Antipundit Rides Forth

Wednesday, April 09, 2003:

Military history - Korea and Vietnam

Jobber: Actually the Chinese gave the US Army a pretty big ass-whipping when they surprised them during the Korean War. The war eventually settled down into stalemate once Macarthur was replaced by Ridgeway and American airpower and heavy artillery prevented them from advancing any further. The US couldn't defeat the Chinese and North Koreans because they were unable to adapt their tactics (like in Vietnam) to combat a peasant army fighting a guerilla campaign. Eventually both sides realised they may as well call it a draw and Eisenhower additionally said if the Chinese continued fighting he's consider nuking their forward positions.

The US military was hamstrung by being unable to attack North Vietnamese cities directly but then they never figured out how to extinguish a peasant based guerilla campaign and kept thinking bombing the crap out of the Vietcong would work.

If the Marines like General Victor Krulak had been in charge of the war, the tactics used would probably have been different and more successful since the Marines had over a century's experience in dealing with North Vietnam's variety of assymetric warfare while the Army ignored the lessons of Korea and kept in place a lot of commanders who'd only seen action against major industrial powers like Germany.

That had minimal effect on Vietnamese supply lines. And morale was awful because of the perceived lack of success which wasn't helped by the military drastically inflating Vietcong casualty figures and assuring the public that success was just around the corner.

The North Vietnamese had very strong control of their countryside so I doubt any CIA infilitrators woud have lasted long. In any case there weren't enough military units sent to make much of a difference. And lots of American wars have been pretty unpopular from the Mexican-American war to the Civil War onwards.

The weight of the anti war movements don't matter nearly so much as how successfully American armies fight. In 'Nam, the US didn't appear to be making much progress towards subduing North Vietnam and eventually decided to go home.

Ali Choudhury // 11:03 AM


Military history - The Mongols

Crippler, while the Spartans (and likewise the Germanic tribes) were a great military force they didn't do much besides defend their territory from the Persians\Romans and attack other Greeks\Germanic tribes.

It's not like they established a Spartan empire like Alexander did, encompassing most of the known world at that time.

As for the Mongols in a space of little more than a century they had come from nowhere to establish an empire stretching from the borders of Japan in the East to near Austria in the West, the greatest land empire ever. In fact if it hadn't been for the death of one of their leaders (which lifted their attacks in Europe) they would have taken over and destroyed Western Europe too.

What's more they are the only power in military history to have staged a successful invasion of Russia in winter, something which destroyed the armies of both Napoleon and Hitler and they had a general staff and military organisational structure which was thoroughly modern, utilising tactics of mobile warfare which are still studied to this day.

And in all this time, they were only defeated in outright battles by the Japanese (thanks to the divine wind) and the Mamelukes of Egypt when they were severely outnumbered.

Compare this to the Spartans whose dominance lasted about 33 years until the battle of Leuktra when they were given a thrashing from which they never recovered from.

The Mongols had the most modern, disciplined army the world had ever seen (and kept that record until the nineteenth century) with strict rules governing their conduct in war. In terms of mobility, structure and effectiveness none of their enemies could match them.

They slaughtered anyone who was dumb enough to resist them instead of surrendering but then Rome's conduct when it came to dealing with the Gaulish tribes or Carthage was hardly very civilised either.

The Romans did show the rare ability of learning fom their mistakes but there's no way they would have been able to acquire enough Mongolian horses or trained enough skilled archers (Mongols were on horseback from early childhood and archery was an essential skill that had to be learned for survival on the steppe) to make a difference. The Mongols would have whipped them worse than the Goths did.

Ali Choudhury // 10:59 AM


Houllier and Liverpool

It's not really the big-name players that Houllier has signed that's the problem.

Unlike Wenger and Ferguson he has a habit of wasting money on players like Diomede, Traore, Smicer, Diao, Cheyrou, Westerveld, Camara, Litmanen, Ziege, Barmby, Biscan etc. which don't add all that much to the side and lose a lot of their value before leaving or languishing in the reserves.

Henchoz, Hyppia, Dudek and Hamann have been his only undisputable successes in the transfer market.

Ali Choudhury // 10:42 AM


The next step

The US will pretty much do whatever it feels like although of course building a case for action would be much more difficult than against Iraq where Hussein did absolutely everything wrong from ignoring UN resolutions to committing egregious human rights abuses to not getting a clue that the US had set the bar for pre-emptive action pretty low following 9/11.

The incredibly easy victories in Iraq and Afghanistan have shown America can take major action without inflicting massive civilian casualties or losing lots of their own men which would make the case for war a lot easier to make to voters back home.

The Arab world was against the war in Iraq and the one in Afghanistan but that made zero difference anyway.

Ali Choudhury // 10:32 AM


Military history - ACW

You make the mistake in thinking ANV=Confederacy.

Not so. The Union had to subdue and occupy a huge amount of Southern territory not just wipe out Lee's army.

They were always on the offensive and were generally attacking entrenched forces who knew the territory well which made casualty rates pretty high. They also had to leave a substantial amount of effectives garrisoning occupied land and defending supply lines while the South didn't need to bother doing so since they were on friendly territory.

Also since the South had slaves to take care of most non-combat roles, the bulk of their white male population was available for fighting.

And in relation to Grant vs Lee, Lee had the highest casualty rate of any major commander in the Civil War. A pretty famous British army officer, J F C Fuller (who originated most of the initial theory regarding armoured warfare) wrote a book comparing Grant and Lee and found contrary to received opinion that if anyone deserved the butcher tag it was Lee.

Lee was the superior tactician no question, but Grant via his use of waterways, railroads, the telegraph and his understanding of how to adapt to American continental warfare was undisputably the better strategist and campaigner, the only Union general to consistently win battles and frankly the man who who the war for the Union with his victories at Fort Donelson, Vicksburg and Chattanooga.

When it came to Lee if it didn't concern Virginia he didn't really give a fuck about it.

Ali Choudhury // 1:19 AM



Just saw this tonight.

Pretty derivative of 1984, Farenheit 451 and other dystopian stories although the scenes where Bale gradually enters the world of senses are very well done particularly with him and the Beethoven music and the dog. Excellent action sequences, better than that of the original Matrix particularly in the end.

I'll probably buy the DVD just to see them again in slow motion.

Sean Bean's acting has really impoved since LOTR and you can compare the sheer class of his understated cameo here with his OTT roles in movies like Ronin and GoldenEye.

About the only complaint I have is that it is a little obvious who the bad guy is and Bale could have really done with a genuine love interest as his "point of light" in the movie, kind of like Jennifer Connelly in Dark City or Natasha McElhone in The Truman Show.

Bale really holds this movie together though. He's onscreen throughout the two hours and gives it a solid centre. My definite pick for any future Batman movie.

I am really pissed off though that an intelligent, moving sci-fi film like this was dumped on 301 screens in the US when absolute shit like Kangaroo Jack gets to be the number one movie at the US box office.

Dimension Films which produced this also dumped Below, another superior sci-fi flick which depended on a good script and excellent characters, without any marketing spend whatsoever.

It makes me despair when crap sci-fi movies like Men In Black 2 rake in huge amounts of cash when quality films like Equilibrium, Below, Cube and Dark City disappear without making any impact whatsoever.

Ali Choudhury // 1:04 AM


Sunday, April 06, 2003:

Next British PM

Gordon Brown - next PM because of the deal he made in Blair in 1994. The only halfway competent Labour minister other than Blair himself and the reason I voted Labour in 2001. I just wish he'd put more emphasis on decentralisation rather than centrally-issued targets when it came to public services.

Prescott- Fat oik who the middle classes will never support. Effective backroom dealer, incompetent minister.

Robin Cook - not unless there's a disaster in Iraq.

Blunkett - Doubtful. What exactly has he achieved so far?

Jack Straw - Wishy-washy. Not a leader.

IDS- Incompetent at political strategy like his idiotic rows over issuing the whip on gay adoption and sacking "modernisers" thus nearly splitting the party. Doesn't have the talent to be PM or win a general election. And far too close to the Republican party for my liking.

William Hague - A good debater but knew fuck-all about campaigning. National politics isn't a mere adjunct of the Oxford Union. Deciding to campaign on tax cuts, Europe and asylum in 2001 showed how out of his depth he was. Appointed Archie Norman who was a shite politician too. Nice-looking wife though.

Michael Portillo - Too modern for the Tory Party.

Ken Clarke - Too pro-Euope for the Tory Party.

Frankly I'd like Oliver Letwin to be in charge of the Tories.

Charles Kennedy - Anti-war toad. Thanfully the Lib Dems are unelectable.

Ali Choudhury // 1:07 PM


Shanghai Knights

I watched this pretty recently and was very impressed.

When you go see a movie most of the time you don't expect anything mind-blowing and just hope it'll turn out to be mildly entertaining and not a total waste of money.

Shanghai Noon, the first movie in this series, didn't impress me much. The concept was good but the execution was pretty lacking and it just seemed sub-par compared to what Owen Wilson and Jackie Chan had done in other movies.

Regarding Shanghai Knights, other than Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade and Wayne's World I can't think of another movie which so consistently engaged my attention from beginning to end.

The chemistry between Chan and Wilson is perfect, much better than that between Tucker and Chan in the Rush Hour movies. The only time the movie loses its' sparkle is when one of the two isn't onscreen.

Easily Jackie Chan's best American movie with his fight against Donnie Yen one of the best I've seen in a long time.

Owen Wilson's rapidly becoming one of my favourite actors what with his roles in great movies like this, Zoolander, Meet the Parents and the Royal Tenenbaums.

I'm not sure if it's left theatres in the US but if you're in the UK, go watch this and you won't be disappointed.

Hopefully there'll be a sequel but in any case I'm looking forward to Chan's next movie Around The World In Eighty Days with Jim Broadbent and Steve Coogan as Phileas Fogg.

Ali Choudhury // 11:47 AM


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