“Being on the wrong side of history carries consequences. V lives that truth every day. If you’ve done terrible things, lived a terrible way, profited from pain in the face of history’s power to judge, then guilt and loss accrue. Redemption becomes an abstract idea receding before you. Even if your sin — like dirt farmers in Sherman’s path — had been simply to live in the wrong place, you suffered. Didn’t matter whether you owned slaves or which way you voted or how good your intentions had been. Or how bad. You might suffer as much as the family of a great plantation, which was maybe not completely just. But if you were the family with the great plantation, you had it coming. Those were times that required choosing a side — and then, sooner or later, history asks, which side were you on?”
— Charles Frazier, writing in “VARINA”
“A part of her believed this one moment — Carolina woods, a wagonload of children, lights of heaven blazing on a clear spring night — was sufficient. An eternity in itself. A perfect instant if you erased guilt of the past and dread of the future.”
— Charles Frazier writing in “VARINA”
I don’t know if this perspective on the changing nature of war is 100 percent correct, or not. It certainly provides food for thought in this second decade of the 21st century.
I’m uncertain about the term “consumerist warfare.” This would seem to imply that the warfare is designed to protect a consumer-driven economy. I need to think about this some more.
As we view the final season of “Downton Abbey,” it’s as if many in America and the U.K. and Canada are caught up in an extended meditation on the old order slipping away and a new and unknown order going forward. Ready or not! The many posts pondering the end (or at least evolution) of the western nation-state over at Clarissa’s Blog also cause us to think about changing times writ large.
The manner of waging war transforms with every transformation of the state model (Many people say that it’s the other way round: the state form follows the changes in the ways of waging war. Ultimately, the warfare methods are indissolubly linked to the state model, no matter what “comes first.”)
As we discussed before, the nation-state model arose, to a significant degree, in response to a need to find a less costly way than any that had existed before to wage war on an unprecedented scale. This goal was achieved in full, as we all know from the example of the two world wars. Without the nation-state, this kind of warfare would not be possible.
As the nation-state withers away and a new state form comes to replace it, warfare changes as well. Today we are seeing a gradual consolidation of what I call “consumerist warfare.” (This is just my own…
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It’s as if God has a tiger by the tail.
Do you feel like the world is spinning out of control? That the center cannot hold? Or that the universe is spinning so fast it will self-destruct by centrifugal force? Or some other, as yet unidentified, force?
The scary thoughts I’m having at the end of one bad year and the start of an unknowable New Year were sparked by seeing the movie, “Star Wars.” However, this witches’ brew has been bubbling in my brain for some time.
Change comes fast and furious, and I wonder if we are near a convergence of forces that could bring on catastrophic change. I’m flashing on the Age of Aquarius, but this is not what hippies and free thinkers were hoping for in 1967-1969.
Think about it. All Black Swan scenarios are on the table.
Technology off the leash.
Government. Or worse, the absence of government.
Epidemics or pandemic.
“Star Wars” is a brilliant, futuristic story of the battle between Good and Evil. The Light side and the Dark side.
(Aside: Does Star Wars glamorize war? Don’t worry, this won’t be on the final exam.)
Back to the battle. Is it a battle between Good and Evil, or between God and Satan? I suppose it depends on whether you have a religious point of view, or a secular point of view.
Maybe it’s not a battle so much between Good and Evil, but rather, a battle between Truth and Lie. Or Truth and Illusion?
In 21st century political discourse, we have difficulty agreeing on facts. Maybe it’s a battle between Fact and Falsehood? Or Fact and Ignorance? Love and Fear? These are some of my disorderly thoughts at the turn of the year, questions sparked by Star Wars. I should not wade too far into philosophy or theology, lest I be in over my head.
That’s enough uncensored thinking for the first day of the year.
What say you? A tiger by the tail? Spinning out of control?
— John Hayden
Peace for Paris, peace from terror. Free people everywhere, and our leaders, must address the war of terrorism that is breaking out across the globe. I’m afraid we have refrained from seriously thinking and speaking about the terrorism problem because of honest concerns about religious freedom and profiling. We must find a way to reconcile our value of religious freedom with our value of peace. Religious freedom does not include the freedom to wage a war of terrorism against the world.
After the most horrible, bloody century of war in history — 1914 to 2014 — wouldn’t you hope that humankind has learned something about war and peace?
After all these years, we are still attracted to war like mindless, flying insects to a lightbulb on a dark night. In recent decades, we’ve certainly not hesitated to invade, shoot and bomb, using ever more-effective killing and maiming technology. But we’ve also perfected the art of economic war. Politely known as “Economic Sanctions.” At this very moment, the U.S. and Great Britain are threatening to unleash the equivalent of unlimited economic war on Russia.
The economic sanctions are intended to defend the “sovereignty” of Ukraine and Crimea, whatever “sovereignty” means in that part of the world, with it’s emotional history and artificial national boundaries. In the course of such defense, economic sanctions and/or military intervention might just as well destroy Ukraine and Crimea. Sort of like the U.S. destroyed Vietnamese villages to save them, and invaded Iraq to save it, instead ransacking and wrecking Iraq for ten years before abandoning it.
As the Ukraine reached the boiling point in recent days, I’ve engaged in discussion with Clarissa, a blogger who knows much more about Russia and Ukraine than I do. She’s posting daily about the developing situation. You can scroll through her many posts and interesting discussion threads at her blog.
I’ve been learning a lot, but also arguing a lot. I used to think I understood this kind of stuff. But as old age sets in, I find I no longer understand anything about the human obsession with war, both military and economic.
Below I express my puzzlement in comments I’ve written for Clarissa’s blog.
I guess I’m being blindsided. I read every story about Ukraine and Crimea in this morning’s Washington Post, including an analysis of the emotions and history involved by a former colleague of mine at the Baltimore Sun. I don’t give any credence to cable news speculation.
Forgive me, but I have read no credible evidence that this is anything but a civil war of WORDS involving Russia, Ukraine and Crimea. In fact, if it is a civil war, I’d put the emphasis on the word “civil.” There’s much hand-wringing about a Russian “invasion” of Crimea. Really? Has a single shot been fired? The Russian and Ukraine soldiers in fact seem quite chummy.
The main issues seem to be emotional grievances regarding the official language in Ukraine (reminds me of Quebec’s grievances against English-speaking Canada), “sovereignty,” and which paper money to use. I suspect the “crisis” might blow over if the U.S. would butt out and Ukraine simply decided to recognize both Russian and Ukrainian as official languages.
I do not understand what makes the U.S. and European countries so self-righteous that they must declare economic war on Russia. Yes, I see one blog report that one person has been tortured and killed. There are anecdotes about “volatile protests,” outside agitators and thugs beating up people. As a journalist, know the difficulty of confirming such anecdotes.
In the U.S. most of this would be called street crime, police brutality, or “the right to gather in public and express grievances,” protected under the Bill or Rights. How many confirmed casualties in Ukraine or Crimea? I’m serious. There are 500 murders a year in Chicago. Multiple murders every weekend in Washington and Baltimore. Is it more dangerous right this moment to be in Kiev or in Chicago?
The U.S. government “said the vote was rigged and discounted it as illegal.” (The Washington Post) I ask: How does the U.S. know that?
I’ve studied politics my whole life, and I have no trouble at all believing that a large majority of people in Crimea would vote allegiance to Russia, and did so on Sunday. Where is the evidence to the contrary? (Yes, 97% seems an obvious exaggeration. So what?) I cannot even verify the election results in my own state, Maryland, where we use a computerized voting system with no way to audit the results. If the computers have not already been hacked, they will be some day soon.
It seems to me that the U.S. and Great Britain foment wars and economic hardship by meddling in internal affairs of other countries.
Sorry, I know I sound naive, and maybe I am. I have a healthy skepticism about what is true or false or propaganda or posturing. — John
Clarissa responds to my comment:
“The main issues seem to be emotional grievances regarding the official language in Ukraine (reminds me of Quebec’s grievances against English-speaking Canada), “sovereignty,” and which paper money to use.”
– These are definitely not the central issues for anybody in Ukraine or Russia. Honestly, this is the first time I hear about paper money in this context at all. I get my news from Russian and Ukrainian media and people I know who live in these countries.
“In the U.S. most of this would be called street crime, police brutality, or “the right to gather in public and express grievances,” protected under the Bill or Rights.”
– If the Russian troops crossed the US border, would this still be called street crime and police brutality?
“I suspect the “crisis” might blow over if the U.S. would butt out and Ukraine simply decided to recognize both Russian and Ukrainian as official languages.”
– In 1994, Ukraine, Russia and the US signed the Budapest accords in which the US promised not to butt out in case Russia violates the territorial wholeness of Ukraine in its 1994 borders. Out of these 3 countries, Ukraine is the only one that fulfilled its part of the agreement by handing over its entire nuclear arsenal to Russia, the country that has invaded right now. If the US didn’t want to have anything to do with what is happening in that area, it shouldn’t have signed the agreements. Wouldn’t you agree that you can’t enter into a contract, get everything you wanted from the other party, and then refuse to fulfill your part of the obligations you freely undertook?
” Is it more dangerous right this moment to be in Kiev or in Chicago?”
– If you look at the map, you will see that Kiev lies pretty far from the Russian border, there are no Russian troops there. Yet. The invasion is taking place in the Lugansk, Kharkov, Mariupol’, Kherson and the Crimea areas. Tragically, these are, indeed, highly criminalized areas. 😦 However, now on top of the street crime and the mafia, there are foreign troops there.
“It seems to me that the U.S. and Great Britain foment wars and economic hardship by meddling in internal affairs of other countries.”
– Russia has been invading Ukraine long before the US even existed. This is not about the US and definitely not about the UK, which has been selling itself to the bandits from Russia for years.
“Sorry, I know I sound naive, and maybe I am.”
– I’m very grateful to you for trying to understand.
end of Clarissa’s reply
My further response:
“- If the Russian troops crossed the US border, would this still be called street crime and police brutality?”
“- Russia has been invading Ukraine long before the US even existed. This is not about the U.S. and definitely not about the UK.”
Both good points! And you can see the absurdity when you place the above two statements side-by-side in historical and geopolitical context. I’m not an expert on any of this, so I hesitate to make the following analogy, and I welcome more knowledgeable observers to correct me:
Doesn’t it seem that Russia, Ukraine, and Crimea have a long history of marriage of convenience and breakups? Tumultuous relationships, to be sure, trial separations and divorce, friendly or otherwise. But they are geographically intertwined; they HAVE to live near each other over the long run, and so they do. As you point out, this love-hate affair has been going on since LONG BEFORE the U.S. existed. I agree, it’s NOT about the U.S. or the UK, so what gives the U.S. and UK the right to declare economic world war?
Regarding the 1994 Budapest Memorandum, in which the U.S., Britain, and Russia reaffirmed their commitment to Ukraine’s territorial sovereignty, and Ukraine agreed to return its nuclear weapons to Russia. Well.
The salient point here is the nuclear weapons. You could keep an international courtroom full of lawyers busy for a century, arguing what the wording of the Budapest Memorandum (contract?) means.
Would the world be a better place if Ukraine had those nuclear weapons at this moment?
A few Ukrainian NATIONALISTS would say “Yes,” but they would be crazy. Everyone else, especially Russia, Crimea, U.S. and UK, understands, in retrospect, the wisdom of the nuclear weapons accord made at Budapest. After the past century of European and Russian history, can’t we all agree that emotional NATIONALISM is not sufficient reason to start a shooting war?
And thank God the U.S. and UK commitment to the territorial “sovereignty” of Ukraine is definitely not a “mutual defense treaty” requiring the U.S. and UK to defend militarily the sanctity of the region’s artificial boundary lines.
What exactly does the word “sovereignty” imply in this case? Can anyone untangle the history and mythology behind these lines on a map? Let Russian, Ukraine, and Crimea work this out in divorce court. — John
Let me repeat that I respect Clarissa and her knowledge of Russia and Ukraine. I appreciate her willingness to engage in informative discussions with me and others on her blog. I recommend her blog for anyone following developments in the Ukraine.
Is there any conclusion? Is history ever over? When will we ever learn?
— John Hayden
On Friday, President Obama said the U.S. may sometimes have to police the world. Mr. President, I respectfully beg to differ.
Where did this notion come from, that the USA, being the last superpower standing, should be the police force of the world? That we should zoom from continent to continent, fighting crime and bringing bad guys to justice? By what authority?
Today would be a good day for the president and the people of America to make a decision for peace.
Use of chemical weapons in Syria was evil and inhumane. Use of chemical weapons resulted in human death and suffering.
To respond by missile attacks against Syria would result in more human death and suffering. Where is the logic?
President Barack Obama will be pilloried if he chooses peace and not war. But good leaders must make the right decision without regard for the political consequences.
— post originally published 8-31-2013
This post by another blogger ends with a thoughtful prayer. Click on “read more” to see the entire post and the prayer. It’s not very long. — John
I was perusing MSN’s homepage, and I found a slideshow on war-torn Libya. I could not help but be struck with a sense of awe while looking at this picture. Take a moment and just look at the details. Please.
In a world with so many modern advances– cancer research, clean energy, cell phones, and the Internet– I struggle with the idea that people feel the need to destroy cities and kill people to “win.” Aren’t there more 21st Century ways of dealing with problems? The destruction in this picture represents a total disregard for life and progress. And what does all of this destruction accomplish?
The fact does not allude me that when and where we are born is not a choice. I am lucky that my house is not one of the bombed apartments in this picture. Right now, I have pumpkins and scarecrows in my yard. I am celebrating autumn and anticipating Halloween…
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Mitt Romney is willing to go straight to the heart of issues that politicians usually avoid. Whether you agree or disagree with him, he’s helping us understand.
Economics is the study of the distribution of scarce resources. (I think that’s a valid statement.)
Isn’t it always about distribution?
Isn’t all of history about distribution? The distribution of scarce resources, of wealth, of power. Who owns what? Who has a right to what?
Aren’t most wars fought to redistribute land, wealth, and power? Land and the resources on or under the land are the fundamental scarce resources.