Happy Birthday to Us!

Joint Army-Navy Task Force No. 1 commander Vice Admiral William H.P. Blandy with his wife and Rear Admiral Frank Lowry, commemorating the task force's disbanding, November 5, 1946.

Dear Readers,

It’s official! As of today, December 6th, this blog is one entire year old. That’s 365 days worth of posts and downtime alike. Starting with humble topics like “John Boyd and the OODA Loop,” and a breakdown of the defeated Sri Lankan insurgency, and myself introducing…myself, this blog has exploded into much more than I ever thought it could be.

Let’s crunch the numbers: 265 posts, 149 comments, 157 individual tags. I went from 593 views in December 2009 to 585 views in the first six days of December 2010.

A total of 29,332 hits. The most visited month ever was April 2010, presumably thanks to my “Boot Camp or Fat Camp” post, which has garnered 1,028 views since publication.

But surprisingly, that is not the most-viewed post of all time. That honor would belong to Part I of Operation Tannenbaum, the hypothetical German invasion of Switzerland. That article has now become cited material on both the English and Hebrew Wikipedia. With 2,077 views, it leaves “The Mask of the Bear: Soviet Deception in Operation Bagration” in a distant second with nearly 1,000 fewer hits.

Also popular have been some longer works: “SMS Goeben, the Berlin-Baghdad Railway, and the Coming of the Great War,” “Dragon at Sea: A Brief History of Chinese Navies,” “Reagan, Thatcher, and the Tilt,” and my five part series “For Love of Country.”

Thanks are in order, too. The two history carnivals at Edge of the American West that I was featured in have sent loads of traffic my way, as has Starbuck through both his blog and Twitter. My sincerest gratitude for getting eyeballs on the site and the site off the ground.

Many thanks as well to everyone who has come to this site either through a link or by accident; your continued patronage and readership is held in the highest esteem. Remember you can also find me on Twitter (where I share a pretty decent amount of good links). And please keep reading – I know there are many more years of good material left in me.

All the best and happy holidays,

Graham W. Jenkins

A Brief History of Future War

Another article at Fortnight today, this one the most relevant to regular readers of this blog. Simply titled “Future War,” it’s a fairly comprehensive overview of Things I’m Interested In militarily. Opening excerpt:

Much as we in the United States may have forgotten our two land wars in Asia, we’re still in them.

But if all goes according to plan, we’ll be completely out of both Iraq and Afghanistan by 2015. Except for the “advisory and assistance brigades.” And special forces. And drones. And all the other minutiae and caveats that will have essentially set the stage for a near-permanent American presence in Central Asia for the foreseeable future.

But some day, an end will come both in name and in deed—even if that end turns out to be anticlimactic. It’s said all too often that “today’s generals are preparing to fight yesterday’s wars.” By the same token, the ascendancy of counterinsurgency doctrine in the United States military could be here to stay.

Charting the future course of war requires wisdom—and prescience. Who will do the fighting? How will our fighting be done? Why will we fight? And why will they fight? The pithy answers, in order, are: Very few people, remotely, preservation and economics.

Go read it!

Fin

I have a new piece out at Fortnight today. This one, in keeping with the dire overtones of the last, is all about our fascination with the apocalypse and mass destruction. Featuring awesome artwork by Matt McCann! Brief sample:

We’re pretty fucked, and we know it.

Two weeks ago, I wrote about the grim economic and political situation in which our generation has found itself. If the present is indeed a culmination of the trends of the last two decades, then it would seem to be no mere coincidence that our era has witnessed a phenomenal rise across all forms of media in the formerly obscure subgenres of nihilism, post-apocalypticism and dystopian fiction. And even less surprising is how avidly our generation has consumed the stuff.

We were born into upheaval and collapse. We were raised during the height of the Cold War, and were toddlers when the Soviet Union disintegrated and Germany reunited. For those of us raised in the United States, then came the boom years of the Clinton era. Even to our less-than-fully-conscious minds, things seemed to be going pretty well. At least one, if not both our parents (or all four) had a job. We were safe from scary things like that Gorbyshave man, and this fantastic new thing called AOL was making our lives really interesting.

But as they say, “the night is darkest before dawn”—and, perhaps by the same token, the day is brightest at sunset. The unbelievable trauma that the destruction of the World Trade Center and the E-Ring of the Pentagon wrought on my nation was unparalleled in living memory. For our generation, it defined the beginning of our maturity, including attention to politics and global affairs…

Read the rest at Fortnight.

Play Up! Play Up! And Play the Game!

“The Battle of Waterloo was won on the playing-fields of Eton.”

– Arthur Wellesley

There’s a breathless hush in the close to-night
Ten to make and the match to win
A bumping pitch and a blinding light,
An hour to play, and the last man in.
And it’s not for the sake of a ribboned coat.
Or the selfish hope of a season’s fame,
But his captain’s hand on his shoulder smote
“Play up! Play up! And play the game!”

The sand of the desert is sodden red-
Red with the wreck of the square that broke
The gatling’s jammed and the colonel dead,
And the regiment blind with dust and smoke.
The river of death has brimmed its banks,
And England’s far and Honor a name,
But the voice of a schoolboy rallies the ranks-
“Play up! Play up! And play the game!”

This is the word that year by year,
While in her place the school is set,
Every one of her sons must hear,
And none that hears it dare forget.
This they all with joyful mind
And bear through life Eke a torch in flame,
falling fling to the host behind-
“Play up! Play up! And play the game!”

– Sir Henry Newbolt

“The neutral keep out of the light; good boys are at present safe”

You’ll have to excuse the delay – it was a week before we had a bed or an internet in the apartment, and since then Comcast has really, really dropped the ball (cutting my neighbors’ physical lines didn’t help any). Also, still no job, which is less than ideal.

But still! The writing must go on. Writing and reprinting.

And so I have a very special treat for you today: the entirety of Brigadier Charles Dunbar’s “The Military Problems of Counter Insurgency.” Dunbar commanded 66 Commando Royal Marine during the Aden Emergency, and had quite an eye for low-intensity operations. Written in late 1967 or 1968, the document is a far-reaching and detailed analysis of the problems faced by the British in Aden, while also making allusions to contemporary insurgencies in Cyprus and Kenya, intrigue in Saudi Arabia, Anna Karenina, and the idiocy of “that well known Scandinavian, Mr. Rudegeld.”

I took the liberty of retyping it – my aging photocopy was worn, scuffed, and overly stamped. I’ve attempted to reproduce the formatting as exactly as possible, and this includes leaving in misspellings and other errors. You can see, for example, that when he’s talking on page 3 about the Eastern Bloc, interrogation, and Vietnam, that his mind is racing too quickly to accurately transfer all his thoughts onto paper. But you’ll know what he means. And it’s definitely worth knowing.

This document is available at the Liddell Hart Centre for Military Archives at King’s College London. Box Dunbar 2/5. Enjoy!

Moving Day

My dissertation is done and complete. “Aden in the Balance: Airpower and Counterinsurgency in Aden, 1956-1967” has been handed in, and until I hear or decide otherwise, I am officially finished with school. I’ve got excerpts from that and a lot more goodies from the archive to share with you, but it will have to wait a couple days before I have internet up and running again.

It’s fitting that on the same day my dissertation was due, I am moving to Chicago. I bid a fond farewell to the East Coast, where my heart will always live. And if I ever come back saying “pop” instead of “soda,” please punch me in the face.

I know exactly how these rodents feel; packing has been just like this.

It’s Alive!

At long last, a group project I’ve been trying to get off the ground with some friends has come to fruition. I proudly present for you: The Smolerian.

Named after a mutual professor of whom we’re all very fond, The Smolerian should present an interesting mix of what you’ve come to expect here along with even more obscure and cutting-edge discoveries and topics. Politics, warfare, science, technology: nothing is off limits. Some contributors there are those responsible for turning me on my current interests – and by extension, this blog – so you just know they’ll be on top of their game.

Plus we’ll have more room for debates and fighting, so we can get pretty far out over there. I hope you’ll join us.

Fear and Loathing in Lower Manhattan

Against my better judgment (there seems to be quite a bit of that going around these days), I’ve decided to engage with a post at the Urban Times that comes out against the Cordoba House Project in Lower Manhattan. Or, excuse me, the GROUND ZERO TERROR MOSQUE. Replies Nicolas Samson to my earlier objection:

My argument stems from a practical, pragmatic standpoint. I wish to avoid steaming [sic] ideology whether it is religious or secular, Christian, Muslim, republican, or liberal. My objections to building that mosque right now are just that, objections to building that mosque there, now. Freedom of religion has nothing to do with it. Bigotry has nothing to do with it. It’s all about the greater picture.

Freedom of religion has everything to do with it. That’s the entire point. Would you be just as opposed to a church, a synagogue, or a local chapter of the Richard Dawkins fan club opening up shop in the exact same spot? And what is the greater picture? Your objections to building a community center that includes a mosque seems awfully limited in its scope. The greater picture is who we are as a society and whether or not we can handle the consequences of our own rights and protections.

I sit down and ask myself, what is the coveted result? My answer is: An open-society America. Not a liberal America, not a kick-ass America, but an open-society America.

Well, you lost me when you decided that you didn’t want a kick-ass America.

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