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Kitchener of Khartoum 
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Post Kitchener of Khartoum
Churchill may be the central character of the story Fromkin wants to tell, but among the members of the minor panopoly, Kitchener of Khartoum is a dominating figure. I thought it would be a good idea to have a thread parallel to our "Churchill" thread in which to discuss the minister of war.

I don't have much time at the moment, but I did want to point out that I found the structure of ch. 8 ("Kitchener Takes Command") to be effective. It starts with a fairly contemporary view of Kitchener as a kind of modern-day Greek hero, akin to an Ajax or an Achilles, perhaps, then moves on to give a more fully human view of Kitchener as a person with great power tempered by his own foibles and prejudices.

Interesting figure. I can't wait to learn more.




Thu Jul 13, 2006 2:26 pm
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Post Re: Kitchener of Khartoum
MA: Churchill may be the central character of the story Fromkin wants to tell, but among the members of the minor panopoly, Kitchener of Khartoum is a dominating figure.

Churchill and Kitchener. I can't recall Fromkin mentioning that Churchill was present in 1898 at Omdurman, Kitchener's greatest military success. Churchill was still in the army, I believe, but participated in a cavalry charge as a reporter at the battle. He then wrote a book about Kitchener's campaign called The River War, which is available for download at Project Gutenberg.

As for Kitchener, he is inhumanly peculiar at first, but as Fromkin broadens his description over the coming chapters I began to feel sorry for him. He got promoted into incompetence, and he knew it.




Thu Jul 13, 2006 11:09 pm


Post Re: Kitchener of Khartoum
Been busy the last few days, so I had to cut back on reading time. But tonight I did get a chance to review Fromkin's Part II titled "Kitchener of Khartoum Looks Ahead." When reviewing this I was paying attention to the parts that would help with piecing together Fromkin's argument about Kitchener's influence on the eventual Settlement in the Mideast. Seems to me that pages 81 thru 105 are particularly important as Fromkin provides a character sketch of Kitchener (fodder for the psychology thread) and briefly introduces FitzGerald, Storrs, Wingate, and Clayton who are all important to Fromkin's argument. I don't have time to neaten things up, so I'll just post some observations from those pages.

I was struck by Fromkin's emphasis on Kitchener's symbolic role. He was British Imperial Grandeur personified, and this sort of swallowed him up, at least as Fromkin tells it. But, if this was true, then why weren't Kitchener's views strongly associated with the Imperial community itself? Fromkin argues as if Kitchener was an outsider in the Imperial community. I wonder about this.

Page 85 (bottom) Fromkin mentions that "Kitchener's Agency" was responsible for the establishment of the "protectorate government" policy in the Middle East. I wonder how practical other options actually were considering that this vast region was going to absorbed into the Empire. This question becomes very important near the end of the book.

Storrs p.89, Wingate p.89-90, and Clayton p.90-91. I have to admit that when I first worked my way through the book, I didn't have a clear conception of each of these men. Part of the reason was that Fromkin treats them as essentially a single entity. They, along with FitzMaurice, are the bungling old hands that apparently represent Kitchener's viewpoint, and that influence the Settlement of 1922 via Sykes, and that are still effecting us today in the Mideast. So says Fromkin. His case for their bungling is spread out in the book. One place he makes it is on pages 92-3. I find it fascinating that, as in Chapter 3 p.43, Fromkin provides a quote from John Buchan's Greenmantle to help buttress his case.

P.95 it is important to note for future reference that in February 1915, the French and British Foreign ministers apparently agreed that if the Ottoman Empire was broken up that "Britain would not oppose France's designs on Syria."

Chapter 10 (starts on page 96) is especially important to Fromkin's argument because he lays out Kitchener's plans for the Mideast after the war. Again Fromkin uses Greenmantle to help his case. The end of this chapter discusses the all important beginning of the confusing promises made to the Emir of Mecca and his sons. Page 105 concludes with "Kitchener and his lieutenants would have been astonished to learn what their communication signified to Moslems in Arabia."




Thu Jul 20, 2006 11:24 pm
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Post Re: Kitchener of Khartoum
[Oh! I just read this section!!::204 ]

J Seabolt, thanks for the summary. Helps me to realize that I'm picking up on the significant details.

I found Fromkin's description of Kitchener to be quite detailed, and then, bang, he falls off the map, because his staff in Cairo and London take centre stage. I too have a difficult time differentiating between Storrs, Wingate and Clayton -- I'm envisioning them as young hotshots who think they know what they're doing. How often does it happen in the business world, where individuals are given more responsibility than they are ready for (or will ever be ready for!), because of the incompetence of their immediate supervisors? And here it is, on the world stage, where their bungling (according to Fromkin) has caused such chaos.

When I started the 'then and now' thread, what I was thinking of was Kitchener. His cult of personality was created by the media of the time, who, according to Fromkin, mistook shyness for aloofness, inaction for control, etc. In today's world, every action he took, every word he spoke, would be examined far more closely, at least on political blogs! Would all the eyes on Kitchener today have caught his incompetence?

"All beings are the owners of their deeds, the heirs to their deeds."

Loricat's Book Nook
Celebrating the Absurd




Fri Jul 21, 2006 10:09 am
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Post Re: Kitchener of Khartoum
J Seabolt: I was struck by Fromkin's emphasis on Kitchener's symbolic role. He was British Imperial Grandeur personified, and this sort of swallowed him up, at least as Fromkin tells it. But, if this was true, then why weren't Kitchener's views strongly associated with the Imperial community itself? Fromkin argues as if Kitchener was an outsider in the Imperial community.

I think Fromkin's pov is that both are, in some sense, true. Kitchener felt himself to be an outsider in Britain herself, and probably felt at odds with Cairo, at least to the enxtent that their policies conflicted. But it seems clear that Britain felt Kitchener to be one of their own, somewhat aloof perhaps, but essentially British in character, to the degree that he was emblematic of Britishness. With more space to burn, Fromkin probably could have devoted some consideration to the question of whether Kitchener was really part of the British character at that point, or whether Britain wasn't conforming itself to the picture of Britishness that they saw in (and to some extent, projected upon) Kitchener. But it seems likely to me that Kitchener himself felt that kind of dislocation common to people who find themselves well-suited to a foreign land but incapable of ever completely divorcing themselves from their homeland. If that's the case -- and we certainly shouldn't treat my conjecture as an item of fact -- I wonder how much that location played into his policy of absorbing the Middle East into British interests.

I find it fascinating that, as in Chapter 3 p.43, Fromkin provides a quote from John Buchan's Greenmantle to help buttress his case.

I see your point on this one. "Greenmantle" is a work of fiction, though presumably one based on the actual attitude of the British during the period. But Fromkin comes off as a fairly conscientious historian, so I wonder what inspired his use of "Greenmantle" as support for an argument. Three ideas leap to mind. 1) Fromkin is playing off a trope in recent historical and literary scholarship that treats contemporary literature as an expression of contemporary social mores. 2) Fromkin has come across some particular piece of information about "Greenmantle" or Buchan that would lead him to believe that the book is an accurate expression of the official perceptions of the Middle East. Or 3) Fromkin is simply casting about for evidence or an illustration, and he's chosen a rather suspect example in this case. Unfortunately, I don't see a way of choosing between those options without assuming more than we have evidence to support at the moment.

Loricat: In today's world, every action he took, every word he spoke, would be examined far more closely, at least on political blogs! Would all the eyes on Kitchener today have caught his incompetence?

I don't know. I don't sense that the popular political commentaries coming out these days are much more astute than the popular political commentaries of recent history. Every action and every word would probably still be examined, but I doubt that the criticism would break much from a status quo observation conforming to a handful of party lines.




Fri Jul 21, 2006 11:34 am
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Post Re: Kitchener of Khartoum
Regarding "Greenmantle", Fromkin is being careful in pointing out that it is a work of fiction...I would say he's using it as a cultural-attitude-reflected-in-literature example, but not clarifying it as such. At least, that's how I'm reading it.

"All beings are the owners of their deeds, the heirs to their deeds."

Loricat's Book Nook
Celebrating the Absurd




Fri Jul 21, 2006 11:47 am
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Post Re: Kitchener of Khartoum
Loricat: His cult of personality was created by the media of the time...

Fromkin mentions this on page 82, and at one point says about Kitchener that "He was fortunate, too, in the timing of his career, which coincided with the rise of imperial sentiment, literature, and ideology in Britain." Kitchener rode the wave of this imperial sentiment and ideology, and as you mention it was to a great extent created by the media of the time. Am I going too far to say that he was a hero in an old-fashioned sense and a celebrity in a new-fangled sense?

MadArchitect: I wonder how much that location played into his policy of absorbing the Middle East into British interests.

That's a good point since it gets to the heart of Fromkin's argument. To what extent did the peculiarities of Kitchener and the circumstances of his background effect the policies that emerged? Fromkin comes down strongly with the argument that it had a great effect. This is the last paragraph from page 83:

Quote:
It was pure accident that the military hero brought into the government to preside over the war effort should have been one who regarded himself, and was regarded by others, as having the East for his special province. From that accident came the distinctive outlines of the policy that emerged.


No doubt that Kitchener had an immediate effect on policy -- he was generating it. I'm less convinced that the policy was shaped in an idiosyncratic way because of Kitchener. I'm not saying Fromkin is wrong, I am saying that I'm not yet persuaded of this. The alternative, after all, is that the policy that emerged was the standard issue British Imperial policy and not necessarily something peculiar to Kitchener.

MA: Unfortunately, I don't see a way of choosing between those options without assuming more than we have evidence to support at the moment.

Of your three possibilities for why Fromkin is using Greenmantle the way he does, I believe the first one is correct and the second one is plausible, although, as you mention, we don't have evidence either way on it. The third one is iffier. I agree with Loricat that he does identify the work as fiction. The one time that he doesn't do this in the text, but only in the footnote, was probably an editing slip. However, I find it odd that the references come at key places (p.43, 93, 97) when he is making important arguments, and he uses this work of popular fiction in the argument. You mention that he could be using them as "evidence or an illustration". I think it's both, and to the extent that he is using Greenmantle as evidence, I believe it is suspect.




Fri Jul 21, 2006 8:20 pm
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