The roots of 20th-century German aggression

It is the contention of Peter Wilson, professor of the history of war at Oxford University and the author of an acclaimed history of the Thirty Years’ War, that military historians have focused too much on the German wars of the 20th century in trying to understand German ‘militarism’ as a distinctive characteristic – a ‘genius for war’ imitated by others. As he points out, Germany and Austria lost the first world war, and Germany, with Austria now attached, lost the second as well. A ‘genius for war’ evidently needs some rethinking. Wilson wants to place these modern wars in perspective, stretching back to the 15th century. To understand how

Russian escapism: Telluria, by Vladimir Sorokin, reviewed

Vladimir Sorokin, old enough to have been banned in the Soviet Union, flourished in the post-Gorbachev spring, and he fled to Berlin several days before Russia attacked Ukraine. He writes phantasmagorias, as so many Russians do, because Russia is a nation that has never allowed its writers to examine society directly. Solzhenitsyn said: ‘Russian literature gives a poor notion of Russia, because after 1917 all truth was suppressed.’ But even in the so-called Golden Age, the Tsar’s censorship was brutal. Voinovich said: ‘Depicting reality as it is, it’s very alien to Russians.’ Gogol provided one way out – satire – but he escaped to Rome. Later writers escaped into the

Hubris, blunders and lies characterised the war in Afghanistan from the start

And so the reckoning begins. As frantic Afghans wrestle with the agonising, life-and-death choice between staying in Kabul and risking execution by the Taliban or running the gauntlet of checkpoints around the airport in search of freedom overseas, it’s noises off in the West. Pundits and policy- makers pontificate, grizzled generals rue another foreign adventure ending in defeat and the media provide a live stream of grief and anguish. ‘I’m terrified,’ an Afghan friend and former colleague in the Ghani government WhatsApped me as Kabul fell. The Taliban had already killed two of his close colleagues and were searching for him. ‘I need to get out. Now it is time

How Brexit has boosted Global Britain

The government’s integrated review of foreign and security policy, published yesterday, has landed surprisingly well considering that much of the Whitehall blob has been so dismissive of Boris Johnson’s concept of Global Britain. A few longstanding critics have been snippy about the new document. But no one can disagree that the review offers a genuine strategy. In recent years, one of the most persistent ideas about the UK’s future on the world stage has been that we cannot make a go of things post-Brexit. Such ideas, so the counter-argument goes, are based on the deluded nostalgia of a ‘buccaneering’ nation, foolishly going it alone on trade and much else besides.