Victoria: A Novel of Fourth Generation War
Over the course of many years, theorist and commentator William S. Lind wrote a novel called Victoria. In the 2010s, he finally published it under the pen name “Thomas Hobbes.” When little doe-eyed me got the book, I thought “well, this sounds like a kooky bit of ‘Patriot Fiction’, but at least it’s got a renowned military commentator writing it. So the battles should be good.” What I actually got was a neoreactionary tribute to Old Prussia and a bitter axe grinding by a washed up charlatan who knew only the “ten of the last three financial crises” approach to critiquing military policy.
So the plot goes like this. Captain John [Mary] Rumford, of the USMC, cannot bear to hear a woman say “Iwo Jima” in a casualty remembrance ceremony because it was insulting to the dead (none of whom were woman). So he interrupts her, gets drummed out of the Corps, and meets William [Sue] Kraft. Then comes a frenetic pace as they cakewalk their traditionalist state to victory against one drooling opponent after another. The prose and pacing are actually decent-to-good, which makes the blows hit a lot harder.
However bad the politics (The book has African Americans “willingly” return to being happy farm workers, emphasizes the pure Spanish noble heritage of the only good Latina character, and has societal peer pressure stop the use of most Evil Modern Technology just to give two examples), what I found far more fascinating was just how bad the military aspect of it was. This was earnestly surprising to me at first. After reading more of Lind’s nonfiction writing, it wasn’t in hindsight.
I would sum it up this way: Lind can’t even do failure properly. The best example is this a scene involving the classic Briefing of Doom where Rumford falls asleep. Now the right way to do this would be to have it be badly done with a million terrible overproduced Powerpoint slides or something similar, leading an exhausted Rumford to, to his horror, doze off. Instead the actual subject matter of the briefing is treated as being at fault, with the narrator’s nap being a form of “and nothing of value was lost” contempt. What is the subject matter? Just minor, insignificant details like maps, roads, and local weather. You know, the kind of thing that an army, especially the wunderjager light infantry that Lind loves, doesn’t need to know.
In fact, this blind spot envelops the whole book in a way that’s actually a little funny when looked at. Rumford does not actually fight (the closest he comes in the entire book is having to draw his pistol when near the scene of a drive-by), and he doesn’t really command either. He just hovers around, jumps in from time to time, and gives advice. Almost like it was written by a civilian theorist who hovered around the military, jumped in from time to time, and gave advice.
I counted at least two arcs in the book where a light infantry sneak would have been genuinely effective. But Lind just did not want to write any actual battles. Just pointing at the scene, dispensing generalist advice (and/or coming up with a super-gimmick) and watching the stomp ensue. Lind makes Liddell-Hart look like Luigi Cadorna in comparison in both this and his nonfiction. Because of this, all of his potentially good points and legitimate critiques are squandered.
That Lind gets a lot of the fundamentals right just means the crazy is unfiltered. This book is both distinctive and a huge waste.
One thought on “Review: Victoria”
Lind is one of a particular group of people who were right about Iraq but were also crazy, had terrible politics, or had stumbled into being right about it by mistake. As a result they came out of it with a reputation they didn’t really deserve and a following of people who didn’t have any business following them. Over time the followers have had to either confront the problem or else resolve the cognitive dissonance by adapting themselves to the problem. Lind is a good example. Others would include Ron Paul, Mark Ames, or Glenn Greenwald. (Thinking about it, libertarianism is an important common thread.)