Greetings! You are reading an article from The Mudville Gazette. To reach the front page, with all the latest news and views, click the logo above or "main" below. Thanks for stopping by!
April 9, 2009
al Iskandar to KandaharBy Greyhawk
Preparing for Afghanistan, 330 B.C., from Steven Pressfield's The Virtues of War: A Novel of Alexander the Great
Examine the daybooks for this period. You will see that the corps fought for almost three years across Areia, Parthia, Drangiana, Bactria, Arachosia, and Sogdiana and could not force a single pitched battle. It was all sieges and unconventional warfare, against native fighters the troops called "wolf warriors." ...These were steppe raiders and hill tribesmen, the former mounting at one time as many as thirty thousand, the latter thrice that number, who fought both as armies and as clans. Their commander, when they had one, was the last Persian lord, Spitamenes, whom our men came to call the Grey Wolf, for the streak in his beard and his elusiveness over that stony and barren ground.That's from a fictionalized account of his campaigns - but certainly Alexander knew that the war in the mountainous East would be altogether different from the conquest of Babylon.
No primary sources exist, but drawing upon them Plutarch described the approach to the mountains, where Alexander "saw that his army was by this time cumbered with much booty and hard to move..."
At break of day, after the baggage-wagons had been loaded, he burned first those which belonged to himself and his companions, and then gave orders to set fire to those of the Macedonians. And the planning of the thing turned out to be a larger and more formidable matter than its execution. For it gave annoyance to a few only of the soldiers, while the most of them, with rapturous shouts and war-cries, shared their necessaries with those who were in need of them, and what was superfluous they burned and destroyed with their own hands, thus filling Alexander with zeal and eagerness."And so, Plutarch adds, "...he encountered many perils in the battles which he fought, and received very severe wounds; but the greatest losses which his army suffered were caused by lack of necessary provisions and severity of weather."
Still, he was eager to overcome fortune by boldness and force by valour, and thought nothing invincible for the courageous, and nothing secure for the cowardly.After twenty three centuries the place names have changed. The mountains remain.
Next: Ancient History
Posted by Greyhawk / April 9, 2009 12:18 PM | Permalink
Previously: al Iskandar to Kandahar ***** So having finished a novel about his campaigns (and revisiting some other sources along the way) I decided to re-watch Oliver Stone's version of the story of Alexander. I remembered it as awful, but wanted to g... Read More
It should surprise exactly no readers here that Andrew Exum, (along with "about a dozen talented and good-natured co-authors") contributed to General McChrystal's (aka to Ex: "the world's most intense lead author") assessment. That was certainly no sec... Read More
November 26, 2010
I think anyone who's ever pondered the "comment" option - once only available on blogs and bulletin boards, now ubiquitous on almost any web site - will appreciate this:
The so-called faculty of writing is not so much a faculty of writing as it is a faculty of thinking. When a man says, "I have an idea but I can't express it"; that man hasn't an idea but merely a vague feeling. If a man has a feeling of that kind, and will sit down for a half an hour and persistently try to put into writing what he feels, the probabilities are at least 90 percent that he will either be able to record it, or else realize that he has no idea at all. In either case, he will do himself a benefit.
That's wisdom from the past, captured for posterity at the US Naval Institute, shared via the web on the institute's 137th anniversary.
From their about page:
"The Naval Institute has three core activities," among them, History and Preservation:
The Naval Institute also has recently introduced Americans at War, a living history of Americans at war in their own words and from their own experiences. These 90-second vignettes convey powerful stories of inspiration, pride, and patriotism.
Take a look at the collection, and you'll see it's not limited to accounts from those who served on ships at sea, members of the other branches are well-represented.
I'm fortunate to have met USNI's Mary Ripley, she's responsible for the institute's oral history program (and she's the daughter of the late John Ripley, whose story is told here). She also deserves much credit for their blog. ("We're not the Navy nor any government agency. Blog and comment freely.") We met at a milblog conference - Mary knew (and I would come to realize) that milbloggers are the 21st-century version of exactly what the US Naval Institute is all about. Once that light bulb came on in my head, I mentioned a vague idea for a project to her - milblogs as the 21st century oral history that they are.
"Put that in writing," she said (of course - see first paragraph above!) - and here's part of the result.
Shortly after the first tent was pitched by the American military in Iraq a wire was connected to a computer therein, and the internet was available to a generation of Americans at war - many of whom had grown up online. From that point on, at any given moment, somewhere in Iraq a Soldier, Sailor, Airman or Marine was at a keyboard sharing the events of his or her day with the folks back home. While most would simply fire off an email, others took advantage of the (then) relatively new online blogging platforms to post their thoughts and experiences for the entire world to see. The milblog was born - and from that moment to this stories detailing everything from the most mundane aspects of camp life to intense combat action (often described within hours of the event) have been available on the web...
And et cetera - but since you're reading this on a milblog, you probably knew that. And you know that milblogs aren't just blogs written by troops at war, that many friends, family members, and supporters likewise documented their story of America at war online in near-real time, as those stories developed.
The diversity in membership of that group is broad, the one thing we all have in common is the impulse to make sense of the seemingly senseless, and communicate the tale - for each of us that impulse was strong enough to overcome whatever barriers prevent the vast majority of people from doing the same. Everyone at some point has some vague idea they believe should be shared - we were the people who, from some combination of internal and external urging, found and spent those many half hours persistently trying to write it down.
But where will all that be in another 137 years? Or five or ten, for that matter. That's something I've asked myself since at least 2004 - when I wrote this:
Membership in the ghost battalion has grown in the years since, and an ever growing majority of those abandoned-but-still-standing sites are vanishing. Have you checked out Lt Smash's site lately? How about Sgt Hook's? If you're a long-time milblog reader you know the first widely-read milblog from Operation Iraq Freedom and the first widely-read milblog from Afghanistan are both gone from the web. If you're a relative newcomer to this world you may never even have heard of them - or the dozens upon dozens of others who carried forth the standard they set down.
If you have a vague notion that something should be done about that, (a notion I've heard expressed more than once...) then you and I and the good folks at the US Naval Institute are in agreement. Preserving the history documented by the milbloggers is just one of the goals of the milblog project, the once-vague idea that we're now making real.
And it's a big idea, if I say so myself - too big to explain in one simple blog post, so stand by for more. Likewise, it's too big a task to be accomplished by just one person. So if you're a milblogger (and exactly what is a milblogger? is a topic for much further discussion on its own) I'm asking for your help. All I'll really need is just a little bit (maybe just one or two of those half hours...) of your time, and your willingness to tell the tale.
We've already made history, it's time to save it.
(More to follow...)
The Mudville Gazette is the on-line voice of an American warrior and his wife who stands by him. They prefer to see peaceful change render force of arms unnecessary. Until that day they stand fast with those who struggle for freedom, strike for reason, and pray for a better tomorrow.
Furthermore, I will occasionally use satire or parody herein. The bottom line: it's my house.
I like having visitors to my house. I hope you are entertained. I fight for your right to free speech, and am thrilled when you exercise said rights here. Comments and e-mails are welcome, but all such communication is to be assumed to be 1)the original work of any who initiate said communication and 2)the property of the Mudville Gazette, with free use granted thereto for publication in electronic or written form. If you do NOT wish to have your message posted, write "CONFIDENTIAL" in the subject line of your email.
Original content copyright © 2003 - 2011 by Greyhawk. Fair, not-for-profit use of said material by others is encouraged, as long as acknowledgement and credit is given, to include the url of the original source post. Other arrangements can be made as needed.
Contact: greyhawk at mudvillegazette dot com