Flashman!

by John Holbo on August 21, 2012

Ah, it had to happen. Mark Steyn is saying that, done right, the Afghan intervention could have gone as well as it did in the first Flashman novel, with all the insight Flashy brought to the project. I don’t have a copy handy. Perhaps I am misremembering …

Am I being uncharitable? I suppose he might be saying that, in the novel, everything would have gone right if only they’d listened to Flashman about how to do it? Some sort of heighten the contradictions wossname?

UPDATE: As some have pointed out, this post has a certain ‘we’re here in this exotic locale, hunting the wild, elusive barrelfish’ quality. But in my defense, in comments I courageously articulate a positive conception of the philosophy of Flashman’s author and the Flashman novels. That might be worth arguing about. Come on in! The water in the barrel is fine, and the fish are biting!

{ 87 comments }

1

Barry Freed 08.21.12 at 10:53 am

Capital. Indeed, why stop there? I’m sure Steyn has learned much about the African-American character from reading Flash for Freedom! and everything you need to know about Putin and the Russians can be gleaned from Flashman at the Charge.

God knows I loves me some Flashman but wow, the stupidity, it burns.

2

ajay 08.21.12 at 11:40 am

I suppose he might be saying that, in the novel, everything would have gone right if only they’d listened to Flashman about how to do it?

This is actually true – Flashman is highly sceptical about the invasion from the start, because a) he thinks it’ll be dangerous to him personally b) he doesn’t think it’s got much chance of succeeding and c) he can’t see the point.

Putting Flashman in charge of the current ISAF effort would probably go rather well too, because his first staff meeting would consist of him saying “So, general, you’re saying here that the country’s been a bullet-riddled hellhole for the last four decades, there’s not a damn thing left worth looting in the entire place, the natives mostly hate our guts for being foreign infidel invaders, and even the Chinese have given up on making any money out of it – in short, the only people doing well out of it are greasy-haired Punjabi army officers playing both sides, and well-connected Bible-thumping boxwallahs making money hand over fist as contractors back in Washington? Well, old Flash is off to Bagram and taking the first C-17 back to Gandamack Lodge, Leics. (changing at Landstuhl and Brize Norton) and I strongly advise the rest of you to follow my lead. Toodle-oo.”

3

John Holbo 08.21.12 at 11:44 am

Hmm, I didn’t remember that he actually commented on the invasion from the start, although of course he would be against any personal danger to him. I remember clearly his philosophy of how to withdraw from Afghanistan. Namely: devil take the hindmost. That is, employ the old, infirm, women and children as human shields between you and the enemy, in effect. (Wasn’t that the nub of it?)

4

ajay 08.21.12 at 11:54 am

3: He’s fairly scornful and pessimistic: “thanks to that conceited Scotch buffoon Burnes the British Government had invaded the country, if you please, and put our puppet king, Shah Sujah, on the throne in Kabul, in place of old Dost Mohammed, who was suspected of Russian sympathies. I believe, from all I saw and heard ,that if he had Russian sympathies it was because we drove him to them by our stupid policy… the wise ones said there was an explosion coming, and, as we started out on our journey from Calcutta, my foremost thought was that whoever got blown up it should not be me.”

And his own plan on how to withdraw was to make sure he had a good horse and a good escort, and leave the rest of the army – its native troops and its civilian camp followers – to founder.

5

John Holbo 08.21.12 at 11:55 am

I would like “The Neocon Wit and Wisdom of Flashman”. Maybe Bill Kristol could chair a round-table?

6

ajay 08.21.12 at 12:00 pm

Never happen, Flashman’s too tolerant and speaks too many languages (an obvious sign of liberalness. Why, he even has fluent French).

7

ajay 08.21.12 at 12:01 pm

8

JP Stormcrow 08.21.12 at 12:32 pm

In the end you can be politically correctwrite for NRO or you can be a great power eschew idiocy — but not both.

9

P O'Neill 08.21.12 at 12:33 pm

Up next, Steyn will tell us how the invasion should have been managed using insights from Carry On Up the Khyber.

10

Sancho 08.21.12 at 12:39 pm

Flashman’s Afghan adventure ends in disaster.

(SPOILERS)

The British are forced from Kabul, harried on their retreat and lose hundreds of soldiers and civilians, then Flashman holes up in a siege point where he behaves like a coward and has to be forced to fight by his underlings, before escaping and returning to England where he has no choice but to remain with his adulterous wife because she has money and he has none.

Maybe Steyn has more foresight than he’s credited for.

11

ajay 08.21.12 at 12:44 pm

And there are valuable insights to be gained elsewhere as well….

“There’s only one language these Waziris understand. Waziri!”

– Col. Bloodnok (formerly of the 3rd Disgusting Fusiliers), “The Shifting Sands of Waziristan”.

12

John 08.21.12 at 12:47 pm

It’s weird how Flashman can be read positively by people with different views – right-wing cranks love the fact that the local rulers being deposed by European imperialists are often shown and cruel and savage, and some of the imperialists are well-meaning (and such readers sometimes seem to enjoy the unalloyed racism of the protagonist, as Steyn does here). More liberal minded readers note how most of the plots have at their heart British, American or European meddling and stupidity, and that the main avatar of imperialism throughout the books is Flashman himself, who despite his endearing honesty, clearsightedness and occasional cunning, is quite clearly a racist, raping, abusive, cowardly, lying scumbag who shouldn’t have been inflicted by Britain on any country. Personally I like the books, but if Steyn thinks they form a ‘how to’ guide he needs to re-read them.

13

chris y 08.21.12 at 12:57 pm

Flashman be blowed. They should just have sent in the Wolf of Kabul [<a href="http://www.britishcomics.20m.com/wolf.htm"Extreme racism trigger warning].

14

chris y 08.21.12 at 12:58 pm

Extreme HTML fail. Probably as well.

15

phosphorious 08.21.12 at 1:09 pm

I haven’t read the novel in years, but wasn’t Flashman a vain, narcissistic fuck up who thrives in spite of his amorality and unprofessionalism?

In other words. . . his closest real-world approximation *was* in charge of the Afghan invasion, no?

16

otto 08.21.12 at 2:09 pm

Now GMF’s The Pyrates, that’s a good book.

17

Alex 08.21.12 at 2:17 pm

wasn’t Flashman a vain, narcissistic fuck up who thrives in spite of his amorality and unprofessionalism? In other words. . . his closest real-world approximation was in charge of the Afghan invasion, no?

A good point. But GWB was more like Flashy had he got religion and given up drinking – the same man with the same character, just with more moral arrogance.

18

bianca steele 08.21.12 at 2:18 pm

I suppose he might be saying that, in the novel, everything would have gone right if only they’d listened to Flashman about how to do it?

Yeah: therefore we should listen to Flashman now and in the future. That’s how it came across to me. Presumably, where we think Flashman was wrong, that’s where we have a lot to learn.

19

Tim Worstall 08.21.12 at 3:12 pm

“I suppose he might be saying that, in the novel, everything would have gone right if only they’d listened to Flashman about how to do it?”

As with Ajay, my recall of the book is that if they’d listened to Flashman then they wouldn’t have done it. Which would have been the going right bit.

20

Adam Roberts 08.21.12 at 3:15 pm

From the comments of that NR piece: ‘[Flashman] is a fictionalized account–with a comically horrid main character–of a British colonial misadventure that took place more than two and a half centuries ago.’ I believe that comment was posted in the year 2112 and beamed back through time.

21

bianca steele 08.21.12 at 3:22 pm

They have comments now? That must be a hoot. I kind of liked when my impression of who was commenting and why was filtered through the consciousnesses of the posters.

22

bianca steele 08.21.12 at 3:31 pm

And I wonder how many Internet commenters remember the not very PC Games magazine article from about 1980 about “Games Afghans Play” and how the Russians were going to have their work cut out for them.

23

bigcitylib 08.21.12 at 4:03 pm

Nothing says dog days of summer like a debate over Mark Steyn’s “ideas” breaking out on Crooked Timber.

In what is frankly more substantive news, has anyone seen that new picture of the loch ness monster that’s been circulating? Looks fake to me.

24

GreeLeaf 08.21.12 at 4:06 pm

I agree with bianca steele…..maybe we should listen to Flashman. However, those in power normally don’t listen to the commoners. Along these lines I would also recommend this novel cause it shows what could happen when the citizens are ignored.
booksbyoliver.com It’s a thriller so I recommend it.

Afghanistan/Iraq/Libya & possibly Syria & Iran. When do these continual wars every end & we can stop sending our children to die in foreign wars? Great article…THanks

25

Anderson 08.21.12 at 4:15 pm

What next? Steyn on how Barry Lyndon is a role model?

26

JJ 08.21.12 at 4:21 pm

“That is, employ the old, infirm, women and children as human shields between you and the enemy, in effect. (Wasn’t that the nub of it?)”

Good Grief! If we hadn’t killed off the weakest among us with a maximum modicum of moral impunity we might never have evolved into the paragons of intelligent integrity that we are.

27

ajay 08.21.12 at 4:40 pm

25: I think Holbo is slightly in error: Flashman’s strategy, in Afghanistan as elsewhere, was to employ everyone else as human shields between him and the enemy, regardless of age, sex or infirmity. See the defining moment of Flash, in which he hurls his naked pregnant mistress out the back of a droshky into the snow in order to distract the pursuing Cossacks.

28

bianca steele 08.21.12 at 4:43 pm

Our town followed its “One Book” project of Three Cups of Tea with The Killer Angels, which I would guess Steyn would prefer. If Longstreet’s advice had been followed, could Lee have won the war? Probably not (though according to Shaara the third-day bloodbath would have been avoided). Lee, or more likely J.E.B. Stuart, sounds more like Flashman, from what I gather. Longstreet just didn’t understand the romance of the “Lost Cause,” it seems.

29

Substance McGravitas 08.21.12 at 5:45 pm

But GWB was more like Flashy had he got religion and given up drinking – the same man with the same character, just with more moral arrogance.

Not at all. Flashman was devious and sharp and funny and could write and speak and would be much less likely to fall off a Segway.

30

ajay 08.21.12 at 5:51 pm

28: W was a lot better at avoiding hazardous military service than Flashman was, though. You have to give him credit for that.

31

Shelby 08.21.12 at 5:53 pm

As ajay suggests, Steyn’s point is that there are a lot of reports of Afghans acting exactly like Flashman described. Flashy, while a vile person in deed (and sometimes in word), was an acute, trenchant, and utterly un-PC observer of others. And mostly of himself. (Not to imply that he’s always correct, and I have no special insight into the “Afghan character,” if there is such a thing, to compare with Flashy’s comment.)

32

Barry Freed 08.21.12 at 6:27 pm

Also W lacks the whiskers which made Flashman so irresistible to the opposite sex.

33

ajay 08.21.12 at 6:39 pm

Had W been Flashman he would have gone to Vietnam with the firm intention of running a highly profitable officers’ club and brothel somewhere in Saigon, but would have scheduled the big opening-night party for Tet, 1968.

34

gman 08.21.12 at 7:09 pm

Steyn and Ferguson mislead w/ such impunity..what is it about British public pseudo intellectuals here in the states?

Could someone from Timber do a thread on Ferguson..of spiking US interest rates and hyper inflation fame?

35

rf 08.21.12 at 7:23 pm

“what is it about British public pseudo intellectuals here in the states?”

What is it with Americans buying their nonsense for so long? I mean I could have told Larry Summers in the early 2000s that the man was a joke, and I was barely out of britches and not that bright.
Anyway, here’s Steyn comparing climate scientist Michael Mann to Jerry Sandusky and getting threatened with a lawsuit in response.

http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/309442/football-and-hockey-mark-steyn

36

JJ 08.21.12 at 7:31 pm

“See the defining moment of Flash, in which he hurls his naked pregnant mistress out the back of a droshky into the snow in order to distract the pursuing Cossacks.”

Well, if she had been an elderly naked male mistress, I’m sure the Cossacks would have been distracted to the point of cancelling the pursuit.

37

Substance McGravitas 08.21.12 at 7:40 pm

Hmm, it was just as defining when he sold his lover into slavery for the sake of convenience. Oh, and money.

38

Aulus Gellius 08.21.12 at 7:49 pm

I haven’t read the Flashman novels, but look at the quote Steyn is using:

“This I will say for the Afghan – he is a treacherous, evil brute when he wants to be, but while he is your friend he is a first-rate fellow. The point is, you must judge to a second when he is going to cease to be friendly. There is seldom any warning.”

This is (surely deliberately on the original author’s part?) the most useless advice imaginable. The Afghan is treacherous, except when he’s not being treacherous, which is when he is very loyal. So the trick is to trust him when he is trustworthy, and cease trusting him when he becomes untrustworthy, though you can only know the difference in retrospect.

It reads to me (again, without the context) like a mockery of the sort of vague, unfalsifiable generalities people are always using about all sorts of ethnic groups. (There’s something similar in “M. Butterfly,” where Rene offers his superiors advice based on his knowledge of the Chinese character, all of which is wrong and eventually gets him fired.)

39

Substance McGravitas 08.21.12 at 7:54 pm

(surely deliberately on the original author’s part?)

Yes. Flashman is not so different.

40

Barry Freed 08.21.12 at 8:10 pm

Hmm, it was just as defining when he sold his lover into slavery for the sake of convenience. Oh, and money.

Yes, but it was her idea!

Had W been Flashman he would have gone to Vietnam with the firm intention of running a highly profitable officers’ club and brothel somewhere in Saigon, but would have scheduled the big opening-night party for Tet, 1968.

Subsequently meeting Gen. Vo Nguyen Giap, Ho Chi Minh, and Jimi Hendrix. Not to mention that memorable evening spent in the company of Janis Joplin and Grace Slick.

41

Substance McGravitas 08.21.12 at 8:18 pm

42

Barry Freed 08.21.12 at 8:44 pm

No, I guess we’re not.

I haven’t gotten around to reading that one yet.

43

sean matthews 08.21.12 at 10:10 pm

I don’t have many principles, but I don’t click through to Mark Steyn.

44

bianca steele 08.21.12 at 11:01 pm

I can’t say how much the jacket drawings at Wikipedia make me want to read the Flashman books now.

Or what if the characters in The Magicians were teenage fans of quasi Flashman instead of quasi C.S. Lewis?

45

piglet 08.21.12 at 11:30 pm

There’s an interesting review on Britain’s 19th century Afghanistan wars by Rory Stewart in NYRB:
http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2012/aug/16/lessons-afghanistan/

46

maidhc 08.21.12 at 11:43 pm

Aulus Gellius: Yes, I think Steyn doesn’t realize that the Flashman books are comedies whose hero is a lazy, conceited, cowardly lecher who just happens to be the recipient of a long series of amazingly lucky coincidences.

ajay: Major Blodnok seems very similar to Flashman at the time he was writing his memoirs. I’m waiting to read Flashman and the Affair of the Lone Banana.

47

John Holbo 08.22.12 at 12:31 am

“It reads to me (again, without the context) like a mockery of the sort of vague, unfalsifiable generalities people are always using about all sorts of ethnic groups.”

It’s worth linking to what the author himself said about the sense in which he was anti-PC (Steyn is obviously figuring anyone anti-PC must be fine by him, without thinking any further):

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-506219/The-testament-Flashmans-creator-How-Britain-destroyed-itself.html

Imagine Pat Buchanan rewriting Howard Zinn.

I think he is, on the one hand, serious in his belief that a lot of things you can’t say about other ethnic groups, because it’s un-PC or ‘hate speech’, are probably tolerably accurate, if heuristic, sociology. There is a touch of the Derb about him, no doubt. But he’s also serious in his narration of the abuses those other ethnic groups suffer at the hands of European whites. Unlike some conservatives, he doesn’t gravitate to ‘but the blacks were sold into slavery by blacks!’ as, somehow, an excuse for what Europeans did. He’s color-blind when it comes to moral contempt. His affection for Britain’s glory really does have a ‘we were monsters, true. But we were our monsters!’ quality. ‘My country, right or wrong’ really is ‘my mother, drunk or sober’ and then 200 pages of funny stories about drunkenness. Without it following that you don’t love mom.

If you think you can’t work with foreigners – because they are all unreliable devils – and you can’t enslave or exploit them – because then you would be the devil, and the policy would be unreliable – then your foreign policy options as significantly constrained. ‘The policy would be unreliable’ is doing a lot more of the constraining than ‘because then you would be the devil’ because – see above: lots of leeway for ‘we’re bad, but we’re us’ attitudinizing. (And not ‘bad’ meaning good, either. We really are bad – bad bad – but we’re us. Flashman is the British Empire writ small, the lovable rogue.)

Some people read Flashman as leftist satire of right-wing ideas. I don’t think that’s right, although you can read it that way and have a coherent experience. I think it’s better to think of it as a consistent series of only those moments when Pat Buchanan is hugely entertaining, when he is both at his best and most making trouble for the right.

48

JW Mason 08.22.12 at 12:40 am

Imagine Pat Buchanan rewriting Howard Zinn.

Where’s the Zinn?

49

John Holbo 08.22.12 at 12:52 am

“Where’s the Zinn?”

It’s a people’s history, written by someone with contempt for the people.

50

John Holbo 08.22.12 at 1:00 am

Contempt for all people. Deeply affectionate contempt for his own people.

51

John Holbo 08.22.12 at 1:02 am

Which is why it’s such a damn shame that PC has ruined our ability to express contempt for other people. Because now it’s impossible to communicate one’s affection for one’s own contemptibility (since showing contempt only for one’s own people would not communicate affection for them.) It’s contemptible!

52

JW Mason 08.22.12 at 1:40 am

It’s a people’s history, written by someone with contempt for the people

You mean in the novels, right? not in the linked piece?

53

John Holbo 08.22.12 at 1:57 am

Yes, in the novels.

Flipping over quickly to the Wikipedia page for Zinn I see a sign, with a Zinn saying, and think how oddly Flashy it is: “People should go where they are not supposed to go, say what they are not supposed to say, and stay when they are told to leave.” That’s a template for every Flashman novel. Except usually it’s the reverse: first, Flashman doesn’t go somewhere he’s supposed to go, because it would be dangerous. But that backfires. In the end, he goes when he is told to stay. In between, and always, he says what he is not supposed to say.

54

matt regan 08.22.12 at 2:14 am

My favorite Flashy-ism is when he overhears the Liberals of his day (whom he despises almost as much as the Conservatives of the same day) complaining how the Great Powers have conquered and overwhelmed so much of the world’s indigenous culture with their white man’s burden conquest. As I recall, he makes a comment that people have to go somewhere, and violence sometimes then results, but that otherwise: “Ur of the Chaldees would be a damned crowded place by now.” I think it’s at the beginning of Flashman and the Redskins, but the book is in the other room and I don’t feel like walkin”.

55

bad Jim 08.22.12 at 5:27 am

Flashman always considers the locals from their point of view, since he learns their lingo by bedding a local lady. As one who largely despises who he is, he has a sharp eye for the shortcomings of everyone else. He already knows how things turn out, so it’s never clear whether he considers the result desirable.

There actually are times when he makes you think that cowardice is more desirable than heroism, or at least often more effective , bringing to mind The Americanization of Emily.

56

ajay 08.22.12 at 8:28 am

Subsequently meeting Gen. Vo Nguyen Giap, Ho Chi Minh, and Jimi Hendrix. Not to mention that memorable evening spent in the company of Janis Joplin and Grace Slick.

I really want to read this now. Or indeed write it. “Flashman and the Heart of Darkness”. Opening scene of Flashy lying on a bed in a Saigon hotel watching the ceiling fan go round, surrounded by the debris of the night before (whisky bottles, cyclo girls, smuggled heroin etc.)

“Saigon. Wonderful. Two weeks, and I had still managed to stay in Saigon. The last thing I wanted was a mission, but, for my sins, they gave me one.”

57

faustusnotes 08.22.12 at 8:36 am

It might be a good idea for Steyn to read the foreword to Flashman on the March, where Fraser makes his opinion of the second Iraq war quite plain and clear, and it’s not a favourable one. Fraser would be more at home with the pre-WW1 US isolationists than the modern conservative bunch.

Steyn might also want to pay a bit of attention to Flashman’s later interactions with Afghans (particularly in Flashman in the Great Game) because they paint his Muslim allies and enemies in a generally very good light, and show Fraser is not a victim of the kind of kneejerk people-of-the-mud blind racism of the Steyn’s of this world. I can’t imagine Steyn looking on the destruction of the Summer Palace, for example (Flashman and the Dragon?) with the same conflicted and complex emotions that Flashy showed.

But then, Steyn lacks the power of thought, so it’s unsurprising that he’d be fooled into admiring Flashman for his worst traits, and missing all the lessons of the series.

58

ajay 08.22.12 at 8:37 am

I think Steyn doesn’t realize that the Flashman books are comedies whose hero is a lazy, conceited, cowardly lecher who just happens to be the recipient of a long series of amazingly lucky coincidences.

I suspect he may not realise that they’re fiction.

59

Tim Wilkinson 08.22.12 at 8:52 am

Flashman is actually a (charming) psychopath, isn’t he? His observation that the apparently collaborating Afghan does not provide warning before turning on invading powers is pretty unremarkable; is the same complaint to be made of other resistance fighters?

Similarly, the central point of the previous post that Steyn cites is contained in the observation that the locals demonstrate…contempt for a[n] …enemy. The Afghan psyche is indeed a bestial thing incomprehensible to the white man.

(Falling off a Segway is I believe actually quite easily done. This is because the Segway is possibly the most moronic invention since the marzipan dildo. It involves an intricate assemblage of gyroscopes, sensors, motors, and feedback loops akll dedicated to the task of not falling over, a task which could have been accomplished by the simple and familiar expedient of maintainingh more than two points of contact with the ground. In addition it requires an extremely flat surface, is too heavy to be easily lifted over a step or similar obstacle, still less to carried; it also travels extremely slowly and requires one to stand on it maintaining both feet in a fixed and rather precisely circumscribed position in order to prevent it going berserk in the traditional comedy-robot-malfunction manner.)

60

ajay 08.22.12 at 8:57 am

the Segway is possibly the most moronic invention since the marzipan dildo

Counterargument: this production alone makes the Segway a very splendid and worthwhile invention.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KYykpRRuHQM

Though one must admit that, like the television camera, it can potentially be used by the forces of Brutal Repression:
http://www.autoblog.com/2008/07/03/photo-of-the-day-chinese-anti-terror-segway-commandos/

61

faustusnotes 08.22.12 at 9:13 am

Tim Wilkinson: sounds like a horse.

62

Tim Wilkinson 08.22.12 at 9:22 am

Well, yes, but notioce that the performers are moving with palpable gingerness, while the moves are limited to the slowest and simplest, and still you can see them wobbling and drifting out of position. A large part of the entertainment is the silliness of what they are doing, combined with the extreme concentration that is evidently required. A sequence with similar appeal could be choreographed for marzipan dildos – possibly also incorporating a flotilla of Sinclair C5s.

Those commandos though are great – I wonder if they have actually checked the effects of recoil. Perhaps that explains the comic tiny guns.

63

ajay 08.22.12 at 9:33 am

The guns are normal size, Tim. Chinese anti-terrorist police are an average of sixteen feet tall.

64

heckblazer 08.22.12 at 10:17 am

My understanding is that the Segway was a spin-off of the development of the iBot wheelchair, and was released primarily as a means to raise money for developing said iBot. A wheelchair that can walk up stairs, climb curbs and run over gravel and rough ground sounds like a pretty good invention to me.

65

Barry Freed 08.22.12 at 10:20 am

“Saigon. Wonderful. Two weeks, and I had still managed to stay in Saigon. The last thing I wanted was a mission, but, for my sins, they gave me one.”

“‘Never get off the boat’, sound advice indeed.”

66

Nakul 08.22.12 at 12:38 pm

Flashman’s debates with the Queen of Jhansi on British and ‘native’ justice in Flashman and the Great Game are well worth a read. Also Fraser’s episode of Desert Island Discs: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p009498m

67

ajay 08.22.12 at 12:47 pm

A sequence with similar appeal could be choreographed for marzipan dildos – possibly also incorporating a flotilla of Sinclair C5s.

You, sir, are sick. Sick.

68

Ralph Hitchens 08.22.12 at 1:19 pm

Wonderful post & thread! I’ve been with Flashman since the beginning, and cling to the belief that there are worse ways to learn about the “Great Games” of the 19th century. My 2 cents worth, Flashman at the Charge and Flashman and the Redskins show Fraser at the top of his game.

69

Tim Wilkinson 08.22.12 at 1:24 pm

Well the key is not to attempt to visualise any specific implementation. A bit like the splendid phenomemon of the accidentally suggestive-sounding remark which seems as if it should be a double-entendre but isn’t. It sounds like an innuendo, but you can’t quite put your finger on the business end of it.

70

PaulB 08.22.12 at 1:28 pm

Steyn seems not to concern himself with making sense, and in this case he seems to be saying that in order to be a Great Power one must take policy advice from comic accounts of Britain’s 19th century wars, written with the benefit of hindsight from the point of view of a poltroon who somehow finds himself repeatedly in the thick of the fighting.

In the case of Afghanistan, that advice would be not to get involved in the first place, and if you find yourself there to leave, but not under the command of the old and sick William Elphinstone.

71

MPAVictoria 08.22.12 at 3:10 pm

Great thread! Anyone else now depressed that we will never learn of Flashman’s adventures during the American Civil War? Those could have been great.

72

Wonks Anonymous 08.22.12 at 3:26 pm

gman, I thought Steyn was a Canadian rather than a Brit.

73

tomslee 08.22.12 at 3:39 pm

Wonks: yes indeed. He wrote nonsense for the Ottawa-based Macleans magazine before taking his act to more lucrative pastures.

74

Barry 08.22.12 at 3:40 pm

fr: “What is it with Americans buying their nonsense for so long? I mean I could have told Larry Summers in the early 2000s that the man was a joke, and I was barely out of britches and not that bright.”

And why would Larry Summers have cared? The man’s life story is the trail of wreckage he’s left whenever he’s had power or influence. He’d have happily put Ferguson in charge of the Harvard History Dept if he knew just how bad Ferguson was.

75

rf 08.22.12 at 3:56 pm

Barry
Point is someone should have cared he was a hack. It’s not as if anything post ‘The House of Rothschild’ (I guess, I haven’t read it) was any good. Yet he got away with spewing nonsense, (and a having his work reviewed favourably by the likes of Gaddis and Skidelsky), up until very recently. Question is why so many people gave him a free pass until he started harassing Krugman. This explanation seems correct.

http://angryarab.blogspot.co.uk/2012/08/on-nial-ferguson.html

76

MPAVictoria 08.22.12 at 4:39 pm

“Wonks: yes indeed. He wrote nonsense for the Ottawa-based Macleans magazine before taking his act to more lucrative pastures.”

Yuck. Don’t remind me.

77

faustusnotes 08.23.12 at 1:47 pm

I know this is completely stupid and off topic but … since I cleared my history / cache earlier today, Crooked Timber – and only Crooked Timber will not refresh, no matter what I do. I’m using Firefox, I’ve search information pages, done the about:config thing, tried a variety of stupid I-shouldn’t-have-to-do-this-just-to-use-your-software-you-wankers stuff, but it isn’t working at all. Funnily enough the comments are working – it appears to be just the main page, which is frozen at “Flashman!” with the claim that “Flashman!” has 15 comments – but when I click on the latest one on the right hand side of hte screen I can scroll down to MPAVictoria’s at number 76.

WTF? Any idea WTF is going on with my firefox?

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Lars 08.23.12 at 10:52 pm

He wrote nonsense for the Ottawa-based Macleans…
And still does, the last I looked, although this has been a while – the ascension of Steyn to the position of regular columnist for Mclean’s was part of the program initiated by the current editor to turn a formerly reasonably-good national news magazine (the only one we have) into a right-wing rag, too toxic to take seriously. Although I believe that it’s based in Toronto, home of Mayor Harkonen, rather than in Ottawa.
Steyn, like many Canadian neo-cons of his vintage, is happy to allow you to believe that he does not come from a second-rate northern socialist state such as Canada but is rather British (top-drawer, of course) or American. British, in his case, I think. We are happy to collude in this. Very happy.

chris y: “Clicky-ba” is a trace memory from my childhood that I thought I’d never track down. Thanks for the reference. I was only semi-literate when I last saw the comic, and I seem to recall that Chung, while a worthy-enough chap in his way, of course, wore no shoes.

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Malaclypse 08.24.12 at 4:35 pm

WTF? Any idea WTF is going on with my firefox?

FWIW, I have exactly the same issue. The only way I see anything new is to go through Making Light, which has a post linking to CT. If I do that, I can then access all the posts. But directly, I’m stuck.

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Hogan 08.24.12 at 6:09 pm

It’s happening to me too. Apparently clicking on the Home link at the top also brings in the new stuff.

Fncking browsers, how do they work?

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Malaclypse 08.24.12 at 7:32 pm

The Home button did not work before, but works now. And once clicked, all now seems normal.

Browsers work, browsers fail. You can’t explain it.

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Leeds man 08.24.12 at 10:20 pm

Toronto, home of Mayor Harkonen

Cruel and misspelled, but fair.

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tomslee 08.24.12 at 11:46 pm

faustusnotes: not just you. Clicking “home” at top left gets to the real home page, but this is more evidence that CT is merely a degenerated workers’ state.

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Anand Manikutty 08.26.12 at 3:10 am

> The Home button did not work before, but works now. And once clicked, all now
> seems normal.
The problem is that the URL http://crookedtimber.org/ is okay, but the URL http://www.crookedtimber.org/ is not.

> In the case of Afghanistan, that advice would be not to get involved in the first
> place, and if you find yourself there to leave, but not under the command of the
> old and sick William Elphinstone.
Either that or the advice would have been for the British to have come up with a more carefully thought through campaign strategy. There might be a lesson or two from the Anglo-Afghan wars (lessons only in very broad terms because these were land wars using colonial armies that were drafted and trained very differently than they are today, and using very different military tactics), but they are not the ones Mark Steyn seems to have in mind.

Mark Steyn’s post is so bizarre that it deserves a Bloggie Razzie award.

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Steven Hart 08.27.12 at 1:46 pm

These commenters have obviously been devoting more thought to Steyn’s column than Steyn did. Here’s some more GMF for Steyn to chew on: When England participated in Dubya invasion of Iraq, Fraser said, “I’ve never been so ashamed of my own country.” The man was a Tory, but he wasn’t a fool.

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NickT 08.27.12 at 9:07 pm

I must say that GMF strikes me as not totally dissimilar to Gogol, in that he is clearly at heart an old-fashioned conservative, but his satire strikes enough of the right targets that liberals believe he is secretly one of them. It’s noteworthy that in the Daily Mail article he reveals that he has very few ideas, most of them are cliched and not particularly justifiable in terms of fact, and they amount to very little more than a nostalgia for a largely imaginary Britain. I think it’s also worth remarking that GMF really doesn’t seem to care much about or for women.

I will say that I’ve enjoyed some of the Flashman series, but after a while it gets rather boring and predictable and there’s a sense, for me at least, of sourness and old scores being settled against whoever GMF had decided to dislike at the time.

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Russell 08.28.12 at 8:21 pm

If it’s left out on
Afghanistan’s plains
The Republican Party
May lose its brains

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