Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Mid Week At Work: Enduring investigation.


Caption reads:
Navy's crack speed pilot faces Senate Committee seeking reason for resignation. Lieut. Al Williams, crack Navy speed pilot who recently resigned rather than accept a transfer to sea, appeared before a special Senate Naval l Affairs subcommittee today. The committee is investigating the reason for the resignation of the noted pilot. In the photograph, left to right: Senator Patrick J. Sullivan, Wyoming; Lieut. Williams; Senator Millard E. Tydings, Maryland, chairman; and David S. Ingalls, Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Aviation

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

UW law school says it meets needs of state, energy industry - www.wyofile.com

UW law school says it meets needs of state, energy industry - www.wyofile.com

Holscher's Hub: University of Wyoming Women's Rugby: Wyoming v. U...

Holscher's Hub: University of Wyoming Women's Rugby: Wyoming v. U...: ...

After seemingly picking on (but not intending to) American football the past few days, I offer these recent photos I took of women's rugby at the University of Wyoming.

I don't have a clue what the rules are, but rugby is really fun to watch and I've always liked it. This is the first time, however, I've seen the women's team at UW in action.

It's a fast moving game, which is part of what I like.   It shares a common ancestor with American football, but to those of us who are big fans of it, American football seems slow.  Rugby is a much faster paced game.

Played without padding or helmets, it's also one which features a lot of injuries, but it doesn't seem to share the same percentage of really severe injuries, perhaps because of the lack of armor in the game.

Rootless

From Harrop's op ed this week questions whether we need a "place called home".  It's an excellent piece, questioning the value of rootlessness.  Ironically, the local paper today also features a front page article on an English woman who seems fairly rootless, having moved from a small city in England, to Paris, and whom is now studying range management at the University of Wyoming, after having worked on a Big Horn Basis ranch.

Harrop quotes from As You Like It in her article, although she doesn't quote the whole text, which reads:
Rosalind:  A traveler.  By my faith, you have great reason to be sad.  I fear you have sold your land to see other men's.  Then to have seen much and to have nothing is to have rich eyes and poor hands.
 Jacques:  Yes, I have gained my experience.
 Rosalind:  And your experience makes you sad.  I had rather have a fool to make me merry than experience to make me sad--and to travel for it too.

Forrop goes on to note who we seemingly envy the traveling, but there's something to be sad about their rootless lives.  And she wonders what occurs to these people in their old ages, do they settle in someplace new, where they have no connections, or return to the place they abandoned and pick up their old lives.

Well, by observation, at least some do.  My home state, for many years, exported its young population, some of whom remained sort of romantically attached to the state for their careers, and then whom return later.  As Americans, with Freedom To Travel written into their organic foundational and mythological law, the Constitution, they have that right.

But Farrop is on to something, although she's hardly unique in noting it.   Agrarian poet, educator and novelist Wendell Berry earlier noted it in his essay Becoming Native To This Place.  Berry notes that unless a person has real roots in a place, he's lacking a bit in something and by extension, everything suffers form a rootless population.

Indeed, that's the irony of travel. Travelers travel, usually, to see the authentic, unless they travel to one of the Disneyfied locations that Americans so love to visit.  Absent that, when the travel to see Hawaii, or Paris, or Ireland or Scotland, they travel to see the real places, not a bunch of people like themselves who have a generic culture and no roots.  They sense, really, that those cultures have something deeper, in being attached to the land and knowing it.

Americans have always been somewhat rootless, but in prior days they tended to move within their immediate regions.  In the Frontier era, people moved, but often less than ten miles before establishing a new home.  Some moves, of course, were huge, but they tended to be a big singular move.  Now some people move constantly, and while relocation within a region remain very common, and because they are within a region are not really the type of move we mention here, the phenomenon of some people moving again and again, following a career, or just moving, is not unusual.  

Well, it is a big sad.  By constantly moving they never become, as Berry would have it, "native" to a place, and they lack something as a result.  If our culture becomes more fluid, as it seems to threaten, and as some hope, this will become even more pronounced, and an era may arrive when people have no attachment to their region, don't even know it, have no attachment to their communities, and don't even know them, and have no attachment to each other.








Random Snippets: Trivial questions on the news.

This past weekend the new moderator for Meet The Press did an interesting and in depth interview of a member of President Obama's administration regarding ISIL and our plans to take that on.

At the tail end of it, the moderator suddenly shifted and told the guest that he was sure that the guest had spoken to the President about football player Ray Rice and did the President have a view on the NFL's recent actions regarding Rice, and if something should be done to the commissioner of that organization.

Seriously?

While it would be contrary to what the guest stated, I hope that in serious discussions at the White House the NFL's problems or those of its player, indeed the entire topic of professional sports controversies doesn't come up.  Here we're talking about war, and the moderator is asking about the NFL?  Rice's actions were inexcusable, but we're talking about the life and death of thousands here in war.  That's much more signficant than the NFL.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Football and Injury

I just posted a thread on being out of touch.  One thing I've noted here before, is that I'm really out of touch about sports.  Truly out of touch.


This is the start of the year where high school football becomes a bit deal for a lot of people, and its of course closely followed by parents and siblings who have family members playing football.  That's fine, and to be expected.  It's also the season where old alumni follow the games of their old schools, including high schools, and of course universities.

One of the things I've noted before in regards to this is that the best evidence is that American football has a hideous head injury rate.  Frankly, playing football is very dangerous for youth.  It simply is.  It amazes me, as an observer, how adults will worry a great deal about injury from activities that a person is highly unlikely to be injured at, and not at all from one where the injury rate is high.  I've heard, for example, parents worry about kids becoming interested in shooting sports, but at the same time feel that football is just fine.  A person is much more likely to be injured playing football that shooting or hunting.

I'm not campaigning for something here, but I'm making this post to note that the National Football League has released a study that finds 30% of its players will suffer from Parkinson's or Alzheimer's, with the suggestion being that this is due to game related head injuries. To be fair to the NFL, almost every single player in the NFL was a college player and a high school player before that.

Now, I'm not saying that we should ban high school football, or college ball.  But as a person who is so disinterested in football that I just can't follow a game no matter how hard I try, I have to admit that every time I see a young person I know suited up in a football uniform, it inspires concern in me. 

Seems pretty self evident that the head injuries associated with this sport are a present danger to the players,  and that needs to be addressed right away.  No amount of grid iron glory will seem worth it when a person starts to suffer neurological deficits.

Random Snippets: Out of touch

I've concluded that there's no better way to confirm that you are out of touch than to get a bit of the sports or entertainment news.

Right now, the news is full of stories about a football player, last name of Rice, who was caught on camera beating up the woman who is now his wife (I don't know if they were married at the time). The themes of that is what the NFL should do about that.

Now, I think it's horrible that he beat up his wife or girlfriend, but beyond that its one of those things that actually surprise me that its such big news.  I don't approve of that conduct at all, but what that means, it seems, would self evidently apply pretty much to him and her, and maybe society in general in terms of domestic abuse being horrible and it should be stopped.  But does the NFL as his employer have a unique duty here?  I really don't know why it would, unless every employer does.  That is, if I learn that somebody beat up their spouse, and I honor bound to fire them?  I hadn't thought that I was unless it was on company time.  Maybe this incident was on NFL time?  I don't know.  I do know that in my role as a lawyer I've learned of plenty of reprehensible behavior that I find personally repugnant at all sorts of levels, but unless they were on company time for somebody I hadn't thought that required the person to be fired. Does it?  Does the NFL have a morals clause in its contracts (now nearly a thing of the past)?  I have no idea.

Is this even a football player people have heard of?  I don't know the answer to that either.

Secondly, recently in the news there's been a huge outbreak of female personalities complaining about their private images (you can fill in the details here) being released.  I don't know who most of those people are, although in a couple of instances they're apparently well known singers.  No idea.  Now I've heard their songs, and I'm not impressed.

Likewise, recently the big song of the summer seem to be a song called "Fancy".  Now, I've heard that.  But why is this song so nifty.  Don't know the answer to that either.  For that matter, having listened to it on the radio prior to seeing any images of the songteuse, I assumed, quite incorrectly, that the singer was probably an American, and probably an African American from an urban background, given the accents deployed in the song.  Nope, she's an Australian.  I have to wonder if African Americans find this offensive.  I would. She's co-opted a black musical style and affected an urban African American accent.

Isn't that a little offensive somehow?  Are people offended.  And doesn't that pretty much mean that rap must truly be passe?  No offense to Australians intended, but if young Australian women are carrying the banner for hip hop, the genre has obviously moved on.

Finally, at our house, a movie about the filming of Mary Poppins has been getting a lot of air time. Showing that I'm not just out of touch on current events, but on lots of stuff, I don't have a clue why that would be interesting as a topic.  I've never seen but a few snippets of Mary Poppins, the film, in the first place, and it looks boring.  A movie about it would seem to be doubly boring.

Sunday Morning Scene.

St Peter and St. Paul Orthodox Church, Salt Lake City Utah



From Churches of the West: St Peter and St. Paul Orthodox Church, Salt Lake City, where there's more text on the same.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Scottish Independence?


This upcoming week we may see Scotland acquire something it hasn't had since the 18th Century, that being Scottish independence.  If a majority of Scottish voters vote "yes" on a referendum on September 18, Scotland will resume independent status and the United Kingdom will shrink to just being England and Wales.

Let's hope Scottish voters take a page from the Quebecois and vote "no".  Its a terrible idea.

Yes, the Scots remain a separate culture, but even before de jure unification the Scots, English and Welsh people had been so closely associated with each other, as they would have to be given that they all share a single large island, that the intertwining of their destinies was inevitable.  They've so impacted each other that they are a British people, with separate, but not that separate, national identities.  They further share a common history, and like or it or not, they'll continue to share a common fate as they move forward.   It'll be easier to deal with that fate together, rather than separately.

It'd be a shame to see the United Kingdom cease to be that.  Here's hoping that Scotland remains in it.

Thomas Berger passes

I learned, just tonight, that Thomas Berger, the novelist, died in July at age 89.

Berger was the author of Little Big Man, a great novel and one of my absolute favorite. Even though I'm engaged, slow motion, in trying to write a historical novel (for which this blog is supposedly research), I read very few novels of any kid. But this is a great one.

Most people familiar with this title are probably familiar with the now dated movie.  I like the movie, but in some ways the movie hasn't passed the test of time.  The book, however, certainly has.  It serves the function that the best historical fiction does, acting to illuminate the truth of which the fiction is based.  Its great.

I haven't read any of Mr. Berger's other novels, including the 1999 sequel to Little Big Man, which was well received.  I may read at least that latter novel. At any rate, however, if Mr. Berger had contributed only one book to the American library, Little Big Man would ahve been a great addition.

May he rest in peace.

Repeating History. Learning from the Crusades

I just bumped up the Myths thread, which includes a lot of historical myths.  I thought about adding this one to it, but it deserves its own thread, so here it goes.

 Depiction of the Sarcens outside of Paris in 732. That's right, outside of Paris.  The Islamic invasion of Europe in this early Caliphate stage advanced this far north, which it would do again (outside Vienna) 700 years later.

One of the most often repeated lines about history is George Santayana's observation that "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."  This is often changed to "those who have not learned from history are doomed to repeat it", and similar variants, all of which are true.  Probably something that can be added to that is that those who learn history incorrectly, or who misunderstand history, get to repeat it as well, frequently to their horror.

And so we have the Crusades.

The Crusades weren't called the Crusades at the time that they occurred.  That's a term tagged on them in later years, post Reformation, when they were understood as sort of a singular episode.  Even that understanding isn't really correct, as it seems to assume, quite falsely, that the Church declared war on Islam, and then the Crusades happened, and then they ended.  None of that is really right.  Looking at what really  happened is worth doing, as we didn't learn the history, and now we are in fact repeating it.

The Crusades were once more or less accurately understood, but over the past several decades there's been a lot of hand wringing in the western world about how awful we (Europeans) were, or sometimes how awful the Catholic church was, for picking on the Moslems in the Middle East. That's the current view now, backed up in self-righteous statements people have issued over the years, seemingly assuming that we enlightened folks would never do something like that now, and we just failed to comprehend Islam.  None of that is even close to being historically accurate.

The First Crusade was "called" in 1095.  By that time, however, the Christian world had endured Islamic armed invasion for about 400 years.  The first waive of it had come during Mohamed's lifetime when he expanded his new religion by the sword, taking over the Arabian peninsula in the process.  This lead him into Christian lands, which would remain Christian for decades thereafter, in spite of the invasions, and whose remnants even today still exist.  In the following decades Islam was spread by Arab armies in wars of conquest all over North Africa and into Spain. The Moslems' armies of conquest then spread over the Pyrenees and into France, until Charles Martel arrested their progress, and turned them around, in the Battle of Tours in 732, just mere decades after Mohamed's death.  This arrested the progress of Islam's advance by the sword, all the way up in central France, and the process began of rolling the Islamic tide back in Spain, a process that wouldn't be complete until 1492.

In Middle East, Moslem forces, by the 11th Century, were oppressing the Christian residents of that region, which in many instances constituted the majority of the population and were pressing into the Byzantine Empire.  The Great Schism had not yet occurred, although the differences that would lead to it in culture were starting to manifest themselves, and the Byzantines called for help. The result was the Crusades.

We have tended to view that as some sort of unwarranted invasion for some time, but in reality, in an era when history generally progressed slowly, it wasn't seen that way at all.  It was an armed expedition to help a Christian Ally, the Byzantines, and to protect the Christian population of the Middle East, which was often the majority in any one region, all against an aggressive Islam that was an unwanted and unrelenting invader.  It was seen as a massive existential threat to the region, and to the safety of the Western World.

In other words, the Arab Islamic Armies (and later the Ottoman Turks) were seen pretty much the way we're seeing ISIL right now.  In taking on ISIL, we're pretty much doing what they started doing in the 11th Century.

Well, we might want to quit picking on the Crusaders, I suppose, given that.

And we might want to consider that the defensive wars of the Crusades were initially a success, but ultimately failed.  As a defensive war, they succeeded in arresting Arab Islamic invasion of the Byzantine Empire and in removing Islamic over-lordship of Christian lands.  They no doubt also occupied some Islamic territory as well.  But ultimately, they failed.  The reason is simple.  It wasn't because Europeans were trying to control a foreign culture.  Recent research has shown that the majority Christian population in those regions where they were the majority adapted to the Europeans pretty quickly and even generally welcomed the European immigrants that came along after the armies.  No, what happened is that after the initial successes, the Europeans generally lost interest in the region and when it fell again, viewed it as a far off distant threat.  The threat wasn't even appreciated again until the Turks invaded Anatolia and took Constantinople in 1453.  Ultimately, the Moslem armies would be turned around in Vienna, in 1529.

So what can we learn from this? Well, a variety of things I suppose.  One thing is that before condemning our own culture for taking on a military project, perhaps we ought to consider what they were really thinking and why.  The other may be that when regarding a threat, just because it was in antiquity doesn't mean that it really has fully gone away, but maybe just gone smaller or larger.  The Battle of Tours was 300 years distant from the First Crusades, and 1400 years from the Siege of Constantinople. We're about 500 years from that Siege, and the similar one at Vienna, making us closer in time to those events than Charles Martel was.

I'm not saying that those who have invaded Iraq and who contest for Syria are fully analogous to Mohamed's armies of the 7th Century, nor to the Ottoman Turks of the 15th. But they see themselves that way, and we would be pretty naive to at least not appreciate their world view, and the world view of those faced with similar or at least somewhat similar threats in the distant past, and learn by them.

Persistent Myths

It's probably this time of year, but there are certain myths a person hears again and again that are demonstrably false, but there's just no countering them.  It says something about the power of rumor over facts.

 If I get a raise, taxes will mean I'll take less home.

 Internal Revenue Service building in Washington D.C.  They aren't going to make you poor if you are rich.

Here's a really common one you hear this time of year, often in the form of a comment like this:  "I hope my new raise didn't bump me up in the next tax bracket, as the government will just be taking more of my money."

The gist of this one is a very persistent belief that once you go up a tax bracket, your entire income is taxed at that higher rate.  No, it isn't.  With our graduated tax system, only the income over each step in the bracket is taxed at that rate.  Income wise, it is always, always, always, better to make more income, no matter what tax bracket you jump up into.  It is never the case that the government will take more of your actual gross because your net increased.

People like this idea so much they just cannot be convinced otherwise, but the truth of the matter is that only the dollars in each income tax bracket are taxed at that rate.  Everyone, absolutely everyone, who pays taxes pays starting off at the lowest rate. Everybody.  And only the dollars that jump up into the next bracket are taxed at that next higher rate.

The First Amendment Protects All Speech

 The younger Sen. Lafallotte speaks in favor of the court packing plan, the fellow on the left looks like he wishes Lafollette would shut up.

Another one is that when a private journal of any kind, say a newspaper, radio, etc., chooses not to broadcast or publish something, it's interfering with "your right to free speech."  There's no absolute right to say anything you want. Rather, the government can't stop your from saying what you want.  Regular people don't have to put up with whatever you're saying, and if  they choose to shut you up, that's their right.

What the First Amendment actually states is:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
That's a pretty simple text. Congress can't pass a law abridging the freedom of speech.  By extension, the states can't either. But the newspaper isn't the government, and it can sure choose to ignore you.

I recently ran into this in the context of a private organization in which one vocal dissenter felt that that his failure to get his way from the organizations board violated his freedom of speech. Nope.  A private board is perfectly free to completely ignore you.

The Canadians have never fought a war.

 World War One Canadian Army recruiting poster. The thought that an Allied loss would cause Canada to disappear from the earth seems dubious, but lots of Canadians signed up.

Here's a really weird, but very common, one.  There's a sense in the United States that Canada has never been in a war.  A few years back a junior high middle school teacher actually lectured a class my son was in to that effect.

Well, guess again.  Canada fought in the War of 1812, and in its view, probably correctly, it beat the stuffing out of the US in it.  Canadian militia pretty much wiped up on American troops in the War of 1812, to be followed by the British landing in the US itself and beating the tar out of us, which relates to another myth below.

Canada also fought some Indian campaigns, just not as many as we did. And it also occasionally had to repel Irish rebels who somehow thought that launching an invasion from the US into Canada would achieve something.

And Canada fought in the Boer War. And Canadians bled in vast numbers in World War One and World War Two. And Canada fought in the Korean War as well.

What Canada did not do is fight in the Vietnam War.  Because the Canadian government at the time was sympathetic, for some reason, with American draft evaders in that period the myth seems to have been created that Canada is a pacifist nation.  It isn't.  Indeed, Canada has been fighting with us in Afghanistan.

"Surrender" is a French word.

 This intrepid French aviator is not amused that people accuse France of surrendering easily.

This rumor is even nastier than the idea that Canada is a pacifist nation.  It's common in the US to accuse the French of being cowardly.

This rumor seems to have come out of the French defeat at the start of World War Two, but it oddly hasn't attached to any of the other nations that Germany ran over at the start of the war.  And it shouldn't even apply to France.  The French were defeated on the battlefield in 1940 and the government did surrender, but it was being overrun and simply being realistic. Even at that, however, French troops kept fighting where engaged in order to allow the British to evacuate the continent, a valiant act.  A sizable number of French troops never surrendered and effectively disobeyed a legitimate order of their country to keep on fighting.  When the opportunity came in 1943, the French armed forces were pretty quick to get back into the war against the Germans even though it was technically an act of rebellion.

At any rate, accusing the French of cowardice ignores the fact that the French nation bled itself white in the Napoleonic Wars.  I don't admire Napoleon, but like him or hate him, the French troops of that period, which made up in some ways one of the first modern armies, sure weren't cowards.  They died in such numbers that nearly the entire army died in Napoleon's service.

And the French fought hard, if to defeat, in the Franco-Prussian War.  They fought extremely hard in World War One. After World War Two they put up a real fight in Indo China and Algeria, and they've fought with us in Korea, Iraq and Afghanistan. They fought with the British and Israelis in the Suez incident.  And they've been involved in third world fights, mostly in their former colonies, to an extent we can hardly appreciate. The French have conducted over 200 combat air jumps since World War Two. We've conducted less than twenty.

The United States has never lost a war.

 American naval heroes of the war of 1812. The naval war was about the only thing that went well for us, at least at first, although a war in the Atlantic was highly irritating to New England's merchants who thought about succeeding form the nation and who didn't support the war.  On the ground, we were pretty much a universal flop.

This may be a matter of perception, but  I'll occasionally hear that the Untied States has never lost a war.

Arguably, we lost the War of 1812.  We may pretend otherwise, but basically the Canadian militia wiped up with us in Canada, and the British pasted us everywhere else.  The war basically ended when the British defeated the French in Europe, and then dictated to us what the peace would be. We were allowed to enter into the peace or suffer the consequences. We did.

The US also lost Red Cloud's War. This may be a minor matter in the overall scheme of things, but still, we lost. Red Cloud's Sioux won.

We also lost the Vietnam War and there's no reason to pretend otherwise.  This isn't a simple story, in my view, and it is true that militarily we won. We were not defeated on the battlefield, but the American populace grew tired of the war and in 1975 when the North invaded for the second time in the 1970s, we threw the South under the bus.

If viewed as a campaign in the Cold War, however, which is how I feel the war is more properly viewed (and I'll blog on that in future) the result is a bit different.

You have a right to act like a member of the James Gang on your own property.


One I occasionally run into is the concept that a person has the right to shoot somebody on their land, if they're there without invitation.  No, there is no such right.  Never.

Postscript I.  Myths about religion in the Middle East

LeAnn   at Ramblings of a Teacher, has a series of related "mythconceptions" that she's posted about, and she justifiably asks why, on her blog, do these myths persist.  It's a good question.  Indeed, it's one I pondered without really having a good answer to, but this week I was given a partial one.  In this case, some teachers (not LeAnn) fail to do their homework, and then teach their charges myths or errors.

The reason that I can say that, and I am, is that my daughter was studying for a test on the Middle East last night, and she had with her the supposed answers to the questions she will be tested on. Some of those answers were flat out wrong.  I discussed this as part of the family conversation, but quite frankly, as its her grade, she's learned the wrong answers to the questions.

This teacher is a popular one, and the kids like the teacher.  But at least on this subject, the teacher is pretty badly misinformed.

For example, one of the questions was what three countries in the Middle East are theocracies. As we know, a theocracy is a state ruled by a religion.  There are darned few of them, actually, in history at any one point, and there aren't really any in the Middle East today. The official answer, however, was "Iran, Israel, and Saudi Arabia.

Hmmmm.

Israel is a parliamentary democracy and always has been. It's a "Jewish state", but that doesn't make it a theocracy any more than Germany's status as a German state (like Israel, Germany has a "law of return) makes it a racial state of some sort.  Israel may have a law of return, extending citizenship by option to Jewish people who seek it, but it also grants full voting rights to its Moslem and Christian citizens, both of which it has and has always had.

Indeed, even its status as a "Jewish state" doesn't quite mean what people might suppose.  At its founding, the state of Israel had a fair number of influential secular Jewish people whom others might term as "culturally Jewish."  To be Jewish does not necessarily mean that a person is an observant person religiously, any more than to be Greek automatically makes a person a devout member of the Greek Orthodox Church.

Anyhow, Israel certainly isn't a theocracy.

But that wasn't the only error.  More on that later.

Postscript, continued, Myths about religion in the Middle East

Well what about Saudi Arabia and Iran?  He was right there, wasn't he?
No, neither of those nations are "theocracies", although a person can make the case that Iran is a semi theocracy.

Starting with Iran, Iran calls itself an "Islamic Republic", but names do not necessarily mean all that much.  China, for example, calls itself a "People's Republic", whatever that is supposed to mean, and it isn't a liberal democracy by any means.  East Germany called itself the German Democratic Republic, with the only part of that name that was accurate being the German part.  To add to the problem, it isn't entirely clear what an Islamic Republic is even supposed to mean.

What it seems to mean is a government incorporating Sharia law, which Iran does.  And Sharia law does originate in the Koran.  Beyond that, Iran has a semi functional electoral system, which falls short of what we'd regard as a functioning democracy, but it does have some electoral process.

The country isn't actually run by mullahs, as some would assert, but its very clear that Shia mullahs have a huge, perhaps determinative, role in the governance of the country, together with the descendants of the 1970s Shia fundamentalist revolutionaries.  So what we have there is a heavily Shia influenced, less than fully democratic, quasi revolutionary state.  A person might compare it loosely with early post Mexican Revolution Mexico which had some sort of functioning deliberative body, but which only the PRI really mattered.  Or, a person might badly compare it with Imperial Germany, which had a democratically elected parliament, but the country was really governed and controlled by traditional forces outside of parliament.

Either way you look at it, it isn't truly a "theocracy", although perhaps it comes close.

Well, what about Saudi Arabia?  Not so much.

Saudi Arabia is truly one of the worlds sole surviving examples of a true monarchy.  It's a country basically owned by a single family.  Now, that family did rise to prominence in part through supporting a certain extreme Sunni group of Arabian mullahs, whose thinking is reflected in the state.  But the mullahs themselves never actually governed the country.  Indeed, as the branch of Sunni thought the Sauds espoused was so radical that it was questioned as heretical before their adoption of it and ascension to the crown (or rather creation of the crown), a person might argue that group is in debt to the Sauds.

Now, it is certainly the case that Saudi Arabia is unquestionably Sunni Moslem, and that it also applies Koranic principles to its law.  A person can criticize it, but it doesn't depart in this fashion hugely from other primitive monarchies, most of which have been associated with a religion their respective crowns adopted.  Queen Elizabeth I, for example, wasn't exactly tolerant of Catholics.  That didn't make Elizabethan England a theocracy, however.

And to be continued.

Postscript continued, Myths about religion in the Middle East

 Syrian Archbishop.  Syrian Catholics and Orthodox represent the second largest religion in the Middle East and the second oldest of the major religions in the Middle East.

Okay, well what else?

Another question asked the students to rank the three largest religions in the Middle East, with the provided answer, in order if number of followers, being Islam, Judaism, and Christianity.

Right?  Nope, that's wrong.

The second largest religion in the Middle East is Christianity. 

I guess I might give a person a bit of a pass on this one, as Middle Easter Christians are so ignored by the outside world, but they are the second oldest religion in the Middle East and they are spread throughout the Middle East.  There isn't a country in the Middle East that doesn't have some native Christians, save perhaps for the very small ones like Dubai or Kuwait.

That's right, some native Christians.

Christian populations in the Middle East range up to as many as 18,000,000 but may be as few as 16,000,000.  More than any other major faith, Christians have been targets of violence in the Middle East and they have accordingly opted for decades for emigration, if they could.  But they still outnumber adherents of Judaism by at least 10,000,000 people, if not more, and it probably is more.Some Middle Eastern countries have, or would have, extremely significant Christian populations but for their being the targets of increasing violence in recent years, making them a population that is essentially undergoing "ethnic cleansing" as we speak, with hardly anyone doing anything about it.  Populations of Catholics, Orthodox and Coptic Christians are under stress everywhere in the Middle East.

If immigrant populations in the form of temporary workers are included, some Middle Eastern countries, such as Dubai, would be regarded as having huge, mostly Catholic, populations.

Indeed, one of the myths of the Middle East, related to this story, is that Islam took the region by storm.  It didn't.  Islam didn't become the power in the region it became until Sulemon, but even at that the "Islamic" principalities he conquered often had Christian majorities.  It wasn't until tremendous force was brought upon these communities that conversions to Islam really began.  Islam wasn't even able to sweep the Arabian Peninsula without the help, ironically, of a tribe on the peninsula that was Catholic.  Christian populations hung on everywhere, in isolation, for a very long time, and in some ways what we're seeing now in regards to them has been a story that's been ongoing for over 1,000 years.

Postscript II  Hindus and vegetarianism

 Hindu wedding party. Chicken was probably on the reception menu.

Americans commonly believe that Indian is a vegetarian nation, because the largest religion in India is Hinduism.

Before we go on to that, we'll note that some Americans believe all Indians are Hindus.  Not hardly.  India is a "put together" nation of the former English colony variety, and not one single "nation".  It has a wide variety of ethnic identities and religions, including a Catholic population that dates back to the Apostolic age.  Islam and Buddhism are also present in India, and India still has a pretty large Communist Party, which of course is philosophically opposed to any religion.  But Hinduism is the largest religion in India.

Well, Hindus are all vegetarians, right?

Nope.  A minority of Indian Hindus are vegetarians. 

Hindus do have dietary restrictions, to be sure. The oldest one in Hinduism appears to be a ban on eating horses, cattle, or people, although this is debated.  It is thought that the ban might actually have applied to possessed horses and cattle, and any people.

Some Hindu sects are vegetarian, and these are well represented in India. But a majority of Indian Hindus are not members of those sects, and they do eat meat.  They do not eat cattle, but other meats.

This myth is interesting in that it at one time was a reason that Hindus were looked down upon, and now its a reason that some who come from outside Central Asia will point towards Hinduism, but it's simply wrong.

Postscript III:  The Roman Edition

I was reminded today of a couple of popular myths regarding the Romans.

I suppose it would be surprising if the Romans weren't subject to all sort of myths, after all, they were a major power forever.  Given that, some baloney is going to stick to them.  Let's take a look

A. The Romans Never Lost a Battle

There's apparently a popular myth that the Romans never lost a battle.  Oh yes they did.  You can't be a military power that long and not loose a few, that's for sure, and they lost their fair share.

What's more the like it is that the Romans had really deep military pockets, so they were able recover from their losses, but loose they did.

B.  Rome Fell because it was corrupt.  

This myth is extremely persistent, but completely in error.

Students receive this myth in some classrooms today, and its no surprise as it was a thesis advanced by Gibbons, who was the first really major modern historian (1700s) who addressed the topic of Roman history.  Gibbons, however, was not free from inserting his own beliefs and agendas into his writing, and while the world owes him a debt of thanks for tackling the topic, it is burdened by his outlook.  

Gibbons was English and living in an era when the ruling class of the United Kingdom was quite anti Catholic, as was Gibbons himself.  This is significant in that it seems to have colored Gibbons views of 5th Century Rome.  It doesn't seem to answer, however, why Gibbons went on in his work, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, to cover the Byzantine Empire as well, which is typically forgotten about him.

Anyhow, the popular myth is that Rome had become debauched and was reveling in vice which is why the robust Germans busted in and shut the whole thing down.  In actuality, Rome had been pretty debauched since day one and was actually living at the height of its virtue at the time it fell.  The Romans did a fairly good job of actually cleaning up its early history, in terms of what it told about itself, but in reality the town had been founded by bands of roving, fleeing ,thieves and had at first been a pretty much all male criminal enclave.  It became a real town when it acquired a female population, but it did that by taking its female population by force, not a very admirable thing to do.  In its imperial period Rome did all sorts of nasty icky things, but that didn't cause it to fall.

With Constantine the  Great, who ruled from Byzantium, the empire became Christian, but retained a large pagan population.  But its character really began to change. By the mid 400s when Rome fell its official religion was Christianity and it was at an all time high in moral behavior.

Rome really fell because of a series of odd events, which is often how such things occur.  For one thing, Rome had overextended itself, which it knew.  It had withdrawn from its most northerly advances some time prior and was working on trying to consolidate its holdings.  Its grip on Britain was slipping.  Administering the Empire from Rome had proven too difficult and the administration of the Empire had been split in two.  It had suffered from internal armed strife since the time of Caesar which continually drug it down.  And, most significantly here, Germanic peoples from Eastern Europe were being driven west by invading Slavs, which caused them to push by necessity on Rome's northern and eastern borders. They were coming in no matter what, and there was little Rome could do stop that.  Having said that, the Romans botched it specifically by ineptly handling Germans crossing the Rhine, giving unnecessary rise to invasion, and the end of the Western Empire.

C.  The Vomitorium isn't what you've heard.

As a minor one, a Vomitorium wasn't where people went to throw up, in their debauchery.  It's a big exit.  That's because it derives from   a word meaning to spew forth, as to pour out, as in to pour out a lot of people.  Think stadium exist.

Postscript IV, the Spanish Civil War Edition

That Spain fought a tooth and nail civil war in the 1930s, leading up to World War Two, is of course well known, but the version of it remembered by most people, and even by quite a few historians, is mostly bunk.

The common popular view of the war is that nasty Spanish fascist in the Spanish army launched a war against the republican democracy loving legitimate government and squashed democracy in the name of fascism.

That didn't happen.

In reality, Spain's pre civil war government was extremely weak and unstable and was very obviously rocketing towards falling into Communism.  That instability wasn't novel for the time, there were a lot of European governments that were having trouble sustaining democracy, in part because their experiment with democracy was quite young and quite a few political parties had no real concept of being more loyal to the country and the system than themselves.  The more unstable of them tended to teeter between Communism and Fascism in the 1930s, with Italy and Germany of course falling into Fascism.  Other countries rocked back and forth, like France, but survived with democracies in tact.  Others fell into other forms of totalitarianism.  Poland fell into a socialist dictatorship, Austria into a right wing dictatorship, Hungary had a Communist uprising, and so on.  In Spain, it was pretty clear that it was reaching the end of its democratic days and was going to fall into some sort of left wing radical government.

The Army did revolt against the government, that's quite true, but contrary to myth it wasn't all Francisco Franco.  Franco wasn't even the most senior of the rebels, and he wasn't in Spain, but in Morocco, when the revolt broke out.  He did rise to leadership of it, however.

But, contrary to the common myth, he wasn't a Fascist and the war wasn't one between Fascism and democracy.  It was one between the hard right/military and Communism.

Spain had a fascist party, the Falange, but Franco never joined it.  It contributed members to his various governments over the years, but at no point did it ever dominate it.  Spain also had a monarchist party, the Carlist, that Franco was quite sympathetic with, but he never joined that either.  He was basically a military dictator of the Spanish type, but he used parties that were fellow travelers with him. Those groups had nowhere else they could go, as Franco was the only game in town.

As for the Spanish Republicans, there were no doubt some democrats in that movement early on, and some officers in the Spanish army went with the Republicans. But the Republicans were radical to start with and very quickly became more radical.  And when it appeared that they would win, the Communist took the opportunity to begin to eliminate other radicals within the movement, acting as it turned out prematurely.  That was to Communist type, as the Communist always wiped out competition once they'd won, and in Spain's case, they just acted too soon.

So why all the romance about the Republican cause and the common view of the war, when in real terms the Spanish Civil War belongs more to the revolutions of the 20s and 30s and is uniquely Spanish in nature?  Well, the answer is World War Two.

Because the Italians first, and the Germans, backed the Nationalist (with the USSR backing the Republicans), and because the Republicans lost, it's been easy and inevitable to recast the war as "a dress rehearsal for World War Two."  It wasn't in any way.  But it's been commonly viewed through the thick lens of the Second World War which has allowed people to grossly simplify the war and completely misunderstand it.  It's also let foreign volunteers to the Republican side off the hook, as they've been re-imagined as armed democrats, rather than Communist dupes, as they really tended to be.

Postscript V, the D-Day Edition.

We just passed the 70th anniversary of Operation Overload, the Allied landings in Normandy during World War Two, popularly known as D-Day.

This major World War Two event has justifiably received a lot of attention over the years.  In the US, however, so much of the focus has been on the American effort, with that focus sharply on just one beach, Omaha  Beach, that there's a common misconception that the US had the predominant role in the landings. Actual figures, however, are a bit surprising.

2/3s of the troops who landed in Operation Overlord were troops of the British Commonwealth, i.e., British or Canadian.

2/3s of the air assets used on D-Day were British.

3/4s of the naval assets were British.

Amongst the senior level overall command, more officers at the very senior level were British than American.

The US was clearly in the ascendancy amongst the western Allies by June 1944, but it wasn't until later that summer that over 50% of the ground troops committed in France were Americans.  At the time of the landings, there were still more British forces in the mix of ground troops, and as these figures show, their role in other combat resources was also still predominant. 

The landings on the British and Canadian beaches went very well, in part due to good luck as to the choice of their locations, and in part due to the extensive use by the British and Canadians of special armor, which the US had largely rejected.  For that matter, American landings at Utah Beach went very well as well, with it really being Omaha Beach that was stoutly contested for a variety of reasons.  All the Allied forces committed to Operation Overlord performed brilliantly and this posts isn't made to suggest otherwise.  However, the English Commonwealth forces deserve their just attention for June 6 in which they had more men engaged in the operation than the US did.

Postscript VI.  The Horsey World War One Edition

 U.S. Remounts, World War One.

It's commonly stated that the First World War demonstrated what any competent observer should have been able to know by simple deduction, that being that the age of the horse in war, or more particularly cavalry in war, was over.  This appears again and again in everything from films to serious academic histories.

It's also complete bunk.

In reality, cavalry served effectively on every front during the war and the Army that acted to keep its cavalry fully separate to the extent it could, rather than folding cavalry elements into infantry divisions, had the most effective cavalry, that being the British.  There are numerous examples of cavalry deployments from every front in the war in every year of the war, with some being very effective deployments indeed. Generally, properly deployed, cavalry proved to be not only still viable, but extremely effective.  And it was also shown that not only did the machinegun not render cavalry obsolete, but cavalry was less impeded by machineguns than infantry, and it was more effective at deploying light machineguns defensively than infantry was.

This doesn't even touch, of course, on the heavy reliance on horses by the artillery and transportation corps.

An excellent book on this topic can be found in Horses In No Man's Land, which addresses very effectively the British cavalry.  Less has been written on the cavalry of other armies, although a good book on the general topic was published by the U.S. Army shortly after World War One.  Nonetheless, even with what is readily at hand, its pretty plain that the role of the horse wasn't diminished in World War One.  Indeed, the Germans lost the war in 1918 as they lacked cavalry by that point in the war.

Postscript VII.  The World War One Trenches Edition

We all know that the miserable wretches in the Allied trenches stayed in them, in the Great War, until they were killed or injured, or driven mad.

Except they didn't.

Don't get me wrong.  World War One was truly horrible.  In comparison to the wars of the last half century, World War One was so awful its nearly unimaginable.

But the armies did not commit troops to the trenches until they were killed or injured. They rotated them out.

The British, for example, rotated troops out every four weeks. At any one time, a large number of troops were off the lines, and for that matter, even those at the lines were not necessarily in the foremost trench, but often in a reserve trench.

Again, this is not to say that the whole thing wasn't bad, it was. But the common idea that the soldiers were in the trenches for months on end with no relief is wrong.

For that matter, as an aside, the idea that cavalrymen were idled, in the British Army, in the rear for the whole war, except when actually deployed mounted, is wrong. They rotated them up to the front as infantry. 

Postscript VIII.  The World War One Parachute Edition

It's well know that World War aviators didn't wear parachutes, but less known why.  Its sometimes stated that parachutes of the era couldn't fit in the small cockpits of the planes then in use.

Yes, they could.  World War One aviators didn't wear parachutes as their superiors forbid it on the thesis that it would encourage pilots to bail out at the first sign of trouble.  That was an absurd idea, but that's what the idea was.

Postscript IX.  The World War Two Horsey Edition.

Following on item VI above, its also commonly believed that the retention of horse cavalry in any army, or horses in general, during World War Two was just romantic naivete.

Actually, it wasn't.  Every single army in World War Two had some mounted forces they used in combat. Every single one.  There are no exceptions whatsoever.  The simple reason was that there were certain roles that still could be preformed in no other way.

One of the major combatants, the Germans, attempted to eliminate independent cavalry formations while retaining organic formations in infantry units and found the need so pressing that it ended up rebuilding its independent cavalry formations and incorporating irregular ones.  The United States and the United Kingdom both ended up creating "provisional" mounted formations in Italy, as they couldn't fill the reconnaissance role there in any other fashion.  One army, the Red Army, had huge numbers of cavalrymen throughout the war.

The last mounted combat by the United States, prior to Afghanistan, actually took place in the context, with a mounted charge of sorts being done in late 1944 or early 1945 by a mounted unit of the 10th Mountain Division. The last German charge was in the closing weeks of 1945, when a German cavalry unit charged across an American armored unit, in part of their (successful) effort to flea the advancing Red Army. When the last Soviet charge was I do not know, but the USSR kept mounted cavalry until 1953.

In terms of transportation, the Germans in fact were more dependant upon transport draft horses in World War Two than in World War One, which is also true for artillery horses.  Germany, the USSR, China, Japan, France, and Italy (at least) all still used horse drawn artillery to varying extents during the war.

Random Snippets: Red state, Blue state?

 Lamartine rejects the red flag in 1848.

Red is the international color of socialism.  Socialist parties use, or used, it everywhere.  Communist nations, whose economic system was socialist, almost all used red flags. France's socialist party uses a red rose as its symbol.

So how did we, in the US, end up with red states and blue states?  It truly confuses me. The red states are the most conservative ones, and the blue states the  most liberal ones. The US doesn't have very many true socialist, but on a red blue scale shouldn't that be reversed?

Washington Coffee


Another interesting World War One themed advertisement.

Friday, September 12, 2014

UW College of Law Survey - UW_College_of_Law_Survey_Results.pdf

Microsoft Word - UW College of Law Survey - UW_College_of_Law_Survey_Results.pdf

Recent results of a Wyoming State Bar poll on the University of Wyoming's College of Law.

The comments are really interesting, but not uniform at all. Frankly, I don't know what a person could actually derive from these comments.

USDA Blog » Durfee Students Learn Healthy Habits in the Garden, Classroom, and Cafeteria

USDA Blog » Durfee Students Learn Healthy Habits in the Garden, Classroom, and Cafeteria

USDA Blog » New Mexico: A Rich Cultural History of Farming and Ranching

USDA Blog » New Mexico: A Rich Cultural History of Farming and Ranching

USDA Blog » New Fences Keep Cattle In, But Allow Elk & Wildlife to Move Freely

USDA Blog » New Fences Keep Cattle In, But Allow Elk & Wildlife to Move Freely

On the Anniversary of September 11, 2001. . . how well have we done?

Today is the anniversary of the Al Queda attack on the United States in 2011.  Thirteen fast years have gone by, and since that day we've conceived of ourselves of being at war with a vague terrorist enemy.  Indeed, at least at one time we conceived ourselves as having defeated that enemy. That concept has taken us into an acknowledged two wars, which I think has been actually three, and we're now involved in a fourth.*

 A soldier of the multi ethic Free Iraqi Forces reunited with his father, in 2003.  He hadn't seen his father in a decade.  A decade later, Iraq is in a civil war, and we're in a war with a self declared Islamic State recalling a an era much older than the history of our nation.  The FIF soldier wears then obsolete U.S desert BDUs and a US armored vest.  U.S. Army Photo by Spec. Tyler Long.

How well have we done in addressing the existential threat?  We should ask ourselves that question now, as we begin to launch off into a forth war, a war which we have no choice but to fight, and which may in fact have been one in which we were in some ways engaged, without our realizing it, prior to that terrible day 13 years ago.  Have we identified the enemy, and what motivates him?  I'm afraid we have in part, but perhaps only in part.

Any nation engaged in a war needs to address the seemingly simple topic of who the enemy actually is.  How does the enemy conceive of themselves?  We would think that this would be self evident, but frequently it is not, and just as frequently one nation conceives of the enemy through a thick filter of its own self perception.

We've been guilty of that many times in the past century.  During World War Two the Italians proved themselves not to be our enemy, as they abandoned their own government and acted in Italy's best interest by abandoning the Fascists.  Even now we hear some people claim that during that same war it wasn't the Germans, but the Nazis, who were our enemy in Germany, even though the evidence is well established that the German people were complicit in Germany's crimes.  During the Vietnam War was our enemy the Communist in the north, or Vietnamese nationalism?  That topic is still debated.  In the present crisis that started thirteen years ago is our enemy Al Queda, or is it something broader and deeper?  Or have we made it somehow broader and deeper through our own errors or omissions, or simply because War Changes Everything?  We should ask these questions now.

Let's start with the clear enemy, Al Queda.  Who and what are they?  Ever since 9/11 we've been repeatedly told that they're an aberrant extremist Islamic movement. Are they? And if so, what do they want and how to they justify it?  Did we take them on in a correct fashion, and have we beaten them?

Well, lets take a closer look.

Al Queda is an Islamic armed movement, to be sure, but that doesn't make it unique.  Even if we only go as far back as the mid 19th Century we can find many other examples of armed Islamic movements, including ones that took on Western powers.  So it would seem that there's some precedent for movements of this type, so merely stating that its an organization of that type doesn't get us where we need to go.  This is particularly the case as in modern times there's been some other very distinct examples of the same thing.  Islamic radicals assassinated Anwar Sadat, and they toppled the Shah of Iran.  Hamas, an offshoot in some ways of groups in Egypt, but also of Shiia fundamentalism in Iran, has continually waged war against Israel for well over a decade. So they've been around for awhile.

Taking a closer look at Al Queda, they're principally an organization of Sunni fundamentalist who were dedicated to the long term proposition of the restoration of a Caliphate such as it existed in early Islamic times, when its territorial extent was larger than that which had been controlled by Rome.  Being lead by educated men, they did not dream of an immediate accomplishment of that goal, which would be impossible, but rather had it as a distant one, in the same way, basically, that mainstream Bolsheviks conceived of a Communist world some day, not right away.  For a short term goal, they wanted to push the United States out of the Arabian Peninsula, which they regarded as an affront to Islam.  Their strategy involved attacking American military assets in the Middle East at first. When this failed, they conceived of, oddly enough, basically the same idea that the Soviets naively had explored as an opening gambit in the event of a Third World War, which was to strike the American financial district in New York City.

What so angered them, we must ask, about the US that it determined to murder innocents in a building and earlier attempted to sink the USS Cole?  Just having troops on the Arabian Peninsula did that. And they were there because we'd gone to the aid of Kuwait when Baathist Iraq attacked and attempted to annex it.

Baathist Iraq was a strictly secular regime, tolerating all religions, or none at all.  It wasn't culturally tolerant, but rather universally culturally repressive.  It was far from a model of democracy, and was more of a model of retained fascism in a way, which oddly enough made it an enemy of Al Queda, who called the Baath Party "the communist", which they weren't.  There was indeed an Iraqi Communist Party, but the Baath Party, like all fascists parties, suppressed it. So one would think that Al Queda would have welcomed the U.S. role in that first fight against Iraq, but it did not.  It abhorred the thought of "infidels" on what it regarded as the holy soil of the Arabian Peninsula.

Or, perhaps, indeed probably, it feared the thought of what a western democratic people would mean to the oppressed population of Saudi Arabia, a region which in antiquity had populations of Christians and Jews, but which was locked up in Sunni fundamentalism under a kingdom.  So, to try to end this affront, it determined to wage a terrorist war against us.

Were those goals and methods consistent with Islam?  We've been repeated told since 9/11 that "Islam is a religion of peace" and that Al Queda is an aberration. And that Al Queda is a de facto aberration is self evident, as most Moslems most places don't act in this fashion. Still, the blanket assertion that this is self evidently contrary to the stated nature of Islam has not really been examined, and it doesn't bear up well upon examination.

The Koran, which is taken by Moslems as the actual words of God, fully advocates the use of violence against non believers in context, with that context seemingly being at least warfare to conquer.  Non Islamic students of the Koran generally hold that the "peaceful" language of the Koran was written before the violent texts, and it can be taken from this that the history of the text follows Mohammed's success in spreading his message violently, which he did.  Early on, Islam had to just hold on as one religion, almost certainly a Gnostic based heresy or a Gnostic influenced new religion, amongst many religions in Mecca, which was tolerant to nearly any religion. Later, as it gained ground, Islam became highly intolerant of other religions with some slight tolerance of Judaism and Christianity, in no small part, probably, as it was a Gnostic heresy based upon them.  Indeed, while Gnosticism had tended to be hostile to some degree against orthodox Christianity (or we could say Catholicism, as the Catholic Church was the only church at the time.  That Islam licensed violence is really indisputable.  Indeed, not only did it license warfare, but the text actually allows Moslem combatants to take the women of their enemies, physically.  Excused as a necessity in the text, reflecting that Islamic fighters were away from their homes, they could use the women acquired with "their strong right arms" and were told now to worry about that creating any progeny.  People tend to turn a blind eye towards this, as its shocking, but that's what it says.  Recent actions by ISIL in doing just that are fully compliant with the Koran.

Al Queda, having aligned itself with the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, found it self in an enviable position prior to 9/11.  In the catbirds seat with the support of a regime of Islamic "students" (the meaning of "Taliban") it seemed safe and secure.  It decided to go bold, in an act it through would take down the American economy. It showed itself naive, just as the Soviets had with an earlier secret plan that also would have struck the New York financial district.  And it didn't properly gauge the American reaction. We, of course, went to war there, and largely eliminated it.  But didn't eliminate it completely. And now we find its strain of thought weaving itself through individual Afghans, and it seems somewhat on the rise there.  So, did we achieve our initial aim there?  It would seem we did at least in part, although we also seem ready to quit the fight and leave Afghanistan with no modern institutions, which it has largely lacked since the 1970s at least.  We best rethink this.

We also went into Iraq, and that seems now to be a clear error.

It was frankly a misguided effort to start with. The war in Iraq had nothing at all to do with Al Queda, which despised the Baath regime.  And Al Queda wasn't hte stated aim in any event, but the elimination of chemical weapons we believed held by Iraq and which the Iraqis stupidly wouldn't confirm they lacked.  The Iraqis guessed badly, having been lead to believe that we would not topple the regime as we had not done so in 1990-91 and we hadn't supported the uprising against the regime thereafter.  They failed to appreciate that American administrations, and therefore goals, change at least every eight years.

Defeating the Baath regime proved to be easy, but what we did not anticipate is that the vacuum in the regime's power would be immediately filled by contesting Islamic forces, including Al Queda in Iraq, which is now known as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria or the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant.  With the war against Al Queda in Afghanistan hardly even commenced, Al Queda remained more than powerful enough to support regional splinter groups and it did (and does).  One of these was Al Queda in Iraq, which commenced a guerrilla war against the coalition forces.

Al Queda in Iraq was a bit different than Al Queda.  Fighting successfully in the field against the coalition at first, it came to dream of establishing a Caliphate immediately, not some day.  It, and other local forces, were put down, but it didn't go away.  When the war ended, we supported the establishment of a democratic government in Iraq, which quickly went Shiia against all others, and alienated all the rest of the population over time.

Almost immediately thereafter, the lid seemingly came off of despotic governments all over the middle east, and there were uprising is Tunisia, Libya and Egypt.  Interpreted in the west as nascent democratic movements, only in Libya, with its complicated ethnic and political history, was that more or less true.   Elsewhere, Islamic fundamentalist movements were a strong element in every uprising, seeking to push out an autocratic or military government in favor of an Islamic one.  In Egypt and Tunisia that succeeded, until the armies, the most liberal and westernized institutions in those countries, pushed back, preventing them from becoming second and third Irans.

Then came Syria, about which we've already written.  Ruled by a Baathist government, but controlled by Alawites, the multicultural country was ruled by a strongman but by necessity the government, controlled by a group that Moslems regard as heretical, was tolerant towards all religions.  And the country in fact, like Iraq, was the home to several. Engaged in fighting Islamic militants since the 1990s, it found itself engaged in a civil war in which western pundits naively assumed would necessarily result in a democratic victory, when in fact a Sunni theocracy was the obvious likely outcome.

Out of that, Al Queda in Iraq, seeing its chances expanded, re branded itself the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (Syria) and declared the Caliphate the immediate goal.  In the west its naively believed that its moved beyond Al Queda, but in reality the better evidence is that the local Al Queda in Iraq simply saw its chance to make the long term goal the present one, and effectively evolved into the Al Queda that counts.  It expanded its war into Iraq, and up until our insertion of air power, the western arming of the separatist Kurds, and the Iranian arming of Shiia militias, it came darn close to achieving its goal.

And what is that goal, well as we've already blogged, its the establishment of a Caliphate, and its declared t he Caliph to be in power, and the seat of his power is to be Baghdad.  It's used methods that we have not seen in this scale since Mohammed's own time, that being mass armed violence, and the assault, capture and enslavement of non Moslem women.

So, we must now ask ourselves, is this an Islamic aberration, or is it something that's consistent with the Moslem faith. This question really matters, as determining what war we are fighting, and when it will end, depends entirely on that.  A war ends when the enemy gives up, not when we decide its over.

So the use of violence by Al Queda, and now by ISIL, isn't really an aberration, or is it?  The Koran doesn't license the use of violence against other Moslems. That may be a fine distinction for those who aren't Moslems, but that is also the case.  Here's where Al Queda and its progeny ISIL seem to have gone off the mark.  They both kill a lot of Moslems.  They know doubt are rationalizing it, but that's something that we don't seem to quite have appreciated.  Our enemy is okay with killing most of us, in tehir basic texts, as long as it is based on a religious aim. Killing other Moslems, however, is not Islamic.

We know that by and large, most Moslems most places ignore most of this aspect of their faith.  The Koran does sanction, as we've noted, war, enslavement and assault.  But most Moslems don't do any of that.   Indeed, adherence to this view seems to be largely concentrated amongst Arabs, who initiated the religion in the first place, and radicalized Punjabs and Europeans.  That's something we haven't seemed to really grasp either.  Moslem Indonesians, for example, seem to have little interest in this aspect of their Faith.  Indeed, most Moslems most places certainly don't act on it, assuming that they are even aware of it, which they may in fact not be, as the Koran is regarded as authentic only in the language it was first written in (which Moslems believe to be the direct word of God), Arabic.  Indeed, its' very common for non Arab Moslems to memorize vast tracks of the Koran but have no idea what they are saying, and converts to the faith in the west largely come into it with the highly developed view Christians hold towards the Bible, which does not hold the text to be God's direct words, but rather to be inspired by God.

Indeed, we also know that beyond that, we also have the historical example of Moslems serving in the colonial armed forces of Christian nations, which would cut the opposite way.  Lots of Moslems served in the French Army up into the 1960s. And we can find similar British examples, so there's obviously some nuance to this, somewhere.

But where?

We'd do well to figure it out. But I don't think we've tried very hard, and it would serve us well to do so.  We have seen uprising of Moslem "fundamentalist" dating back to the mid 19th Century at least, or basically any time there were westerners in the Arabian region.  So the call of "fundamentalism" is strong and longly held.  It would not seem to be a call to "fundamentalism" at all, but rather a call towards fundamentals.  A faith that was expanded originally by warfare and which expanded into, and controlled, areas that were majority Christian for centuries thereafter, the faith is used to the idea and based on the idea of armed conflict and conquer.  A return to at least armed conflict is part of its history, and warfare waged by groups hearing that call is often brutal in the extreme.  Even during World War Two Moslem troops in command of the French went on a notorious rampage directed upon Italian women at one point.   But at the same time, we know that most of the time most Moslems remain peaceful and in fact ignore large tenants of their faith.

We also know, or should know, that the entire "moderate Islam" line is a complete fable.  The percentage of Moslems who have a doctrine that has formally adapted to such a view is tiny.  There are those who have, but generally the Hellenized view of Islam fell out of favor, and was regarded as heretical by Moslems, in the Middle Ages. Therefore, while there are many peaceful Moslems, there's no peaceful Moslem theology and those who like to believe their is are living in a fantasy land.

Indeed, the differnce in mainstream Islamic groups is slight, and people who like to point to them as huge are fooling themselves and lack a large doctrinal difference to point to. This does not mean that they get along with each other, but that's more in the nature of human nature than doctrinal difference.  Students of Christianity will note that the Catholic and Orthodox have not always gotten along well, even though they view each others holy orders as fully valid and from the outside those familiar with them are often stunned how close these "two lungs of the church" are.

We do know, however, that nowhere in Islam does it sanction the killing in this fashion of other Moslems. And there, at least, Al Queda and ISIL are clearly outside the Islamic fold.  They seemingly have no problem with that.  ISIL of course mostly limits itself to warfare against Christians, Zoroastrians, and Shiias (where it can site to doctrinal difference, no matter how slight), but that it kills some Sunni Kurds cannot be disputed. 

Have we grasped, therefore, what has occurred and are we prepared to deal with it?

Our war in Afghanistan was necessary, and we won it. But we've done a bad job of securing the peace there, and now we are leaving before it is fully secured.  The Afghanis are not Arabs, and the country has a long history of tolerating all sorts of peoples, including Jews, Communists, and Buddhists.  This is evaporating, or has, and will if we leave too soon.  We haveint' fully done in Al Queda in Central Asia, and we best do that before we leave.  And we should leave Afghanistan intact and functioning, which it isn't yet.

Invading Iraq was, in my view, a mistake.  All over Arabia and North Africa we've totally failed to appreciate the irony that the most western of governments in that region are also the most fascistic. That's icky, but true. They hold to no religion so they do not favor any.  They educate women, and in terms of domestic policies they tend to focus on economics more than anything else. They are like Mussolini's Italy, gross, overblown, blowhards, but making the trains run on time and granting quarter to no other movements, secular or religious. As much as we hate to admit it, over time, these governments would fall of their own accord, but when they did, it would have been because they educated their population, and most  particularly their female population, to the point where that population will not put up with them any longer.

And once women in the region are educated to that extent, they won't put up with the old jihad interpretation of Islam either.  That fact is one that we should appreciate.  Mohamed held that the majority of the population in Hell was female, and the prize for males in Heaven were females. That's an appealing vision to primitive men, stuck in a teenage view of teenage girls, but it has no appeal to educated males and even less appeal to educated women.  It was already being interpreted out of the Koran by Hellenized Islamic theologians before they were put down and condemned as heretical in the Middle Ages. That view will fall out of favor once most women in the Middle East are educated, but we have a long ways to go before that.

In that meantime, we need to be aware that the virtues of "tolerance" and "multi culturalism" are not human instincts, but learned behavior in their entirety.  Intolerance is the human norm and instinct.  In the west, these values are universal because of the long influence of Christianity, and we've imported them to receptive cultures around the globe. We haven't succeeded in exporting them to the Middle East whatsoever, and we're a long ways from doing so. Only in partially Christian Lebanon, Syria and Egypt do these views really have a toehold.  In the closed world of the Arabian Peninsula they have no traction at all.  One of our prime "allies" in that region, Saudi Arabia, is a model of repression, with the door completely closed to religious tolerance and rights for women.

All of these facts we need to acknowledge.  When we take in, in the west, large numbers of immigrants from this region, we take in these views, which will take at least a generation or more to evolve out of those populations.  When we do that we also provide for western youth who live in the any value is a good value, or no value at all, world we've developed since the mid 60s with an attractive option to join something that clearly believes in something, no matter how contrary to our values it may be.  When we look at governments in the region, we need to see what they do on the ground level, not at that the electoral level, even if that means holding our nose and pocketing our hands from time to time.  And where peoples who are more western are ready to carve off of those who are not ready to move forward, such as the Kurds, we need to support them.  Where others remained entrenched in the 7th Century, like Saudi Arabia, we need to back away from them, as they'll fall anyhow, and they in no way support our values.

Most of all, we need to be ready for a long haul with that section of the Arabic and Islamic population that regards this as a Holy War, and which will pop up for time to time for the foreseeable future.  Just because we don't view this as a Holy War doesn't mean they don't, and just because we believe we've won at one one point in time, doesn't mean we have.