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Keep slogging

Andrew Bacevich: The Trouble with Generals, 21 July 2005

Douglas Haig: War Diaries and Letters 1914-18 
edited by Gary Sheffield and John Bourne.
Weidenfeld, 550 pp., £25, March 2005, 0 297 84702 3
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... which, legend says, the spirits of faithful cavalrymen retire on fulfilling their earthly duties, Field Marshal Sir Douglas Haig might sympathise. In a war of epic proportions, waged against a tenacious and skilful adversary, Haig delivered decisive victory. But as a guarantor of lasting personal glory, victory did not suffice. Throughout the ordeal of ...

Short Cuts

Andrew O’Hagan: Have you seen their sandals?, 3 July 2014

... there is a connection to the world of fashion. But the Burberry Travel Satchel? The Burberry Field Sneaker? The idea of the nomad seemed to confuse the models and actors in the front row at the Burberry show. To them, the nomadic instinct referred to that strange feeling that occasionally overcomes one on the way down New Bond Street, when, just for a ...

Short Cuts

Andrew O’Hagan: Kitsch and Kilts in Celtic Park, 21 August 2014

... that not only revels in its own tat, but makes enduring icons of it, and sugary cakes vied on the field of play with sugary drinks (Irn-Bru). A blow-up doll of the Loch Ness Monster seemed more smiling than carnivorous. Imagine an opening ceremony in, say, Seattle, that opened with a giant rubber Sasquatch being chased round and round by a battalion of ...

Short Cuts

Andrew O’Hagan: Ulysses v. O.J. Simpson, 28 July 2016

... episode, Bloom wanders down Grafton Street, sees a woman’s fat ankles, prices a pair of field glasses, wonders if he was happier in the past, feels hungry, goes into the wrong eating place, finds it disgusting, enters Davy Byrne’s pub (a ‘moral pub’) and orders a cheese sandwich and a glass of burgundy, before getting into a conversation with ...

The Greatest Person then Living

Andrew Bacevich: Presidents v. Generals, 27 July 2017

The General v. the President: MacArthur and Truman at the Brink of Nuclear War 
by H.W. Brands.
Anchor, 438 pp., £21, November 2016, 978 0 385 54057 5
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... sometimes for dishonesty or moral turpitude. Only once, however, has a president fired his senior field commander during wartime for blatant insubordination. As a chapter in the history of US civil-military relations, the Truman-MacArthur controversy is seemingly sui generis, but to treat it as such, as Brands does, is to miss its larger significance. Ending ...

Ruling Imbecilities

Andrew Roberts, 7 November 1991

The Enemy’s Country: Words, Contexture and Other Circumstances of Language 
by Geoffrey Hill.
Oxford, 153 pp., £19.95, August 1991, 0 19 811216 5
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... he is still concerned with the writer’s obligation to recognise and resist a ‘gravitational field’, but this field is identified with the negotium or business of practical life, not with original sin. Admirers of Hill’s poetry will find much in these essays of relevance to his own poetic technique, in particular ...


Andrew Bacevich: The Protean face of modern warfare, 3 March 2005

The Remnants of War 
by John Mueller.
Cornell, 258 pp., £16.50, September 2004, 0 8014 4239 7
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The Future of War: The Re-Enchantment of War in the 21st Century 
by Christopher Coker.
Blackwell, 162 pp., £50, October 2004, 1 4051 2042 8
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The New Wars 
by Herfried Münkler.
Polity, 180 pp., £14.99, October 2004, 0 7456 3337 4
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... increasingly asymmetric. The typical armed conflict today no longer pits like against like – field army v. field army or battle fleet v. battle fleet – and usually there is no longer even the theoretical prospect of a decisive outcome. In asymmetric conflicts, combatants employ violence indirectly. The aim is not to ...

Killing the dragon

Andrew Cockburn, 19 April 1984

The Road to Berlin: Stalin’s War with Germany 
by John Erickson.
Weidenfeld, 877 pp., £20, November 1983, 0 297 77238 4
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The Road to Stalingrad: Stalin’s War with Germany 
by John Erickson.
Weidenfeld, 594 pp., £10, November 1983, 0 297 78350 5
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... therefore appreciative when the Russians revealed at Tehran that they had 330 divisions in the field. As it happened, the information was false: the Red Army had well over four hundred and fifty divisions in action at that time. But Stalin had no desire to diminish his friends’ enthusiasm for the invasion of France. After Kursk the German front was ...

At the Movies

Andrew O’Hagan: M. Night Shyamalan, 17 July 2008

The Happening 
directed by M. Night Shyamalan.
June 2008
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... There’s a certain sort of person who will take a flashlight and go into a field of corn in the dark, but they only exist in the movies. I always think of those characters when I think of movie people in general: even in what is called real life, where people tend to have opinions and heart conditions and mortgages, film directors are largely unreal people who behave in unnatural ways ...

Lost Property

Andrew O’Hagan, 20 December 2018

... in Glasgow at the end of 48 hours. ‘Items of value such as Documents, Jewellery, Cameras and Field Glasses must be carefully packed and despatched as a “Value” parcel.’ If the item was a coat ‘in good condition’, it had to be wrapped in paper and have a label attached to the right-hand sleeve. T.H. Hollingsworth, the commercial ...

At Tottenham Court Road

Andrew O’Hagan, 24 September 2015

... Court Road up to the old Spanish Bar in Hanway Street and is about the size of a football field. What I mainly saw were white and orange-hatted men lifting insulation blocks with the help of a giant crane. The building site is surrounded with the usual Keep Out signs, but I sneaked past and saw layers of London, some of it looking like the streets ...


Donald Davie, 2 February 1984

A World of Difference 
by Norman MacCaig.
Chatto, 64 pp., £3.95, June 1983, 0 7011 2693 0
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... Andrew Crozier has lately written an exceptionally searching essay about British poetry since 1945,* in which Norman MacCaig is named just once in passing. There is nothing wrong with that; Crozier isn’t attempting one of those limp ‘surveys’ in which everyone who deserves mention gets it. All the same I have the impression that a nod in passing – usually, it’s true, complimentary – is the most that MacCaig normally gets from any of us ...

In Pyjamas

R.W. Johnson: Bill Deedes’s Decency, 17 November 2005

Dear Bill: A Memoir 
by W.F. Deedes.
Macmillan, 451 pp., £14.99, July 2005, 9781405052665
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... rise to an executive level where they only boss around those who write – and particularly about Andrew Knight, the former Economist editor brought in as chief executive of the Telegraph by Conrad Black. Part of the deal was that Hastings should replace Deedes as editor, a changing of the guard that led Thatcher to throw a party for him at Number Ten. Knight ...

Hinsley’s History

Noël Annan, 1 August 1985

Diplomacy and Intelligence during the Second World War: Essays in Honour of F.H. Hinsley 
edited by Richard Langhorne.
Cambridge, 329 pp., £27.50, May 1985, 0 521 26840 0
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British Intelligence and the Second World War. Vol. I: 1939-Summer 1941, Vol. II: Mid-1941-Mid-1943, Vol. III, Part I: June 1943-June 1944 
by F.H. Hinsley, E.E. Thomas, C.F.G. Ransom and R.C. Knight.
HMSO, 616 pp., £12.95, September 1979, 0 11 630933 4
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... Secret Service: Sir Francis Walsingham ran it for Elizabeth I.) Today the hounds are in pursuit of Andrew Gow, the Classical scholar and art collector who was Blunt’s mentor at Trinity. Gow, who had taught at Eton, devoted part of his life to editing Nicander, a didactic Greek poet who wrote poems on snake-bites, poisons and their remedies – there is ...


Sean French: Fortress Wapping, 6 March 1986

... and, in retrospect, boring and pointless: all that matters is that the management and our editor, Andrew Neil, told us nothing of their true intentions. By contrast, the crisis itself was simple. Rupert Murdoch demanded a level of compulsory redundancies of his Sogat 82 and NGA employees that he knew they would not accept. The two unions took the bait and on ...

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