Churchill’s Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare (2017) provides a good overview of “irregular warfare” in the Second World War



A July 13, 2018 Atlantic article is entitled: “The Russians Who Hacked the 2016 Election: Robert Mueller’s latest indictment reaches back to the origin story for the investigation into interference.”
An Aug. 7, 2018 BBC article is entitled: “A French village committed to deception: Through an extraordinary campaign of non-violent resistance during World War II, residents of Le Chambon-sur-Lignon saved thousands of Jews from deportation and almost certain death.”

An excerpt reads:

  • Intense persecution had caused Protestant numbers to drop sharply in France after the 17th Century, and today they are only a tiny proportion of France’s population. Many of the Chambonnais felt a sense of duty to help, which some historians have linked to their ability to empathise with persecuted minorities.

An additional (two-paragraph) excerpt reads:

  • For Gril-Mariotte, the Lieu de Mémoire has a responsibility to educate – and its message resonates through to the present day.
  • “It has a mission to communicate to younger generations, who will certainly notice a parallel with what is happening today with the refugee crisis,” Gril-Mariotte said.


I’ve recently finished reading Churchill’s Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare: The Mavericks Who Plotted Hitler’s Defeat (2017).

I’ve also been reading A Most Ungentlemanly Way of War: The SOE and the Canadian Connection (2015).

I first became interested in irregular warfare because I had met a writer named Dorothy Maclean on several occasions in the 1970s and 1980s, and she had mentioned she had worked with Sir William Stephenson during the Second World War.

I have read extensively about Stephenson’s role in running Britain’s security apparatus in the Americas during the Second World War. A discussion on pp. 42-52 of A Most Ungentlemanly Way of War (2015) provides a good overview of his career.

I’ve also begun to read about irregular warfare in the context of women’s participation in the Second World War. For some years I’ve been learning about the history of the Small Arms Building in Mississauga. Women played a key role at the Small Arms munitions plant  They were also key players in the successful Allied irregular-war effort in Europe.

Hybrid warfare

Churchill’s Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare (2017) provides a good introduction to irregular warfare, which has subsequently evolved into a form of hybrid warfare that, as I understand, has become the standard mode of warfare in the world today.

The book provides an entertaining kind of film noir version of irregular warfare in the Second World War. It’s written by a journalist who’s written several books about military history.

The strengths of this particular kind of book includes the entertainment value. Some material related to the war is by necessity left out, however, in order to present a coherent, well-paced story.

The book includes great information about aspects of Canada’s wartime role. By way of example, it outlines the context within which Canada’s Camp X was developed, and the role it played as a sabotage training centre.

The intelligence services (such as the CIA and the other intelligence services) currently in place in Canada, the United States, and Great Britain had their start in the irregular warfare that played a key role in the Allied victory in the Second World War.

It’s great to have the opportunity, by reading books such as this one, to get acquainted with the history of these and other intelligence services.

Russian intelligence services

A good overview of the history and current role of Russian intelligence services (and about the evolution of hybrid warfare) is provided in a book from the Brookings Institution:

Mr. Putin (2015) illustrates that story management is possible even in the absence of evidence-based biographical details

In closing I would note that Churchill’s Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare (2017) has given me a better understanding, among other things, of the racism that was at times a central feature of the British empire, as the book demonstrates – without adding further comment – with quotations (for example, in support of chemical weapons, in particular circumstances) from Winston Churchill.


A Nov. 9, 2008 Guardian article is entitled: “On the warpath with Winston: Three fine books, including a masterpiece by Andrew Roberts, add invaluable insights into Britain’s great wartime leader.”

A Nov. 29, 2013 Independent article is entitled: “Revealed: How British Empire’s dirty secrets went up in smoke in the colonies: Thousands of confidential papers were destroyed as British rule neared its end in many colonies.”

A Sept. 25, 2016 Guardian article is entitled: “Hero of the Empire: The Making of Winston Churchill review – gripping: Candice Millard’s account of the young Churchill’s daring involvement in the Boer war sheds light on the politician and the conflict.”

The past is of relevance to the extent it impacts directly upon the present moment.

In the context of the hybrid warfare that is the norm for organized, strategically directed violence in the current era, a “Best of 2016” Longreads article is entitled: “Theorizing the Drone: What does the rise of the drone mean for justice, for the ethics of heroism, for psychology? Most important of all, who is dying and why?”

By way of relating the Second World War era to the present moment: A June 6, 2017 Atlantic article is entitled: “The Mysterious Printer Code That Could Have Led the FBI to Reality Winner: Many color printers embed grids of dots that allow law enforcement to track every document they output.”

A June 7, 2017 New York Times article is entitled: “How Russian Propaganda Spread From a Parody Website to Fox News.”

With reference to the broad range of venues within which hybrid warfare currently occurs, a June 5, 2017 London School of Economics article is entitled: “Book Review: Platform Capitalism by Nick Srnicek.”

A June 12, 2017 Fast Company article is entitled: “The Rise Of The Robots: What The Future Holds For The World’s Armies: Beyond the already deployed human-controlled drone fleets, military engineers are already tinkering with lethal AI-driven autonomous battlefield bots.”

A June 18, 2017 CBC article is entitled: “Civilian oversight key to offensive cyber operations, says expert: ‘When you use malware against someone, they can reverse engineer it,’ expert says about cyber bombs.”

A Best of 2016 Longreads article is entitled: “Theorizing the Drone: What does the rise of the drone mean for justice, for the ethics of heroism, for psychology? Most important of all, who is dying and why?”

A July 2017 Longreads article is entitled: “A Heart That Watches and Receives: ‘Please don’t give up on the truth.’ A commencement address by author and historian Hampton Sides.”

A July 18, 2017 Politico article is entitled: “How the GOP Became the Party of Putin: Republicans have sold their souls to Russia. And Trump isn’t the only reason why.”

A July 28, 2017 BBC article is entitled: “Deception tech helps to thwart hackers’ attacks.”

Richard Rorty

A July 2017 Los Angeles Review of Books article is entitled: “Conversational Philosophy: A Forum on Richard Rorty.”

The introduction reads:

AFTER DONALD J. TRUMP was elected president of the United States, the American philosopher Richard Rorty (1931–2007) returned to the pages of many of the major newspapers of the world as one of the few thinkers who had predicted the election of a “strongman” with Trump’s homophobic and racist features. The relevant passage can be found in the lectures Rorty delivered on the history of leftist thought in 20th-century America at Harvard University in 1997, and published as Achieving Our Country a year later. While reprints of this book were hitting several political philosophy best seller lists, Rorty’s Page-Barbour lectures — titled Philosophy as Poetry — were also released. If in Achieving Our Country, Rorty predicted the election of a right-wing populist, in the latter he stresses how valuable the imagination is for the future of philosophy, which is, in many ways, an imperiled discipline. Although these are not his most important books, they indicate that Rorty was a philosopher ahead of his time, a philosopher for the future.

The goal of this forum is not simply to remember Rorty 10 years after he passed away on the June 8, 2007, but also to continue the conversation which he urged all philosophers to pursue. I have invited Marianne Janack, María Pía Lara, Eduardo Mendieta, and Martin Woessner to cover specific aspects of Rorty’s thought, including feminism, social hope, and post-truth. Their concise contributions underscore the significance of Rorty’s writings for the 21st century. My introduction recalls important moments of the American thinker’s life as well as his outstanding contribution to continental philosophy.

— Santiago Zabala


An underlying concept, in the story line as it relates to the nature of warfare, concerns the question: What relevance, in practice, do “rules” and “regulations” have, with regard to the conduct of warfare? How do you enforce such rules and regulations, in particular during the heat of battle? It is fortunate, and a step forward, in the context of international law, that after the warfare has passed, in some cases war crimes can be prosecuted.

Additional update

A Sept. 28, 2017 Guardian article is entitled: “MI6 boss: George Smiley a better role model for agents than James Bond: Sir Alex Younger, known in agency circles as C, says 007’s ‘brash antics’ give a misleading portrayal of life in the service.”

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