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Post Clash of Civilizations Revisited?
Created by John Eipper on 06/16/14 4:29 AM

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Clash of Civilizations Revisited? (Vincent Littrell, USA, 06/16/14 4:29 am)

Recent world events as seen through the prism of sensationalist media are indeed riveting. However, in connection with recent events in Iraq, this discussion of the "clash of civilizations" is off the mark. (See, for example, John Heelan's post of 14 June.)

Generally speaking, I don't accept the "clash of civilizations" thesis as any sort of end state of human political and spiritual evolution. Samuel Huntington himself shed light on other possibilities in his own book--a caveat that few seem to acknowledge--when he stated, "as many have pointed out, whatever the degree to which they divided humankind, the world's major religions--Western Christianity, Orthodoxy, Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, Confucianism, Taoism, Judaism--also share key values in common. If humans are ever to develop a universal civilization, it will emerge gradually through the exploration and expansion of these commonalities." (The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order, p. 320).

ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and The Levant) is the antithesis of civilization or spiritual religion, to include Islamic civilization. ISIS has no precise precedent in Islamic history, though it might be considered to have commonalities or parallels with the early Kharijites or early militant Arabian Wahabbists. ISIS members in many respects seem to adhere to a modern and violent puritanical Salafism. ISIS also represents a modernist militant evolution in hybrid warfare. The increasing mix of the irregular and regular modes of war being seen across the globe with both state and non-state actors is being labeled by scholars as "hybrid warfare." State actors using irregulars to achieve political ends through violence, and non-state actors using rapid maneuver and heavy weaponry along with rudimentary mechanisms of "governance" to replace state actors, fall into this hybrid warfare concept. We may be seeing the non-state actors ISIS using hybrid warfare and an effective military-type organization to build a new type of state. We'll see.

The clash of varying levels of ignorance within Islam under the rubric of superstitious fanaticism guised as religion, the political immaturity of the Iraqi government that in my opinion was not ready to govern at the time "sovereignty" was returned to it at the time of the US withdrawal, an increasingly widespread secularized pragmatic tribalism that also is intertwined with non-spiritual politicized religion that uses the vocabulary of religion and the constant shifting of both religious and secular allegiances undermining a national unity--these things are what we see in Iraq, rather than "clash of civilizations."

Anybody who studies the region seriously knows the warning signs of furious sectarian and political fractures in Iraq were there before the US withdrawal. It was a house of cards, and Iraq watchers knew it. ISIS isn't that special, though they are vicious and they just took advantage of the power vacuum. With the ISIS incursion into Iraq, "civilization" further breaks down. From this outsider's perspective, it appears that Iraqi state security institution structures will further erode as Shi'a militants mobilize, heeding the Ayatollah's call to defend the holy sites of Shi'a Islam.

Just a quick comment for all those WAISers who say the initial invasion of Iraq was wrong. Knowing full well I'm an outlier on this issue, I still thought I'd plant the flag of opposition to the majority. The invasion of Iraq was the right thing to do. I am firm on this point. Post-invasion decision-making was deeply flawed (like the disbandment of the Iraqi military), as was the complete withdrawal of US forces at the end of 2011. I see no reason to explain my thinking on the justification for the invasion of Iraq again, as it remains the same as what I presented back in the mid-2000s in this Forum. The withdrawal of 2011 was a strategic error that Iraqi citizens and the world will pay for. The United States did the Iraqi people no favors with that withdrawal. This isn't a political statement. That total withdrawal of US combat and advisory capability left a power vacuum in Iraq. This is simple fact.

As a counterpoint to the doom and gloom of the "clash of civilization" apologists, what is generally ignored in the media and here on WAIS are the efforts of the "Alliance of Civilizations." Probably no one knows about the Alliance of Civilizations Forums and dialogues that have been occurring recently in the Middle East and other parts of the Muslim World. A big Alliance of Civilizations event occurred in Doha, Qatar in December of 2011 (see: http://unaoc.org/docs/UANOC%20Doha%20Forum%20Report.pdf ), another in Istanbul in 2012 (see: http://www.aocistanbul.org/default.en.mfa ), in Bahrain in May 2014 (see:http://www.armenianorthodoxchurch.org/en/archives/7566 ). The Sixth Global Forum on the Alliance of Civilizations will be held in Bali, Indonesia in August of this year (see: http://www.unaoc.org/global-forums/bali/ ). Though embryonic, these efforts and the efforts of organizations like the World Parliament of Religions present a critically needed counter-narrative that is gaining ground in the Middle East.

With recent public statements by prominent Middle Eastern Muslim Clerics regarding religious tolerance, increasing interfaith events and associated publicity in the region, signs are that a paradigm shift is emerging in regards how many Middle East Muslims are viewing "the other."

JE comments:  Vincent Littrell introduces us to the fascinating concept of "hybrid warfare," in which the distinction between regular and irregular fighters is becoming increasingly blurred.  Will this be the face of future wars?

One additional comment.  To my knowledge, Vince has never shared his thoughts on the error of disbanding the Iraqi military.  The old military probably could have kept the post-war order, but this also begs the inevitable question:  why go to war in the first place?  Even after removing Saddam Hussein, the post-war military would have been led by his cronies.  Or conversely, some of Saddam's lieutenants could have been bought off to orchestrate a coup d'etat, with an enormous savings in life and treasure.

Meanwhile, ISIS/ISIL has posted photos depicting the execution of captured Iraqi security forces, "apostates heading to their hole of doom."  A singularly barbaric spectacle:


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  • ISIS/ISIL, Iraq, and the "Joy" of Liberation (John Heelan, UK 06/16/14 1:56 PM)
    Recently I was reading Sartre's (somewhat self-serving in my opinion) 1944 essay, "Paris under the Occupation." The translator, Lisa Lieberman, in her Introduction, writes the following perceptive comment--one that might well apply to today's Iraq as much as it did it to post-war France 70 years ago:

    "Liberation does not bring unadulterated joy. When a tyrant falls, when an occupying army is ousted, when an oppressive regime gives way to a free and democratic order, a new day does not dawn. Triumphant speeches by new leaders may distract attention from the problems facing the liberated country; victory parades or spontaneous celebrations in the streets for a time may obscure deep divisions within the newly free society. But any occupation leaves scars on a nation's psyche. The complicity of some with the former rulers, the persecution of others at the hands of their fellow citizens, courageous acts of resistance offset by the passivity of the majority of the population--only by facing these shameful features of its subjugation can the liberated nation achieve harmony, heal its wounds and regain legitimacy in the eyes of the outside world."

    JE comments: Wise words. But France's recovery after the WWII occupation could not really be compared to Iraq, due to the former's centuries-old national identity. Iraq's history between independence and its "liberation" from Saddam Hussein only spanned about three generations.

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  • More on Clash of Civilizations (Tor Guimaraes, USA 06/17/14 4:52 AM)
    My gratitude to Vincent Littrell for his opposing view (16 June) on the so-called "Clash of Civilizations." Vince wrote that he does not accept the "'clash of civilizations' thesis as any sort of end state of human political and spiritual evolution." Neither do I. To me it is not a positive evolution but social entropy, the inevitable breakdown from mixing organized religions with politics and military matters. The American Founding Fathers were extremely wise when they clearly separated church from state. Unfortunately, most people in this world don't seem to comprehend its importance, or lack the discipline to do it.

    Vince used the opinion of Samuel Huntington to support his own that "the world's major religions--Western Christianity, Orthodoxy, Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, Confucianism, Taoism, Judaism--also share key values in common. If humans are ever to develop a universal civilization, it will emerge gradually through the exploration and expansion of these commonalities."

    Humans have been trying to do this for centuries, and things seem to only have gotten worse over time. On the other hand, within specific societies there have been examples of religious groups getting along in a particular society for a period of time. Incredibly, even in Iraq under the heavy hand of Saddam Hussein, Jews, Christians, Sunni, and Shia used to live peacefully side by side. Why did the organized religious hell break loose? I wish a lot of luck to any human efforts to establish "Alliances of Civilizations." However, without separation of church and state, sectarian wars become too easy to start by foreign and internal powers with different political/economic/military interests. In my opinion, the only way to unify the whole world is through true democracy, free markets, enforcement of the laws, through science and widespread use of the scientific method, economic cooperation and trade, and strict separation of church and state. Religious conferences and international manipulation don't seem to work. Further, the military solutions have been extremely counterproductive lately and seem advisable only for direct self-defense.

    Vince is correct but extremely one-sided in saying that "ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and The Levant) is the antithesis of civilization or spiritual religion, to include Islamic civilization."  Humans have a choice: science based on the scientific method or beliefs and superstition. Everyone is entitled to their own superstition, their own opinions based on his/her beliefs. The problem with all religions is they believe they are right based on their God's truth.

    Vince needs to be admired for his zeal in saying that "the invasion of Iraq was the right thing to do. I am firm on this point. Post-invasion decision-making was deeply flawed (like the disbandment of the Iraqi military), as was the complete withdrawal of US forces at the end of 2011."

    It is interesting to imagine Vince's frame of mind and perspective in reaching these conclusions, which seem totally wrong for the following reasons:

    Fact: We justifiably went to war in Afghanistan, but before we finished that job we invaded another country which had nothing to do with our attacker, Al-Qaeda.

    Fact: The invasion of Iraq was justified based on lies and against the express opinion of the majority of Americans.

    Fact: As Vince admitted, the conduct of the war was a disgrace with military mistakes and criminal conduct, to include the looting of museums, absconding with billions of US taxpayer money, abuses against the civilian population, etc.

    Senator McCain said that we should have stayed in Iraq after the surge because we were winning. My reply: Winning what? We cannot win militarily for the reasons I discussed on 13 June. We can only spend more soldiers and resources, kill more people including innocent civilians, help destroy another country, and make more enemies for the future. Vince is too intelligent to say we were winning in Iraq, but he wanted to stay anyway to save our military honor and the Iraqi people, and to not create a power vacuum. Stay for how much longer, at what cost?  Would there ever be an end to the madness?

    McCain's rationale is also being used for Afghanistan: if we withdraw from this expensive and murderous war, which we are not winning now even with full military commitment, then we will blame our defeat on Obama. McCain cites Korea as an example of success, and proposes US military forces permanently stationed everywhere there is conflict. The same critical questions apply: Stay for how much longer, and at what cost?  Would there ever be an end to that madness?

    JE comments:  How will the latest chaos in Iraq impact US decision-making about Afghanistan?  I hope Vincent Littrell will send his thoughts.

    Next up with a response to Vince:  Richard Hancock.

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    • Separation of Church and State vs. Non-Establishment (Vincent Littrell, USA 06/22/14 5:55 AM)
      On 17 June, Tor Guimaraes wrote a lengthy commentary in response to my waving the flag for the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Frankly I was rather surprised. So in the spirit of friendly dialogue, I'll address Tor's points as I can.

      TG: Without separation of church and state, sectarian wars become too easy to start by foreign and internal powers with different political/economic/military interests.

      VL: I agree; secular governing institutions are of critical importance. However, the concept of separation of church and state can mean different things to different people. Chief Justice Black's famous "metaphorical wall" is a problem in this regard. I respect the writings of Daniel Dreisbach on Thomas Jefferson's letter to the Danbury Baptists. Dreisbach's book, Thomas Jefferson and the Wall of Separation Between Church and State, holds an important place in my personal library. The author states:

      "I contend that the graphic wall metaphor has been a source of much mischief in modern church-state jurisprudence. It has reconceptualized--indeed, I would say, misconceptualized--First Amendment principles in at least two important ways.

      "First, Jefferson's trope emphasizes separation between church and state, unlike the First Amendment, which speaks in terms of the non-establishment and free exercise of religion. (Although these terms are often conflated today, in the lexicon of 1802, the expansive concept of 'separation' was distinct from the institutional concept of 'non-establishment.')

      "Second, the very nature of a wall further reconceptualizes First Amendment principles. A wall is a bilateral barrier that inhibits the activities of both the civil state and religion, unlike the First Amendment, which imposes restrictions on civil government only. The First Amendment, with all its guarantees, was entirely a check or restraint on civil government, specifically Congress. The wall, however, is a bilateral barrier that unavoidably restricts religion's ability to influence public life; thus, it necessarily and dangerously exceeds the limitations imposed by the First Amendment."

      See: http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2006/06/the-mythical-wall-of-separation-how-a-misused-metaphor-changed-church-state-law-policy-and-discourse

      I think Dreisbach gets to the heart of the matter with the above. As an advocate of interfaith dialogue and the advent of World Parliaments of Religion and the like, I think a formal forum for interreligious moral advocacy needs be supported by secular governing institutions. The power and influence of religion on humanity cannot be overstated.

      Therefore, though I agree with Tor's comment: "In my opinion, the only way to unify the whole world is through true democracy, free markets, enforcement of the laws, through science and widespread use of the scientific method, economic cooperation and trade," I don't agree with his view on the "strict separation of church and state." I accept non-establishment of religion as governing institutions at this stage in human development, but not the metaphorical wall that has been built in the US.

      Nor do I agree with Tor's "Religious conferences don't seem to work." Of course they work. They bind the hearts of spiritual men and women together in the effort to find mutual understanding and common ground in the spiritual and moral precepts of their various faiths. Interreligious ecumenism is catching on, and most notably very recently in the Muslim World. Despite the violence in the name of religion, those with understanding of their own religious precepts as intended by the prophetic founders very much benefit from the positive influence on their co-religionists as well as well people of other religions. Ecumenism and interfaith is growing by leaps and bounds, and I'm constantly amazed at new developments in this regard. (Being a subscriber to the Temple University publication The Journal of Ecumenical Studies certainly helps me keep up on the latest developments, as do my readings of the The Journal of Faith and International Affairs. Admittedly, mainstream media doesn't as much yet cover this kind of thing relative to sensationalist material in the West, though I've been seeing a few articles on these subjects pop up here and there.)

      Tor wrote much more, but addressing them would take too long. I thank Tor for his careful and thoughtful commentary.

      JE comments: WAIS itself is an ecumenical dialogue, which embraces the profane as well as the sacred.  A question for Vincent Littrell:  does Interfaith Dialogue leave room for the voices of agnostics and atheists?

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      • Does Interfaith Dialogue Have Room for Agnostics and Atheists? (Vincent Littrell, USA 06/29/14 3:58 PM)
        As a follow-on question to my post of 22 June, John Eipper asked, "does interfaith dialogue leave room for the voices of agnostics and atheists?"

        In my opinion, the answer is "yes."

        At least some religious representatives in interfaith dialogue have struggled with the issue of secularist participation in the high-profile dialogues. However, I think the inclusion of secular humanist participants in these events will become the norm. One high-profile interreligous ecumenical event where secular humanists were included was the Assisi Gathering of 2011, convened by Pope Benedict XVI. (For a good discussion of this see Jason Welle, "The Evolution of the Assisi Gathering: To Humanism and Beyond," Journal of Ecumenical Studies, Summer 2013, p. 377-390.) For this event Benedict invited over 300 religious leaders to include four prominent secular humanists. These four humanists were Mexican Philosopher Guillermo Hurtado, Italian Philosopher Remo Bodei, Austrian economist Walter Baier, and the Bulgarian-French psychoanalyst Julia Kristeva.

        Benedict's comments regarding the inclusion of the humanists at the Assisi Gathering is as follows:

        "In addition to the two phenomena of religion and anti-religion, a further basic orientation is found in the growing world of agnosticism: people to whom the gift of faith has not been given, but who are nevertheless on the lookout for truth, searching for God. Such people do not simply assert: "There is no God." They suffer from his absence and yet are inwardly making their way towards him, inasmuch as they seek truth and goodness. They are "pilgrims of truth, pilgrims of peace." They ask questions of both sides. They take away from militant atheists the false certainty by which these claim to know that there is no God, and they invite them to leave polemics aside and to become seekers who do not give up hope in the existence of truth and in the possibility and necessity of living by it. But they also challenge the followers of religions not to consider God as their own property, as if he belonged to them, in such a way that they feel vindicated in using force against others. These people are seeking the truth, they are seeking the true God, whose image is frequently concealed in the religions because of the ways in which they are often practised. Their inability to find God is partly the responsibility of believers with a limited or even falsified image of God. So all their struggling and questioning is in part an appeal to believers to purify their faith, so that God, the true God, becomes accessible." (See: http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/speeches/2011/october/documents/hf_benxvi_spe_20111027_assisi_en.html )

        Regarding Julia Kristeva, Jason Welle states, "In Assisi, Kristeva articulated foundations of humanism. One of these is the importance of 'dialogism' or intertexuality, which aims not to arrive at a finite point of understanding and definition but to strive toward harmony through a modality transformation. The norm in dialogism is a condition of constant rupture, with few moments of agreement or fixity; when these occur, they do not bring dialogue to a conclusion but always permit the possibility of shifts and changes in ideas." (Welle, JES, p. 385)

        I present the above comment about Julia Kristeva to reflect the important contributions Humanist thought can play in the evolution of interreligious dialogue. I agree with Kristeva's point about dialogue not arriving at a fixed conclusion, and that re-engagement is a requirement in this regard.

        I also wish to underscore Pope Benedict XVIth's comment about people's "inability to find God is partly the responsibility of believers with a limited or even falsified image of God." Welle further quotes Benedict from a different speech:

        "Agnostics, who are constantly exercised by the question of God, those who long for a pure heart but suffer on account of their sin, are closer to the Kingdom of God than believers whose life of faith is 'routine' and who regard the church merely as an institution, without letting it touch their hearts, or letting the faith touch their hearts. These words should make all of us stop and reflect, in fact they should disturb us." (Welle, JES, p. 382)

        All religionists of deep faith and sincerity regarding the high spirituality and moral teachings of their respective religions wrestle with what Pope Benedict refers to, in that so many of their co-religionists, including those in high leadership, conduct themselves in ways at odds with the teachings of their own faiths. By establishing religious organizational processes and codifying or even sacralizing scriptural interpretations in ways that are not in concert with the intent of the original prophetic founders of those religions, they can turn truth-seeking peoples away.

        Postscript: A digression: The above last paragraph ties into the Baha'i belief in the concept of Progressive Revelation. This concept holds that the appearances of Manifestations, Messengers, Prophets, and revealers of the Word of God at different places and periods of human history are purposed to turn people to the "face of God," to fulfill past prophecies and to break asunder obsolete traditions and creeds not necessary for mankind's continued spiritual and material advancement. Baha'is believe God will never leave mankind bereft of His Word. Therefore future revealers of the Word of God will appear to rejuvenate human spirituality and to give new impetus to civilizational advancement.

        JE comments:  Benedict's words on the "usefulness" of agnostics are quite instructive, especially the Pope's claim that the sincere, inquisitive agnostic is closer to God than those whose religious practices take the form of outward appearance only.

        Julia Kristeva is a major figure in Literary Criticism/Critical Theory.  In my graduate school days, she was always someone you could cite to make your paper sound smart.

        But what about the atheists?  I would assume they are excluded from these high-profile fora, although their certainty of God's non-existence is a type of religion in itself.

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  • On Disarming (Richard Hancock, USA 06/17/14 5:03 AM)

    I wish to express my agreement with Vincent Littrell's statement that the 2011 withdrawal from Iraq was a mistake, leaving a power vacuum. The US has a history of disarming too soon after wars. In other posts I have stated that we disarmed too soon after WWII. This resulted in the Cold War, because we had vastly superior armaments compared to our Cold War opponents, Russia and China. We could have defeated either or both of these two nations. I was stationed in Japan immediately after the peace treaty with that country. I wanted to come home but not so much that I would have resisted a common-sense explanation that our too early disarmament would risk losing our WWII victory. Japan surrendered on August 14, 1945 and, by that date in 1946, we had pretty much disarmed. I remember that because I was discharged on August 10, 1946, just four days before the first anniversary of that signing. I think that the US attitude on armament is somewhat immature because we appraise military costs in terms of how nice it would be if this money could be spent on other programs of convenience to us. As long as we maintain this attitude, we will not do a good job as a great world leader.

    I think that British history offers an example of a nation that successfully held a huge empire together for almost 150 years. They developed this empire by staying with their game, doing whatever was necessary to preserve that empire. There is still great unity in the Commonwealth of Nations, which consists of 15 plus nations today.

    JE comments:  The British Empire was held together with its navy, but the army was small, as the initial lessons of 1914 would prove.

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    • A Mistake to Withdraw from Iraq? (Robert Gard, USA 06/18/14 4:21 AM)
      Those who criticize the pulling out of our troops from Iraq in 2011 should also state their willingness to allow any we left there to be subject to the Iraqi justice system, such as it is.

      JE comments: I doubt this will happen, but Robert Gard's rhetorical point makes you think. A question about military justice: what is the legal precedent for US occupation forces in places like Germany, Japan, and Korea?  The 1995 Okinawa rape incident comes to mind:


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    • On Disarming (Tor Guimaraes, USA 06/18/14 4:41 AM)
      My admiration goes to Vincent Littrell and Richard Hancock's patriotic zeal (17 June) regarding the need to stay in wars all over the world because we are militarily more powerful and don't want to create power vacuums.

      I confess to having some intellectual difficulties with comparing Richard's observation that "the US has a history of disarming too soon after wars, [such as] after WWII. This resulted in the Cold War, because we had vastly superior armaments compared to our Cold War opponents, Russia and China. We could have defeated either or both of these two nations" with what is going on in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. But I thank God that our better leaders decided that it was good enough to thoroughly destroy the Axis powers in WWII and live through the Cold War, only to see the USSR peacefully dismantle itself some time later.

      Richard suggests we copy the British Empire as a model for success. Following this rationale, why not copy the Roman Empire and many others which lasted longer or conquered more territory?

      Finally, Richard states: "I think that the US attitude on armament is somewhat immature because we appraise military costs in terms of how nice it would be if this money could be spent on other programs of convenience to us. As long as we maintain this attitude, we will not do a good job as a great world leader." This is completely wrong in my opinion. Let's not confuse military power with leadership of the world. Greater scientific knowledge, better technology and innovation have proven to be a far better vehicle for leadership. I believe that while a strong intelligence capability and military preparedness are critical, war itself should be waged only for immediate self-defense.

      Military intervention (regardless of the disguise) should not be used as part of foreign policy, or as a vehicle for social, political, or economic manipulation, let alone for the profit of special interests, as it has been done in many places, including Iraq. Supposedly, we go to war with the ultimate objective of protecting the American way of life: freedom, democracy, a chicken in every pot, a high standard of living for the American middle class. It makes no sense to become the policeman of the world by sacrificing our main objective, making the whole world more miserable, and only bringing wealth to global arms manufacturers, some of our own enemies, and to other special interests.

      JE comments:  Once again, it boils down to hard vs. soft power.  A question for further discussion:  to what extent does any empire throughout history offer the US a model for what to do?  The hard power legacies of the Roman Empire are gone; only the soft power aspects remain--language, culture, law, the arts.  We might even say the same thing about the British Empire.

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      • On Disarming and Empires (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 06/18/14 2:52 PM)
        With reference to Tor Guimaraes's excellent post of 18 June, together with JE's wise comments, let me add three considerations:

        1) Maybe Richard Hancock is right about the US not disarming in 1945 (but I did not notice this, as large US occupation forces are still around) and instead smashing both the USSR and Red China. Of course there could have been some collateral effects, such as the destruction of New York and other large cities, plus a world population of perhaps 3 billion now, compared to the current 7 billion...

        2) Hard power historically, sooner or later, is doomed. First of all, the subjects of the hard power do not like it, and the dominant power will eventually overreach, killing not only its enemies but also its own people in endless wars (the military interventions of the USA since 1945 have been countless) and finally overspending, at which point its economy will collapse and with that the empire. Frankly I hope I'm wrong on this second point; let's call it only an unrealistic intellectual construct.

        3) On the other hand, an empire based on soft power that develops culture, arts, law, science, economics without impositions or military bases will be a blessing for all. As pointed out by Tor, the arms should be kept ready but only for a strict defense of the homeland.

        JE comments:  I cannot recall if WAIS ever discussed the call to "roll to Moscow" post-WWII.  To my knowledge, with the exception of a few zealots like General Patton, US decision makers never seriously considered attacking Stalin.  Am I mistaken?
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      • "Managed Decline" of Empires (John Heelan, UK 06/19/14 4:26 AM)
        JE asked on 18 June: "to what extent does any empire throughout history offer the US a model for what to do?"

        The following website makes some suggestions. http://www.forward-usa.org/id5.html

        Some highlights:

        "Of the two ways to end the inevitable Phase 3 of an Empire (Decline or Failure), it is far less painful to engage in a ‘managed decline,' or ‘nation restoration,' compared to a massive depression. England and France are examples. A 'managed' process would entail prompt action to:

        "1. Invoke a major change in foreign policy by; a. Terminating Empire-USA, and its role as policeman and bully of the world, and focus on homeland defense; b. Reducing spending and conflict by closing most, or all, overseas bases, and keeping only a minimal standing army (primarily State-controlled National Guard); c. Stop meddling in the affairs of other nations by force, sanctions, or bribery (no preemptive wars or occupations); and d. Promote free trade.

        "2. Invoke a similar change in domestic policy where: a. Federal spending is reduced by 50% or more; b. Creation of new fake money is ended; c. Sound money is introduced (paper is convertible to precious metal), and the Federal Reserve System is abolished; d. The Constitution and law are adhered to (with repeal of recent bad laws); and e. Market intervention (favors to firms, unions, people) is ended, and free enterprise capitalism is used.

        "These steps would help bring the government back to its proper role to: ‘Protect the personal and property rights of citizens, as individuals, from threat or violation by others.' With this approach, the USA and its citizens would enjoy a future of peace, prosperity, justice and good ethics. It always works! I cite W. Germany in 1948, and later, Prov. of Alberta-Canada, and New Zealand."

        WAISers' views on this Republican-esque and isolationist approach would be interesting.

        JE comments: This sounds less Republican than orthodox Libertarianism in the Ron Paul mold. (Especially the tenets of #2.) I don't understand what the precious metal standard has to do with ratcheting down US interventionism.  Nor do I grasp the significance of Alberta or New Zealand as useful models.  New Zealand in particular is a mainstream tax-and-spend social democracy.

        The author, Dave Redick, was born in Detroit and went to the University of Michigan.  His bio tells us that he's 6' 1" and weighs 215 pounds.  (In Alberta, New Zealand or W Germany, that would be 1.85 meters and 97 kilos.)

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    • What is To Be Done about ISIS/ISIL? Gerald Seib (Richard Hancock, USA 06/18/14 5:10 AM)
      Writing in the June 16 edition of the Wall Street Journal, Gerald Seib believes that the ISIS invasion offers opportunities for US action.

      1. Nouri al-Malaki may be forced to broaden his government, to include Sunnis and Kurds.

      2. Iran needs a stable Iraq, and might cooperate with us if we ease economic sanctions.

      3. It offers a possibility to reset relations with Saudi Arabia and Egypt, because the ISIS also poses a threat to those two nations.

      These opportunities will not be realized unless Obama takes action to oppose the ISIS invasion.

      JE comments: "Opportunities" (Seib's word) sounds quite optimistic here. To my mind, the most interesting option is #2, using the ISIS/ISIL threat as a way to build relations with Iran.  Who would ever have imagined the WSJ advocating rapprochement with the IRI?

      As for #3, I am confused:  isn't Saudi Arabia a sponsor of ISIS/ISIL?

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    • Scenarios for Victory in WWIII (David Pike, France 06/19/14 3:44 AM)
      Richard Hancock wrote on June 17: "After WWII... we could have defeated either or both of these two nations [the USSR and China]."

      I thought Edward Teller was dead, but you never know.

      Allow me to run through the ten stages of glorious victory in WWIII. I provide Stage 1 and Stage 10, and Richard fills in Stages 2-9.

      Stage 1. Harry Truman through George Marshall orders Dwight Eisenhower and Douglas MacArthur to proceed. Eisenhower advances into Eastern Germany and Poland. Mutinies in various Allied units are savagely suppressed. MacArthur joins Chiang in the struggle against Mao. Both Stalin and Mao are warned that anything less than immediate surrender on the part of the USSR and Communist China will be answered by US nuclear attack on either or both. US Special Forces are sent to London to handle the bedlam in the opening sessions of the United Nations.

      Stage 2...

      Stage 3....


      Stage 10. After some altercation, it is agreed between Eisenhower and MacArthur to reuse the Missouri for the final joint surrender by Stalin and Mao, who jointly appear on deck for the signing.


      And now back to this harsh world of reality. When Richard was in my job, running Bolivar House at Stanford, I know that he had to exercise a quite different degree of critical analysis in order to win ten seconds' worth of patience in the no-nonsense realm of Ronald Hilton.

      JE comments: Prof. Hilton had little use for Cold Warriorism during the Bolívar House years, although by the 1970s and into the '80s he was stridently anti-Soviet. As for Edward Teller, the physicist believed to be the inspiration for Dr. Strangelove, here's RH's brief description of meeting him at the Hoover Institution (they were also neighbors; Teller died in 2003). His conclusion:  "[Teller] would not have made a good WAISer."  I wish he had told us more:


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      • Scenarios for Victory in WWIII: Operation Unthinkable (Angel Vinas, Belgium 06/19/14 1:51 PM)
        May I intervene on the hotly debated subject of WWIII? (See David Pike, 19 June.)

        The idea of counteracting what was perceived by some top US generals (and others) as Soviet aggressive moves towards the West after supporting the Soviet-dominated Polish Government is widely known. It is less known that the idea found favor with Winston Churchill himself, who ordered the Joint Chiefs of Staff to prepare plans for attacking the USSR in 1945. I cite from memory. I think it was in April, just before the German capitulation. Among the wildest scenarios dreamed of was the use of Wehrmacht troops. Military plans were hastily prepared and submitted to Churchill in June. The projected outcome was rather dubious. The political and diplomatic factors weren´t duly integrated into the planning. Nothing comparable to what was done in WWII and even in the case of the contingency that Spain might turn toward the Third Reich or that the Germans might overrun Spain.

        WAISers may follow that story in a newly published book in the UK, Operation Unthinkable, based on recently declassified British documents available at the National Archives. I have suggested that this book be translated into Spanish and Crítica, Barcelona, has followed my suggestion.

        JE comments:  Fascinating.  Here's more info on historian Jonathan Walker's book:


        See also Wikipedia.  Due to the Soviet Union's 4:1 superiority in personnel and 2:1 in tanks, the operation was quickly discarded as "fanciful."


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    • Logistics of Disarming and Re-Arming (Brian Blodgett, USA 06/19/14 4:01 AM)
      In reading Richard Hancock's posting of 17 June, together with John Eipper's comments, it made me think of how simple it is to downsize the "manpower" of a military force compared to the "equipment" aspect.

      Regarding the US Army, downsizing it is has always been easy, since we have always had the ability to quickly add men and women as needed. Keeping a smaller force with a strong core of non-commissioned officers (NCOs) and officers, as well as the lower enlisted who can quickly become NCOs, and mothballing tanks, armored fighting vehicles, firearms, planes, and helicopters--this is relatively easy. I state this after having gone through REFORGER (Return of Forces to Germany) exercises in both 1983 and 1987, when the equipment was pulled of out POMCUS (Prepositioning Of Material Configured in Unit Sets) sites that were simply maintained equipment ready to roll when we arrived.

      In regards to the other forces, I have been to Davis-Monthan Air Force Base outside of Tuscon, Arizona, where the US has over 4,000 military aircraft that are parked for salvaging or broken down for scrap. It would not surprise me if many of these could quickly be brought up to specs and flown again, especially considering an October 2013 report of new C-27J Spartans (cargo planes) were going straight there and never seeing actual use by the Air Force. For the Navy, I would think it would be harder to mothball ships these days, just as it was for the British Empire.

      My question is, does the United States need a large military (manpower at least) as long as we have the equipment and ability to raise an army rather quickly, compared to having one that costs a considerable amount to keep sitting around without a mission and then finding non-military missions for them to do? Also, is the mission of the United States to hold an empire together, or simply to be the United States of America? The money that the military costs us when not in use can easily be better used within our nation on, as Richard stated, "other programs of convenience to us," many of which I hope are those that take care of Americans (or should I say in a politically correct way--US citizens)? A large standing army goes against our very nature and something that we have been able to do without very easily since our independence. In reality, the only times that we needed a large military was for our own internal use (the Civil War), or to save other countries. There is something to be said for being surrounded by two oceans and two countries that do not pose any type of threat to the nation. As far as Richard's comment on "doing whatever is necessary to preserve its empire," this does not seem in the best interest of any nation if it is held together by military force and not the desire of the citizens within it.

      JE comments: I like to scold Brian Blodgett for not writing often enough--but I thank him for sharing his expertise on the nuts and bolts of ratcheting up the military.  Brian reminds us that a large standing army is not only an enormous expense; it also goes against the traditional ideology of the United States.  (The fear of a large permanent military was central to the US belief system prior to 1941.)

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      • Davis-Monthan AFB: a Trip to the "Boneyard" (Michael Sullivan, USA 06/20/14 3:44 AM)
        Regarding Brian Blodgett's posting on Davis-Monthan AFB (19 June), I have been there several times delivering aircraft taken out of active service to the "boneyard." The aircraft are all preserved in some fashion or another, and D-M is used for its dry desert climate where minimum rust occurs. Some are refurbished and then sold to Foreign Military Sales. Others are refurbished and turned into target drones, so our fighter pilots can get realistic training firing missile at them over the water at Eglin AFB, Florida. Usually the missiles are inert so they can use the target jet over and over again; however, some pilots get to shoot real live warheads at them. Many of the older prop transports are broken up and sold for scrap.

        It's a sad journey to D-M to deliver an aircraft, as some are only six months out of overhaul and have the latest radars, bombing systems and communications gear. After you land for the final time, there won't be a single gripe on the aircraft.

        I delivered several F-4 Phantoms when we started getting F-18 Hornets to replace them. This is the procedure:

        You land on their 12,000-foot runway, which is huge for Navy and Marine pilots. The tower tells you to taxi to the end and take the taxiway that leads perpendicular to the regular taxiway. You taxi for three or four miles to where the aircraft is received by the civilian crew. When you get close to the small line shack, two civilians run out and direct you to stop the aircraft in a specified spot. They chalk the tires and your hear them putting down locks on all three landing gear, clunk, clunk, clunk. That is done so when the aircraft finally loses hydraulic power days later, the gear won't collapse.

        Then they come out from under the aircraft and give you the shutdown signal. As the engines unwind and you're still unstrapping, the two civilians are up alongside both cockpits taking the eight-day Navy clock out of the instrument panel so the pilot doesn't steal them! We don't carry a Radar Observer in the back seat, as it's full of aircraft log books and special equipment.

        You then walk into the line shack and sign the aircraft over to them. By the time you're finished and you go outside to get a ride to Base Ops they're towing the aircraft away to its final resting place in the desert. It's almost like taking your old family dog that you love so much down to the vet to be put to sleep, but you remember the great times and great memories you had with it...

        JE comments: Michael Sullivan has done a masterful job of describing the final flight procedure, which must be a melancholy experience for military pilots. The use of the term "boneyard" for these storage facilities shows how the aircraft are given anthropomorphic qualities.  This spring I drove by a boneyard in Southern California (not sure which one--Victorville?), but for commercial planes.  It's an eerie sight to behold.

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