Category Archive 'War'

26 Jul 2017

Greek Vase Animated

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15 Nov 2016

“Did You Ever Kill Anybody, Father?”

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didyoukillanyone
Frank Holl, Did you ever kill anybody Father?, 1883, Private collection.

Sold by Christies London 17 June 2014, GBP 74,500 (USD 126,426).

“She is holding what appears to be a British Pattern 1827 Rifle Officer’s Sword or a Pattern 1845 Infantry Officer’s Sword.”

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I asked the same question as a child to my father, who had served in the Third Marine Division on Guadalcanal, Vella LaVella, Rendova, Guam, and Iwo Jima. He looked embarrassed, paused for a moment, and replied: “Oh, you know, we were all shooting at them, and they were falling down, and you couldn’t tell who had hit them…”

Hat tip to Karen L. Myers.

07 Oct 2016

The War Lover

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ernstjunger1

rangordnung:

Marx had asked “Is Achilles possible with gunpowder and lead?” Jünger has answered, “That was my problem.”

16 Aug 2016

Largest Animal War in History

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ArgentineAnts
An Argentine ant (Linepithema humile) attacks a much larger fire ant (Solenopsis invicta).

Every now and then there is a good question and answer on Quora. Someone asked: “Do animals fight wars and if so what was the largest war?”

Zoologist Suzanne Sadedin replied:

The largest war in animal history — in fact, by numbers the largest war in history — is going on right now.

Once upon a time there was a tiny brown ant who lived by a swamp at the end of the Paraná River in Argentina. Her name, Linepithema humile, literally means “humble” or “weak”. Some time during the late 1800s, an adventurous L. humile crept away from the swamp where giant river otter played and capybaras cavorted.

She stowed away on a boat that sailed to New Orleans. And she went to war.

At home in the Paraná delta, L. humile nests would ferociously defend themselves from other nests, both of their own species and other kinds of ant. It was a life of never-ending territorial skirmishes, where nobody could really get ahead. When two L. humile met, they would flick their antennae over each others’ bodies, tasting the combination of hydrocarbons on their skin. This flavor would tell them whether the stranger belonged to the same nest. If she tasted familiar, she would be recognized as a sister. She would be gently stroked, offered food and welcomed into the nest. But if the flavor were not recognized, the ants would try to kill each other.

In New Orleans, something changed. L. humile, invading the United States, spread like wildfire. Instead of forming discrete, competing colonies, they behaved as a united army. They would brutally attack ants of other species, but welcome every L. humile as a long-lost sister in arms. Like L. humile in Argentina, other species of ants in the US must defend their territories against their own species. This gives the cooperative L. humile a huge strategic advantage; they waste neither lives nor energy on fighting with their own kind, but focus ruthlessly upon species-level conquest. Though individually tiny, they can swarm over native ants many times their size.

The supercolony grew to cover most of the United States. Then it spread to England, Europe, Japan, Australia and New Zealand. L. humile is now abundant on every continent except Antarctica, and wherever she goes, she slaughters native ant species.

How did she do this? Did inbreeding reduce the diversity of hydrocarbons on the ants’ skin, such that they no longer saw one another as enemies, but as sisters? Did natural selection tone down L. humile’s territorial instincts to suit their environment, so they would react aggressively only to the strong stimulus of another species? It seems likely both mechanisms were involved.

Things have not been perfect. Near San Diego, a schism formed, and a separate supercolony was created. The battlefront extends for miles; some 30 million ants die there every year. Another super-colony has formed in Catalonia. Perhaps as L. humile eliminates her competitors, her alliance will fracture entirely into squabbling tribes. But for now, from Europe to the United States, all the way to New Zealand, a global megacolony still persists, consisting of around 1 trillion individuals: a humble brown ant united in war against every other ant alive.

People always talk about the meek inheriting the earth. In L. humile’s case, it’s clearly working.

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ArgentineAntUSMap
L. humile distribution by US county

28 Jul 2016

Signs of War

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Grechka
Buckwheat groats and mushrooms

Jill Dougherty found alarming seasonal signs in Russia and in bordering regions.

Recently, I grabbed a taxi in Moscow. When the driver asked me where I was from, I told him the United States. “I went there once,” he said, “to Chicago. I really liked it.”

“But tell me something,” he added. “When are we going to war?”

The question, put so starkly, so honestly, shocked me. “Well, I hope never,” I replied. “No one wants war.”

At the office I ask a Russian employee about the mood in his working-class Moscow neighborhood. The old people are buying salt, matches and “gretchka,” (buckwheat) he tells me – the time-worn refuge for Russians stocking up on essentials in case of war.

In the past two months, I’ve traveled to the Baltic region, to Georgia, and to Russia. Talk of war is everywhere.

Hat tip to Vanderleun.

02 Jun 2016

New Edition of “Storm of Steel”

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ErnstJunger
Ernst Jünger (1895-1998)

Karl Marlantes (Y ’67), who served as an officer in the Marine Corps, received the Navy Cross, and wrote perhaps the best Vietnam War novel, is pretty much the ideal choice to write the introduction for the new Penguin Classics edition of Ernst Jünger’s WWI memoir Storm of Steel.

[L]ike Jünger, who observed the stream of colored flares, I can appreciate that, borrowing a phrase from Yeats, there is a terrible beauty about war, even though I’m not a born warrior. I remember watching enemy tracers seeming to float into the night sky over Laos, seeking to down one of our airplanes, in much the same way I’d watch fireworks. I remember even being enthralled, late in my tour when I’d been transferred to an air ob­server squadron, by green tracers flying by both windows of our OV-10 as we dived firing, head to head with an NVA antiaircraft gun. Jünger sees the beauty—it’s everywhere in his memoir—and perhaps you will see it too. This doesn’t need to change how you judge war; coral snakes and tsunamis are beautiful too.

Jünger writes about many things other than combat, but all take us into the trenches as he saw them. He writes about fear and panic. He writes about nature—about having to live outside, just like a wild animal, in all of nature’s cruelty and beauty. He writes about the code of honor and manliness that engenders mutual respect be­tween soldiers on opposite sides of the battle, as when he encoun­tered a young British officer just before Christmas during a poignant temporary truce that unfortunately went bad:

    We did, though, say much to one another that betokened an almost sportsmanlike admiration for the other, and I’m sure we should have liked to exchange mementoes.

At another point he writes:

    Throughout the war, it was always my endeavour to view my opponent without animus, and to form an opinion of him as a man on the basis of the courage he showed.

And he writes about the understated and often gallows humor that goes hand in hand with the code of honor and manliness. I remember in Vietnam a kid waiting to be medevaced, gasping for air because he’d taken a bullet through one lung, saying, “You know, sir, it ruined my whole day.” Jünger often uses such humor:

    We suffered many casualties from the over-familiarity engendered by daily encounters with gunpowder. My dugout was somewhat changed as well . . . the British had fumigated it with a few hand-grenades. We were so abundantly graced with trench mortars . . .

In another scene, Jünger describes a fierce skirmish with Indi­an soldiers from the First Hariana Lancers:

    With only twenty men we had seen off a detachment several times larger, and attacking us from more than one side, and in spite of the fact that we had orders to withdraw if we were outnumbered. It was precisely an engagement like this that I’d been dreaming of during the longueurs of positional warfare.

I’d have been dreaming of my high school girlfriends.

“These short expeditions,” Jünger writes, “where a man takes his life in his hands, were a good means of testing our mettle and interrupting the monotony of trench life. There’s nothing worse for a soldier than boredom.” I would say homesickness, hunger, hypothermia, getting gassed, gangrene, and trench foot, not to mention getting killed or maimed, would all be worse than boredom. But Jünger was different.

Read the whole thing.

21 Apr 2016

Unrestricted Warfare

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UnrestrictedWarfare

David Barno and Nora Bensahel identify the most important strategic book you haven’t read.

In 1999, two Chinese colonels wrote a book called Unrestricted Warfare, about warfare in the age of globalization. Their main argument: Warfare in the modern world will no longer be primarily a struggle defined by military means — or even involve the military at all.

They were about a decade and a half before their time.

Colonels Qiao Liang and Wang Xiangsui argued that war was no longer about “using armed forces to compel the enemy to submit to one’s will” in the classic Clausewitzian sense. Rather, they asserted that war had evolved to “using all means, including armed force or non-armed force, military and non-military, and lethal and non-lethal means to compel the enemy to accept one’s interests.” The barrier between soldiers and civilians would fundamentally be erased, because the battle would be everywhere. The number of new battlefields would be “virtually infinite,” and could include environmental warfare, financial warfare, trade warfare, cultural warfare, and legal warfare, to name just a few. They wrote of assassinating financial speculators to safeguard a nation’s financial security, setting up slush funds to influence opponents’ legislatures and governments, and buying controlling shares of stocks to convert an adversary’s major television and newspapers outlets into tools of media warfare. According to the editor’s note, Qiao argued in a subsequent interview that “the first rule of unrestricted warfare is that there are no rules, with nothing forbidden.” That vision clearly transcends any traditional notions of war.

Unrestricted Warfare was an explicit response to the reigning Western military orthodoxy of the time. The preface is dated January 17, 1999, which the authors note was the eighth anniversary of the outbreak of the 1991 Gulf War. In many ways, their argument refuted many of the Western lessons drawn from that conflict: that wars could be short, sharp, and dominated by high-technology weaponry used with stunning precision to shatter an enemy’s armed forces in hours or days.

Read the whole thing.

09 Mar 2016

The Art of Battle

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austerlitz

The Art of Battle serves up PowerPoint presentations showing the course of events in a large number of Ancient, Medieval, Early Modern (Gunpowder Era), and Modern battles.

Hat tip to Bruce Gudmondsson.

11 Aug 2014

Tweet of the Day

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Tweet58

14 Sep 2010

US Military Raises the Roof

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Date and location unknown. Good airstrike video. One commenter says it wasn’t the roof sailing through the air but the floor slab.

04 Jan 2010

Montesquieu on Modernity

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Clodion, Montesquieu, Musée du Louvre, Paris

Paul Rahe, who has written a book on Charles-Louis de Secondat, baron de La Brède et de Montesquieu, posts on Montesquieu’s valuable observations on the changes marking the transition into Modernity in politics, religion, and war.

Montesquieu was the first to recognize that, at the end of the seventeenth century, a profound and arguably permanent transformation had taken place in European politics. He saw that commerce had replaced war as the force dominant in international relations; that a well-ordered Carthage could now defeat Rome on the field of the sword; and that, in the wake of the Glorious Revolution, Great Britain – with its separation of powers, its policy of religious toleration, its devotion to industry and trade, and its empire over the sea – had come to occupy a pre-eminence that no existing continental power could hope to challenge. That European monarchy – with its hereditary aristocracy, its ethos of honor, its suspicion of trade, and its appetite for conquest, empire, and glory – could not be sustained in an age in which money had become the sinews of war: this he also knew.

In Montesquieu’s opinion, two successive revolutions, neither likely to be reversed, provided this transformation in politics with its underpinning. The first of these took place in the sphere of religion. Montesquieu was persuaded that Machiavelli was correct in supposing that, when Christianity supplanted paganism, it made classical republicanism obsolete.

When the virtue of the ancients was “in full force,” Montesquieu writes in The Spirit of Laws, “they did things that we no longer see & which astonish our little souls.” If his contemporaries are unable to rise to the same level, it is, he suggests, because the “education” given the ancients “never suffered contradiction” while “we receive three educations different” from and even “contrary” to one another: “that of our fathers, that of our schoolmasters, that of the world. What we are told in the last overthrows the ideas imparted by the first two.” In short, there is now “a contrast between the engagements” which arise “from religion” and “those” which arise “from the world” that “the ancients knew nothing of.” This is why the moderns possess such “little souls.”

Read the whole thing.

02 Jan 2009

Wars Update

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In a New Year’s tour d’horizon of warfare and violence across the globe, Jim Dunnigan’s Strategy Page concludes that, apart from the quality of media reporting, things have been getting better.

Worldwide, violence continues to decline, as it has for the last few years. …

All this continues a trend that began when the Cold War ended, and the Soviet Union no longer subsidized terrorist and rebel groups everywhere. The current wars are basically uprisings against police states or feudal societies, which are seen as out-of-step with the modern world. Many are led by radicals preaching failed dogmas (Islamic conservatism, Maoism), that still resonate among people who don’t know about the dismal track records. Iran has not picked much of the lost Soviet terrorist support effort. Hezbollah and Hamas, the Madhi Army and a few smaller groups, and that’s it. Terrorists in general miss the Soviets, who really knew how to treat bad boys right.

The War on Terror has morphed into the War Against Islamic Radicalism. This religious radicalism has always been around, for Islam was born as an aggressive movement, that used violence and terror to expand. Past periods of conquest are regarded fondly by Moslems. The current enthusiasm for violence in the name of God has been building for over half a century. Historically, periods of Islamic radicalism have flared up periodically in response to corrupt governments, as a vain attempt to impose a religious solution on some social or political problem. The current violence is international because of the availability of planet wide mass media (which needs a constant supply of headlines), and the fact that the Islamic world is awash in tyranny and economic backwardness. Islamic radicalism itself is incapable of mustering much military power, and the movement largely relies on terrorism to gain attention. Most of the victims are fellow Moslems, which is why the radicals eventually become so unpopular among their own people that they run out of new recruits and fade away. This is what is happening now. The American invasion of Iraq was a clever exploitation of this, forcing the Islamic radicals to fight in Iraq, where they killed many Moslems, especially women and children, thus causing the Islamic radicals to lose their popularity among Moslems.


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