Thursday, May 31, 2007

Today's Quote: A Profound Demoralization

Even as the challenge from fanatical Islam has intensified, at home and abroad, Europeans have found new ways to abase themselves before it. Two years ago it was the Danish cartoons affair, in which too few politicians and opinion leaders defended the rights of the Danish newspaper that published them; last year it was the collective European cringe in the wake of the pope's mildly assertive remarks about the disconnect between Islam and reason; this year it has been the embarrassing spectacle of humiliated British servicemen fawning in front of their Iranian captors.
...
At home [in Europe], a profound demoralization has set in, induced in part by the continent's ruinous past century.
It was a century in which unimaginable violence sapped the regenerative energies of a wearied people; in which the seductive falsehoods of twin totalitarian ideologies undermined moral self-confidence; in which a flaccid relativism replaced the firm ethical boundaries of religious belief. It was also a century, we now see, in which the luxuries of rapid economic growth produced a false sense of security that cannot be sustained in a global age.


By Gerard Baker in the WSJ's OpinionJournal.

Australia and the Philippines Sign Defense Agreement

This is good news, from the "exporting security" department:

The Philippines and Australia on Thursday signed a defence pact which will see elite Australian commandos and soldiers train Philippines troops to step up the fight against insurgents in the troubled south.
Philippines President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and Australian Prime Minister John Howard signed an agreement which will also see Canberra supply 28 high-speed gunboats to help security forces fight Islamic militants and communist rebels.
...
The pact will clear the way for Australian troops, including elite Special Air Services soldiers, to train and exercise with Philippines forces, but would not lead to Australian bases in the country, the Philippines government said.
...
Ebdane said Australian security forces could also help with forensic work and disaster relief, and cooperate in the hunt for militants based in the Philippines but linked to the Jemaah Islamiah extremist group.
Arroyo said the pact would help "modernise and professionalise" the Philippines armed forces, like a similar agreement between her country and close ally the United States, which already donates millions of dollars in military aid.
...
The Australian-donated patrol boats will be used by Philippines army commandos to patrol shallow marshlands in the south, where suspected Muslim militants are hiding.
The boats, worth $4 million, would be delivered late in 2007 and could also be used in shallow rivers in other parts of the country, where communist rebels have a strong presence.
Australia will also fund Filipino soldiers attending advanced training and education at Australian war colleges.
Australia's Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said aid would also be increased by almost A$32 million ($26 million) to the Philippines to help tackle poverty and boost infrastructure, with overall aid to reach A$100 million over the next year.
Arroyo was visiting Australia to try and boost trade and investment ties currently worth A$1.7 billion.
Australia has been trying to build security ties with Southeast Asian nations to crackdown on Jemaah Islamiah, blamed for bombings in Indonesia which have killed 92 Australians.

The Indian Education System

The Indian Economy Blog has a five-part (with more no doubt forthcoming) series on the Indian education system. I've just started reading them and so haven't yet read the entire series, but so far it's very interesting: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Books: Now Reading, Recently Read and Intending to Read

Younghusband has a Currently Reading post up over at Coming Anarchy. As Chicago Boy Lexington Green, who has his own post up, says: I am a sucker for that kind of thing. Me too. But no sooner had I put up a Currently Reading post a couple of months ago than I put those books aside and started reading other things.

Right now I'm just about finished with Brink Lindsey's The Age of Abundance: How Prosperity Transformed America's Politics and Culture, which is excellent. Next on the agenda is John Robb's Brave New War which arrived the other day.

Instead of reading the books I had posted about a couple of months ago I started reading some fiction for the first time in about 6 years. All were good but Alan Furst's Dark Star was the best. This was the first Furst I've read and I will be reading more, it was excellent. It's a spy novel whose main character is a reporter for Pravda who gets sucked into a variety of intrigues in the late 30s. Eric Ambler's Journey into Fear was also good although the writing is not the same quality as Furst. One of the guys at Volokh, I think it was Ilya Somin, had a post about reading Mario Puzo's The Godfather and that planted the seed that prompted the read.
I recently picked up En L'air: Three Years on and Above Three Fronts by Bert Hall, the memoir of an American who served in the French air force during WW1 including some time with Lafayette Escadrille and was sent to Russia as an advisor where he toured front line aviation units, saw a little bit of combat and was present when the Russian Revolution broke out. And yesterday I stopped in at a branch of a Hagerstown, MD used bookstore, Wonder Books, that was closing so all books were $1 and picked up: The Exploring Spirit: America & the New World Then & Now by Daniel Boorstin; War and Anti-War by Alvin and Heidi Toffler; Freedom of Speech and Press in Early American History: Legacy of Suppression by Leonard Levy; and The New Industrial Society by Bernard Weisberger.

Our First Revolution

Andrew Roberts, author of A History of the English-Speaking Peoples Since 1900, has a good review of Michael Barone's new book, Our First Revolution: The Remarkable British Upheaval That Inspired America's Founding Fathers, that looks to be a good read. I'll have to add it to my "must read" list (which keeps getting longer and longer):

When the English-speaking peoples consider the forces that have made them the global hegemonic political culture since the mid-19th century--representative institutions, the rule of law, religious toleration and property rights among them--they look back to Britain's "Glorious" Revolution of 1688. What at first looks merely like a minor coup d'état that replaced the Catholic King James II with his Protestant Dutch nephew and son-in-law, King William III, was much more than that. It heralded nothing less than a complete realignment of worldview for the Anglosphere. It changed everything.
Michael Barone, the distinguished political commentator and co-author of "The Almanac of American Politics," demonstrates both an encyclopedic knowledge of late 17th-century European politics and a keen appreciation of their long-term implications. He sees in the Glorious Revolution--which he dubs The First Revolution--the genesis of "changes in English law, governance and politics that turned out to be major advances for representative government, guaranteeing liberties, global capitalism, and a foreign policy of opposing hegemonic powers." He argues that it was essentially in defense of the rights won in 1688 that the American colonists rose against George III in 1776.
...
Everything that flowed from the Whig victory of 1688--limited government, the Bank of England, tradable national debt, triennial Parliaments, mercantilism, free enterprise, an aggressively anti-French foreign policy, the union with Scotland, eventually the Hanoverian Succession and the Industrial Revolution--combined to make the English-speaking peoples powerful. Mr. Barone proves beyond doubt how much the Glorious Revolution inspired the Founding Fathers to launch their own, with Virginia gentlemen farmers seeing themselves as the heirs of England's revolutionary aristocrats. The 1689 Bill of Rights in Britain thus unquestionably paved the way to the American Bill of Rights of 1791.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Today's Quote: Literary Imagination and Religion

In the framework of the colloquium "Religious Studies and the Humanities: Theories of Interpretation," sponsored by our department, I gave a lecture on literary imagination and religious studies. It is the first time that I speak in public about my literary writings and their relationship to the history of religions, such, at least as I conceive it to be. I didn't have enough time to develop more than a few ideas. I said first of all that a literary work is an instrument of knowledge. The imaginary universes created in novels, stories, and tales reveal certain values and meanings unique to the human condition which, without them, would remain unknown, or, at the very least, imperfectly understood. I also emphasized the existential necessity of narration, whatever the form chosen by the writer to express himself may be. The "death of the novel" proclaimed by some following Finnegan's Wake, Glasperlenspiel, or Doctor Faustus doesn't seem obvious to me. One can at most speak of the death of the realistic, psychological, or social novel, or of models that have become outdated (Balzac, Tolstoy, Proust, etc.) But true epic literature--that is, the novel, the story, the tale--cannot disappear as such, for the literary imagination is the continuation of mythological creativity and oneiric experience. Narration has infinite possibilities, for infinite are the number of characters or "events," both in life or in history and in the parallel universes forged by the creative imagination.

All the same, I did not emphasize sufficiently the similarities between religious phenomena and literary creation. Just as all religious phenomena are hierophantic (in the sense that they reveal the sacred in a profane object or act), literary creation unveils the universal and exemplary meanings hidden in men and in the most commonplace events.


From Journal III 1970-78 by Mircea Eliade

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Syrian Puppet Mastery?

Fatah al Islam aims at creating an "Emirate" (Islamist principality as in the Taliban model) in the Sunni areas of Lebanon, and is planning on conducting operations similar to the ones in the Sunni Triangle of Iraq. But according to the Lebanese Government and terrorism experts, the group is being secretly supported by the Syrian regime of Bashar Assad. The question arises in the West about the logic of having a so-called “secular” Baathist regime supporting an “Islamic Fundamentalist” organization. First, the Baathist logic is to use groups not necessarily carrying its Pan-Arab ideology to attack the regime’s foes and achieve strategic goals: For decades, the Assad (father) regime supported and used the national-socialist SSNP (Syrian neo-Nazi organization), the Christian war lord Frangieh, the Maronite militiaman Elie Hobeika, Arab Socialist factions, the Shiia Jihadist Hezbollah and most importantly a roster of Jihadi Sunni networks. From Tripoli to Sidon, the Assads' regime manipulated Harakat al Tawheed al Islamee and the Gamaat Islamiya, both al Qaeda-like Jihadists. Inside the Palestinian camps of Lebanon, the Syrian Mukahabarat remote controlled many groupings – Jihadi in their ideology and outlook, but feeding from the Baathist machine.

The Fatah al Islam is the latest marriage of convenience between a group of committed Jihadists, rotating in the al Qaeda’s constellation but gravitating around Damascus influence. The group accepts Bashar’s support and the Syrian regime tolerates the organization’s “Sunni” outlook: Both have a common enemy, even though they may come at each other’s throats in the future. The men of Bin Laden anywhere in the world, including in Lebanon, have the same standing order: Bringing down the moderate Arab and Muslim Governments (even in multiethnic societies) and replace them with Emirates. The men of Bashar Assad and Mahmoud Ahmedinijad have converging goals, bring down the democratically elected Government in Lebanon and replace it with a Hizbollah-Syrian dominated regime, as was the case before 2005. Thus each “axis” has one objective in Lebanon: crush the Seniora Government. They will take all their time to fight each other after.

Today's clashes between the al Qaeda linked terror network and the Lebanese Army are a prelude to terror preparations aimed at crumbling the Cedars Revolution, both Government and civil society this summer. It is a move by the Assad regime to weaken the cabinet and the army in preparation for a greater offensive later on by Hizbollah on another front. In short the Damascus-Tehran strategic planners have unleashed this “local” al Qaeda group in Tripoli to drag the Lebanese cabinet in side battles, deflecting its attention from the two main events, highly threatening to Assad: One is the forthcoming UN formed Tribunal in the assassination case of Rafiq Hariri. The second is the pending deployment of UN units on the Lebanese-Syrian borders. Both developments can isolate the Syrian regime. Thus, the Fatah al Islam attacks can be perceived as part of a preemptive strategy by the Tehran-Damascus axis.


By Walid Phares at the Counterterrorism Blog.

On Puppet Master 5GW.

The Puppet Masters

More 5GW explorations by Purpleslog:

The Puppet Master 5GW is the small empowered group behind the scenes.

They use/discard/co-opt/create 4GW-ish orgs to further their own 5GW goals.

Targeted assassination may be used as a special skill of the small group) but it will be of the the type that appears to be Actor A attacked by Actor B (not the 5GW group), or of natural causes/accidents.

Usually, the Puppet Master 5GW will employ direct kinetic tactics however

The Puppet Master 5GW will look a bit like the classic conspiracy theory group, and I think that is where it starts.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Who's the Voice of America?

Michael Moore received a standing -- and sustained -- ovation following the screening of his latest documentary, Sicko, at the Cannes Film Festival Saturday.

(Via Instapundit)

This is pretty ordinary news, there's nothing unusual about a standing ovation at a film festival. But there is a lesson here in the ordinary: Bowling for Columbine, Fahrenheit 9/11, and now Sicko have done more to shape international opinions about America than our own official public diplomacy. Government PD is no match for Michael Moore and the many others who are spinning the narrative that will define America for the world. Michael Moore is not a government agency; he doesn't have to go to Congress for funding; he doesn't have to submit to oversight from Congress, the President, a board of governors etc; he doesn't have to battle against a long-standing institutional culture; he is not at the mercy of election cycles. He can keep pumping his message out year after year. And all the exchange programs and other outdated Cold War-era tools can't do anything about it. Michael Moore is the voice of America for millions around the world.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Googling "Meme War"

I've been googling "meme" and "meme war" to try discover what others have been thinking and have come across some good reading including this post from The Speculist:

...isn't the War on Terror ultimately a memetic war? The self-replicating extremist Islamic ideas of worldwide Jihad and restoration of the Caliphate are up against the self-replicating Western ideas of political and religious liberty, equality of the sexes, etc. Or, depending on your ideological frame of mind (that is to say, your memes) the self-replicating Western ideas of hegemony and imperialism are up against the self-replicating developing-world ideas of cultural identity and independence.
Which ideas will win out? Those that are morally superior? Probably not. At least not because they're morally superior. Those that are most viable? That's more likely, but it depends on what you mean by "viable." Memetic theory tells us that memes (like the selfish genes of Richard Dawkins' book of the same name) win out based on their ability to reproduce themselves. From a meme standpoint, a typical chain-letter pyramid scam is more viable than, say, a marketing campaign to raise AIDs awareness. Celebrity gossip and urban legends have a lot more going for them memetically than boring (but useful) information about things like safety, nutrition, sound investment strategies, etc.
So from that standpoint, who's got the better memes (going back to that first dichotomy) -- the West with our individual liberty and separation of church and state, or the Islamic extremists with their certainty of glorious victory and paradise for the heroic martyrs? Both sets of ideas are pretty compelling and have an excellent record of reproducing themselves. A problem for the West is that some of our memes have evolved variations at odds with the original ideas. Tolerance of individuals -- which is essential to guaranteeing individual liberty and dignity -- has evolved into tolerance of cultures -- which perversely means not speaking out against societies that deny individual liberty and dignity to their citizens. This is how supporters of feminism, gay rights, and religious diversity can sometimes find themselves unable to criticize (or worse yet, effectively "on the same side" as) radical Islamists who want to create a society in which people who care about those issues would be permanently silenced...
From a memetic standpoint, this could be disastrous. If it isn't careful, the tolerance meme is going to reproduce
itself out of existence. Meanwhile, in the Islamic world, amongst the large majority of believers who are neither terrorists nor extremists, there are well-established self-replicating ideas in place about how Muslims ought to stick together and never oppose other Muslims. So while the Western meme-set is evolving antidotes to itself, the extremist Islamic meme-set is free to grow unhindered.
Ultimately, the fact that the West is militarily superior might not matter that much. Our memes can lose to their memes if theirs spread to us and we begin to reproduce them ourselves...or if ours continue to evolve away from being in opposition to theirs, which is what has happened to some extent with the tolerance meme.

George Orwell Online

I've recently come across a great online collection of writings by George Orwell including a variety of essays, reviews, poems, and novels. Orwell's writing has stood the test of time very well.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

A Moment of Clarity by Dirty Harry

The ability to make proper distinctions is essential for clear thinking:

No one in this country is without healthcare. No one in this country lacks healthcare. No one in this country is without access to healthcare. Anyone who wants healthcare in America can get it at any time. What people lack is health insurance. The difference between lacking healthcare and lacking health insurance is a profound one. If you don’t have insurance you can still get healthcare, you just have to pay for it yourself.
...
Contrary to popular belief Canada doesn’t have universal healthcare. What Canada has is universal health insurance. It can take years to get treated in Canada. That’s not healthcare. In Canada you’re insured by the state but can’t get treated. In America you can get treated but may have to pay yourself.

Citizen Self-Mobilization

Since 9/11 one of the most common complaints has been that in the aftermath of the attacks Bush did not call on people to serve their country or "sacrifice." The model that many people have in mind is WW2 where the entire society mobilized to wage war. But this model is not appropriate for the challenge we currently face. The threat from radical Islam does not require a top-down, government-directed mobilization of our society. In fact that would be more of a hindrance than an advantage in this war.

In our Army of Davids, Free Agent Nation, Smart Mobs era, the citizen today doesn't have to wait to be called to service by some politician. Citizens can choose on their own to act in what they believe is in the best interests of the country: citizen self-mobilization. There are a huge variety of non-violent actions that citizens can take domestically and internationally to counter the spread and influence of radical Islam, to wage the war of ideas, to create and disseminate a variety of media products, protests, boycotts, educating immigrants and current citizens about what we have that is worth defending and the ideas of liberty, etc. If you've got an idea about a way to fight radical Islam and promote a culture of liberty, then go with it, develop it, organize and take action (non-violently). This is decentralized, entrepreneurial, citizen-directed, self-organization and it is perfectly appropriate for our time, sensibilities, and opportunities.

ADDENDUM: A few days ago I posted an excerpt from an interview with David Hackett Fischer that included this example of "citizen self-mobilization":

[Fischer:] The Massachusetts towns were horrified that their right of resistance would be threatened in that way[General Gates' plan to seize stocks of gunpowder], and that galvanized many people, amongst them Paul Revere.

He organized a kind of intelligence organization, a voluntary association composed mainly of his fellow mechanics in Boston, and what they tried to do was to keep very close tabs on what General Gage was doing.

RELATED POSTS:
The Strategic Citizen and the Long War
The Strategic Citizen and Information Operations

Friday, May 18, 2007

Today's Quote: The Hero, the Citizen, and the Adventurous Enterprise

Heroism, which is, among other things, another word for self-reliance, is not only the indispensable prerequisite for productive citizenship in an open society; it is also that without which no individual or community can remain free. Moreover, as no one interested in either the objectives of democratic institutions or the image of democratic man can ever afford to forget, the concept of free enterprise has as much to do with adventurous speculations and improvisations in general as with the swashbuckling economics of, say, the Robber Barons.

From The Hero and the Blues by Albert Murray.

The Russo-Estonian War, Or How Vladimir Putin Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Unrestricted Warfare

The Putin regime has over the past few years been messing around with Russia's neighboring states, seeing how far he can go before the pushback begins. Estonia is the most recent target. After decades of Soviet occupation, Estonia is now a member of NATO and so this becomes a problem for the entire alliance. Since our allies can't be bothered to field armies of any significance, perhaps they can take the initiative in developing the capability to counter Putin's unrestricted warfare.

The Cyberwar

A three-week wave of massive cyber-attacks on the small Baltic country of Estonia, the first known incidence of such an assault on a state, is causing alarm across the western alliance, with Nato urgently examining the offensive and its implications.
While Russia and Estonia are embroiled in their worst dispute since the collapse of the Soviet Union, a row that erupted at the end of last month over the Estonians' removal of the Bronze Soldier Soviet war memorial in central Tallinn, the country has been subjected to a barrage of cyber warfare, disabling the websites of government ministries, political parties, newspapers, banks, and companies.
...
The main targets have been the websites of:
· the Estonian presidency and its parliament
· almost all of the country's government ministries
· political parties
· three of the country's six big news organisations
· two of the biggest banks; and firms specializing in communications
...
"We have been lucky to survive this," said Mikko Maddis, Estonia's defence ministry spokesman. "People started to fight a cyber-war against it right away. Ways were found to eliminate the attacker."
The attacks have come in three waves: from April 27, when the Bronze Soldier riots erupted, peaking around May 3; then on May 8 and 9 - a couple of the most celebrated dates in the Russian calendar, when the country marks Victory Day over Nazi Germany, and when President Vladimir Putin delivered another hostile speech attacking Estonia and indirectly likening the Bush administration to the Hitler regime; and again this week.
...
"At present, Nato does not define cyber-attacks as a clear military action. This means that the provisions of Article V of the North Atlantic Treaty, or, in other words collective self-defence, will not automatically be extended to the attacked country," said the Estonian defence minister, Jaak Aaviksoo.

(h/t Red Alerts and Gateway Pundit)


Political Operations

Estonia’s national security police have said that the nation’s Constitution Party, which ran but did not win any seats in the March parliamentary elections, is managed and financed by the Russian authorities and is a project to undermine and act against Estonia. The statement was made in the police’s yearbook and reported May 18.

"It is a peculiar combination that is striving to represent the entire Russian-speaking population of Estonia, yet its main financiers and ideological supporters are diplomats from the Russian embassy in Tallinn, various departments of the Moscow city government, Russian media, and various contacts of Russian special services," the security police’s yearbook says.

The police claim Russia has been backing the party clandestinely through funding for cultural projects and other events.

"By written application from the Russian embassy, the Constitution Party would seek additional money from authorities in Moscow as well as from Russian businessmen in Estonia," the yearbook said

The party is mainly supported by the Russian-speaking minority, but received only 5.470 votes in this year’s elections. A far greater portion of Russian-speakers in Estonia support the Center Party, chaired by current Tallinn mayor Edgar Savisaar.

The Economic War

The extent of Russia’s punitive measures against Estonia for moving the Soviet war memorial became clearer last week after Leningrad region officials placed restrictions on trucks crossing the Narva bridge and oil traders revealed that shipments via the Baltic state had declined by one-third so far in May.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Today's Quote: Taoist and Confucian Political Thought during the Han Dynasty

According to the political philosophy of Taoism, a good government is not one that does many things, but on the contrary that does as little as possible. Therefore if a sage-king rules, he should try to undo the bad effects caused by the over-government of his predecessor. This was precisely what the people of the early part of the Han dynasty needed, for one of the troubles with the Ch'in had been that it had had too much government. Hence when the founder of the Han dynasty, Emperor Kao-tsu, led his victorious revolutionary army toward Ch'ang-an, the Ch'in capital in present Shensi province, he announced to the people his "three-item contract": Persons committing homicide were to receive capital punishment; those injuring or stealing were to be punished accordingly; but aside from these simple provisions, all other laws and regulations of the Ch'in government were to be abolished...In this way the founder of the Han dynasty was practicing the "learning of Huang and Lao," even though, no doubt, he was quite unconscious of the fact.

Thus the Taoist philosophy accorded well with the needs of the rulers of the earlier part of the Han dynasty, whose policy it was to undo what the Ch'in government had done, and to give the country a chance to recuperate from its long and exhausting wars. When this end had been accomplished, however, the Taoist philosophy became no longer practical, and a more constructive program was called for. This the rulers found in Confucianism.

The social and political philosophy of Confucianism is both conservative yet at the same time revolutionary. It is conservative in that it is essentially a philosophy of aristocracy, yet it is revolutionary in that it gave a new interpretation of this aristocracy. It maintained the distinction between superior man and small man, which had been generally accepted in the feudal China of Confucius' time. But at the same time it insisted that this distinction should not be based, as originally, upon birth, but rather individual talent and virtue. Therefore, it considered it quite right that the virtuous and talented among the people should be the ones to occupy noble and high positions in society.
...
In Chinese history, there have been periods of political and social confusion and disorder, when people have had little time or interest in classical scholarship, and have been inclined to criticize the existing political and social system. At such times, therefore, Confucianism has naturally tended to weaken and Taoism to become strong. Taoism has then supplied sharp criticism against the existing political and social system, as well as an escapist system of thought for avoiding harm and danger. These are exactly what meet the desires of a people living in an age of disorder and confusion.


From A Short History of Chinese Philosophy by Fung Yu-Lan.

Congress shall make no law...

The war against freedom of speech continues as Democrats look to be edging closer to attempting to use their newly won power to re-impose the Orwellian-named "Fairness Doctrine." What the left can't achieve through peaceful competition and rational persuasion it will seek to impose through governmental power. At this point neither major party can be relied upon to respect the Constitution and the basic principles of a free society. Even though so-called "campaign finance reform" originated on the left, it was a Republican congress and a Republican president that made the egregious and obvious violation of free speech that is McCain-Feingold, law. Free societies require ongoing maintenance and we have a lot of work to do to preserve what we have achieved.

The Dambusters

Today is the 64th anniversary of the RAF's famous Dambuster Raid--Operation Chastise--where 133 men in 19 Lancaster bombers successfully destroyed several German dams. The cost was high: 8 bombers were shot down, 53 men killed and 3 captured. Richard Fernandez has an excellent remembrance essay at Pajamas Media.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Today's Quote: Taoist Art and Creative Spontaneity

According to the twentieth century writer and artist Mai-Mai Sze, painting in China 'is not a profession but an extension of the art of living, for the practice of the tao of painting is part of the traditional tao of conduct and thought, of living in harmony with the laws of Tao.' Moreover, this is an art which manifests most expressively the element of creative spontaneity which is central to Daoist thinking, even the aim of life, and which bids us not to attempt to impose our wills on nature, or to struggle with the obduracy of our own limitations, but to achieve an inner freedom which transcends the narrow demands of ego.

This psycho-spiritual feature of Chinese art is one which has increasingly attracted the attention of Western commentators in recent years, particularly in so far as it contrasts with mainstream traditional European approaches. Whereas in the West the emphasis has been largely on the art object, and, until the twentieth century at least, on its representational element, in China the main focus of interest, particularly in the Daoist context, has been more on the process of artistic creation itself, and indeed on its fundamentally religious nature. Painting was seen not just as a way of producing an aesthetic object, or even as merely an object of spiritual contemplation, but as an expressive act, more precisely as a way of achieving and manifesting and circulating qi. As such it is a form of yoga which directly parallels other forms of yoga; including that of the bedchamber. Painters, suitably prepared through quiet sitting and through the lifelong absorption of nature into their very being, achieve a state of emptiness out of which the painting emerges spontaneously yet with utmost artistry, thus imitating and indeed participating in the way in which the world of nature itself emerges spontaneously yet with the utmost harmony out of the primal emptiness of the dao...

At one level the creative activity of the artist is therefore nothing less than the Daoist quest for recovery of the dao, for that emptiness which is the root of the 'thousand things', and from the Tang period onwards landscape painting became intimately related to the meditation practices of both Daoist and Chan monks. It manifested itself even more widely amongst the literati as a form of aestheticism, as the cultivation of a certain kind of refined sensibility which merges imperceptibly with what we would standardly describe as 'spiritual' or 'mystical' practices. Jordan Paper has pointed out that the meditation practices of Daoists and Buddhists that emerged during and after the period following the Han dynasty were not necessarily oriented towards mystical experiences in the full sense, but were manifested through aesthetic activities such as painting, poetry and music. Such practices displayed ecstatic elements, sometimes assisted by wine, and though in a sense ritualised (for example, in the grinding of the ink and the manipulation of the brush), they were not part of any formal religious ceremony or practice. In this way, Paper argues, there emerged at that period a unique relationship between aesthetic and religious activity in China where artistic activities became 'an alternative mode of religious behavior for the traditional elite', particularly amongst those who had retired from office or were in exile. Moreover, for such people aesthetic activity was an effective means to express and assert individuality and the values of self-expression, and hence could be pursued as a reaction against 'the rigidly conformist and non-self-assertive nature of most of their lives and occupations'.


From The Tao of the West: Western Transformations of Taoist Thought by J.J. Clarke.

Monday, May 14, 2007

"Liberty is of great value for us"

The Prague Post has a nice story about residents of Plzen, Czech Republic celebrating the May 1945 liberation of their town by American troops.

For more than 40 years after U.S. forces drove Nazi Germany from Plzeň, west Bohemia, an important truth was kept quiet. Although this event was known as the “liberation” of Plzeň, the city continued to suffer under the oppressive censorship of Soviet communism, and schoolchildren were taught that it was the Russians who freed Plzeň from the Nazis’ grip. 
But private memories persisted. Many people remembered the massive celebration when the Americans rolled into town in May 1945. Families secretly kept photos, and some even hid U.S. military vehicles that had been left behind.

Now, official amnesia has been abolished, and the town’s collective memory of the U.S. liberation has been celebrated each year since 1990. Late in the morning May 6, closing day of the 18th annual event, hundreds of people lined the streets under a sky that threatened rain to watch a convoy of dozens of historical U.S. military vehicles — mostly jeeps — make its way down Plzeň’s main drag. In them sat Czechs outfitted largely in U.S. Army camouflage and waving American flags. A few passengers cried as their jeeps drove down Klatovská street, re-enacting the liberation.
...
Along the streets, locals dressed in U.S. military uniforms waved the stars and stripes. 
“It’s a tradition for us because liberty is of great value for us,” said Andrea Řeháčková, 35, of Plzeň, as she waited with her husband and their 4-year-old son for the parade to start. “It’s a nice show for our son.”

Perched in one of the jeeps was Earl Ingram, 84, a U.S. veteran from North Carolina. It was his division, the 2nd Infantry, that liberated the city in 1945. Before his jeep took off down the parade route this year, he recalled his first trip down that same street 62 years ago. “The most memorable thing is how happy the people were,” he said. Since 1990, he has attended the celebration 13 times.

Doug Brackenbrough, 75, a Korean War veteran, came over from Washington state for the celebration. His eyes teared when he remembered driving through a small Czech town in 2002 with the convoy and passing a crying elderly couple holding a sign that read, “Thank you America.”

“The outpouring of appreciation and patriotism in this country is much greater than in our own,” he said.
Lee Dashiell, a 40-year-old U.S. filmmaker capturing the event, was also surprised by the large turnout. 
Dashiell was at the event with his business partner, Robert Galloway, 39, to make a documentary about the liberation festivities. The two men own Osprey HD, a South Carolina film company that shoots in high definition for The History Channel, The Discovery Channel and other clients. The one-hour film they are making will likely air on one of those two U.S.-based channels, they said.

They knew about the celebration from Galloway’s father-in-law, who is General George Patton’s grandson. Patton led the Allied forces into Plzeň and was ordered to stop nearby so the Soviets could liberate Prague. In Dýšina, a small town 5 kilometers (3 miles) outside of Plzeň, Patton’s grandson, George Patton Waters, attended a dedication ceremony to a statue of his grandfather standing still but peering toward Prague, a city he wanted to free.

Also in Dýšina, Czech actors dressed in German and U.S. army gear re-enacted a battle complete with machine guns, smoke bombs and pyrotechnics. Bryan Denny, a U.S. Army officer and Iraq War veteran stationed in Germany, explained the battlefield maneuvers: The Americans made a first attempt to overcome the Nazis but were pushed back. A second attempt also failed, but a third try “pressed home the fight.” By then, Denny was satisfied. “I think I know how it’s going to end now,” Denny said and walked away.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Today's Quote: The Dance of Shiva

Dancing is an ancient form of magic. The dancer becomes amplified into a being endowed with supra-normal powers. His personality is transformed. Like yoga, the dance induces trance, ecstasy, the experience of the divine, the realization of one's own secret nature, and, finally, mergence into the divine essence. In India consequently the dance has flourished side by side with the terrific austerities of the meditation grove--fasting, breathing exercises, absolute introversion. To work magic, to put enchantments upon others, one has first to put enchantments on oneself. And this is effected as well by dance as by prayer, fasting and meditation. Shiva, therefore, the arch-yogi of the gods, is necessarily also the master of the dance.

Pantomimic dance is intended to transmute the dancer into whatever demon, god, or earthly existence he impersonates. The war dance, for example, converts the men who execute it into warriors; it arouses their warlike virtues and turns them into fearless heros. And the hunting-party dance-pantomime, which magically anticipates and assures the successes of the hunting party, makes of the participants unerring huntsmen. To summon from dormancy the nature-powers attendant upon fruitfulness, dancers mimic the gods of vegetation, sexuality and rain.

The dance is an act of creation. It brings about a new situation and summons into the dancer a new and higher personality. It has a cosmogonic function, in that it arouses dormant energies which then may shape the world. On a universal scale, Shiva is the Cosmic Dancer; in his "Dancing Manifestation"...he embodies in himself and simultaneously gives manifestation to Eternal Energy. The forces gathered and projected in his frantic, ever-enduring gyration, are the powers of the evolution, maintenance, and dissolution of the world. Nature and all its creatures are the effects of his eternal dance.


From Myths and Symbols in Indian Art and Civilization by Heinrich Zimmer

The Strategic Citizen and the Long War

I was going through some old files and came across this text. It was originally written and posted as a comment at Zenpundit some time ago (not sure exactly when) where I presented some of my thoughts on the "strategic citizen." Since I have a blog now, I figured I would repost it here:

We are conditioned to think of war as government activity and for the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd generations of war that is true. But once the 4th generation+ appears it is no longer a war waged by governments against governments. Our free societies are comprised of government and civil society. The moral level is something that is better handled by the civil society component. We recognize the importance of the "strategic corporal", well in civil society we need to recognize the role of the "strategic citizen". In the kind of war we are now fighting ordinary citizens can have a strategic impact. In free societies it is the government's job to guarantee freedom of speech. It is not authorized to pick and choose among the variety of speech its citizens choose to engage in. Rather, it is the role of the citizen to step up to the plate and compete. Islamic fundamentalists are free to try to persuade people to their point of view, to wage media campaigns, hire lobbyists, and propagate their ideas. As long as they are not breaking the law, government has no role. But citizens do have a role. The kind of war we are in now is different from what we faced in the past. Citizens have a strategic role to play in this war. In fact the only way we can win this war is if citizens assume the responsibility of waging the war within civil society and wage campaigns within the context of civil society to counter Islamist activity. "Strategic citizens" need to create networks, develop ideas, and persuade those who are vulnerable to the Islamist message to adopt a vision of a society "conceived in liberty". They need to become advocates for what we have in the West that is worth defending.

Last year when we were first discussing 5GW, I suggested that we look at the Italian socialist Antonio Gramsci's idea of cultural hegemony as a possible contender. One of the internal conflicts within socialism in the early 20th century was the fact that the working class was not inclined to fulfill its "assigned" role as the revolutionary agent. Some socialists solved this problem by aligning with authoritarian nationalists and replacing the working class with "the nation" as the revolutionary agent, thus giving us fascism. But Gramsci concluded that the failure to radicalize the workers was because liberal capitalism had achieved cultural hegemony, and thus was unconsciously accepted as "common sense". Therefore socialist ideas were rejected out of hand. The plan then was for socialists to engage in a strategy to achieve cultural hegemony for their ideas. This is exactly what Islamic fundamentalists are doing. They are first achieving hegemony within Muslim communities in the West and then by demanding special concessions for their Islamist views, seeking hegemony in Western societies generally. Western democratic governments are not organized to deal with this kind of threat. In the West we break things up into different categories: religion and politics, politics and war, war and crime. And depending on how a particular act is categorized determines how we respond to it and whether government action is authorized. But the Islamic fundamentalists don't necessarily think in terms of our categories. For them religion, politics, war and crime are undifferentiated. One of the biggest problems we have in the West is recognizing the threat and that is because it doesn't fit into our categories. We look at what they are doing and we say "That's no threat, it's not war. It's just people practicing their religion, engaging in normal politics. That's nothing more than a criminal act, law enforcement can handle it."

There will come a time when Islamists will realize that terrorism is counterproductive in the West. That they can achieve their goals through boycotts, protests, marches, lobbying, media campaigns and electoral politics. Is that still war? There is a point where politics and war become indistinguishable. And at that point it isn't government that will lead the way, but, rather, citizens. Citizens motivated by the ideals of the free society, creating associations to further those ideals, and waging a war of ideas to defend their civilization.

So what will it take for citizens to become "strategic citizens"? To recognize their potential and to have the will and drive to act? The war on the moral level is a citizen responsibility. How do we wage that war?

RELATED POSTS:
Citizen Self-Mobilization
The Strategic Citizen and Information Operations

An Analogy

Britain and the United States are to the free society
what New Orleans and New York were to jazz.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Today's Quote: What is an Individual?

What is an individual? Wherein does his identity reside? All novels seek to answer these questions. By what, exactly, is the self defined? By what a character does, by his actions? Yet action gets away from its author, almost always turns on him. By his mental life, then? By his thoughts, by his hidden feelings? But is a man capable of self-understanding? Can his secret thoughts be a key to his identity? Or, rather, is man defined by his vision of the world, by his ideas, by his Weltanschauung? This was Dostoyevski's aesthetic: his characters are rooted in a very distinctive personal ideology, according to which they act with unbending logic. For Tolstoy, on the other hand, personal ideology is far from a stable basis for personal identity: "Stepan Arkadievich chose neither his attitudes nor his opinions, no, the attitudes and opinions came to him on their own, just as he chose neither the style of his hats nor of his coats but got what people were wearing" (Anna Karenina). But if personal thought is not the basis of an individual's identity (if it has no more importance than a hat), then where do we find that basis?

To this unending investigation, Thomas Mann brought his very important contribution: we think we act, we think we think, but it is another or others who think and act in us: that is to say, timeless habits, archetypes, which--having become myths passed on from one generation to the next--carry an enormous seductive power and control us (says Mann) from "the well of the past."


From Testaments Betrayed: An Essay in Nine Parts by Milan Kundera.

David Hackett Fischer Interview

I've been browsing through the transcript archives of C-SPAN's Booknotes (which unfortunately came to an end a few years ago) and came across this interview with David Hackett Fischer about his book Paul Revere's Ride. Here are a few excerpts that I found interesting:

LAMB: Before we continue on Paul Revere, why should anybody care about him today?

FISCHER: I think he had a message for us as well. To me, the interest of the story is partly that. I think we can see a kind of message, first of all, in what he was doing. For me it was mainly the kind of collective effort in that cause of freedom, and we forgot about that. We forgot about both sides of it, sometimes. I think people on the left today, some of my colleagues at academe, tend to forget about American ideas of freedom. People on the right tend to forget about collective action. Paul Revere and his friends brought those two things together, and I think that's a message for us.
...
He had an idea of freedom that's different from ours. For us freedom means personal entitlement. It means individual autonomy. For Paul Revere it was that, but it was also an idea of a community running its own affairs, and that meant a sense of personal responsibility to that community. He had a kind of balance in that idea which sometimes, I think, we've lost. I think that's another meaning, another message for us today.
...
LAMB: Let's go to the title of this book, Paul Revere's Ride. What was the atmosphere leading to the ride?

FISCHER: One beginning point would be in the fall of 1774 when General Gage was trying to do another part of his program, which was to disarm the people of New England. He thought that the way to do that was probably to seize their gunpowder. They could not manufacture their own gunpowder in quantity in 1774, and so in September he seized the largest supply in Massachusetts. This caused something that was called the "powder alarm." It was another event that people always remembered. The Massachusetts towns were horrified that their right of resistance would be threatened in that way, and that galvanized many people, amongst them Paul Revere.

He organized a kind of intelligence organization, a voluntary association composed mainly of his fellow mechanics in Boston, and what they tried to do was to keep very close tabs on what General Gage was doing. When there were signs that General Gage was striking at the next major powder supply, which was in New Hampshire, Paul Revere made an earlier ride up to Portsmouth in very bad weather -- December it was -- and he got the message there before General Gage's troops could seize that powder. There were a series of other events like that in the winter in which the two sides were increasingly coming to the edge of hostilities.
...
LAMB: If you were a Tory back then, and a Whig, what would be the main differences in your philosophy?

FISCHER: The main difference was really over the question of whether to resist British rule or to support it. I think it came down to two ideas of freedom, those two ideas that Paul Revere and General Gage personified: on the one hand the sense of self-rule; on the other hand the idea of the rule of law under Parliament. They were two ideas, two ideals, that these groups were fighting for, and they didn't call it the American revolution. They called it a civil war, and it was that way for most of them.

62 Years of Solitude

The UN can do little harm as long as it is universally understood that it operates according to the principles of magical realism.

From the Belmont Club

Connections

An interesting World War One tale comes full circle:

Their connection began in 1918, when rookie American pilot Walter Avery shot down a famous German ace during a fierce dogfight, then landed his aircraft to carve a symbolic piece from the vanquished pilot's plane. 
   
 Yesterday, 89 years later, it was brought full circle when Mr. Avery's daughter, Bette Avery Applegate, presented that remnant of German ace Karl Menckhoff's plane to his son, Gerhard Menckhoff, in a poignant ceremony at a gathering of the League of World War I Aviation Historians. 
    
"It's back home where it belongs, and I think my father would feel the same way," said Mrs. Applegate, 82, of the large cloth "M" that her father cut from the ace's plane. 
    
"I never would have thought that it would come around full circle this way," said Mr. Menckhoff after the emotional ceremony. 
    
Their fathers encountered each other near the end of the war. The dogfight was the American pilot's first, and high over the French countryside he was unaware that he was battling a decorated German ace. 
    
Mr. Menckhoff had tallied 39 victories -- far above the five required for the official classification of an "ace." He earned the Pour le Merite, the highest honor given by the German Imperial Army during WWI. His plane was festooned with three large "M"s to mark his prestige. 
    
But on July 25, 1918, both pilots were dueling for their lives. 
   
 "Both guns jammed," Mr. Avery wrote in his diary. "While clearing the jams he got on my tail and put two bullets in my left wing. ... I did a retournment and with the resulting speed was able to stand vertically on my tail and give him a good burst. He started to lose altitude and went down in a tight spiral. I followed him, shooting, and saw him crash in the woods. ..." 
    
Mr. Avery landed and drove to the crash, where Mr. Menckhoff had survived and been taken prisoner by French soldiers. 
    
The American pilot strode to the wreckage and carefully cut the large letter "M" from the side of the plane, a symbol of his first victory and the accomplished airman he had overcome. 
    
And then, after the war, the piece of fabric sat in a trunk in his home for 60 years, Mrs. Applegate said. His family did not discover it until he died in 1978.

Mr. Menckhoff escaped from the French prisoner of war camp in a movielike escapade and made his way to Switzerland, his son said. He later moved there and raised a family, never mentioning the war. He died when the younger Mr. Menckhoff was 11. 
    
The pilot's son did not realize his father's prowess until his mother told him after his father's death. 
   
"Suddenly I realized he was quite a hero in the First World War," he said. 
    
The two families were reunited a year and a half ago when Mrs. Applegate's daughter, Jeanne Applegate Ferrari of Annapolis, read about the dogfight and learned that Mr. Menckhoff lived in the District.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Today's Quote: The Grand Challenge of Literature

Literature remains alive only if we set ourselves immeasurable goals, far beyond all hope of achievement. Only if poets and writers set themselves tasks that no one else dares imagine will literature continue to have a function. Since science has begun to distrust general explanations and solutions that are not sectorial and specialized, the grand challenge for literature is to be capable of weaving together the various branches of knowledge, the various 'codes,' into a manifold and multifaceted vision of the world.

From Six Memos for the Next Millenium, by Italo Calvino

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Where is the Republican Vision?

Steven Warshawski at the American Thinker blog asks in a recent post, Where is the Republican Vision?:

As for the other candidates, they all, more or less, mouthed the "correct" Republican positions on Iraq, taxes, abortion (except Giuliani and, to a lesser extent, Gilmore), stem cell research, and the various other items, mostly trivial, that the moderators decided to ask about.  But holding "conservative" positions on a set of discrete issues is not the same thing as possessing a real vision for the future of America, let alone offering a practical political program for achieving it.

This lack of vision spells trouble for the Republican Party in 2008.  The American people, on both the left and the right, are dissatisfied with the state of the country today.  They do not want to continue along the same course we are on, whether the issue is Iraq or immigration or health care or the family or [fill in the blank].  They are going to want their next president to speak in terms of "change" and "reform."  The candidate who is best able to harness this mood and attach it to a coherent political program is going to be our next president.
...
The bottom line is that if Republicans do not offer a compelling conservative vision for America, rather than just a series of issue positions, they will have little chance of winning the White House in 2008.  Based on last week's debate, there is a palpable vision deficit among the current crop of Republican presidential candidates.  It still is early, of course.  My advice to the candidates is to go home and think long and hard why the American people must elect them president in 2008.  If they cannot answer that question in convincing fashion, they should get out of the race, or be prepared to lose.       

Unfortunately Warshawki's advice will not be successful. The problem of the "vision deficit among the current crop of Republican presidential candidates" is more fundamental.

A political movement whose motto is "Standing athwart history yelling stop" is not likely to be fertile ground for developing inspiring visions of the future. This failure of vision is rooted in the inaptness of attempting to transplant a European-style "conservatism" to America. The American Experiment is not conservative and never has been. The very idea of a society being an experiment is the antithesis of conservatism. The conservatives in Europe were trying to preserve a pre-modern social order against a rising modernity. That effort was a failure. Industrialization, liberalism, socialism, nationalism, the scientific revolution and other aspects of modernization transformed European society and the pre-modern world conservatives were defending is gone. America never had the kind of pre-modern social order that existed in Europe and much of the rest of the world. America has been a country of tremendous dynamism: we have been willing to experiment with social, political, religious, economic and other institutions. America is the quintessence of modernity. I have no idea why anyone would think that a backward-looking Old World conservatism would be appropriate, let alone even possible, in a future-oriented, entrepreneurial, dynamic America populated by a people driven to build a better future. Or why anyone would think that branding this dynamic American Experiment as "conservative" is a good marketing decision.

If we want to inspire people with a future vision of America, that (unlike conservatism) can successfully counter the socialistic-technocratic vision of the left, then we have to engage in political entrepreneurship, and create a movement that is an appropriate vehicle for the true spirit of the American Experiment. And that spirit has nothing to do with "standing athwart history yelling stop," it's about looking into the future and saying "let's go!"

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Today's Quote

...for if Islamists are out to destroy America, they're equally determined to subdue and colonize Europe. For them, it's no mere historical fact that most of Iberia and large swaths of Eastern Europe were once integral parts of the Islamic empire. Now, nearly the whole of Western Europe is practically in their grasp. Western Europeans, having already abandoned their religion and scorned their national identities, have little that matters to rally around. The backbone of America is it's people's determination to honor and build upon their heritage of freedom; by contrast, Western Europeans--whose '68-er elites have sought to make them feel ashamed of their heritage, contemptuous of their freedom, and willing and eager to settle for any kind of "peace" at any cost--have been encouraged, and permitted, to take pride only in the supreme achievements of their social-democratic systems: multiculturalism, the welfare state, and the "European project." It's as if Europe, after all the horrors it inflicted on itself in the twentieth century in the name of God and country and Volk, were determined to yank up all its roots, pull down all its flags, and base its sense of identity on safely superficial things. Yet as current events are proving, a civilization with so prosaic a self-understanding is a house of cards, easily toppled by a foreign people possessed of a fierce, all subsuming sense of who they are and what they believe.

From While Europe Slept: How Radical Islam Is Destroying The West From Within by Bruce Bawer

Saturday, May 5, 2007

Creating Permanent Foreign Military Training & Advisory Units

Westhawk offers an excellent idea in his commentary on the Phil Carter/Austin Bay discussion:

The U.S. Army and Marines Corps have had to improvise a large foreign military training and advisory structure in Iraq and Afghanistan and have had to reorganize and cannibalize some of their conventional formations to do this. This work was previously the specialty of the special operating forces. But those forces are instead taken up with special reconnaissance and raid missions worldwide. Even though the advisory team effort is the only sure exit strategy from these wars, the effort received only secondary support from the Pentagon. And being an improvised effort, it is certain that advisory team members were lacking in language and cultural skills in a region where trusting relationships are very difficult to establish.

Instead of Mr. Carter’s vast new armies of unusable and untrainable mechanized infantry and armored battalions, the U.S. military needs a new permanent foreign military training and advisory establishment. The structure that has been improvised in Iraq and Afghanistan should be made permanent and transformed into a global capability. These U.S. advisor teams would get the language, culture, and training skills, but would leave the special ops qualification courses, the special patrolling and raiding skills to the special operators. A full tour in a foreign military training and advisor team should be required for promotion to first/master sergeant (E-8) and lieutenant colonel (O-5).

There is nothing about the advisory mission that requires that the advisors be Special Forces qualified. Our need for advisors far exceeds what SF can provide, not only, as we have seen, in Iraq and Afghanistan but also throughout the world. Institutionalizing the advisory mission and adding advisory service as a promotion requirement needs to be part of any reform program to ensure that our military is capable of meeting 21st century challenges.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

The Strategic Citizen and Information Operations

I was originally going to say that it is mindboggling that nearly 6 years after 9/11 we are still talking about how we need to get an information operations campaign going, but it was "mindboggling" four years ago. Former Spook is right on with an assessment of what needs to be done, but I don't have any confidence that a highly centralized government entity can successfully compete in today's media environment. My solution to this problem is what I call the "strategic citizen." The advances in communication technology that we are all familiar with have made it possible for ordinary citizens to have a strategic impact in the realm of information war (or media war or meme war or whatever we want to call it). We private citizens have the power to wage the kind of information operations that Former Spook advocates. Radical Muslims have already figured this out and are way ahead of us.

What we really need is a full-scale Information Operations (IO) campaign against the jihadists, encompassing all the tools of the trade: intelligence, psyops, deception, public information, and yes, cyber-warfare. For whatever reason, our response to terrorism on the web has been piecemeal at best, allowing jihadist websites to multiply and flourish.

The failure of our "traditional" approach was underscored in an anecdote recently relayed to me by a military IO officer. During a recent deployment, he participated in a briefing that (among other things) highlighted insurgent activity on the web. When the senior officer present --a two-star general--asked what was being done to take down terrorist web sites, the briefer simply shrugged.

As highlighted in the USA Today article, insurgents have become adept at developing content or entire web sites, then placing it on U.S.-based servers. That makes the job of neutralizing that material more difficult, but not impossible. And, the first step in that process is realizing that the "global village" described by Mr. Cilluffo is really a battlefield, to be contested and won like any other in the war on terrorism. We can't win the information war with net nannies, cyber police and outreach programs for Muslim groups. If we're serious about challenging our enemies on the web--and we'd better be--we need a strategy that unleashes the full spectrum of IO techniques against our enemies, and employment of that strategy on a relentless, global scale.

Terrorists use the web for a variety of reasons; it's universally available, cost-effective, relatively anonymous, and allows them to reach millions of potential converts and operatives with a few keystrokes. But there's another, compelling reason that insurgents have migrated to the web--the lack of an effective counter-strategy among their enemies. We can fix that latter problem, but only if our leaders--national and local, civilian and military--have the courage to use all the tools at their disposal. The revised strategy won't always be transparent, and it may sometimes spill into "neutral" domains. But this more aggressive approach would make it even more difficult for terrorists to operate on the web--and that's the real bottom line.

RELATED POSTS:
The Strategic Citizen and the Long War
Citizen Self-Mobilization

The Emergence of the Modern Mind

What is it that separates the West from the rest? How did the West produce a civilization unprecedented in its revolutionary impact on every field of human endeavor? What do we have that is worth defending against the anti-modern, anti-Western Islamists and the anti-modern, anti-Western left?

And so between the fifteenth and seventeenth centuries, the West saw the emergence of a newly self-conscious and autonomous human being--curious about the world, confident in his own judgments, skeptical of orthodoxies, rebellious against authority, responsible for his own beliefs and actions, enamored of the classical past but even more committed to a greater future, proud of his humanity, conscious of his distinctness from nature, aware of his artistic powers as individual creator, assured of his intellectual capacity to comprehend and control nature, and altogether less dependent on an omnipotent God. This emergence of the modern mind, rooted in the rebellion against the medieval Church and the ancient authorities, and yet dependent upon and developing from both these matrices, took the three distinct and dialectically related forms of the Renaissance, the Reformation, and the Scientific Revolution. These collectively ended the cultural hegemony of the Catholic Church in Europe and established the more individualistic, skeptical, and secular spirit of the modern age. Out of that profound cultural transformation, science emerged as the West's new faith...

...The nature of reality had fundamentally shifted for Western man, who now perceived and inhabited a cosmos of entirely new proportions, structure, and existential meaning.

The way was now open to envision and establish a new form of society, based on self-evident principles of individual liberty and rationality. For the strategies and principles that science had shown to be so useful for discovering truth in nature were clearly relevant to the social realm as well. Just as the antiquated Ptolemaic structure of the heavens, with its complicated, cumbersome, and finally unsustainable system of epicyclic fabrications, had been replaced by the rational simplicity of the Newtonian universe, so too could the antiquated structures of society--absolute monarchical power, aristocratic privilege, clerical censorship, oppressive and arbitrary laws, inefficient economies--be replaced by new forms of government based not on supposed divine sanction and inherited traditional assumptions, but on rationally ascertainable individual rights and mutually beneficial social contracts. The application of systematic critical thought to society could not but suggest the need for reform of that society, and as modern reason brought to nature a scientific revolution, so would it bring to society a political revolution. Thus did John Locke, and the French philosophes of the Enlightenment after him, take the lessons of Newton and extend them to the human realm.

From The Passion of the Western Mind: Understanding the Ideas That Have Shaped Our Worldview by Richard Tarnas