"Whenever I go into a restaurant, I order both a chicken and an egg to see which comes first"

Wednesday, December 7, 2022

Israel, William Tecumseh Sherman, And Hiroshima–The Nature Of Total Victory

Israel has been accused of using ‘disproportionate’ warfare to destroy Hamas. Its critics have described its bombing of Gaza as inhumanely brutal – a military Goliath unfairly fighting a plucky but badly outgunned enemy and in so doing killing hundreds of civilians and destroying public and private infrastructure.

While Israel has indeed destroyed much of the Palestinian territory and killed civilians, its strategy is far from inhumane.  In fact, Israel has gone out of its way to target Hamas leaders, public infrastructure, and civic property.  More importantly Israel’s strategy was as much psychological as military. By specifically targeting those Hamas leaders who were responsible for starting the war and persisting despite many opportunities for peace and reconciliation, Israel was sending a message to the general population.  It wanted the populace to see who was to blame for the terror and destruction of their territory and who suffered the ultimate penalty.

An Israeli Air Force F-15 Eagle fighter plane performs at an air show during the graduation of new cadet pilots at Hatzerim base in the Negev desert,...

Israel was also unapologetic for the civilian casualties incurred through its bombing attacks. Civilians are not innocent bystanders, it said, but complicit in the actions of its leaders.  A militantly jihadist regime can never exist without the support of the citizens it governs, Israel implicitly said, and civilians must pay the price for this support.

In short Israel, which could have destroyed the entire Gaza Strip and ridded itself of an implacable enemy once and for all,  did not do so.  The IDF had two goals in mind.  First, to destroy the weaponry which was threatening Israel; second to eliminate the political leaders who were behind the aggression and/or to humiliate them so thoroughly that any cachet, credibility, or moral authority would be degraded and destroyed.

It has been successful in both.  Rocket launchers and tunnels are routinely destroyed.  The leadership of Hamas is repeatedly neutralized; and most importantly the population understands completely what their leaders have wrought.  After each Israeli military response Palestinian leaders are dead, public infrastructure is in ruins, and the means to attack Israel seriously damaged.

In an article in the National Review  Victor Davis Hanson compares Israel’s strategy with that of William Tecumseh Sherman, the brilliant general of the Union forces in the Civil War. 

Sherman’s brutal marches from Tennessee to Atlanta, Atlanta to Savannah, and Savannah up through the Carolinas have been called ‘disproportionate’, but they were not.  There is no doubt that Sherman left a trail of ruin and desolation behind him; but he targeted the ‘plantationists’ – the wealthy landowners who led the South into war and who persisted in the fight at the expense of hundreds of thousands of young lives and the destruction of territory, culture, and history.

Sherman was doing exactly what the Israelis did in Gaza.  He wanted to show the people who was responsible for the misery they had suffered.  He was willing to open himself to criticism, opprobrium, and hatred by those Southern aristocrats whom he had chased; but he knew that the citizenry would know better.  Their leaders over whom they had little control were behind the foolish and ill-advised war.

William Tecumseh Sherman - Essential Civil War Curriculum

Sherman knew that the Union forces were superior and would eventually and ultimately prevail, but he understood that military conquest was only part of victory.  His goal was to humiliate the South – to show its people that the heralded aristocratic Cavalier was nothing compared to the tough and gritty farm boys from the North; that its leaders were inept and incapable of stopping the Union advances.  Sherman wanted the South never to rise again.

Sherman understood – like the Israelis – that military victory was only part of the equation; and that complete victory meant the destruction of the will of the enemy and its civilian population.  Sherman said, “War is the remedy our enemies have chosen, so let’s give them what they want.” He understood that such complete capitulation could only be achieved if he “traversed holy ground” and captured cities which were symbols of the Confederacy and what people were led to believe was Southern supremacy; and if they were easily taken or destroyed, the will of the people would be further eroded.

Sherman was very clear about his march through the Carolinas.  He knew that the journey would be arduous and physically demanding; but he wanted to burn a trail through the very heart of the Confederacy – the place where the rebellion had started – to show the South once and for all that not only had their armies been beaten, but that their whole culture had been destroyed.

Hanson quotes Machiavelli who said, “Men hate those who destroy patrimony more than their fathers”; and Sherman understood that destroying patrimony would be the total destruction of the enemy.  The South would recover from the physical devastation, Sherman knew, but would never recover from the absolute humiliation of its culture.

Machiavelli, Niccolò | Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Sherman – again like the Israelis – was unapologetic about civilian casualties, for he knew that political regimes, no matter how autocratic, are a result of a supportive or at least complaisant population.  Complicit civilians whether directly or indirectly so, must suffer the consequences.

The United States understood this philosophy well when it dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  The Japanese had obstinately refused to surrender even thought it was clear that they had been beaten.  Their generals and political leaders – like those of the South or Hamas – felt that somehow their elite code of heroism and national destiny would carry them through; and Truman meant to show them that Japan was forever a defeated, powerless nation.  

The mighty, apocalyptic destruction of Japan’s two principal cities was far more than a further degradation of the country’s military machinery.  It was the annihilation of a culture and a complete breaking of will. As in the case of the South and Gaza, the civilians of Japan would necessarily have to suffer for the sins of their leaders and for their indirect complicity in their actions.

The military campaigns of Sherman and the IDF were in fact ‘humane’ compared to those of the United States under Roosevelt and Truman.  The firebombing of Dresden and Tokyo as well as the nuclear destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were far more devastating than anything that Israel or the Union forces ever did.

America unfortunately has forgotten the lessons of Sherman and WWII and is unlikely to learn that of Israel today.  America’s strategy is based on conditional victory and limitation of civilian casualties.  The invading United States army in Iraq could have secured Baghdad, completed the task of the total defeat of Saddam and his Baathists, and prevented the sectarian violence that has only gotten worse if it had been uncompromising and brutal in a long and disciplined occupation.  The Taliban could have been completely neutralized of the United States had destroyed both their military encampments and those civilian populations harboring them.

American military planners should reject any criticism which urges compassion and sympathy in the wrong places at the wrong times.  They should look at Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Tokyo, and Dresden with a dispassionate and critical eye.  They must reject the current lamentation over the ‘disproportionate’ warfare.  Wars are for winning. 

Monday, December 5, 2022

America’s Morality Police–Iran, The Qur'an, And Progressive Righteousness

Iran in a surprising move has disbanded the infamous morality police – a service established by law to assure conformity to Islamic teaching, especially with regards to women. Any deviance from the strict Qur’anic interpretation of modesty, purity, propriety, and obedience would not be tolerated.  

However the death of a young woman who had been arrested for public indecency – not wearing a headscarf – provoked outrage and a surprising show of anger and resentment against the regime, the mullahs, and the enforcement of what was considered by increasing thousands as Medieval and barbaric; and the government relented.

It was about time.  Young Iranians disobeyed Islamic law and Qur'anic teaching in private with increasing chutzpah; and it was only a matter of time before the punitive policies of the State and its invasion of personal and civil rights would be challenged.

Iranian Mullahs have turned the entire society rogue – IFMAT

Progressives in the United States were dismayed at the Iranian government’s retraction of what they thought was a reasonable policy.  The state had a right and responsibility to promote, assure, impose moral principles on its citizens, and police their observance.  Whether or not one agreed with Iran’s particular socio-religious stance was irrelevant (no one could publicly claim solidarity with a government which oppressed women), it was the principle that mattered.  

The United States under Donald Trump, say progressives, had devolved into a radical, seditious, and immoral nation which rejected transformative notions of sexual equality, racial justice, and economic fairness.  Not only were these deep state, MAGA, reactionary sentiments politically dangerous, but morally wrong.  The progressive agenda of transgenderism, black supremacy, the dismissal of religious fundamentalism, and the dismantling of capitalism were anointed, absolutely right, and morally above debate. 

Anyone who disagreed with this agenda was ipso facto an apostate, a heretical denier, an immoral, self-serving reprobate.  Nothing but a casting out, a torturous death, a purifying boiling in oil, flogging, and burning at the stake would suffice.

Image result for images transgenders

American progressives were clear and unequivocal about their agenda and their means of enforcement.  They intended to secure their agenda by intimidation, threat, and public censure.  Any university president who did not subscribe to MeToo campus injustice in the name of women’s rights would be exposed for his backward, hateful, and ignorant ideas, and calls for his summary dismissal would be incessant and determined.

Anyone who suggested that the black man was anything other than naturally superior, enslaved only because of barbarous collusion of European and American capitalists, and denied his right and his dignity because of the innate inhumanity of the white man would be labelled racist and marginalized to the far periphery of orderly society.  

Those who suggested that a woman’s right to choose abortion was not an absolute, undeniable right were dunned and called out for misogyny; and anyone who challenged the idea of gender fluidity and the right of every child to choose his or her own sexuality was pilloried and expelled.

Every young person recruited into the ranks of progressive liberalism was not only schooled in the catechism of right behavior, but armed with the materiel to engage the enemy.  They were taught the correct lexicon, the language of inclusivity and diversity.  Language was the first and most obvious offense of the morally idle.  Instances of retrograde English usage were to be called out and censured and correct forms and terms indicated.  

Homeless people were to be outdoor urban dwellers; prostitutes, sex workers; an insult was emotional rape; and shoplifting was irregular shopping.  Recruits were taught revisionist history – those American icons irreducibly tied to racism which were to be discredited and their names and likenesses removed from public view.  They memorized the doctrinal catalogue and the automatic responses to denial – climate change, racism, misogyny, homophobia, predatory capitalism, environmental sanctity, etc. They were taught to recognize moral escapism and self-serving dissembly.

Image result for images toppling jefferson statues

Once ordained, these new recruits were sent out like militant, door-to-door Jehovah’s Witnesses. Armed with an indoctrinated sense of righteousness, they were unafraid to speak out, to be heard, to criticize and reveal moral depravity when they saw it.

In the early days of the pandemic, COVID evangelists formed vigilante groups, neighborhood enforcers of masks and six-foot spacing.  In a reprise of Eastern European secret services, they recruited, trained, and encouraged children to call out those who did not comply. It was a j’accuse moment,  the howl of The Invasion of the Body Snatchers the cry, and Stay At Home! was the injunction.  

Children were the avant-garde of the movement, Stasi-like informers of the East German state.  They were ideal recruits because they were too little and too uninformed to question the bald intrusiveness and anti-social behavior of their parents.  They were taught only to discover, point, and report pandemic deniers. It was a fearless, righteous time of humiliating public censure.

It was not so much that these street preaching vigilantes were worried about getting sick themselves; it was the shameless disregard for others that posed the greatest threat to the body politic. If we are all to reach a better, more perfect world, progressives say, one with a mild, pollution-free climate, complete tolerance and inclusivity, and a gender-neutral society, naysayers, doubters, and stubborn individualists must be gelded.  The brave, new world can never be realized while the noxious gasses of hyper-conservative radicalism are in the air.

Image result for images donald sutherland pointing in movie invastionof the body snathers

The environmental movement is no different.  It believes in the sanctity of Mother Earth which was at the center of many ancient pagan religions.  Mother Earth is Gaya, a sensate organism with a life of its own.  She reacts to pain, to rape and mutilation and sheds the tears of Jesus Christ who asked in disbelief at the evil of Mankind,  “My God, my God.  Why have You forsaken me?”.  

Environmentalism is not a secular movement, dealing only with atmospheric computer models, the delicate measurement of ultra-violet light penetrating the ever-thinning ozone layer, the build-up of toxic and nuclear waste, fracking, and clear-cutting.  It is a religious movement with a profoundly spiritual core.  It is no more fractured by the various issues confronting it or by its multiple enemies than religious fundamentalism.  Whether one joins the fight for clean water, clean air, toxic waste clean-up, alternative energy, or forest preservation, the fight is for Mother Earth, the preservation of her sanctity.

It is as though environmentalists actually want the planet to heat up.  This is understandable enough given the time, effort, and money they have invested in the cause. Environmentalism has become a secular religion no different than the Bible Belt evangelism Southerners had witnessed as children.  In fact when they heard speeches given at the National Conference on Climate Change and replayed at length by NPR, churchgoers were reminded of the sermons given every day in the hot, airless churches in the Mississippi Delta. In those days the pastors were was speaking of carnal lust, abandonment of God, and the fiery breath of the Devil, but they sounded very much like the wild-eyed evangelical Climate Changers of today.

Religions, whether secular or spiritual, have a field day with existential uncertainty. Church coffers are replenished every Sunday, and the cash registers of Climate Change International ring like music on a merry-go-round with every fiery sermon about the end of the world.

So the demise of the Iranian morality police was a sad event in the corridors of American progressive activism.  One has a moral right – an obligation, a duty – to call out, censure, punish, and remove those who flaunt the truth.  While today’s American secular evangelists have no insignia or official identity cards, they are no different from their Iranian religious counterparts.  They march to the same drummer of conformity, true belief, righteousness, and absolute authority.

Saturday, December 3, 2022

Annals Of Absolute Rule– The Allure Of Dictatorship

“You can say one thing about dictators”, said one of Joe Biden’s White House aides, “they keep the peace”.

The aide had spent what he considered his halcyon years  in Haiti under the Duvaliers, a time of peace and quiet.  It was a romantic idyll, and he would have felt no sense of intimacy without the voodoo drums, the scent of jasmine growing in the gardens of the estates above the hotel, or without the rancid smell of the port that drifted up from the city in the early morning when the air pressure and the direction of the breeze changed.  He danced in Carrefour, spent weekends in cabanas on the beaches of Les Cayes and Macaya, and drove up north to Gonaives and Cap Haitien; but his love affair would never have happened if they had he and his lover met across the mountains in the Dominican Republic. Haiti was their go-between, their matrix, their enabler.

Image result for images macaya beach hotel haiti

They never talked about Haiti, Duvalier, the Tontons, or voodoo.  They talked only about other things, things which had varied content but were all told within the context of Haiti. Their home towns of New Brighton and Fort George would always  be remembered as not Haiti. Not hot, tropical, gingerbread, threatening, ominous, passionate, and violent.

It was not surprising that the Haitian love affair continued only as long as the lovers met in Haiti. Neither one ever suggested that they meet in Boston, New York, or Miami; and when her summer internships were over and his last contract delivered, they knew that their affair was over.  Their friendship was uniquely, irrevocably Haitian.

Papa Doc Duvalier and his son were the enablers of the affair.  They had assured that Haiti remain an idyll, an irresistible mix of voodoo, Africa, and La France d’Outre-Mer. The Tonton Macoutes, henchmen of the Duvaliers, secret police more brutal and threatening than Savak or Stasi ever were, maintained order, enforced loyalty, and kept the island a secure redoubt of Duvalierism.  The White House aide and his lover went everywhere without a second thought – dancing in Carrefour, dining at the best restaurants in Petionville and Kenscoff, spending weekends in the cabanas of Cormier Plage and Port-Salut. The anger, resentment, and civil violence which were to erupt after the Duvaliers were gone were unseen and unspoken.  There were only pleasures, the assumption of idyll, the complete exercise of romance.  For the foreigners who visited, that is, who stayed at the Oloffson, who dined at Cote Cour, Cote Jardin, who ate lambi creole and bouillabaisse by the port, and who slept with their verandah windows open.

Image result for images papa doc duvalier as baron samedi drawing

After the Duvaliers Haiti became a violent, dysfunctional, ungoverned and ungovernable place to be avoided.  Its poverty was miasmic, its civil disobedience unruly and dangerous, its prospects nil.  The idyll of the Duvaliers was gone forever.

Dictatorship is the rule in Africa.  Its ‘big men’, presidents for life, have amassed great wealth and absolute power, have welcomed billions of dollars in foreign aid from donors anxious to keep African countries friends of democracy in perpetuity, and have ruled with impunity. The guarantee of civil order, fondness for the West, and a continuing supply of energy, rare earth materials, and precious gems have been enough contractual security for the United States and the EU.

Where dictatorship has broken down, civil war has broken out.  Ethiopia and Somalia once under militant dictatorships, have been in a state of perpetual conflict for decades. 

Idi Amin - Death, Uganda & Facts - HISTORY

Africa is not alone in this phenomenon.  Thanks to Soviet support and his own bullying, intimidating character, Marshal Tito gained absolute control of Yugoslavia.  Not surprisingly when the Soviet Union disintegrated and Tito’s power was no longer absolute, civil war broke out between and among the former republics of Yugoslavia. Autocrats and dictators keep the lid on dissent and unrest until they are gone.

Modern day autocrats are many, powerful, and immovable.  Putin in Russia, Xi in China, Kim in North Korea, Erdogan in Turkey, and the imams and mullahs in Iran rule with absolute power and authority.  While recent events in both Russia and China have shown the vulnerability of autocrats – history has shown that it will take more than ill-advised military adventures or ham-handed civil rule to depose them.

Democracy is of course a recent phenomenon, often dated in 1789 and the French Revolution.  Although the subsequent Terror of Robespierre turned out to be more brutal than the rule of the monarch they deposed, it was short-lived; and although Napoleon was no democratic model, his Empire was relatively benign.  The British tried their hand at democracy under Oliver Cromwell, but monarchists returned to power shortly thereafter with the Restoration.  The rule of the public – the masses – was never popular. Even in America’s new democratic republic, there were notable dissenters.  Alexander Hamilton was opposed to Jeffersonian ideals of democratic rule and was sure that the unwashed had no place in governance.

Image result for images the french terror guillotine

Before the French Revolution since the very beginnings of Western and Eastern civilization, autocratic rule was the only rule. Roman emperors, Persian shahs, Popes, Japanese shoguns, Chinese mandarins, and European kings ruled by legacy and divine authority.  Although democrats condemn these millennia of history for their elitist, privileged, harshly authoritarian rule, it was these monarchs who were responsible for the expansion of empire and the arts, science, philosophy, social structure, and architecture that they sponsored.

China is a good example of a successful modern autocracy.  Chinese leaders since the revolutionary Deng Xiaoping in the late 70s have been unequivocal about their vision and ambitions – only with a strong central leadership, the fidelity, political support, and loyalty of citizens can poverty be eliminated and the country restored to its historic greatness.  The success of this policy has been obvious.  In a few short decades China has risen from an impoverished failed state to one of the world’s great powers with economic, political, financial, and military strength.  Dissent, American style, China’s leaders have professed, will only delay the progress of social and economic reform.  The country cannot be delayed by bickering and sniping, both of which lead to disorder and dysfunction.

Image result for images ancient chinese emperors

The Chinese look at America not as an ideal political model, but an example of the worst kind of governance.  It is a country sorely divided over nonsensical social issues.  Its previous unity, patriotism, and common ethos have been corroded by demands for gay birthday cakes, horrific surgical interventions to change sex, uncontrolled, disruptive immigration, and irresponsible government spending.  China owns America and its ownership will become more complete the more its administrations borrow to spend.

So while President Biden may whine and carp about China, it is a most worthy and threatening adversary.  In times of crisis, there is no doubt that the Chinese citizenry would rally around the government.  Such solidarity and fidelity goes beyond temporal politics.  China is on its way to restoring its past Imperial glory, its rightful place in the world.   The United States is now nothing but a hopelessly fragmented, lost, and unsure country.

There is no American president who has not bridled under the demands of democracy – the childish antics of Congress, the disputatious governors, the fickle and ignorant public all militating against what he knows is the truth and the right ways – and Joe Biden cannot be any different. While he has capitulated to the insistent demands of the progressive Left and contributed to divisiveness and public anger and distrust, he must certainly be an admirer of Xi and his presidential predecessors who built a modern empire out of relatively  nothing in less than 50 years.  How can he look at the Palace of Versailles, the ruins of Persepolis, the Taj Mahal, the conquests of Genghis Khan and Ancient Rome, the Parthenon, and the Winter Palace without some wince of envy.  Emperors and kings built civilization, and now America, in the throes of democratic excess and chaos, is doing its best to erode it.

History has also shown that while history always repeats itself thanks to human nature, its aggression, territorialism, and self-interest,, the expressions of each era are always unique.  Kings and queens come and go.  Empires grow and fade.  Social experiments, like socialism, communism, and democracy come and go, succeed and fail in spurts but never last.  The only certainty is the persistence of authoritarian rule, bred out of human nature, the legacy of history, and the increasingly intense competition among nations.