I have heard little conversation about it in the pubs and clubs. Once raised it quickly falls off the radar in preference for chat about football and horse racing. A sure sign of avoidance of uncomfortable truths.
For the Belfast reader the focus on South Armagh and East Tyrone will be contentious. This is a minor point. The author is primarily concerned with the 'big picture. His observations and criticisms relate to organisational matters on a national scale. To say that the army lacked the necessary training and capacity to prosecute the war is not to expose it to ridicule. To close our eyes to certain truths only served to perpetuate the myths.
The book exposes Martin McGuinness as a mediocre military leader, whether by accident or by design. His lack of ambition in the military sphere raises serious questions for the author. It would not be worthy of comment were it not for the fact that volunteers were dying on a limited battlefield.
Crawley believes that the limitations were imposed by the leadership itself. The role of agent of influence raises its ugly head.
Moving on, the Libyan shipments gave rise to tantalising speculation of an imminent offensive, with some even comparing it to the Tet offensive. However, The Yank makes a strong argument for the IRA's inability to execute such an audacious plan due to poor training and organisation.
Whether the time and space existed to implement Crawley's proposals is debatable. The capture of the Eksund indicated a high degree of infiltration, as did his earlier arrest. It could well be that the strategic advantage rested with the British and was irreversible by that stage.
In hindsight, I personally do not believe the leadership wanted an all-out offensive for fear it would fall flat on its face. A military defeat for the IRA would have had disastrous consequences. Left without a pot to piss in comes to mind.
But, what the leadership did next was inexcusable. For whilst it paid lip service to a notional offensive, in actual fact, it's position was quietly shifting. The Libyan arsenal began to be viewed as leverage in a future negotiation. A bird in the hand is worth two in a bush.
So, ironically, the IRA would not play its strongest card before departing the battlefield. Some would say it was a strategic withdrawal, others would a called it a surrender.
I found the book enjoyable and recommend it.
John Crawley, 2022, The Yank: My Life as a Former US Marine in the IRA. Merrion Press. ISBN-13: 978-1785374234
From Up The Ra to God Save The King . . . it has been quite the journey. As you say, an uncomfortable truth to be avoided.ReplyDelete