Gallipoli, 100 Years On

Today marks the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the Gallipoli campaign—ANZAC Day in Australia and New Zealand, since they provided the bulk of the troops for this ill-fated venture that became known as “Churchill’s Folly.”  Anyone who has seen the early Mel Gibson film, Gallipoli, will know that the operation ended up with the same kind of trench warfare and appalling slaughter that characterized the Western Front.  The British eventually withdrew from Gallipoli eight months later, after suffering enormous losses.

The Dardanelles became synonymous with fiasco and recklessness.  It was this outcome that dogged Churchill for the rest of his life, and still clouds his reputation today.  Australia’s official military historian, C.E.W. Bean, wrote that “Through the fatal power of a young enthusiast to convince older and slower brains, the tragedy of Gallipoli was born.”  British historian Robert Rhodes James, in a paraphrase of Churchill’s own ill-chosen words about the matter, wrote that the Dardanelles offensive was a “wholly illegitimate war gamble.”

But these widespread judgments are not fair, because the land invasion of 100 years ago was not Churchill’s original idea. What went wrong? How had a purely naval operation with such promise and signs of early success become another exercise in “chewing barbed-wire”?

Historians and military experts will argue forever about whether the Dardanelles idea was sound or about whether the original design of a purely naval attack was properly executed by the naval commanders on the spot.  The War Council met 15 times on this issue between November 1914 and mid-March of 1915, when the initial plan for a purely naval attack was abandoned in favor of an amphibious landing.  Throughout this series of meetings, the War Council went back and forth about whether to commit to a purely naval attack (“by ships alone”) or whether to mount a combined offensive with an amphibious landing of army troops on the Gallipoli peninsula to back up the naval attack.  At the first meeting where the idea was discussed, on November 25, 1914 (just four months into the war), Churchill had favored the idea of a combined operation.  Churchill’s First Sea Lord, Lord Fisher, was enthusiastically in favor of a combined attack on Turkey.  However, both Prime Minister Asquith and Lord Herbert Kitchener, who, as Secretary of State for War, headed the army, opposed the idea.  Kitchener said there were no troops available for such an operation.  Kitchener suggested to Churchill a few days later that perhaps a naval “demonstration” could be made against the Turkish forts.  This, in part, prompted Churchill’s query to Admiral Carden about whether an attack “by ships alone” might be able to get through.

For the next two meetings, the War Council seemed to be heading toward a commitment for the purely naval attack, which had the virtue of being able to be discontinued immediately and at relatively little cost if it proved unsuccessful.  But then in the fourth meeting, Lord Kitchener seemed to change his mind, suggesting that 150,000 troops might be found for an invasion at the Dardanelles.  He had not, however, studied the idea with any thoroughness.  Five days later, Kitchener changed his mind again and said that no troops were available.  At the sixth meeting of the War Council two weeks after that, Kitchener further confused the deliberations by suggesting that the reserve 29th Division might be available for an offensive in the eastern theater, but at Salonica (on the Turkish mainland) and not at the Dardanelles.  Meanwhile First Sea Lord Fisher was changing his mind on the subject, first opposing the purely naval attack, and then later adopting the idea “whole hog—totus porcus,” as he put it.  (He would later change his mind back again, and his resignation would set in motion the chain of events that led to Churchill’s ouster from the Admiralty.)  Over the course of the next three War Council meetings, the decision was tentatively made to send the 29th Division to the Dardanelles for a combined operation.  “You get through [with the navy],” Kitchener told Churchill, “I will find the men.”  Then, at the next War Council meeting just three days later, Kitchener changed his mind yet again, and said the 29th Division was not available.  For this and the next two meetings the War Council argued back and forth, with Churchill and others pleading with Kitchener for the troops.  Each meeting postponed a decision about the 29th Division until a further meeting.  During this interlude, Kitchener canceled transport preparations for the 29th Division without informing Churchill, whose responsibility it was to oversee.  Finally, at the 13th meeting of the War Council on March 10, Kitchener agreed to release the 29th Division for the Dardanelles.  But this was barely a week before the navy’s attack was to be launched, and no plans had been made for landing the troops.

Amidst this indecision and divided counsel, it is not surprising that the naval commanders on the spot lost their nerve when the attack of March 18 resulted in heavy losses.  (Churchill came to refer to Admiral De Robeck, the commander of the fleet on the scene, as “De Rowback.”)  Even though intelligence at the time (which was subsequently confirmed as accurate) suggested that the naval attack came within a hair of success, and that an immediately renewed attack would almost surely succeed with minimal further loss, the naval attack was broken off to await the arrival of the army almost a month later.  Churchill had wanted to press on with the naval attack, but lacked the authority to decide the matter.  The naval operation would give way to an army invasion, and therefore pass largely out of Churchill’s ambit.  But this would take more than a month to set in motion.  By this time British intentions were transparent, and the delay enabled the Turks to reinforce the Gallipoli peninsula, thus setting the stage for another costly trench warfare stalemate.  A quicker decision about the idea might have changed everything.  Instead, the Allies suffered 252,000 casualties at Gallipoli over the next eight futile months.  Throughout the summer and fall the War Council was indecisive and tentative about whether to end the operation, going back and forth once again about whether to continue or end the operation.  “The Dardanelles has run on like a Greek tragedy,” Churchill wrote several months after.

The unfolding disaster was becoming evident in May 1915 when, as a result of a growing political crisis, Churchill was dismissed from the Admiralty and a new coalition government under Asquith was formed.  Even though the Dardanelles idea had not been his alone, Churchill quickly became the scapegoat for the debacle.  “History will vindicate the conception and the errors in execution will on the whole leave me clear,” he wrote.

The essential strategic soundness of the Dardanelles offensive has come to be more deeply appreciated as the decades have passed. Basil Liddell-Hart described the Dardanelles as “a sound and far-sighted conception, marred by a chain of errors in execution almost unrivaled even in British history.”  It presents one of the great “what ifs” of history.  Had Turkey been knocked out early, and the war ended sooner, perhaps the Bolshevik revolution would never have taken place.  Perhaps Hitler would never have risen to power.  These kinds of questions can never be answered, and it is perhaps frivolous even to indulge them.  But it is a tribute to Churchill’s insight that nearly 50 years after the episode, Clement Attlee, who was Churchill’s great opponent in the Labour Party (it was Attlee who defeated Churchill in the election of 1945), remarked to Churchill that the Dardanelles operation was “the only imaginative strategic idea of the war.  I only wish that you had had full power to carry it to success.”

The Power Line Show, Episode 15: We Interview Scott Walker

Thursday evening, Scott Walker addressed the Freedom Club’s annual dinner in Minnesota. Governor Walker made time between photos and the dinner for a Power Line interview. It is posted below.

But first, how was his speech? It was terrific. I have wondered whether Walker would be dynamic enough to succeed on the national stage. His low-key style has served him well in Wisconsin, but would he be able to inspire national Republicans? I needn’t have worried. Walker spoke extemporaneously, without notes (or, needless to say, teleprompter), and from the heart. He got a thunderous reception from the club’s members and guests.

Walker is a solid conservative with a superb record in office, achieved against the most vicious opposition directed against any state-level figure in our lifetimes. He recounted, but did not dwell on, the many death threats and incidents of harassment that he and his family have suffered from Democrats. The audience gasped audibly when Walker quoted the Democrat who threatened to gut his wife like a deer. But Walker has not only survived the Democrats’ mean-spirited assaults, he has defeated them, over and over.

Here is my interview with Governor Walker. We talked about his achievements, and how they will translate to the national scene, and about immigration, Islamic extremism and more. Given the controversy during recent days about Walker’s changed views on immigration, I think that part of the interview is particularly newsworthy:

Simply tap above to play; this works if you are reading on an iPad or mobile device, too.

The Power Line show is also available on iTunes. If you go here, you can subscribe on iTunes and never have to miss an episode.

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The gospel according to Hillary

Speaking at the Women in the World Summit in New York on Thursday night, Madam Hillary came out foursquare in favor of strict enforcement of the law. In the video below, with a brief excerpt from the speech, she sounds like a lawgiver than a law enforcer, and a lawgiver of a most unsavory kind.

She decrees, when it comes to abortion, that we have got to get our minds right. Not just us — religious codes and tenets of faith have to be brought into line with the new dispensation arising from the revelation that abortion is sacramental in nature.

Yeats’s question comes to mind: “…what rough beast, its hour come round at last,/Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?”

Madam Hillary seems to be taking a leaf from the Captain’s page in his work as the prison warden in Cool Hand Luke (video below), although he conveys a little more warmth and charm in the process.

Via Twitchy.

The Week in Pictures: Hillarypalooza, The Sequel

Look, if the old Chevy Chase National Lampoon Vacation films can be rebooted, why can’t we continue to give the boot and reboot to Hillary, who is the gift that keeps on giving (though like the Vacation sequels, less and less satisfying every time)? Maybe her fundraising strategy should be called “Cash for Clunkers”?

Hillary emails copy

hillary's turn copy hillary middle class copy ckinton words copy clinton 90s copy clinton speech copy Clinton Cookie copy Clinton Foundation copy Hill and Bill copy Clinton Donation copy Hillary Yoga Jobs copy Hillary Screw copy

Anti Humanism copy

A reminder of the true spirit of Earth Day

Obama Earth Day copy

Climate Inquisition copy

CA Statue copy CA Water copy

nuke deal copy

Harfing copy

Biden copy

Biden Wedding copy

Keynesian Wings copy Gay Minimum Wage' copy

Tweet of the Week. Apparently the Left was not amused.

Tweet of the Week. Apparently the Left was not amused.

Jeb Bush in his Ron Burgundy phase.

Jeb Bush in his Ron Burgundy phase.

Invisible Basketballs copy

Smart Car Fart copy

Drunk? copy

And finally. . .

Hot 270 copy

Lynch confirmed: DOJ lawlessness to continue

Yesterday, as John noted here, the Senate confirmed Loretta Lynch as Attorney General. Ten Republicans voted to confirm: Kelly Ayotte, Ron Johnson, Mark Kirk, Rob Portman, Thad Cochran, Susan Collins, Jeff Flake, Lindsey Graham, Mitch McConnell, and Orrin Hatch.

Ayotte, Johnson, Kirk, and Portman face difficult reelection campaigns in their Democrat-leaning or “50-50″ states. Note, though, that Pat Toomey, who likely faces an extremely tough race, cast a principled vote against Lynch and the lawless Obama administration Justice Department should refused to distance herself from.

Susan Collins voted to confirm because she’s not a conservative.

Lindsey Graham voted to confirm because he’s the Arlen Specter of the South. Thad Cochran voted to confirm because he’s the Lindsey Graham of Mississippi.

Jeff Flake voted to confirm because he aspires to be the Lindsey Graham of Arizona. John McCain, Graham’s Arizona amigo, is running for reelection in a Red State. Back in full conservative mode, he voted against confirmation.

Mitch McConnell voted to confirm for deep “institutional” reasons that, no doubt, are beyond my power of comprehension. Orrin Hatch voted to confirm because at least one conservative who should know better always wanders off the reservation in cases like this.

Hatch has declared himself satisfied that Lynch “will be more independent than the current Attorney General and make strides toward recommitting the Department to the rule of law.” I estimate the probability that Lynch will clear this very low bar to be approximately zero percent.

Should Lynch want to surprise us, Bill Otis has come up with a list of ways to do so. My favorite is: “Don’t file Supreme Court briefs that lose 9-0.” Others include: “Respect the First Amendment” and “Don’t usurp congressional powers.”

I estimate the number of Bill’s suggestions that Lynch will follow to be approximately zero.

Clinton cash — “not a shred of evidence”?

Team Clinton spokesman Brian Fallon responded to the New York Times Clinton Foundation/Russian uranium deal story by asserting that there is not a “shred of evidence” Hillary Clinton approved the deal to reward donors of the Clinton Foundation.

The “shred of evidence” cliche is not a happy one for Hillary. After all, she has admitted, in essence, that she shredded tens of thousands of State Department emails, and the server that housed them apparently has been destroyed. If smoking gun evidence were to be found, one imagines that it would be in shreds, literally.

But smoking gun evidence isn’t the form of evidence. Let’s consider another potential “Clinton cash” scandal — the one involving Clinton Foundation supporter Frank Giustra and his interests in Colombia:

Assume the following facts, which have been publicly reported, at least some of which are not disputed: (1) As a candidate for president Hillary Clinton opposed a free trade deal with Colombia, (2) as Secretary of State she supported such a deal, (3) in the interim, Frank Giustra made large contributions to the Clinton Foundation, and (4) Giustra’s interests benefited from the agreement Clinton supported.

If evidence supports each of these propositions, then this is evidence that Clinton changed her position to reward Giustra. To be sure, the evidence is circumstantial, not direct. But such circumstantial, i.e., inferential, evidence is commonplace in civil litigation.

For example, if an employee in good standing complains about racial discrimination and is fired soon thereafter, a jury can infer that the complaint caused the firing. There need not be a document, or other smoking gun, that establishes a causal relationship.

Moreover, as Jennifer Rubin points out, in political corruption cases the government wouldn’t even need to prove a quid pro quo relationship between Giustra’s donations and Clinton’s decisions to support a free trade deal (or to sign off on a uranium deal). It is enough, the government argued successfully in the case of former Virginia governor Robert McDonnell, if a public official is inclined to look more favorably on a donor’s interests because of a financial contribution.

Hillary Clinton is not going to be prosecuted for political corruption. Nor is it realistic to think that the issue of her corruption will arise in civil litigation.

The real question is how the public will view the facts in deciding on her fitness to be president. One would hope that, as Rubin puts, “you can’t prove I’m a crook” will not be the standard.

It certainly wouldn’t be if we were talking about a Republican candidate — the mainstream media would see to that. Since we are talking instead about a liberal Democrat trying to become the nation’s first female president, it’s quite possible that “you can’t prove I’m a crook” will end up being the standard, and that the bar for proving this will be higher than in the criminal law.

Shakespeare: The Ultimate Dead White Male?

In my first public lecture at the University of Colorado at Boulder in 2013, perhaps no passage excited a more furious response from some members of the audience than this:

It turns out that at a shockingly high number of universities—though not this one—it is possible to take a degree in English without having to take a single course on Shakespeare, which strikes me as absurd as taking a course in radical philosophy that omitted reading Karl Marx.  On the other hand, if you have a close look at the political science departments around the country that lean conservative or have a strong conservative plurality in the department—these would be Boston College; Notre Dame; Chicago; Georgetown; Loyola; Claremont; University of Dallas; University of Virginia; Kenyon; St. Johns Annapolis; Ashland, Hillsdale; maybe a handful of others—you will typically find in the political science course offerings one or more courses on—Shakespeare. In this contrast I think you can really begin to grasp the very different educational philosophies dividing left and right.  While many English departments now regard Shakespeare as optional material because he’s old, or because he represents the “white Anglo-Saxon phallo-logocentric hegemonic discourse” that needs to be swept away, conservatives think you can find wisdom of permanent value in reading the works of the great dramatist.  Actually conservatives argue vigorously among themselves about how Shakespeare’s politics should be understood: was he the last Aristotelian philosopher, contesting against Machiavelli, or was he in fact simply a more genteel version of Machiavelli?

Well, one graduate student in English was gravely offended (even though I noted specifically that Boulder was not among the colleges ditching the bard), but I couldn’t really make out her objection she was shaking so hard in her anger.

All of this is preface to the latest report from the American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA) on “The Unkindest Cut: Shakespeare in Exile 2015.”  From the summary:

At most universities, English majors were once required to study Shakespeare closely as an indispensable foundation for the understanding of English language and literature. But today—at the elite institutions we examined, public and private, large and small, east and west—he is required no more.

The basic finding is unambiguous. Not even one out of ten of the institutions ACTA surveyed required English majors to take a single course devoted to Shakespeare. And as the schools relax requirements relating to Shakespeare and other great authors, courses that have more to do with popular culture and contemporary issues are multiplying. . .

At most colleges and universities, Shakespeare courses can be taken as options within the major, as described in Appendix A. And yet, as a quick glance at existing requirements shows, Shakespeare holds no favored place. A course called “Pulp Fictions: Popular Romance from Chaucer to Tarantino” at the University of Pennsylvania counts the same as a Shakespeare course toward the “Early Literature to 1660” requirement. The catalog description: “… readable, often salacious, and certainly never dull, these ‘pulp fictions’ reveal complex worlds beneath their seemingly simple or gritty exteriors” suggests an interesting course, but it is no substitute for the seminal study of Shakespeare.  So also for “Gender, Sexuality and Literature: Our Cyborgs, Our Selves” that fulfilled Penn’s “Early Literature to 1660” requirement in Fall 2014. At Swarthmore and Bowdoin, “Renaissance Sexualities” can substitute for Shakespeare to fulfill the “Pre-1800” requirement. At Cornell, where undergraduate English majors need to take three pre-1800 courses, Spring 2015 choices include “Love and Ecstasy: Forms of Devotion in Medieval English Literature,” which addresses the question, “What do love, torture, and ecstasy all have in common?” The previous year, “Art of the Insult” fulfilled the same requirement, as did “Blood Politics,” whose course description begins, “Blood is everywhere. From vampire shows to video games, our culture seems to be obsessed with it.”

And The Daily Telegraph has a nice writeup, too.