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Book Review (#2 in the series)

I found this one in the remainder bin at the War Memorial. It's a biography (nobody writes their own autobiography anymore) of a womyn who served with "the Detachment", 14 Intelligence Unit, a secretive special forces unit that operates in civilian clothes in places like Northern Ireland, working alongside the more famous Special Air Service.

The harrowing first third of the book details her upbringing as one of the working poor in a council flat, raised by a violent single mother (herself the victim of a wife-beating husband) constantly on the brink (or in the throes) or a nervous breakdown and how she eventually escapes into the British Navy.

The second third covers in meticulous detail the brutal, punishing training regimen that turns out operatives for one of the toughest and most dangerous assignments in the world. In the third, the book takes us down the streets and country roads of Northern Ireland, where anyone might be a terrorist and the special forces' job is hunting them down one by one. Our hero makes hand brake turns in a old Peugot with a baby seat in the back for camouflage, armed only with a 9mm Browning and an HK53 assault rifle. Her co-workers are sexist to the core, who gradually and grudgingly come to appreciate someone who can outdrink, outthink and outshoot them.

Excerpt:
As I was gyrating on the dance floor I saw a fat slag - straight out of Viz magazine - pick up my handbag from my chair and started tottering off with it. I strode across and reclaimed it. Then it started. She stood her ground and started jabbing me in the chest with a red-taloned finger, pretending that she thought it was her mate's bag. She was a real slapper. You know the type - white high heels, blue eyeliner and badly applied bottled permatan. I'd soon had enough of her frosty pink lipsticked mouth yelling at me, so I decked her.

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Comments

( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
communicator
7th Feb, 2004 01:40 (UTC)
Hawkeye, that book seems to be made for you to read. Your comments made me think that some energetic and brilliant people flourish in conditions of imposed discipline, and some do not. 'Full Metal Jacket' was on the other night, and I know some guys (probably women too) who react to the training regime depicted there with huge enthusiasm, and others, like myself, fantasise about how one could have revenge. I wonder whether there will ever be a military system that harnesses the energy and ability of my 50% of the population?
hawkeye7
7th Feb, 2004 13:34 (UTC)
What's the matter, is staying alive too complicated for you?
Military discipline has been developed as a response to three problems: (1) the very real danger that an army, freed from the discipline imposed by families and communities, will degenerate into an armed mob; (2) the fact that an army of sane people would run away, which has paradoxically been found to be a result least likely to guarantee individual survival; and (3) the need to create some form of order in a chaotic and dangerous environment.

Army has studied this a great deal. I can tell you that acceptance of imposed discipline increases with education and age.

I've always believed that the best possible form of discipline is self discipline but I'm completely at a loss as to how that can be cultivated. I'm always pleased to see evidence of it from my nieces.









mintogrubb
8th Feb, 2004 01:39 (UTC)
Re: What's the matter, is staying alive too complicated for you?
I am not a military expert, but I remember reading a book called 'The Psyhology of military Incompetance'.
This chap looked at what drives people to join in the first place, what keeps the forces ticking over and why things like the charge of the light brigade repeatedly happen. He points out that the Israelis have one of the most efficient armies in the world and they do without the sort of bullying that we see in 'Full Metal Jacket'.

I think I will try to track this book down. sounds like a good read.

hawkeye7
8th Feb, 2004 13:48 (UTC)
Re: What's the matter, is staying alive too complicated for you?
That book is still in print, although you might find John Keegan's The Face of Battle more informative.

I bristle at the notion that the Israeli Army is one of the world's most efficient. My statistics place it below most NATO armies, including the British Army. Our Australian Army has a far better combat record.

The Israeli Army is more of a people's militia than the professional force that Australians expect to see, so there is a cultural divide when the average Australian watches the Israeli Army on tv. This leads to considerable misunderstanding.

When I was actually there, Australians were most unimpressed with them. The Israelis thought it stemmed from us being a "spit and polish" Army but that was not the case. For example, the practice of wearing sandals instead of correct footwear. This would not be tolerated here, due to the danger of minor injury. Carelessness in matters of safety would not be on. To our mind, the Israeli Army accepts the loss of far too many soldiers from avoidable accidents.

The Israelis train to fight only one enemy. Our warnings from a nastier part of the world were politely discounted. For example, our reaction to one scenario was different based on our expectation that children are booby-trapped. They dismissed our warnings about suicide bombers because this had never happened in the Middle East.
mintogrubb
8th Feb, 2004 15:46 (UTC)
Re: What's the matter, is staying alive too complicated for you?
the practice of wearing sandals instead of correct footwear. This would not be tolerated here, due to the danger of minor injury. Carelessness in matters of safety would not be on. To our mind, the Israeli Army accepts the loss of far too many soldiers from avoidable accidents.
I must admit that I don't know enough enough to comment on israeli footwear, but I am most impressed with the Merkava tank, and the Galil assault rifle. Apparently the guys at the sharp end are forever using magazines to open beer bottles. This damages the magazine and causes rifles to jam in the heat of battle. So they built a bottle opener onto the rifle, avoiding the problem.
The Israelis also insisted that all their planes be fighter bombers (saves having to have two types that only do half the job) they can mobilise at short notice and have not lost a war since... well if they ever did lose, they would not be around to ask why.
The victors of Entebbe, the Yom Kippur War, the Golan Heights and the Bekaar Valley...I am honestly suprised that you place them below Britain and Australia in terms of fighting efficiency. They were able to turn the situation round when faced with different tactics and equipment, beating both Arab ATGW and SAM missiles (I am thinking of the Yom Kippur war and the 'Wild weasels' in the Bekaar valley, where Israeli arms quickly got the measure of a threat they had not met before, and devised new tactics to beat them. As I say, I am not a professional military man, but I think there are few examples to match this sort of resilience and efficiency anywhere. It does not seem to square with a bunch of slack incompetants.
communicator
8th Feb, 2004 14:00 (UTC)
Re: What's the matter, is staying alive too complicated for you?
acceptance of imposed discipline increases with education and age.

In other words as people get more tired and less intellectually flexible.

I don't doubt that Military discipline is the best way to run an army that we have come up with so far. But I do wonder what the next kind of army will be like. Like the New Model Army, or like the Roman Army, and so on back through history and prehistory. New kids of army come along, and are great improvements on the opposition.
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )