Books: The Archaeology of Weapons: Arms and Armour from Prehistory to the Age of Chivalry


The Sage of Knoxville links today to The Archaeology of Weapons by Ewart Oakeshott. He says that he thinks it's the book that got him interested in Roman Legion arms and armor. Let me add a plug for the book too.

This book is a wonderful read, and highly informative on all forms of arms and armor from ancient Greece to the Later Middle Ages. The section on Viking arms is my personal favorite, because it explains the translation of names and runes engraved into the blades.

The great lesson it teaches, however, is one that is often missed, which is that arms and armor advance because of each other. People often get the notion that a certain kind of armor was used by knights or Roman soldiers 'because that is what they knew how to build.' What is missed is why they had learned to build that sort of armor, which is always that it was an innovation to answer the challenges posed by the weapons of the period. Weapons change, likewise, to address the advances in armor.

The book is also worth reading because Oakeshott has fine voice. No one who has worked his way through college, and especially graduate school, will be able to read his introduction without cheering wildly:

One other thing, about which I have been severely criticised by the highest authorities. My style is "chatty", full of anecdotes which are such anathema to the academic mind. I make no apology for this, even to them. I didn't write this in academic purity for scholars. I wrote it to be read, even enjoyed, by anyone who was interested in this fascinating subject. There are few footnotes (but many illustrations); there are spelling mistakes in the Bibliography, printer's errors in the text; but it has been read and enjoyed by two generations, and now it sets out again to interest and enthuse a third.
Now that's how a man ought to write, isn't it?

The Liberal Conspiracy - Satire, Informed Commentary and 9-11 Research

Saudi Oil Fields:

My good friend Sovay has been asked a question:

Someone asked me today: If al-Qaeda were to overthrow the Saudi government and take control of the country, we'd still have to buy oil from them, wouldn't we?

I don't know the answer to that question, but it's a frightening possibility. Not a likely possibility, but it's the type of scenario that makes you realize how important it is to end our total dependence on foreign oil.

I know the answer to this question. It is not, in fact, a possibility.

Al Qaeda has enjoyed some startling successes as a terrorist group--literally startling, as they have made it their mission to move beyond the low-level blackmail-style operations that have characterized Muslim terrorism for most of the last thirty years. It is important not to overestimate the enemy, however, just as it is important not to underestimate him. Al Qaeda has been able to do what it has been able to do because terrorist operations are very cheap. Bin Laden did not inherit his $130 million because his family cut him off. As we saw from reading this week's 9/11 report, al Qaeda has been funded largely from charities operating as fronts, or partial fronts. That cash flow has largely stopped due to a worldwide effort by police and intelligence organizations. While there are new sources of funding in play (narcotics, for example, and possibly direct-aid from a few particularly bold governments such as Iran), these funding measures must by their nature remain small-scale to remain hidden.

The result is that al Qaeda can't field even a functional guerrilla force. Guerrilla operations are much more expensive than terrorist ones, and require a much more highly developed command infrastructure. Both the funding and the infrastructure would be targets that could be disrupted, and would have to be protected, again in the face of worldwide intelligence and law-enforcement--but here also military--efforts.

The guerrilla opposition we've seen in Iraq has been slightly effective, but only in the propaganda war. They have won not one single victory against US or coalition forces. After a year of combat, our forces have suffered an extremely low combat loss rate. You can find the numbers here. For casualties and fatalities, the combined number of dead and non-RTD wounded for 3 June is 3,769. The number deployed has hovered at about 160,000 Americans, which would put losses at 2.3%. However, we have rotated entire divisions in and out--the 3rd ID replaced by the 4th ID, and so on. If you count the total number of Americans who have been deployed in Iraq (thus giving these vaunted guerrillas the chance to kill them), the figure is under one percent.

The wailing and gnashing of teeth we have heard from the media over combat loss rates below one percent is indicative of two things: first, that the media (like the majority of the population) understands nothing about military science; and second, that the opponents of the war feel that the removal of the Saddam threat was not worth one single American life. There are enough people who feel that way for the very modest successes of the guerrillas to appear greater than they are. In fact, they have performed relatively poorly. Although some individual units in the Marine AOR have been exceptions (probably Hezbollah, from what I've heard, and you should read The Belmont Club on this topic and the one here as well), even they have not been adequate to hold any ground that we haven't simply chosen to let them keep rather than risk the lives of the civilians among whom they were hiding. Nor has any force in Iraq been able to engage any US force for as long as 24 hours without being forced to withdraw, or being routed or destroyed.

To hold the Saudi oil fields, even a much better guerrilla force would not be adequate. You cannot occupy and control ground with guerrillas; you need conventional forces. Conventional forces are more expensive and more complicated to field by an order of magnitude--just as terrorist operations can be quite cheap, and require little organization compared to guerrilla operations, so arming and feeding infantry divisions is that much harder than running a battallion-strength band of irregulars who largely feed themselves. Again, that organizational structure would be a target of the sort we can hit, and the money would be on a scale impossible to hide. A government has to be bold to fund terrorists in secret these days; it would have to be suicidal to fund them openly in overthrowing a neighbor country and US ally.

Now factor in this: the large Saudi oil fields are largely in Shi'ite areas. Al Qaeda would find the very forces it has been relying upon for survival in Pakistan and Afghanistan turned against it. The same would largely be true even for one of the Shi'ite militant movements--their religion would be the same, but the tribal concerns that have bedeviled us would bedevil any Iranian Persian groups, or Lebanese fighters, operating in the heart of Arabia.

It is more possible that there could be an internal coup in Saudi Arabia, and that a group more hostile to the US than the current ones might take over general control. In order to survive, however, they would need to continue providing oil to the West, even if not to the United States: the stability of Arabia is built on regular payoffs to tribal leaders, and those payoffs will have to continue if the tribes aren't to be up in arms. The only source for the monies for those payoffs is the oil; therefore, the oil must be sold.

As the US gets only 19% of our oil from Saudi Arabia, it is likely that we could make up the difference elsewhere if we had to do so--for example, from purchases from the Iraqi oil fields, which contain the largest remaining oil reserves in the world. The French, who import most of their oil from Saudi Arabia (and most of the rest from Norway) would be more likely to be troubled by any artificial shortfalls, should the new government think itself stable enough to risk them.


Helmets To Hardhats:

A fellow from H2H wrote me today to ask me if I'd link to his site. H2H is a federally-funded program to help former military men and women find promising jobs in construction. I've seen them mentioned in ads around D.C., and they got a good writeup in Defenselink, which is the DoD's own website.

I'm always willing to help out the troops in whatever small ways I can. If you're planning to get out--and I certainly encourage you to stay in--drop by and visit their site. You'll find the link down to the right, just below the Milblogs logo. It looks like this:

Just the Facts

Land of the Pure:

The Bush Administration just declared Pakistan (whose name translates into "land of the pure") as a Major Non-NATO Ally. You may be curious about what that means. Now you know.

I find that the harder I work, the more luck I seem to have. - Thomas Jefferson

Operation Shoe-Fly:

Once again demonstrating the fundamental decency of the US military, the 214th Aviation Regiment has undertaken an unofficial operation to help the children of Afghanistan. Dubbed Operation Shoe Fly, it's an attempt to provide shoes for the kids. Any of you who are parents, and quite a few of you are, might go through your closets to see what the kids have outgrown. You can also send new shoes.

Ship the shoes to:

Operation Shoe Fly
B Co, 214th Aviation Regiment
Bagram, Afghanistan
APO AE 09354-9998
We've got some good people out there.


Alarm! Alarm!

I'm sure you probably heard that 'a group of diplomatic, military and intelligence officials' printed a petition in the LA Times that was opposed to the Bush policy in Iraq. No big deal, you probably thought--you can find twenty or thirty former military people who will sign anything. This is because the military is so huge, and draws fairly broadly from America, which is also huge. Add in the State department and the intelligence services (presumably to include the FBI), and you've got so many people it would just be a matter of making the phone calls.

Indeed, I didn't give it a second thought either. It was only while reading around today that I discovered that a blog called Oraculations had put together a list of biographies on the signers. Unsurprisingly, most have ties to leftist groups--that's how they knew there was a petiton to sign, right? But then there is one really alarming thing:

Retired Adm. Stansfield Turner, the CIA Director under Carter (let's all remember that fiasco) who is pissed that Tenet was fired. This unbiased guy is a member John Kerry's Senior Military Advisory Group, now advising John Kerry.
Carter's CIA director is one of John Kerry's senior military advisors? I can't think of a single more damning thing that could be said.

INDOlink - US News - US Forces �Kill� 80 Militants In Afghanistan Operation

How I-War and War Relate:

Read over this article to see why a propaganda war is indispensible for guerrillas. The waters are muddy enough now that an independent news service doesn't know where to turn. Ultimately they just report everyone's numbers and let the reader guess which are true. They're so turned around they even put "kill" in scare quotes.

Jihad Unspun - A Clear View On The US War On "Terrorism"

Jihad Unspun: Vote for Kerry, Then Push Him Around

The weekend edition of Jihad Unspun contains a piece by anti-warrior Chalmers Johnson. It is not hard to see what the pro-Qaeda boys like about Johnson's argument. A victory for his faction would be the end of resistance to Islamist groups seeking to dominate the Muslim world.

[L]et me nonetheless end by noting that the political system may not be capable of saving the Republic. It is hard to imagine that any president of either party could stand up to the powerful vested interests surrounding the Pentagon and the secret intelligence agencies....

I believe that if the Republic is to be saved it will be as a result of an upsurge of direct democracy.... The first victory of this movement came on March 14 with the election of Spanish prime minister Jose Zapatero. If democracy means anything at all, it means that public opinion matters. Zapatero understood that 80% of the Spanish people opposed Bush's war in Iraq, and he immediately withdrew all Spanish forces. It's a great pity that Kerry criticized Zapatero for this. We need to duplicate the Spanish victory in Tony Blair's Britain, Silvio Berlusconi's Italy, Junichiro Koizumi's Japan, and in our own country.

Jihad Unspun would also like to see a repeat of the Spanish elections in America. Still, this appears to be a rather halfhearted endorsement. 'Vote for Kerry... but it probably won't be enough... we'll really need 'direct democracy,' by which I mean rule by protest-march rather than by Constitutional processes.' Oddly, given that he wants to prefer 'direct democracy' to these legal processes, Johnson argues that his movement is about the "Constitution and the need to restore its integrity as the supreme law of the land."

Still, apart from his sense that Kerry (unlike Bush) could be intimidated by protest into withdrawing from Iraq, Johnson has some praise for the man himself. Along the way he also explains his opinion of the volunteer military.

Kerry's stand as a leader of Vietnam Veterans Against the War is one of the most honorable aspects of his background. It is a tragedy that we have become so militaristic he must disown the courageous stand he took thirty-five years ago in order to be elected. This reflects one of the major differences between our military during the Vietnam War and our military today. Then it was a citizens' army. Members of the armed forces were a democratic check on militarism because they were not volunteers. They were naturally concerned about the purposes of the war, how it would end, and whether their government and officers were lying to them. Today we have a professional military. People who serve in it are volunteers with a vested interest in advancing their careers through armed conflict.
This is a bit illogical. Although servicemen can vote, the military does not elect the president. Indeed, as we saw in Florida 2000, in a contested election the ballots of deployed servicemen are highly likely to be discarded due to the uncertainty of their arriving with all the requisite stamps. Lawyers representing a candidate who suspects that the military will not favor him can move to have those ballots discarded, and expect to succeed.

The reason Kerry has to disown his VVAW stance in order to be considered is because of a change in the populace as a whole. It is true that Kerry feels that he has to step away from the VVAW, and his earlier remarks that American forces should only be deployed under UN command and with blue helmets. That reflects not a change in our military, but in our society.

UPDATE: Apparently the jihadis aren't the only ones lukewarm about Kerry. As the Rottie points out, the speaker here is one of Kerry's campaign co-chairs.