American moments

Tony Barber

Tony Barber

There was an extract in this morning’s Financial Times Magazine from Tony Barber’s blog about ‘my top 10 American moments’. Barber, the FT’s Brussels bureau chief, ranked as his N° 1 ‘Playing with a full set of American civil war bubblegum cards (1967)’. I remember those cards so well! On the way to my school, just beside the Windsor and Newton factory, there was a printing company that must have had the UK contract for those cards. We used to plunder their bins for rejects. Some of the offcuts were completely useless but occasionally you could find a fairly good card with only tiny flaws that could be swapped into the system. What was most impressive for me about those cards, bloodthirsty images aside, was the curious combination of ‘old-fashioned’ war – cavalry, horses, swords – and the mechanised variety, including machine guns and barbed wire. There’s that same combination in what I am now trying to write. Few remember that cavalry brigades played an important role in the opening stages of the 1914-18 war. Armoured tanks would not be used in any significant number until 1917. I wonder, coming back to Tony Barber, what, say, Barack Obama’s top 10 European moments would be.





1 Comment

  1. Ana

    Dear Martin,
    Reading your post I was thinking of last year’s celebrations of 90 years from the end of WWI. The 1914-18 war brought indeed an important transition from “old-fashioned” cavalry-based wars to what was called by historians “the total war”. It was the first war which not only affected huge masses of military and almost the entire territory of the planet, but had also a terrible impact on the civilians behind the frontlines, and affected a whole generation’s dreams, hopes, and ambitions. Literary-wise it makes me think of Henry Barbusse’s ‘Le feu’ which described in very powerful naturalist notes all the horrors of the new weapons, and, in my homeland Camil Petrescu’s “The Last Night of Love, the First Night of War”. I also recall a certain team building visit to Flanders Fields and all the horror of the Ypres gas which made those poppy fields become a huge cemetery. Yepers I’m not saying that wars before, be it the American civil war or the Hundred Years’ War were best because they were more chevaleresque in the way of fighting.. In the end, it is not the number of casualties that matters: each human life is unique and has an absolute value in itself, each life lost stupidly on a battlefield is a testimony that human beings, despite having produced beautiful pieces of political philosophy, are not yet there, on the way to making the word “war” a dictionary reliquat. Next to other innovations, the adoption of the Lisbon treaty would allow Europe to start being more of a “player” and less of a “payer” in security terms. This brings me back to your Obama Top 10 European moments: the US are exhausted by their War effort in Irak and Afghanistan, and, notwithstanding long-term rivalry between both sides of the Atlantic and the ambiguities of NATO-ESDP interplay, the Obama administration has all interest to know as soon as possible “whom to call in Europe if the world caught fire”. Therefore, in my humble opinion, the top 10 should definitely include Obama’s meeting with the President of the European Union and the new High Representative for Foreign Affairs once the Lisbon treaty is ratified. One can just hope, though, that Obama wouldn’t have to wait for a second mandate until all this is done…

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