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... It is only fitting that nations should honour their poets, for poets shape the soul of the nation. They take our language, use it to mould the images and the thoughts which we share in common, and in so doing they enrich and develop the language itself. They create those secret harmonies which we alone can hear; they teach our ears to hear and our eyes to see; they bind us together as a family is bound together by common experience and memories ...
The Korean War 
by Max Hastings.
Joseph, 476 pp., £14.95, September 1987, 9780718120689
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The Origins of the Korean War 
by Peter Lowe.
Longman, 256 pp., £6.95, July 1986, 0 582 49278 5
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Korea: The War before Vietnam 
by Callum MacDonald.
Macmillan, 330 pp., £25, November 1986, 0 333 33011 0
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... For twenty-five years, between the studies written in its immediate aftermath and those based on archives opened a generation later, the Korean War was largely ignored. That was natural enough: there is always such ‘dead ground’ as the writing of history moves forward. But that war was so significant as a paradigm for international relations in the post-war world that we can deplore the failure of Western statesmen and, still more, soldiers, to keep it in mind as a guide-post and a warning of what lay in store for them if they attempted any further military interventions in the Third World ...

Death of the Hero

Michael Howard, 7 January 1988

The Mask of Command 
by John Keegan.
Cape, 366 pp., £12.95, November 1987, 9780224019491
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... Among the distinguished group of military historians which has flourished in this country since the Second World War, John Keegan is outstanding. His talents are remarkable: a wide-ranging and speculative mind; clarity in analysis; a deep understanding of the military community; and enviable descriptive gifts to ensure that his books will be acceptable to that wide class of readership which seeks no more from military history than a jolly good read ...

Uniquely Horrible

Michael Howard, 8 September 1994

The Wages of Guilt 
by Ian Buruma.
Cape, 330 pp., £17.99, June 1994, 0 224 03138 4
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... After the First World War Germany was compelled by the victorious Allies to accept full responsibility for the war, and in consequence to pay all the costs. In spite of the work of Fritz Fischer and his associates, few historians would now claim that this was fair. To the German people at the time it seemed outrageous. Their outrage was to be a major element in the revanchism so ably exploited by Hitler in his rise to power, and in the remorse that paralysed so much of British enlightened opinion when it came to dealing with him ...

Over the Top

Michael Howard, 8 February 1996

A Genius for War: A Life of General George Patton 
by Carlo D’Este.
HarperCollins, 977 pp., £25, November 1995, 0 00 215882 5
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... Mad, is he?’ George II is reported to have said of General Wolfe; ‘Then I wish he would bite some of my other generals!’ Both remarks might have been made about General George S. Patton Jr, and no doubt frequently were. His sanity was seriously in question. As S.L.A. Marshall, the most judicious of American military historians, put it: ‘Any man who thinks that he is the reincarnation of Hannibal or some such isn’t quite possessed of all his buttons ...

Haig-bashing

Michael Howard, 25 April 1991

Haig’s Command: A Reassessment 
by Denis Winter.
Viking, 362 pp., £18.99, February 1991, 0 670 80255 7
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... The German General Staff used to divide army officers into four categories: the clever and lazy, the clever and hard-working, the stupid and lazy and the stupid and hard-working. The clever and lazy made the best generals, the clever and hard-working the best staff-officers, the stupid and lazy could be fitted in as regimental officers; but the stupid and hard-working were a positive menace and had to be got rid of as quickly as possible ...

Famous Last Screams

Michael Howard, 5 December 1991

On Future War 
by Martin van Creveld.
Brassey, 254 pp., £22.50, October 1991, 0 08 041796 5
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... There have never been lacking prophets, from Isaiah onwards, to proclaim the end of war, though the more recent of these have not postulated the Second Coming as a necessary condition for achieving it. Some have suggested that the more terrible war becomes, the more quickly it will die out, and, like Alfred Nobel, have devised more destructive weapons in order to hasten the process ...

Dangerous Liaison

Michael Howard, 27 January 1994

Beacons in the Night: With the OSS and Tito’s Partisans in Wartime Yugoslavia 
by Franklin Lindsay.
Stanford, 383 pp., £19.95, October 1993, 0 8047 2123 8
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... In May 1945 I was serving with a battalion of the British Eighth Army in victorious occupation of Gorizia, some thirty miles north of Trieste. We shared the town with a brigade of Yugoslav Partisans, and the relations between us were not good. Our lords and masters had decreed that the Partisans should be, for the time being, in charge of civil administration, while we confined ourselves to military duties ...

Sunny Days

Michael Howard, 11 February 1993

Never Again: Britain 1945-51 
by Peter Hennessy.
Cape, 544 pp., £20, September 1992, 0 224 02768 9
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Churchill on the Home Front 1900-1955 
by Paul Addison.
Cape, 493 pp., £20, November 1992, 0 224 01428 5
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... to be ameliorated. Compassion played as large a part as calculation in determining his policies. Michael Foot stated disdainfully that Churchill ‘never had the foggiest idea of how the British people lived, how they earned their bread, how society functioned’; but it is questionable whether Mr Foot was any better qualified to empathise with the British ...

Every club in the bag

Michael Howard, 10 September 1992

The Chiefs: The Story of the United Kingdom Chiefs of Staff 
by Bill Jackson and Dwin Bramall.
Brassey, 508 pp., £29.95, April 1992, 0 08 040370 0
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... turned to Zuckerman and to the young men in the PUS’s secretariat: figures like Frank Cooper and Michael Quinlan, who were themselves to become powerful Permanent Secretaries in the course of time. Financial stringency meant that the high-spending Services once more had to turn their fire on one another, and the Navy and the RAF battled, with a desperation ...

The Great War Revisited

Michael Howard, 23 April 1987

The Myriad Faces of War: Britain and the Great War 1914-1918 
by Trevor Wilson.
Polity, 864 pp., £35, September 1986, 9780745600932
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British Strategy and War Aims 1914-1916 
by David French.
Allen and Unwin, 274 pp., £25, September 1986, 0 04 942197 2
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The Old Lie: The Great War and the Public School Ethos 
by Peter Parker.
Constable, 319 pp., £15, March 1987, 0 09 466980 5
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... The Great War of 1914-1918 is at last a respectable field of study for British professional historians. There has been no lack of monographs on specialised aspects of that gigantic tragedy: what have been lacking are serious synoptic studies. The highly emotional arguments over the tactics and strategy of the Western Front, initiated during the war itself by the conflicts of ‘Easterners’ versus ‘Westerners’, and continued thereafter in the battles of the memoirs, were renewed after the Second World War by the defenders and detractors of Douglas Haig: arguments which for fifty years produced a great deal more heat than light ...

UN in the Wars

Michael Howard, 9 September 1993

The Evolution of UN Peacekeeping: Case Studies and Comparative Analysis 
edited by William Durch.
St Martin’s, 509 pp., £29.95, May 1993, 0 312 06600 7
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... Peacekeeping’ as such was almost unheard of when the United Nations was established in 1945. Certainly it found no place in the original UN Charter. Peace, it was then assumed, would be maintained by settling disputes peacefully, and for that the UN would provide good offices under Chapter VI. ‘Threats to peace’ would come from overt acts of aggression such as were fresh in the minds of all who assembled in San Francisco to draft the Charter in April 1945, and for these Chapter VII made provision ...

Impressions from a Journey in Central Europe

Michael Howard, 25 October 1990

... Casual tourists from the West, travelling in air-conditioned buses and staying in modern government-sponsored hotels, may be pleasantly surprised by their first sight of Central Europe.* In what used to be East Germany the countryside looks as prosperous and cultivated as anywhere in the West. City centres have been tidied up and carefully rebuilt, while the apartment blocks on the outskirts are no worse than one would find in the United Kingdom – in some places rather better ...

War within wars

Paul Addison, 5 November 1992

War, Strategy and International Politics: Essays in Honour of Sir Michael Howard 
edited by Lawrence Freedman, Paul Hayes and Robert O’Neill.
Oxford, 322 pp., £35, July 1992, 0 19 822292 0
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... As he looks forward to his 70th birthday Sir Michael Howard can also look back over a distinguished career which began with Wellington, Christ Church and the Coldstream Guards. In 1943, as Lieutenant Howard, fresh from the University, he led his platoon in a dangerous uphill charge against a German position north of Salerno ...

Desolation Studies

Edward Luttwak, 12 September 1991

The Lessons of History 
by Michael Howard.
Oxford, 217 pp., £17.50, March 1991, 0 19 821581 9
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... I still recall my acute disappointment with Michael Howard’s The Franco-Prussian War, published some thirty years ago. The subject was exciting – what with the desperate German infantry assaults at Gravelotte and the dramatic unveiling of the ultra-secret mitrailleuse – and the book was thick enough to promise much good fun to any schoolboy eager to read of battles with a threepenny bag of crisps at his side ...

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