Please, do fuck off Hugh

‘It goes with our personality': Hugh Grant calls for return to National Service, saying it ‘can definitely benefit society’

Reintroducing State slavery for adolescents is not an advance in our society.

82 comments on “Please, do fuck off Hugh

  1. Loathe as I am to mention Chomsky on this blog, he is a supporter of some kind of National Service, and he has a point.

    It would stop Britain bouncing off to any war it can gatecrash, let alone get an invitation to. When mini-me boho-bourgeois Tarquin or Apple gets sent to ‘defend freedom and justice’ in a sand pit in Afghanistan the wailing and gnashing of teeth will be heard even in the Telegraph, and when a mini-Cameron joins them… well, that would probably be a time when politicians re-assess ‘national interest’ PDQ.

    One of the big ‘problems’ the US army identified with the Vietnam war was that they had a conscript army, who not only wrote home with the truth but also questioned things. The US army has never wanted conscription since.

    Hugh Grant, on the other hand, is a prat and could do us all a lot of good by entertaining the troops in Afghanistan – preferably the Taliban if that’s not against the Geneva Convention.

  2. Perhaps they could introduce National Service retrospectively, with those up to the age of 50 still being considered. How old is Grant? Can’t wait!

  3. I write as one who was forced to waste two years, either scared (trudging around Cyprus trying to avoid being shot by EOKA) or bored doing nothing useful. Reading ‘Reveille’ and talking about sex (lack of) and booze(poor quality of) with other equally bored or scared lads. Even then there was no point in maintaining a conscript army, but at least they pretended there was a military reason – not social engineering. Anyway, this time they would have to conscript girls as well as lads (equality you know) so perhaps it would not be quite so boring after all.

  4. Grant confirms yet again that he is a weapons grade c*ck end….

    But he is an insider of the same social class as those who run things, so he will be taken seriously. This piece of work fronted the worst assault on free speech in centuries.

  5. Since no-one believes NS conscripts should be sent to war, I’ll ask again: what is the difference between compulsory national service and compulsory schooling?

  6. Sorry Doug. Nice try but no coconut. You’re completely underestimating our natural leaders’ abilities to lead from the rear.
    I give you:
    The Second Armoured Health& Safety Division.
    The 8th Diversity Coordinator Air Landing Brigade
    Do you want me to go on?

  7. @bloke in spain

    Yes, that did cross my mind :-(

    And I’m not sure if the outing of such on the web and through social media would really work – but possibly. Mightn’t embarrass the politicians as for that they would need a moral code.

    But might make Tarquin’s and Apple’s parents a little more angry if they weren’t bought off – a big if.

  8. As for the slavery thing – a good point, but does it cancel out the death and maiming thing that I can’t remember the Afghans voting for the Brits to do to them?

    I’d venture – arguably not if some form of National Conscription could be made to work to make war less of a lifestyle choice for the British state.

  9. The younger generation have already been saddled with having to pay off the national debt incurred by their parents’ generation. If they are also forced to wear a uniform and live in some godforsaken barracks for a couple of years then they may well decide to put that military training to good use and have a good old fashioned revolt. And good luck to them if the powers that be are stupid enough to bring back conscription

  10. @bloke in spain: November 17, 2013 at 11:58 am

    I reckon that you’ve hit the nail firmly on the head there. Much like the “National Childrens’ Database” or whatever it was to be called, where the details of the sprogs of the rich / famous / politically connected were to be segregated into a tightly-controlled “restricted” section and kept away from hoi poloi’s access, the self-same sprogs would find themselves carefully recruited into nice, safe, REMF battalions.

    I cannot envisage today’s elites sending their children off as subalterns for mechanised slaughter as did the aristos etc in WW1 and to a lesser extent in WW2.

  11. As for the slavery thing – a good point, but does it cancel out the death and maiming thing that I can’t remember the Afghans voting for the Brits to do to them?

    Sorry, they had it coming. They harboured the 9/11 terrorists and were given ample opportunity to kick al-Qa’eda out and hand over Bin Laden. They chose not to do so. Granted, not all Afghans are Taliban, but that’s the way things roll: if they hated the Taliban so much, they should have either prevented them coming to power or kicked them out themselves.

    Iraq was questionable, the booting out of the Taliban was fully justified.

  12. Tim>

    That’s an interesting view. I’d have said the reverse: that the Taliban – or any other group, for that matter – isolated in Afghanistan would be a problem to no-one other than Afghanis and, to some extent, neighbouring border areas.

    An Afghanistan-based Taliban with outlets through rogue states like Iraq under Saddam, on the other hand, represented a much greater threat.

  13. The Singaporeans (who still insist on NS) have a nice term for the phenomenon bis describes about children of the elite – “white horses”.

  14. @MyBurningEars

    They only “insist on NS” because any Singaporean who doesn’t want his children to do NS gets out as soon as he can.

  15. The Taleban offered to hand Bin Liner over if the US provided evidence he was behind 9/11. Yeah, sure, it could have been propaganda bullshit but if Baby Bush had handed over the evidence and the Taleban still refused to give up BL then that would have been a powerful plus reason for attacking Afghanistan. As it was Bush refused the offer–which suggests that he had no real evidence of who was behind 9/11.

    Dave–in answer to you compulsory schooling /national service question–the answer is none. They are both manifestations of tyranny.

  16. “The Second Armoured Health& Safety Division.
    The 8th Diversity Coordinator Air Landing Brigade
    Do you want me to go on?”

    There’s nothing cushy about the Women’s Auxiliary Balloon Corps!

    Grant said “National Service can definitely benefit society” (even though neither himself or his esteemed ancestors partook in it).

    Is this actually a thing? That NS does “benefit society”? Doug has stated one reason but that’s about “preventing war”, which is totally different. Giving the next generation of Croydon rioters heavy weapons training and military planning doesn’t seem like a good idea to me.

  17. Tarquin and Apple would be bought out or given easy duty.

    While poor people were freezing and dying in Korea, Ted Kennedy was deployed to the hell-hole that was 1950’s … Paris. I guess that’s what you get for cheating at Harvard and being expelled.

  18. It’s not fucking slavery, Tim, it’s indentured servitude. Why do you seek to diminish the horrors of slavery with this camp little suggestion of yours? Worthy of the Guardian, for fuck’s sake.

  19. @Tim Newman

    “Sorry, they had it coming. They harboured the 9/11 terrorists and were given ample opportunity to kick al-Qa’eda out and hand over Bin Laden. They chose not to do so. Granted, not all Afghans are Taliban, but that’s the way things roll: if they hated the Taliban so much, they should have either prevented them coming to power or kicked them out themselves.”

    For the sake of argument (which I don’t, but let’s play) try this one for size.

    “Sorry, they had it coming. They harboured the Iraq War perpetrators and were given ample opportunity to kick Blair out and hand over the leaders of that illegal invasion. They chose not to do so. Granted, not all Brits are child-murderers, but that’s the way things roll: if they hated the Blair government so much, they should have either prevented them coming to power or kicked them out themselves.” (Repeat ad infinitum.)

    Which would have made all Brits fair targets at the very least whilst Labour was in power according to this logic.

    And is really the point I was making about the Brit state’s propensity to jaunt off to war just because… because we’re Brits, by golly. Of course many Brits are happy to support this, as long as they can pay others to die and their kids are protected.

  20. Doug>

    “many Brits are happy to support this, as long as they can pay others to die and their kids are protected.”

    I don’t know about the kids part, but what’s wrong with the first part? I’m quite sure that any war that requires someone like me as cannon-fodder is a hell of a lot more likely to be a bad plan than one which can be fought using only those who are better suited to the role. If anything, I have a moral duty to pay others to fight so that I can concentrate on being economically productive and then share the proceeds – division and specialisation of labour.

  21. Indentured servitude and slavery are of the same character. An indentured servant is a temporary slave. The words are close enough to be interchangeable in the vernacular. Current modern definitions of slavery used by the UN and its NGOs consider indentured servants to be in that state, which is where much of the high figure for “modern slaves” comes from.

    The fundamental difference between slavery/servitude and a free contract is whether you can wak away from it or not. If you walk away from a free contract, you may expose yourself to penalties in a civil court, if it has caused loss to the other party. A state of servitude OTOH is a condition in which you cannot walk away. You will be hunted down and returned to the master by force.

    An employment contract is a free contract. If you walk away from it and that causes significant losses to the employer, he may sue you for damages. He doesn’t have the right to hunt you down, bundle you into a van, take you back to the workplace and chain you to a desk.

    In slavery/servitude, he does. And this is the case in military slavery. They even maintain the right to kill you for walking away.

    The whole thing is repulsive.

  22. @Dave

    ‘I don’t know about the kids part, but what’s wrong with the first part? ‘

    Likely enough nothing, if you are happy with wars. I’m suggesting a form of National Service could be an effective counterweight (in a democracy) to the state’s propensity to see far too many problems as having the military as a solution.

    I’ll take your word that you wouldn’t be God’s gift to soldiering, and that’s why – if there were, as there undoubtedly would be, many such as you – National Service might force a much better case to be made for state acts of violence than is made at present.

    And just because you’d make a crap frontline soldier, it doesn’t mean that you wouldn’t be in logistics or similar out in danger’s way.

    Look at the continental Europeans militaries. In general, the true democracies with a form of National Service are very careful about using troops. I suspect the National Service bit has something to with that.

    I’m not suggesting war is never necessary, just that some states’ definition of ‘necessary’ needs to be better challenged and National Service might be a way to weld that challenge into the system.

    Though, as many commenters have pointed out, the plan does some have flaws.

  23. Doug,

    I think the primary reason Britain keeps getting itself involved in wars (including the desperate attempt to get us into Syria as well) is more to do with an Imperial history, plus a cultural evangelism regarding “saving” other people (the primary justification for modern wars) than national service differences.

  24. They even maintain the right to kill you for walking away.

    No for some considerable time, now. Joe Glenton who, in earlier times, would probably have been shot just for being so unbearably smug, served less than six months.

  25. Ian B

    Undoubtedly a major factor, but I would suggest that a conscript army can change this ‘cultural evangelism’ or at least put it on a much tighter leash.

    The Americans – the cultural evangelists du jour – were ‘helping’ the South Vietnamese and they found that a conscript army and their relatives back home questions these justifications overmuch. They didn’t stand up to scrutiny.

    I’d make a good argument that one of the main contributors to the fall of the Portuguese Empire (the largest European Empire at the time) was because they had a conscript army. An all volunteer army would have kept their wars going for much longer.

    I’m not saying that a lack of conscript army causes states to war around necessarily, it just makes it much easier for those that already have that propensity, especially in the information age.

  26. So in other words the best argument for National Service is it tends to cause those nations who have it to lose wars? The idea that it would thus stop those wars from occurring is ludicrous. Our elites have shown themselves time and again to be perfectly capable of making decisions whose outcome is predictably and then demonstrably wrong. And even if we suppose the children of the elite are sent into harm’s way along with the riff-raff, it doesn’t mitigate the folly for young Tarquin or Apple to be screaming their posh little lungs out as they burn to death in the back of an APC.

  27. ‘So in other words the best argument for National Service is it tends to cause those nations who have it to lose wars?’

    Not to lose wars, no. Ever heard of WW2?

    And the Portuguese never ‘lost’ their wars in the 60s and early 70s. But the dictatorship did lose their people – hence the Carnation Revolution.

    It requires these wars to be much better justified – in a functioning democracy – because voters are viscerally involved. There aren’t many thing that keep politicians up at night, but losing power and being condemned as a failure is one of them.

    And yes, anybody screaming their lungs out as they burn to death in an APC is an obscenity and a nightmare. If I’ve offended you with glib use of social caricatures, then I apologise.

    Tragically, occasionally, very occasionally, it’s necessary to fight.

    I’m just suggesting that a national service military forces politicians to be much more cautious about committing the military to wars or operations. I’m suggesting that this, to a certain extent (not the whole reason), is why continental European countries are far more reluctant to commit their military forces than the UK and that’s a good thing.

    I still think Hugh Grant is a grade A prat though.

  28. Pingback: No, it Goes With “Yours”, not “Mine”, not “Ours”. | Longrider

  29. In the last decade of National Service our government committed those serving to fighting in Korea and Suez and to dealing with armed insurgencies in Kenya and Malaya. Not much reluctance there.
    The ending of NS came about because, in addition to its unpopularity, it was actually a very inefficient way of creating an effective armed force of the size that was actually required.

  30. Given how attenuated the democratic control structures are between governed and governing in the UK (and a fortiori Europe) I am not sure that having a large pool of forcibly-conscripted cannon fodder would make military adventurism less likely. The tranzis have shown themselves perfectly willing to pursue policies that have blighted the lives of hundreds of millions of young people long past the point at which their failure is manifest, and there is little prospect of a political class arising that will substantially deviate from this course (much as I would like to see UKIP succeed mightily, it is sui generis, a solely British phenomenon and unlikely to make much of a difference in the medium term anyway). Most Continental European armies are little more than Outward Bound courses with machine guns. Let’s keep it that way. As for the countries with real force projection capability: the Afghan and Iraqi messes are a result of using that capability wrongly. Our Armed Forces should be used to kill people and break things, and then leave, not act as the paramilitary wing of Oxfam. Two months’ systematic destruction of Afghanistan’s infrastructure would have served as a useful warning to other state sponsors of terror, would have had minimal casualties on our side and would have cost a damn sight less. Rinse and repeat as necessary until they learn the lesson.

    Besides, State servitude as a means to curb the belligerence of nations is throwing the baby out with the bathwater. It’s breathtakingly illiberal and economically fatuous. It represents a deliberate, planned misallocation of human capital and even if we ignore the lives it would blight it should be rejected on purely utilitarian grounds.

  31. “Two months’ systematic destruction of Afghanistan’s infrastructure would have served as a useful warning to other state sponsors of terror, would have had minimal casualties on our side and would have cost a damn sight less. Rinse and repeat as necessary until they learn the lesson.”

    I agree with the rest of what you wrote, but if you think the Taliban and their ideological brotherhood will ever “learn their lesson” through successive military defeat you are very much mistaken.

    Facing such concrete ideologies is the real battle here and one which our current tranche of political class don’t want to even admit exists let alone face up to. The real crime is defeating such a tyranny only to follow up by placing another tyranny of equal stature back on the throne you just cleansed with the blood of brave and professional volunteers.

    And it would be a lot worse if they were not volunteers.

  32. Doug,

    I’m just suggesting that a national service military forces politicians to be much more cautious about committing the military to wars or operations. I’m suggesting that this, to a certain extent (not the whole reason), is why continental European countries are far more reluctant to commit their military forces than the UK and that’s a good thing.

    But most of Europe has now ditched national service. There’s only Austria, Denmark, Greece, Norway, Switzerland and Cyprus left.

  33. Doug: The european countries who still have national service, will not send conscripted soldiers into war. You can be drafted for domestic defense if the situation ever occurs, but people sent to Afghanistan, Iraq and what not, are paid volunteers.

  34. “Our Armed Forces should be used to kill people and break things, and then leave, not act as the paramilitary wing of Oxfam. Two months’ systematic destruction of Afghanistan’s infrastructure would have served as a useful warning to other state sponsors of terror, would have had minimal casualties on our side and would have cost a damn sight less. Rinse and repeat as necessary until they learn the lesson.”

    Not far off of the much maligned US policy of drone strikes. Much maligned because it actually quite effective, killing bad guys in numbers without putting US personnel hostage to fortune in harms way. Not an ideal outcome for the usual hate the US brigade.
    And maybe we need to have a good look at the rules of engagement.
    The Geneva Convention is a wonderful bit of paper for European powers fighting European wars in Europe. It’s a final expression of a time dating back to the middle ages when disputes between nations could be settled by dressing armies in brightly coloured uniforms & meeting on a pre-arranged field to shoot at or bang swords off each other. Winner to be decided by counting the bodies. War as a game, the purpose being to settle disputes between rulers whilst doing as little damage as possible to property & people they were fighting over. Even then, a principle not always fully observed apart from a brief period between the end of the C18th – beginning of the C20th. Coincidentally the same period the US/European military culture accumulates most of its traditions. It was partially observed for the W. European ground war in WW2 & occasionally by US/European forces since.
    It’s about time to revisit history & learn. In ethno/religeous wars your enemy doesn’t want your civilians saluting his flag he wants them dead. So the notion of a civilian no longer applies. Bombing your cities is a perfectly legitimate tactic because it hits you where you’re soft. Why engage superior forces in the field when you can kill their women & children at home? That’s how they think so maybe it’s time to tear up your copy of the Geneva Convention because it’s the only one being read.

  35. Sorry. Missed out the important part, being what all that leads to.
    So what would you do with a National Service conscript army if you had one? There’s no ground to be captured & occupied, as we’ve learned in iraq & Afganistan. There’s no surrenders to be taken. All you’re doing is providing your enemy with convenient targets to shoot at.

  36. bis: Well, I think in the long run we’ll either drop the nuclear hammer on the Islamic world or suffer a slow defeat, but we’re probably not there yet. You’re certainly right that large standing armies are a thing of the past. Indeed there’s a military term for the sort of massed human formations that the West would face if it ever came down to a serious fight with North Korea or China: battlefield casualties.

  37. Not far off of the much maligned US policy of drone strikes. Much maligned because it actually quite effective, killing bad guys in numbers without putting US personnel hostage to fortune in harms way. Not an ideal outcome for the usual hate the US brigade.

    is it effective at reducing terrorism?

  38. @ Doug
    National service was ended by an Old Etonian who fought as a volunteer in WWI. As Robert said it was deemed a bad method of recruiting a fighting force – especially by the regular army. I was glad that I didn’t have to do it – although I should have put up with it if it hadn’t been abolished.
    One should note that the upper classes continued to supply the overwhelming majority of Sandhurst cadets and a certain family has a naval tradition for the last five generations..
    Tarquin is *undoubtedly* the son of ill-educated nouveau riche – named after a coward who backed away from Horatius after whom Horatio Nelson was named.

  39. “Indentured servitude and slavery are of the same character. …The words are close enough to be interchangeable in the vernacular.” What stupid rubbish; a slave is a slave for life, and his children, and their children…… He also has no, or next-to-no, legal rights. In other words, much the same except entirely different. By “vernacular” you obviously mean “what stupid fuckers say”.

  40. The difference between compulsory education and compulsory military service:

    – Education is intended to be primarily for the personal benefit of the person being forced into the education (and is directed at minors, who are deemed not to be able to make decisions in their own best interest, particularly long-term ones). It’s therefore in a similar category to age of consent laws.

    – Compulsory military service is forcing someone to do something not for their own good (or, at least only tangentially for their own good) but for the good of others or a collective. It’s therefore in a similar category to tax laws.

    Yes, you can pick holes in every part of those statements, and it isn’t perhaps a very strong difference, but there is a rational difference between the two.

  41. “is it effective at reducing terrorism?”

    Think you ave to turn that question around before attempting an answer.
    Is terrorism achieving the aims of its instigators? You don’t only judge the success of a campaign by assessing your own battle damage.

  42. What stupid rubbish; a slave is a slave for life, and his children, and their children…… He also has no, or next-to-no, legal rights.

    A conscripted soldier is “for life” if he dies on the battlefield he is forced to be on. A limb he loses or other severe injury due to combat is “for life” too.

    You can try sugar coating it, but military conscription is a vile mistreatment of a human being. Whether or not it is slavery is besides the point. It is equally bad, and of the same character.

  43. Hmmm… Hugh Grant – surely one of the great sages of our times….or a weapons grade arse – I’ll plump for the second explanation.

    That said, there is surely a problem out there – I see it the length and breadth of the country – I get about a bit.

    Decades of inconsistent progressive messing with the education system and something of a slump in demand for unskilled workers has lumbered us with literally hundreds of thousands extra idle, ignorant, self obsessed gits with entitlement issues. The are complimented/mirrored by a public sector with very similar values – achievement is an alien concept..

    Gone are the days of actual National Insurance that went with National Service – it’s a different playing field. I have little sympathy with the ‘ooman rites that allow mass piss taking by a hard core on the benefits system, surrounding the more obstreperous ones with fleets of social workers… and allowing ample skunk for the rest.

    We are going to arrive at a point where the public pot is empty and everybody (excepting those with obvious handicaps) is going to have to contribute some time and effort.

    Compulsory military service is a blunt instrument – that said – I saw “voluntary” military service in action in Scotand in the 80s and it actually looked to serve a purpose – recruiting sergeants lurking at the magistrate’s court….

    A large slice of the population has lost that connection between what you get out being related to what you put in.

    There’s a problem – I’m not saying that National Service is the way, but prisons AIUI don’t seem to be working for the under 30s and given the behavior I’ve seen from a selection of adolescents recently – depriving them of their liberty to torment the public and create expensive mayhem by finally offering them the possibility of ending up in an environment like MCTC Colchester is very, very appealing.

    btw – The Swiss model seems to work… any Swiss out there to elaborate on Swiss “National Service”??

  44. @ Ian B
    You insult my meagre intelligence
    Deaths on the battlefield have (except for the 1914-8 Western Front and Stalingrad) been, from the start of written history, a very small minority of serving soldiers. That the word “decimate”, meaning that one in ten soldier on the losing side was killed, was invented to be an example of extraordinary catastrophe. Roman citizens volunteered to serve in the legions because their expected benefits, including a grant of land when they were deemed too old to fight, were far greater than the expected to earn in Rome – they had to be far greater to compensate for the hard grind as a legionnaire.
    Every single death of a UK soldier in Afghanistan is recorded, and publicised by the tabloids.They are outnumbered by victims of knifing in London.
    Are you trying to make me support conscription by making arguments that I feel forced to denounce?

  45. The primary argument for national service has nothing to do with fighting wars, anyway. The argument is really about instilling self-discipline, respect, bravery, basic competence, teamwork, the ability to get things done, a broad experience, and moral character. As such, the military is probably not the ideal career for achieving all that – the main reason it is used as the example is that in military training they don’t stand for any nonsense about slacking off if you don’t like it, and thus they teach kids all the stuff that they need to know but which the normal school system has utterly failed at teaching them. There’s no actual need, or even desire, to teach them how to kill people. All you really need to do to satisfy this particular need is to make schools look/work a bit more like boot camp.

    But regarding whether wars are a good idea, I think it would be a more useful practice if, instead of making people go through a few years of army life, they instead made them go through a few years of dirt-poor life under a totalitarian dictatorship, like North Korea’s, so they knew what it was like, and they knew what they were condemning other people to when they decided not to help. I hear some muttering about people advocating for national service not being themselves subject to it. Well, the same goes for people advocating we walk by on the other side of the street, when they live free(-ish) in rich countries that other people died to liberate so that they didn’t have to, and that they didn’t do a single thing to deserve.

    You don’t get a choice about whether you are born into a free country. But you can choose whether to live in a world where freedom-loving people help one another, irrespective of such irrelevancies as nationality. It’s got to be your choice, though.

  46. john77 – “Deaths on the battlefield have (except for the 1914-8 Western Front and Stalingrad) been, from the start of written history, a very small minority of serving soldiers.”

    That is not true all the time. You can see some of Frederick the Great’s battles where significant percentage of the soldiers ended up dead. Few soldiers in Peter the Great’s Army were thought to have survived to the end of their terms.

    “That the word “decimate”, meaning that one in ten soldier on the losing side was killed, was invented to be an example of extraordinary catastrophe.”

    No, decimation was a punishment. Not to the losing side, but to the Roman’s own side if a unit showed cowardice. The soldiers would draw lots. They did not do it to others. They sold others into real slavery. They did it to themselves.

    “Roman citizens volunteered to serve in the legions because their expected benefits, including a grant of land when they were deemed too old to fight, were far greater than the expected to earn in Rome – they had to be far greater to compensate for the hard grind as a legionnaire.”

    I would think that being a soldier has only gone out of fashion in the West since they have been prohibited from raping and plundering. French soldiers loved Napoleon. Stalin allowed his soldiers to openly rape and steal. They loved it. Now it does not bring economic gain. Roman soldiers certainly stole on a massive scale. Julius Caesar is supposed to have sold a third of the population of Gaul into slavery.

    “They are outnumbered by victims of knifing in London.”

    It is hard to think of a recent war where Western soldiers have been at more danger fighting than staying at home. Especially if they are African American.

    “Are you trying to make me support conscription by making arguments that I feel forced to denounce?”

    Given Hugh Grant supports conscription I am prepared to re-think my support for it. If only God would save us from people supporting our points of view.

  47. ukliberty – “is it effective at reducing terrorism?”

    Mildly indiscriminate death squads have been the only successful method of dealing with terrorism. Drones are just the more high-tech, up-to-date and “hygienic” version of the Phoenix programme.

    So they will probably work.

  48. @ SMFS
    You have descended into misquotation and false comparisons – a typical ploy of those who have lost the argument: if you have not done so, then you need to rethink and produce some honest arguments. I said death on the battlefield was a small minority – you quote one instance when total deaths over a lifetime was a majority – including those from frostbite (serious in Russia, not so elsewhere), cholera, food poisoning, fights with other soldiers or civilians, venereal disease, etc and one where battle deaths were significant (but a minority) out of *thousands* of wars since written records began.
    Of course the word “decimate” is derived from the latin “decem” but the greek references predate the roman punishment.

  49. @ SMFS
    “Julius Caesar is supposed to have sold a third of the population of Gaul into slavery.”
    ROFL
    Most of the surviving adults?
    To whom?
    Think!

  50. john77 – “You have descended into misquotation and false comparisons – a typical ploy of those who have lost the argument”

    I wasn’t aware that we were having an argument. Where have I misquoted you? Oh wait, I haven’t. Look, if you want an argument rather than a civilised discussion, you will probably end up with it.

    “I said death on the battlefield was a small minority – you quote one instance when total deaths over a lifetime was a majority”

    Actually I don’t. I didn’t cite any example and I mentioned two cases you might want to look at. The Prussian Army regularly lost 10% of its soldiers under Frederick. At the time, up to 25% losses were not unknown for the period. The Russians, understandably, tended to do worse.

    It really was not a tiny minority.

    “Of course the word “decimate” is derived from the latin “decem” but the greek references predate the roman punishment.”

    The Greeks did not decimate anyone. And it is irrelevant. The Romans did it to themselves.

    john77 – “ROFL Most of the surviving adults? To whom? Think!”

    About half the surviving adults. The rule of thumb you hear often these days is that he killed a third, sold a third into slavery and a third survived. To whom? The whole Mediterranean world. I am thinking away.

    I do not endorse those figures. I simply report them. But it does look like a demographic collapse happened – it is one of the rare cases where an entire language was replaced. Even in the countryside. France is not Gaelic speaking.

  51. I have seen many strange arguments on the internet, but John77’s current one- which I have read several times to ensure I am not straw-manning, and which genuinely appears to be the claim that battlefields aren’t particularly dangerous places to be, nor have been historically- really does seem to be quite one of the msot unhinged I have ever encountered.

  52. I think john77 may well be talking about the casualty figures military forces can sustain without doubts about their retaining the morale to continue – generally reckoned to being around 10% but going on to suggest that’d be the body count at the final whistle.
    In close contact wars – ie most that predated the Geneva Convention – it wasn’t unusual for the losing side to suffer 100% casualties.- among the lower ranks anyway. Once their mutually supporting formation broke the victor simply overran & slaughtered. But not necessarily the officer or aristocratic class who could surrender because they had ransom value.

  53. Ian B,

    I disagree with your view that indentured servitude and chattel slavery are one and the same. To be slave means to be the property of another person. Also, nobody choose to be a slave – they are kidnapped.

    An indentured servant has negotiated a contract between himself and the other party under which the indentured servant agrees to work for a set period of time and receives a payment at the end.

  54. Well, and indentured service being one of the things that hoisted Western Europe out of the Dark Ages. It was guild members taking on outsiders as apprentices rather than relying on hereditary filling of occupations allowed the economies to start recovering & growing after the fall of Rome.

    And why’s indentured service a bad thing? Being taught a skill in return for guaranteeing the teacher a return on their investment. What’s not to like?

  55. @ bis
    100% casualty rates?!?
    So in a city state where the army comprised all adult males below 50, losing a single battle would lead to mass starvation – since the old men, women and children would only reap part of the harvest – and a collapse of the state.
    @ Ian B
    Of course battlefields are dangerous but more soldiers died off the battlefield than on it. ” During her first winter at Scutari, 4,077 soldiers died there. Ten times more soldiers died from illnesses such as typhus, typhoid, cholera and dysentery than from battle wounds.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Florence_Nightingale)
    There is abundant historical data referring to retired legionnaires.

  56. So, along with helping to re-introduce state control of the media after a period of over 300 years, HG grant wants to bring back the draft for the first since the early 60s. Is authortarianism where’s it’s at among London’s lefty/luvvie classes?

  57. Yep. 100% casualty rates were not uncommon. Once the battle had got to the melée stage, communications were non-existant, surrenders reserved pretty well only to the aristocrats, the cavalry got in amongst the fleeing foot-soldiers & butchered them. Then the business of working through the ranks of the fallen, cutting the throats of the wounded began.
    Grim stuff.
    But that doesn’t imply a city would be depopulated. Remember, the battle’s being fought over who’s flag gets flown over it. A large proportion of soldiers were mercenaries fighting for coin & the spoils of victory. It’s warfare as a game of thrones not war as annihilation. That’d be the Crusades, where they threw away the rule book.

  58. ukliberty – “is it effective at reducing terrorism?”

    Who cares, if it makes some of those guys have to lead a more difficult life because of the sword hanging above their head?

  59. 100% casualty rates were not uncommon

    I can’t think of any major battle where almost all the soldiers on the losing side were killed: could you name some please? My impression is that at some point the losing army would run away.

  60. monoi,

    ukliberty – “is it effective at reducing terrorism?”

    Who cares, if it makes some of those guys have to lead a more difficult life because of the sword hanging above their head?

    IIUC the ostensible purpose of these killings and invasions is to reduce the risk of terrorism. ISTM reasonable to ask if they are effective in reducing the risk of terrorism.

  61. @ bis
    Try reading my posts before answering, there’s a good chap. I quite clearly said “in a city state where the army comprised all adult males below 50″
    This was the norm: Carthage was a rarity in relying upon mercenaries.
    The battle of Chaeoronea was a “decisive victory” for Philip with a death rate of 5-6% on the losing side.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Chaeronea_%28338_BC%29
    In the battle of Coronea the defeated Thebans lost 3% of their army.
    At Delium when the Athenians were caught by surprise (the Thebans attacked while Hippocrates was giving his speech) and many fled, leaving themselves relatively easy prey, the death rate rose to 8%.
    Of course there were exceptions like the battle of Sphacteria where the Spartans were outnumbered 20 to 1 and one-third of them were killed before they surrendered, but this was the exception rather than the norm.

  62. @john77
    I hadn’t considered going back more than a millennium for casualty lists. The previous one’s usually adequate.
    Culloden, the Jacobite side lost 40%
    Harolds losses at Hastings were probably nearer 50%
    At Beziers in SW France, after the Abbot of Citeaux who was commanding the besieging forces told his men “God will know his own” they not only killed the soldiers but the population of the entire city to the last child.
    At Agincourt, the French probably lost almost all of their forces actually engaged.because Henry ordered the prisoners killed. But some accounts say this wasn’t fully carried out. But at least they had some sort of army at the end
    From a technical point of view medieval battles tend to particularly bloody because there was no effective battlefield management. Even if the principals surrendered, the footsoldiers, out of their defensive line, were so outmatched by the mounted they had little choice but, as you say, run away & hope the cavalry lost interest in hunting them down. None of the leaders gave any thought to how to disengage from a battle or had the communication ability to manage a disengagement if they had. And if they were fighting far from their homes, the vanquished, in a strange land with every man’s hand turned against them had little hope of ever returning there.
    As for modern battles, try looking at some of the allied casualties at Gallipoli. in the landings the Lancashires lost up to 70% & the Dubliners all but 11 out of 1012.
    Or for your ancients, Alexander lost an entire army to the Sythians.

  63. @ bis
    Well, of course you can quote Culloden as a battle between city states if you want to do so since I cannot roll eyes over the internet, but why, just why, didn’t you consider going back a millennium (or two) when I had specifically mentioned Greece and you were claiming to rebut my comments about mortality in Greek battles?
    Do you really want to be compared to Murphy?

  64. The most destructive war of modern times was the Paraguayan war of the mid 19th century. At the end of the six year conflict with the triple alliance (Argentina, Uruguay, and Brazil), it is estimated that about 70% of the total population of Paraguay had been killed; some put it as high as 90%. The battles of the war were very intense and destructive with deaths of combatants amounting to more than 50% in most cases. The overall death totals were exacerbated by disease and starvation amongst troops and the civilian population. Curiously, this awful war is little known outside South America – perhaps because it was almost contemporaneous with the American Civil War, perhaps because it was not covered by journalists as extensively as the Civil War.

  65. john77 – “didn’t you consider going back a millennium (or two) when I had specifically mentioned Greece and you were claiming to rebut my comments about mortality in Greek battles?”

    Caesar’s campaign in Gaul close enough to Greece?

    In the captured Helvetian camp, Caesar claims that a census written in Greek was found and studied: of a grand total of 368,000 Helvetii, of which 92,000 were able-bodied men, only 110,000 survivors were left to return home.

    So he killed or enslaved two thirds.

    The Romans also suffered serious defeats as well. The standard example being Cannae I suppose. Which may have seen some 85,000 Romans suffer some 50-75,000 deaths. Zama saw the Romans kill half the Carthaginian Army. They seem to have sold the other half into slavery as well.

  66. @john77
    I apologise. I really hadn’t noticed you’d for some reason turned to Greek battles to illustrate possible casualty rates for modern military formations.
    Although, in retrospect, an area of interest because Hellenic military formations had sophisticated C3 & tactical training. And also rules of engagement & surrender protocols that served to reduce casualties.
    But that does bring us back to questioning the appropriateness of Geneva Convention thinking when confronting an adversary who doesn’t. The French did the sensible GC thing at Dien Bien Phu & surrendered to save further loss of life. Of the 8000 French POWs, only a minority survived the next few months. The French possible could have played the nuclear card with the resultant enormous collateral damage. There was talk of the US providing the weapon.
    Inappropriate overkill?

  67. And for city states, location unspecified, one does sort of tend to think medieval Italy or some of the N.European pocket states – Hanseatic League possibly or the far flung regions of France, which behaved as such- rather than disinterring very dead Greeks. The disadvantage of a less than Classical education.

  68. @ SMFS
    You do have a point. Certainly the Romans were far more brutal than their predecessors or contemporaries.
    My earlier comment referred to (i) the survival prospects of a Roman soldier, rather than one of their enemies and (ii) to mortality in Greek wars because we don’t have data (let alone reliable data) for most other early wars.
    However, the victorious legions at Zama were the ones that had lost at Cannae – and hadn’t been topped up because no-one would have volunteered to join them while they were in disgrace in Sicily.. So although Varro was blamed* for the worst Roman defeat before Varus, the casualty figures that you quote are implausible. The history of the Punic wars was written by a client of the Scipios and later commentators have pointed out that various items are incompatible with Varro being in supreme command on the day of the battle. Casualty figures at Cannae and Zama (and Trebia and Lake Trasimene) are therefore suspect.
    The Helvetii wrote in Greek? So why did Caesar think that writing Latin in Greek letters was a foolproof means of sending messages that could not be interpreted if the messenger was killed/captured by the enemy? A census? In an army camp?
    Going back a few posts – because it wasn’t worth mentioning on its own – the reason why the French don’t speak Gaelic outside Brittany is that *following the collapse of the Roman Empire* Gaul was invaded by Franks. The same reason why the inhabitants of Cisalpine Gaul aka Lombardy, Venetia etc no longer speak Gaelic.

    *Scipio Africanus (Scipio Aemilianus before he gained that title) was adopted into the Scipio family: his grandfather Lucius Aemilius Paullus was consul with Varro and they had supreme command of the army on alternate days.

  69. @ bis
    ” I really hadn’t noticed you’d for some reason turned to Greek battles to illustrate possible casualty rates for modern military formations.”
    Of course not – you could not have done so because I hadn’t and had never suggested that I had. I was looking over known history because modern military formations have an unnaturally low rate of battlefield deaths. In the last couple of decades the largest single cause of death in the US military including veterans is suicide. However, unlike you, I was trying to avoid cherry-picking untypical cases.
    Dien Bien Phu reminds me of Stalingrad – the “victor” wasted a million men until the vastly-outnumbered “loser” ran out of ammunition. General Paulus overlooked one tiny detail – he should have told his soldiers to retrieve the guns and ammo of dead Russians when it was safe to do so.
    So when you have an insane megalomaniac like Stalin or Giap mortality in the front line will be nearly as bad as in the Gulags. Under Stalin men had an option and still chose the army over the Gulag.

  70. “The disadvantage of a less than Classical education.”
    I didn’t have a classical education – I wasn’t even offered one because I was only the second or third brightest boy in my year – just one very good Latin master so I could have got a grade A ‘O’ level (actually 3: in Maths Latin and French) at prep school.

  71. “modern military formations have an unnaturally low rate of battlefield deaths.”
    Does depend on what you mean by “modern”. True that most of the actions the UK/US have been involved in, in recent times, have been low. But then, generally, they’ve been actions against relatively poorly armed, poorly trained adversaries. And , of course, the good guys have had overwhelming air superiority.
    But go back to WW2. Western front European theater ground war were low. Eastern front a lot higher. Air operations, however, were much higher. Peaked at over 5% per sortie for Bomber Command. Exceeded 10% for USAAF earlier daylight missions. Casualty rates for US forces in the Pacific were very high. Marine Division losses for Guadalcanal ran over 100% with some units at over 350%
    Which, of course, reflects what happens when two similarly armed, trained & motivated opponents clash with modern weaponry. Moving into the world of what could’ve been, war gaming a NATO/Warsaw Pact, non-nuclear engagement in Europe, some scenarios, got military casualty figures up around 70-80% in an engagement lasting not much more than a couple weeks.
    Which brings us back to Hugh Grant & crackpot NS ideas.
    You can’t teach modern soldiering in a 12 week infantry training course. The best you’ll get is bods in uniforms fit to occupy ground. They’d need defending by proper soldiers against anything approaching a serious enemy. Which is why those ‘cherry-picked’ examples are relevant. Because they’re all examples of what happens when war stops being a game & starts getting serious. And stick a load of undertrained NS kids in harms way, those are the sort of casualty rates you’ll get.

  72. @ bis
    “Marine Division losses for Guadalcanal ran over 100% with some units at over 350%”
    ROFL
    Except that it isn’t funny
    Did the US Marines hire vampires or zombies? – humans (with the sole exception of Lazarus) only die once.

  73. @ bis
    You may not have noticed that I started off by pointing out that the Western Front in WWI was an exception. I knew a few survivors – they never talked about that to me* (the nearest one came was to explain that his dislike of Germans was due to POWs demanding priority for the lifeboats over the stretcher cases when the hospital ship taking him back to England was torpedoed); most of them were wounded in the trenches: all but one of those went back to the trenches, the other joined the Royal Flying Corps (which the one category that had a higher mortality rate than junior infantry officers).
    “True that most of the actions the UK/US have been involved in, in recent times, have been low” – well the original post was about conscripting young people into the UK military (which I thought I had made clear that I oppose). Your assumption of the reasons (except air superiority) apply equally to the Romans whom I cited as choosing military service as a career.

  74. If you have trouble with Marine casualties at over 100% it’s possibly because you’re not aware their units were fed replacements throughout the fighting whilst still fully engaged. Coincidentally, I’ve just finished reading Robert Lecie’s account of Guadalcanal. He was there from the original assault landing until the island was finally taken & was ‘in action’ throughout. That’s where I got the casualty figures for that particular campaign from. He went on to participate in further landings until finally seriously wounded in New Guinea. I think he says it was two of his original platoon companions who got through neither wounded or killed.
    OK. You can quibble over counting replacements in a final casualty tally but the important point about casualty rates, apart from the loss of manpower, is the effect on morale. He writes that he simply didn’t expect to survive because almost everyone he’d known had become a casualty. I mentioned way up the thread, 10% is usually the rate at which units start to fragment as fighting forces. That the Marines were able to suffer those losses & remain effective is remarkable. Especially in a drawn out battle.
    WW1 is of special interest to me. My grandfather was at Gallipoli with the ANZACS & later Ieper(Ypres). And Flanders is my other home so the battlefields (& the cemeteries) are a background to everyday life. Our potato patch produced several shells & a human thighbone & odds & sods turn up with every plowing of the fields around. Then of course we got the retreat to Dunkerque came straight through & an uncle & his mates later put about 10,000 bombs into the nearby forest failing to knock out the V1 site. The craters are so many & so close together it’s hard to find your way through it. But you can still see the Great War trench lines in places & of course the ‘ski shaped building’ & launch ramp in good shape.
    And of course, Azincourt’s only just down the road. The collie does his sheepdog training nearby, so we’ve often walked that battlefield as well.

  75. I’m sorry John77, but I fail to understand what your objection to the normal way of calculating military casualty rates. A US Marine regiment at the time was approx 3000 men. if they lose 1000 casualties, during an engagement, but are given 1000 replacements* during that engagement, their casualty rate at the end isn’t zero, or a quarter. It’s a third. So, by extension, it’s entirely possible to have over 100% casualties
    Of course it’s not a calculation based on the total number of men in theater. It’s the unit rate.

    Maybe it’s because you’re thinking of ‘battles’ as affairs lasting from breakfast until tea. That really is medieval. Some engagements last months.

  76. A percentage is meaningless if the numerator and denominator do not share a common definition. Mortality rates are measured as a %age of the population at risk.
    A casualty rate in the situation that you postulate would be 1000 men but as a %age it would be 25%.
    You have your definition of normal which includes Culloden as a battle between city-states so I have to say that the usual nickname for Ypres was “Wipers” not “leper”, which i have never previously heard or seen in this context.
    And I am never likely to suppose that the Somme comprised one day’s fighting between breakfast and tea-time.

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