« "... a 'surprise' in Syria?" BI | Main | Is Soleimani's "Surprise" underway? »

03 June 2015


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.


Patrick Bahzad

J'ai recu "Adieu au Roi." Merci mille fois. "The Nine Nations of North America" published thirty+ years back was perfect. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Nine_Nations_of_North_America

Patrick Bahzad


C'était un plaisir et un honneur de vous avoir fait présent de ce livre. L'Adieu au Roi est un grand roman, écrit par un soldat, un penseur et un romancier. Il vous était donc pratiquement prédestiné. PB

Babak Makkinejad

It is called a Religious War....

Babak Makkinejad

He understood Indian Raj to perfection, in my view; exposing everyone and their corresponding community as living isolated lives that at times intersected in sex or in violence and rarely - in a misunderstood form of friendship.

Sort of like the world today.

FB Ali


I tried to read the Kipling tale that you had referenced but, I'm afraid, gave up halfway through - too long, too little time.

Anyway, I couldn't really comment on Lahore's Shia culture today - I have been away for too long. Suffice to say that the portrait in the (excellent) Daily News report appears to be an accurate one. It is a community under siege, subject to attacks and killings off and on (this was one rare occasion where they struck back). It is all part of this Wahhabi religious culture that is trying to take over the country.

I did read many of Kipling's short stories when I was young, and enjoyed many of them. I still remember one (unfortunately not its title) which had me roaring with laughter at the time. It was about him walking back home through the lamplit London streets late one night when he is badgered by a drunk who won't stop following him, and how he gets him to pull the entire bell-rope out of an empty house, winding it around himself till he is completely tied up!



I've read "America Aflame." Good book. I thought all I did was to point out that after the Revolutionary generation elite thought in the South took a fatal wrong turning, so that the humane and sensible expressions of a George Mason became anathema to his descendants. I do not see that this contradicts Goldfield, who says that the cause of the preservation of slavery took on an almost evangelical fervor in the South. Nor does it obviate the shared responsibility of the North for the conflict.


FB Ali,

"Waging war cannot be isolated from the peace to follow. If that is not better than the state of affairs before you commenced hostilities, you, in fact, lost the war."

This is very true. It is the mindset of our leadership that they believe the outcome will fit their ideology, as you and the Col. both point out.



The Nine Nations of North America. Reading that was like viewing a mountain valley as the fog lifts. Thanks for recommending that one.


Well, if you were in the Green Berets at that time your knowledge is certainly better than mine, but I understood the originals were people from the Eastern European countries which had become allied with (or conquered by) the Soviet Union, and that their mission was to wait until the start of hostilities and then return to their home countries to organize internal rebellions. I met one at the language training facility in Washington, D.C., in 1966. We were all studying different languages at different commercial language schools but we shared facilities in WWII "temporary" buildings next to Arlington Cemetery (since torn down to make room for more graves). He was a Ukrainian and had been an SS-Untersturmfuhrer leading an anti-tank platoon against the Red Army. He took justifiable pride in the fact that he did not lose a man from his platoon. He was studying Spanish in preparation for a classified assignment in South America, so I guess the role of the Green Berets was even then being expanded.

Something I heard but don't know from my own experience: The State Department will not leave a career foreign service officer in any country for more than three years, on the theory that longer than that they come to favor the interests of the country they're in (having many friends there) as against the interests of the U.S. This is why it's so rare for any of them to speak the language. We've been extraordinarily lucky with the last few ambassadors sent to Thailand, who have all been professional and able to speak Thai.

The Army's refusal to train enough linguists has been a handicap. I never understood how they knew who to grab when they kicked somebody's door down, and from anecdotes I heard a lot of the prisoners in Abu Ghraib were there by mistake but nobody would risk releasing them.



Ah, a gotcha fest! You sound like either State or CIA. The GBs were organized in the first half of the 50s. The very first GB enlisted men were selected by Colonel Aaron Bank out of the ranks of draftees whose parents were from the countries in Eastern Europe where the GBs were supposed to organize resistance behind USSR lines in the event of a NATO/USSR war. The early officers were mostly OSS officers in Europe in WW2. That was the original model and mission. Having exhausted that pool of potential recruits, Bank obtained legal authority to recruit foreign nationals under the Lodge Act and set out to interview highly skilled combat veterans whom he thought would be useful. He recruited Germans (mostly from the Heer, but a few from the Waffen SS), Spanish, Poles, Czechs, Russians,etc. The organization was filled out with old paratroopers from the airborne force or soldiers from the Ranger companies the Army had had in Korea. These had been disbanded and the pay billets that were used to create the GBs came from those disbanded companies. It proved to be a bad idea to take the ex-Rangers in because they never really accepted the OSS type mission and their spiritual successors eventually became the rulers of the organization in the era of counter-terrorism. The GBs were always capable of direct action missions as well as the UW mission of working with foreigners. That has been repeatedly stated by GB veterans in these pages and I don't know how you supposedly "missed" that. there was no "classified mission" in South America. It was a training mission in the context of Cuban efforts to expand their revolution. I was in the headquarters of the 8th SFGA in S, America in the mid-60s and I suppose I should know. Counterinsurgency operations became a mission of the GBs because Kennedy wanted it that way. Eventually, the GBs ended up with some "college boy" officers like me and I was honored to serve with them. BTW most of the CIA and State people I have known (many) were not really capable of working in the languages in which they supposedly had proficiency. As for why the Army or any other group does not train more linguists, it is the simple truth that most people are not capable of really learning a foreign language after they become adults and the more difficult the language the fewer people there are who can do it. I have no idea how the JSOC machine worked in Iraq. Why would I? pl

David Habakkuk

Patrick Bahzad,

I had not come across Colin Woodward's book, but Googling your reference to it turned up an article he wrote summarising his argument in 'Tufts Magazine'. Certainly this merits thought.
One small quibble relates to Woodward's account of 'Tidewater'. He writes:

'Built by the younger sons of southern English gentry in the Chesapeake country and neighboring sections of Delaware and North Carolina, Tidewater was meant to reproduce the semifeudal society of the countryside they'd left behind. Standing in for the peasantry were indentured servants and, later, slaves.'

Relations between 'gentry' and other social groups in British society were diverse and complicated. But to make an equation between a supposed 'peasantry' and 'indentured servants and, later, slaves' makes me wonder whether Woodward may suffer from a common American – indeed contemporary Western – inability to understand the social dynamics of groups not wholly based on 'individualist' values.

David Habakkuk

Babak Makkinejad,

Just one?


Korea should be counted as a success. It was a limited war, not an "unconditional surrender" war. Much like Gulf War I, where the objective also was a return to the status quo ante. The only reason Korea seems not like a success is because Field Marshal Douglas MacArthur tried to hijack it to serve his own ends. He meant to provoke the Chinese attack in order to gain political support in Washington to go ahead and invade China, using nuclear weapons, so that he could return his friends Chiang Kai-Shek and the Soong family to power. He unfortunately did not realize that the PLA did not have the poor morale endemic in the Nationalist armies, and in fact displayed some of the Chinese military tradition from earlier dynasties. When the PLA turned out to be much better soldiers than he had anticipated, and in much larger numbers, he more outspokenly tried to gain political backing and Truman was forced to fire him. The fact that our forces were pushed back to the current truce line was an advantage, and could have been achieved with far fewer casualties if it had not been for MacArthur's monomania.


I never saw the movie, and don't remember much from the book, except that the "Ugly American" was the good guy. He was the engineer who was always looking for ways to help the local people get more crops out of the ground, get potable water, and generally improve sustainable small technology. Graham Greene's novel The Quiet American (which I have on queue to read but never have) is about an American diplomat and a British journalist, and the American is the cause of tremendous suffering through his ignorance, arrogance, and naivety. Lots of people seem to get the two confused, but I remember The Ugly American because it was before I went to Vietnam, and I expected the American to be the bad guy.



You went to VN as what and when? I used to like Graham Greene as a novelist in such books as "The Power and the Glory" and "The Heart of the Matter." And then he descended into the kind of mindless anti-Americanism expressed in his rubbish about American complicity in murderous South American regimes and the like. Some Englishmen just cannot handle their diminished collective place in the world. pl

Patrick Bahzad


Regarding G. Greene and the British, I guess it's easier to blame the ugly Americans rather than reflecting about the state of chaos they left many of their former African colonies ! Some type of catharsis there I suppose

Johnny Reims

Stephanie – you write, “…elite thought in the South took a fatal wrong turning, so that the humane and sensible expressions of a George Mason became anathema to his descendants.”

You seem to painting with a mighty broad brush there.

There a many counter examples but as just one, the secessionist vote in Georgia – yes, Georgia – actually failed the first time. (42,744 against, 41,717 for).

As you know, the foot soldier in the CSA, by and large, were not slave-owners. VA only seceded after Fort Sumter and so on.

Since you, apparently, are writing from Alameda County (I like the East Bay, by the way), there is a probability that you have an academic approach.

I am not an academician, but if I were, I would be tempted to apply the work of Rene Girard (of Stanford), particularly his scapegoating theories, to the WBS. Then you may break new ground.

I assume you know that one of the founders of Univ. of California at Berkeley was a Confederate. LeConte.

The comments to this entry are closed.

My Photo

February 2021

Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
  1 2 3 4 5 6
7 8 9 10 11 12 13
14 15 16 17 18 19 20
21 22 23 24 25 26 27
Blog powered by Typepad