Author Archive | Max Boot, guest-blogging

The General Who Brushed His ‘Lower Anatomy’ in Public

All this week, the Volokh Conspiracy is kindly allowing me to run excerpts from my newly released book, Invisible Armies: an Epic History of Guerrilla Warfare from Ancient Times to the Modern Day. Today’s final section concerns Orde Wingate, the eccentric British general who made his reputation in the 1930s-1940s by leading unconventional troops in Palestine, Abyssinia (Ethiopia), and Burma:

His pioneering efforts to add guerrilla tactics to the arsenals of conventional armies often met with disdain and disbelief from more conventionally minded officers. Wingate did not care. “Popularity,” he believed, “is a sign of weakness.” Considered by his peers to be either a “military genius or a mountebank” (opinions differed), he had been locked in an unceasing war against his superiors from his earliest days.

Even as a young cadet at the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich, he “had the power,” recalled his best friend, “to create violent antagonisms against himself by his attitude towards authority.” Later, as a junior officer, Wingate was known to begin meetings with generals by placing his alarm clock on the table. After it went off, he would leave, announcing, “Well gentlemen, you have talked for one hour and achieved absolutely nothing. I can’t spend any more time with you!”

Wingate’s first rebellion was against the stifling religious atmosphere in which he was raised. His father was a retired Indian Army colonel with a devotion to a fundamentalist Protestant sect called the Plymouth Brethren. He and his wife brought up their seven children, including “Ordey” (his family nickname), in what one of his brothers called a “temple of gloom,” with prayer mandatory, frivolity forbidden, and “fears of eternal damnation” ever present.

By the time he arrived at Woolwich, to train as an artillery officer, he had left the Plymouth Brethren, but he never lost [...]

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The ‘Playboy’ Rebel With a Taste for ‘Extreme Action’

All this week, the Volokh Conspiracy is kindly allowing me to run excerpts from my newly released book, Invisible Armies: an Epic History of Guerrilla Warfare from Ancient Times to the Modern Day. Today’s section concerns Michael Collins, the strategist who was the driving force behind Irish success in winning independence from Britain in 1922:

Twenty-nine years old in 1919, Collins was already a veteran revolutionary who had spent time in a prison camp in Wales after taking part in the Easter Rising. He had grown up in county Cork, the youngest of eight children born to a prosperous if elderly farmer who died when Collins was still a boy.

He was influenced not only by the traditional heroes of the Irish independence struggle, the “Bold Fenian Men,” but also by De Wet and the other Boers who had given the British a black eye. (Years later he wrote to De Wet to thank him for having been his “earliest inspiration.”) He was convinced, he later recalled, that “Irish Independence would never be attained by constitutional means,” and that “when you’re up against a bully you’ve got to kick him in the guts.”

To do just that, he was sworn into the Irish Republican Brotherhood in 1909 and then into the Irish Volunteers in 1914 while living in London, where he worked first for the British civil service and then for two financial firms.

“Mick” was tall, broad-shouldered, athletic, square-jawed, with “a mind quick as lightning,” boundless energy, and undeniable charisma—“hearty, boisterous, or quiet by turn,” in the words of an IRA officer. He was fond of whiskey, cigarettes, swearing, and female company. A woman who knew him thought he was a “real playboy”—an Irish Garibaldi, if you will, but without the Italian’s air of sanctimony.

Collins’s friends described [...]

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Lawrence of Arabia Tries to Hide ‘Out of Sight’

All this week, the Volokh Conspiracy is kindly allowing me to run excerpts from my newly released book, Invisible Armies: an Epic History of Guerrilla Warfare from Ancient Times to the Modern Day. Today’s section concerns T.E. Lawrence, better known as Lawrence of Arabia:

After the war Lawrence attended the Paris Peace Conference as an adviser to both the Arab and the British delegations. He caused a sensation by wearing an Arab headdress along with a colonel’s uniform. One American attendee described him as “the most interesting Briton alive . . . a Shelley-like person, and yet too virile to be a poet.”

Lawrence came away deeply disillusioned after the French took Syria and Lebanon while the British helped themselves to Palestine, Iraq, and Transjordan. He went on, however, to play an important role as an adviser to Winston Churchill at the Colonial Office in 1921 in remaking the map of the Middle East. …

Once his work at the Colonial Office was done, Lawrence sought to hide “out-of-sight,” but he found this increasingly hard to accomplish because of an enterprising showman named Lowell Thomas. A former Chicago newspaperman, Thomas had spent a few days with Lawrence in Aqaba in 1918. Out of this thin material he created a popular book and lecture, accompanied by a slideshow, on “Lawrence of Arabia.”

His subject found Thomas’s presentation to be “silly and inaccurate,” but it played to packed houses from New York to London, month after month. Four million people were said to have viewed the show around the world, lured by a romantic tale of derring-do that offered a welcome respite from the aftermath of the mass slaughter of the trenches.

To escape the public klieg light, “the Uncrowned King of Arabia,” as he was dubbed by Thomas, enlisted under [...]

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The Rebel Who Whipped His Mother

All this week, the Volokh Conspiracy is kindly allowing me to run excerpts from my newly released book, Invisible Armies: an Epic History of Guerrilla Warfare from Ancient Times to the Modern Day. Today’s section concerns Shamil, the great Muslim leader who fought Russian occupation of Chechnya and Dagestan in the 19th century. The story begins with the Russian campaign to defeat his predecessor as rebel leader, Ghazi Muhammad:

Given such fanatical resistance, which was hardly typical of nineteenth-century imperial campaigns, the Russians were understandably pleased to have cornered Ghazi Muhammad in 1832. Eliminate him, they figured, and his movement would collapse.

As usual, the murids fought to the death, but the Russians smashed through their fortifications. As they were about to complete the conquest of Gimri, however, a group of soldiers noticed a man in the doorway of a house just outside the aoul. He was “very tall and powerfully built” and was on an elevated stoop. He pulled out his sword, hitched up his robe, and charged through the door. An officer described what happened next:
Then, suddenly, with the spring of a wild beast, he leapt clean over the heads of the very line of soldiers about to fire on him, and landing behind them, whirling his sword in his left hand he cut down three of them, but was bayoneted by the fourth, the steel plunging deep into his chest. His face still extraordinary in its immobility, he seized the bayonet, pulled it out of his own flesh, cut down the man and, with another superhuman leap, cleared the wall and vanished into the darkness.
The Russian soldiers were “left absolutely dumbfounded” by this spectacle, but they thought no more of it. What, after all, was the escape of one man when the rest of [...]

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How Garibaldi Met His Wife

I am delighted to be asked by the Volokh Conspiracy to share with you some of my favorite stories from my book, Invisible Armies: an Epic History of Guerrilla Warfare from Ancient Times to the Modern Day, involving some of the most colorful characters from the modern history of insurgency and counter-insurgency. We begin today with Giuseppe Garibaldi, the great champion of Italian unification in the 19th century:

After trying unsuccessfully to pursue commercial enterprises such as selling macaroni, Garibaldi decided he was “destined for greater things.” In 1837 he found his true calling as a soldier when he enlisted on behalf of Rio Grande do Sul, a province trying to break away from Brazil.

In 1842 he joined another war in neighboring Uruguay. He would spend the next six years defending its liberal government against an Argentinean dictator and his local allies.

With his seafaring background, it was natural that Garibaldi would be employed at first as a privateer preying on enemy shipping—a guerrilla of the sea. But he also commanded forces on land. Armies were so small and distances so vast in Latin America that Garibaldi frequently campaigned with a few men in the wilderness.

Often he was pursued by superior forces, but he seldom hesitated to attack even when badly outnumbered, and his audacity usually carried the day. He exhibited preternatural resilience by marching and riding for long periods, notwithstanding illness, wounds, and supply shortages.

Even while combating ruthless enemies who once captured and tortured him, he always observed a “chivalrous” code. If he lacked detention facilities, as he usually did, he would release prisoners rather than kill them, even if he knew they would report his position, and he took care to prevent his soldiers from abusing civilians.

His most notable exploits came in hit-and-run [...]

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Do You Want To Be a Law Professor?

I’m about to return from a long blogging hiatus, but let me begin with an announcement that may be of interest to those who plan a career in legal academia. Duke Law School has established a program to bring aspiring law teachers into the law school as visiting assistant professors. Visiting assistant professors spend two academic years at the law school (to give them time to work on scholarship in anticipation of their entry on the law school teaching market). Each visiting assistant professor is provided with an office and is invited to participate in faculty activities open to visiting professors. Each has a very light teaching load – one course per year. Selection for participation in this program is competitive, based on potential for success in an academic career. The website for this program is at [...]

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