[The image above flashed by on the interwebs, and it struck me as humorously apt, though I can’t now recall where I first saw it. If the picture has any truth it is that we should advocate for Monarchy at least for a restoration of manly moustaches.]
We earlier met Lieutenant General Sir John Glubb—Glubb Pasha—through his mandatory essay analyzing how civilizations end. According to Glubb, all contract the same diseases and die of the same causes—just as all deny until the end that they are ill. Our civilization will last forever, though. We’re better, we’re different. Just ask Steven Pinker.
Glubb in his retirement was prolific, writing mainly on Arabic history, having been himself an integral part of it. Essential are his The Life and Times of Muhammad, objectively and with great sympathy detailing the adoption and rise of the Muslim faith. In The Empire of the Arabs he draws out the near-term consequences. (The latter book is part of a worthwhile series.) Glubb reminds us that at its peak the Arabic Empire was larger than the Roman, and that it was a very near thing it wasn’t larger still.
About his own contributions to history, we have The Changing Scenes of Life: An Autobiography (1983).
There are many quotable passages, and none better than those relating his arrival to the Mideast after WWI, and his riveting tales of becoming the founder and leader of the famed Arab Legion (this sentence skips over almost thirty years of tumultuous times!). Glubb was, of course, on the losing side of the 1948 Arab-Israeli war. Glubb was a Christian. He was also another rare thing: an honorable man. Importantly, Benny Morris, a Jew who can find whiffs of “antisemitism” lurking inside empty coffee cans, corroborates all Grubb’s main recollections in Morris’s The Road to Jerusalem: Glubb Pasha, Palestine and the Jews (the two men differ in judgement of consequences, of course).
For our purposes, we’re interested in Glubb’s views of forms of government; specifically, democracy, and its inherent limitations. For instance:
For public figures, [avoiding self-preoccupation] is much more difficult, particularly perhaps for politicians under our system of government. Their retention of office depends not so much on the honesty or efficiency of their work, as on whether people will like them and vote for them. Almost invariably, to be popular is their chief preoccupation, and to malign their characters or their intentions the objective of their opponents.
Democracy, that magic word, sounds so ideal a system of government—‘the people are free to choose their own rulers’. But what an unsavory mass of intrigue, libel and misrepresentation it conceals. Politicians are almost inevitably led to attach chief importance to the winning of popularity by every form of device or deception. People complain that politicians are insincere, but it is difficult to expect anything else when their success seems to depend so much on public caprice.
There isn’t much in that not said and noticed daily by democracy’s denizens. But it sets the tone. Now Glubb’s book were when issued popular, so he was asked by his publisher to hit the speaker circuit in the States. This tour for the most depressed him, mainly because of his experiences with our universities, which had at that time already began their downward slide.
Democracy sounds such a fine word, ‘America is a free country,’ visiting foreigners are told with pride. But the word is now so small that, to win votes in an American election, politicians unintentionally sow wars and disturbances in other continents. This is especially so in a presidential election.
I particularly remember speaking on the Arab-Israeli confrontation at a large college. After my talk, the president of the college said to me that it was the first time in life he had ever heard it suggested that there could be a single point or argument in favour of the Palestinians. Every exposition he had heard hitherto had emphasized that Israel was one hundred per cent right in all she did.
Of course, the temptation to exaggerate these exchanges would be upon poor Glubb. He was still smarting from his ignoble exist. But then he fills in details of what happened to the Palestians who woke one morning to find themselves voted into what was now (to them) enemy territory. They discovered they were not wanted, and were not so politely asked to scoot. This created a large wave of refugees, who weren’t exactly warmly welcomed by their neighbors.
Whole villages were bulldozed down and then ploughed over [by the nascent Israelis], so that the refugees would have no homes to which to return. After the armistice, some of these refugees attempted to return to their homes at night to see if they could retrieve any of their possessions. All such persons caught by Israeli patrols were shot dead on the spot, without arrest or trial.
As a result, the infiltrators began to carry weapons and a little sub-guerrilla war developed, which need never have happened…
The second principle on which their action was based was that of ten-fold reprisals. If one Jew were killed by a refugee infiltrator, ten Arabs must be killed in revenge. For this purpose, a platoon of Israeli soldiers would be sent across the line to kill ten Arabs in a border village.
Glubb, perhaps surprisingly, does not outright condemn the Jews for these actions. He instead argued that the Israelis learnt this method of suppression from the Germans, who (of course) used it with murderously great success. The Jews, “bullied” by Germans and Russians, became themselves “bullies.” They knew nothing else. And if the Palestinians eventually fell into the habit of terrorism-by-bomb, they learnt that from the Jews in Palestine, who successfully terrorized, murdered, and bombed the British out of that territory before it was ceded to them by the United Nations. There are no real good guys to this story.
One last book-tour story. Recall that this in the late 1970s, or very early 1980s. See if you can identify the tune the students were singing.
On one occasion at an American university, I happened casually to remark that the Germans seem to be more musical than the British. ‘You cannot say things like that in the U.S.,’ I was told. ‘We believe all races to be equal.’
This remark, which at the time surprised me, seems to typify a good deal of modern thinking. It illustrates the common confusion of thought to the effect that ‘equal’ means identical…
As ever, desire for Equality of treatment inexorably leads to demands of equal of outcome. We are equal only in nature.
As a result of mixing with his colonial cousins, Glubb came to an interesting prognostication about wholesale immigration. Was he right or wrong?
The British and their offspring, the Americans, have an annoying habit of trying to teach all other nations how to live, a characteristic perhaps inherited from the Puritans. We have already noted that the Americans, living in isolation, are unaware of the existence of other cultures, founded upon often unconscious traditions, thousands of years old, which have become second nature…
Idealists who [therefore] welcome immigrants from other continents into Britain are playing with fire. Of course all men are equal, but differing cultures and races do become rivals and enemies if they form large communities in one country. To boast that we have a multi-racial society in Britain is therefore dangerous.