Monday, June 26, 2017

The Soviet-Israeli War, 1967-1973: The USSR's Military Intervention in the Egyptian-Israeli Conflict 1st Edition by Isabella Ginor and Gideon Remez (Oxford University Press)


Thirty-six years have passed since the June 1967 war between the State of Israel and its Arab neighbors. Despite the passage of time, the role played by the Kremlin in the events which led to this armed conflict and during the war, remains to this day an enigma. Scholars have debated the question of the extent to which the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) was responsible for the outbreak of hostilities in the Middle East on 5 June 1967. Some researchers have argued that Moscow instigated the war in order to increase Arab dependence on Soviet aid, as well as to unify progressive forces in the Middle East and to further consolidate its position in the region.[1]According to one historian, Soviet leaders sought a limited Arab-Israeli war and had no desire to bring about the destruction of Israel. They saw no major risk in a limited armed conflict between Israel and Arab countries, and thought that "…it would be useful to shake up their Arab clients a bit…." Their conception was that the Arab armed forces were well-quipped and sufficiently prepared for any armed conflict with the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF).[2]

Other scholars contend that the Soviet leadership was divided on Middle East policy as a result of a power struggle between members of the collective leadership which had overthrown Nikita Khrushchev in October 1964. According to this interpretation, Soviet Premier Alexei Kosygin, President of the Supreme Soviet Nikolae Podgorny, and Minister for Foreign Affairs Andrei Gromyko were skeptical as to whether their Arab clients were prepared to go to war against Israel. They all supposedly advocated a cautious policy towards the Middle East designed to avert the danger of an armed conflict between the USSR and the United States following a war between Israel and Arab countries. The Secretary of the Soviet Communist Party (CPSU), Leonid Brezhnev and his new political ally, Defense Minister Marshall Andrei Grechko, however, pursued an adventurous policy course which led to escalation of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Hence, according to this view, the Six-Day War was a conspiracy designed to precipitate an armed conflict in the Middle East and to improve the domestic position of both Brezhnev and Grechko.[3]

Nikita Khrushchev's memoirs, as well as the reminiscences of Soviet military and intelligence personnel, also indicate that Moscow indeed sought escalation of Middle Eastern tensions leading to the outbreak of another war between Israel and its Arab neighbors. The Soviet high command seemed to have encouraged high-ranking Egyptian and Syrian officers to go to war against Israel, and persuaded the political leadership to support its designs. Moreover, the Soviet military took practical steps to assist Syria in stopping the advance of Israeli troops into Syrian territory toward the end of the war. These steps included a naval landing, airborne reinforcements and air support for ground operations. Military operations were, however, eventually aborted for fear of American retaliation and due to dissension within the Kremlin.[4]

A third interpretation argues that Moscow had no desire to encourage its Arab clients to wage war against Israel. By contrast, it wished to avert the danger of a potential Israeli military attack on Syria. But Egyptian President Gamal Abd el-Nasser misinterpreted Moscow's intensions and blocked the Gulf of Aqaba without the Kremlin's knowledge, or at least without its full consent. This action served as a casus belli for the Israeli Government and led to the outbreak of hostilities in the region.[5]

New archival evidence from Poland sheds light on the role played by the USSR in the events leading up to the outbreak of the Six Day War and during the conflict. This evidence is based on Leonid Brezhnev's secret report at a plenary session of the Central Committee of the Soviet Communist Party (CC CPSU) held on June 20, 1967 entitled "On Soviet Policy Following the Israeli Aggression in the Middle East." A copy of Brezhnev's brief was translated into Polish and subsequently circulated among the leadership of the Polish Communist Party. This Polish record was acquired as part of a recent research project on the Cold War in the Middle East undertaken by the Chaim Herzog Center for Middle East Studies and Diplomacy at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Israel in cooperation with CWIHP.[6]

Brezhnev's report shows that Moscow had no intention of inciting an armed conflict in the Middle East and that the June 1967 war was the result of grave miscalculations and of Soviet inability to control the Arabs, rather than a conspiracy. The brief documents that throughout April-May, 1967, the Kremlin suspected that Israel was planning an act of aggression against Syria. Determined to forestall the Israeli offensive and to rescue the new radical-left regime in Damascus, the Soviet government informed Egypt that Israel had mobilized its armed forces on the border with Syria. By doing so, Moscow hoped to manipulate Nasser into assisting Syria by concentrating his armed forces on Egypt's border with Israel. The Kremlin estimated mistakenly, as if turned out – that Israel was militarily weak and could not cope with a war on two fronts. Subsequently, Moscow consented to the ejection of United Nations (UN) peacekeeping forces from outposts on the Israeli-Egyptian border, and to the concentration of Egyptian troops on the Sinai Peninsula and the Gaza Strip.

Brezhnev's account suggests that after the situation in the Middle East deteriorated in May 1967, Moscow was no longer able to control the crisis. The Soviets were taken aback when Nasser blocked the Gulf of Aqaba without having consulted them. Israel's surprise attack and rapid victory within six days alarmed the Soviet leadership. Moscow, however, was not inclined to take any military action against Israel. Nor it was willing to airlift weapons to its Arab clients while hostilities continued. The Soviet leaders doubted that their Arab clients were capable of fighting any further. They concentrated instead on the diplomatic front and sought cease-fire agreement mediated by the UN. Such an accord would stop the Israeli offensive, restore the status quo ante in the Middle East, and force Israel to withdraw to the prewar border. It was only when the occupation of the Syrian capital by IDF seemed imminent that the Kremlin sharply increased pressure upon Israel and even resorted to military threats. At that point the President Lyndon B. Johnson intervened in the conflict and persuaded the Israeli Government to stop the fighting.

Soviet Perceptions of Israel and the Six Day War

The first part of Brezhnev's report indicates that the Soviet leader's perception of the Six-Day War was rigidly defined by his doctrinaire outlook on international affairs. As the document clearly demonstrates, Brezhnev perceived the Israeli attack on Egypt and Syria as an act of aggression supported by the US and West European powers. He dismissed Western attempts to portray the Six-Day War as a local conflict resulting from the protracted quarrel between Arabs and Jews. He vigorously claimed that the Israeli attack was part of a worldwide campaign designed to suppress the anti-colonial struggle and hamper the turn to socialism in the progressive societies of Asia, Greece, Africa and Latin America.

Brezhnev described Israel as a tool in the hands of Western imperialism, and claimed that the Israeli assault had been planned carefully by the West. According to him, Israel's military campaign aimed at overthrowing the progressive regimes in the Middle East, diminishing the influence of the USSR on its Arab clients, and restoring the predominant position which Western powers had held in this region until the mid-1950s. To support this thesis, the Soviet leader claimed that prior to the June 1967 war, Israel had received massive military supplies from the West and its armed forces had been equipped with the most modern assault weapons.[7]

In the brief, Brezhnev dismissed allegations that the Soviet government had encouraged both the Egyptians and the Syrians to threaten Israel. He claimed that Moscow's military aid to its Arab clients was mainly designed to assist them in their protracted struggle against colonialism, to consolidate their independence, and to improve their capability to defend themselves against both external and internal dangers. Moreover, the Soviet leader indicated that his government feared that a potential suppression of regimes in Cairo and Damascus might lead to the collapse of the anti-colonialist movement in the Middle East. Subsequently, the regional and global balance of power would tilt in favor of the West.[8]

Soviet Miscalculations and Failure to Control the Mid-May 1967 Crisis

In his overview of events which led to the outbreak of hostilities on 5 June 1967, Brezhnev pointed out that in mid-May 1967, Moscow had received information that Israel was contemplating a military campaign against Syria and other Arab countries. In light of this information, the Politburo of the CPSU decided to inform the Egyptian and Syrian governments of Israel's plans for aggression. Unfortunately, Brezhnev refrained from revealing critical information about the controversial Soviet warnings regarding the build-up of an Israeli assault against Syria. He limited himself to saying that "…there were many signs that led us to conclude that a serious international crisis was in the making and that Israel had prepared an act of aggression supported by Western powers…."[9]

Before the CPSU Plenum Brezhnev stressed the fact that the Kremlin had no desire to incite war between Israel and its Arab neighbors. Moscow only intended to contain the State of Israel and to forestall its aggressive plans. The brief reveals that the Soviet government gave its consent to Egyptian actions which led to the withdrawal of UN forces and to the concentration of troops along the 1949 armistice line between Egypt and Israel. It shared the Egyptian's government's view that these steps would deter Israel from waging war against Syria. However, Moscow's reaction to the closure of Straits of Tiran was lukewarm. Brezhnev considered the action misconceived, and he deplored the fact that Nasser had failed to consult the Kremlin before taking such a step. While the Soviet leader agreed that the ill-advised closure of the Gulf of Aqaba had indeed brought some prestige to the Egyptian president, he claimed that it provoked Israel to conduct a wider military campaign against its Arab neighbors.

Brezhnev's report indicates that following the closure of the Straits of Tiran, Moscow was determined to avert further deterioration in the Middle East and to foil Israeli and Western plans for aggression. Fear that the blockade of the Gulf of Aqaba might provoke Israel into war led Moscow to exert diplomatic pressure upon the Israeli government. Simultaneously, Moscow did its utmost to tone down the belligerent rhetoric of Egyptian and Syrian leaders and to assure that no further provocation be taken against Israel. Brezhnev revealed that during a meeting of the CC CPSU held on 30 May 1967, Syrian President Nur al-Din Atassi, then on an official visit to Moscow, had been asked to avoid taking any steps which could be used by Israel as a pretext to wage war against Syria. A similar request was conveyed in a note to Nasser on 26 May 1967. The Egyptian president was asked to do his utmost to prevent armed conflict with Israel. Both Nasser and his Minister of War, Shams al-Din Badran, who visited the Soviet capital on 28 May 1967, assured Soviet officials on several occasions that Egypt did not plan to resort to armed conflict or to provoke Israel to wage war.[10]

Restrain and Concentration on the Diplomatic Front

Brezhnev's report reveals that Israel's surprise attack on three fronts and the rapid victory over Egypt, Syria and Jordan was a bombshell for Moscow. Prior to the outbreak of hostilities, Soviet leadership operated under the illusion that Arab armed forces could easily repel any Israeli offensive and defeat the IDF on the battlefield. In retrospect, Brezhnev assured his audience that the armed forces of Egypt, Syria, Algeria and Iraq were superior to the IDF in number of troops and amount of tanks, planes, ships and armaments. They had been equipped with the most modern weapons, and had received high-level training from Soviet and other East European instructors. However, their fighting capacity and morale were very low. They were backwards, undisciplined and poorly organized. In spite of their alleged superiority over Israel in arms and military personnel, the Arabs lost most of their air power during the initial phase of the Israeli offensive. Left without an air umbrella and anti-aircraft defense, their ground forces suffered heavy losses.[11]

Brezhnev's account of the events clearly shows that following the disintegration of the Egyptian army and the rapid advance of Israeli troops into Sinai, Moscow decided to pursue a policy course designed to stop the offensive and to guarantee the survival of Nasser's regime. The Kremlin, however, had no desire to intervene actively in the fighting on the side of its Arab clients. Nor did it plan to supply them with arms to replace weapon systems destroyed in the fighting. Instead, Moscow concentrated on the diplomatic front. According to Brezhnev, the Kremlin sought an early cease-fire to stop the Israeli offensive. Then it planned to force an Israeli withdrawal to the prewar borders.

Brezhnev's brief reveals that on midnight of 7 June 1967, Egyptian Vice-President Marshal Amr informed the Soviet ambassador in Cairo that the situation on the Egyptian-Israeli front was critical and asked that a cease-fire agreement between his country and Israel be achieved within five hours. One hour later, members of the CPSU Politburo held an emergency session to discuss ways to help Egypt out of this difficult situation. According to Brezhnev's report, members of the Politburo were fully aware that the Egyptian army was in a state of chaos and confusion, and that it could not repel the Israeli attack. They ruled out the possibility of airlifting military supplies to Egypt while hostilities continued, something that would be impossible to arrange within a short period of time. Moreover, they were skeptical whether Soviet aircraft carrying supplies could safely land on Egyptian airfields which had been destroyed by the Israeli Air Force.[12]

The report clearly shows that the Politburo feared that Nasser's regime would not survive the Israeli offensive. Therefore, the Soviet leadership was determined to achieve an early cease-fire agreement, mediated by the UN. On June 7, 1967, the UN Security Council adopted a draft resolution which called for an immediate cease-fire in the Middle East. The IDF continued the offensive, despite this appeal and a second UN resolution calling for an early cease-fire. Subsequently, Moscow issued a stern warning to the Israeli government threatening to reassess its relations with Israel and to consider other means if the offensive continued.

But Brezhnev's report reveals that Nasser, too, was not ready to accept a cease-fire as yet. As the brief indicates, the Soviet leader deplored Nasser's vacillation that in itself served as an obstacle to Moscow's attempts to ensure Israeli compliance with UN resolutions. Only on 9 June 1967, did the Egyptian government announce its willingness to agree to a cease-fire but it was too late. By this time, the IDF had completed its occupation of the entire Sinai desert and had launched an offensive against Syria.

To Moscow policy makers, the offensive against Syria was another stage in the imperialist campaign against radical-left regimes in the Middle East. Determined to save Syria from a humiliating defeat and occupation, the Soviet government attempted to force Israel to comply with the two Security Council resolutions. On 8 June 1967, it instructed its ambassador to the UN to draft another resolution calling for an immediate cessation of hostilities and the withdrawal of Israeli troops to the 5 June 1967 border. The next day, heads of government and the leaders of communist parties in Eastern Europe gathered to discuss the Middle East crisis. At the end of this urgently convened conference, held in Moscow, a communiqué was issued by the Communist delegations condemning Israel as an aggressor, and calling upon the Israeli government to stop the offensive and pull its troops out of Syrian territory without delay.[13]

Brezhnev relates that this communiqué made little impression upon Israel, which continued its campaign against Syria. On 10 June 1967, the IDF captured the town of El-Quneitra, one of the Syrian army's main strongholds on the road to Damascus. Syria's panicked foreign minister informed the Soviet Government that Israeli tanks, supported by aircraft, were advancing on the Golan Heights in the direction of the Syrian capital. He asked that all possible measures be taken by Moscow to forestall the attack, otherwise it would be too late for his country.

The Soviet Government perceived the occupation of El-Quneitra as another critical turning point in the June 1967 war. Subsequently, it rushed to stop the Israeli offensive entirely. A Soviet missile cruiser and a number of submarines based in the Mediterranean Sea were ordered to set sail immediately for the Syrian coast. On the afternoon of 10 June 1967, the Soviet government broke off diplomatic relations with Israel. In a note to the Israeli government, Moscow accused Israel responsible of the brutal violation of successive UN resolutions calling for a cease-fire in the Middle East. The Soviet government also threatened to impose sanctions upon Israel if it did not stop immediately the military campaign.

Other Eastern European countries followed suit and broke off diplomatic relations with Israel. In retrospect, Brezhnev claimed that this was a spontaneous action, and that it had not been planned or discussed by the Soviet and Eastern European leaders during their urgent consultations in Moscow. The USSR and other Eastern European countries felt a sense of urgency following the defeat of their Arab allies. Therefore, they were willing to take concerted action to stop the penetration of Israeli troops into Arab territories.[14]

Brezhnev's report indicates that Moscow simultaneously conveyed an ultimatum to President Johnson. The first part of the Soviet ultimatum was a strongly-worded complaint about Israel's non-compliance with the UN resolutions which called for an immediate cease-fire in the Middle East. The Soviet government then urged the US president to persuade the Israeli government to halt the offensive without delay. It threatened to take any necessary action, including military action, if Israel failed to stop the fighting within the next few hours.

According to Brezhnev's report, this ultimatum bore fruit. Faced with Soviet pressure, Washington forced the Israeli government to comply with the Security Council resolutions and stop the advance of its armed forces into the heart of Syria. Johnson informed Brezhnev that Secretary of State Dean Rusk had sent to the Israeli government an urgent message demanding that Israel immediately implement all Security Council resolutions. In response, the Israeli government expressed its willingness to comply with UN resolutions and, subsequently, ended its offensive against Syria on the evening of 10 June 1967.[15]


Brezhnev's confidential report to the CC CPSU does not shed light on the controversial information regarding the concentration of Israeli troops on the Syrian border, conveyed to the Egyptians by the Soviet government in mid-May 1967. Nor does it link this action with the outbreak of hostilities in the Middle East a few weeks later. The report seems apologetic in tone, with the Soviet leader attempting to avoid being held accountable for the provocation which led Arab leaders to resort to bellicose actions. In turn, these actions spurred the Israeli preemptive attack and resulted in the humiliating defeat of both Egypt and Syria, the disintegration of their armed forces and the occupation of the entire Sinai desert, West bank and Golan Heights by Israel. As the brief indicates, the Soviet leader held Nasser solely responsible for this catastrophe. He claimed that the reckless closing of the Tiran Straits to the passage of Israeli ships provoked Israel to conduct a wider military campaign against its Arab neighbors.

The report suggests that the Kremlin had no desire to incite an armed conflict between its Arab clients and the State of Israel, and that the June 1967 war was a result of Moscow's clumsy diplomacy, grave miscalculations and inability to control the crisis which it had provoked. It grew out of a determination to foil Israel's aggressive plans against Syria and to frustrate what it suspected was a joint Israeli-imperialist scheme to suppress progressive forces in the Middle East. The Kremlin assumed that these plans were part of a Western campaign aimed to overthrow radical-left regimes in the Middle East and to undermine the predominant position which the USSR had maintained in the region since the mid-1950s. The brief demonstrates that Moscow operated under the illusion that Israel was militarily weak and could not risk war on two fronts. It estimated that preventive action would deter Israel from waging war against Syria.

This Polish record indicates that after the outbreak of hostilities, Moscow had no plan to actively intervene in the fighting on the side of its Arab clients, nor did it take any steps to invade Israel, as suggested by some scholars. Brezhnev's account of the Six Day War reveals that during this armed conflict, the Kremlin's occupants preferred the diplomatic front to military action. They were not even willing to deliver vital supplies of armaments, tanks and airplanes to their Arab clients while hostilities continued. Politburo members were fully aware that Egypt's armed forces had disintegrated and could not continue fighting. Brezhnev's brief suggests that Moscow's sole plan was to exert diplomatic pressure upon Israel to agree to an early cease-fire and pull its armed forces out of occupied territories. By pursuing this plan, Moscow hoped to stall the Israeli offensive and guarantee the survival of the radical-left regimes in the Middle East. With the Israeli government defiant and reluctant to comply with a series of UN resolutions calling for an immediate cease-fire, the USSR and the majority of its Eastern European satellites responded in what Brezhnev described as a spontaneous act of breaking off diplomatic relations with Israel. Simultaneously, the Soviet government concentrated a small naval contingent near the Syrian coast. It also put pressure upon the US president to use his influence with the Israeli government to persuade it to stop its military operation against Syria without delay.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

The Secret Life: Three True Stories of the Digital Age Hardcover – October 10, 2017 by Andrew O'Hagan (Farrar, Straus and Giroux )

How do you write a compelling book about the internet? Decades after computers started reordering our lives, it’s a question nonfiction writers are still struggling with. The speed with which the digital world changes; the difficulty of dramatising people peering at screens and typing; the less than vibrant emotional lives of key online protagonists – all these can make internet books seem rather grey and out of date compared with the Technicolor, distracting swirl of the internet itself.

Andrew O’Hagan’s solution is to write about three “outlaws” from “the wild west of the internet”: Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks (right); Craig Wright, who claims to be the inventor of the online currency bitcoin; and Ronald Pinn, an almost completely forgotten Londoner who died in 1984, whose identity O’Hagan borrows to create a fictitious digital persona. “My three case studies are individual, and in many ways they are typical of nothing but themselves,” O’Hagan writes with studied modesty in his foreword. But then he can’t resist adding more ambitiously: “They might each tell a story about the times we are living in.”

In January 2011, at the peak of Assange’s fame as a political disruptor and challenging personality, O’Hagan was asked by the publisher Canongate to ghostwrite a book for him. Sketchily defined as a mixture of memoir and manifesto, it had been bought by Canongate for £600,000, as well as by dozens of foreign publishers. O’Hagan is a busy author, but he accepted the commission almost immediately, for “the thrill” of getting the inside story about Assange, and the “authorly freedom” he thought would come with being an undeclared ghostwriter. Later that month, he drove to the country house in Norfolk where Assange was then confined after being arrested for alleged sexual assaults in Sweden (an investigation that has now been dropped) and then released on bail.

O’Hagan describes the initial stages of his descent into the Assange vortex with a lovely wit and confidence: “I got to Ellingham Hall … I’d been told there were journalists everywhere and indeed there were lights around the fields and sometimes helicopters overhead. I looked at the driveway under a full moon. It felt almost comically filmic ... character and power waiting to combust.” Like revolutionaries who have seized a mansion, Assange and his younger followers slob around the house, half triumphant and half listless, keeping strange hours, working on various WikiLeaks plots, and eating large dinners “prepared by the housekeeper”. One night, O’Hagan notes sharply, Assange “had three helpings of lasagne”, then ate “jam pudding with his hands”.
FacebookTwitterPinterest Craig Wright, who claims to be the inventor of the online currency bitcoin. Photograph: Mark Harrison/Handout/PA

The Australian computer genius is memorably portrayed as a messianic, brittle figure, railing constantly against perceived enemies, including his former collaborators at the Guardian. O’Hagan, one of literary journalism’s great charmers, nevertheless finds things to like about him: “He was amused and suspicious at the same time, a nice combination I thought.” But as it becomes clear that Assange has no intention of helping with their supposedly collaborative book project in any sustained or deadline-conscious way, and the whole much-hyped enterprise collapses, even O’Hagan gradually loses his composure. The prose here switches from urbane to angry, and loses its pleasing economy. The narrative arc freezes frustratingly in the wintry Norfolk air.

A different sense of opportunities missed hangs over the other half-book here, about Wright’s 2016 attempt to prove he was the creator of bitcoin, and therefore resolve “one of the great mysteries of the internet”, as O’Hagan perhaps overstates it. Again, his subject is a middle-aged man whose brain and sense of paranoia are much larger than his social skills. Again, O’Hagan is chosen as his subject’s official chronicler, by a company called nCrypt, which hopes to use Wright’s bitcoin declaration as a way to publicise his “hundreds” of online inventions, O’Hagan writes, and then “sell the intellectual property for upwards of a billion dollars”.

All three stories end with dramatic, finely drawn paragraphs – the literary journalist emerging, skills intact

The narrative is fuller this time. It alternates between slightly chewy passages about the workings and history of bitcoin – the internet proving resistant to vivid explanation, yet again – and accounts of meetings in Mayfair restaurants. Skilfully, O’Hagan intertwines his investigation into whether Wright is telling the truth with Wright’s own jittery journey towards the day of his big bitcoin declaration. As with Assange, the author builds a relationship with Wright that is close and concealed from the outside world, but not credulous: “Wright asked me to come to his office so he could draw something for me on his whiteboard, a new timelock encryption scheme he’d come up with … His expertise in certain areas was startling, and so were his obfuscations.”

The risk of this kind of inside-track reporting is beginning to sound like your subject. Even the most refined writers can end up sounding both geeky and macho if they spend a lot of time with male internet moguls. “The nCrypt boys,” O’Hagan writes at one point, “appeared to have no Plan B.” Parts of his Wright story read more like breathless business journalism or a melodramatic crime drama than something in the London Review of Books, where all the pieces in this book previously appeared.

The briefest one here, about building a fake online personality, is cooler in tone. A deadpan O’Hagan describes the drugs and weapons and other illicit possibilities that the internet can offer disguised or anonymous purchasers. But little of this exploration feels revelatory: the scary depths of the dark web have been a tabloid staple for years. O’Hagan’s reaction to this “wild west” is of course more interesting and nuanced, alarm and fascination competing with each other, without a winner ever quite being declared. In parallel, he also conducts a melancholy search for traces of the dead man whose identity he has borrowed, and the less glossy, more working-class London he once inhabited. As in all three stories here, the search ends with some dramatic, finely drawn paragraphs – the literary journalist emerging, skills intact, after his time among the internet’s less sensitive stylists.

This book is too fragmentary and recycled to be a definitive encounter with the internet. Only a brief foreword and a few updated sections are new material. And O’Hagan’s position in the pieces – as the invited confidant of his subjects – ultimately feels too comfortable. The real stories of our computer age are probably elsewhere, in the web’s still underscrutinised history, or in the factories, far from Norfolk country houses and smart London restaurants, where addictive devices and fake news stories are produced. More writers need to go there.

A Bold and Dangerous Family by Caroline Moorehead is published by Chatto & Windus

Product Details

It’s often said that Italy has managed to get away with its fascist past. There’s no great communal guilt or shame; the country paid a pittance in terms of war reparations. Of course the crimes of Mussolini’s thugs, horrifying as they often were, seem minor when set against the industrialised genocide of the Third Reich. Mussolini was many things, but his racism always felt half-hearted, his antisemitism merely favour-gaining with Hitler.

There’s something else, though. Italy’s resistance to fascism and totalitarian rule was more widespread and well organised than in any other European country (even, arguably, France). The nobility and heroism of the loose nexus of socialists, Freemasons and academics who stood up to Mussolini provided a narrative upon which the country could found its postwar identity. Foremost among the opposition to fascism, there were two portly, bookish, Jewish brothers who shone brightly, briefly, before their early deaths at the hands of the regime. Their names were Carlo and Nello Rosselli.

Caroline Moorehead’s lucid, readable and superbly titled biography of the brothers opens with the murder by fascists of the socialist politician Giacomo Matteotti in June 1924. This, she argues convincingly, was a turning point, both for Italy – it was the beginning of a dark new chapter of political violence – and for the resistance – it was the event that knitted together the disparate strands of dissent. The murder, in which Matteotti was bundled into a car by the fascist secret police, stabbed repeatedly with a carpenter’s file, and dumped in a ditch, inspired lasting outrage among the Italian left, leaving a mark on the young and impressionable Rosselli brothers in particular.

That the Rossellis aren’t typical action heroes gives the story of their reckless heroism and murder added poignancy

After this bloody opening, Moorehead winds back to the birth of the Rossellis’ mother, Amelia Pincherle, in Venice in 1870. The rationale for this is clear: not only was Pincherle the source of her sons’ erudition and idealism, but the book also relies a great deal on her correspondence with the boys, in her wonderful memoir, Memorie, published in 2001.

A deep and fascinating bond appears to have built between Moorehead and Pincherle, so that it’s almost as if the biography is written through the mother’s eyes. Pincherle was a formidable woman, full of the noble spirit of the Risorgimento. She was also the leading Italian playwright of her age, and this lends the book an unusual literary quality. Moorehead’s narrative laces seamlessly between her own voice and that of Amelia, so that there are numerous observations and passages that hum with life. Take for instance, the description of Amelia’s Venetian childhood in which she “turned the chairs in the salotto upside down and pretended that they were gondolas, rowing across a marble lagoon”. Carlo and Nello were also fine letter-writers and authors – the fact that this was a family that cared about words (Alberto Moravia was the boys’ cousin) gives Moorehead’s book a richness and poise that’s rare in a political biography, more novel-like than journalistic.
FacebookTwitterPinterest Benito Mussolini in Rome in 1927. Photograph: Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty Images

Like any good biography, A Bold and Dangerous Family is about far more than its subjects, and it’s hard not to feel regular little shivers of horrified contemporary recognition at the rise of the populist demagogue Mussolini. It’s a book about resistance and valour, about Italian life and the uniquely integrated place of the Jewish community within it. Moorehead moves breezily through the history, grounding it in the lives of her protagonists, dropping the reader into key events, so that we feel as an almost personal outrage the lurch from the optimism and inclusiveness of the Risorgimento to the brutality of Mussolini’s rule.

We see Vittorio Orlando, Italy’s prime minister, returning “crushed” from the Treaty of Versailles. We see Mussolini starting off as a socialist, then declaring himself a man of the right, one whose politics would be shaped by “the great, the beautiful, the inexorable violence”. We see the flip-flopping of the opposition to Mussolini (there’s a nice line in the description of the chaotic horse-trading of the pre-fascist era of Italian politics in which Moorehead gives us transformismo – “the hanging on to parliamentary majority through alliances with often incompatible partners” – Theresa May might want to save that one for her next trip to Europe). We see the elections of 1921, in which more than 500 people were killed or wounded. Finally, we see Mussolini assert a terrible and total grip on power through his roving brigades of squadistri. As Carlo put it in a letter to his mother: “An enormous black plague has settled on the body of Italy.”

A picture gradually develops of the boys – Carlo, slightly older, bespectacled and thrusting; Nello, more circumspect and poetic. Both boys were pudgy (when Carlo makes a daring escape from the prison island of Lipari to Tunisia, he’s unable to find clothes that fit him), academic and extraordinarily brave. When the Spanish civil war broke out, Carlo, living in exile in Paris with his family, immediately borrowed a white beret from his wife and went off to fight (with great distinction). Nello met every new trial, trumped-up charge and imprisonment with unquenchable good humour. When we picture the boys in our mind, we always see them smiling.

The fact that the Rossellis aren’t typical action heroes gives the story of their reckless heroism, their insuperable idealism, their tragic double murder, added poignancy. The boys are nerdily immersed in the recondite world of political philosophy (both Benedetto Croce and Antonio Gramsci helped forge their political consciousness). We read that “Carlo returned to London to learn more about guild socialism”; later, Carlo and his English wife Marion Cave go off to a hotel on the lake at Stresa where they spend their time translating letters between Marx and Engels. The image of the brothers, ambushed when helping what they thought was a stranded motorist, set upon by the cagoulards (fascist thugs in thrall to Mussolini), stabbed and shot and then lying dead in each other’s arms, is profoundly touching.

On the news of their death, a group of intellectuals including André Breton and Pablo Picasso signed an open letter saying that if the death of Matteotti had signalled the death of liberty in Italy, that of the Rosselli brothers “signed its death warrant in the whole of Europe”. And yet from the organisations that sprung up around the brothers – the Spanish civil war brigades, the Giustizia e Libertà movement that the boys founded in Parisian exile – came the resistance that would play a crucial role in throwing off the yoke of fascism.

Moorehead’s portrait of the Rosselli brothers is at once a political history of pre-second world war Italy, a beautiful literary portrait of two brave young men, and a gripping tale of intrigue, espionage and escape. There have been a number of fine books about the Rossellis – Stanislao Pugliese’s biography of Carlo is particularly good. None, though, have been this well structured, this readable, this deeply involved in the material of their lives. I finished it impressed, breathless and enormously moved.


Saturday, June 24, 2017

American Guerrillas: From the French and Indian Wars to Iraq and Afghanistan―How Americans Fight Unconventional Wars Hardcover – April 3, 2017 by Thomas D. Mays ( Lyons Press)

“American Guerrillas” (Lyons, 2017) by Thomas D. Mays is a collection of historical accounts on American “guerrilla warfare.” Mays’ account begins with the first European settlers and works forward in time, identifying along the way how Europeans, Native Americans, British colonists and every American fighter since has used the terrain and his guile to target larger, better organized military forces. Although guerrilla warfighters do not win wars, they do contribute immensely to the battles waged by much larger conventional forces.

Early in the book, Mays tells the story of the first ranger company led by Captain Benjamin Church in 1676. The Governor of Massachusetts commissioned Church to lead “scouts” against enemy Native Americans. Adopting Native American tactics and employing friendly tribesmen against their rivals, Church fought and eventually subdued his state’s enemies during King Philip’s War in the year between June 1676 and August 1677. The success of Church’s rangers subsequently led to the formation of other ranger companies during periods of conflict in the 18th Century.

Mays brings these stories to life. In fact, many accounts can be tied to some modern-day Hollywood drama. For example, Colonel William Tavington – antagonist to Mel Gibson’s hero in The Patriot (2000) – bears some resemblance to Lieutenant Colonel Banastre Tarleton. Tarleton was a British Calvary Officer who employed a company of regular British and Loyalist dragoons to wage a brutal campaign against local patriot militiamen and Continental troops in the southern United States. His raids on local farms and murders of surrendering American troops caused uproar among the local populace. Although often effective tactically, guerrilla warfare during the Revolution increasingly blurred the line separating civilians from soldiers.

The U.S. Army made significant legal efforts to define guerrilla combatants during the American Civil War. In 1862, when General Henry Halleck was promoted to general-in-chief of all U.S. armies, he turned to a German-American jurist – Francis Lieber – for help managing Southern insurgents who refused to uphold the unwritten laws of armed combat. General Order No. 100, also known as the “Lieber Code,” was the result. The order protected civilians and their property. It also defined “combatants,” outlined the rights for prisoners of war and permitted summary execution for spies, saboteurs and guerrilla soldiers. This order was used throughout all conflicts up to and including World War II, until Operations Against Guerrilla Forces (FM-31-20) was released in 1950. In 1940, the Marine Corps published the Small Wars Manual, based on its experiences in Latin America. Then-Major General David Petraeus used these manuals to write the U.S. Army and Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manual (FM 3-24) in 2006.

Mays also explores historical events unknown to or forgotten by most American readers. This history includes such topics as Andrew Jackson’s exploits in the Creek Wars; battles fought by Kentucky riflemen during the Battle of New Orleans (1812-1814); the defense of Texas and victory over Mexico (1835-1836); the lawless pro-Union and pro-confederate militias who spread terror in and around Kansas during the Civil War (1860-1865); the record of Filipino insurrectionists (1898-1901); and the U.S. Special Forces' missions to train and support Montagnard Tribesmen during Vietnam (1961-1975).

The book is informative and covers a lot of historical territory. As such, the author avoids too much detail on any one person, battle or conflict, leaving out any mention of some of the most successful unconventional military operations, including CIA’s support of the Mujahideen against the Soviets in Afghanistan, or Special Forces support to the Northern Alliance against the Taliban. The book mentions other conflicts and events in passing, which heightened this reader’s curiosity for more about the history of specific people and campaigns. But this is not intended to be an exhaustive or definitive history. Mays’ book is a near-comprehensive, thorough and readable introduction to the history of American guerrilla warfare.

When Soldiers Say No: Selective Conscientious Objection in the Modern Military. Andrea Ellner, Paul Robinson and David Whetham (eds.) Ashgate.

Product Details

This edited collection comprises fourteen contributions from a range of perspectives – military, philosophy, international relations, and law – upon the controversial topic of selective conscientious objection in the military. Put simply, this doctrine concerns the process whereby military personnel object outright opposition to all military action, for example on pacifist grounds. The collection aims to provide a “fresh and thorough evaluation of the topic” and broadly comprises of efforts which evaluate the relative merits of affording recognition of selective conscientious objection and case studies of the doctrine’s treatment in selected countries.

In light of recent controversial military episodes, such as the 2003 US/UK led invasion of Iraq, and instances of selective conscientious objection which they have given rise to, the book is clearly of timely relevance. More generally, the end of conscription in many states and the transition to volunteer armed forces means that the overwhelming number of claims of conscientious objection come from existing military servicemen and are selective in nature.

The first six chapters of the book are concerned with the arguments for and against acceptance of selective conscientious objection. The reasoning employed by the various contributors takes the form of a mixture of perspectives grounded largely in moral philosophy, but also tactical military considerations and political practicalities. A key tension exposed in these contributions is that which exists between permitting individuals to follow the demands of their own consciences with the importance of ensuring obedience to the collective needs of the state as embodied in the manner in which its institutions opt to exercise its sovereign powers.

The argument employed in the first chapter by Imiola is particularly interesting. He describes the traditional perception of soldiers as servants of the state, not best placed to make decisions concerning military operations undertaken by the state. However, as he goes on to demonstrate, soldiers are nonetheless moral agents possessed of an individual responsibility which entails a moral obligation on their part to refuse to perform immoral acts. By contrast, some of the other contributions (for example, those by Bergeron and Fisher) highlight the extent to which recognition of selective conscientious objection undermines sovereign powers, the individual will of soldiers having to be negated to the collective will of the state.

Credit: Brooke Anderson CC BY 2.0

Chapters seven to eleven provide case studies of the approaches taken towards selective conscientious objection in five states: Australia, Britain, Israel, Canada and Germany. The examples of Britain and Israel provide for an interesting contrast. In considering the former in chapter eight, Deakin shows that Britain has encountered very few cases of selective conscientious objection in practice. However, although a low key approach is evident towards their treatment, such claims have been dealt with “through an approach characterized by common sense administrative leniency”. Nehustan surveys Israeli case law in chapter nine. While arguing that there is no justification for only recognising claims of “absolute” conscientious objection, he illustrates that the Israeli Supreme Court has failed to deal with claims of selective conscientious objection fairly. The final three chapters of the collection attempt to draw out some conclusions from the discussion provided in the preceding eleven contributions.

Being an edited collection, and one grounded in varying disciplinary perspectives, there is no singular uniform argument flowing through the work. This is to be expected. The arguments advanced on the merits of selective conscientious objection, however, are nonetheless logical and advanced coherently. The case studies likewise are well researched and presented within the contexts of the dynamics of the relevant states’ military, legal and political structures.

A major strength of the book lies in its plugging a gap within the existing literature on the subject. Discussion of selective conscientious objection has been relatively limited and consists for the most part of shorter pieces and/or treatment of narrow or specific aspects of the doctrine or instances of its invocation. This collection thus adds considerably to the literature by bringing together a range of perspectives on the merits of selective conscientious objection, as well as consideration of its application (or lack thereof) in a number of states. Its interdisciplinary nature is particularly attractive.

The shortcomings of the book are few, but it is unfortunate that the chapters which address the arguments for and against selective conscientious objection appear to be almost exclusively grounded in considerations of a philosophical nature. While clearly at the very core of debates over the merits of selective conscientious objection, there are also various practical considerations applicable to the doctrine – for example, its effects on military discipline, the question of its effective administration, and development of criteria to govern its recognition – which might perhaps have been afforded greater consideration at some point. While the case studies utilised are perfectly reasonable enough, the absence of the US might be questioned given its status as the biggest military power and the instances of selective conscientious objection which its involvement in Vietnam gave rise to. These criticisms should not, however, detract from the book’s general utility and valuable contribution to the literature in this area.

The book will obviously be of great appeal to anyone with an interest in selective conscientious objection in the military, but is also, more broadly, likely to be of interest to those engaged in military ethics, defence studies, international relations, international law, human rights, and moral philosophy.

Africa's Peacemakers: Nobel Peace Laureates of African Descent Paperback – February 1, 2014 by Adekeye Adebajo

This book is essentially a “collection of biographical essays provid[ing] profound insight into the thirteen prominent individuals of African descent who have won the Nobel Peace Prize since 1950.” While most of the contributions predominantly focus on an individual recipient of the prize, the earliest chapters attempt to make comparisons and connections between Nobel prize-winners and others who made significant contributions to furthering the agenda of peace. Given Africa’s place at the heart of much post-War conflict and accompanying efforts to promote peace, the major developments of note there – not least among these being the death of apartheid in South Africa – and the number of prominent international figures to have originated from the continent in the last few decades, the book’s focus makes it a worthwhile addition to any library.

A major strength of the book lies in the fact that it covers lesser known winners of the Nobel Peace Prize as well as the universally recognised recipients. The names of Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King, and Barack Obama are known to everyone, but how many people could identify the likes of Albert Luthuli or Wangari Maathi, among others? The book brings to the fore the stories of such remarkable individuals. An impressive array of prominent contributors has been assembled to write the essays which comprise the book, all of whom are well equipped to comment upon their subjects, sometimes from close personal experience. For example, former UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali is able to offer a personal account of his fellow Egyptian Anwar Sadat’s efforts which secured him the Nobel Peace Prize jointly with Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin. Similarly, former UN Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs James Jonah details Ralph Bunche’s peace-making efforts at the UN, a man he regards as his one-time mentor within the organisation.

The book is split into six parts. In part one, the first chapter introduces the various individuals covered within the book, before the second places Barack Obama’s receipt of the Nobel Peace Prize into a wider historical and political context. The subsequent five parts of the book concern themselves respectively with African-American, South African, Egyptian, Kenyan and Ghanaian, and Liberian recipients of the prize.

Nobel Square, to honuor South Africa’s Nobel Peace Prize Laureates.
Credit: Harvey Barrison CC BY-SA 2.0

The story of Martin Luther King is well known, as is that of Barack Obama, but another African-American, Ralph Bunche, won the prize earlier. In chapter four, James Jonah provides an insightful account of this career UN diplomat, who served within from the time of its creation until his death. A relative unknown to the wider world, Bunche was integral to various early peace initiatives at the UN level and won his prize in 1950 for his peace-making efforts in the Middle East.

Four South Africans have won the Nobel Peace Prize, all for efforts related in some way to ending apartheid. The joint award to Nelson Mandela and FW De Klerk for their roles in the dismantling of the apartheid regime is well documented, and to a lesser extent Desmond Tutu is well known for his leading role in the struggle against the same regime. However, Albert Luthuli, winner of the award in 1961, is far less prominent a figure. Nonetheless, as Chris Saunders’ chapter illustrates, as an early leader of the ANC he gave much inspiration to later generations in the anti-apartheid struggle. Arguably we cannot understand Mandela or Tutu without being aware of the earlier contribution of figures like Luthuli.

The two Egyptians to have won the Nobel Peace Prize did so in remarkably different contexts. Anwar Sadat was acclaimed for his role in brokering a peace between Egypt and Israel, a feat in traditional diplomacy which holds to this day, while more recently Mohammed El Baradei’s efforts to promote nuclear disarmament as head of the IAEA were rewarded in 2005. Further demonstrating the broad understanding of ‘peace’ and efforts to promote it, Wangari Maathi’s receipt of the prize in 2004 was in recognition of her efforts to promote sustainable development through environmental action, as detailed by Janice Golding in chapter twelve.

Kofi Annan is only the second UN secretary-general to have won the Nobel Peace Prize, but as Gwendolyn Mikell shows in chapter thirteen, the ability to take a principled stance on issues of international concern in that post is fraught with difficulty due to the political realities against which the post-holder must operate. Arguably, Annan will be judged by history to have fared better than most in this respect.

The final two studies, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Leymah Gbowee, are in many respects polar opposites. As President of Liberia, Johnson Sirleaf was a controversial figure whose receipt of the prize in 2011 was called into question by many unconvinced of her commitment to peace. Gbowee, who shared the prize in that year, was recognised for her campaign for gender equality although arguably overshadowed by her co-recipient.

The perspectives offered upon the various recipients of the Nobel Peace Prize are broadly objective. While it is often easy to overlook the flaws and shortcomings of revered international figures, the contributions within the book do not attempt to portray the individuals concerned as saints, but rather touch upon where appropriate some of the controversies associated with them, such as FW De Klerk’s defence of aspects of apartheid in South Africa and the controversial career of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.

It is questionable whether the inclusion of African-American recipients of the prize is appropriate, given that the primary focus of the work are individuals who actually come from the continent of Africa. However, the historical stature of Martin Luther King and the relationship between the US civil rights movement and the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa, and the recent controversy over the award to Barack Obama, the first US President of African descent, perhaps make their inclusion relevant.

This clear, concise, and useful bibliographical work will be of special interest to those engaged within international affairs, history or peace studies, although its accessible style also makes it a worthwhile read for the general reader with a passing interest in such matters.

Referendums and Ethnic Conflict. Matt Qvortrup. University of Pennsylvania Press.

The subject of this book – the use of referendums as a mechanism for addressing ethnic conflict – is of considerable topical relevance. Applying a broad understanding of the notion of ‘conflict’, as the book does to encompass political differences and disagreements grounded in ethnic distinctions, numerous recent and current examples abound. One might cite the independence referendums held in Quebec (1995), East Timor (1999) and South Sudan (2011), or the forthcoming referendum on Scottish independence, among others. Referendums are undoubtedly a common feature of processes concerned with devolution, power-sharing, and secession.

The overriding objective of the book, set out in the first couple of pages, is to determine when different kinds and types of referendums on ethno-national issues occur and whether these lead to the exacerbation of conflict or rather have an opposite effect. In addressing these questions, the book draws upon examples from the time of Napoleon’s reign as French emperor to the present day.

The first chapter traces the use of referendums up to World War Two. It is argued that their first main use was by Napoleon, with other examples cited including those held on secession in some US states at the time of the American Civil War, autonomy referenda in Canada, South Africa and Australia, and Norway’s 1905 vote on independence. Post-World War One, it is contended that the use of referendums declined.

In the subsequent chapters, attention is focused upon different uses of referendums to resolve to ethnic conflict. Chapters two and three are concerned with ‘difference management’ and secession referendums. The former concern those referendums used to approve policy initiatives associated with accommodating differences within a society, typically the devolution of power or power-sharing arrangements. The eminent constitutional scholar AV Dicey evidently considered the referendum to constitute an “alternative second chamber” through which the will of the people could be expressed, although the author notes that ‘difference management’ referendums were rare until the 1970s and are far more likely to be used in ethnically diverse societies with high levels of political freedom. Referendums on secession are found to occur following momentous changes in the international system. It is argued that they can aid peaceful transitions, reducing the risk of warfare where they precede secession.

South Sudan Referendum in Darfur. Credit: UNAMID CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Chapter four considers the legality of referenda in terms of constitutional law, noting that the courts have blocked their use in Spain and the US. A case study of Scotland is Ishere in order to highlight some of the key constitutional legal issues which the holding of referenda can give rise to. This chapter sits at odds with the book as a whole, however, given the lack of treatment of any of the international legal issues which processes such as secession give rise to.

There then follow treatments of ‘right-sizing’ and ‘difference-eliminating’ referendums. The former are largely concerned with the settlement of borders. Case studies touched upon include Schleswig and India/Pakistan, although this kind of referendum has become rare. The latter kind of referendum is said to be held to show that a leader or regime has the unified support of a state’s population, arguably demonstrating some of the more sinister motives which can exist to underpin the decision to hold a referendum. Hitler himself most infamously used such initiatives to demonstrate support for the Third Reich, although they have been used more recently by dictators such as Saddam Hussein, just one of several examples which are overlooked in the book.

Referendums have been often used as a mechanism for public consultation on processes concerned with European Union integration going back over several decades. Chapter seven is concerned with this use of the referendum mechanism. Although their use varies from state to state, at various intervals referendums have been held to obtain the consent of a state’s population to join the EU, adopt the Euro currency unit, or approve further treaty agreements between the member states. Unfortunately, there is no treatment of any of these specific examples, the brief discussion noting that referendums on EU integration have been primarily held for tactical reasons.

The final chapter attempts to provide a comparative treatment of the various issues associated with the actual administration or referendums. In some respects this is the most interesting feature of the book, the recent experience of the forthcoming referendum on Scottish independence alone having highlighted some of the difficult questions to be addressed when determining arrangements for the referendum. These include: Who ought to be entitled to participate? Which voting system should be used? Is there a quorum to be reached for a referendum’s outcome to be respected? How can security for those administering and participating in the referendum be assured? How is spending by either side of an argument to be regulated?

Overall, the book emphasises the potential value of referendums in resolving ethnic conflict, albeit noting the importance of parties’ willingness to conciliate. The project taken on by the book is a worthwhile one, but it is not without its shortcomings. More effort might have been made to develop comparisons between examples of the various kinds of referendums and the factors determining their effects. The book is also heavy on mathematical formulae to predict the probability of various outcomes of referendums, which narrows the likely receptive audience for the book to academics grounded in such approaches. The book will be of interest to political scientists and international relations scholars, although a wider general audience would exist had it been more a more accessible read.

The role of the sovereign state in international affairs is a subject that is as relevant as ever, as the ever present phenomena of secession and pressures for greater devolution of autonomy on the part of sub-state territorial units continue to gain much media and scholarly attention. The recent Scottish independence referendum is a good indicator of this, the population there rejecting independence although in many cases persuaded by an alternative vision of a Scotland which is afforded much greater autonomy than present while remaining part of the United Kingdom.

This book is a welcome addition to the literature on sovereign states and alternative governmental arrangements, focusing as it does on the much overlooked ‘partially independent territories’ (PITs), those fifty or so territorial units conferred with a considerable degree of autonomy within an existing sovereign state, and their advantages vis- a-vis the alternative of total independence.

The book is divided into three parts, covering the theoretical framework; self-determination; and the economic status, security and dynamics of PITs respectively. The theoretical framework is largely provided by chapter one. Here, the significance of the PIT model is spelled out. The increase in the number of territories adopting this model of governance, their economic relevance (especially in terms of global lending), and their role in international security contribute to a high level of importance. The book’s central arguments are laid out in relation to the existence of PITs, the powers of sovereignty they enjoy, their constitutional nature, and their distinctiveness. Observations are also made upon the causation and evolution of PITs. Chapter two adds to the theoretical framework by making further observations on the advantages of PITs and their manner of evolution.

The four chapters which comprise part two of the book are concerned with exploring the various ways in which PITs exist, or how self-determination is afforded for them within the boundaries of a larger sovereign state. Chapter three looks at the powers possessed by PITs and compares them to other models of government, before the succeeding chapters draw upon particular case studies. Chapter four is concerned with the preservation of civil order through the application of conventional rules within the British context. It draws upon the experience of the British dominions, including Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa, and traces their status through to the time at which they were granted independence in the earlier part of the twentieth century. It also employs the case study of Northern Ireland to demonstrate the advantages of conventional rules. The case of the US territory of Puerto Rico is the focus of the fifth chapter, which provides a historical overview of its status and gives consideration to a number of different views on its constitutional status. Chapter six is especially interesting, concerned with what is described as “sham federacy”. This label is applied to those instances in which territorial units that are presented as having been endowed with substantial degrees of autonomy or “partial independence” are in fact nothing of the kind. A number of cases in point are discussed here. These include the puppet regimes established in French Indochina, China’s autonomous regions, ethnically separated holding areas in South Africa (such as Bantustan), and the so-called “sovereign Indian Territories” within the United States.

Yes Scotland’s first annual Independence rally in 2012. Credit: Phyllis Buchanan CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

The third and final part of the book sets out to provide empirical support for the claims advanced throughout the book in relation to the various purported advantages of PITs. These concern their relative levels of wealth, security, and degrees of integration. Chapter seven focuses upon weaknesses associated with sovereign statehood, principally in economic and legitimacy terms, before the following chapter goes on to proclaim the wealth and security advantages of partial independence. Various data analyses are utilised at this stage in order to make comparisons between the performance of PITs and those of sovereign states. In chapter nine, the final substantive chapter of the book, an attempt is made to offer some predictions in respect of the dynamics of PITs. It is noted that few entities of this nature have come to an end, the freedom which they enjoy from the burdens attached to sovereign statehood being a key factor in their relative popularity as a mechanism through which self-determination can be exercised by territorial units functioning within the boundaries of a sovereign state. In his detailed concluding chapter, Revzani goes so far as to suggest that the numbers of PITs in existence are only likely to grow. Furthermore, these structures have played an important role in the process of state-building in various locations.

It is worth noting the very informative appendices to be found at the end of the book. These include helpful statistical information detailing examples of PITs throughout history, for example, and add context to the discussion provided throughout the book as well as constituting a useful reference tool.

Without doubt, Surpassing Sovereignty offers an important contribution to the literature in the field. It is a highly original work, offering as it does perspectives on a subject matter that has perhaps surprisingly been exposed to relatively limited academic analysis. While the book will be of particular interest to scholars of international relations and political science, it appeal will also extend to those seeking an enhanced understanding of the dynamics of ‘partial independence’ from perspectives grounded in other disciplines, especially history, law, and economics. Potentially the most powerful contribution offered by the book, particularly in the current climate in which the spectre of secession appears to have taken hold in parts of all regions of the world, is that it offers a compelling case against secession by virtue of the effective manner in which it is able to demonstrate the various advantages of “partial independence” in relation to independent statehood.

Jerusalem Unbound: Geography, History and The Future of the Holy City. Michael Dumper. Columbia University Press

Few cities have played such a major role in history as that of Jerusalem, a place of sacred importance to the world’s three great monotheistic religions. The contemporary significance of the city is underpinned by the extent to which its status features in ongoing initiatives to address the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This book by Michael Dumper, a well-established expert on Jerusalem at the University of Exeter, seeks to further our understanding of issues concerning the status of the city through an exploration of the complexities of space and the various controls that are exercised over different areas of the city and aspects of everyday life there.

At the outset, Dumper outlines four themes which run through the book. Firstly, it is concerned with paradoxes in the status of Jerusalem, the highly internationalized nature of the city limiting its subjection to state sovereignty. Secondly, it considers the pattern of religious reclamation of Jerusalem. Thirdly, it considers Jerusalem’s status as a divided and partially occupied city in comparative perspective. Finally, the role played by external actors in both the history of the city and its prospective future are considered.

Five substantive chapters make up the book, each of which is principally concerned with a different aspect of Jerusalem’s status in broadly spatial terms. Chapter one is concerned with the ‘hard borders’ of Jerusalem. These have been a major source of dispute throughout time, the chapter tracing developments from the 1947 partition plan through to the present day. Israel’s extension of its municipal boundaries to encompass the whole territory of Jerusalem following the 1967 six-day war is widely condemned as illegal under international law, a view reinforced by the International Court of Justice’s pronouncement of its ‘separation barrier’ straddling through occupied territory as unlawful. Israel’s de facto exercise of authority over the entire city has, however, increased the Palestinian population of the state of Israel and introduced various problems associated with the issue of travel permits which control everyday movement for Palestinians living and working in Jerusalem.

Chapter two gives consideration to ‘soft borders’ that are present within Jerusalem, those less formal mechanisms through which the population of the city is segregated. The case studies of elections and education are utilised to demonstrate ways in which Palestinian identity in the city has been fostered. Although entitled to vote in both Israeli and Palestinian municipal elections, the former have largely been boycotted by the Palestinian population, which at the same time has been able to develop an educational curriculum that is tailored and taught to Palestinian children.

The Dome of the Rock, Jerusalem. Credit: jasonwain CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

The religious significance of Jerusalem for Christians, Jews and Muslims is well established. The ‘scattered borders of holiness’ is the title accorded to chapter three, which considers the extent to which these three religious communities have contributed to the sense of borders within Jerusalem. It is noted that each religion serves as an umbrella for various groups. Orthodox Judaism has contributed to a set of norms specific to its communities, albeit not necessarily supported by secular Jews. Christian communities have been in steep decline but retain a formidable role in key areas, especially tourism. The Muslim community enjoys some influence in relation to the Dome of the Rock. One key development of recent decades has been the growing influence of the Israeli settler movement, which has acquired important positions in key agencies, serving as a ‘vehicle for Jewish encroachment’ by the state of Israel. This, combined with Palestinian resistance, in the view of the author risks the ‘Hebronization’ of Jerusalem.

The penultimate chapter of the book is concerned with the role played by the international community in the affairs of Jerusalem, highlighting the limitations placed upon the exercise of any state’s sovereignty over the city. This international interest in Jerusalem is not new, having historical antecedents which date back centuries. International support for joint sovereignty over Jerusalem is strong, and the UN has played a major role in the affairs of the city since the creation of the organization as the myriad of UN documents pertaining to the city and UN agencies involved with it stand testament to. A key role in the city is enjoyed by UNESCO today. Other particularly relevant external actors where Jerusalem’s affairs are concerned include the European Union, United States, and Palestinian National Authority, each of which receive some attention.

The final chapter attempts to look forward and consider the status of Jerusalem in the twenty-first century, with reference to the possible resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in respect of the city. An overview is provided of the various initiatives which have been advanced to provide for a peaceful resolution of this issue, with detailed treatment given to two proposals for sharing sovereignty over Jerusalem – the Geneva and Jerusalem Old City initiatives – and the various problems which accompany them. Ultimately, the author is not overly optimistic about the prospects of peaceful resolution of the issues which continue to divide the Israeli and Palestinian communities sharing the same city. In light of the historic context amply presented in the book, this is understandable.

This is a very worthwhile addition to any library, bolstering as it does understanding of not only issues related to Middle Eastern affairs, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and life within Jerusalem, but also more generally the politics of space – both physical and theoretical – that operate within the context of a divided city. The approach adopted is highly original and the book offers some genuine food for thought in relation to the issues which it gives consideration to. The style of writing adopted avoids unnecessary jargon and phrasing, making this a very accessible text that can be read and enjoyed by scholars within the field as well as educated and informed readers with an interest in Middle Eastern affairs more generally.

The Oxford Handbook of United Nations Peacekeeping Operations. Joachim A. Koops, Norrie MacQueen, Thierry Tardy and Paul D. Williams (eds). Oxford University Press

This volume is the latest offering from the Oxford Handbooks series, with similar publications already existing for the United Nations more broadly, the European Union, the World Trade Organisation, International Relations and Diplomacy. As with these other volumes, The Oxford Handbook of United Nations Peacekeeping Operations is intended to serve as a major reference work and totals some seventy-two chapters and in excess of nine hundred pages. The editors of the volume note in their introduction that ‘peacekeeping is arguably the most visible activity of the United Nations’. It is difficult to disagree with this assertion, making a major work that details the principles and aims of peacekeeping and explores their evolution through successive generations very welcome.

The seventy-two chapters which comprise the volume have been written by a diverse array of contributors from a range of backgrounds and disciplines who collectively share an enormous wealth of experience and/or expertise in matters pertaining to UN peacekeeping. They include academics, diplomats and military officers. The book is structured into two distinct parts. Part One is titled ‘Concepts and Perspectives’, and consists of five chapters which explore some of the key thematic issues relevant to UN peacekeeping. Part Two comprises the bulk of the text, and for each UN peacekeeping operation up to 2013 a brief chapter summarising its main features and activities is provided.

In Chapter One, Alex J. Bellamy and Paul D. Williams explore trends in peacekeeping operations from their first inception to the present day. Drawing on statistical data, they consider the locations in which peacekeeping operations have been deployed, the types of operations and their duration, and make comparisons between UN and non-UN operations. There is no express UN Charter basis for UN peacekeeping and in Chapter Two, Nigel D. White considers its status in international law, pinpointing the legal norms applicable to peacekeeping under UN auspices. The third chapter, by Joachim A. Koops and Thierry Tardy, is concerned with inter-organisational relations in peacekeeping processes. Although peacekeeping is most prominently associated with the UN, increasingly other organisations have come to undertake such functions – for example, the European Union, the African Union and NATO – and the challenges posed by these initiatives are given some attention here. In the next chapter, Thomas G. Weiss examines the humanitarian functions increasingly performed by peacekeeping operations, noting the need to maintain clear distinctions between the institutions of peacekeeping and humanitarian intervention, whilst acknowledging the impact of the ‘Responsibility to Protect’ doctrine on peacekeeping. The fifth chapter sees Paul F. Diehl and Daniel Druckman attempt to provide a framework against which the relative success of peacekeeping operations might be measured.
Image Credit: UN Peacekeepers Day 2013 Celebration in the DR Congo (MONUSCO)

Part Two’s systematic analysis of the sixty-seven UN peacekeeping operations created between 1948 and 2013 is broken down into four distinct historical periods, each preceded by a brief overview from the editors of the main themes and developments of the period in question. The first period covers the early years of the UN and spans from the creation of the United Nations Truce Supervision Organisation (UNTSO) in 1948 to that of the United Nations Yemen Observation Mission (UNYOM) in 1963. During this period, as the editors note, UN peacekeeping emerged as a significant but limited contribution to international efforts to maintain peace and security. The early operations were based on the core traditional principles of neutrality, consent to deployment on the part of the states upon whose territory the operations would be based and the non-use of force by peacekeepers other than in self-defence. This enabled peacekeeping to plug some of the gap caused by inactivity on the part of the UN due to the paralysis of the Security Council during the superpower struggle. The second distinct period covers the remainder of the Cold War era up until 1987. Relatively few new operations were created during this time, although peacekeeping became more institutionalised and some notable operations were nonetheless established, including the United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP). This operation remains in place today, which perhaps speaks for its continued relevance, although it also reinforces the lack of any resolution to the situation that gave rise to its creation in the first place.

The end of the Cold War brought a new wave of opportunities for the United Nations to make a greater contribution to the maintenance of international peace and security. The expansion of peacekeeping formed a key part of the UN’s post-Cold War agenda as operations undertook a broader range of functions and the traditional principles of peacekeeping were called into question. The period 1988-98 marked the third distinct period in the evolution of UN peacekeeping. Operations began to take on functions pertaining to peacebuilding and increasingly found themselves deployed to internal conflict situations. The perceived failings of UN peacekeeping in the likes of the former Yugoslavia, Somalia and Rwanda gave rise to a degree of disillusionment over the very promise of peacekeeping, and its use declined. However, a surge was witnessed in the final period identified by the book, 1999-2013, with a record 100,000 uniformed peacekeepers being in the field in 2010. The early twenty-first century saw peacekeeping undergo a major re-evaluation in the form of the Brahimi Report (2000). Modern peacekeeping mandates tend to be broad and often have civilian protection at their very core, a far cry from those earliest operations created during the UN’s infancy.

This volume will be a much welcome addition to any library on the United Nations or related subjects. It will be of enormous use to scholars engaged in the study of peacekeeping, whether their perspectives are grounded in the disciplines of international law, international relations or defence studies, amongst others. It is eminently accessible while not neglecting to afford attention to some of the more difficult issues to have arisen in the context of UN peacekeeping. It serves two key objectives for the interested scholar in simultaneously providing critical analysis of some of the major themes and controversies inherent in UN peacekeeping practices, while also constituting a major source of reference for factual details of every operation to have been deployed over a period of 65 years. No reputable library should be without a copy.

The Holocaust: A New History. Laurence Rees. Viking. 201

It is over 30 years since Martin Gilbert’s epic history of the Holocaust was published, and as any literature survey will demonstrate, this new text from Laurence Rees represents the first major treatment of the history of the Holocaust in its entirety – tracing it from its origins to its conclusion – since then. Gilbert’s work is a classic, and no subsequent text is likely to decrease its relevance, but Rees has nonetheless constructed a superb account of arguably the most depraved and appalling event of modern times, deserving a place alongside it as one of the definitive books of the Holocaust. This is not surprising. Rees has researched the events of the Holocaust for many years and is the writer-producer of numerous television documentary series, including the BBC’s Nazis: A Warning from History and Auschwitz, The Nazis and The Final Solution.

Running to over 400 pages, The Holocaust traces events broadly chronologically from the decades which led to the Nazi seizure of power in Germany to the conclusion of the Second World War. The book is extensively researched and draws upon witness testimony taken from both the victims and the perpetrators of the atrocities, as well as documentary evidence and the recorded speeches of key personnel within the Nazi’s governmental machinery, including Adolf Hitler.

It is easy to think of the Holocaust purely in terms of the crimes perpetrated against Jews in such concentration camps as Auschwitz, Bergen-Belsen and Treblinka, yet to understand the very possibility of this necessitates both a wider appreciation of its events and a longer-term grasp of history. While the book’s main focus is upon the atrocities committed against the Jews, it does not omit acknowledgment of the fact that other groups, such as the Roma and people with disabilities, suffered considerably during the Nazi’s reign of terror.

Rees spends the early part of the book exploring the origins of anti-Semitism in Germany, its role in the development of Hitler’s political thinking and the emergence and growth of the Nazis in the 1920s and 1930s. The oppression of the Jews took many forms, which varied both at different times and in different parts of Europe under German occupation during the Second World War. In the 1930s after Hitler had assumed power, Germany’s Jews were subject to increasingly oppressive measures, but the scale and extremity of the persecution that would take place following the outbreak of war were still to be reached. Rees details the key developments of this period, during which Jews were attacked and abused, had their businesses boycotted and, after the adoption of the Nuremberg Laws, became subject to discrimination under the law on the basis of religious identity. Although the first ‘concentration camps’ were established, beginning with Dachau, these did not resemble the extermination camps with which the events of the Holocaust would become closely associated a few years later.

Image Credit: Holocaust Memorial, Budapest (Neil CC BY 2.0)

An early idea of the Nazis for tackling their perceived ‘Jewish problem’ was a mass expulsion, with the island of Madagascar mooted as one possible location for resettlement. Rees explores the evolution of such strands of thinking, as well as the failure of other states to come to the assistance of the Jews through acceptance of substantial numbers of refugees. The Catholic Church’s stance on the treatment of the Jews is also explored, it being notable that although some figures and groups made efforts to assist them, the Pope made little protest in the face of the escalating horrors of the period.

As Rees unpicks the key events of the Holocaust following the outbreak of the Second World War, some striking characteristics of the course of developments become apparent. While the extension of German control across Europe brought more and more Jews within its reach as it occupied more countries, the treatment of Jewish populations varied in accordance with local and strategic factors. This point is illustrated first in the differential treatment of the Jews of the Benelux countries, Denmark and Norway, but also later in the experiences of Slovakian, French, Italian and Greek Jews, amongst other nationalities. It was significant that whereas large numbers of Jews were saved in some countries because of the brave assistance afforded them by the wider population, in others many met their deaths at least in part because of the efforts of collaborators sympathetic to the Nazi cause. Italy is an interesting case, where despite the notorious rule of the dictator Benito Mussolini, and notwithstanding the adoption of various anti-Semitic measures, most Jews lived in comparative safety until after Mussolini had fallen from power and Jewish deportations began to take place.

A particularly interesting account is provided of the origins of the gas chambers, the most infamous mode of mass killing associated with the Holocaust, in which millions perished. Rees notes that ‘it is a common misconception that gas chambers emerged as the preferred killing method of the Holocaust simply because of the desire of the Nazis to kill Jews in large numbers’. In actuality, mass killings were initially conducted via firing squads, although reluctance on the part of those tasked with this responsibility called for ‘a cheap and simple method of mass killing that spared the killers the psychological stress caused by facing their victims eye to eye’, ‘a method of making the killing easier – for the killers’. Rees traces the origins of chemical modes of killing in the Nazi adult euthanasia programme and explains how through experimentation, these ultimately gave rise to the development of the gas chambers in concentration camps.

The Holocaust is a well-written, well-researched and eminently readable book that ought to be read by all who seek to understand this most evil of events. The importance of its contribution is best articulated by the author himself, who in the final lines writes that: ‘although the contents of the book […] are distressing, I believe it is still important to understand how and why this crime happened. For this history tells us, perhaps more than any other, just what our species can do.’

The Makerspace Librarian’s Sourcebook. Ellyssa Kroski (ed.). Facet Publishing. 2017.

Makerspaces are essentially designated spaces where people come together to make things, and they continue to grow in popularity. Two of the key trends identified in the Library Edition of the 2017 NMC Horizon Report relate directly to makerspaces: ‘Patrons as Creators’ and ‘Rethinking Library Spaces’. Whether you are a librarian wishing to explore this emerging area of work or an established maker looking for their next project, The Makerspace Librarian’s Sourcebook should provide a useful starting point. Although an increasing number of resources can be found to support makerspaces and maker projects, there is still value in a textbook that helpfully brings together some of the different approaches, challenges and considerations in one place. This may be a ‘Librarian’s Sourcebook’, but it is likely to be of interest to a wider audience and will appeal to those simply wanting to learn more about makerspaces.

The book is edited by Ellyssa Kroski, the Director of Information Technology at the New York Law Institute and editor of the Library Technology Essentials series. This has produced titles such as Makerspaces in Libraries and Wearable Technology: Smart Watches to Google Glass in Libraries. Kroski has successfully drawn upon her experience and knowledge in this area to create The Maker Space Librarian’s Sourcebook. She is not alone in this: chapters are written by capable practitioners who have hands-on experience of delivering various maker projects (including Tom Bruno, author of the aforementioned Wearable Technology, who contributes a chapter on Google Cardboard).

At the beginning of Chapter One, Cherie Bronkar states that: ‘From robotics to crocheting, there are no limits to your makerspace’ (3). Although this is true and is a message that is repeated throughout the book, The Maker Space Librarian’s Sourcebook focuses very much on the technological end of this spectrum. There are chapters on 3D printing, Raspberry Pi, Arduino, Wearable Electronics, Google Cardboard, Makey Makey, Robotics, Computer Numerical Control and more. If that all sounds a little daunting, the uninitiated reader can skip forward to the chapter on Lego to potentially find a more familiar entry point into the world of library makerspaces.
Image Credit: Makey Makey (Ultra-lab CC BY SA 2.0)

In addition to various pieces of hardware, the book discusses essential related software. For example, Stephen Tafoya’s chapter about Raspberry Pi introduces the Sonic Pi program, which can be used to make music, along with a suggested project involving the hugely popular Minecraft computer game. The book includes many of the technologies most commonly associated with makerspaces, and the breadth of projects should offer something for all readers – whether those looking for a straightforward introduction to different models of 3D printer, practical guidance on how to write code for Arduino or precise instructions on how to create a Milled Wooden Phone Stand.

Many different aspects have been addressed covering the key considerations in setting up and running a library makerspace, including those of inclusivity and safety. The three parts of the book move logically from ‘Creating the Library Makerspace’ and ‘Makerspace Materials, Tools and Technologies’ to ‘Looking Ahead’, generally getting more advanced as the book progresses. The case studies that form Part Two make up over half of the book and provide practical ideas for librarians looking for makerspace projects. These chapters do not have to be read in order and readers can dip in and out of potential projects that interest them.

Chapters are enthusiastically written and include maker projects ranging from LED Fabric Bookmarks to Drone assembly. If you’re unconvinced of the value of these exercises, the chapter considering the pedagogical value of makerspaces should allay any fears and equip you with an argument to get buy-in from colleagues. The final chapter from Eric Johnson addresses ‘The Future of Library Makerspaces’ and provides further insightful commentary on emerging technologies and potential challenges. His honest appraisal is that ‘the near-term future is bright for library makerspaces, not least because they tend not to have the same requirement for self-sustaining profitability that private makerspaces do’ (350).

Understandably, many of the questions that are asked when makerspaces are discussed relate to money. The book does not avoid this issue and will help you to answer such questions by providing approximate costing for many of the tools and projects. A selection of possible makerspace starter kits are included with equipment lists ranging from an estimated $500 for a ‘Low Budget, Elementary School-Focused Makerspace Starter Kit’ (16) to $50,000 for a ‘Dream Budget – Milling/Power Equipment Focused Makerspace Equipment List’ (17). There is also a page with advice on how to get started without funding, suggesting cost-efficient paper-based craft projects, donations or even encouraging participants to bring their own supplies. Whatever your library’s budget, there is a makerspace to suit.

Although there are examples from a variety of library makerspaces (school, academic, mobile, pop-up), all are drawn exclusively from the USA with equipment prices appearing in dollars. Several chapters also include links to further resources and related case studies, but again these are predominantly North American. This is not necessarily detrimental to the book as the maker movement is a global one and prices can quickly be converted (and will inevitably change after publication, whether in dollars or pounds). However, including some of the initiatives happening in libraries around the world would have helped to reflect this broader community.

There may be omissions, but there are not gaps, and examples have been selected to highlight the range of approaches that is being taken to library makerspaces rather than to provide a comprehensive anthology of them all. In addition to selecting examples of current practice and looking ahead to what may be in store for makerspaces, the reader will learn some of the important dates in the history of the maker movement: the year that 3D printing was patented (1986, for those wondering), the year that the Lego Group was founded and the year that Nikola Tesla demonstrated the first radio-controlled boat. The Maker Space Librarian’s Sourcebook is interesting, informative and fun – a worthy addition to the Facet catalogue. Ellyssa Kroski introduces the text as a ‘one-stop handbook [that] will inspire readers’ and it is successful in achieving this, although for those who are inspired it is more likely to act as a first-stop.