Sunday, February 17, 2008

Chinese Soldiers in the American Civil War

One of the fun things about studying history is discovering little-known facts. I had not known that Chinese served as soldiers and sailors in the Civil War:

...researchers claim that as many as 50 Chinese fought as soldiers during the American Civil War. The number does not include the Chinese who served in the U.S. Navy during the war. The soldiers fought on both sides, researchers claim.
In 1845, Sargent S. Day, captain of the square-rigged merchant ship Cohota, left Shanghai, China, bound for Massachusetts. Two days from port, he discovered two little half-starved Chinese boys on board. The older boy died, but Day "adopted" the younger boy and named him Edward Day Cohota.
Edward sailed the world with Captain and Mrs. Day until the captain retired to Gloucester, Mass. in 1857. He attended school and the other Day children treated him as a brother.
With the outbreak of the American Civil War, Cohota joined the 23rd Massachusetts Infantry. He fought in the Battle of Drury's Bluff near Richmond, Va., on May 16, 1864, and came out of the battle with "seven bullet holes thru" clothes. None touched his flesh."
At the Battle of Cold Harbor, Va., June 3, 1864, a Confederate Minie ball parted Cohota's hair permanently, but he was not otherwise hurt. He stayed with the Army of the Potomac through the end of the war.
After the war, Cohota rejoined the Army and was stationed at Fort Randall, Dakota Territory. He married and had six children. He served in the Army for 30 years. All that time, he thought he was a U.S. citizen and believed his Civil War service qualified him for the right. But he didn't take out his second set of naturalization papers until after the Senate passed the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. He was not a citizen and could not become one.
Cohota died at the Battle Mountain Sanitarium for Veterans in Hot Springs, S.D., in 1935.
Another Chinese soldier of the Union participated in the most famous battle of the Civil War -- the three-day Battle of Gettysburg, Pa.

Pvt. Joseph L. Pierce was age 21 when he enlisted in the 14th Connecticut Infantry in August 1862. It's unclear how Pierce ended up in the United States. One story has it that his father sold him to Connecticut ship Captain Amos Peck for $6. Another story was that his brother sold him for $60. Still another was that Peck picked up the lad, who was adrift in the South China Sea. Peck, a lifelong bachelor, turned the 10-year-old he called "Joe" over to his mother in Connecticut.
Young Joe went to school with the Pecks and formally became Joseph Pierce in 1853. He picked up the last name from President Franklin Pierce.
At the time of his enlistment Pierce was a farmer in New Britain, Conn. He listed his height at 5 feet 5 inches, dark complexion with dark hair and black eyes. His birthplace was Canton in Kwangtung Province, China.
His regiment participated in the Battle of Antietam, Md. Sept. 17, 1862.
He suffered some sickness during his time around Washington and was in the hospital for a time. He was assigned to the Quartermaster Department for a bit and rejoined the 14th in time for the Battle of Chancellorsville, Va. in May 1863.
The 14th had a distinguished role in the Gettysburg campaign. "It fought on the north part of Cemetery Ridge on July 2 and was one of the units that helped repel Pickett's Charge," said Gettysburg Historian John Heiser. "The 14th was primarily responsible for turning back Brig. Gen. James Pettigrew's North Carolina division." Today, you can see the 14th Memorial to the north of the grove of trees marking the High-water Mark of the Confederacy.
The 14th's regimental history says that during Pickett's charge, Pierce appeared "pig-tail and all, the only Chinese in the Army of the Potomac."

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Superhero Ops

Here's the kind of creativity we need in our information operations. We need to institutionalize this by pushing the decision-making authority and thus the innovation authority out to the edges. And not just in the military, but in the civilian side of our information operations as well. Of course we shouldn't stop there, strategic citizens could produce comic books and every other kind of media as well. Our larger conception of info ops must include private enterprise, "civilian information support teams" to complement our "military information support teams." But for now let's just appreciate the initiative and creativity of our troops:

One of the unique products used in psychological operations in the southern Philippines is the comic book “Barbargsa — Blood of the Honorable.”
About 600,000 copies of the 10-part series have been distributed on the Sulu islands, a chain that was once a terrorist safe haven, and still suffers from skirmishes.

U.S. special operations forces have used comic books in information campaigns. But the characters were based on well-known American superheroes. Two years ago, two Army officers decided to create one from scratch to tell the children of the Sulu islands the story of what was happening in their homeland.

The project was the brainchild of Maj. Edward Lopacienski, military information support team commander for the joint special operations task force Philippines mission, and the non-commissioned officer in charge, Master Sgt. Russell Snyder. The pair sat down in January 2006 and outlined the basic idea.

The plot follows several basic comic book storyline conventions — most notably the battle between good and evil.
The comic book focuses on Ameer, who left his home island to work overseas, but returns to find it racked with violence. Ameer is a practitioner of kuntao, which is a local form of martial arts. Like Zorro or Batman, he dons a mask and vows to protect the downtrodden and innocent victims of terrorists.

The Philippines military are also portrayed in a positive and heroic light while the villains are the terrorists or “bandits.” The creators were careful to accurately illustrate the Sulu region, and use character names, clothing and mannerisms that reflect the culture of the Tausug ethnic group. There are versions in English and in the local dialect.

It depicts real events that took place on the islands and at neighboring Basilan — specifically the Sulu Co-Op bombing in March 2006, which killed five and injured 40 and the Basilan hostage crisis when members of the Abu Sayyaf Group took school children and used them as human shields against Filipino troops.
“Essentially what we’re doing is showing all the atrocities that the Abu Sayyaf Group has done,” Lopacienski said.
One subplot shows how terrorists manipulate a boy into becoming a bomber.

The production of the comic book was farmed out to a Manila-based marketing firm. Two experts on Tausug culture were brought in as consultants to make sure nothing offensive was put in, and that everything was culturally accurate. It took about 2,000 hours to create the 10 comic books.

“In the end you see the hero and the community rising up to turn over the terrorists,” Lopacienski said.
It was important that the series be reproduced on high-quality paper as slick as any graphic novel found in U.S. bookshelves, he said, because that shows respect to the culture.

Lopacienski said there is anecdotal evidence of the comic book’s popularity. When some areas missed delivery due to security concerns, children “were ripping out the pages and trading them like baseball cards,” he said. Local stores have printed unauthorized T-shirts portraying the hero Ameer.

Via my comrade-in-pixels Cannoneer # 4

Rambo's Bootleg PsyOps

It looks like the new Rambo flick is resonating and inspiring many Burmese. Hollywood could be making movies that would inspire Americans and especially people in the Muslim world in the same way. Movies that could do good by contributing to the ideological war against Islamic extremists and make money by making movies that people actually want to see. So will Hollywood learn the lesson of Rambo? It seems silly to even ask the question: of course they won't.

Stallone, who said he was gearing up to make a fifth and final instalment in the blood-and-guts series, told Reuters that media reports of his film becoming a bootleg hit in the former Burma, and an inspiration to dissidents, was a pinnacle in his movie career.

"These incredibly brave people have found, kind of a voice, in a very odd way, in American cinema... They've actually used some of the film's quotes as rallying points," Stallone, 61, said in a telephone interview.

"That, to me, is the one of the proudest moments I've ever had in film."

Residents in Yangon told Reuters this week that police had given strict orders to DVD hawkers to not stock the movie -- named simply "Rambo". Locals said fans had "gone crazy" over lines in the hero's brusque dialog such as: "Live for nothing. Die for something."

The critics may have turned up their noses at the latest Rambo offering, but for 600 Myanmar nationals in Singapore, the Vietnam War veteran's single-handed demolition of swathes of the Burmese army was a huge hit.

As the closing credits rolled on Sunday on Sylvester Stallone's latest orgy of blood-letting, this time set in the jungles of Myanmar's Karen State, whoops and cheers erupted from the block-booked audience.
For some, it was elation at seeing somebody -- albeit a fictional Hollywood character -- taking it to the foot-soldiers of a military regime that has ruled with an iron fist for the last 46 years.
After the crushing of last September's monk-led protests, anti-junta activists see the movie as a rallying cry to a cause that receives little Western backing beyond words of support for detained opposition leader and Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi.

"We wanted to show our unity," said Edward, a leader of the Overseas Burmese Patriots group which coordinated the movie's screening, complete with red t-shirts reading "We pursue peace, justice and democracy for Burma".
He declined to give his family name, mindful of the dim view Singapore authorities take of any political gathering of more than four people.

"The war is still a reality," Edward said. "Rambo can let the world know the military government is totally cruel."

Via Libertas

The Berkeley Proxy War?

So is this a "proxy war"?

...the radical group Code Pink has since September of 2007 been staging protests in front of a U.S. Marine Corps' "Officer Selection Office" on Shattuck Square in downtown Berkeley, California, in an attempt to force the office to close...Recently, however, the campaign to expel the Marines from Berkeley was given a fresh injection of energy when the Berkeley City Council voted on January 29 to give their official stamp of approval to the protest and even award Code Pink a complimentary dedicated personal parking space for their protest truck directly in front of the Marines' office. The City Manager was then instructed by the municipal government to send a letter to the Marines, informing them that they are "uninvited and unwelcome intruders" in Berkeley.

It certainly looks like it. Here is a situation in which the municipal government can't take action on its own, but can accomplish its agenda via a non-state actor. If this kind of proxy activity were to spread around the country with many municipal governments working with nsa's to harass recruiting stations, does it become a rebellion at some point?

Monday, February 4, 2008

Today's Quote: Perceptions

From Strategies of Containment: A Critical Appraisal of American National Security Policy During the Cold War by John Lewis Gaddis:

NSC-68's endorsement of perimeter defense suggests several major departures in underlying assumptions from Kennan. One of these had to do with the nature of effective power in international affairs. Kennan had taken the view that only industrial-military power could bring about significant changes in world politics, and that as long as it was kept in rough balance, international stability (though not necessarily all exposed positions) could be preserved. But Kennan himself had been forced to acknowledge, by 1949, that things were not that simple. Insecurity could manifest itself in psychological as well as physical terms, as the Western Europeans' demands for American military protection had shown. And psychological insecurity could as easily develop from the distant sound of falling dominoes as from the rattling of sabers next door. This was the major unresolved dilemma in Kennan's thinking--how could this self-confidence upon which his strategy depended survive the making of distinctions between peripheral and vital interests? As far as the authors of NSC-68 were concerned, it could not.

From their perspective, changes in the balance of power could occur not only as the result of economic maneuvers or military action, but from intimidation, humiliation, or even loss of credibility. The Soviet Union, Nitze reminded his colleagues, made no distinction between military and other forms of aggression ; it was guided "by simple consideration of weakening the world power position of the US." NSC-68 added that "[s]ince everything that gives us or others respect for our institutions is a suitable object for attack, it also fits the Kremlin's design that where, with impunity, we can be insulted and made to suffer indignity the opportunity shall not be missed." The Soviet Union was out "to demonstrate to the free world that force and the will to use it are on the side of the Kremlin [and] that those who lack it are decadent and doomed."

The implications were startling. World order, and with it American security, had come to depend as much on perceptions of the balance of power as on what that balance actually was. And the perceptions involved were not just those of statesmen customarily charged with making policy; they also reflected mass opinion, foreign as well as domestic, informed as well as uninformed, rational as well as irrational. Before such an audience even the appearance of a shift in power relationships could have unnerving consequences. Judgments based on such traditional criteria as geography, economic capacity, or military potential now had to be balanced against considerations of image, prestige, and credibility. The effect was vastly to increase the number and variety of interests deemed relevant to national security, and to blur the distinctions between them.