Some fairly recent military news of note…And the crusades

Posted: February 23, 2010 in Crusades

I’ve been pretty busy of late, and haven’t kept up with the news as I wish. I’m trying to broaden out a bit, as well, and look at military affairs in general, in addition to just the same old Hundred Years War/Crusades stuff (not that that’s boring, in any way, but variety is good…).

Here’s an interesting article from February 11 on the debate over McGill’s military R&D research programs. Well-written, makes you think. Not sure what about, but it makes you think.

On the other hand, this lengthy, in-depth discussion of the military investigations over Barg-e-Matal suggests some disturbing leadership trends in the U. S. Army. If the facts are as they are reported here, I can’t say I’m impressed with the leadership and responsibility of some members of the Army command…Speaking of Afghanistan, however, the new strategy seems to focus on sparing civilians–minus that unfortunate air strike a few days ago. We will probably never reach the stage where there are “no civilian casualties” in war…

One of the biggest issues facing nations such as Germany, or so I’ve always understood, has been a lack of long-range strategic airlift capability (and after all, what would they need that for?). Given Germany’s involvement in various NATO ops, however, that need has become apparent; unfortunately, it seems that the Airbus program is running into trouble…

Time was when I looked somewhat askance at women in the military, and I know this issue remains complicated in some aspects (as in the story below). But, if a woman wants to serve her country, she should be able to do that, be afforded some recognition of any special circumstances, and NOT be told to put her child in a foster home so she can deploy with her unit. At least they didn’t court-martial her…On the other hand, from the army’s perspective, you can’t very well have individual soldiers deciding when they will or will not deploy, and I think that’s valid too–you can’t run a military that way. I wonder if the situation would be any different, though, for a single father in the same circumstance (not that it makes much difference).

Apparently Christopher Tyerman’s massive tome, God’s War, has not sated the public’s fascination with the crusades. Tom Asbridge, a fine scholar in his own right, has published a nearly-800-page book on the crusades, reviewed in The Guardian here. I wonder if he’s still as critical of Richard I’s generalship as he was in Avignon, when I was on a panel with him…Eh, that’s another story.

Now, I don’t answer for the opinions or phrasing of this article, which presents a politically-charged summary of revisionist crusades scholarship, but it is worth perusing because a) in very broad strokes, it’s hews more-or-less to an accepted interpretation, and b) it highlights the difficulties we crusades scholars face in providing a nuanced interpretation, revising the old knee-jerk “crusaders-were-animals” reaction, without getting sucked into this kind of religious/cultural posturing.

The crusades were still popular in the 1700s, as Gluck’s opera Armide suggests. Here’s a review of a recent performance…

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