Unorthodox Thoughts In Regard to the Middle East Military Dimension
June 28, 2017
About the speaker
Novelist Mark Helprin has written about defense and foreign relations for fifty years and advised officials at the highest levels from the White House on down. He served in the Israeli army and the Israeli Air Force. He was personally commended by the Director of Central Intelligence for making the best military estimates “in or out of government.”
It is a great privilege to have Mark Helprin here, who is maybe known to you in one of several capacities. He’s a renaissance man. He’s one of the greatest American novelists writing today. If you don’t read novels, maybe you saw one of the films based on his novels, “A Winter’s Tale,” of which I’m sure you’ll disapprove.
What do you get? What do you claw back?
I claw back the money.
No, we don’t want that. I thought maybe you could get something from Colin Farrell. Okay. Well anyway… but some of those novels I’m sure which you have either read or heard of are “Refiner’s Fire,” “Winter’s Tale,” the terrific novel “A Soldier of a Great War,” “Memoir from the Antproof Case,” which my daughter is enjoying right now, “Freddy and Fredericka in the Sunlight and in the Shadow.” He is of course a renowned essayist as well.
On the strategic thinker’s side you may be familiar with Mark Helprin’s writings for many years in The Wall Street Journal and more recently his regular back page column in the Claremont Review of Books. In The Wall Street Journal about a month ago or several weeks ago was your strategy for how to deal with the threat from North Korea. Mark is not only a theoretician, he is a practitioner because he served in the Israeli infantry and in the Israeli Air Force. He knows the Middle East very well as you shall hear in just a moment. [He] also speaks Arabic I understand. You know Arabic?
…Fifty years ago.
Fifty years ago.
I could watch the news and have a conversation in Arabic and talk to diplomats. It’s not too difficult.
I couldn’t order a glass of water in a restaurant. It’s been fifty years since I could do whatever I could do.
But it’s not safe to drink the water there so you’re fine. Well without further ado let me welcome Mark Helprin to the podium where he’s going to address the topic of “Unorthodox Topics in Regard to the Middle East Military Dimension.” Mark, thank you.
It’s not dementia, it’s dimension. And you know, upon further reflection after I supplied this title I realized that everything you’re going to hear from me is actually quite orthodox. It depends upon your frame of reference. It’s only unorthodox given the miserable record that the United States and Europe has compiled since the Gulf War. That’s 25 years. But in 1945 it would not be- It would not be seen as unorthodox at all and Marshall would not have seen it as unorthodox nor would Moshe Dayan.
So what you’ll hear from me may seem pedestrian in that sense. However, there are a lot of peoplewho would think it really, really way off the reservation. And I’ve divided what I’m going to say into three parts. The first is a fairly brief I hope essay upon overarching principles and conditions which now appear mainly in the brief.
Could you speak up louder?
Oh, sorry. Oh, I see. Okay. The first is overarching principles and conditions which are now observed mainly in the breach. And then second I have a few examples to comment upon. And then thirdly, would be- the third part of it would be necessary conditions precedent in order to achieve success.
So first, and it may seem quite obvious, is the question of restraints that you have to reckon with before you go into a country, before you invade, before you make a policy, et cetera. We don’t really address these things diplomatically, which is briefly the public and oft times officials don’t comprehend these even when they’re overt. When they’re covert, sometimes even analysts with security clearances short of cosmic, don’t- don’t comprehend the meter because they don’t know what’s going on if they’re covert.
Now, let’s first talk about the covert ones. They’re pretty obvious. The fear of China intervening during the Vietnam War was probably at least half the- what was responsible for any- any kind of analysis of the Vietnam War.