Tuesday, January 23, 2007
The Big Push in Iraq
An article over at AterNet.Org once again reminds us of the dangers of ignoring history. Perhaps the biggest “surge” in military history took place A little over ninety years ago---July1st 1916---when the British launched “the big push” that was to break through the German trench system and open the way for a victorious cavalry charge that would end the war.
The meat-grinding battle (The Battle of the Somme) ended on November 18th, 1916.
According to the British Imperial War Museum site:
“Over a million men became casualties in the long and bitter struggle on the Somme. The offensive cost Britain and the Empire 419,654 casualties, 125,000 of them dead. In Britain the impact of the losses was severe, particularly in the north of England where many of the Pals battalions had been recruited.
“French casualties numbered 204,253. Estimates of German casualties vary widely between 437,000 and 680,000. A German staff officer described the Somme as ‘the muddy grave of the German field army.’ "
Adam Hochschild, the author of the AlterNet article is well aware of the obvious differences between the Somme and Iraq, but his attention to the situational similarities is fascinating.
Hochschild comments: “There are huge differences, of course, between the First World War and the current fighting in Iraq. But, even beyond the optimistic talk of the Big Push, there is another eerie resemblance between the two conflicts.In both cases, a great power was itching to launch an invasion, and seized on a handy excuse to do so.”
The whole article may be read here.
The Imperial War Museum site is fascinating. Take a look.
Incidentally, as we approach the hundredth anniversary of The Great War I expect we’ll see historians revisiting the event the transformed the politics of our world.