Notes on Nationalism – George Orwell

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Synopsis:

In his essay on nationalism, George Orwell paints a picture of the cerebral underpinnings of the contemporaneous forms of nationalism which existed in Britain in 1945. Orwell identifies three distinct branches of nationalism which he identifies as positive, transferred, and negative nationalism. He then divides each branch into to sub-branches, which he elaborates further. Orwell faults innate psychological delusions of grandeur as the arch cause of nationalism in societies.

Excerpts:

“Those who are loudest in denouncing the German concentration camps are often quite unaware, or only very dimly aware, that there are also concentration camps in Russia.

“Indifference to objective truth is encouraged by the sealing-off of one part of the world from another, which makes it harder and harder to discover what is actually happening.

“Inside the intelligentsia, the pressure of public opinion is overwhelming. Nationalistic loyalty towards the proletariat, and most vicious theoretical hatred of the bourgeoisie, can and often do co-exist with ordinary snobbishness in everyday life.

“The majority of pacifists either belong to obscure religious sects or are simply humanitarians who object to taking life and prefer not to follow their thoughts beyond that point. But there is a minority of intellectual pacifists whose real though unadmitted motive appears to be hatred of western democracy and admiration for totalitarianism.

“The emotional urges which are inescapable, and are perhaps even necessary to political action, should be able to exist side by side with an acceptance of reality. But this, I repeat, needs a moral effort.

*All excerpts have been taken from Notes on Nationalism, Penguin Modern Classics.

Portugal’s Guerrilla Wars in Africa – Al J. Venter

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Synopsis:

In his book Portugal’s Guerrilla Wars in Africa wartime journalist Al J. Venter recounts the Portuguese counterinsurgency campaign conducted in their colonial possessions of Africa from 1961 to 1974. The Portuguese encountered well funded, and amply equipped nationalist insurgencies sponsored by both the Soviet Union as well as China. At the time Portugal was the second poorest state in Europe, but was resolute in maintaining its hold over Angola, Mozambique, and Guinea-Bissau.

Unlike Mozambique the counterinsurgency operations the Portuguese employed in Angola, and Guinea-Bissau were militarily successful, but fiscally calamitous to the Portuguese state, and acted as a prime mover for the Carnation Revolution which brought about Portugal’s ultimate withdrawal from Africa.

Excerpts:

“…when the dust eventually settled and moderate minds were able to look at all these issues dispassionately, one of the first conclusions reached was that as in the Rhodesian and South African wars – slowly gathering their own momentum once the Portuguese had returned to Europe – the bulk of the people of all those countries tended to side with their own.

“Africans were increasingly brought into the administration of the territories and the changes that occurred at this point brought a new meaning to the concept of Africanisation. By the early 1970s this not only implied merely a growing percentage of locally recruited or black individuals incorporated in the regular forces fighting the nationalists, – in the same sense as the French jeunissement in Indochina – it now meant a process of creating and fostering combat units of Africans operating more or less irregularly and autonomously, and with high levels of operational efficiency.

“There should have been a succession of national elections in Angola, Mozambique and Guinea, but by the time that Lisbon had delegated authority to the newly-emerged countries, all three had embraced hardline Marxist principles.

“The philosophy of using turncoats to fight for what was essentially a European-oriented cause – a concept, incidentally, that was later applied by the South Africans in their own Border Wars units like with Koevoet, the police counter-terrorist unit and 32 Battalion, and with considerable effect – was that every man taken prisoner was given an option. He either worked with them, the colonel explained, or ‘swish’, he drew his hand across his throat in the traditional cutthroat manner.

“Portugal’s assets were embarrassingly sparse when compared to what her adversaries were getting from the Soviet Union and China. In a sense, this was an African version of Vietnam, only Portugal was no America.

*All excerpts have been taken from Portugal’s Guerrilla Wars in Africa, Helion & Company Limited.

The Rhodesian War: A Military History – Paul L. Moorcraft and Peter McLaughlin

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Synopsis:

Rhodesia was founded by the British South Africa Company (BSAC) in 1890 under the direction of South African mining magnate Cecil Rhodes, and his colonial partner Leander Starr Jameson. Known as Southern Rhodesia the colony was granted self-governing status by the British government in 1923 under the administration of the white European colonial minority, and soon burgeoned as an economic powerhouse in southern Africa.

By the 1950s the standard of living for the white Rhodesians was vastly superior to most of the British living in the United Kingdom, and was even higher than many parts of the United States. It was not unusual for a white family living in the suburbs of the capital of Salisbury to own a single family home with a swimming pool, a car, all the contrivances of modern life, as well as employing more than one black African domestic worker. However, the white minority government only sought to assimilate the black African communities living within the state at a snail’s pace, and maintained a sort of parochial paternalistic racism over the black Africans, which was deeply resented. These ethnic tensions, and the communist Cold War strategy of fostering Marxist-Leninist wars of national liberation would snowball into what became known as the Rhodesian Bush War. The outcome of the war was the extinction of the white settler state of Rhodesia, and the birth of Zimbabwe under the leadership of the Marxist-Leninist and Pan-African ideologue Robert Mugabe.

In their book on the Rhodesian Bush War, Moorcraft and McLaughlin offer a political as well as military history of the war conveying thorough analysis of the tactics and strategies employed by the warring factions.

Excerpts:

“Rhodesia’s first concern, according to Prime Minister Ian Smith’s followers, was to prevent the spread of godless communism. But the war led to the triumph of a self-professed communist, Robert Mugabe. The most right-wing British prime minister in modern history, Margaret Thatcher, had inadvertently created the conditions for the first democratic electoral victory of a Marxist leader in Africa.

“The greatest paradox involved South Africa. Rhodesia broke away from Britain to avoid black rule and then, with the onset of the guerrilla war, became completely dependent upon an apartheid regime which subsequently became even more determined than London to establish a black premier in Salisbury, soon to be renamed Harare. Above all, Pretoria dreaded the possibility of a victorious Marxist army marching through the streets of Salisbury and Bulawayo, a precedent which it feared could be replicated in the Transvaal.

“The Zimbabwean nationalists called the whites ‘settlers’, but the ‘European’ population thought of themselves as Rhodesians, a nation in themselves, or a white African tribe at least.

“Many whites believed they were sincerely battling against communism to preserve a civilized Christian order; it was not merely to protect a three-servants-two-cars-one-swimming-pool way of life. But although the whites did fight long and hard, Rhodesia was not a militaristic society, despite the ubiquitous weaponry and uniforms. By 1979, as black rule became imminent, the whites looked back on the tragedies of the war. The mood was one of sorrow and resignation rather than anger; and they displayed a bruised pride in having survived for so long against such steep odds.

“…towards the end of the war, the Rhodesian military had begun to act as a state within a state. It was only the personal contacts between Smith and his service chiefs which kept the fiction of political supervision intact. With 95 per cent of the country under martial law, military dominance was inevitable.

*All excerpts have been taken from The Rhodesian War: A Military History, Stackpole Books.

War, Politics, and Power – Karl von Clausewitz

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Synopsis:

War, Politics, and Power is an abridgment of the well-known On War by Carl von Clausewitz. It takes from On War the critical abstractions, and presents them in an intellectually satisfying form. Although On War is seminal and without equal War, Politics, and Power offers the writings of Clausewitz in a tolerable way for those that have either never read Clausewitz before, or for those experienced readers that desire a quick reference book.

Excerpts:

“We are, instead, considering all the combined tendencies of the mind and soul toward military activity, and these we may regard as the essence of military genius. We say ‘combined,’ for military genius consists not of a single capacity for war, but rather of a harmonious combination of powers, in which one may predominate but none may be in opposition.

“War is the province of uncertainty; three-fourths of the things upon which action in war is calculated lie hidden in a fog of uncertainty. A fine penetrating intellect is thus required to feel out the truth with instinctive judgment.

“If we take a comprehensive view of the four components of the atmosphere of war – danger, physical effort, uncertainty, and chance – it is readily understood that a great moral and mental force is needed to cope with these baffling elements. We find historians and military chroniclers describing this force as energy, firmness, staunchness, strength of mind and character.

“A great part of the information in war is contradictory, a still greater part is false, and by far the greatest part is somewhat doubtful. This requires that an officer possess a certain power of discrimination, which only knowledge of men and things and good judgment can give. The law of probability must be his guide.

“Everything is very simple in war, but the simplest thing is difficult. These difficulties accumulate and produce a friction beyond the imagination of those who have not seen war.

*All excerpts have been taken from War, Politics, and Power, Regnery Publishing, Inc.

War by Timetable – AJP Taylor

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Synopsis:

One of the decisive components of the Prussian victory in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870 was the rapidity of mobilization sustained by the Prussian Army. Following the war the mobilization timetables of the great European powers would come to dominate military doctrine. Ultimately, the competitive struggle over mobilization timetables would climax with the outbreak of the First World War.

In his book War by Timetable, A.J.P. Taylor sketches the evolution of the importance of the timetables, and advances the thesis that once the timetables had been initiated there was no reversing them.

Excerpts:

“The essential European balance was between the Franco-Russian or Dual Alliance on the one side and the Triple Alliance, or more realistically the Austro-German Alliance, on the other. Both sets of alliances were strictly defensive if taken literally: they were to operate only in case of attack, and since every great power declared that it was exclusively concerned with defence, war was theoretically impossible.

“It was universal doctrine that speed was essential. Whichever power completed its mobilisation first would strike first and might even win the war before the other side was ready. Hence the time-tables became ever more ingenious and ever more complicated.

“There was little consultation between military planners and civilian statesmen. The statesmen assumed that the general staffs were doing their best to ensure that they would win a war if one came, and there was no speculation on how policy could be seconded by military action. The dogma of the great Clausewitz that ‘war is a continuation of policy by other means’ had lost its hold. War had now become a theoretical operation conducted for its own sake.

“Certainly the Germans did not rely on the Austrians for the defence of German territory in the east. Instead they relied on time – that is to say, the superior speed of their own mobilisation. They assumed that they would have defeated France before the Russians were prepared to move against East Prussia on any great scale at all.

“…there was only one decision which turned the little Balkan conflict between Austria-Hungary and Serbia into a European war. That was the German decision to start general mobilisation on 31st July, and that was in its turn decisive because of the academic ingenuity with which Schlieffen, now in his grave, had attempted to solve the problem of a two-front war.

*All excerpts have been taken from War by Timetable, Endeavour Press Ltd.

Modern Warfare: A French View of Counterinsurgency – Roger Trinquier

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Synopsis:

Serving as an infantry officer in myriad airborne units within the French Army, Roger Trinquier conducted counterinsurgency operations throughout the French conflicts in Indochina as well as Algeria. His experience in those conflicts guided his writing of Modern Warfare, which is a book conveying his lessons learned as well as his own theory of counterinsurgency. His methodology for counterinsurgency warfare involves a force architecture dependent on a prodigious organizational institutional apparatus usually outside the means of most states without a war economy in place.

Excerpts:

“…in modern warfare we are not up against just a few armed bands spread across a given territory, but rather against an armed clandestine organization whose essential role is to impose its will upon the population. Victory will be obtained only through the complete destruction of that organization. This is the master concept that must guide us in our study of modern warfare.

“We know that the sine qua non of victory in modern warfare is the unconditional support of a population.

“The war in Indochina and the one in Algeria have demonstrated the basic weapon that permits our enemies to fight effectively with few resources and even to defeat a traditional army. This weapon is terrorism.

“The best way to be well informed consists in introducing our own agents into the organization of the enemy and in corrupting his agents. This is a delicate task that only a few proven agents will be able to accomplish.

“The goal of the guerrilla, during what can be a long period of time, is not so much to obtain local successes as it is to create a climate of insecurity, to compel the forces of order to retire into their most easily defensible areas.

*All excerpts have been taken from Modern Warfare: A French View of Counterinsurgency, Praeger Security International.

A History of Strategy: From Sun Tzu to William S. Lind – Martin van Creveld

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Synopsis:

In A History of Strategy, celebrated military theorist Martin van Creveld charts the evolution of strategy throughout its checkered history from antiquity to the present epoch. The survey Creveld offers underscores the paramount ideas of strategy within each era, and pinpoints their ideological prime movers.

Excerpts:

“To restore the power of the offensive and save casualties, Liddell Hart went on to recommend ‘the indirect approach.’ Rather than attacking the enemy head on, he had to be weakened first by having his limbs cut off, his organization disrupted, and the mind of his commander unbalanced.

“Spurred by America’s failure in Vietnam, which was blamed on the strategy of attrition adopted by the US armed forces, the 1980s saw a revival of conventional warfare theory centering on such ideas as maneuver warfare and AirLand Battle. As their names imply, both focused on strategy and the operational art while all but ignoring strategy.

“With Fuller acting as the stimulant, mobility was married to mechanization. The outcome was something known as ‘the battle in depth’: meaning a highly offensive campaign which would be launched not merely along the front but against the enemy’s communications, depots, and command centers as well.

“Later the idea of ‘Massive Retaliation’ was adopted by the incoming Eisenhower Administration. As Secretary of State Alan Dulles declared in a famous speech, the US would not permit the other side to dictate the site and mode of the next war. Instead, any attempt by the Communists to engage in aggression anywhere in the world might be instantly met with means, and at a place, of America’s own choosing.

“…by 1990, at the latest, the Clausewitzian framework was beginning to show serious cracks. As has just been said, it proved incapable of incorporating warfare by, or against, non-state actors. To this point that Clausewitz himself, in the five pages he devoted to the subject, treated guerilla warfare solely as an extension of the struggle between states. At the same time, the question could not be avoided as to whether his insistence on the inherent tendency of war to escalate made him into a reasonable guide to nuclear-armed military establishments, one of whose objectives was deterrence rather than warfighting.

*All excerpts have been taken from A History of Strategy: From Sun Tzu to William S. Lind, Castalia House.

The Byzantine Art of War: Strategy and Tactics – Michael J. Decker

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Synopsis:

Chapter 5 of Michael J. Decker’s book on the Byzantine art-of-war recounts the strategy and tactics used by the Byzantine Empire throughout its long history. Decker discusses the stratagems, imperial ideology, and organization of the Byzantine state apparatus centered in its capital city of Constantinople. Following the conquest of Constantinople by the Fourth Crusade in 1204 this apparatus was irrevocably destroyed by the Latin West, and even after the reconquest of the city by the Greeks it was never again on the same order of magnitude or effectiveness as before.

Excerpts:

“…All wars were defensive. Even offensive campaigns were considered defensive, in that they aimed to recover land that had been seized from the empire and rightfully belonged to it, and this notion of the ‘forward defense’ or ‘active defense’ was something that the Romans probably imparted to Muslim jihad theorists.

“Experience taught the emperors that any period of peace was fleeting; never did this come into such sharp clarity more than in the events of the late 620s and 630s, when Heraclius found himself at the top of the wheel of fortune with his victories over the Persians, symbolized by his triumphant entry into Jerusalem in a spirit of millennial jubilation. The wheel turned, however, and within a decade Arab forces seized the whole of the Levant.

“Since the reign of Constantine I, the Romans had understood that the universe was ordered according to the principles of Christianity and the world was a reflection of the unseen cosmos:one God, one faith, one emperor, one empire.

“Subterfuge, bribery, and disinformation were prized bloodless means to undermine or dissolve enemies and were always preferred to open battle. The military manuals instruct, whenever possible, to bribe enemy commanders. Before campaigns on the frontiers, the general Nikephoros Ouranos (ca. 950-1011) ordered that gifts be sent to the emirs along the border in order for the bearers to collect intelligence and possibly induce the enemy to the Byzantine side or at least inaction in the coming conflict.

“The handbooks stress the need to surprise the enemy. Strategic surprise could be achieved by avoiding enemy agents, by disinformation, and by unexpected marches. The Strategikon warns that to avoid enemy spies armies should take little-used routes and march through uninhabited areas that were less likely to be under surveillance.

*All excerpts have been taken from The Byzantine Art of War, Westholme Publishing.

The Civil War – Julius Caesar

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Synopsis:

Julius Caesar wrote The Civil War for the same reason he wrote about his campaigns in Gaul – i.e. to prove to the Roman people that his cause was just and that his opponents were unjust. The work was never completed, and the reason for this may be conjectured as having won the civil war – against the Pompeian faction – Caesar no longer needed to defend his actions because he was in full control of the state.

Excerpts:

“…but let me remind you it is always at the end of a war that soldiers look for the reward of their efforts, and what that end is going to be not even you can doubt.

“Is it conceivable that a side which could make no stand with all its forces intact can now do so when its cause is lost; and can you, who declared for Caesar when victory still hung in the balance, now think of siding with the vanquished, after the issue of the war is decided, and when you ought to be reaping the reward of your services?

“With what seems to be a tradition among foreign nations, the African force lay scattered about their camping-ground without any properly made lines; consequently, when our troopers dashed in upon the broken groups of heavily sleeping men, numbers were slaughtered on the spot, and a considerable body took refuge in panic-stricken flight.

“But Curio answered unhesitatingly that, having lost the army which Caesar had entrusted to his charge, he would never go back to look him in the face, and with that answer he died fighting. Only a very small proportion of the Roman cavalry escaped from the battle; but those who, as recorded above, had dropped behind in the rear for the purpose of resting their horses, on observing from their distant position that the whole army was a rout, made good their return to the camp. The infantry were all cut down to a man.

“Inside the Pompeian lines the eye fell upon the spectacle of arbors artificially constructed, of masses of silver plate laid out for present use, of tents paved with cool, fresh cut sods, and even, in the case of Lentulus and others, protected from the heat by ivy. Many other indications could likewise be discerned of extravagant luxury and of confidence in coming victory, rendering it an easy assumption that men who went so far out of their way in the pursuit of superfluous pleasures could have had no misgivings as to the issue of the day. Yet these were the men who habitually taunted the poverty-stricken, long-suffering army of Caesar with the charge of being voluptuaries; whereas in truth they had all along been in want of the barest necessaries.

*All excerpts have been taken from The Civil War, Julius Caesar, Barnes & Noble, Inc.

The Grand Strategy of the Byzantine Empire – Edward Luttwak

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Synopsis:

Military historian and strategist Edward Luttwak traverses late Roman history as well as Byzantine history in order to examine the overarching schema, notions, and prevailing strategic outlook that maintained the Byzantine Empire for nearly a thousand years following the demise of the Western Roman Empire. Surrounded on all sides by enemies, and not having the manpower dominance of republican Rome, the Byzantines were adept at remaining powerful by other means.

Excerpts:

“The Huns and all their successors inevitably used their tribute gold to buy necessities and baubles from the empire – special arrangements were negotiated for border markets – hence the gold exported to the Huns returned to circulate within the empire rather quickly, except for the minute fraction retained for jewelry.

“Much of what they did was calculated to preserve and enhance the prestige of the imperial court even as it was being exploited to impress, overawe, recruit, even seduce. Unlike troops or gold, prestige is not consumed when it is used, and that was a very great virtue for the Byzantines, who were always looking for economical sources of power.

“It might be said, therefore, that the loss of Syria and Egypt, unlike Latin speaking and Chalcedonian North Africa, was a mixed curse for the empire: it brought the blessing of religious harmony, and increased cultural unity.

“It is by that same logic in dynamic action and reaction that the victories of an advancing army can bring defeat once they exceed the culminating point of success, indeed victory becomes defeat by the prosaic workings of overextension.

“It starts with the simple, static contradiction of
sivis pacem para bellum (if you want peace, prepare for war) and proceeds to dynamic contradictions: if you defend every foot of a perimeter, you are not defending the perimeter; if you win too completely, destroying the enemy, you make way for another; and so on.

*All excerpts have been taken from The Grand Strategy of the Byzantine Empire, Edward Luttwak, The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.