BOOK REVIEW: ‘Superpowers, Rogue States and Terrorism: Countering the Security Threats to the West’

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Reviewer: Michael Keith

Title: Superpowers, Rogue States and Terrorism: Countering the Security Threats to the West

Author: Paul Moorcraft

No. of Pages: 181

Rating Scale (1: very poor, 10: excellent): 7


If this reviewer was asked to recommend one book as a basic resource for the 2017 international geopolitical scene, Superpowers, Rogue States and Terrorism: Countering the Security Threats to the West would be it. According to the author, the volume ‘…Traces the growth of the Islamic threat and offers some domestic and international solutions by working with potential allies in Europe and the Middle East’. He concludes ‘My conclusion is positive – many of the current problems can be solved’. The result is well-written, well-researched, eminently readable and objective. It is the ideal ‘go-to’ volume for anyone with an interest in international affairs.

By way of introduction, a single page titled About the Author is placed ahead of the Contents page. This details the author’s academic and personal background, while also listing his previously- published books.  The Contents page follows. A List of Maps placed immediately after the Contents page contains eight maps relative to the volume’s narrative. It is in turn followed by a section titled List of Illustrations which replicates the captions of the 31 images that appear within the volume’s 16-pag Photographic section. An Introduction (Subtitled Saving the West) summarises what is to come in the eight Chapters that follow and which form the major part of the volume. Within these the author presents his assessment of the current international situation, while also providing solutions which could be used to neutralise the threats that he defines. Where relevant to the narrative, subsections within the individual Chapters provide additional information relative to their specific topic.  A Conclusion follows. This summarises the narrative, while tendering further thoughts about what the future might hold. The volume makes limited use of sequential and Chapter-specific Endnotes to provide additional information.  Where used, the relevant citations appear in a designated Endnotes section placed after the Conclusion. A Select Bibliography follows. In it the author lists the printed resources he used when creating the book. An Index completes the work. As previously-noted the volume contains eight Maps and 31 Images, the Maps being placed immediately after the Contents page. The Images appear in a 16-page section placed in the centre of the volume. Some are sourced, some not.  Despite the use of numerous acronyms, there is no Glossary to explain their meanings.

Although as a ‘Work of Reference’ this volume is extremely impressive, it is not without fault. For this reviewer, the Index in particular, is a matter of concern. While reviewing this volume, this reviewer randomly searched the Index for additional references to Sri Lanka, Colombia and Angola (all mentioned on page 29). Despite appearing on the aforementioned page, the Index contained no references to these locations. Believing that the omission could have been the result of an ‘Indexing’ error, when subsequently reading Chapter Four (Where did the Islamic State come from?), this reviewer again sought Index references for such words as ‘Zionists’ (page 57), ‘Jews’ (page 59), ‘Muckhabarat’  (page 60)  and Umma (page 62). Again he found nothing, and can only conclude that there are other, similar, omissions within the Index. There is, of course, no way to know what these might be.

While omitting Index-references to three words on a single page may well have been accidental, omitting four different words in four different locations is a cause for concern.  The authority of the Index may well be compromised. As if this in itself was not enough (and also on page 29), the author stated that ‘Earlier in the book I looked at 2016 as the annus horribilus’. Wishing to learn why that that specific year had been so honoured (and believing the author’s statement to be correct), this reviewer subsequently looked for mentions of annus horribilus in the Index and Chapters One and Two of the volume. He looked in vain. In addition (and when presenting his argument), the author uses numerous quotations to reinforce his point. Some of these have been given citations (that on page 27 being one such example). However, the majority have not, with those on pages 7, 85, and 153 being only randomly-chosen examples of many such omissions. In the absence of verifying citations, are these ‘imagined’ / ‘invented’ statements? The reader cannot know. The omission of capital letters for proper nouns (‘pope’ being but one example), was also noted, as were minor errors of punctuation. Although to this reviewer the omissions detailed-above are significant, whether-or-not they are of importance will depend-upon the reader.

As previously-noted (and despite the ‘problem areas’ listed above), for this reviewer, this is the ideal ‘go-to’ volume for anyone with an interest in international affairs. By providing ‘chapter and verse’ on its subject, it is likely to be useful to all and any reader interested in an objective assessment of events currently occurring around the globe. It could well become a standard reference work on the field of contemporary international relations.

On a Rating Scale where 1: very poor, 10: excellent, I have given this volume a 7.




BOOK REVIEW: ‘Superpowers, Rogue States and Terrorism: Countering the Security Threats to the West’


Although Inktober Challenge 2017 has ended, herewith another image that I drew for it; with a bit of levity for a change.

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How does one portray the word ‘Screech’? This is my interpretation; The head of the ‘Uncommon Skregh (Avius Impossibilus)

Technical Details: Drawn using Unipin 0.3 nib black ink pen on white 80gsm A4 paper. Measurements: 7.0 in. x 5.5 in.




Musings on becoming a ‘Pensioner’

On 23 October 2017 I became a ‘Pensioner’!!

Let me explain:

Under the laws of the country in which i live, when I attain the age of 65, I am entitled to receive a fortnightly amount of money from a grateful government; this being ‘Reward’ for the taxes I have  paid to them as a worker over the last 40 or so years. it si ‘free’ certainly, although to receive it one has to have an interview with an official i the relevant Government department and, when doing-so, provide them with all the necessary ‘bits of paper’ that are required to prove that i actually are whom I say I am.

One then waits, hoping that the application has been approved.

That is the easy part; it’s the ‘psychological’ aspect which is more entertaining.

Rightly or wrongly, the term ‘Pensioner’ has certain attributes attached to it. The perceived image is of an old person (invariably male) with a long white beard, a walking sick and, perhaps, an accompanying beard. he is also usually slightly less than bright and wears a dazed look as it he is trying to make sense of his environment. he also has a ‘hat’ – a very important piece of apparel which definitely marks him as being ‘an Old’.  Said hat accompanies him everywhere and is most noticeable when he is driving his (frequently, unsurprisingly, old) car erratically down the local highway.  It is, after all, common knowledge that ‘elderly men with hats’ are the world’s worst drivers’ and are to be avoided at all costs by all other drivers. the ‘hat’ is the signature; see it and avoid  the vehicle if at all possible.

Except that I am none.of those, although I am certainly male. I do not, for instance,  possess a long white beard, a walking stick and definitely not a hat worthy of the name. These are of course all stereotypes and i had certainly embraced them; indeed I actually knew people who conformed to them with a high degree of accuracy. The stereotype was well-entrenched.

Before unintentionally becoming one of the ‘Chosen’, I had real problems with the image I have detailed above. I was aware, of course,  that I was to enter the realm of the ‘Pensioner’ yet I did not fit my own stereotype. Indeed I was very definitely  anything but. I still hold  to this view, and to a certain extent am still fighting  with it. Certainly my ‘calendar’/ physical age is 65 years of age, but the mind that is attached to the frame is still anything but; it still undertakes academic-level research, it still tries to unravel complex problems involving gold mining extraction processes., and it still has sufficient capacity to write a weekly review of books received from a publisher in another country. The mind still asks the questions and the body is still reasonably fit and working  well. All of which does not fit the previously-noted stereotype.

My problem therefore is self-inflicted, and a matter of ‘self-perception’. The ‘mind’ says ‘You are not ‘old’ yet (to use an aviation analogy), the air-frame’s hours are ever increasing  (albeit gradually, imperceptibly).  and the skinning is starting to show evidence of a shortening fatigue life.  It’s an interesting situation, made somewhat more interesting by the apparent visual evidence that I am  younger than those around me; the ‘real’ Pensioners’, evidence that can become rather irrelevant when I see my reflection in a shop window or when I am smiled at by a ‘young mum’propelling a toddler down the road in a pushchair,  and realise that, to her and her ilk I am actually ‘Old’, a  ‘Grandfather’ if you will. THAT is a dose of reality… There are other, similar, reminders.

So here I am; a ‘Pensioner’. It’s a new experience, the stereotypes are gradually being  eroded, and I am slowly moving (albeit still to a degree ‘kicking and screaming’) into what I am assured is ‘A new stage of my life’. My acquaintances (all of whom have already made ‘The Jump’) have made me welcome into their world, but it is still a new land, with all sorts of unknowns. I know what I do NOT want to do, yet at this very early stage. I do not know what I CAN do . As I said above, it is apparently a ‘new’ stage; and it remains to be saeen what form it will take. and how I will react to what I  encounter. Age being what it is, there is, of course, no going back, so I am, like it or not ‘committed’.To use an aviation analogy, I have passed the ‘Point of No Return” in much the same way as an aircraft is committed to fly onwards to its destination because it has nowhere to go and not enough fuel to go back.

The ‘flight’ promises to be an interesting one…

Thank you.

Musings on becoming a ‘Pensioner’

BOOK REVIEW: ‘Children’s Homes: A History of Institutional Care for Britain’s Young’

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Reviewer:  Michael Keith

Title: Children’s Homes: A History of Institutional Care for Britain’s Young

Author: Peter Higginbotham

No. of Pages: 310

Rating Scale (1: very poor, 10: excellent): 8


As is evidenced by this volume’s subtitle, it is ‘A history of institutional care for Britain’s young’.  The author notes that ‘The total number of children’s establishments that operated over the years [ran[ into many thousands and the children that lived in them probably into millions.  As a result, and by ‘Casting its net wide, this book takes a look at how these many and varied institutions operated and evolved in the context of changing views of how to best serve the needs of children in their care’.  It is a fair summary.

The volume is comprehensive in its coverage of its subject. Within it, the reader is take from the Christ’s Hospital (claimed to be ‘..England’s first institutional home for poor or orphaned children’), to the Twenty-first Century and beyond. The story that is presented between these two points is well-researched and written. it is eminently readable, and is both enlightening and (not unexpectedly), at times somewhat depressing.

The main part of the volume consists of 25 Chapters preceded by an Introduction which summarises what is to follow.  Of the Chapters, 23 relate directly to the subject. Chapters 24 (Children’s Home Records) and 25 (Useful Resources) are however intended to assist genealogists and researchers seeking further information on the topic. Each Chapter covers a specific time-period, with subheadings within it providing more details about specific subjects. There are numerous informatively-captioned illustrations, although these are not sourced, and no mention of their existence appears on either the Contents page or in the Index. Endnotes are employed to provide additional information within each chapter. Chapter-specific and numbered sequentially, their citations appear in a dedicated References and Notes section placed after Chapter 25.  A Bibliography follows that section, with an Index completing the volume.

That this book is well-researched is very evident. However, for this reviewer, it was badly let down by its Index. While reviewing the volume, he had occasion to check the Index for additional information concerning British Home Children (p.209). Nothing was found. Subsequent (and random) searches for Australia, Canada and Ontario (subjects which figure prominently within the narrative) had the same result, while a final (also random) search for Hampton (p.213) also found nothing. For a volume with the potential to be an authoritative work on its subject, this discovery was disconcerting. While it cannot be known if other omissions have occurred, for this reviewer, the authority of the Index is now under question. Whether or not this is important will depend-upon the reader.

The mater of the Index notwithstanding, it is possible that this volume may become a major research-tool for those interested in British social history, orphanages, child welfare and the evolution of child foster care within Great Britain.

On a Rating Scale Rating Scale where 1: very poor, 10: excellent, I have given it an 8.


BOOK REVIEW: ‘Children’s Homes: A History of Institutional Care for Britain’s Young’



Reviewer: NZ Crown Mines

Title:  The Rhodesian War Fifty Years On

Author:  Paul Moorcroft and Peter McLaughlin

Total Number of Pages: 208

Rating Scale (1: Very Poor, 10: Excellent)


It is rare to find an academic work that is readable. It is even rarer to find an academic work that is readable, well-written and objective. By those criteria, The Rhodesian War Fifty Years On is a rare book indeed. It is a delight to read, being well-written and well-researched, and, most importantly, objective in its narrative.

The volume is an upgraded reprint of a title originally published in 1982 as Chimurenga, a fact reflected in the provision of additional preface and analysis sections at the front of the work. It is comprehensive, well-researched and authoritative in its narrative and chronicles the Rhodesian / Zimbabwean conflict from that country’s Unilateral Declaration of Independence (UDI) in 1965, to the cessation of hostilities in 1979. In addition, it also records Zimbabwean history for the period 1980-2015, during-which time this once-prosperous nation gradually acquired ‘failed-state’ status. The ‘Rhodesian’ conflict was a nasty little war with a pre-ordained conclusion and, at one level could be simply seen as European colonialism’s last gasp in Africa. Such was not in fact the situation and the work records the rise and fall of various personalities, the changing allegiances and alliances and the unique military tactics that were developed in response to an increasingly-untenable military situation. The conflict was also one of invasion and counter-invasion and of intrigues and modified ideologies where the protagonists could be simultaneously in conflict while working in harmony.  It was very definitely not a ‘little war within a little country’, but rather one in which a small nation punched high above its weight and in ways un-thought of and considered impossible by larger powers. As a feat of arms it was unique. As a political event it was ultimately, for some of the protagonists, a disaster.

All of these events, and many more besides, are carefully recorded in this work, which has to be worthy of the appellation ‘Classic’. The authors describe the events and the sub-conflicts within the larger war in detail, with care and, most notably, with objectivity and complete impartiality. It is a refreshing change.

The work is arranged in four main sections, with subsections appearing within these. Maps, tactical illustrations and photographs also appear within the work, together with two Prefaces, a Prologue, a Glossary, a Select Bibliography and an Index. Zimbabwean history for the period 1980-2015 is contained in a separate section, as are the authors’ biographical details. The need for anonymity means that quotes and the majority of photographs are unsourced.

In this reviewer’s opinion, this work will appeal to several groups of readers. On one level it will be of use to military personnel interested in tactics and responses to specific military situations and exigencies, while historians and war-gamers will also find the information it contains useful. In addition to these special interest groups (and because it explains ‘the reasons why’), this work could be of immense value to those expatriate- Rhodesians who may still be wondering why events occurred as they did. If only for that reason, this little volume would be invaluable. That it manages to do so much more, clearly, concisely and objectively must inevitably earn it the appellation ‘Classic’. In the opinion of this reviewer, that is a designation well–deserved.

On a Rating Scale where 1: Very Poor, 10: Excellent, I would give it a 9½.


nzcrownmines is also available for book reviewing: Contact



Book Review: ‘From the Spitfire Cockpit to the Cabinet Office: The memoirs of Air Commodore J.F. ‘Johnny’ Langer CBE AFC DL’

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Reviewer: NZ Crown Mines

Title: From the Spitfire Cockpit to the Cabinet Office: The Memoirs of Air Commodore J F ‘Johnny’ Langer

Author: J.F. ‘Johnny’ Langer CBE AFC DL

Total Number of Printed Pages: 288

Rating Scale (1: Very Poor, 10: Excellent) 8


In the opinion of this reviewer, the motto of Great Britain’s Royal Air Force (Per Adua Ad Adastra; ‘Through Adversity to the Stars’), is an effective summation of this remarkable autobiography. Indeed, so interesting was its subject and so well-written its style, that, for the first time ever, this reviewer abandoned his usual well-honed methods of assessment and simply read it straight through. He is glad that he did!

In precis, this work details the aviation career of J.F. ‘Johnny’ Langer CBE AFC DL. It details his activities both within the Royal Air Force and in his ‘Second (post RAF–retirement) Career’ in aviation security.  The presentation is excellent, the detail meticulous and the author’s devotion to the RAF and aviation in general very evident. However, lest it be considered that what has been written is a succession of ‘beer and skittles’ moments, the downside of military life, especially as it affects servicemen’s families, is also detailed.

Although it certainly commences with the author’s joining the Royal Air Force in World War II, this work is largely concerned with his service in the post-war Royal Air Force.  The organisation he describes was very different from that which he had originally joined and has tended to be ignored in favour of World War II. By relating events and experiences within this period of the RAF’s history, this volume performs a useful service to anyone interested in that era. In that respect alone it is of high value. As if that was not enough (and what sets this specific work apart), are the details pertaining to the author’s service time in the Far East during the Malayan ‘Emergency’, his involvement in the establishment of the Republic of Singapore Air Force, and his post-service involvement in aviation security. His experiences when interacting with other military organisations (especially with other air forces) are also very revealing; one hopes that the attitudes described no longer exist.  By their nature such activities are rarely recorded, yet are presented herewith in clear, concise and very-readable form. For doing-so the author is to be congratulated.

Unfortunately, the volume is let down in respect of the photographs it contains. These appear within the text proper, rather than in their own separate section, are on the small side, and contain no indications of their origins. There is no reference to their existence in the Table of Contents; a major failing.

In summary, this is an excellent and very well-written work and would be of great interest to anyone interested in service life in the Post-WWII Royal Air Force. The previously-mentioned technical faults notwithstanding, I would suggest it may even been worthy of the appellation ‘Classic’.

On a Rating Scale where 1: Very Poor, 10: Excellent, I would give it an 8.


nzcrownmines is also available for book reviewing: Contact

Book Review: ‘From the Spitfire Cockpit to the Cabinet Office: The memoirs of Air Commodore J.F. ‘Johnny’ Langer CBE AFC DL’