prince Salman has recently introduced two reforms, allowing women to drive by themselves, and allowing women to attend football matches and other public sporting events.  In this respect the Muslim world is about 200 years behind the West.  Also, with regard to marriage, Islam allows men to marry several women and often an older man will take a younger second or third wife, who has little or not say in the matter.  For a good example read “A Thousand Splendid Suns” by Khaled Hosseini.

I have always wondered why liberal women in the West, including many Jewish women, take great exception to the way Israel treats the foreign Palestinians who are not Israeli citizens (no worse than the US treats illegal Mexicans), yet almost completely ignore the constant extreme mistreatment of women in Muslim lands.  For example, why is there no women’s movement in the West against the wearing of abominable head to toe burkas for women in many Muslim countries, which by the way is not a religious requirement of Islam.  Also why is there no movement against multiple marriages.  They prefer to join the antisemitic focus against Israel alone.

If women had more say in life and politics in the Muslim world it would not be such a  violent and uncivilized place.  That is not to say that all women are against all exploitation and war.  For example, Marie Antoinette (“let them eat cake”), British PM Margaret Thatcher (the Falklands War) and Israeli PM Golda Meir.  But, generally women have a calming and civilizing influence on men and society.

Reversal of ideology

My attention was attracted to an item near the bottom of the front page of today’s Jerusalem Post, “Grandson of Munich terrorist wins Democratic nod for Congress“.  This tells the story of Ammar Campa-Najjar, who is a US citizen living  in California, who is the grandson of Muhhamed Yussuf al-Najjar, the master-mind of the attack on the Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympic games in 1972 that killed 11 athletes.  Ammar claims that he has renounced his grandfather’s extremism and indeed has been having positive interactions with the Jewish community.  He says he is committed to Israel’s security and wants peace for both sides so that they can find an end to the conflict.  His grandfather was among those terrorists assassinated by Israeli security agents.  If he knew what his grandson is doing he would be spinning in his grave.

Such reversals of extreme ideology by younger generations is not unheard of.  One example that always gave me pleasure was that the grandson of Leon Trotsky (Lev Davidovich Bronstein), who was a leading Communist and founder of the Red Army (although he was assassinated by an agent of Stalin in Mexico), returned to Judaism and made aliyah to Israel.

Another example in the Middle East was Mosab Hassan Yousef, the son of the founder of the Hamas terrorist organization, Sheikh Hassan Yousef, who was an invalid and the spiritual leader of Hamas.  Mosab was recruited by Israeli intelligence and persuaded that he would be saving lives by giving information to them.  His story was dramatized in his own book and in a movie entitled “The Green Prince,” his code name used by the Mossad.  He now lives in the US where he is hopefully safe from Hamas retribution.

The children and grand-children of many leading Nazis have also renounced the views and actions of their forbears.  What do these examples prove?  Maybe that future generations will see the error involved in extremist ideologies that require the killing of large numbers of supposed enemies. If anything they point the way to future reconciliation and give hope for future generations.