Some Chicago Boyz know each other from student days at the University of Chicago. Others are Chicago boys in spirit. The blog name is also intended as a good-humored gesture of admiration for distinguished Chicago School economists and fellow travelers.
For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself.
— Paul of Tarsus, Epistle to the Romans
La merde a frappé le ventilateur; my earlier post became abruptly more topical on Wednesday the 7th, when we woke to the news of the assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse. This follow-up will consider the implications of developments since late June and will specifically respond to commenters on Dilèm Aksyon Kolektif nan Matisan. Most of the structure of this post will follow the Deming process-workbench model, because history is, to a great extent, a series of contingent events, and because I am a giant process nerd.
By way of making this more than a merely armchair review, I will be discussing the developing situation of state failure in Haiti, which is providing a personally harrowing example of the phenomena theorized and studied in this book. NB: additional situation reports like the one I quote from below will appear at this OCHA webpage.
I. Increasingly Scale-Free Military Activity in the 21st Century
In this follow-up to 2004’s Military Power: Explaining Victory and Defeat in Modern Battle (also from Princeton), Stephen Biddle continues to elucidate the many ramifications of the one-to-many relationship which came to dominate the battlefield between the Napoleonic Wars and World War I. Over that century and in the decades that followed, individual-service weapons increased in rate of fire from a (very) few rounds per minute to ~10 rounds per second, in effective range from ~100 to >300 meters, and in accuracy from (optimistically) 10 to 1.5 milliradians. Say 2½ orders of magnitude improvement in RoF, half an order of magnitude in range, and one order of magnitude in accuracy; multiplying these together to create a sort of index of effectiveness, I get an overall change of 4 orders of magnitude, with stark implications for battlefield environments.
As my reviews tend to do, this one will highlight some negatives, but which I will get out of the way early on. Peter Watson is a highly successful author and journalist who has rather more than dabbled in archaeology along the way. I am … somewhat less of an authority. Nonetheless, The Great Divide is kind of a mess, but one that ends up being sufficiently thought-provoking to be worth the effort.
Fun stuff first—shout-out to Jim Bennett for recommending the book; and here are my ideas for relevant musical interludes while reading the following:
My middle daughter gave me “Murder in the Shenandoah: Making Law Sovereign in Revolutionary Virginia”, for Christmas. I was touched she thought I’d read a book from Cambridge’s Studies in Legal History; in fact, once I’d started found she was quite right. Her friend, Jessica Lowe, was trained in law but found legal history sufficiently beguiling to finish her doctorate with this dissertation. Full of footnotes, it is also rich with observations on law and human nature, clothed in a lovely style, that proves entertaining to even an uninformed reader.
I had in mind the deliberate destruction of religious icons, and a vague memory of it having happened at least once in the Russian or Eastern Orthodox church in the medieval period; such things being, in the judgment of the sternly orthodox, ungodly and unsuitable, and therefore to be expunged … but it seems that spasms of righteous destruction are almost a human constant, across culture and time. The current passion for defacing and destroying public monuments – and not just those memorializing Confederate heroes – turns out to be not all that new and revolutionary. (channeling Private Gomer Pyle: Surprise, surprise, surprise.)