Archive for the 'History' Category
Posted by Lexington Green on 9th June 2015 (All posts by Lexington Green)
One of my Conservative activist friends was getting depressed, so I rattled off the following. (I hope I am right.)
Reagan used to tell jokes about how Communism didn’t work. Reagan understood that stupidity ultimately destroys itself. All the people around him assumed the evil would last forever. Hardcore Conservatives, like me, thought he was naive. Turns out we were naive. The modern welfare state really got started in the 1960s. It lasted about two generations and it is totally dysfunctional. The first Conservative movement gave us Reagan, who did some good but did not reverse the trends. The new reform movement has barely gotten started. But this movement looks to be broader and deeper than the first Conservative movement. The Tea Party started around the turn of the year 2008/09. That is 5.5 years. Major reform movements usually take a generation to start winning lots of elections. The GOP has just taken over more elected offices than any time since the 1920s, and the reformers are driving it, and the RINOs have to at least talk the talk or they can’t get elected. We are moving along very well. We are in the process of taking over the GOP, and in the process of taking over the government. I thought Obamacare would be embedded and unmovable by now, and it would take us decades to dismantle it. It may go much better and quicker than that. People on the Right have lots of competing ideas of what to do. The internal conflicts are a sign of vitality. The Democrats have NO IDEAS. Zero. All they do is attack and lie and say their opponents are racists. That’s it. That is all the cards they are holding. They nakedly abuse power to insulate themselves. They cannot tell the truth about who they are or what they want to do or they will lose. They are like the Soviet Communists under Brezhnev. Hillary even looks like an old, corrupt, smug Communist bloc apparatchik. Their day is over and they are clinging to power. The worst menace is crony capitalism, but even there people are increasingly aware of the problem and starting to push back.
This is going to be a long struggle, and we will lose battles, and there will be betrayals, and people will get exhausted and give up.
But the deep trends are in our favor.
We are right, factually and morally.
They are wrong, factually and morally.
They will lose.
We will win.
Posted in America 3.0, Deep Thoughts, History, Political Philosophy, Politics | 45 Comments »
Posted by Sgt. Mom on 6th June 2015 (All posts by Sgt. Mom)
(An early version of this essay began as a sorrowful rant about the lack of good adventure movies a number of summers ago. It turned into a multi-part blog post, and then into a novel about the first wagon-train party to get their wagons over the Sierra Nevada – in winter yet. They got lost, had to break up into separate groups, were caught by winter while still in the mountains, nearly ran out of food … but unlike the Donner Party of two years later, this party managed to hang together and negotiate the mountain obstacle without any loss of life. This is part one of two.)
In comparison to the notorious and hard-luck Donner-Reed Party, hardly anyone has ever heard of a similar wagon-train company who crossed over almost the exact same trail two years previously. The party led by Elisha Stephens and John Townsend, and advised by the old mountain-man, Caleb Greenwood, walked much of the way between the Mississippi-Missouri and the Sacramento Rivers, across plain and desert, blazed a trail up the wilderness of a steep canyon, and finally hauled wagons up a sheer mountain cliff. Generally they remain a footnote in the history books, mostly noted for being the first to bring some of their wagons up the Truckee River canyon and over the Sierra Nevada into California. There was no tireless letter-writer or professional memoirist among them, no extensive first-hand accounts, although John Townsend, a medical doctor and Mason may have kept a diary.
In the year 1844, only a bare handful of explorers, missionaries and fur trappers had ever seen for sure what lay beyond the jumping-off points at Council Bluffs, Independence, St. Joseph. There was southern trail to Santa Fe, and beyond that to the thinly-populated enclave of Spanish and then Mexican territories in California, and a northern track which followed along the Platte River and terminated in Oregon Territory. Lewis and Clarke, and William Ashley’s fur-trapping brigades – all had gone that way, by boat, horseback or on foot. Hearing of the rich lands in the Pacific Northwest, farmers and small tradesmen also began following the siren call. This was not a journey for the impoverished. Besides a wagon, and stock to pull it, the journey required a six-month food supply, tools, clothes, bedding and cooking gear. There might be space in the wagon for books, and other small treasures, for the wagons were small, and food took up most of the space. The draft animal of choice was not the horse, as many would think. Horses were expensive, and the road was too rough in the early days for even the toughest horse in dray harness. Mules made a good showing on the southern trail, but they were also expensive. Most emigrants could better afford ox teams; four to six pair to a wagon, guided by a driver who walked by the lead team and controlled them by verbal commands.
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Posted in History, North America, Society | 6 Comments »
Posted by David Foster on 6th June 2015 (All posts by David Foster)
Today, June 6, is the 71st anniversary of the Normandy landings. See the Wikipedia article for an overview. Arthur Seltzer, who was there, describes his experiences.
Posted in Britain, Business, France, Germany, History, Photos, USA, War and Peace | 10 Comments »
Posted by Michael Kennedy on 5th June 2015 (All posts by Michael Kennedy)
Last month, I posted some old photos of Chicago in the 1940s. I grew up in a neighborhood that has since gone badly downhill in spite of a lot of positive features that should have kept it livable. It is South Shore and here is the previous post. We went back for a visit this week and just returned home last night. I posted some more photos of the old neighborhood Here.
We even revisited some spots from my post about a week in Michigan from two years ago.
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Posted in Chicagoania, History, Personal Narrative | 3 Comments »
Posted by T. Greer on 4th June 2015 (All posts by T. Greer)
This post is the second in a series. It was originally published at The Scholar’s Stage on the 26th of May, 2015. I strongly recommended readers start with the first post in this series, which introduces the purpose and methods of this essay. That post focused on what is published in English on Chinese strategic thought. This post focuses on what has been written about Chinese strategic practice–that is, the military, diplomatic, and political history of China’s past.
|A map depicting the most famous military campaign in East Asian history, decided at the Battle of Red Cliffs (208 AD) in modern-day Hubei.
In the West, the study of traditional China has been the domain of the Sinologists. For reasons that are entirely natural but also too complex and lengthy to explain here, this has meant that historians studying traditional China have focused their efforts on the history of Chinese philosophy, aesthetics, literature, and religion, as well as the closely related fields of archeology, linguistics, and philology. The much lamented decline of political, diplomatic, and military history across the American educational system had little perceivable effect here, for there was not much political, diplomatic, or military history to begin with. 
It should not be a surprise that many of the most important books on Chinese military and diplomatic relations have not been written by historians, but by political scientists. The interest political scientists might have in these topics is obvious, for theirs is a field devoted to the scientific and theoretical exploration of politics and international relations. The real mystery is why it took so long for political scientists to start writing about traditional East Asian international relations in the first place (most of the important books are less than a decade old). The answer to that question is not too hard to find if one looks at the books being written. The new crop of scholars writing these books hail from the international relations (IR) side of the science, and are part of a growing critique of the grand IR theories the discipline traditionally used to make sense of international affairs.  These theories were for the most part developed and tested in reference to traditional European great power politics. One of the central barbs of these critiques is that we cannot know if the grand theories of generations past describe truly universal laws or simply describe patterns unique to European history if these theories have not been tested on case studies outside of the last few hundred years of European politics. In response, scholars have searched for case studies outside of Europe with which they can test these theories or find the data needed to develop new ones entirely. East Asia, a region filled with bureaucratic states thousands of years before their development in the West, was a natural place to start.
The problem these researchers repeatedly ran into was that their fellow political scientists were not familiar enough with East Asian history to follow their arguments and there were no good primers on the topic to refer them to. So theses scholars ended up writing the historical narratives others would need to read before they could assess their theoretical arguments. Thus Victoria Tinbor Hui‘s chapter on the Warring States (453-221 BC) in War and State Formation in Ancient China and Early Modern Europe is one of the best narrative accounts of Warring States great power politics; Wang Yuan-kang‘s Harmony and War: Confucian Culture and Chinese Power Politics contains one of the only accounts of Song Dynasty (old style: Sung, 960-1279 AD) foreign relations and one of the most fluid narratives of the Ming Dynasty‘s (1368-1644) adventures abroad; and David Kang‘s East Asia Before the West: Five Centuries of Trade and Tribute has the most coherent discussion of the Chinese “tributary system” written in the last five decades. Historians have lauded these books for the amount of historical research that was poured into them , and I second their appraisal. As a field IR should take Asia more seriously and it should engage with historical sources more thoroughly than is common practice. However, I cannot help but lament the circumstances that pushed IR scholars to adopt these methods. Hopefully historians feel some shame over the sorry state of the field and how difficult it is for outsiders to approach their research.
One example will suffice to prove the point. I mentioned that Wang Yuan-kai’s War and Harmony has one of the few complete accounts of the Song Dynasty’s international relations. As far as scholarship goes, the amount of material devoted to this topic is middle-of-the-road: there are some periods where scholarship is more plentiful–say, the Late Ming, or the Qing (Ch’ing, 1644-1912), and there are some other periods where the scholarship is much more scarce–say, anything about the Tang (T’ang, 610-907 AD) or Han (206 BC-220 AD) dynasties. It is an interesting period to work with, for it is one of the few times in Chinese history when China was faced with external enemies whose military power was undeniably stronger than her own. It was the time of some of the most famous military figures and most horrible military disasters in Chinese history. It also saw some of the most historically influential debates about how to manage civil-military relations and the relationship between economic prosperity and military power. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted in Book Notes, China, History, War and Peace | 4 Comments »
Posted by Jonathan on 2nd June 2015 (All posts by Jonathan)
Eamon de Valera’s April 1945 missive to Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin:
After the cease fire, you must begin a peace process (even if, at first, you lack cooperation from your opponents). The first steps in that peace process are: to recognize the Axis Powers’ governments (even if not democratic) to allow all parties to return to their borders as they existed prior to the outbreak of these past regrettable hostilities and finally, to allow international trade to flow freely so that hungry innocents may be fed, clothed, and receive medicine. It is true that this might allow (some of) your enemies to rearm. But my own experts assure me that this possibility is minor. Inconsequential, abstract, and theoretical future risks such as potential rearmament cannot overcome the pressing, real, and current demands of suffering humanity and international law.
(A parody by Seth Barrett Tillman. Read the whole thing here, or in the Claremont Review of Books, where it appears towards the bottom of the Correspondence page here.)
Posted in History, Humor, International Affairs, Law, Leftism, Military Affairs, National Security, Political Philosophy, War and Peace | 8 Comments »
Posted by T. Greer on 2nd June 2015 (All posts by T. Greer)
|Mao Zedong writing On Protracted Warfare (Yan’an, 1938)
This essay was originally published at The Scholar’s Stage on 26 May, 2015. Because of its length it has been divided into two posts, both lengthy in their own right. This–the first of these two posts–is republished here at Chicago Boyz with little alteration. The second half of the essay shall be posted here later this week.
Last fall I wrote a popular series of posts outlining the history of the eight decade war waged between the Chinese Han Dynasty and the Xiongnu (old style: Hsiung-nu) nomadic empire. My posts were a response to a prominent American strategic theorist who misunderstood the history of the Han-Xiongnu relations in his search for enduring patterns in China’s military and diplomatic history relevant to China’s foreign relations today. Unfortunately, this experience was not a singular event. It seems that every month some new book or article is published pushing a misleading version of Chinese history or a strained interpretation of classical Chinese political thought to shore up a new theory of what makes China tick. I could devote this blog solely to refuting these poorly sourced theories and never run out of things to write about.
Despite these errors, I have a great deal of sympathy for those who pen them. They face a nearly insurmountable problem: many of the thinkers, strategists, and conflicts most important to the Chinese strategic tradition have next to nothing in English written about them. Critical works have yet to be translated, translated works have yet to be analyzed, histories of important wars and figures have yet to be written, and what has been written is often scattered in obscure books and journals accessible only to experienced Sinologists. English speakers simply do not have access to the information they need to study the Chinese strategic tradition.
This needs to change. It needs to change both for the sake of strategic theory as a discipline, which has essentially ignored the insights and observations gleaned from 3,000 years of study and experience, and for understanding the intentions of our rivals and allies in East Asia, who draw upon this tradition to decide their own political and strategic priorities. But in order to make these necessary changes we need a clear picture of where we are now. This essay attempts to provide this picture. It is not a bibliographic essay per say, for I will freely admit that I have not read all of the books and research articles I will mention below. Some titles I have only read in part; others I have not read at all. However, the goal of this post is not to review the results and conclusions of all these works, but to outline where research has been done and where more research is needed. For this purpose awareness suffices when more intimate knowledge is lacking.
Mastering 3,000 years of intellectual and military history is a gargantuan task. But in order to find the answers to some of the questions inherent in the study the Chinese strategic tradition, it must be done. I make no such claim of mastery. My expertise is uneven; I am most familiar with both the strategic thought and the actual events of the China’s classical period (Warring States through the Three Kingdoms era, c. 475 BC-280 AD), and am probably weakest when discussing the first two decades of the 20th century, a time critical to the development of the tradition but difficult to master because of the number of political actors involved, the complexity of their relations, and the great intellectual variety of the era. Despite these weaknesses I know enough to chart out the broad outlines of current scholarship, a charge most specialists in strategic theory cannot attempt and most Sinologists would not desire. These biases and proclivities have kept the two disciplines far apart; there is an urgent need for these two scholarly bodies to draw together. If this essay–which is addressed primarily to the first group but should be accessible to second–helps in some small way to bring this to pass I shall consider it a grand success.
This essay shall have three parts divided over two posts. The final section is a list of recommendations on how to establish and develop the study of the Chinese strategic tradition as an academic sub-field, as well as some thoughts on where individual Anglophone scholars might focus their research. The two earlier sections will review what has been published in English about the Chinese strategic tradition already. The term “the Chinese strategic tradition” is usually used in reference to the thinkers and the theorists of Chinese history, not the commanders and ministers who actually implemented policy. In the West this is almost always how the topic is discussed. Texts like Sun-tzu’s Art of War (hereafter, the Sunzi) are dissected with little reference to the way its thought was consciously implemented by those who studied it most carefully. This is a mistake. Most of the pressing questions in this field can only be answered by looking at how Chinese soldiers and statesmen actually behaved, and most of the errors common to Western punditry can be sourced to this tendency to ignore actual events in favor of theory.  In the case of ancient histories–whose account of events were highly stylized and moralizing–this distinction blurs. However, for the sake of organization I shall maintain the distinction between strategic thought (a subset of intellectual history) and strategic practice (a subset of diplomatic, political, and military history), covering each in turn.
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Posted in China, History, Military Affairs, National Security, Political Philosophy, War and Peace | 7 Comments »
Posted by David Foster on 31st May 2015 (All posts by David Foster)
People on Sunday, Criterion Collection DVD
When Americans think of Weimar Germany, the images that tend to come to mind are of degenerate nightclub habitues and drug users…marching Brownshirts…hungry people…and political violence and rising anti-Semitism. This movie shows a different side of Weimar: four young working people go to the beach on Sunday.
The film was made by Billy Wilder and several other aspiring directors, screenwriters, and producers, almost all of whom later wound up in Hollywood. It’s a silent film, one of the last made, probably because the team could not afford sound equipment. They also could not afford to hire “real” actors: instead, they chose likely-looking people off the street and had them play characters who shared their own real-life professions.
Erwin is a taxi driver, Wolfgang is a wine salesman, Brigitte sells records for a living, Christl works as an extra in movies, and Annie (Erwin’s girlfriend) is a not-very-successful model.
On Saturday, Wolf picks up Christl near a subway station, where she is apparently waiting for someone who hasn’t shown up. They go to a nearby cafe (“it’s tough to get stood up,” he sympathizes, to which she responds “I *don’t* get stood up”) and make plans to meet the next day for a picnic at the Wannsee lakefront beach. Christl brings her friend Brigitte, and Wolf brings Erwin. (Annie was supposed to come, but wouldn’t get out of bed.)
This has been called an “effervescent, sunlit” film; it has also been called “cynical.” Both interpretations are correct, IMO, although the cynicism aspect is pretty subtle. I thought the acting done by the nonprofessionals was quite fine.
It’s impossible to watch the film today, of course, without thinking about what was coming just a few years down the road. If you have heard the word “Wannsee” before, and you are not a Berlin resident or visitor, it is probably because this district was to be the site of the Wannsee Conference, at which the initial planning for the “Final Solution” was done.
There are almost no actors in this film, other than the 5 non-professionals mentioned above; the people in the background in downtown Berlin and at the lake are not extras but rather are real-life Berliners going about their normal lives. Watching, it’s hard to imagine that these quite-normal-seeming people would soon collectively perpetrate some of the worst crimes in history, or that many of them would themselves meet an apocalyptic fate.
The movie (previous titles considered had been Summer 29, Young People Like Us, and–rather presumptuously–This Is How It Is and No Different) was a big hit with Berlin moviegoers, and has apparently been very influential in the evolution of film. There’s a well-written review at wonders in the dark.
The film was revived with considerable effort, involving the processing of multiple surviving partial prints. The whole thing is available on-line, here; I watched the Criterion Collection DVD, which also includes a 2000 documentary about the film, featuring an interview with Brigitte Borchert, a short film by the People on Sunday cinematographer, and a booklet on the film’s making and influence.
Posted in Film, Germany, History | 6 Comments »
Posted by Sgt. Mom on 22nd May 2015 (All posts by Sgt. Mom)
Almost four years ago I wrote about how the monuments and artifacts of ancient Egypt were possibly in peril from militant Islam – those grim and sternly bearded fanatics devoted to the principal that nothing rightfully exists before or outside of Islam. It was being suggested then that the Pyramids be covered up – certainly a considerable chore, but their fellow coreligionists energetically set about destroying the ancient Bamiyan Buddhas based on the same argument. So, one might have had good cause four years ago to worry about the relics of pre-Islamic Egypt – temples, monuments, ruined cities and tombs. How many thousands of years’ worth of relics, ornaments and paintings might be at risk? Fortunately for Egypt, it seems that soberer heads have prevailed for now: after all, someday they might want the tourists to come back again.
It is written in Psalms, “As for man, his days are as grass: as a flower of the field, so he flourisheth.” We die, kingdoms and empires pass in time, but the earth endures as well as those monuments and ruins left behind. Fragments of the past, of our mutual human history usually aren’t as thick on the ground as they are in Egypt, the Middle East, Greece and Italy; if not the cradle of Western civilization, then at the very least the kindergarten playground. So the rest of us have always felt a rather proprietary interest in those relics and places. These were places written of in the Bible, in the Greek and Roman classics, in a thousand epics, poems and legends – Jerusalem, Babylon, Ur of the Chaldees, Ninevah and Tyre, Athens and Sparta … and in travel accounts like Mark Twain’s Innocents Abroad, and for me – Richard Halliburton’s Book of Marvels.
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Posted in Current Events, History, Islam, Just Unbelievable, Middle East, Terrorism | 16 Comments »
Posted by Michael Kennedy on 20th May 2015 (All posts by Michael Kennedy)
The current trope on the left is that “Black Lives Matter.”
The Democrats have an impressive record of genocide, beginning with the abandonment of South Vietnam. The Vietnam War was begun by Democrats, specifically John F Kennedy, who agreed to the assassination of South Vietnam leader Ngo Dinh Diem, who was killed by Vietnamese generals with Kennedy’s agreement.
Now we are faced with a somewhat similar situation in the Middle East. To quote Richard Fernandez, who I have always found reliable,
The collapse in the Middle East feels like Black April, 1975, the month South Vietnam fell. And it should, because just as the collapse of Saigon did not happen in Black April, but in a political American decision to allow South Vietnam to fall after a “decent interval”, so also is the ongoing collapse rooted, not in the recent tactical mistakes of the White House, but in the grand strategic decision president Obama made when he assumed office.
We are about to witness the total collapse of any American influence in the Middle East.
The reason the press has been trying to corner interviewees into “admitting” that George Bush made an error in toppling Saddam Hussein is the need to reassure themselves that catastrophe in the Middle East isn’t really their fault. The constant need to be told it’s not their doing is a form of denial. The more certain they are of their blunder the more they will need to tell themselves that the sounds they hear aren’t the footfalls of doom.
Because the alternative is to admit the truth and accept that to reverse the tide, 20th century Western liberalism has to die or radically reform itself. None of the people who have built political and establishment media credentials want to hear that, but all the same …
We are on the verge of a massive human catastrophe, one that the world has not seen since the fall of the Soviet Union or, in terms of percentage, since the fall of Rome.
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Posted in Anti-Americanism, Civil Society, Current Events, History, Iraq, Islam | 35 Comments »
Posted by Michael Kennedy on 15th May 2015 (All posts by Michael Kennedy)
There is quite a series of Republican politicians declaring that they would not invade Iraq if they knew then what they know now. JEB Bush is not the only one. Ted Cruz has made Talking Points Memo happy with a similar declaration.
Earlier in the week, Kelly asked Bush if he would have authorized the invasion, and he said he would have. On Tuesday, Bush told Sean Hannity that he hadn’t heard the question correctly and wasn’t sure what he would have done. Cruz, on the other hand, said he knows what he would have done.
“Of course not,” Cruz said in response to Kelly asking if he would have authorized an invasion. “I mean, the entire predicate of the war against Iraq was the intelligence that showed they had weapons of mass destruction and they might use them.
Of course, the “WMD” argument is a more recent addition to the story. Nobody talks anymore about why Bush was forced to invade in 2003. WMD were a small part of it. That is forgotten, of course.
Mr Speaker, thank you for recalling Parliament to debate the best way to deal with the issue of the present leadership of Iraq and Weapons of Mass Destruction.
Today we published a 50 page dossier detailing the history of Iraq’s WMD, its breach of UN resolutions and the current attempts to rebuild the illegal WMD programme. I have placed a copy in the Library of the House.
At the end of the Gulf War, the full extent of Saddam’s chemical, biological and nuclear weapons programmes became clear. As a result, the UN passed a series of resolutions demanding Iraq disarm itself of such weapons and establishing a regime of weapons inspection and monitoring to do the task. They were to be given unconditional and unrestricted access to all and any Iraqi sites.
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Posted in France, Germany, History, Iraq, Leftism, Middle East, National Security, Russia, United Nations | 36 Comments »
Posted by Sgt. Mom on 15th May 2015 (All posts by Sgt. Mom)
(I don’t think this essay was ever posted here – I can’t find it by searching the archives. Enjoy. It’s also part of a collection of essays on Texas history, available on Kindle.)
Yes, there was a real Philip Nolan, and the writer Edward Everett Hale was apparently remorseful over borrowing his name for the main character in his famous patriotic short story, The Man Without A Country. The real Philip Nolan had a country – and an eye possibly on several others, which led to a number of wild and incredible adventures. The one of those countries was Texas, then a Spanish possession, a far provincial outpost of Mexico — Mexico being a major jewel in the crown of Spain’s overseas colonies. Like the fictional Philip Nolan – supposedly a friend of Aaron Burr and entangled in the latter’s possibly traitorous schemes, the real Philip Nolan also had a friend in high places. Like Burr, this friend was neck deep in all sorts of schemes, plots and double-deals. Unlike Burr, Nolan was also this friend’s trusted employee and agent.
That highly placed and influential friend was one James Wilkinson, sometime soldier, once and again the most senior general in the Army of the infant United States – and paid agent of the Spanish crown – acidly described by a historian of the times as never having won a battle or lost a court-martial, and another as “the most consummate artist in treason that the nation ever possessed.” Wilkinson was an inveterate plotter and schemer, with a finger in all sorts of schemes, beginning as a young officer in the Revolutionary War to the time he died of old age in 1821. The part about “dying of old-age” is perfectly astounding, to anyone who has read of his close association with all sorts of shady dealings. It passes the miraculous, how the infant United States managed to survive the baleful presence of Wilkinson, lurking in the corridors of power. It might thus be argued that our founding fathers were a shrewd enough lot, to have prevented a piece of work like Wilkinson from doing more damage than he did. It would have argued even more for their general perspicuity, though, if he had been unceremoniously shot at dawn, or hung by the neck by any one of the three countries which did business with Wilkinson – and whom he cheerfully would have sold out to any one of those others who had offered a higher bid.
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Posted in History | Comments Off on History Friday: The Real Philip Nolan
Posted by David Foster on 12th May 2015 (All posts by David Foster)
In my post Advice from Goethe on How to Attract Women, I cited some of Goethe’s thoughts about why the Weimar girls preferred visiting Englishmen to the local male talent. When his friend Eckermann objected that Englishmen were not “more clever, better informed, or more excellent at heart than other people,” Goethe responded:
“The secret does not lie in these things, my good friend, Neither does it lie in birth and riches; it lies in the courage which they have to be that for which nature has made them. There is nothing vitiated or spoilt about them, there is nothing halfway or crooked; but such as they are, they are thoroughly complete men. That they are also sometimes complete fools, I allow with all my heart; but that is still something, and has still always some weight in the scale of nature.”
“In our own dear Weimar, I need only look out of the window to discover how matters stand with us. Lately, when the snow was lying upon the ground, and my neighbour’s children were trying their little sledges in the street, the police was immediately at hand, and I saw the poor little things fly as quickly as they could. Now, when the spring sun tempts them from the houses, and they would like to play with their companions before the door, I see them always constrained, as if they were not safe, and feared the approach of some despot of the police. Not a boy may crack a whip, or sing or shout; the police is immediately at hand to forbid it. This has the effect with us all of taming youth prematurely, and of driving out all originality and all wildness, so that in the end nothing remains but the Philistine.”
Skipping forward 94 years, I was intrigued to find some rather similar comments in the memoirs of Wilhelm II, the former Kaiser of Germany:
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Posted in Britain, Civil Society, Education, Germany, History, Human Behavior, USA | 7 Comments »
Posted by David Foster on 10th May 2015 (All posts by David Foster)
‘When the crocus blossoms,’ hiss the women in Berlin,
‘He will press the button, and the battle will begin.
When the crocus blossoms, up the German knights will go,
And flame and fume and filthiness will terminate the foe…
When the crocus blossoms, not a neutral will remain.’
(A P Herbert, Spring Song, quoted in To Lose a Battle, by Alistair Horne)
On May 10, 1940, German forces launched an attack against Belgium, France, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg. Few people among the Allies imagined that France would collapse in only six weeks: Churchill, for example, had a high opinion of the fighting qualities of the French army. But collapse is what happened, of course, and we are still all living with the consequences. General Andre Beaufre, who in 1940 was a young Captain on the French staff, wrote in 1967:
The collapse of the French Army is the most important event of the twentieth century.
If it’s an exaggeration, it’s not much of one. If France had held up to the German assault as effectively as it was expected to do, World War II would probably have never reached the nightmare levels that it in fact did reach. The Hitler regime might well have fallen. The Holocaust would never have happened. Most likely, there would have been no Communist takeover of Eastern Europe.
This campaign has never received much attention in America; it tends to be regarded as something that happened before the “real” war started. Indeed, many denizens of the Anglosphere seem to believe that the French basically gave up without a fight–which is a considerable exaggeration given the French casualties of around 90,000 killed and 200,000 wounded. But I think the fall of France deserves serious study, and that some of the root causes of the defeat are scarily relevant to today’s world.
First, I will very briefly summarize the campaign from a military standpoint, and will then shift focus to the social and political factors involved in the defeat.
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Posted in Britain, Europe, France, Germany, History, War and Peace | 15 Comments »
Posted by Trent Telenko on 8th May 2015 (All posts by Trent Telenko)
Back on July 25, 2014 I posted a column here called “Future History Friday — China’s Coming “Days of Future Past” where I stated that China’s hyper-aggressiveness with its neighbors would make Japan act like a “normal nation,” increase its military defenses of the Southern Ryukyus and make military alliances with its neighbors to contain China. Today, a “flaming datum” of that prediction arrived. Japan has just announced steps to bring those “Days of Future Past” closer for China. The Japanese are moving to militarily garrison Miyako and Ishigaki with ground troops and mobile anti-ship missile batteries.
JGSDF Type88 Anti-ship cruise missile in truck mobile launcher. Batteries of which are to be deployed to the Southern Ryukyus islands. Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons
Japan prepares to deploy troops on Miyako and Ishigaki｜WantChinaTimes.com
Watch Out, China: Japan Deploys 600 Troops, Missiles near Disputed Islands | The National Interest Blog
The May-June 2015 Issue | The National Interest
Miyako and Ishigaki were air bases for Imperial Japanese Army and Navy Kamikaze planes based on Formosa — modern day Taiwan — during the March – June 1945 Battle for Okinawa. Today, they are being prepared to support any operations Japan’s Self-Defense Forces are ordered to do by the Japanese government…including communications to and air support of Taiwan in case of a Mainland Chinese Invasion.
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A Google map of Miyako and Ishigaki islands, part of the Okinawa Prefecture. In March – June 1945 they were forward bases for Kamikazes attacking the US Navy. Today they are become the site of Japanese Self-Defense Force Type 88 Surface-to-Ship Missile Batteries, as well as Japanese ground troops to secure them.
Posted in China, History, Japan, Military Affairs, National Security, USA, Vietnam, War and Peace | 13 Comments »
Posted by T. Greer on 2nd May 2015 (All posts by T. Greer)
This post was originally published at The Scholar’s Stage on 2 May 2015. It has been re-posted here without alteration.
If mankind is, as has been claimed since ancient days, a species driven by the narrow passions of self interest, what holds human society together as one cohesive whole? How can a community of egoists, each devoted to nothing but his or her own ambition, thrive? Or for that matter, long exist?
Thomas Hobbes of Malmesbury thought he knew the answer.
Hobbes is famous for his dismal view of human nature. But contrary to the way he is often portrayed, Hobbes did not think man was an inherently evil being, defiled by sin or defined by vileness ingrained in his nature. He preferred instead to dispense with all ideas of good and evil altogether, claiming “these words of good, evil, and contemptible, are ever used with relation to the person that useth them, there being nothing simply and absolutely so; nor any common rule of good and evil, to be taken from the nature of the objects themselves; but from the person of the man.”  Only a superior power, “an arbitrator of judge, whom men disagreeing shall by consent set up” might have the coercive force to make one meaning of right the meaning used by all. Absent such a “common power”, the world is left in a condition that Hobbes famously described as “war of every man against every man” where they can be no right, no law, no justice, and “no propriety, no dominion, no ‘mine’ and ‘thine’ distinct, but only that to be every man’s that he can get, and for so long as he can keep it.” 
This description of the wretched State of Nature is familiar to most who have studied in the human sciences at any length. Also well known is Hobbes’s solution to the challenge posed by anarchy:
[Those in this state will] appoint one man, or assembly of men, to bear their person; and every one to own and acknowledge himself to be author of whatsoever he that so beareth their person shall act, or cause to be acted, in those things which concern the common peace and safety; and therein to submit their wills, every one to his will, and their judgements to his judgement. This is more than consent, or concord; it is a real unity of them all in one and the same person, made by covenant of every man with every man, in such manner as if every man should say to every man: I authorise and give up my right of governing myself to this man, or to this assembly of men, on this condition; that thou give up, thy right to him, and authorise all his actions in like manner. This done, the multitude so united in one person is called a COMMONWEALTH; in Latin, CIVITAS. 
What is most striking in Hobbes’ vision of this State of Nature and the path by which humanity escapes it is his complete dismissal of any form of cooperation before sovereign authority is established. Neither love nor religious zeal holds sway in the world Hobbes describes, and he has no more use for ties of blood or oaths of brotherhood than he does for the words right and wrong. He does concede that if faced with large enough of an outside threat fear may drive many “small families” to band together in one body for defense. However, the solidarity created by an attack or invasion is ephemeral–once the threat fades away so will the peace. “When there is no common enemy, they make war upon each other for their particular interests” just as before.  Hobbes allows for either a society dominated by a sovereign state or for a loose collection of isolated individuals pursuing private aims.
Hobbes’ dichotomy is not presented merely as a thought experiment, but as a description of how human society actually works. Herein lies Hobbes’ greatest fault. Today we know a great deal about the inner workings of non-state societies, and they are not as Hobbes described them. The man without a state is not a man without a place; he is almost always part of a village, a tribe, a band, or a large extended family. He has friends, compatriots, and fellows that he trusts and is willing to sacrifice for. His behavior is constrained by the customs and mores of his community; he shares with this community ideas of right and wrong and is often bound quite strictly by the oaths he makes. He does cooperate with others. When he and his fellows have been mobilized in great enough numbers their strength has often shattered the more civilized societies arrayed before them.
The social contract of Hobbes’ imagination was premised on a flawed State of Nature. The truth is that there never has been a time when men and women lived without ties of kin and community to guide their deeds and restrain their excess, and thus there never could be a time when atomized individuals gathered together to surrender their liberty to a sovereign power. Hobbes mistake is understandable; both he and the social contract theorists that followed in his footsteps (as well as the Chinese philosophers who proposed something close to a state of nature several thousand years earlier) lived in an age where Leviathan was not only ascendent but long established. They were centuries removed from societies that thrived and conquered without a state. 
To answer the riddle of how individuals “continually in competition for honour and dignity” could form cohesive communities without a “a visible power to keep them in awe, and tie them by fear of punishment to the performance of their covenants,”  or why such communities might eventually create a “common power” nonetheless, we must turn to those observers of mankind more familiar with lives spent outside the confines of the state. Many worthies have attempted to address this question since Hobbes’ say, but there is only one observer of human affairs who can claim to have solved the matter before Hobbes ever put pen to paper. Centuries before Hobbes’s birth he scribbled away, explaining to all who would hear that there was one aspect of humanity that explained not only how barbarians could live proudly without commonwealth and the origin of the kingly authority that ruled civilized climes, but also the rise and fall of peoples, kingdoms, and entire civilizations across the entirety of human history. He would call this asabiyah.
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Posted in Book Notes, Deep Thoughts, History, Human Behavior, Middle East, Political Philosophy, War and Peace | 12 Comments »
Posted by Trent Telenko on 1st May 2015 (All posts by Trent Telenko)
The amazing thing about General MacArthur’s South West Pacific Area (SWPA) Theater is how amazingly bad the histories on it are. The place spun off more under or unreported “will-o-the-wisp” logistical and intelligence institutions than any four Hollywood movie franchises threw out sequels. You could add together the Fast & Furious, Star Wars and Marvel Superhero movie sequels and still be low.
Today’s column on the 5th Air Force provisional American Indian code talker unit started during a hunt for the radar hunting Field Units of Section 22 — the SWPA theater electronic intelligence organization — and found this specially trained for the invasion of Japan unit of the “Vth Bomber Command”** by accident. Other research I had done showed Section 22 transferred all of its US Army Air Force and US Navy field units back to the respective services. To track that transition, I was looking through a Air Force Historical Research Agency (AFHRA) digitized microfilm, REEL A7509, on the history of the 5th Air forces “Vth Bomber Command” for April through September 1945. On pages 1318 and 1319 of 1841 I ran into the following —
Experiments are being conducted in the use of teams of American Indians to be used for communications between this headquarters and headquarters of Subordinate unite in case telephone lines go out of operation or, in case of moves, until regular lines of communications can be installed. Indians with various units of the V Bomber Command have been assembled at this headquarters where a course in communications is being conducted. It is expected that the Indians, speaking in their native language, will be used to pass administrative traffic talking in the place of codes on the Frequency Modulation Voice circuit.
In some ways it isn’t surprising that the Vth Bomber Command turned to Indian code talkers. At the direction of General MacArthur. the radio platoon of the 302nd reconnaissance Troop, 1st Cavalry Division recruited Lakota and Dakota Indians who used their Sioux language to communicate to other Divisional Headquarters troops. MacArthur also did the same with Navajo Alamo Scout graduates who returned to the Intelligence and Reconnaissance Platoon of the 158th Regimental Combat Team (RCT).
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General Douglas MacArthur with Native American Alamo Scout training course graduates. Jan 1944 (Signal Corps Photo via Wikipedia)
Posted in History, Military Affairs, Miscellaneous, National Security, Uncategorized | 4 Comments »
Posted by Sgt. Mom on 30th April 2015 (All posts by Sgt. Mom)
(Posted a bit early, as I have been reminded of the anniversary of the fall of Saigon. I wrote a version of this early on at SSDB, around 2004.)
Never been there, never particularly wanted to: to someone of my age, it is Bad Place, a haunted place, where ugly things happened. It gave nightmares to friends, co-workers, and lovers for years after it dropped out of the headlines and the six-o-clock news. Today in light of the current war, it seems as far away in time and nearly as pointless as the Western Front. You look, and remember, and wonder, knowing that yes, it really happened, but really, what was the point of it all? Platoon seems as much of a relic as Journey’s End, the image of a helicopter hovering over jungle with “All Along the Watchtower” on the soundtrack an image as archaic as doughboys with puttees and soup-plate helmets, marching along and singing “Mademoiselle from Armentieres”.
But it was a beautiful place. My friends Xuan-An and Hai brought away pictures of where they lived in Dalat, in the highlands, where they married and lived with their three older children, snaps of cool, misty green pines and gardens of rhododendrons, and a horizon of mountains. Eventually, they had to flee Dalat for Saigon, where their youngest daughter was born, and Xuan-An’s mother came to live with them. Hai had left Hanoi as a teenager when the Communists took over there, his family being well to do, part Chinese, and immensely scholarly. He worked as a librarian for the USIS, and Xuan-An as a teacher of English and sciences, so they were on the Embassy list of Vietnamese citizens to be evacuated in the spring of 1975, with their four children, aged 12 to 2 years old. They were waiting at their home, for someone to come fetch them, on that last day. Perhaps someone from the Embassy might have come for them eventually, but Xuan-An’s brother who was the captain of a Vietnamese coastal patrol vessel came to their house after dark, instead. He had sent his crewmen all to fetch their families, they were going to make a run for safety out to sea, and he came to get his and Xuan-Ans’ mother. He was appalled to find his sister and brother-in-law and the children still there, and urged them to come with him straight away, and not wait any longer for rescue. They brought away no more luggage than what the adults could carry, in small packs the size of student’s book-bags, and the youngest daughter was a toddler and had to be carried herself. Xuan-An’s brother’s motor launch was a hundred feet long, and there were a hundred people crammed onto it, carrying them out to an American cargo ship, the Pioneer Contender, which waited with other American rescuers, just beyond the horizon.
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Posted in Current Events, Diversions, History, Immigration, Military Affairs, Personal Narrative, Vietnam | 23 Comments »
Posted by David Foster on 25th April 2015 (All posts by David Foster)
An article in an aviation magazine pointed out that this summer will mark the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain. As a matter of perspective, it’s interesting to observe that the length of time separating the US Civil War from the Battle of Britain is the same as the length of time between the Battle and today.
The archetypal fighter planes of the Battle of Britain were the Spitfire, the Hurricane, and, on the enemy side, the Messerschmitt 109. Here are some recent pilot reports on what each of these aircraft is like to fly:
It is now possible to take a ride in a Spitfire–allowing this apparently required some regulatory changes on the part of the British CAA. Here’s one company offering such flights. For pilots, it’s possible to get Spitfire training at Boultbee Flight Academy. I don’t think anyone is offering rides or training in the Hurricane or the 109…very few 2-seat versions of either were built, apparently–so if you want to fly one of these, you’ll probably have to buy one. Here’s a recently-restored Hurricane for sale.
As an interesting historical irony, Israel’s first fighter was a version of the Messerschmitt 109.
See also my post Radar Wars: a case study in science and government, which is about the secret decision-making involved in making Britain’s commitment to a large-scale investment in radar deployment.
Posted in Aviation, Britain, Europe, Germany, History, Tech, War and Peace | 13 Comments »
Posted by Sgt. Mom on 19th April 2015 (All posts by Sgt. Mom)
Found through a link on Ace of Spades HQ – a picture gallery at the Military Times, of (mostly) WWII black and white pictures colorized. Some of them more convincingly than others – but the best of them very well done indeed.
Of course, now I have that Carbon Leaf song on playback in my head…
Posted in History, Photos | 7 Comments »
Posted by Trent Telenko on 19th April 2015 (All posts by Trent Telenko)
When I started writing my History columns here on Chicago Boyz, one of my objectives was to explore the “military historical narratives” around General Douglas MacArthur, so I could write with a better understanding about the “cancelled by atomic bomb” November 1945 invasion of Japan. But in doing so for this column, the strangest experiences are doing deep, original, historical research. Trying to follow a trail of research on something you think you know — in this case trailing the classified “Need to know” Radar hunting “Section 22″ in 6th Army Administrative Orders — and then going down Alice’s rabbit hole and finding a “Detailed Reality” about something completely different. The “completely different” in this case being a provisional parachute supply company created in February 1944 that used the Rebecca & Eureka, a “Retro-high tech” VHF (AKA Television bandwidth) Radar Interrogator-Beacon System — a distant technological ancestor to the civilian “secondary radar” transponders used for air traffic control on today’s wide body passenger jets.
The Rebecca and Eureka radar beacon system represent something of a “Keystone military technology” By that I mean an analogy to the biological concept of a “Keystone species” in an ecosystem, not unlike the role of algae in the ocean ecosystem or grass for a prairie ecosystem. Rebecca and Eureka radar beacons are the “Keystone technology” for a wide range of ‘unconventional’ operations including clandestine supply, intelligence & pathfinder operations ranging from planting a few agents to the support operations for an airborne army. or large naval landing.
Rebecca and Eureka was WIDELY used by the British Special Operation Executive (SOE) and American Office of Strategic Services (OSS) in N.W. Europe, Italy, Yugoslavia, and Burma. This beacon system was also used by American airborne pathfinder operations at Normandy plus Operations Dragoon, Market-Garden and Varsity. And now, its use is documented with this 6th Army Parachute Supply Company in the South West Pacific to support air drops to 6th Army Reconnaissance assets and possibly with both the Allied Intelligence Bureau agents and Filipino guerrillas.
The Duxford Radio Society, of the Imperial War Museum, Duxford, England, describes the Rebecca & Eureka (shown Fig 1 above) as follows:
A VHF (Secondary) Radar Interrogator-Beacon System
Rebecca & Eureka formed a system of portable ground-based beacons and airborne direction finding equipment initially designed to assist the air-drop delivery of supplies to the Allied Armies and Resistance groups in occupied Europe.
Rebecca was the airborne station, and Eureka was the ground based beacon
The ground based beacon consisted of a super-regenerative receiver and transmitter, originally operating in the frequency range 214 – 234 MHz**, powered from a battery via a vibrator power supply unit. A portable tripod mounted aerial was erected when communications was required.
[**This Rebecca & Eureka bandwidth covers upper Channel 12 and and lower channel 13 in American Television.
See “Retro-High Technology Background Notes” at the end of the column.]
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Posted in History, Military Affairs, Miscellaneous, National Security, Uncategorized, USA, War and Peace | 14 Comments »
Posted by David Foster on 19th April 2015 (All posts by David Foster)
Here’s a video and a short writeup about Weizac, the first electronic computer built in Israel. Einstein was initially dubious about the project, wondering how a tiny country like Israel could possibly keep such a powerful machine busy.
The article mentions that the co-leader of the project was Jerry Estrin. His daughter, Judy Estrin, is a Silicon Valley entrepreneur who among other things co-founded Bridge Communications and has served as CTO of Cisco. Her 2008 book, Closing the Innovation Gap, is on my reading list.
Posted in History, Israel, Tech | 8 Comments »
Posted by Sgt. Mom on 18th April 2015 (All posts by Sgt. Mom)
(This is a slightly reworked piece I did for a local real estate blog, which alas seems to have gone dormant – enjoy! CH)
For much of the 19th century and into the early Twentieth, it was a popular San Antonio custom. Various of the public squares, notably Military Plaza and Market Square were the domain of the Chili Queens who established a custom of setting up tables and benches along the edges of the squares, in the early evening and selling chili-by-the-bowl to all comers. They would bring huge kettles of chili which they had made over their own home cook-fire during the day, and keep it warm through the evening and into the wee hours over an open fire. The chili vendors would entice customers to their own particular stands by hiring musicians to entertain diners. There are some splendid descriptions of how marvelous this would have appeared – lantern and starlight shining down on the tables, gleaming on glass soda bottles, while the scent of the chili and the mesquite smoke from the fires which kept it warm hung on the night air. (I used this scene several times in Lone Star Sons, and in Adelsverein – The Sowing.) During South Texas summers before the invention of air conditioning, this likely would have been about the most comfortable dining venue for working men, for those out for an evening of gambling and drinking in the various saloons … and in later decades, for those visiting from the North or the East, desirous of absorbing a little exotic local color.
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Posted in Americas, Entrepreneurship, History | 6 Comments »
Posted by Trent Telenko on 12th April 2015 (All posts by Trent Telenko)
One of the most frustrating things in researching General Douglas MacArthur’s World War 2 fighting style is dealing with the mayfly like life of the many logistical and intelligence organizations his military theater created. Without their narrative stories, you just cannot trust much of what has been written about the man’s fighting and command style. Nowhere is that clearer than with the radar countermeasures (RCM) and electronic intelligence (ELINT) Section 22, General Headquarters, South West Pacific Area (Sec 22, GHQ, SWPA). Born in November 1944 to support the air campaign against the Japanese bastion of Rabaul and dissolved in mid-August 1945 after the Japanese surrender. Section 22 gets but two ‘unsourced’ sentences in US Army lineage series history CMH Pub 60-13 Military Intelligence published in 1998 and not even a single mention CMH Pub 70-43, U.S. ARMY SIGNALS INTELLIGENCE IN WORLD WAR II, A DOCUMENTARY HISTORY, Edited by James L. Gilbert and John P. Finnegan, published in 1993.
Yet Section 22 was a large, continent spanning, intelligence organization with squadrons of radar/electronic intelligence gathering planes, ships, submarines and multiple teams of “Retro-High Tech Commandos” doing their own tropical 1944-45 raids on Japanese Radar sites equivalent to the British “Operation Biting” or “Bruneval Raid” did 27–28 February 1942 to gather technical data on the German Wurzburg radar. See the poor copy of a microfilm document Section 22 organizational chart from Alwyn Lloyd’s rather eclectic book ‘Liberator: America’s Global Bomber’ (1993) below.
* The order of battle of General Douglas MacArthur’s Section 22 Radar Hunters as of October 7, 1944.
The job of peeling back the who, what, where, when, why, and how history of Section 22 — and why that history was buried for decades — is the work of many books and articles visiting archives across three continents. This column can at best occasionally take you on journeys describing Section 22 like that proverbial “blind man describing an elephant”.
This column has twice dealt with General Douglas MacArthur’s will-o-the-wisp Section 22 radar hunters. First with field units 12 and 14, “High tech Radar commandos” and later with the radar hunting USS Batfish — the US Navy’s champion submarine killer of WW2. Today’s column will pull back its focus from individual Field Units and show Section 22 over all at the peak of it’s size, capability and influence.
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Posted in History, Military Affairs, Miscellaneous, Uncategorized, USA, War and Peace | 26 Comments »