100 Not Out
February 13, 2014 3:45 PM   Subscribe

When British forces pull down the union jack for the last time in Afghanistan this year, it will be a hugely symbolic moment. It is not just that the departure marks the end of 13 years of British involvement in combat in that troubled country. The surprise is that it could also signal the end of a century or more of unbroken warfare by British forces. Next year may be the first since at least 1914 that British soldiers, sailors and air crews will not be engaged in fighting somewhere.

An interactive timeline of Britain's 100 years of conflict

"There is no guarantee there will not be any action in 2015."
posted by Jakey (47 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
 
Have Army, Will Travel
posted by dng at 3:48 PM on February 13, 2014


I don't quite get the "timeline"; it seems to have lots of years in it where there's no active conflict.
posted by yoink at 3:58 PM on February 13, 2014 [1 favorite]


I don't quite get the "timeline"; it seems to have lots of years in it where there's no active conflict.

If you click on the name of a conflict it shows you how long it lasted as a yellow bar along the top. It's a strangely confusing way to do it.

I'm not sure if there's any relevance to which row they are in on the timeline, either.
posted by dng at 3:59 PM on February 13, 2014


If you click on the name of a conflict it shows you how long it lasted as a yellow bar along the top

Ah, thanks. I forgot the Golden Rule of baffling media web design: mash as many buttons as possible and see what happens.
posted by yoink at 4:03 PM on February 13, 2014 [2 favorites]


The claim depends on an acceptance that the belief that the Army's presence in NI counts as armed conflict. YMMV on that.
posted by jaduncan at 4:06 PM on February 13, 2014 [6 favorites]


It's off-the-shelf timeline software that's being pushed into use for something it wasn't really built for. If I were a smarter person I'd be advertising my interactive JavaScript skills right now.

(If I were a really smart person I probably wouldn't be advertising it to a newspaper, who probably has no money for that sort of thing and had to resort to using off-the-shelf software in the first place)
posted by chrominance at 4:07 PM on February 13, 2014 [2 favorites]


When was that Scottish independence vote scheduled for again?
posted by madajb at 4:09 PM on February 13, 2014 [14 favorites]


On one hand, that seems like a good sign.

OTOH, in a world where there is conflict and iniquity, would the best thing for Britain's armed forces be to stay on the sidelines rather than intervening? Is it the case that British military power can only enforce injustice, or could it be that a year of abstention from military engagement on Britain's part is not so much high-mindedness but a sort of isolationist smugness?
posted by acb at 4:22 PM on February 13, 2014 [2 favorites]


I'm sure they'll find something to do.
posted by glaucon at 4:24 PM on February 13, 2014 [1 favorite]


The timeline of constant combat may stretch even further back, given Britain's imperial engagements, all the way to the creation of the British army in 1707.
What does this mean? That it "may" stretch further back than 1914? Do we seriously not know whether or not the UK was involved in a war in 1913?
posted by Flunkie at 4:26 PM on February 13, 2014 [2 favorites]


Interactive Journalism Fail.

The timeline is confusing , and even if you hover over each of the event blocks one by one so that they expand to their "true" size in the timeline, it still seems that there are whacking great gaps in the timeline which would disprove the whole point of the article
posted by Bwithh at 4:27 PM on February 13, 2014


even if you hover over each of the event blocks one by one so that they expand to their "true" size in the timeline, it still seems that there are whacking great gaps in the timeline which would disprove the whole point of the article
No, there are none. For example:

* 1914-1918: World War I
* 1919-1932: Southern Iraq
* 1929-1938: Palestine
* 1939-1945: World War II
* 1945-1948: Palestine
* 1948-1960: Malaya
* 1960-1961: Cameroon
* 1962: Brunei
* 1963-1976: Oman
* 1969-1998: Northern Ireland
* 1999: Kosovo
* 2000: Sierra Leone
* 2001-2014: Afghanistan
posted by Flunkie at 4:37 PM on February 13, 2014 [3 favorites]


The claim depends on an acceptance that the belief that the Army's presence in NI counts as armed conflict. YMMV on that.

Army personnel died there every year from 1969 to 1997, except in 1970 and 1995.
posted by biffa at 4:37 PM on February 13, 2014 [10 favorites]


could it be that a year of abstention from military engagement on Britain's part is not so much high-mindedness but a sort of isolationist smugness?

As a Brit, I don't think this is true at all. Whilst Britain's performance on the global stage in recent years hasn't been perfect by any means, I think there has been a willingness to get involved, sometimes to good effect, sometimes not. And whilst Britain remains a part of the E.U I don't think we can be accused of isolationism (and if we leave I don't think that will be due to isolationism, but rather xenophobia, which is slightly different!).

Also, I think because of the huge amount of post colonial baggage there is kicking around due to a lot of imperialistic bullshit that happened in the last couple of centuries, I feel that we should set the bar higher for ourselves than other countries do when it comes to military overseas interventions.
posted by Ned G at 4:37 PM on February 13, 2014 [3 favorites]


What does this mean? That it "may" stretch further back than 1914? Do we seriously not know whether or not the UK was involved in a war in 1913?

If we're counting military policing (as in NI) then clearly right back.
posted by jaduncan at 4:47 PM on February 13, 2014


Since they are counting NI it then becomes odd not to count the much longer Indian occupation save when fighting Afghan invaders.
posted by jaduncan at 4:54 PM on February 13, 2014


Okay, props for the post title.
posted by eriko at 4:59 PM on February 13, 2014 [4 favorites]


the much longer Indian occupation
They have occupied Northern Ireland for a lot longer than they had India.
posted by Flunkie at 5:02 PM on February 13, 2014 [2 favorites]


What about the ongoing occupations in Scotland and Wales? //ducks
posted by humanfont at 5:04 PM on February 13, 2014 [2 favorites]


I'm still waiting for the Normans to go home.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 5:06 PM on February 13, 2014 [2 favorites]


They have occupied Northern Ireland for a lot longer than they had India.

Not with ongoing military policing.
posted by jaduncan at 5:09 PM on February 13, 2014


Speaking as someone whose grandparents were colonial subjects who squared off against their British masters on a few occasions, I applaud this new development in the scaling back of military interventions and engagements.
posted by all the versus at 5:13 PM on February 13, 2014


Reddit's BadHistory had an interesting discussion on this subject. They weren't too impressed with Guardian's effort.
posted by honestcoyote at 5:48 PM on February 13, 2014 [4 favorites]


British 2014 War Planning Document for Out of Work Army

  • Finally retake France from those jerky Capets Republicans Bonapartes Bourbons Bonapartes Bourbons Republicans Nazis Republicans -- Note: Check Edward III's notes on ruling France. Is renunciation of claims to Calais in Treaty of Troyes binding if Elizabeth was declared bastard by Pope? Call Francis to check.
  • Conquer Quebec as favor to rest of Canada (Note: Quebec City only walled city in North America -- are catapults in working order for probable siege?)
  • Reconquer U.S., but only the good bits -- suggest Iowa -- cannot locate on map but have read on internet it is very nice
  • Invade Norway: do not feel adequate counter raids upon Vikings were conducted prior to 1066 and foreign policy after William I disappointingly unconcerned with Viking retaliation
  • Crusade? (No longer trendy, too sandy)
  • Invade Uruguay to secure rich continuing supply of football players

  • posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:02 PM on February 13, 2014 [17 favorites]


    It's definitely true that here are some arguments to be had about whether certain situations qualify as armed conflict or not. Nevertheless, it is revealing that it's an exercise in sophistry to find a few years out of 100 where there was none.

    I apologise for the crappy timeline, but I couldn't find a better one
    posted by Jakey at 6:07 PM on February 13, 2014 [2 favorites]


    While I lived in England I repeatedly heard comments in the press about the UK maintaining their status as players on the global stage and also constant bizzaro references to 'punching above their weight' (though they have the fourth largest military budget in the world?!?!).

    Conquer Quebec as favor to rest of Canada (Note: Quebec City only walled city in North America -- are catapults in working order for probable siege?)

    Already done. Remember whose face is on the money used in all of Canada (this isn't the UK there is no Quebec Dollar that the rest of the country can refuse to accept unlike the Scottish Pound). Quebecers are already subjects of the crown. Maybe some are less than loyal but they are still all subjects. Curiously, the Citadel at Quebec City is ceremonial home of an almost entirely francophone battalion. I'm not sure what a re-conquering could achieve other than shutting down thousands of strip clubs.

    You also often hear American's refer to themselves as peace loving. National psychology is weird.
    posted by srboisvert at 6:36 PM on February 13, 2014 [1 favorite]


    Conquer Quebec as favor to rest of Canada

    Speaking as an anglophone Canadian, if you were to do us the favor of murdering our fellow citizens we would enthusiastically supply you with bullets. We would deliver them directly to your invading soldiers as accurately as possible.

    Speaking as an ex-colonial who knows his country got off lucky, if you yourself are British I find your jokes obscene. The body count of the British Empire is staggering. Example: ten million in India in 1857-1867 alone. A country with a heritage of serial genocide should not be so proud. Mongols, but with ships and hypocrisy instead of horses. We're not taking about ancient history. That's the point of this post -- British military occupations never stopped and are still going on in 2014, with pride and without apology. Give the Japanese credit for half a century without occupying foreign lands and killing their inhabitants.

    Hey Britons: let's make a deal, Jack Tar. If your country can go cold turkey and avoid militarily occupying anybody until 2114, then you get to make jokes about colonialism.
    posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 7:15 PM on February 13, 2014 [6 favorites]


    Surely it should be a measure of when and where troops are deployed, not whether or not there was conflict during the deployment.

    IMO deployment in a country other than the origin country, where the other country has no direct political say in the conduct of the origin country, counts as an ongoing military commitment.

    So Wales & Scotland don't count as a deployment, as they have representation in the British Parliament. The exception here is Northern Ireland, due to the refusal of a part of the population to accept British rule and to instead conduct an insurgency that necessitated the deployment of British troops to fight that insurgency.

    So in terms of deployments I think there is probably a very strong case to be made for 100 years, and most probably longer.
    posted by awfurby at 7:32 PM on February 13, 2014


    Curiously, the Citadel at Quebec City is ceremonial home of an almost entirely francophone battalion.

    Why do you find it strange that there would be Canadian soldiers at a Canadian military base? I'm glad the Van Doos (22e Régiment) are back from Afghanistan in part because they are Canada's last line of defence against Pontypool outbreaks.

    Quebecers are already subjects of the crown. Maybe some are less than loyal but they are still all subjects.

    Canada was lucky enough to have the chance to decolonize peacefully. Part of the trick was keeping up a series of polite fictions. Having a nominal monarch who is very far away was one of them. We let the nice lady with the funny hat come visit once a decade or so, but you can't possibly think any Canadians are subject to her whims.
    posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 7:38 PM on February 13, 2014


    Speaking as an ex-colonial who knows his country got off lucky, if you yourself are British I find your jokes obscene.

    Please note that as a Canadian you are living on land conquered and stolen by serial genociders, whereas British people themselves are mostly not. You remind me of the white Australian who berated me for what my people did to the Aborigines. She didn't seem to understand the irony.
    posted by Thing at 8:25 PM on February 13, 2014 [3 favorites]


    We let the nice lady with the funny hat come visit once a decade or so, but you can't possibly think any Canadians are subject to her whims.

    It was the governor general who allowed proroguing. So we have been subject to the Queen's whims even if she whimmed not to interfere. We also pay for the visits of the Queen (unlike the rest of commonwealth where the politic fiction is actually fiction). Not only are Canadians are the Queen's subjects and she and her family cost them money.

    Why do you find it strange that there would be Canadian soldiers at a Canadian military base? I'm glad the Van Doos (22e Régiment) are back from Afghanistan in part because they are Canada's last line of defence against Pontypool outbreaks.

    What is strange is that it is a largely francophone battalion. That is the government of Canada has made a decision to avoid stationing anglos in Quebec City. There are very few other countries in the world that so clearly set the stage for future separation by dividing their armed forces along social fault lines. In fact many do the complete opposite.
    posted by srboisvert at 8:28 PM on February 13, 2014


    could it be that a year of abstention from military engagement on Britain's part is not so much high-mindedness but a sort of isolationist smugness?

    wait, is this the thread where we workshop our Slate clickbait taglines?
    posted by kagredon at 8:37 PM on February 13, 2014


    wait, is this the thread where we workshop our Slate clickbait taglines?

    It's a bit confused/confusing, but I think it's the thread where we try to outdo each other with privileged postcolonial privilege-shaming.
    posted by Celsius1414 at 9:11 PM on February 13, 2014 [6 favorites]


    2001-2014: Afghanistan

    1839–1842: Afghanistan
    1878–1880: Afghanistan
    1919: Afghanistan
    posted by kirkaracha at 9:55 PM on February 13, 2014


    "Genocide" actually has a meaning. When thrown around to say "a lot of people died directly and indirectly", we diminish that meaning.
    posted by Palindromedary at 11:05 PM on February 13, 2014


    Hey Britons: let's make a deal, Jack Tar. If your country can go cold turkey and avoid militarily occupying anybody until 2114, then you get to make jokes about colonialism.

    So I presume you don't mind if I blame you personally for everything Harper does then?

    A million people marched on the streets of London to protest the UK's intent to invade Iraq, and many more in other cities (I was one of them). Yet our supposed left wing government under Labour invaded anyway. There's still regular attempts to try and get Blair prosecuted as a war criminal by citizens.

    We replaced our government with a coalition of the other two main parties. They continued the wars, and bombed Libya, and wanted to bomb Syria, but were barely defeated by Labour, after an intense lobbying effort to get them to flip.

    We have a weird relationship with the US, and government after government wants to cozy up and curry favour by showing we can still wear the big boy pants and invade country after country, every damn time the US comes calling. The Falklands in 1982, where we defended UK citizens and territory from an Argentine invasion, is the last war we've started that wasn't us riding shotgun to the US.

    Northern Ireland before that. Now, we can argue the merits of military involvement of NI plenty, but ultimately it's part of the UK and the majority of the population want it to stay that way for now.

    Prior to that, you have to go back to the 60's to the last gasps of Empire to find a British military action that was solely on us in a foreign country.

    Many of us Brits have been trying to stop us going to war for quite some time. But for the last 30 years, when the yanks come calling, off we go again, and damn what the population says, no matter who's in charge. Here's hoping not getting involved in Syria was the start of the tide turning.
    posted by ArkhanJG at 11:28 PM on February 13, 2014 [5 favorites]


    "Genocide" actually has a meaning. When thrown around to say "a lot of people died directly and indirectly", we diminish that meaning.

    - Palindromedary:

    This is often argued as a genocide, as it was direct consequence of parliamentary agricultural policies of the period

    Or how about This?

    The Boer concentration camps, adopted in a 'scorched earth policy'?

    What about the partition of India, a British policy that led to the deaths of millions in sectarian warfare?

    Or the "No Prisoners" policy of the British army during the Sepoy rebellion?

    Do you need it to be labelled as genocide by an act of parliament, before it meets your standards?
    posted by LeRoienJaune at 12:48 AM on February 14, 2014


    "Genocide" actually has a meaning.

    Indeed: the UN definition is as follows.

    "In the present Convention, genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:
    (a) Killing members of the group;
    (b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
    (c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
    (d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
    (e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group."

    Ethnic cleansing is a somewhat broader term. For example, the mass deportation of the Acadian people by the British Empire was an act of ethnic cleansing but not strictly speaking genocide.

    I presume you don't mind if I blame you personally for everything Harper does then?...

    I sort of am personally complicit in everything Harper does. Could I have done more to see that he was not re-elected? Yes. I didn't. In a small way I am to blame.

    Many of us Brits have been trying to stop us going to war for quite some time.

    Yes, and not just the Iraq war. British anticolonialism is old and commendable. You can tell your hypothetical grandkids that you tried to stop the Iraq war, and you deserve much credit for that.

    Please note that as a Canadian you are living on land conquered and stolen by serial genociders, whereas British people themselves are mostly not.

    Yes, the government of Canada has repeatedly committed acts of genocide. To give the most recent example, the residential schools system was designed to destroy First Nations cultures. This is recent history. I have met survivors, and I have talked with someone whose child was taken from her by the Canadian government. She reported that the worst thing for her was that she believed that the people raising her child would tell the kid that she had given him up because she did not love him. That's Canada, and that's just the 20th century.

    What bothers me about the British case is this: there's pretty much nobody on the Canadian political spectrum who is openly proud of our genocidal past. The Truth and Reconciliation commission that worked its way across the country over the past few years was called into being by the right wing Conservatives. In contrast, it seems as though a significant percentage of Britons are proud of their imperial history.
    posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 1:13 AM on February 14, 2014 [1 favorite]


    Speaking as an ex-colonial who knows his country got off lucky, if you yourself are British I find your jokes obscene.

    You were responding to someone in Peoria, Illinois (according to their profile), so the odds are against it.
    posted by biffa at 1:41 AM on February 14, 2014


    You were responding to someone in Peoria, Illinois

    I had actually did check her profile before commenting but somehow overlooked the location button.

    Anyhow, I'm sorry for what's turned into a derail. I was intending to say that I don't think the British Empire is funny. I was not intending to say that being British makes someone is a bad person, nor was I intending to imply that my country doesn't have blood on its hands, but intention isn't magic. Also, the tone I went with was not conducive to good conversation. I apologize.
    posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 2:08 AM on February 14, 2014 [5 favorites]


    "2001-2014: Afghanistan"

    1839–1842: Afghanistan
    1878–1880: Afghanistan
    1919: Afghanistan


    The British have been Afghanistan so much that, almost 150 years later, a retelling of the Sherlock Holmes mysteries can use it as the backstory for Watson without changing a thing. Which is crazy. That would be like an American talking about the southern states agitating for nullification and rebellion against a former Senator from Illinois over preserving and granting rights to--

    Oh, shit.
    posted by zombieflanders at 4:04 AM on February 14, 2014 [9 favorites]


    Do you need it to be labelled as genocide by an act of parliament, before it meets your standards?

    No: simply using the word correctly, as was done in the post following yours, would be good enough.

    The Irish Famine was not a deliberate attempt to eliminate the Irish people: it was a natural tragedy made worse by a cruelly indifferent British policy. The Sepoy Mutiny was a military operation in which many Indians were slaughtered as part of reprisals brought about by stories (some exaggerated, some not) or earlier Indian atrocities; contrary to your implication, prisoners were indeed taken in any case. Blaming the British for the deaths of the partition is removing agency of the local peoples to a grotesque degree, and again, was not part of a master plan to kill all the Indians and future Pakistanis, or even select groups of them. The Boer War concentration camps were not concentration camps in the sense that that term would later take, but literal attempts to concentrate the populace to make it harder for them to assist the Boer fighters they sympathized with, and in which disease then spread.

    Actual genocides, like the Ottoman Armenian example and the Holocaust, are far different. It doesn't make you wave the Union Jack and sing "by jingo" to acknowledge this fact; nor does it in any way give a pass to earlier British activities. At the risk of getting all prescriptivist, words mean things.
    posted by Palindromedary at 6:23 AM on February 14, 2014 [1 favorite]


    Zombieflanders beat me to the Sherlock comment. I just started the books after watching the Cumberbatch series and on page 1 or 2 of A Study in Scarlet, Watson talks about being wounded in Afghanistan (in the 1880s!). I had thought the series creators updated that bit of the story to be more modern ...
    posted by freecellwizard at 6:36 AM on February 14, 2014


    The Starvation of the 1850s was engineered to depopulate the island to make room for Anglo landlords to move in and take more land. It was well known before the mid-1800s that potatoes were extremely prone to blights (there had been devastating potato blights in Ireland long before before the Starvation) and the English made a concerted effort to deprive the Irish population of all other food sources other than potatoes. Attempts to keep virtually any other food, e.g. beef, was punishable by imprisonment or death. The result: during the famine, which affected all of Europe, Ireland was the only country to suffer to such a degree as it was being forced at gunpoint to export a sufficient quantity of food to feed a population 400% the size of their own country.

    LeRoienJaune listed an or two example above, but, at least in terms of tactics if not the exact goals, another appropriate example would be British actions/policy during the Kenya Emergency/Mau Mau Rebellion. By using their highly mobile military, the British were able to cut off the traditional migratory patterns of the Kikuyu that enabled sufficient food supplies for the population. Once they had been able to confine them to concentration camps, a process so Britishly-called "Villagization", all they had to do was to stick to the aforementioned strategy from a century prior: Simply wait. (PS Yes, if you're not into history and you're doing the math, yes, the events in Kenya happened in the 19freaking50s).

    If you want examples of intent from people with direct control over British policy at the time, like Charles Trevylan, you'll observe the attitudes driving these actions: the Starvation was "a direct stroke of an all-wise and all-merciful Providence" and it was a solution to "the deep and inveterate root of social evil" and "the sharp but effectual remedy by which the cure is likely to be effected... God grant that the generation to which this great opportunity has been offered may rightly perform its part..."

    His stance was not anomalous at the time nor was it novel. When potato blights had plagued Ireland in the centuries before the 1850s, this attitude was already prevalent. As far back as the 1500s, people like Edmund Spenser had argued that the only way to win in Ireland was to annihilate the foundations of Irish identity by eliminating their culture/language and speculated about "how far English colonisation and English policy might be most effectively carried out by Irish starvation."

    Hint: If you have to argue that something is only "quasi-genocidal", then you're probably a genocide-denier. There's no difference between killing you vs killing you only if you dare to eat. British historical revisionism is on par with the Japanese and, unfortunately, it's raised generations that are trained to pathologically avoid responsibility.
    posted by Redgrendel2001 at 1:12 PM on February 14, 2014


    The Starvation of the 1850s was engineered to depopulate the island to make room for Anglo landlords to move in and take more land.

    As a person of mostly Irish descent who has read a great deal about the famine, allow me to say that this is loony tunes conspracy theory bollocks. The English were certainly cruelly indifferent to Ireland's plight and could and should have done much more to alleviate it--but the idea that the famine was deliberately engineered as part of some grand plot is just nonsense.
    posted by yoink at 2:01 PM on February 14, 2014


    How about you respond with something other than rhetoric? You're ignoring every salient fact that I've mentioned and you're fulfilling the Irish-stereotype of avoiding addressing important issues; far too often there's the "nope nothing to see here, let's not talk about it, nothing happened, etc." attitude that's perpetuated other more modern issues like the plague of pedo priests. The bad, and the good, in life are a lot more subtle. Villains don't always goosestep along in masses wearing skulls on their uniforms like in the movies and no one was being "loony tunes" and insinuating "grand plots". I addressed intent and effect while you've simply been insulting.
    posted by Redgrendel2001 at 2:15 PM on February 14, 2014


    Hint: If you have to argue that something is only "quasi-genocidal", then you're probably a genocide-denier.

    Rather a good thing I never used such ridiculous terminology then, isn't it?

    No matter how many quotes you provide from leading Englishmen as to their disregard and even disgust for the Irish (and indeed, you could fill several Metafilters with them), you're not going to find evidence of a systematic British government policy that says, in effect, "right, let's sit down and figure out how to eliminate the Irish as a race", which is why the academic community does not consider the Irish Famine a genocide. I breathlessly await your primary sourced exploration of the Public Record Office that demonstrates otherwise.

    That full acknowledgement of the terrible crimes perpetuated by the British Empire is no longer enough - that you're actually capable of being labelled a "revisionist" because you won't simply throw the absolute worst label possible at it, no matter how inappropriate that label is or how much doing so depreciates actual genocides - is an absurd capitulation to simplistic outrage at the expense of actual scholarship. As much as people would like their own Holocaust to rage against, it's a rather unique situation; I'm afraid most will have to do with the more cumbersome "monstrous deprivation of life and liberty at the hands of callous or indifferent imperial overlords", which I agree doesn't have quite the same snappy ring and ability to score the maximum number of points in the outrage olympics, but does have the - apparently minor - virtue of being accurate.

    I have in no way made a single apologetic for a single element of British imperial policy in this thread, and indeed have acknowledged that it created a colossal loss of life. But I won't use an incorrect term to describe said policy, which apparently makes me a "genocide-denier". I'll be over on the left, picking up my "secretly Niall Ferguson" and "literally Hitler" badges, that I might have the full set.
    posted by Palindromedary at 2:15 PM on February 14, 2014 [3 favorites]


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