"Restore(s) a little sanity into current political debate" - Kenneth Minogue, TLS "Projects a more expansive and optimistic future for Americans than (the analysis of) Huntington" - James R. Kurth, National Interest "One of (the) most important books I have read in recent years" - Lexington Green
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Posted by Mrs. Davis on 30th September 2015 (All posts by Mrs. Davis)
Tonight Obama must be contemplating how much he feels like Stalin on June 22, 1941. One wishes it won’t take him 10 days to reappear. Until one considers how craven he will be when he does reappear. He’s no Uncle Joe, that’s for sure.
Posted by Lexington Green on 25th September 2015 (All posts by Lexington Green)
I have in recent years been reading the work of Joseph Conrad. I spent many years believing the best writers in English were George Orwell, Evelyn Waugh, with Leo Tolstoy in translation as a titan and peer. Then all of a sudden, in the last five or years I discovered that Ernest Hemingway is a near peer, and that V.S. Naipaul is every bit the equal of these great ones. And through Naipaul, I met Conrad, who also merits admission to this august company.
Naipaul and Conrad both have as a main theme the encounter, the clash, between European civilization and the peoples and ways of Asia and Africa. Conrad depicts the European imperial and commercial expansion near its peak, and while it is still confident and expanding. Naipaul depicts the world after the European domination has receded, like an outgoing tsunami, which has left a transformed landscape behind.
Posted by Michael Kennedy on 22nd September 2015 (All posts by Michael Kennedy)
We spent the day yesterday ( the 16th) at Waterloo. The battle field is largely preserved and reminds me a bit of Gettysburg. There is an excellent museum and we spent an hour or so at Hougoumont Farm where the battle really began.
Napoleon planned to draw Wellington’s reserve to Wellington’s right flank in defence of Hougoumont and then attack through the centre left of the British and allies’ front near La Haye Sainte.
Before the battle started, Hougoumont and its gardens, located on the allies’ right flank, were garrisoned and fortified by the 1st Battalion, 2nd Nassau Regiment, with additional detachments of jägers and landwehr from von Kielmansegge’s 1st (Hanoverian) Brigade. The light company of the 2nd Battalion, Coldstream Guards under the command of Lt-Colonel Henry Wyndham, was also stationed in the farm and chateaux, and the light company of the 2nd Battalion, Third Guards, under Lt-Colonel Charles Dashwood in the garden and grounds
The fighting here lasted all day and ended finally when the defenders were forced out as the buildings burned. It was too late for the French which had been reenforcing failure all day.
The French eventually committed 14,000 troops to Hougoumont Farm, of whom 8,000 were killed. The most famous encounter was The Battle of the Closing of the gate. The French had surrounded the farm which was an enclosed bastion of brick and stone walls with a gate access to the rear. They managed to force open the gate with axes into the yard but a few British soldiers managed to close it again and all the French who had gained the yard were killed. The few who closed the gate, were to be famous after the battle.
Sous-Lieutenant Legro, of the French 1st Light Infantry, broke through the wooden doors with an axe, allowing French soldiers to flood the courtyard. Graham’s commanding officer, Lieutenant-Colonel James Macdonnell, led his men through the melee in the courtyard to the gates, in an attempt to shut them against the pressing French. This was done with the help of three officers (Captain Wyndham, Ensign Hervey, and Ensign Gooch), Corporal Graham, and a few other soldiers including Graham’s brother Joseph. James Graham was the one to slot the bar in place. Flagstones, carts, and debris were then piled against the gates to hold them secure. The Frenchmen trapped within the courtyard were all killed, apart from a young drummer-boy.
The crucial mistake made here was by Napoleon’s brother, Prince Jerome, who commanded the first French troops to attack Hougoumont Farm. When they were repulsed, Jerome kept reenforcing the attack and drew the French focus to the strong point which resisted all day.
I read this book shortly after it came out in 1996, and just re-read it in the light of the anti-Semitic ranting and violence which is now ranging across Europe. It is an important book, deserving of a wide readership.
The author’s preferred title was “Blackmailed by History,” but the publisher insisted on “Menace.” Whatever the title, the book is informative, thought-provoking, and disturbing. Berlinski is good at melding philosophical thinking with direct observation. She holds a doctorate in international relations from Oxford, and has lived and worked in Britain, France, and Turkey, among other countries. (Dr Berlinski, may I call you Claire?)
The book’s dark tour of Europe begins in the Netherlands, where the murder of film director Theo van Gogh by a radical Muslim upset at the content of a film was quickly followed by the cancellation of that movie’s planned appearance at a film festival–and where an artist’s street mural with the legend “Thou Shalt Not Kill” was destroyed by order of the mayor of Rotterdam, eager to avoid giving offense to Muslims. (“Self-Extinguishing Tolerance” is the title of the chapter on Holland.) Claire moves on to Britain and analyzes the reasons why Muslim immigrants there have much higher unemployment and lower levels of assimilation than do Muslim immigrants to the US, and also discusses the unhinged levels of anti-Americanism that she finds among British elites. (Novelist Margaret Drabble: “My anti-Americanism has become almost uncontrollable. It has possessed me, like a disease. It rises up in my throat like acid reflux…”) While there has always been a certain amount of anti-Americanism in Britain, the author notes that “traditionally, Britain’s anti-American elites have been vocal, but they have generally been marginalized as chattering donkeys” but that now, with 1.6 million Muslim immigrants in Britain (more worshippers at mosques than at the Church of England), the impact of these anti-Americans can be greatly amplified. (Today, there are apparently more British Muslims fighting for ISIS than serving in the British armed forces.)
One of the book’s most interesting chapters is centered around the French farmer and anti-globalization leader Jose Bove, whose philosophy Berlinski summarizes as “crop worship”….”European men and women still confront the same existential questions, the same suffering as everyone who has ever been born. They are suspicious now of the Church and of grand political ideologies, but they nonetheless yearn for the transcendent. And so they worship other things–crops, for example, which certain Europeans, like certain tribal animists, have come to regard with superstitious awe.”
The title of this chapter is “Black-Market Religion: The Nine Lives of Jose Bove,” and Berlinski sees the current Jose Bove as merely one in a long line of historical figures who hawked similar ideologies. They range from a man of unknown name born in Bourges circa AD 560, to Talchem of Antwerp in 1112, through Hans the Piper of Niklashausen in the late 1400s, and on to the “dreamy, gentle, and lunatic Cathars” of Languedoc and finally to Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Berlinski sees all these people as being basically Christian heretics, with multiple factors in common. They tend appeal to those whose status or economic position is threatened, and to link the economic anxieties of their followers with spiritual ones. Quite a few of them have been hermits at some stage in their lives. Most of them have been strongly anti-Semitic. And many of the “Boves” have been concerned deeply with purity…Bove coined the neologism malbouffe, which according to Google Translate means “junk food,” but Berlinski says that translation “does not capture the full horror of bad bouffe, with its intimation of contamination, pollution, poison.” She observes that “the passionate terror of malbouffe–well founded or not–is also no accident; it recalls the fanatic religious and ritualistic search for purity of the Middle Ages, ethnic purity included. The fear of poisoning was widespread among the millenarians…” (See also this interesting piece on environmentalist ritualism as a means of coping with anxiety and perceived disorder.)
Marc Sasseville and Heather Penney were F-16 pilots with an Air National Guard squadron. Their order was to bring down Flight 93 before the terrorists in control of it could create another disaster on the scale of the World Trade Center…but their aircraft were configured for training, with no live ammunition and no missiles. A video interview with Major Penney here
Joseph Fouché writes about how the Taliban’s destruction of the Bamiyan Buddhas in March 2001, and the murder of Ahmed Shah Masood on September 9 of that year, prefigured the 9/11 attacks.
The Diplomad posts a speech he gave on 9/14/01, when he was charge d’affaires at a U.S. embassy. You will not hear speeches like that being given by diplomats under the administration of Barack Obama.
On September 11, 2005, Rare Kate didn’t go to church. Follow the link to find out why. In my original post linking this, I said “What if American and British religious leaders had responded the depradations of Naziism in the spirit of this liturgy? Actually, some of them did. The impact on preparedness was certainly malign, and the people who took such positions certainly bear a share of moral resposibility for the deaths and devastation that took place. Ditto for those who are behaving in a similar way today.”
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, an important leader of the anti-Nazi resistance in Germany (executed in 1945), wrote the following:
Today there are once more saints and villains. Instead of the uniform grayness of the rainy day, we have the black storm cloud and the brilliant lightning flash. Outlines stand out with exaggerated sharpness. Shakespeare’s characters walk among us. The villain and the saint emerge from primeval depths and by their appearannce they tear open the infernal or the divine abyss from which they come and enable us to see for a moment into mysteries of which we had never dreamed.
The refusal on the part of many individuals to face the seriousness of the radical Islamist threat to out civilization stems in significant part, I feel certain, from a desire to avoid the uncomfortable and even dangerous kind of clarity that Bonhoeffer was talking about.
To further the current work in progress, I am re-reading Erik Larson’s Isaac’s Storm – a gripping and almost novelistic account of the hurricane which struck the Texas Gulf coast city of Galveston on Saturday, September 8, 1900. The Isaac of the title is Isaac Cline, the resident meteorologist in Galveston for the U.S. Weather Bureau – who paid a devastating price – the loss of his heavily pregnant wife when his house was swept away at the height of the storm – for miscalculations made; miscalculations made both by himself and by the Weather Bureau headquarters policies in far-distant Washington DC.
That 1900 storm still stands as the single deadliest natural disaster ever to strike the United States, with a death toll equal of all later storms combined; at least 6,000 in Galveston alone – a quarter of the population at the time – and along the Texas coast. The storm surge went for miles inland, and may have carried away another 2,000, whose bodies were never found – and never reported missing, as there was no one left to do so. Galveston Island – a coastal sand-bar, little more than eight feet above sea level at its highest point – was a busy and strategic port. At the turn of the last century, it was the largest city in Texas; a center of commerce, transportation hub and port of entry for immigrants coming into the Southwest by sea. Galveston was connected to the mainland across a normally placid lagoon by three railway trestles.
Although the rival port city of Indianola, farther west along the Gulf Coast had been wiped out by a pair of hurricanes fifteen and twenty-five years before, generally the citizens of Galveston were complacent, comfortable in the belief that any storm – and they had easily weathered many of them – was readily survivable. And after all – this was a new century, one marked by unparalleled technologic and scientific advances! So a sea-wall proposed by certain concerned citizens was never built; indeed, Isaac Cline had written an article for the local newspaper in 1891, arguing that such a wall was not necessary; it was impossible for a storm of sufficient destructive intensity to strike Galveston. And he, of course, was an expert. Read the rest of this entry »
Mary Antin was a Russian Jewish immigrant who came to the US with her family in 1894, at the age of thirteen. I briefly reviewed her 1912 book, The Promised Land, here.
Browsing through a used bookstore the other day, I saw a slightly later book by Antin: They who knock at our gates–a complete gospel of immigration (available here). It was published in 1914, at a time when immigration had become a very hot social and political issue, and is a highly polemical but pretty well-reasoned document. Antin’s key points and arguments are:
**The fundamental American statement of belief is the Declaration of Independence. “What the Mosaic Law is to the Jews, the Declaration is to the American people…Without it, we should not differ greatly from other nations who have achieved a constitutional form of government and various democratic institutions.” And “it was by sinking our particular quarrel with George of England in the universal quarrel of humanity with injustice that we emerged a distinct nation with a unique mission in the world.” Our loyalty to these principles is tested by our attitude toward immigration, “For the alien, whatever ethnic or geographic label he carries, in a primary classification of the creatures of the earth, falls in the human family.” This universalist view leads Antin to conclude that we are morally obligated to accept as many immigrants as we feasibly can–and we have room for many, many more. “Let the children be brought up to know that we are a people with a mission.”
**Contrary to the assertions being made in some quarters (in 1914), today’s immigrants are not of inferior quality to those of earlier eras. Jewish immigrants from Russia, for example, are pursuing religious liberty in a way directly analogous to the Pilgrims…indeed, “It takes a hundred times as much steadfastness and endurance for a Russian Jew of today to remain a Jew as it took for an English Protestant in the seventeenth century to defy the established Church”…and Russian Jews have shown great courage in the revolutionary movements against the Czar. Also, “We experienced a shock of surprise, a little while ago, when troops of our Greek immigrants deserted the bootblacking parlors and the fruit-stands and tumbled aboard anything that happened to sail for the Mediterranean, in their eagerness..to strike a blow for their country in her need….From these unexpected exploits of the craven Jew and the degenerate Greek, it would seem as if the different elements of the despised “new” immigration only await a spectacular opportunity to prove themselves equal to the “old” in civic valor.” Recent immigrants have also distinguished themselves in their avid pursuit of educational opportunities. “Bread isn’t easy to get in America,” Antin quotes a widow on Division Street, “but the children can go to school, and that’s more than bread.”
**Many of the problems associated with immigrant communities are actually the fault of bad municipal administration. “You might dump the whole of the East Side into the German capital and there would be no slums there, because the municipal authorities of Berlin know how to enforce building regulations, how to plant trees, and how to clean the streets….If the slums were due to the influx of foreigners, why should London have slums, and more hideous slums than New York?”
**Those who choose to become immigrants, from whatever, country, represent that best of that population. “Some of the best blood of New England answered the call of “Westward ho!” when the empty lands beyond the Alleghenies gaped for population…Of the aristocracy of New England that portion stayed at home which was fortified by wealth, and so did not feel the economic pressure of increased population; of the proletariat remained, on the whole, the less robust, the less venturesome, the men and women of conservative imagination. It was bound to be so, because wherever the population is set in motion by internal pressure, the emigrant train is composed of the stoutest, the most resourceful of those who are not held back by the roots of wealth or sentiment. Voluntary emigration always calls for the highest combination of the physical and moral virtues.”
Hence, the United States has practical as well as moral reasons to maximize immigration. Antin does not demand an absolutely uncontrolled immigration policy–“I do not ask that we remove all restrictions and let the flood of immigration sweep in unchecked”–she seems to be OK with health checks, and she calls for deportation of immigrants who have committed crimes–but does assert that the gate should be opened as wide as possible.
A quite different view of mass immigration can be found (oddly enough) in one of George MacDonald Fraser’s picaresque Flashman novels (link). In this passage, the anti-hero Flashman speaks very much out of character, soberly and thoughtfully in what is probably the author’s own voice, about the American Indian experience of European movement to their lands.
One of the fallacies of studying history and interpreting historical events is that:
1) you look at the course of events that occurred and assume that they mostly would follow a similar narrative with different variables
2) you ignore what might have happened that is significantly out-of-the-box or the “black swans” that could have resulted in radically different outcomes.
I discussed this here with equity markets by country; while we talk about the “long term” and staying with stocks since they generally rise, we ignore that for most countries there have been “liquidation events” that wiped out all the players who remained in the markets (of their stockholdings, at least).
For instance, in the course of WW2, there has been much discussion of whether or not the Germans would have won had they attempted a sea-landing of England. The much more important train of thought, however, is what might have happened had Churchill not been the Prime Minister of England during those critical hours. Many, many lesser men would have capitulated in that time of crisis.
On the Russian front, in 1941, Russia likely came within a hair’s breadth of moral and system-wide collapse after their frontier armies were annihilated and the Germans began driving across the steppe. The fact that they were able to sacrifice armies for time and keep some semblance of discipline is taken as a given, but likely if the world ran that as a true Monte Carlo simulation over and over again that outcome is rare.
A third WW2 example is “what would have happened had the US Navy lost at Midway” which was what the odds said would have occurred. It is true that in the end US material advantages would vastly outstrip Japan, but another issue is “if we didn’t have victories, would the US political system have produced an isolationist president who would have sued for peace?” FDR was an ill man and could have conceivably died anytime from 1940 onward. Even today, looking back, I am amazed that so many US servicemen were preparing to invade Japan at the end of the war, a task that would have led to virtually certain death or injury (for the lucky ones) for tens of thousands without some sort of riots or desertion given the immense casualties and deaths the US faced at Okinawa and Iwo Jima. Today we lack the social cohesion to attempt anything so disruptive and likely to result in mass casualties.
It is important to remember that historians and prognosticators are notoriously bad at predicting events – even on topics that they are intimately close to. For example, few saw the collapse of the USSR in 1989 and the entire “Arab Spring” that began with a vendor self-immolating in Tunisia swept the world with surprise. It isn’t that in hindsight many showed the “rot” of these decaying systems, but that they couldn’t predict the “triggers” that would set off the maelstrom.
Posted by Trent Telenko on 3rd September 2015 (All posts by Trent Telenko)
While the time pressures of work and family life prevented me from posting this yesterday, Sept 02, 2015, a commemoration of the official surrender of Japan in WW2 is still in order. Like the commemoration of the atomic bombing of Japan, this post will be about how the events leading to the surrender have been covered in American culture. Specifically, it will be a posting of several C-Span network video links to presentations by the leading historians of the period including Craig Symonds, Richard Frank, D.M. Giangreco, and John Kuehn. Afterwards I will give short reviews of each video.
The following symposia video titles & descriptions, plus links, are from C-Span
Historians talked about the turning point in the Pacific theater
during World War II. Craig Symonds argued the Battle of Midway was the
decisive engagement that shifted momentum in the Allies favor, while
Richard Frank asserted that the Guadalcanal campaign thwarted future
Axis plans and resulted in a permanent blow to the Japanese war
machine. A video clip from “Victory at Sea” was played without sound.
After each author made his presentation, they held a discussion and
responded to questions from members of the audience.
“Pacific War Turning Point: Midway or Guadalcanal?” was part of The
Bernard and Irene Schwartz Distinguished Speakers Series WWII & NYC of
The New York Historical Society.
Richard Frank, author of Downfall: The End of the Imperial Japanese Empire,
spoke about the events leading up to Japan’s surrender at the end of World War II. He talked about American and Japanese strategies and operations in the closing months of the war, the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan’s surrender, and the fall of the Japanese Empire.
D.M. Giangreco talked about the American offensive directed at Japan’s
northernmost island, Hokkaido. He also spoke about the Soviet Union’s
involvement, including the influence of logistics and diplomatic
“The Hokkaido Myth: U.S., Soviet, and Japanese Plans for Invasion” was a portion of “Endgame: August 1945 in Asia and the Pacific,” a symposium hosted by the Institute for the Study of Strategy and Politics
John Kuehn talked about Japan’s decision to surrender to Allied forces
in August of 1945.
“A Succession of Miracles: Japan’s Decision to Surrender” was a portion of “Endgame: August 1945 in Asia and the Pacific,” a symposium hosted by the Institute for the Study of Strategy and Politics.
Each of the above presentations was hugely informative. In the “Pacific War Turning Point: Midway or Guadalcanal?” argument, I side with Richard Frank on its impact on Japanese military capability. The Guadalcanal campaign hurt the Japanese far more than the “Decisive battle” of Midway. I recently received a Kindle Copy of Phillips Payson O’Brien’s How the War was Won: Air-Sea Power and Allied Victory in World War II (Cambridge Military Histories) that convinced me of the importance of Guadalcanal over Midway in terms of killing off the best Japanese naval pilots, most of whom survived Midway.
In the second video on July 14, 2015 Richard Frank basically gives a presentation drawn from his coming trilogy on the “Asia-Pacific War” that highlights the Japanese military preparations to defend Japan, including the mobilization of a 20 million strong civilian-militia to back up the military, and how important the A-bomb was as compared to the Soviet Invasion of Manchuria in getting the Japanese to surrender. Frank also speaks to the King-Nimitz efforts to challenge Olympic and the total casualties up to August 1945 and how many more would have died from starvation had the war lasted even a short time longer. Frank tends to be US Navy centric and did not think much of MacArthur’s Olympic plans.
The third video, by D.M. Giangreco of a presentation titled “The Hokkaido Myth: U.S., Soviet, and Japanese Plans for Invasion”, goes very heavily into Japanese, Soviet & American plans to alternately defend or invade the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido. Short form — The Soviets had enough American provided sealift for a light infantry division, but not enough airpower to protect it, and the available Japanese ground forces and Kamikazes would be able to make any Soviet lodgment a Pacific Anzio.
The final video, by John Kuehn, titled “A Succession of Miracles: Japan’s Decision to Surrender” goes deeply into the Japanese high command, civilian leadership and the Showa Emperor’s maneuvering to achieve a surrender. I found it particularly useful in getting a better understanding of the irrationality that dominated Japanese decision making. And the point that Kuehn made that the “Big-Six” represented the Japanese military “Moderate factions” was chilling.
If you had to name ten things “which changed everything” in the last 2 decades nearly all the good stuff will have crept out of woodwork from the inner pages while all the bad stuff was parading above the fold. You can even think of the inner pages as being in an endless war with the front page, in an unending battle between the ordinary working stiff and the self-important leaders. The working stiff makes and the self-important leader taxes and wastes. Booms happen when the regular Joe can temporarily outpace the great men and the years of the locust occur when the opposite is true.
This is a nice post that touches a number of important themes about progress and how people perceive it. Worth reading.
Posted by Trent Telenko on 17th August 2015 (All posts by Trent Telenko)
On August 18, 1945, in a second day running of violations of the Potsdam cease fire, fighters of the Imperial Japanese Navy attacked American B-32 Dominator bombers on photo reconnaissance missions over the Tokyo area. During these attacks the last American serviceman to die in combat during World War 2 fell.
This is a painting of the final B-32 photographic mission over Japan after acceptance of the Potsdam terms, and before the formal Japanese surrender in early September 1945.
The prologue sets up why Stephen Harding wrote the book, the first two chapters are biographies of Tony Marchione, how he came to his unit — the 386th Bombardment Group — for the mission, and a thumb nail history of the trouble plagued B-32 Dominator super-bomber’s development and combat history. The B-32 was a back up “Very Heavy Bomber” (VHB) to the B-29 Superfortress that USAF documents would not even admit was a “VHB” design post-war!
Chapters Three through Five are the set-up for and a description of the desperate fighting action that saw Tony Marchione killed by a 20mm shell while giving first aide to two other B-32 crewmen wounded in an earlier fighter attack on his B-32 plane, tail number 578.
Chapter Six focuses on General MacArthur’s wisdom in not launching immediate retaliatory strikes on the Japanese. Thus allowing The Emperor and his loyal retainers to shut down numerous mutinous air units, to include the IJN air bases where the fighters that killed Marchione were based.
Chapter Seven has the grim details of the notification of Tony Marchione’s next of kin and the mechanics of getting his personal effects, and eventually his body, to his small-town Pennsylvania home for final funeral services in 1948.
All in all I found the book satisfying both as story telling and as a foot-noted history. It has my strong buy recommendation.
This last weekend marked the 70th anniversary of VJ-Day; the surrender of Japan to the Allied forces. This marked a day of wild rejoicing in New York, Honolulu, London and in practically every town and city across the Western world which had sent armies and navies into a bitter fight against Imperial Japan – a fight which had been up and running in China long before Japan chose to take the fight to America by launching an attack on Pearl Harbor.
Time has had its’ usual way with those who fought in it, and survived. The generals and admirals who stood at the top of the military chain of command are long gone, being middle and late-middle aged in the 1940s. The colonels and naval commanders are pretty much gone from the scene, the captains and ensigns vanishing likewise; most of the veteran survivors still with us were very young men and women, little more than teenagers at the time of the war; young and happy to be reprieved from fighting in a war which looked to drag on for another five or six bloody years. By the next significant anniversaries – the 75th and the 80th, there will be even fewer remaining. Read the rest of this entry »
After WW2 and Vietnam there was an era of relative peace as the two major superpowers stared at each other, laden with nuclear weapons, through proxy states and alliances. During this era, the major powers continually upped their weapons’ capabilities, but rarely tested them, and not against one another.
Certainly there was war of various sorts throughout the world, but the sort of “conventional” warfare analogous to WW2 battles with armor, air power, and crushing violence rather than guerrilla tactics was far from the norm.
The additional, tacit, assumption was that many of the modern democracies were far removed from the front lines and as such they let their military traditions die. In fact, many openly scoffed at the military as wasted dollars, or used their military spending substantially for the purpose of protecting local jobs and / or technologies along with export markets (see Airbus and most of Europe).
The world was on a hair-trigger of nuclear annihilation for so long that the thought of a conventional war became archaic and not normally contemplated. Alongside that was the general feeling that the borders of the nation state were inviolate, and while occasional splits would occur (Czechs and Slovaks, etc…) the vast majority would occur without violence and the transition would mainly involve economic concerns.
While the US, Russia and China would be loathe to directly face off head to head due to the very real sense of potential world destruction, everything else has become fair game. Russia takes Crimea, parts of Ukraine, and threatens the Baltic states. Is it conceivable that Putin would move in and take over one or more of the Baltic states? Absolutely. This sort of thinking would have been viewed as the raving of a lunatic ten years ago.
Posted by Trent Telenko on 12th August 2015 (All posts by Trent Telenko)
It has become something of a tradition for western leftists to commemorate the August 6th and 9th 1945 US A-bomb attacks on Imperial Japan, and to try and make the case that even if the first bomb was needed — which it was not — that the second bomb was what amounted to a war crime because the American government and military knew the Japanese were trying to surrender, but wanted to intimidate the Soviet Union with the A-Bomb.
I have dealt with this annual leftist commemoration ritual with myth-destroying commemorations of my own explaining why leftists are wrong on this. See the following posts:
My Chicago Boyz commemoration is different this year in that it is a list of reviews from popular culture video and books that show how American culture looks at what might have happened — if Japan had continued fighting World War 2 after the nuking of Hiroshima and Nagasaki — and there had to be “The Invasion That Never Was”. Each review will be a text thumbnail of the content, a link, my impression and at the end of all the reviews I’ll share what I see as the problems that all of them share. Problems that amount to a cultural paradigm blind spot that I mentioned in my “Nagasaki, Hiroshima and Saving Hirohito’s Phony Baloney Job” back when I started these annual columns in 2010.
The first review is of the old History Channel series “Secrets of War Declassified” Episode 2 of 20: “Japan: The Invasion That Never Was”. This Charlton Heston narrated video is available through both Amazon.com and its current content-rights owner, Mills Creek Entertainment, at this link.
The video gives a reasonable back story to a 1990s cable channel audience on the historical military and political forces leading to the alternative decisions of invasion or to drop the atomic bombs by President Truman. It is told predominantly from the American professional academic military historian point of view, which while I agree with generally, leaves out much of the Chinese, Russian and British Commonwealth perspective on these events. This was reasonable editorial choice, as there is only so much you can put in a 51 minute video for an American cable channel audience. Overall the video has aged well in terms of production values from its original History Channel airing and the rich-voiced Charlton Heston narration make it a must-own for those interested in the era.
Full Episode is also on Youtube and a link is embedded above.
I see that the 70th anniversary of the dropping of atomic bombs over Hiroshima and Nagasaki this last weekend brought the usual hand-wringing and heart-string twanging on the part of the news media, and another round of the endless discussion over whether it was justified or not, with the same old patient answering of what the alternative would have been. I’ve really nothing more to add to that particular discussion, save noting that the stocks of Purple Heart medals struck and stockpiled in anticipation of American casualties in a full-frontal invasion of Japan have only in the last fifteen years been diminished to the point where a new order for them had to be initiated – this, after Korea, Vietnam, Grenada, Kosovo, Gulf War 1, and Iraq.
Arthur Koestler, himself a former Communist, wrote about closed intellectual systems:
A closed sysem has three peculiarities. Firstly, it claims to represent a truth of universal validity, capable of explaining all phenomena, and to have a cure for all that ails man. In the second place, it is a system which cannot be refuted by evidence, because all potentially damaging data are automatically processed and reinterpreted to make them fit the expected pattern. The processing is done by sophisticated methods of causistry, centered on axioms of great emotive power, and indifferent to the rules of common logic; it is a kind of Wonderland croquet, played with mobile hoops. In the third place, it is a system which invalidates criticism by shifting the argument to the subjective motivation of the critic, and deducing his motivation from the axioms of the system itself. The orthodox Freudian school in its early stages approximated a closed system; if you argued that for such and such reasons you doubted the existence of the so-called castration complex, the Freudian’s prompt answer was that your argument betrayed an unconscious resistance indicating that you ourself have a castration complex; you were caught in a vicious circle. Similarly, if you argued with a Stalinist that to make a pact with Hitler was not a nice thing to do he would explain that your bourgeois class-consciousness made you unable to understand the dialectics of history…In short, the closed system excludes the possibility of objective argument by two related proceedings: (a) facts are deprived of their value as evidence by scholastic processing; (b) objections are invalidated by shifting the argument to the personal motive behind the objection. This procedure is legitimate according to the closed system’s rules of the game which, however absurd they seem to the outsider, have a great coherence and inner consistency.
The atmosphere inside the closed system is highly charged; it is an emoional hothouse…The trained, “closed-minded” theologian, psychoanalyst, or Marxist can at any time make mincemeat of his “open-minded” adversary and thus prove the superiority of his system to the world and to himself.
In debating with “progressives,” one often encounters this kind of closed-system thinking: there is absolutely no way you are going to change their minds, whatever the evidence or logic. (I don’t think this is true of all “progressives”–otherwise the situation in America today would be even more grim than it actually is–but it’s true of a lot of them.)
But what are the “axioms of great emotive power” in which “progressives” believe? It is pretty easy to write down on one sheet of paper the basic beliefs of Christianity, or of Marxism, or of American Democratic Republicanism. The fundamental tenets of Naziism…Nationalism, Socialism, anti-Semitism, etc….were well summarized by Joseph Goebbels in this pamphlet.
I find it difficult to summarize today’s “progressive” belief system. It does not seem to be a coherent intellectual system, not even a faux-coherent intellectual system such as Marxism. But it clearly appeals deeply to millions of people, and has largely pervaded many if not most institutions, ranging from academia to popular media, throughout America and Western Europe.
So let’s try to identify these axioms. What are the things in which one must believe if one is to be a good “progressive”? Please try to be maximally objective and to maintain emotional distance, as if you were describing the religious beliefs of a lost tribe in South America or a band of Christian heretics in the Middle Ages, and try to separate the intellectual content of the belief system from the emotional drivers of those beliefs.
Girlwithadragonflytattoo has a post on anger, in which she argues that expressing one’s anger is generally not a good idea, from the standpoint of one’s own mental health.
Dragonfly Girl’s post reminded me of a recent post by Grim, in which he discusses anger in a political context, and channels Andrew Klavan to point out that anger can make you stupid.
Grim: We need to be cunning. We need to think and act strategically.
Klavan: You want to win back your country? Here’s how. Fear nothing. Hate no one. Stick to principles. Unchecked borders are dangerous not because Mexicans are evil but because evil thrives when good men don’t stand guard. Poverty programs are misguided, not because the poor are undeserving criminals, but because dependency on government breeds dysfunction and more poverty. Guns save lives and protect liberty. Property rights guarantee liberty. Religious rights are essential to liberty. Without liberty we are equal only in misery.
Anger of course does have a purpose. In politics, it is anger at bad policies and their destructive impact that can motivate one to get involved and work hard for positive change. In relationships, anger at mistreatment can motivate one to fix it or get out of it. But anger needs to be controlled and moderated or it becomes the enemy of judicious thought and effective action.
Speaking of effective action, the original post also reminded me (oddly enough!) of a famous event in military history, the Charge of the Light Brigade. This unnecessary disaster took place during the Crimean War, in 1854, and seems to have been driven in considerable part by toxic emotions on the part of British officers involved. While the details of the Charge are still being debated by historians, 161 years later, the general outline was as follows…
The Light Cavalry Brigade was commanded by Lord Cardigan, who in turn was subordinate to the overall Cavalry commander, Lord Lucan. The two men were related, and they could not stand each other, to the point where they avoided communication. Neither was popular in the army.
On October 25, the overall British commander in the Crimea, Lord Raglan, was situated on high ground, from which he had a far better view of the field than did Cardigan and Lucan. He and his staff observed that the Russians had captured some heavy British guns and were about to haul them away. An order was dispatched to Lucan under the signature of Raglan’s chief of staff:
Lord Raglan wishes the cavalry to advance rapidly to the front – follow the enemy and try to prevent the enemy carrying away the guns. Troop Horse Artillery may accompany. French cavalry is on your left. R Airey. Immediate.
This is a delightful interview of Krauthammer by William Kristol from earlier this year. It’s quite long but the whole thing is worth watching.
In this conversation, Charles Krauthammer reflects on his upbringing in a politically-tumultuous Quebec, his work in medicine, and his views on Zionism, Judaism, and religion. Charles Krauthammer and Bill Kristol also discuss some of the key ideas, questions, and themes of his writing—including the “Reagan Doctrine,” an idea he coined, the role of America in a new post-Cold War world, and whether the America of 2015 is in decline.
(A timeline of the interview appears on the interview’s YouTube page.)
“I fear that what could happen is if Congress were to overturn it, our friends Israel could actually wind up being more isolated and more blamed,” Kerry said.
A good column today by David Gelernter makes a strong case that Obama will be remembered for what he is doing with Iran.
Obama will be remembered ultimately for the Iran treaty, as Johnson is remembered for Vietnam. Like Johnson, Obama is wrapped in a warm blanket of advisers who flatter his earnest, high-school views of world politics. Like Johnson, he lives in his own delusional world in which he’s commander-in-chief not merely of the military but of the whole blessed nation. Like Johnson, he has been destroyed by the arrogance of power; and his blindness has endangered America. Unlike Johnson, he was never big enough for the job in the first place.
His comparison with Lyndon Johnson is excellent. I read HR McMaster’s “Dereliction of Duty,” and the resemblance to Obama’s policies is astonishing. I recently read another book that points out the consequences of Obama’s decision to abandon Iraq. It is written by a young British woman named Emma Sky and is called “The Unraveling.”
The future is still to be written but we see a few hints. The Iranians are already celebrating and by “Iranians” I do not mean the oppressed citizens of that sad country. They are passengers on a runaway train driven by lunatics. We have now given those lunatics the keys to the atomic bomb.
To further the current work in progress (which will feature the heroine being in Galveston during the hurricane of 1900), I am re-reading Erik Larson’s Isaac’s Storm– a gripping and almost novelistic account of the hurricane which struck the Texas Gulf coast city of Galveston on Saturday, September 8th, 1900. The Isaac of the title is Isaac Cline, the resident meteorologist in Galveston for the U.S. Weather Bureau – who paid a devastating price – the loss of his heavily pregnant wife when his house was swept away at the height of the storm – for miscalculations made; miscalculations made both by himself and by the Weather Bureau headquarters policies in far-distant Washington DC.
That 1900 storm still stands as the single deadliest natural disaster ever to strike the United States, with a death toll equal of all later storms combined; at least 6,000 in Galveston alone – a quarter of the population at the time – and along the Texas coast. The storm surge went for miles inland, and may have carried away another 2,000, whose bodies were never found – and never reported missing, as there was no one left to do so. Galveston Island – a coastal sand-bar, little more than eight feet above sea level at its highest point – was a busy and strategic port. At the turn of the last century, it was the largest city in Texas; a center of commerce, transportation hub and port of entry for immigrants coming into the Southwest by sea. Galveston was connected to the mainland across a normally placid lagoon by three railway trestles. Although the rival port city of Indianola, farther west along the Gulf Coast had been wiped out by a pair of hurricanes fifteen and twenty-five years before, generally the citizens of Galveston were complacent, comfortable in the belief that any storm – and they had easily weathered many of them – was readily survivable. And after all – this was a new century, one marked by unparalleled technologic and scientific advances! So a sea-wall proposed by certain concerned citizens was never built; indeed, Isaac Cline had written an article for the local newspaper in 1891, arguing that such a wall was not necessary; it was impossible for a storm of sufficient destructive intensity to strike Galveston. And he, of course, was an expert. Read the rest of this entry »
Yesterday I was talking to my mom and she said the news from the States and the things “your funny critters” (pretty much how mom refers to governments in general!) are doing remind her of the Spanish occupation of Portugal.
I have a new post on my own blog which I hesitate to inflict on everyone as there is much family history in addition to Chicago history. It does have some nice photos of Chicago’s South Side many years ago. I found them in a small book of photos of South Shore published in Chicago by a man whose father was a local photographer. If anyone is interested, the link is here.