Thursday, February 02, 2006

War In Iraq, by John Keegan

John Keegan is Britain’s pre-eminent military historian, and has received a swag of military honours for his troubles. He was approached to write this ‘history’ (I use inverted commas, as the Iraq war continues apace) of the second gulf war.

The most interesting parts detail Iraq’s early and pre-Saddam history. Although this has been covered numerous times recently, so I’d say its the material which is interesting, not the author’s presentation.

The sections that deal with the lead up to the Iraq war take the view that the West was right to intervene in Iraq. Thus, there is much that people will disagree with in Keegan’s analysis.

Two very dull chapters go into the actual war part of the invasion of Iraq, with lots of laudatory notices for the efficiency and superior quality of the British and American armies. Why is pro-war writing always so incredibly turgid?

The philosophical upshot of the book is that might is right, with a disdain for ‘law making or treaty writing’. He calls those who argue for the UN and other similar processes as Olympians, floating far above the on-the-ground reality.

From the author:

‘Liberal opinion, dominant throughout the European media and academia, strong also in their American equivalents, was outraged by the spectacle of raw military force supplanting reason and legality as the means by which relations between states are ordered.’

A superficial and self-congratulatory book from an esteemed and decorated author.

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