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If you know Brian Micklethwait you will know that he is a big fan of French anthropologist/sociologist Emmanuel Todd and has been for a long time. The name frequently crops up in our recorded conversations. What Todd believes, in essence, is that family structure has a big impact on politics. Some 13 years ago, Brian and I sat down to discuss his ideas. One of Brian’s greatest hopes is that he can find a critique of Todd’s ideas. Did he ever find one? He doesn’t seem to have done so. 

The latest podcast with Brian Micklethwait rather put me in mind of another podcast I recorded some 9 years ago with Antoine Clarke. This was ostensibly about the occupation of the Ruhr in 1923 but it quickly became about the whole history of Franco-German animosity. And none the worse it was for that!

Anyway, after a bit of rootling around for it I eventually found it. And then I found it again here. Well worth a listen I’d say.

I may republish some more of these in due course.

For a long time in the English-speaking world the French military has been regarded as a bit of a joke. Words and phrases like “defeatism”, “Maginot LIne”, “red trousers” and “cult of the offensive” get bandied about. The more I study the subject - and I by no means claim to be an expert - the less I believe this. It seems to me that in the Second World War the French army was quite good, just unlucky. In the First it was pretty bad but not for the reasons we think. 

In the course of our conversation we cover Napoleon and, of course, Hitler, the German preparations for war, the fall of empire, American independence, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, American anti-Americanism, the break-up of successful coalitions, French art and the move from war to watercolours, Emmanuel Todd, counter-factual history. 

Notes

  1. In the victorious 100 days offensive the British took 48% of the prisoners and 42% of the guns. The French took 36% of the prisoners and 28% of the guns. So, the French weren’t doing nothing.
  2. Simon House Lost Opportunity
  3. In the Middle Ages 1 in 4 Europeans was a Frenchman. This proportion has been declining ever since especially since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution.
  4. Dreyfus Affair 
  5. Boulanger 
  6. Findlay Dounachie's LA pamphlet 
  7. Foch was the commander of all the Allied armies in 1918 
  8. On that comment about the French PM asking Haig about the merits of the Nivelle Offensive I have got confused. He was asked by the French War Minister about the merits of Nivelle before the offensive began (24/3/17). He was asked by the French Prime Minister about the merits of other French generals after the offensive began (26/4/17).
  9. Do the French remember the Battle of the Ardennes? Yes, but not particularly well. There is a Battle of the Ardennes page on French Wikipedia but it took a while for me to find. 
  10. According to David Fraser’s biography of Alan Brooke (p137), the review of French troops took place in the presence of General Corap who Brooke found complacent. Unfortunately, this was written after the Fall of France. 
  11. For more on Germany’s High Command and their plot to oust Hitler in 1938
  12. This would appear to be the battle between Caesar and Pompey that Brian was referring to.
  13. Dien Bien Phu was a bit bigger than I thought but nothing like the scale of the First World War.
  14. “Only” 80,000 British soldiers surrendered at Singapore 
  15. There may have been as many as 40,000 French civilian dead in the Normandy Campaign.
  16. Here is de Gaulle after Paris was liberated. My French may be rusty but I am pretty sure there is no mention of either Britain or America. 
  17. This is the book by Ross King that Brian mentions 
  18. David’s portrait of Napoleon 
  19. The French word for “sympathy” is “sympathie”.
  20. I can’t find any evidence that Haig was sceptical about the Nivelle Offensive

 

As I write, Britain and a whole host of other countries are in lockdown. Although there has been a loosening of arrangements in recent weeks, at its outset people were asked/told to stay indoors and go out as little as possible. Many people had - and continue to have - a large proportion of their wages paid by the state.

Brian and I talk about this crisis which has now been going on for 10 weeks. Did I say talk? Meander might be a better way of putting it. We talk about safety, analogies with war, Ludwig Erhard, the capitalism-needs-war argument and even child-rearing. We agree - thus making for a dull conversation - that there are a great deal of unknowns and it is thus difficult to be sure of anything.

Where we disagree is on whether the baked-into-the-cake economic collapse is a good thing or a bad thing. Being an Austrian purist I say that the economy is built on foundations of sand and the sooner it collapses the better. Brian is not so sure. But we agree - dullsville once again - that the way out is the same way the West Germans chose in the late 1940s. Whether or not we get that is another thing.

Notes

  1. Ludwig Erhard 
  2. I may have been wrong about the ironwork 

  3. Here is an example of what price control does 

  4. I think this is the J.P.Floru book Brian is referring to 

  5. It occurs to me that the great crisp surplus may have been due to the great party shortage and not to a mass conversion to the benefits of healthy eating.

 

When I was about 5 years old I received my first piggy bank. It was in the shape of a globe. My first question was "Where is Britain?". My second question was "Where is Vietnam?" The reason was because I had heard the word again and again and so, therefore, I felt it must be awfully important.

In 1955 Vietnam was divided between Communist North and non-Communist South. In the early 1960s an insurgency began with the aim to force the South to become part of the North. In 1965, the US, under President Johnson put in ground troops. The war became very divisive. By 1973, the US, by now under Nixon had withdrawn all its ground troops having seen some 58,000 of them killed (that's about 30 a day). In 1975 - Nixon having been forced to resign as a consequence of the Watergate scandal - the North invaded and the South fell. Immediately afterwards Cambodia and Laos also fell to Communist forces of one sort or another.

This podcast stems from my watching a documentary on the Vietnam War on PBS. I didn't like it much. And I decided to do some checking to see if there was an alternative point of view. There was.

My essential argument is that just about everything you have heard about Vietnam is wrong and that by 1972 the US had engineered a situation where South Vietnam could be defended at acceptable cost. That "victory" was then squandered by Congress.

Brian was a young adult in the 1960s and given that his generation was all anti-War etc I expected that he would have plenty to say from first-hand experience. I was wrong. But that doesn't stop us.

I begin by outlining how I see the war. We go on to have a discussion about the Johnson administration's approach to the war, the role of the left, the role of the media and the role of what Brian calls "anti-anti-communists", John Paul Vann and the ramifications of the fall of South Vietnam. I outline the argument that the war may not have been a complete waste.

Towards the end I speculate whether our tiring of Iraq has led us to miss something quite important and we discuss nation building.

Notes
=====

  1. That stuff about the end of Black Lives Matter? Whoops!

  2. A lot of my information has come from Vietnam Veterans for Truthful History.

  3. The boat people 

  4. Dien Bien Phu 

  5. Case-Church 

  6. Nixon was President from 1969 to 1974. Henry Kissinger was his National Security Adviser.

  7. Watergate 

  8. I mention a South Vietnamese commander who wanted to invade the North - or at least take some of it. Try as I might I can't find a reference.

  9. Doctrine of gradualism 

  10. Richard Pipes The Russian Revolution 
  11. Carthago delenda est 

  12. Why MacArthur was sacked 

  13. Statements from Johnson and Nixon about the purpose of the war. This one from Johnson seems plain enough. This one from Nixon, if anything, seems less resolute

  14. My Lai 

  15. Tet Offensive 

  16. Hue Massacre as an example of VietCong thuggery 

  17. Lee Kwan Yew on the Domino Theory (as reported) 

  18. It would appear that Thailand was never under significant threat despite numerous border clashes with Vietnamese forces

  19. Vietcong a Northern creation  

In this podcast Brian and I talk about the Bomber Offensive of the Second World War with particular focus on what later-on became known as “Big Week”. I must admit that this was something I had never heard of but it turns out it was crucial for the Allies in gaining air superiority in Western Europe. 

Big Week was made possible by the introduction of the P45 Mustang, the fighter that could go all the way with the bombers. Much to my surprise it turns out that this quinitessentially American plane had a huge amount of British involvement. Inevitably, we mention the Merlin engine and then demonstrate our ignorance trying to explain what was so good about it.

We get diverted - as is our wont - into talking about Dowding and the aftermath of the Battle of Britain. I had always found it odd that he was removed from command immediately after having won the most important battle since Trafalgar. Brian explains why. He also explains Dowding’s achievement.

We have a brief discussion about the morality of this but it turns out that neither of us is particularly interested. We do however discuss the role of bombing as punishment and deterrent. And then we get on to the subject of corporal punishment at public schools. 

Brian has a great anecdote about an Me262 pilot.

Towards the end Brian points out a practical difficulty in the theory that bombing could have won the war alone. 

Notes

  1. James Holland's book on Big Week.
  2. Sherman production was slightly less than 50,000 and Panther production a bit more than 5,000.
  3. The successor to Ira Eaker was Hap Arnold
  4. I have not yet been able to find where I found that stuff about Germany allowing Japan to enter the war.
  5. Steve Davies is a mere PhD and his opinions can therefore be ignored.
  6. Rolls Royce Merlin engine
  7. Bishop George Bell
  8. That book on the collapse of Army Group Centre
  9. The Soviet Union went to war against Japan the day after the Hiroshima bombing.
  10. The war between Russia and Japan in 1939.
  11. This is the Harris snippet that Brian was referring to.
  12. The Allies were indeed intent on dropping nuclear weapons on Germany.
  13. He177
  14. This is the book by John Ray that we talk about.

In this episode we discuss the Falklands War of 1982. We find there is a lot to talk about from nuclear submarines, logistics, the Labour Party, how the British won when they were outnumbered, Bluff Cove and the Harrier, to the Black Buck raids and how a year later we were all almost engulfed in nuclear armaggedon.

By the way, the Admiral who convinced Thatcher to fight was Henry Leach.

A few weeks ago I gave a talk on what happened after the First Wold War. I mainly concentrated on the many ethnic conflicts that broke out in Central Europe. In this podcast we decided to do a follow up. There were quite a lot of issues, surrounding the chaos of the time, which were brought up which on the face of it at least led us to some rather uncomfortable conclusions - as you will hear.

In doing so we talk about massacres in the English Civil War - spoiler: there weren’t many - the inviolability of national boundaries, Ireland, the potential for a Welsh Civil War, Brexit - inevitably - Great Men and anti-semitism. 

It’s grim but it’s my feeling - and I think Brian’s too - that you have to go where the facts take you.

I start by outlining my dilemma. 

We then go on to talk about Biblical tales, the Quakers, Christianity and children, architecture and music.

Further in we talk about the influence of Christian intellectual tools and Biblical support for the division of labour. Before getting back to architecture again.

We finish off by talking about war.

Notes

Brian talks about the origins of the word “religion” (not according to Wikipedia). But others disagree

My comment about universities being all about religion is probably wrong.

This is the Siedentop book Brian mentions.

And, no, the gladius did not look like a crucifix.

With the clock counting down to what in theory was going to be Independence Day on 29 March, Brian and I sat down to discuss Brexit. We - or, more accurately, I - began by making a prediction of what would happen in the next month or so.

We then try to get inside the heads of Remainers. I think they’re mad. Brian thinks they’re in shock. 

We talk a little bit about the referendum campaign and how surprised we were at the result. 

Brian raises David Goodhart’s The Road to Somewhere and the battle between the “somewheres” and “anywheres”. 

After that we talk about the Vote Leave campaign, the EU’s incompetence, how we have to thank convinced Remainers like Gordon Brown and the prospects for a second referendum.

The uncomfortable subject of immigration gets an airing. And hot on the heels of that: the Anglosphere. And after that - inevitably - Emmanuel Todd. 

We finish by discussing the influence that libertarians have on the world and how while it is easy to spot losers from Brexit it is much harder to spot winners. 

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