Sunday, April 15, 2007

The breaking of armies, l9l7-2007

There's an excellent review in the IHT today of a particularly black period in a black war: the Nivelle offensive, or the battle of the Chemin des Dames, in which French infantry was massed and hurled at the German lines like a giant battering ram. Of course, the offensive failed, just like every other offensive in that war, the victim of good intelligence, Germans on high ground, machine guns and the high-intensity shell. But the Chemin des Dames acquired its own kind of infamy after French soldiers mutinied in significant numbers both there and throughout their positions on the western front. They had been run ragged by an indifferent leadership, they told their officers, and they were at the breaking point: they would not attack any more. They would defend their position, but they would not attack. It goes without saying that this could have been a huge catastrophe, if not for the British offensive at Passchendaele later that year and the certainty that the Americans were coming.

John Keegan called this incident, indeed all of l9l7, "the breaking of armies." Evidence that the Iraq war is about to break the American army--the departure in droves of young, talented officers, the extension of tours, the mounting casualty count, the persistent dumbing down of recruiting standards--is accumulating. Who will act to reverse these trends and call off this destructive, discretionary conflict, before the armed forces DO break?!


Blogger shrimplate said...

Bush will fall when the armed forces no longer support him. Let's hope thay hold out long enough for that to happen.

3:03 AM  

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