I am still in a the mood to suggest books. Having read Roy Jenkins’ biography of Winston Churchill last year, I have gone a bit of a Churchill jag. I bought a bunch of his books, and have been picking around in them. One thing I’ve noticed is that you can drop some serious coin buying his out of print books. He is one of the greatest writers I have ever encountered, and there is almost literally not a single page that doesn’t have something good in it. One I picked up is the seven volumes of his collected war speeches, which is simply awesome. If you already have a basic familiarity with World War II, you will find many good things in there. In particular, Churchill’s reports to the House of Commons on the status of the war are tremendous — Lengthy, detailed, blunt about setbacks and disasters, respectful of his audience. We have no equivalent in the United States. One small item I found this evening, just flipping around was entitled “A speech to American troops during a visit to a southern army camp in the United States, June, 1942” and reads in its entirety thus:
I am enormously impressed by the thoroughness and precision with which the formation of the great war-time army of the United States is proceeding. The day will come when the British and American armies will march into countries, not as invaders, but as liberators, helping the people there who have been under the barbarian yoke. That day may seem long to those whose period of training spreads across the weeks and months. But when it comes, it will make amends for all the toil and discipline that has been undergone. Also, it will open the world to larger freedom and to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, as the grand words of your Declaration of Independence put it.
This passage reminds me of Iraq, for obvious reasons. Even in the very dark times of the early months of World War II Churchill was already looking at the Anglospheric armies as liberators.
Fortunately, instead of having to throw together an enormous army on the fly, as we were doing in 1942, for Iraq we were able to employ a very powerful military already in existence. Money well frigging spent. We went into Iraq with the best military equipment the world has ever seen. We went into World War II with a tank, the Sherman, which was basically a rolling coffin when it encountered the high-velocity guns on the German tanks. (See Death Traps: The Survival of an American Armored Division in World War II.) Never again.