Scanlyze

The Online Journal of Insight, Satire, Desire, Wit and Observation

A New ‘Great Game’ In Afghanistan?

A New ‘Great Game’ In Afghanistan?

The head of the British Army has made clear Britain’s quasi-imperial ambitions in Central Asia. The British Chief of the General Staff, General Sir Richard Dannatt says that Britain is, “On the edge of a new and deadly Great Game in Afghanistan.” The “Great Game” was a term coined by a British Intelligence Officer, Lt. Arthur Connoly of the 6th Bengal Light Cavalry in 1834, to describe the rivalry between the British Empire and Russia in Central Asia. Dannatt envisions a state of permanent war. He asks, “how do we prepare ourselves for potentially a generation of conflict?”

Dannatt’s speech is here: CGS speaks on “Tomorrow’s Army, Today’s Challenges”

Mentioned in The Guardian: Miliband leaves way open for Iraq troops reduction

Dannatt has attracted considerable controversy regarding public comments which have been seen as suggesting that Britain should withdraw from Iraq: General seeks UK Iraq withdrawal

So Dannatt’s comments about Afghanistan are perhaps more a warning than an endorsement of Her Majesty’s Government’s position.

See also, What if Bush has a strategy working as intended in Iraq and Afghanistan? What could it be?
New Great Game (wikipedia)

Copyright © 2007 Henry Edward Hardy

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28 August, 2007 Posted by | Afghanistan, Army, Britain, CGS, Chief of Staff, grand strategy, Great Britain, Great Game, Iraq, military, news, oil, peace, permanent war, Richard Dannatt, scanlyze, speech, strategy, war | Leave a comment

The Surge is Working?

The Surge is Working?

The Opinionator by Tobin Harshaw on the New York Times has a peculiar article suggesting that US Democrats are under attack due to the supposed success of “the surge”. The piece leads with a quote attributed to Karen Tumlty, which says, in part, “It’s the Democrats who are being put on the defensive over the war.”

The column goes on to quote a number of selected statements from obscure “moderates” closing with: “Where the strategy was first to argue that the military surge would not work, the Democrats seem to be ready to acknowledge — behind closed doors that is — that they were wrong,” from Michael van der Galien. If you have access to Times Select, you can read this compendium of preposterousness at http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2007/08/22/spinning-the-surge/

There are a number of logical refutations submitted to the column. One, by ‘Rosemary Molloy’, reads,

Gee, all this “republicans did this,” “democrats said that” is confusing. Guess the only thing I quite understand is that we’re killing people. We. Are. Killing. People. These aren’t wild dogs we’re talking about–they’re PEOPLE! And we’re killing them.

My response follows:

The surge is working? The evidence would seem to suggest to the contrary. Consider the top headlines which come up upon searching, newest first, on the Times website on ‘Iraq’ today: ‘Times Topics: Iraq‘, ‘Black Hawk Fails and Crashes, Killing 14 U.S. Soldiers‘, ‘Cue the Film Awards Season and Strike a Somber Note‘, ‘Armored Trucks’ Delivery Delayed‘, ‘Army Officer, Others Indicted on Bribery‘, ‘25 Killed in Clash Northeast of Baghdad, Iraqi Police Say‘. You reported today that the capital, Baghdad, is receiving 2-6 hours of electricity per day as opposed to 24 hours per day before the war. The ‘surge’ is not sustainable; if this is success, what will the inevitable failure look like?

See: Democrats Refocus Message on Iraq After Military Gains
Militias Seizing Control of Iraqi Electricity Grid

Copyright © 2007 Henry Edward Hardy

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23 August, 2007 Posted by | defeat, failure, Iraq, New York Times, news, peace, politics, propaganda, scanlyze, surge, war, Washington Post | Leave a comment

The Children of Húrin: Tolkien’s Tragic Saga Shows a Darker Side to his Fantasy

Tolkien’s Tragic Saga Shows a Darker Side to his Fantasy

The Children of Húrin
Houghton Mifflin Company
2007

Henry Edward Hardy

The Children of Húrin is a tragedy written by JRR Tolkien. The book chronicles the destruction of the family of the noble Húrin of Dor-lómin, a human counselor and ally of the noble High Elves of Beleriand.

JRR Tolkien is best known as the author of the beloved classics The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. The Hobbit, published in 1937, and the three-volume Lord of the Rings, published in the 1950’s, tell the tales of two notable hobbits, Bilbo and Frodo Baggins, and their adventures. The Lord of the Rings is set against the backdrop of older tales which Tolkien started writing in 1916-1918.

The young Tolkien experienced the horror and madness of war while serving in the Great War. After contracting trench fever following the Battle of the Somme, Tolkien was returned to England for convalescence. It was at this time that he courted and wed his teenage sweetheart Edith Mary Bratt, and began writing the posthumously-published Book of Lost Tales. It is the juxtaposition of the joy Tolkien felt in the fields of flowering hemlock at Roos with Edith and the remembered horrors of the war in which most of his friends had died, which provided the inspiration for The Children of Húrin.

The writing in The Children of Húrin is archaic in style, with the characters declaiming with great intensity. The fall of the House of Húrin begins with a great battle, called the Battle of Unnumbered Tears in which,

…all the hosts of Angband swarmed against them, and they bridged the stream with their dead, and encircled the remnants of Hithlum as a gathering tide about a rock. There, as the Sun westered and the shadows of the Ered Wethrin grew dark, Huor fell pierced with a venomed arrow in the eye, and all the valiant men of Hador were slain about him in a heap, and the Orcs hewed off their heads and piled them as a mound of gold in the sunset.

Last of all Húrin stood alone. Then he cast aside his shield, and seized the axe of an orc-captain and wielded it two-handed, and it is sung that the axe smoked in the black blood of the troll-guard of Gothmog until it withered and each time Húrin slew he cried aloud: ‘Aure entuluva! Day shall come again!

But even mighty Húrin fell at the last and was captured alive. Unable to break him, Morgoth placed a curse against Húrin and all his folk and then placed Húrin on a great peak whereby by dark arts Húrin, powerless, beheld what transpired to his family in the world below. Thus the curse of Morgoth begins the destruction of Húrin and his wife, brave Morwen and their beautiful children Túrin and Nienor.

Tolkien was a professor at Merton College, Oxford in English language and literature and was a scholar and translator of Anglo-Saxon texts such as Beowulf and The Battle of Maldon. Tolkien saw the ultimate expression of Anglo-Saxon heroism in the man who goes to certain doom in battle against a vastly superior foe, because honor and duty demand it. The Children of Húrin resembles many tragedies, from Oedipus to Njal’s Saga to the Kalevala, in the depiction of the character of heroic men who strive to overcome fate or the malice of one of the Gods, or Valar, as Tolkien calls his angelic demiurges.

Much of the text of The Children of Húrin has been previously published in the book Unfinished Tales and in the tomes of son Christopher Tolkien’s 12-volume History of Middle-earth. Christopher Tolkien has done a fine job of editing and restoring his father’s unfinished tale of Húrin and his progeny. The American edition is handsomely illustrated by Alan Lee.

The Children of Húrin is the work of a young Tolkien made wise and bitter by the dreadful experiences of war. The Children of Húrin is acrid and tragic, but contains many passages of great vigor and heart-catching beauty. Highly recommended.

A version of this review was previously published in Current and Electric Current.

Copyright © 2007 Henry Edward Hardy

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12 August, 2007 Posted by | Anglo-Saxon, Beowulf, book, Children of Hurin, dragon, dwarf, elf, fantasy, Hurin, JRR Tolkien, literature, Lord of the Rings, LOTR, Middle-Earth, orc, review, saga, Túrin, The Children of Húrin, Tolkien, tragedy | Leave a comment