June 04, 2004

THE ABRIDGED KEEGAN

The Sydney Morning Heraldís version of John Keeganís Daily Telegraph column is more than 200 words shorter than the original, and was clearly edited for space. But did they really have to remove Keeganís conclusion?

Keegan in the SMH:

It is a regrettable but not wholly to be unexpected outcome of a campaign to overthrow a dangerous Third World dictator.

Keegan in the Telegraph:

It is a regrettable but not wholly to be unexpected outcome of a campaign to overthrow a dangerous Third World dictator. If those who show themselves so eager to denounce the American President and the British Prime Minister feel strongly enough on the issue, please will they explain their reasons for wishing that Saddam Hussein should still be in power in Baghdad.

Posted by Tim Blair at June 4, 2004 04:08 PM
Comments

That is duplicitous of SMH, clarified when reelated to Keegan's major point, despite such possibilties, the occupation is in fact a success, which is quite the opposite, obviously, conclusion the SMH would have readers draw.

Posted by: d at June 4, 2004 at 04:36 PM

Suddenly there are editors everywhere at the Sydney Margo Herald.

Posted by: ilibcc at June 4, 2004 at 04:54 PM

I have long admired Mr Keegan's work, especially 'Guns, Germs and Steel', but the conclusion to his article (which I read in full) repeats a logical fallacy that is very disappointing to see from a great historian.

It does NOT automatically follow that if you oppose America's actions in Iraq that you must wish Saddam was still in power.

Posted by: fatfingers at June 4, 2004 at 05:04 PM

Well said ilibcc,

When Margo's twaddle could do with a good pruning and a spell-checker,there are no subs to be found.

Yet, giving a leftist slant to an opinion......

Posted by: nic at June 4, 2004 at 05:04 PM

As several score people will no doubt remark, "Guns, Germs and Steel" was written by Jared Diamond.

Posted by: Bruce Lagasse at June 4, 2004 at 05:10 PM

fatfingers said:
"It does NOT automatically follow that if you oppose America's actions in Iraq that you must wish Saddam was still in power."

I suppose thats the case if you just ignore the issue.

Tell me, fatfingers, what would be the situation in Iraq today if the US and its allies had not acted?

I suppose you could have "wished" Saddam out of power.

Posted by: amortiser at June 4, 2004 at 05:30 PM

In addition to confusing John Keegan with Jared Diamond, Mr. Fatfingers wrongly accuses Keegan of a logical fallacy. Keegan was simply pointing out that those who did want Saddam to be overthrown must, ipso facto, have wished Saddam to remain in power, and if they can't follow this logic they are hopelessly muddleheaded.

Posted by: doyne dawson at June 4, 2004 at 05:32 PM

correction: I meant "those who did NOT want Saddam to be overthrown must have wished Saddam to remain in power."

Posted by: doyne dawson at June 4, 2004 at 05:34 PM

John Keegan is a remarkable and insightful military historian. I own several of his books. He is also hopelessly compromised when he diverges from the realm of pure history into contemporary geo-politics.

Keegan is the man who shook the hand that shook the hand of Saddam Hussein. His piece in Vanity Fair last year on Donald Rumsfield was as abject an instance of hagiography to have appeared in that most fawning of periodcals.

Posted by: Paul Pottinger at June 4, 2004 at 05:51 PM

Ssssh...doyne dawson. Don't point out fatfinger's logical fallacy. It riles him up.

Posted by: Quentin George at June 4, 2004 at 06:00 PM

Mr. Pottinger repeats the myth that Rumsfeld somehow compromised himself by shaking the hand of Saddam in the 1980s. Was there some reason the United States should not have tried to maintain diplomatic relations with Saddam at that time? He then appeared to be a potential force for stability in the region, being the enemy of Iran, and as he was new in power his regime did not appear particularly dangerous by Middle Eastern standards. Sometimes the "handshaking" charge is followed up by charges that the United States "created" or "armed" Saddam, all of which is nonsense. Saddam was a Soviet client and the Europeans armed him. Pottinger carries this myth to an even more absurd length. Not only is Rumsfeldt damned eternally because a quarter of a century ago, as an American cabinet minister, he shook the hand (an action rather difficult to evade on diplomatic missions) of a head of state who was no enemy of America nor of any of America's allies; in addition, everybody who has shaken Rumsfeldt's hand since that first heinous handshake must be equally damned. I am also a military historian and I share Keegan's high opinion of Rumsfeldt. If Pottinger does not share it, that's his own business. But it is ridiculous to claim that admiring Rumsfeldt "compromises" one, as if this disqualifies one from expressing views on the Iraq war or U.S. strategies.

Posted by: doyne dawson at June 4, 2004 at 06:25 PM

I suppose you could have "wished" Saddam out of power.

Heh. I'm imagining a horrible Saddam-headed jack-in-the-box out in the cornfield. Where's Billy Mumy when geopolitics needs him?

Posted by: Sean M. at June 4, 2004 at 08:18 PM

After Churchill shook Stalin's hand, well, that disqualified him from making any further criticism of the leader.

Come on, you know it makes sense!

Posted by: Tam Nguyen at June 4, 2004 at 09:25 PM

Doyne (and to a lesser extent Tam)

You take my literary allusion far too literally.

I stated that the tone of Keegan's article in Vanity Fair was devoid of objectivity (to say nothing of nauseatingly sycophantic).

As such, Keegan's journalism must necessarily be considered as editorialising.

Posted by: Paul Pottinger at June 4, 2004 at 11:34 PM

"Keegan is the man who shook the hand that shook the hand of Saddam Hussein. His piece in Vanity Fair last year on Donald Rumsfield was as abject an instance of hagiography to have appeared in that most fawning of periodcals."

Posted by: Paul Pottinger at June 4, 2004 at 05:51 PM

But then...

"You take my literary allusion far too literally.

I stated that the tone of Keegan's article in Vanity Fair was devoid of objectivity (to say nothing of nauseatingly sycophantic).

As such, Keegan's journalism must necessarily be considered as editorialising."

Posted by: Paul Pottinger at June 4, 2004 at 11:34 PM


...Oh. My. God. I can no longer READ!

Posted by: ushie at June 5, 2004 at 03:39 AM

Paul Pott
"I stated that the tone of Keegan's article in Vanity Fair was devoid of objectivity (to say nothing of nauseatingly sycophantic). As such, Keegan's journalism must necessarily be considered as editorialising."

1. An article's tone is neither objective nor subjective; it can be sycophantic, even nauseatingly so.
2. Prof Keegan is a commentator and thus expected to editorialize freely, unlike certain "reporters" who journalise without distinguishing fact from personal fancy.

As well manifesting greater inate facility if transitioning from pure history to contemporary geo-politics, can you further validate your critique of Prof Keegan's thoughts and opinions by highlighting concomitant palpable proclivities in his literary compositional techniques.

Cheers
JMH

Posted by: J.M. Heinrichs at June 5, 2004 at 03:50 AM

>Mr. Pottinger repeats the myth that Rumsfeld
>somehow compromised himself by shaking the hand
>of Saddam in the 1980s.

Doyne, you're being unfair. Opponents of the administration and its policies and personnel make very valid points, and this is one of them. Rather than going to war, the US should have tried peaceful diplomatic engagement with the ruler of sovereign Iraq, but without shaking hands. Remember, Saddam was brutal dictator who we were wrong for supporting, and it was wrong of us to overthrow him. If this diplomacy failed, we should have continued our policy of economic sanctions against Iraq, rather than the brutal policy of economic sanctions against Iraq. And remember, Saudis were the majority of terrorists on 9/11, so rather than attacking an oil-rich terrorist-supporting Arab nation, it would have made more logical sense to attack an oil-rich terrorist-supporting Arab nation, which of course would be wrong. Also, the war on Iraq diverted us from the war in Afghanistan. And the war in Afghanistan is wrong. And we're being distracted from the War on Terror. And the War on Terror is a straw man.

I know this all sounds very contradictory, inconsistent, and incoherent, so I'll simplify it - whatever the administration or the US does is wrong, and if they do the opposite, that will be wrong, too.


Posted by: Dave S. at June 5, 2004 at 04:38 AM

Dave S.--

Bravo! That is the most brilliant summation of lefty "logic" I've read--worthy of the great Steyn, Lileks, Goldberg, et al. I'm savng it and emailing it to my friends.

I'd buy you a beer for that one!

Posted by: JDB at June 5, 2004 at 10:30 AM

I e-mailed the SMH to complain. Not that they'll care. Abridging Keegan's conclusion is just too much.

Posted by: Donnah at June 5, 2004 at 11:42 AM

Dear JMH

"Prof Keegan is a commentator and thus expected to editorialize freely, unlike certain "reporters" who journalise without distinguishing fact from personal fancy."

By no means do I disagree. I do, however, feel that the VF piece I recalled - which was not presented as comment, but rather a "straight" profile - was pure hagiography and thus unworthy of a man I admire enormously (not least for his extraordinary A History of Warfare).

Indeed Keegan's Daily Telegraph commentary in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 was easily the most coherent and insightful piece that I read during that period.

I would suggest that Prof Keegan's self-admitted hero worship of warriors (see the introduction to his History) led him astray when profiling former USMC pilot Rumsfeld.

Does this opinion equate to opposition to the ongoing operation in Iraq? Of course not.

Saddam should have been deposed 13 years ago when the means, but not will, were in place to make this outcome a formality. For this, certain members who served in the administration of both Bush senior and Bush junior have much to answer.

Regards

PP

Posted by: Paul Pottinger at June 5, 2004 at 11:44 AM

"Saddam should have been deposed 13 years ago when the means, but not will, were in place to make this outcome a formality. For this, certain members who served in the administration of both Bush senior and Bush junior have much to answer."

That is just soooo twisted.

Posted by: Smitty at June 5, 2004 at 12:45 PM

Kindly explain your logic, Smitty person.

More troops were deployed in the Gulf in 1991 than during 2003 for Operation Iraqi Freedom.

General Norman Schwarzkopf (remember him?) raged before the world's press that he was restrained by the then-administration from rolling onto Baghdad. Thus another decade plus of Saddam.

Now THAT'S twisted.

Posted by: Paul Pottinger at June 5, 2004 at 02:03 PM

Pol Pot:

"General Norman Schwarzkopf (remember him?) raged before the world's press that he was restrained by the then-administration from rolling onto Baghdad."

THRICE BE DAMNED that civilians control the US military!!!!!! If only we'd let the great General Schwartzkopf decide, instead of sticking to the mandate the UN gave us to ONLY kick Saddam out of Kuwait, and go no further!!!!!!!!

Please see Dave S.'s brilliant comments about whatever the US does being wrong, no matter what it is, even if we do the opposite.

Posted by: Sharkman at June 5, 2004 at 03:02 PM

Er ... Aren't we actually agreeing with each other? Good, I thought so.

Like every relatively sane person, I applauded the success of Desert Storm and was appalled when Stormin' Norman was prevented from achieving a great strategic victory.

This is not a question of the "United States being wrong" no matter what course takes - that kind of assertion defeats intelligent discussion. Perhaps it's more a question of degrees if "rightness".

It was right to invade Iraq last year. It would have been "righter" still to have done so in 1991.

Posted by: Paul Pottinger at June 5, 2004 at 03:57 PM

THRICE BE DAMNED that civilians control the US military!!!!!! If only we'd let the great General Schwartzkopf decide, instead of sticking to the mandate the UN gave us to ONLY kick Saddam out of Kuwait, and go no further!!!!!!!!


one more reason for us not to go to the UN. the UN only de-legitamnizes things. in Iraq, the people are wary of the UN. they now what the UN means. Bush was right to go regardless of the UN.

Posted by: Rob Mandel at June 5, 2004 at 04:14 PM

I don't know about smitty, but it struck me as asinine to blame Rumsfeld for the way the plug was pulled on the Gulf War. The blame lies with Bush41's, and probably Powell's, acceptance of the U.N. as the New World Order and deferring to the knot-headed restrictions imposed by its resolutions.

It taught Saddam the lesson that if he could buy off France and Russia, he need never fear a U.N. resolution.

What any of that has to do with Don Rumsfeld, I still don't see, since Rumsfeld was in private industry from 1977 to 2001 and wasn't part of the first Bush administration.

Posted by: AST at June 5, 2004 at 05:05 PM

AST

Don't think I said the '91 bugout was your man Rumsfeld's doing, mate.

And Sharkman - how did you deduce my true identity?

Posted by: Paul Pottinger at June 5, 2004 at 05:28 PM

"I have long admired Mr Keegan's work, especially 'Guns, Germs and Steel'"

I too have admired Jk's work, and I admired GG&S, and I admire you for admiring both of them...but GG&S was written by Jared Diaomond, not JK.

Still, let us now admire each other for having such erudite tastes in our potboilers.

*grin*

Posted by: Mark S. at June 5, 2004 at 05:35 PM

Dave S.:

You forgot one cornerstone of an enlightened Iraq policy. Besides replacing economic sanctions with...economic sanctions, we should have relied on that international deliberative body, the UN, to get rid of Saddam.

After all, the UN had two weapons--enlightened international opinion and more resolutions. No doubt this would have eventually shamed him into leaving, strewing profuse apologies on his way out.

You know UN resolutions--the political equivalent of the Spanish Inquisition's comfy chair.

Posted by: Alex Bensky at June 5, 2004 at 10:32 PM

My sister opposed the war, and is troubled by the deaths of U.S. soldiers, the difficulty of establishing order in Iraq and the prospect of further U.S. military action around the world. But she said to me: "I can't regret that Saddam Hussein is no longer in power." She knows that it's better to be humiliated by U.S. prison guards than killed by Saddam's prison guards. She also said, "Nick Berg wasn't humiliated. He was murdered. He's going to stay dead."

I think a lot of non-crazy Americans share this basic view. Very few Americans hate our country. If anything, we're excessively idealistic, and always want to be good and pure and loved by all. It's hard to do that while fighting an urban guerrilla war.

Posted by: Joanne Jacobs at June 6, 2004 at 06:19 AM

Keegan is the man who shook the hand that shook the hand of Saddam Hussein.

Don Rumsfeld washed his hands since, I am sure(although I haven't followed him into the little boy's room to check.)

Is there some sort of Aboriginal superstition that "evil" rubs off of a persons palm?

Posted by: Papertiger at June 6, 2004 at 06:35 AM

Papertiger

I can't speak for the Eora people (the original inhabitants of this part of Sydney before my ancestors turned up with guns, germs, steel and rum).

Far from taking that man's hand, my lot would have been more apt to shoot him out of hand.

Posted by: Paul Pottinger at June 6, 2004 at 11:07 AM

Paul Pottinger

Would you agree that it is likely that in 91 if we had gone to Baghdad, many of the same events of the last year would have occurred, i.e. Baathist guerilla resistance targeting US soldiers and civilians, Civilian deaths due to US actions fighting the resistance and prisoner abuse scandals, Likely attempt by Iran and Shia fundamentalists to grab power, similar number of US soldiers killed to what we have seen in the last year?

Would have supported the Bush 41 admin. through all of that?

Posted by: Buck Smith at June 7, 2004 at 02:20 PM

Buck

I attempted to post this a moment ago, but seem to have done something inept, so here it is (again)

In answer to your question - yes.

Of course many of the ongoing results of the current operation would have occured. Only the naive could have imagined otherwise.

A '91 invasion, however, would have ended 13 years of Saddam's regime, a period during which the numbers murdered and tortured were so great that it will be fully years before they can be counted.

I have interviewed enough members of Sydney's Iraqi and Kurdish communities, who themselves suffered and lost family and friends post-1991, to have not the least hesitation in applauding Saddam's downfall and condemning Bush Senior's administration for leaving them to dangle.

As for the abuses committed by US servicemen and women, there is little doubt that they will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

Need it be emphasised that Saddam's Gestapo committed similar atrocities - and much worse - unabated for more than a decade.

Posted by: Paul Pottinger at June 9, 2004 at 12:55 PM