Friday, August 03, 2012

Good-Bye, Friend: RIP John Keegan; Keegan's Perspective on the Iraq War


John Keegan has died (cheers to Instapundit), the military historian who is best known for The Face of Battle (I still treasure my college course book copy), although my own favorite is Warpaths: Travels of a Military Historian in North America:
Military history and geography explain each other in North America as nowhere else in the world. Award-winning historian John Keegan explores their relationship and examines the battles fought over three centuries between Frenchman and Indian, Royalist and colonist, Union and Confederacy.
Highly recommended. Keegan has been mentioned half a dozen times on No Pasarán. Back in June 2004, we quoted from his Daily Telegraph column:
What monopolises the headlines and prime time television at the moment is news from Iraq on the activity of small, localised minorities struggling to entrench themselves before full peace is imposed and an effective state structure is restored. The news is, in fact, very repetitive: disorder in Najaf and Fallujah, misbehaviour by a tiny handful of US Army reservists — not properly trained regular soldiers — in one prison. There is nothing from Iraq's other 8,000 towns and villages, nothing from Kurdistan, where complete peace prevails, very little from Basra, where British forces are on good terms with the residents.
A day earlier, I wrote a post mentioning his book, The Iraq War, and linking that year's D-Day commemorations to another anniversary from 2004:

… it turns out that there is another 60th birthday this year. That of the Ba'ath party. Yes. It was founded by a Syrian (a Christian, incidentally) in 1944.

I am currently reading a book by an author variously described as "our greatest modern military historian" and "the most readable and most original of living military historians". In The Iraq War, John Keegan does not only describe the military operations from March to April 2003, but gives the context and background of the Iraq conflict, from the history of Mesopotamia to the historic break between Sunnis and Shi'ites, from the fall of the Ottoman empire to the contemporary rivalries. What caught my attention (and what, if truth be told, got a flame of anger burning inside me) was the information on the last page of chapter 3 relating to the origin of the Ba'ath party.

Speaking of Saddam Hussein : "The nature of his régime owed more to twentieth-century ideologies of intolerance and systems of repression than to anything derived from the more distant past."

Speaking of Saddam's Ba'ath party: "Michel Aflaq, the founder of Ba'athism, had modelled the organization of his party on Hitler's Nazi movement, of which he was an admirer."

Let us remember the Iraqi citizens quoted in Steven Vincent's Reason article: "European and Arab journalists talk to us, but they don’t care about our happiness in being liberated. They only want us to make anti-American comments."