Over on the wonderful Grumpy Lion blog there is a predictably excellent post which examines how most of the Hawks in the US government are, in fact, war dodging cowards while most of the doves have actually served in combat. This is something of a truism, as generally speaking, old men who have seen combat are a lot more reluctant to send others into battle.
However this is only a generalisation and it is important to be aware that, no matter how much a person may wish otherwise, it will not hold true in all circumstances. There are people who have never seen war who are solidly opposed to it and there are people who have seen death and destruction first hand but have not been turned pacifist by the experience.
With this in mind, the comments from Steph and Roy are especially entertaining. These have largely descended into a string of ad hominems against me surrounded by a huge helping of equivocation, so I am no longer going to take up space on Grumpy Lion with my responses, but there are some issues from the (erm) debate which I think are worthy of further mention.
Both Steph and Roy, in the finest internet traditions, demand copious examples of “evidence” to disprove their anecdotes. In fact the only information provided by either of them for their argument is a comment by Steph’s “grandfather” and a some vague references to the writings of Roy Jenkins. The most they can produce is “all of Churchills biographers” which is an immediately falsifiable claim (as I know of three biographers who claim different things). When contrary writing is cited, they dismiss the source as not being a “historian of note” (neatly ignoring their own single source’s status in the process).
Interestingly it seems the concept that Churchill dipped in and out of military service is impossible. Here we see another example of how the drive to shout and insult has blinded Roy and Steph to what I wrote in that I agreed with them that all the sources had Churchill working as a Journalist in the run up to Ladysmith and then Roy writes this with apparent glee: (this is a bit about Churchill covering the Spanish-American war of 1898)
It proves Steph is right and you are wrong and runs a horse and carts through your argument that Churchill wasn’t a correspondent before Ladysmith and saw active service. He avoided active service by going to Cuba.
Madness. Real, painful madness. It was around this point I finally realised there was no room for actual debate with either Steph or Roy and both were so obsessed with their idea that every hawk has to be a shivering coward nothing I wrote – even when I agreed with them – would actually be read.
Another example of what I have come to see as standard internet arguments (where the person doesn’t really have anything to say but hates the topic so much they have to argue) is the constant rattling about trivial facts.
I wrote that the Regimental History of the Royal Scots Fusiliers (now a battalion of the Royal Regiment of Scotland) had references to Churchill being Commanding Officer of one of their Battalions and having led his men on 36 forays across no-mans-land. This really drew some irate hand waving. Now it is certainly very possible that he did not lead his battalion on exactly 36 missions, but is the balance of probabilities going to lean towards none or at least 1 being the most likely?
One of the odd arguments centred on Military records being useless for historians. I found this pretty odd, given that these are the records used by most historians – especially for Ancient and Medieval researchers. Still, I began to work out what the issues here were when I mentioned that a good starting point for WWI research were the MOD’s records. Steph responded with:
This is a bare faced lie, the MoD didn’t even exist then.
Well blow me down with a feather. It seems that Steph (and to an extent, Rob) are obsessed with stating the obvious as if it is an argument. Everyone knows the Ministry of Defence did not exist in WWI, it was called the Ministry of War. However, since the MOW became the MOD, guess where all the MOW’s records are stored…?
Throughout the debate (for want of a better word) is along these lines. For good measure Steph points to her having a Doctorate in Law as if it carries any weight in an argument about WWI. Amazing.
Please, anyone, take a look at the thread and its debate and let me know what you think. Was I being unclear? Are there issues I have missed out on? Did Steph and Rob provide solid evidence for their claims? Did they bother to pay the money to visit the Regimental Museums and see what was there?