Via Instapundit, this Weekly Standard piece on the next Hezbollah-Israel war is a bit naive. Yes, it is wise for Israel to make preemptive PR efforts to justify its self-defense against the missile attacks that Hezbollah will certainly launch from densely populated civilian areas in any future war, with the intent of maximizing civilian casualties for propaganda purposes. However, a USA that is led by a Democratic administration that is at best lukewarm about Israel, and that may be predisposed to seek accommodations from Israel’s enemies, will not necessarily do much to help Israel in such an event. Obama was obviously hostile to Israel during the 2014 Gaza war, even though he was careful not to say so publicly and to frame his anti-Israel actions in deniable terms. Would a Hillary administration, anchored as Obama’s is in far-left Democratic Party politics, be much better? It might be, since Obama’s anti-Israel/anti-Jewish animus is extreme for an American president, and he was trying to appease Iran for much of his presidency. Hillary is unlikely to be so eager to accommodate Israel’s (and America’s) enemies. OTOH, the US Left is now thoroughly hostile to Israel as well as to any US action to protect its traditional overseas interests. So, who knows.
Archive for the 'War and Peace' Category
Posted by Trent Telenko on 10th June 2016 (All posts by Trent Telenko)
It is amazing the things you find out while writing a book review. In this case, a review of Phillips Payson O’Brien’s How the War Was Won: Air-Sea Power and Allied Victory in World War II. The book is thoroughly revisionist in that it posits that there were no real decisive land battles in WW2. The human and material attrition in those “decisive battles” was so small relative to major combatants’ production rates that losses from them were easily replaced until Anglo-American air-sea superiority — starting in the latter half of 1944 — strangled Germany and Japan. Coming from the conservative side of the historical ledger, I had a lot of objections to O’Brien’s book starting with some really horrid mistakes on WW2 airpower in the Pacific.
You can see a pretty good review of the book at this link — How the War Was Won: Air-Sea Power and Allied Victory in World War II, by Phillips Payson O’Brien
However, my independent research on General MacArthur’s Section 22 radar hunters in the Philippines proved one of the corollaries of O’Brien’s thesis — Namely that the Imperial Japanese were a fell WW2 high tech foe, punching in a weight class above the Soviet Union — was fully validated with a digitized microfilm from the Air Force Historical Research Agency (AFHRA) at Maxwell AFB, Alabama detailing the size, scope and effectiveness of the radar network Imperial Japan deployed in the Philippines.
The microfilm reel A7237 photoshop below is a combination of three scanned microfilm images of an early December 1944 radar coverage map of the Philippines. It shows 32 separate Imperial Japanese Military radar sites that usually had a pair of Japanese radars each (at lease 64 radars total), based upon the Japanese deployment patterns found and documented in Section 22 “Current statements” from January thru March 1945 elsewhere in the same reel.
This Section 22 created map — taken from dozens of 5th Air Force and US Navy aerial electronic reconnaissance missions — showed Japanese radar coverage at various altitudes and was used by Admiral Halsey’s carrier fleet (See route E – F on the North Eastern Luzon area of the map) to strike both Clark Field and Manila Harbor, as well as by all American & Australian military services to avoid Japanese radar coverage to strike the final Japanese military reinforcement convoys, “Operation TA”, of the Leyte campaign.
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Posted by Grurray on 9th June 2016 (All posts by Grurray)
This is a long, old article about the Arab “refugees” in and around Israel (h/t – Architect Guy), but it’s still a useful exposé of the maddening hypocrisy that created and enabled Arab terrorism in Israel.
What indeed? Arabs gorge on hate, they roll in it, they breathe it. Jews top the hate list, but any foreigners are hateful enough. Arabs also hate each other, separately and, en masse. Their politicians change the direction of their hate as they would change their shirts. Their press is vulgarly base with hate-filled cartoons; their reporting describes whatever hate is now uppermost and convenient. Their radio is a long scream of hate, a call to hate. They teach their children hate in school. They must love the taste of hate; it is their daily bread. And what good has it done them?
THERE is no future in spending UN money to breed hate. There is no future in nagging or bullying Israel to commit suicide by the admission of a fatal locust swarm of enemies. There is no future in Nasser’s solution, the Holy War against Israel; and we had better make this very clear, very quickly.
A lot has changed since this was written over a half century ago, but sadly much remains the same. The system cemented in place to breed evil that ruthlessly murders innocent people generation after generation is flourishing. The United Nations and its international order are the enemy of Israel and the enemy of Jewish people. The Palestinian is not now a partner for peace and never was.
Like U.O. Schmelz, Roberto Bachi expressed some reservation about the virtual non-existence of data and discussion concerning migration into and within Palestine. He writes:
Between 1800 and 1914, the Muslim population had a yearly average increase in the order of magnitude of roughly 6-7 per thousand. This can be compared to the very crude estimate of about 4 per thousand for the “less developed countries” of the world (in Asia, Africa, and Latin America) between 1800 and 1910. It is possible that part of the growth of the Muslim population was due to immigration
Not only is it possible, but it’s likely that much if not most of the population of Arabs that now identifies as Palestinian originated in outlying regions such as Egypt and Syria prior to the 20th century.
This was confirmed by Mark Twain in his book The Innocents Abroad about his Old World travels in 1867.
No landscape exists that is more tiresome to the eye than that which bounds the approaches to Jerusalem. Jerusalem is mournful, dreary, and lifeless. Palestine sits in sackloth and ashes Over it broods the spell of a curse that has withered its fields and fettered its energies… Palestine is desolate and unlovely… It is a hopeless, dreary, heartbroken land… [a] desolate country whose soil is rich enough, but is given over wholly to weeds – a silent mournful expanse… A desolation is here that not even imagination can grace with the pomp of life and action… We never saw a human being on the whole route… There was hardly a tree or a shrub anywhere. Even the olive and the cactus, those fast friends of the worthless soil, had almost deserted the country.
Regardless of where the Arabs say they came from or think they came from or what they think they deserve, Jews have lived in the Land of Israel for over 3000 years. They have a claim to the land that stretches back long before Arabs even existed. The Jews of Israel took a barren and desolate desert and turned it into an oasis in the middle of a region otherwise cursed with war, strife, and misery. Israel thrives now while the Arab world is imploding. Israel lives and always has and always will.
Don Sensing points out that success was by no means assured: the pivot day of history.
Neptunus Lex: The liberation of France started when each, individual man on those landing craft as the ramp came down – each paratroop in his transport when the light turned green – made the individual decision to step off with the only life he had and face the fire.
The Battle of Midway took place from June 4 through June 7, 1942. Bookworm attended a Battle of Midway commemoration event in 2010 and also in 2011: Our Navy–a sentimental service in a cynical society.
See also Sgt Mom’s History Friday post from 2014.
General Electric remembers the factory workers at home who made victory possible. Also, women building airplanes during WWII, in color and the story of the Willow Run bomber plant.
Also, a very interesting piece on the radio news coverage of the invasion
Posted by Michael Hiteshew on 5th June 2016 (All posts by Michael Hiteshew)
Col. Michael Brown, USMC, Retired:
The Russians and Chinese are the most active in offensive attacks. I worry a lot about the vulnerability of our electrical grid and even our water supply network.
Supervisory control and data acquisition – SCADA refers to ICS (industrial control systems) used to control infrastructure processes (water treatment, wastewater treatment, gas pipelines, wind farms, etc), facility-based processes (airports, space stations, ships, etc,) or industrial processes (production, manufacturing, refining, power generation, etc).
A powerful and beautifully-done music video: The war was in color
Neptunus Lex: We remember them
Also from Lex: A memorial day message from 2004
Update: Bookworm’s Memorial Day essay for this year is up at her site
Posted by Nathaniel T. Lauterbach on 27th May 2016 (All posts by Nathaniel T. Lauterbach)
Today I drove through the gate at the nearby Marine Corps base. The young Lance Corporal who was faithfully executing his General Orders at the gate checked my ID card, saluted smartly, and wished me a “happy holiday weekend.” I’m not sure I can have that, frankly, for the similar reason that a devout Christian may think it strange to be wished a “Happy Easter.” It just doesn’t make sense when you examine what those holidays are about.
To me Memorial Day is intensely personal. I’ve had varying levels of a relationship with 15 Marines and Sailors who have paid the ultimate sacrifice for our country. Most of these men lost their lives in combat, but some lost their lives training for combat, too. Their deaths are still tragic–they were undertaking essentially the same tasks, doing dangerous work, and for the same ultimate goal.
Their names are:
Most of these guys are aviators. One was a UH-1 crew chief that I flew in combat with on dozens of occasions. I overflew over the wreckage which contained the remains of two of the pilots back in July, 2010. One of the 15 was a tank officer. Two were infantry officers. One was a special operations officer. One was a C2 officer. One of them was my “On-Wing” going through flight school (which means that he was the pilot who taught me how to fly).
15 irreplaceable lives.
I think about these men every day, but especially so on Memorial Day.
I hate this holiday–every second of it. I hope you hate it too. Happy Memorial Day–my ass.
Semper Fi, gents. Til Valhalla.
Posted by Michael Hiteshew on 19th May 2016 (All posts by Michael Hiteshew)
Dr. Pippa Malmgren, founder of DRPM Group, former US Presidential Adviser and alumna of the London School of Economics, makes some very insightful connections between the breakdown of responsible economic policy in the USA and the increase of global warfare, from China and the South China Sea to Russia in the Ukraine.
She also explains that things like inflation don’t just happen like bad weather or something, they’re choices made by policy makers as a method of defaulting on debt.
If you people in emerging markets are experiencing knock-on effects from our (inflationary) policy, that’s your problem…It’s our dollar, and your problem! …They’re view is, I’m taking enough pain, you can’t expect me to ask my people to take even more pain by dealing with a global financial crisis and now demand has collapsed..you can’t ask me to inflict more pain. What is the end result? When central banks are trying to create inflation, a normal side effect is that hard asset prices go up…we’ve seen record all time prices for stock markets, for property, we actually seen record all time prices for things like proteins, which are particularly important in an emerging market context. Emerging market workers are spending 40%-70% of their income for food and energy, so price movements in this area matter.
Suddenly, all these pressures, all these problems are bearing down on these few smart people sitting in the West Wing who we think can solve this. And they’re speaking in a language that is highly technical, highly mathematical, it makes it very difficult for the general public to engage in the question. They’re told, Don’t worry about quantitative easing, it’s all in your interest! And they’re going, Yeah but my Cadbury Creme Egg, I’m getting less of those, and my rent is going up, and I can’t get a job still. But there’s a mismatch between the language the public wants to speak to engage in these issues and the language in which the policy discussion is conducted. And that a gap exists in understanding, What are the consequences of the choices that being made on our behalf?
A highly worthwhile use of an hour or so of your time.
Posted by Michael Hiteshew on 16th May 2016 (All posts by Michael Hiteshew)
In China Restructures for War we find that China’s armed forces have reorganized even while they continue a rapid upgrade in the quality of their weapons systems.
China’s officially-disclosed military budget grew at an average of 9.8 percent per year in inflation-adjusted terms from 2006 through 2015, and Chinese leaders seem committed to sustaining defense spending growth for the foreseeable future.
During 2015, the PLA continued to improve key capabilities that would be used in theater contingencies, including cruise missiles; short, medium, and intermediate-range ballistic missiles; high performance aircraft; integrated air defense networks; information operations capabilities; and amphibious and airborne assault units. The PLA is developing and testing new intermediate- and medium-range conventional ballistic missiles as well as long range, land-attack, and anti-ship cruise missiles, which once operational would extend the military’s reach and push adversary forces further from potential regional conflicts. China is also focusing on counter-space, offensive cyber operations, and electronic warfare (EW) capabilities meant to deny adversaries the advantages of modern, information technology-driven warfare.
China has built a number of military outposts around the South China Sea, including Mischief Reef, Johnson Reef, Hughes Reef, Subi Reef, Cuarteron Reef, Fiery Cross Reef and Gaven Reef.
Over the past 15 years, China’s ambitious naval modernization program has produced a more technologically advanced and flexible force. The PLAN now possesses the largest number of vessels in Asia, with more than 300 surface ships, submarines, amphibious ships, and patrol craft. China is rapidly retiring legacy combatants in favor of larger, multi-mission ships equipped with advanced anti-ship, anti-air, and anti-submarine weapons and sensors. China continues its gradual shift from “near sea” defense to “far seas” protection…
In 2015, the PLAN’s first aircraft carrier, Liaoning, certified its first cohort of domestically trained J-15 operational pilots. The air wing is expected to deploy on the carrier in 2016. China also began construction of its first domestic aircraft carrier and could build multiple aircraft carriers over the next 15 years. Even when fully operational, Liaoning will not enable long-range power projection similar to U.S. NIMITZ class carriers. Liaoning’s smaller size limits the number of aircraft it can embark, while the ski-jump configuration limits aircraft fuel and ordnance loads. Liaoning will possibly be used for fleet air defense missions, extending air cover over a fleet operating far from land-based coverage. Although it possesses a full suite of weapons and combat systems, Liaoning will probably continue to play a significant role in training China’s carrier pilots, deck crews, and developing tactics that will be used with later, more capable carriers.
In his talk Chinese Views, Strategy and Geopolitics, Robert Kaplan sees China in the early 21st century as was the United States in the early 20th century, an emerging world military and economic power. In that respect, he says, China considers the South China Sea as the USA considers the Gulf of Mexico, a strategic naval zone it intends to dominate. With the Monroe Doctrine, the USA warned European colonial powers that the Americas were off limits to them, and with the Spanish American War the USA removed the last colonial influence and outpost from the region. We may see a similar attempt by China to remove American, Japanese, Philippine or any other influence or outpost from the South China Sea and possibly further.
Perhaps most worrying, China is engaging in a prolonged domestic campaign of anti-American rhetoric and propaganda. The only possible purpose for that, from my point of view, is to ideologically prepare its populace for war. And seeing Glasnost as a dangerous example of a loss of political control leading to societal breakup, it is redoubling political conditioning in its military, including an expansion of political commissars and checkists inside the chain of command with a purpose is to ensure ideological purity and loyalty.
‘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.
The novel Once An Eagle (also made into a TV miniseries) tells the story of two American army officers, across a time span ranging from the First World War to the interwar years to World War II and beyond. Sam Damon is a farm boy who has worked his way up in rank: he is committed to accomplishing his assigned missions and looking out for the survival and well-being of the men under his command. Courtney Massengale is a West Point graduate with something of an upper-class background: he seeks out higher rank through political maneuvering, prefers Staff to Line assignments, and has little concern for subordinates. The book is widely-read and highly-regarded in U.S. military circles.
In the story’s climactic scene, Sam is commanding a division destined to participate in an attack on a Japanese-held island. He is not thrilled to find that his division has been placed under the command of Courtney–now a three-star general and corps commander despite having spent his entire career in staff roles. He is even less thrilled when he hears Courtney’s plan for the invasion–“PALLADIUM”–which is in Sam’s judgment far too complex to succeed in actual combat conditions.
The Japanese launch their counterattack while Sam’s division is in a highly vulnerable state, in the midst of the turning maneuver required by the Palladium plan. And the reserve unit which could have saved the situation has been redeployed by Courtney so that he can have the honor of being the first American general to capture a Japanese-held city intact. While Sam is leading a desperate fight for the survival of his division, Courtney is riding in triumph through the town of Reina Blanca.
Sam Damon and Courtney Massengale are endpoints on a spectrum, of course; few real people are as good as Sam or as bad as Courtney. But still, it seems to be useful to ask the following question:
What is the mix of Damon vs Massengale in each of our current presidential candidates and among other members of our national leadership?
Curious indeed, to reflect that by the end of this year, I will have been out of the Air Force for as long as I was in it – but the time does fly when you are having fun. But twenty years in the Big Blue Machine does leave marks, as well as an exquisite sense of how the military really operates in real time, among the lower-ranking levels, close to the ground. This isn’t a sense readily developed from reading, although I suppose someone with wide experience, a strong sense of empathy and close personal associations with veterans can develop it by proxy.
This around-about way of explaining how all this last week, my daughter and I were wondering about a murder-suicide at Lackland AFB last Friday morning – nearly a week ago. A trainee airman had fatally shot his squadron commander, and then killed himself. Of course, it all came out in dribbles over the weekend; the trainee was an E-6, aged 41 and a student in the pararescue course … and had also resigned from the FBI as a special agent. Everything about this was curious, even unlikely; the Air Force para-rescue specialty is one of the most physically-demanding jobs the Air Force has. It’s comparable to the SEALS, and Army Special Forces, in that many are called, few chosen, and even fewer still graduate.
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The mind of the Left, from a former insider
There seems to be a lot of this sort of thing going on
Drinking on a date has very different effects for men and for women
How a US kid turned into a free-range German child
Related to the above: how free play creates emotionally stable children in an unstable world
An American fighter pilot meets the North Vietnamese ace who shot down his friend
Neptunus Lex described the proper frame of mind for winning in air combat as “personal, like you’re in a knife fight in a phone booth, and someone has to die before anyone gets to leave.”
President Obama got it exactly wrong when he argued in a Washington Post op-ed that “as the only nation ever to use nuclear weapons, the United States has a moral obligation to continue to lead the way in eliminating them.” What he should have written instead was “as the only nation ever to refrain from using nuclear weapons gratuitously when it had the monopoly on such weapons, the United States has the moral authority to lead the way in regulating them.”
What gives the US moral authority is bias, the improbability of it using nuclear weapons in time of peace. You can be sure the USAF won’t nuke Chicago, or Brussels or Kampala tomorrow, even if it physically could, because of civilizational bias. The reason why Obama’s unilateral reductions in the American nuclear arsenal as gestures to nuclear disarmament are meaningless is because he’s not actually reducing any of the risk. All the danger is on the other side, where the bias goes the other way for aggression, conquest and world domination. That is what he seems unable to reduce.
[. . .]
The reason why statements like “Islam is the religion of peace” or “we will never be at war with Islam” are so dangerous is because they ignore bias and reduce the problem to the mere monitoring of things. They put the most important factor of all into the error term. The result is a world of runaway entropy that is more dangerous to everybody, especially to Muslims.
[. . .]
These Kurdish peasants instinctively remember what the West has forgotten, that man lives not just in a world of things but of angels and demons. Cultures and belief are not optional extras but the bedrock of survival. They know instinctively that for man to survive he must fight Evil which is real with the aid of the Old Ones, who are also real. Only thus can he change his biases; only thus can he get the better of entropy.
President Obama is the anti-confident American. He seems to believe that his country should be taken down a notch or two, should apologize for past wrongs, should stop seeing itself in terms of confident exceptionalism. How’s that working out? Fernandez’s points aren’t new but bear repeating. Belief in cultural and moral equivalence is effectively suicidal. Our elites are too corrupt and incompetent to understand that this is the case or to know what to do about it.
Posted by Grurray on 23rd March 2016 (All posts by Grurray)
From some recent readings on the Vietnam War
A bitter little story made the rounds during the closing days of the Vietnam war:
When the Nixon Administration took over in 1969 all the data on North Vietnam and on the United States was fed into a Pentagon computer – population, gross national product, manufacturing capability, number of tanks, ships, and aircraft, size of the armed forces, and the like.
The computer was then asked When will we win?
It took only a moment to give the answer: ‘You won in 1964!’
Posted by Charles Cameron on 18th March 2016 (All posts by Charles Cameron)
[ by Charles Cameron — on the necessary simultaneity of temporal and eternal perspectives ]
First as to glamour -– it may help to reflect that glamour, our word, comes not from Vogue but from the same origins as grammar (referring to languages) and grimoire (a book of spells, spelling also being a matter of language), and means something along the lines of “luminous illusion”. If we say terror is glamour, then, we mean that it “casts a spell” — and thus creates an appealing, indeed compelling, mirage. It lies, then, in the realm of magic, image, imagination, so ably delineated by Ioan Couliano in his great book, Eros and Magic in the Renaissance.
The best of contemporary advertising draws on precisely the same Renaissance principles of persuasion — principles of extraordinary power which we nowadays tend to dismiss as “magical thinking”.
Thus Virginia Postrel, in Terror Is Glamour:
Glamour can sell religious devotion or military glory as surely as it can pitch lipstick or island vacations. All promise a way to transcend our everyday circumstances, to experience more and become better than ordinary life allows. All invite us to imagine escape and transformation.
From Achilles and Alexander to “national greatness,” the glamour of battle is remarkably persistent. So is the glamour of martyrdom, as any trip through a Western museum or perusal of a Lives of the Saints (or its Protestant equivalent) will demonstrate. Nor is martyrdom’s appeal to Christians merely historical, as Eliza Griswold reported in this 2007 TNR piece.
Glamour appeals to our desires, whatever they may be, and Jihadi glamour offers something for everyone: from historical importance to union with God, not to mention riches and beautiful women.
Postrel then quotes Egyptian cleric Hazem Sallah Abu Isma’il, indicating that the “beautiful women” in question are “black-eyed virgins” from a world conceptually above our own:
If one of these virgins were to descend to this world, her light would extinguish the light of the sun and the moon. That’s how beautiful she is.
Yet as Postrel comments, “glamour proves perishable”:
As Rushdie suggests, of course, glamour always leaves something out, in this case the literally gory details of the act .. Either aspirations change, entropy and boredom set in, or the audience learns too much, destroying the mystery and grace on which glamour’s beautiful illusion depends.
She concludes with a significant question and preliminary response:
How do we puncture the glamour of Jihadi terrorism? The first step is recognizing that such glamour exists.
That may seem like CVE 101, but the deeper our understanding of magic, imagination, image — and hence the power of glamour — the deeper our understanding of the deep problem that CVE presents will become.
Next we turn to Richard Fernandez, writing in A Bellyful of War, picking up the themes of war’s attraction, and the carnage its glamour omits from mention, and tying both to the notions of war as game and war as brutal reality:
William Tecumseh Sherman understood what many modern theorists have forgotten: war can be attractive to young men for as long as long as it remains a game. War in small doses is supremely thrilling, even glamorous. It is peace which can be routine and boring.
And so it goes until war stops being a game and the going gets really rough. “Its glory is all moonshine,” said Sherman. “It is only those who have never heard a shot, never heard the shriek and groans of the wounded and lacerated … that cry aloud for more blood, more vengeance, more desolation.” To Sherman a “bellyful of war” was ironically the psychological foundation of generational peace.
Not only is that last sentence a profound statement worthy of the contemplation of all who love peace – it is also far more subtly convincing than the old Strategic Air Command motto, Peace is Our Profession, which sounds more like one of Rochefoucauld’s tributes that vice pays to virtue than anything, and yet is presumably intended to convey the same insight.
Finally we have Plotinus, for whom – in a manner richly echoed by Shakespeare — life itself is a dream, a play, a sport, a game:
Murders, death in all its guises, the reduction and sacking of cities, all must be to us just such a spectacle as the changing scenes of a play; all is but the varied incident of a plot, costume on and off, acted grief and lament. For on earth, in all the succession of life, it is not the Soul within but the Shadow outside of the authentic man, that grieves and complains and acts out the plot on this world stage which men have dotted with stages of their own constructing. All this is the doing of man knowing no more than to live the lower and outer life, and never perceiving that, in his weeping and in his graver doings alike, he is but at play; to handle austere matters austerely is reserved for the thoughtful: the other kind of man is himself a futility. Those incapable of thinking gravely read gravity into frivolities which correspond to their own frivolous Nature. Anyone that joins in their trifling and so comes to look on life with their eyes must understand that by lending himself to such idleness he has laid aside his own character. If Socrates himself takes part in the trifling, he trifles in the outer Socrates.
Plotinus is correct, I would suggest, sub specie aeternitatis, just as is Sherman sub specie incarnationis — and it is the role of the artist to hold both visions, trivial and eternal, as Koestler suggests.
Posted by Charles Cameron on 18th March 2016 (All posts by Charles Cameron)
[ cross-posted from Zenpundit — on creativity at the intersection of the fleeting and the eternal ]
You know Lao Tzu’s “uncarved wood” (pu) — and Spencer Brown’s “Mark” or “first distinction? It is hard to speak of “the one and the many” without language itself favoring the many, the one being “one” and the many “another”. The Greek phrase “Before Abraham was, I am” attributed to Christ may be as close as we get.
The “uncarved wood” is not some definite -– named and thus defined -– “one” -– it is also “raw silk” (su), the simple -– the natural way or stream, from which things have not yet been separated out by naming.
There is delight, however, both in one becoming two and thus many, in the making of distinctions and naming of names, and no less in two (or the many) becoming one, in the resolution of paradox, the release of tension, peace after strife. In human terms, there is joy in both solo and collaborative achievement.
What better, then, than the perfect fit between disparate entities?
I have written often enough about Arthur Koestler and the place where two disparate spheres of thought link up — the centaur links horse and man in an indissoluble unity — there’s no question here of dismounting after a ride, giving the horse a rub down and some feed, then retiring to the verandah for a whiskey…
The mythological aha! we get from the centaur displayed in the museum hinges on the fit of horse and human skeletons, the perfection with which disparates are joined.
Thus far, whenever I’ve discussed Koestler‘s notion of bisociation, I’ve focused on the sense that it liea at the heart of creativity. Koestler himself takes it deeper. Here’s Nicholas Vajifdar, in a review titled Summing Up Arthur Koestler’s Janus: A Summing Up:
Koestler .. asserts that there are two planes of existence, the trivial and the tragic. The trivial plane is the stage for paying bills, shopping, working. Most of life takes place on the trivial plane. But sometimes we’re swept up into the tragic plane, usually due to some catastrophe, and everything becomes glazed with an awful significance. From the point of view of the tragic plane, the trivial plane is empty and frivolous; from the point of view of the trivial plane, the tragic plane is embarrassing and overwrought. Once we’ve moved from one plane to the other, we forget why we could have felt the way we used to.
That’s not just any old distinction between two realms, that’s the one Koestler himself prioritizes. And following his basic principle that a creative spark is lit when two disparate “planes of ideas” intersect, we shouldn’t be too surprised to find Vajifdar continuing:
“The highest form of human creativity,” Koestler writes, “is the endeavor to bridge the gap between the two planes. Both the artist and the scientist are gifted — or cursed — with the faculty of perceiving the trivial events of everyday experience sub specie aeternitatis, in the light of eternity…”
William Blake made a similar observation in The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, writing:
Eternity is in love with the productions of time.
Finally, Vajifdar tells us why he finds Koestler’s definition of art maybe the best he’s ever read:
What I value in this definition of creativity is its emphasis on the subjective being of those who experience the work of art or scientific theory, a surer gauge than cataloguing formal properties or whether it's "interesting." Art has always seemed like a kind of sober drunkenness, or drunken sobriety. Most people probably have wondered whether the feelings they felt while drunk were more or less real than their sober feelings. Koestlerian art joins these seemingly irreconcilable feelings together.
Let’s just go one step further. In Promise and Fulfilment – Palestine 1917-1949, Koestler specifically singles out this intersection as an aspect of the experience of warfare:
This intense and perverse peace, superimposed on scenes of flesh-tearing and eardrum-splitting violence, is an archetype of war-experience. Grass never smells sweeter than in a dug-out during a bombardment when one’s face is buried in the earth. What soldier has not seen that caterpillar crawling along a crack in the bark of the tree behind which he took cover, and pursuing its climb undisturbed by the spattering of his tommy-gun? This intersecting of the tragic and the trivial planes of existence has always obsessed me in the Spanish Civil War, during the collapse of France, in the London blitz.
Today marks the 80th anniversary of the first flight of the Spitfire fighter prototype.
See also my post from last year: the Battle of Britain + 75
Richard Fernandez has a very good post exploring the reasons why a person would choose to join something like an Islamist militia in Libya. Read the whole thing.
His post reminded me of something that Virginia Postrel posted on 9/11/2008:
Glamour can sell religious devotion or military glory as surely as it can pitch lipstick or island vacations. All promise a way to transcend our everyday circumstances, to experience more and become better than ordinary life allows. All invite us to imagine escape and transformation…The question for this September 11 is, How do we puncture the glamour of Jihadi terrorism? The first step is recognizing that such glamour exists.
I was also reminded of a passage from Erich Maria Remarque’s neglected novel ‘The Road Back,’ which follows a group of former German soldiers in the aftermath of WWI. One member of the group, George Rahe, explains his inability to come to terms with peacetime: Comradeship and idealism are perishing in “this pig’s wash of order, duty, women, routine, punctuality and the rest of it what they call life here”…he sees an ordinary city street as “All one long fire trench” and the houses as “Dugouts, every one–the war still goes on–but a dirty, low-down war–every man against his fellow–” These feelings drive him to join up again–most likely one of the Freikorps units which sprang up during the postwar chaos.
Also, Arthur Koestler wrote about what he called the Tragic and the Trivial planes of life. His friend, the writer and fighter pilot Richard Hillary, explained the concept thusly:
K has a theory for this. He believes there are two planes of existence which he calls vie tragique and vie triviale. Usually we move on the trivial plane, but occasionally in moments of elation or danger, we find ourselves transferred to the plane of the vie tragique, with its non-commonsense, cosmic perspective. When we are on the trivial plane, the realities of the other appear as nonsense–as overstrung nerves and so on. When we live on the tragic plane, the realities of the other are shallow, frivolous, frivolous, trifling. But in exceptional circumstances, for instance if someone has to live through a long stretch of time in physical danger, one is placed, as it were, on the intersection line of the two planes; a curious situation which is a kind of tightrope-walking on one’s nerves…I think he is right.
But despite all the opportunistic campaign rhetoric, the newly elected President Eisenhower more or less followed Truman’s policies. By July 1953 he had achieved an armistice. And by keeping sizable U.S. deployments of peacekeepers in place, he also ensured what would become a long evolution to democracy in South Korea and the country’s current dynamic economy. Had Eisenhower, in Obama-like worry over his 1956 reelection bid, yanked out all U.S. peacekeepers in December 1955, and blamed the resulting debacle on his Democratic predecessor (“Truman’s War”), while writing off the North Korean aggressors as jayvees, we can imagine a quick North Korean absorption of the South, with the sort of death and chaos we are now seeing in Iraq.
[. . .]
We can surely argue about Iraq, but we must not airbrush away facts. The mystery of the current Iraq fantasy is not that a prevaricating Donald Trump misrepresents the war in the fashion of Democratic senators and liberal pundits who once eagerly supported it, but that his Republican opponents so easily let him do it.
–Victor Davis Hanson, “Iraq: The Real Story”
Actually it’s not a mystery. The Republican candidates opposing Trump must have discovered that the dishonest “Bush lied” narrative about Iraq polls better than the truth. (None of the remaining Republican candidates seems qualified to be President. Unfortunately, the Democratic candidates are even worse.)
In 2009 news stories reported that fewer Americans had been killed in Iraq the previous year than were murdered in Chicago. Iraq had an imperfect but functioning democratic government. The war was essentially won.
In 2016 Iraq has largely fallen apart. ISIS, Iran and Russia dominate much of Iraq and Syria. ISIS controls territory in North Africa. Jordan and Saudi Arabia are hanging by threads. Turkey and Russia have skirmished. Israel no longer has regional air superiority, perhaps not even air superiority in all of its own territory. Talk of regional and even world war is in the air.
The principal differences between 2008 and 2016 are Obama’s terrible decisions to withdraw US forces from Iraq and then to stop defending our other Middle Eastern interests. Bush had nothing to do with it except to the extent he was inept at promoting his case at home. Many if not most Americans neither understand why we invaded Iraq nor remember the bi-partisan, international consensus for invasion that existed in 2002 and 2003.
Posted by Nathaniel T. Lauterbach on 18th February 2016 (All posts by Nathaniel T. Lauterbach)
In comment thread of another post, Grurray asked:
“I know the Marines are the best fighting force in the world, but haven’t you had enough of building nations in the middle of the desert? You’re called Marines for a reason. Shouldn’t the future should be closer to the shore?” (sic)
I’ll take the sentiment kindly. Marines usually do fine when compared to other forces. I hesitate to call ourselves the “best” or “finest.” But the Marines are probably as good as any force out there.
As for meat of the question: Marines are amphibious fighters, right? What are you doing in a landlocked country?
Read the rest of this entry »
Posted in Afghanistan/Pakistan, Aviation, History, International Affairs, Iraq, Law, Law Enforcement, Military Affairs, National Security, Politics, Terrorism, USA, Vietnam, War and Peace | 13 Comments »
Posted by Ginny on 16th February 2016 (All posts by Ginny)
Thanks to Jonathan’s earlier post of Kristol’s conversations; whether Kass on education or Kagan on human nature or Gerlenter on art, these are consistently interesting. Here is Valentine’s Day with Petraeus (there’s another with Keene).
“Airbnb slammed“. So passive. Who slammed them? Palestinians engaged in lawfare and mediafare against Israel. An accurate headline would be, “Palestinians open new front in boycott campaign against Israel”.
The Palestinian Authority says offering vacation rental properties in Jewish homes in the occupied West Bank, through U.S.-based sites such as Airbnb, Booking.com and TripAdvisor, violates international law.
No word on whether apartment owners in Mecca are using Airbnb to rent to Jews and Christians.
He was an abrasive man, as his nickname suggests – and had very little of soothing diplomacy in him. A soft-spoken and conciliatory manner might have served him better over the long run through the duration of his tour as the American commander of Chinese troops in Burma during WWII, but considering the dire situation there in March of 1942, perhaps irascible and decisive better served the immediate situation. A 1904 graduate of the US Military Academy, General Joseph Warren Stilwell had a particular talent for languages – to include blistering invective, written and spoken Chinese, field tactics and the training of soldiers. He had come to Burma to take charge of reorganizing the nationalist Chinese military forces there … just the Allied defense of South-east Asia crumbled under a vigorous Japanese offensive. The invasion of Burma was intended to cut off the land route which supplied China, blockaded along the coast by the Japanese. War materiel for China reached there only by ship via the Burmese port of Rangoon and thence by truck, traveling 700 miles over the Burma Road. This ran from Lashio to Kunming and Yunnan; a perilous track hacked out by hand labor through jungle and over steep mountains several years earlier.
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Posted by Michael Hiteshew on 18th January 2016 (All posts by Michael Hiteshew)
It’s been said about Godzilla that it was Japan’s way of dealing with the B-29’s of the American Army Air Corp of WWII. A…monster…emerges from the ocean to the East, wreaking havoc and destruction on the cities and people of Japan. Nothing they could do seemed capable of stopping or even slowing the incredible assault. All was laid to waste before it. The movie was a means of dealing with the horrible memories of the bombings on another level, a symbolic level, easier to face that way. Dealing with it without dealing with it. A coping mechanism for the culture.
Cloverfield may be the American equivalent. An apocalyptic horror film, it incorporates themes from Godzilla, Alien and the 1953 version of War of the Worlds. It takes place in Manhattan and the movie begins in retrospect as video footage from a recovered camera, now in the archives of the DoD. The everyday friendships, lives and loves of a few young professionals unfolds into a nightmare of fear and panic as an enormous creature inflicts death and destruction on the city and everyone around them. Virtually the entire film is done in hand-held camera style as they sporadically document the chaos unfolding around them. It’s an incredibly effective technique and gives a feeling of reality to the film it otherwise wouldn’t have. There’s no doubt in my mind this is the filmmaker’s way of coping with 9/11.
Here’s the first clip in a series of nine you can watch at Movieclips. The friends have just left a going away party and evacuated to the roof after what felt like an earthquake and power outage.