Normally I like to do both the Anthropology Friday excerpts and my own thoughts at the same time, but this time I didn’t want to interrupt the narrative’s flow.
The first thing that struck me in all of this was that Quantrill had a considerable number of followers: he lead 450 men to burn and loot Lawrence, Kansas. Pretty good for a guy who wasn’t even in the army. We can explain Quantrill’s motivation in the burning by arguing that he was trying to earn himself a commission in the Confederate Army by proving to them that he was a good commander, but what about his followers? Surely most of them could have joined the (Confederate) army the regular way, without detouring through Kansas.
Even after the burning, when it was quite clear that Quantrill was not going to get a commission and most of his followers had left, he still had some. So did many of the other men we’ll meet in this series, from outlaw bikers to mob bosses. (And pirates as we’ve already seen.)
And while most people are not very fond of criminals, folks like Quantrill and Jesse James found plenty of “safe” places where the locals were willing to shelter them, help them, or at least look the other way and not report them to the authorities.
What was the difference, really, between Quantrill and a regular army commander? Or the guerrilla soldiers known as the Red Legs and Jayhawkers?
Although I was familiar with the phrase “Burning Kansas” from history class, I hadn’t grasped the conflict’s full depth until reading Dago’s account. I’ve never heard anyone from Kansas or Missouri speak ill of each other–whatever bad blood there was in the Civil War’s immediate aftermath seems to have worn off. In Dago’s telling, the Kansas/Missouri border was a burnt-out, lawless zone where blood feuds brought men down for decades.
And what was the difference between an outlaw like Quantrill and a conqueror like Genghis Khan? ISIS? The chief of a Yanomamo tribe? Queen Medb of the Táin Bó Cúailnge?
(The Tain, if you haven’t heard of it before, is an Irish epic that revolves around the attempts by Queen Medb to steal a particular bull from another Irish king, and the efforts of the Irish hero Cu Chulainn to stop her.)
After all, Quantrill, while officially an “outlaw,” had many followers–as did these other men (and woman.)
I propose a simple answer: Quantrill was an “outlaw” because the official powers-that-were declared him one. Had Quantrill been successful enough to attract enough men to his side to not only burn and loot Lawrence, but keep it, he would have been its ruler, plain and simple. Genghis Khan did little more than burn, loot, massacre, and rape, but in so doing he amassed an empire. But Genghis Khan’s enemies were probably much less well-organized and equipped than Quantrill’s–certainly they didn’t have railroads.
War is a universal feature of human society. Even chimps have wars, bashing each other’s brains out with rocks. Early humans had war; pre-agricultural tribes have war. (The horticultural Yanomamo have some of the highest homicide rates in the world.)
We moderns have this odd notion that “war” is an official thing which is officially declared by official governments (and what makes an official government? We could go in circles all day.) We believe that war has rules (or at least that it ought to): that it should be fought only by official soldiers on official battlefields, using officially approved weapons, and only targeting official targets. Anything not by the book, such as targeting women and children, using chemical weapons, hijacking airplanes and flying them into buildings, or fighting on behalf of a group that doesn’t issue uniforms and pay cheques, just confuses us.
But I guarantee you that Genghis Khan did not conquer one of the biggest empires in history by refusing to slaughter women and children.
Similarly, ISIS is nothing but a bunch of outlaws who’ve conquered some territory, but in their case, they have an ideology that justifies their actions and encourages other people to come join them, boosting their numbers.
While tribal, pre-agricultural life was full of war and homicide, it seems that groups rarely got too much of an advantage over each other. Rather, conflict was nearly constant–every so often a battle would break out and a few people would died. When conflicts were particularly bad, small tribes would band together against larger tribes until they balanced out (or slaughtered their enemies.) When conditions approved, tribes split up and people went their own way (until they got into conflicts with each other and the cycle repeated.) But occasionally one tribe developed (or obtained) a distinct advantage over the others: armies mounted on horseback dominated less mobile units. Armies with guns massacred people who had none. Vikings, Spaniards, and later Englishmen built boats which let them conquer large swathes of the world. Etc.
Our present state of relative peace (compared to our ancestors) is due to the fact that all of this conquering eventually led to the amalgamation of large enough states with large enough armies that we now have few enemies willing to take the risk of attacking us. We have nukes; as a result, few formal states with formal armies are willing to attack us. This state of mutual balance is–for now–holding for the developed world.
This state of peace is not guaranteed to last.
I noticed back in The Walls Tear Themselves Down that borders are ironically places of disorder. As Dago notes, criminals take advantage of borders–and stateless zones–to escape from law enforcement.
On a related note, Saul Montes-Bradley has an interesting post about Islamic terrorist groups raising money via drug trade in Latin America:
The tentacles of Jihad extend further than most people realize. …
In particular in South American countries, long the allies of Middle Eastern Fascism, terrorist organizations find support and, most grievously financing. Indeed, the second largest source of financing for Hezballat is drug trafficking and smuggling between Argentina, Paraguay and Chile, often under the protection of local government officials.
This feature of borders will be showing up a lot in the next few Anthropology Fridays.
While reading The Pirates Own Book, I was struck by how much of history has been warfare and banditry:
Piracy has been known from the remotest antiquity; for in the early ages every small maritime state was addicted to piracy, and navigation was perilous. This habit was so general, that it was regarded with indifference, and, whether merchant, traveller, or pirate, the stranger was received with the rights of hospitality. Thus Nestor, having given Mentor and Telemachus a plenteous repast, remarks, that the banquet being finished, it was time to ask his guests to their business. “Are you,” demands the aged prince, “merchants destined to any port, or are you merely adventurers and pirates, who roam the seas without any place of destination, and live by rapine and ruin.”
Where men can make a living through violence and predation, they do. The only thing that stops them is other men strong enough to kill them:
The Danes, Norwegians, and Swedes, from their superior knowledge of navigation, gave into it most; and on whatever coast the winds carried them, they made free with all that came in their way. Canute the Fourth endeavored in vain to repress these lawless disorders among his subjects; but they felt so galled by his restrictions, that they assassinated him. On the king of Sweden being taken by the Danes, permission was given to such of his subjects as chose, to arm themselves against the enemy, pillage his possessions, and sell their prizes at Ribnitz and Golnitz. This proved a fertile nursery of pirates, who became so formidable under the name of “Victalien Broders,” that several princes were obliged to arm against them, and hang some of their chiefs. …
Charles the Bald, not having the power to expel him, engaged the freebooter, for 500 pounds of silver, to dislodge his countrymen, who were harassing the vicinity of Paris. In consequence of this subsidy, Wailand, with a fleet of 260 sail, went up the Seine, and attacked the Normans in the isle of Oiselle: after a long and obstinate resistance, they were obliged to capitulate; and having paid 6000 pounds of gold and silver, by way of ransom, had leave to join their victors. The riches thus acquired rendered a predatory life so popular, that the pirates were continually increasing in number, so that under a “sea-king” called Eric, they made a descent in the Elbe and the Weser, pillaged Hamburg, penetrated far into Germany, and after gaining two battles, retreated with immense booty. The pirates, thus reinforced on all sides, long continued to devastate Germany, France, and England; some penetrated into Andalusia and Hetruria, where they destroyed the flourishing town of Luni; whilst others, descending the Dnieper, penetrated even into Russia.
The text goes on in this manner, and it is just striking how, for so many centuries after the fall of Rome, Europeans lived in constant fear of bandits, with no force strong enough to secure the sea lanes and borders. And even the rulers themselves are, in many cases, ex-bandits themselves: barbarian conquerors .
Once a group of bandits becomes strong enough to kill all the other bandits in the area, it settles in and starts taxing instead of stealing.
Even Genghis Khan, once finished conquering, began executing bandits, encouraging trade, and securing the safety of his tax-payers. It is said that a woman carrying a bag of gold could walk, alone, from one end to the other of the Mongol Empire without fear or molestation–an exaggeration, I’m sure, but I know I wouldn’t want to incur the Great Khan’s wrath by robbing one of his subjects.
(In Power and Prosperity, economist Mancur Olson argues that, “under anarchy, a “roving bandit” only has the incentive to steal and destroy, whilst a “stationary bandit”—a tyrant—has an incentive to encourage some degree of economic success as he expects to remain in power long enough to benefit from that success. A stationary bandit thereby begins to take on the governmental function of protecting citizens and their property against roving bandits. In the move from roving to stationary bandits, Olson sees the seeds of civilization, paving the way, eventually for democracy, which by giving power to those who align with the wishes of the population, improves incentives for good government.” )
Humans once hunted goats; today we feed them, give them shelter, and kill their other predators. As a result, there are far more goats than there would be otherwise. We still eat them, of course.
A government of sedentary bandits is still bandits, but at least they’re bandits who want the community to thrive. (Yes, taxation IS theft, but you should see the alternative.)
As a result, we take for granted a level of peace and safety that most of the world has never experienced.
EvX: Today we have an Anonymous Guest Post on the History of the Russia Conspiracy Hysteria. (Your normally scheduled anthropology will resume next Friday):
2011: Liberals get excited about Arab Spring. They love the idea of overthrowing dictators and replacing governments across the Middle East with democracies. They largely don’t realize that these democracies will be fundamentalist Islamic states.
Note that ISIS is also fighting against Assad, putting the US effectively on the ISIS side here. US support flowed to Syrian rebel forces, which may have included ISIS. ISIS is on the side of democracy and multiculturalism, after all.
Russia, meanwhile, is becoming more of a problem for the US Middle East agenda because of its support for Assad. In 2013, this comes to a head with the alleged Assad chemical weapons attack. Everyone gets very upset about chemical weapons and mad at the Russians for supporting Assad. Many calls for regime change in Syria were made. ISIS is also gaining power, and Russia is intervening directly against them. We can’t have Russia bombing ISIS, can we?
As a result, around 2013 Russia started to gain much more prominence as “our” enemy. This is about when I started to see the “Wikileaks is a Russian operation” and “ZeroHedge is Russian propaganda” memes, although there are archives of this theory from as early as 2011–Streetwise Professor: Peas in a PoD: Occupy, RT, and Zero Hedge.
There is, of course, negligible evidence for either of these theories, but that didn’t stop them from spreading. Many hackers have come from Russia over the years, and Russia was surely happy about many of Wikileaks’ releases, but that does not mean that they’re receiving money or orders from Russia.
In 2014, Russia held the Olympics, and around that time there was a lot of publicity about how Russia does not allow gay marriage. Surely only an evil country could prohibit it. Needless to say, I saw little said about Saudi Arabia’s position on gay marriage.
Russia annexed Crimea in 2014, and sanctions were introduced against Russia. Most likely the annexation was opposed because this would mean that Crimean gays would not be able to get married any time soon.
[EvX: I think Anon is being sarcastic here and does actually understand geostrategy.]
The combination of Russian interference in opposition to ISIS plus the annexation of Crimea was just too much for liberals and cuckservatives still opposed to “Soviet” influence, and various aggressive statements toward Russia began to come from Hillary and members of Congress.
Trump enters the presidential race in 2015, and he wonders why we’re opposing Russian actions against ISIS. Why are we taking agressive stands that could lead to war with Russia? What’s in it for Americans?
Obviously could only mean that Trump was a Russian agent. And who would a Russian agent work with but Russian hackers and the Russian Wikileaks agency?
Wikileaks released the DNC emails in July 2016, and they released the Podesta emails shortly before the election. Since Americans were known to not have any access to any of the leaked information, it could only have come from Russian government hackers.
Liberals have assumed that any contacts between the Trump team and Russian diplomats prior to the election were related to illegal coordination to influence or “hack” the election. Never mind that communication between presidential campaigns and foreign diplomats is not uncommon–CNN Politics: Obama Takes Campaign Trail Overseas.
Following the election, Trump associate Flynn might have said to the Russians that the sanctions could possibly be reexamined at some point, thus obviously severely interfering with US diplomatic relations. Of course this statement has been worthy of an extensive FBI investigation.
Most recently we have the “leak” of classified information from Trump to Russia, in which Trump told the Russians to be on the lookout for ISIS bombs smuggled onto planes in laptops. Apparently this is very bad because it’s important for ISIS to successfully bomb Russian civilian planes if they feel like it.
Let’s sum up this logic:
Russia is bad because they oppose US efforts to install Islamic fundamentalist governments in the Middle East, because they oppose gay marriage, and because taking Crimea is basically the same as Hitler’s invasion of Poland.
Russia is full of hackers. Assange is a Russian agent since he publishes information leaked from the US. Trump is a Russian agent since he opposes war with Russia.
Russians hacked the DNC and Podesta at Trump’s request and gave the information to Wikileaks. Flynn interfered with US diplomacy. Trump is giving US secrets to Russia.
Note the strength of this narrative despite its very flimsy evidence. Investigations into Trump’s “Russian connections” can continue endlessly so long as people believe in them.
I got bored of reading my usual list of Cathedral publications (although Stanford Mag did have an interesting article recently about a woman discovering her father’s book he wrote while in a Japanese POW camp during WWII [he was eventually beaten to death by the Japanese]), and decided to see what various universities had to say about Trump’s decision to attack Syria.
On the first day of shopping week this fall, Nisreen S. Shiban ’17 received a phone call from Syria. She immediately knew that something must be wrong.
It was one of her uncles. His voice panicked, he asked Shiban to get in touch with her father and make sure her mother was not within earshot. He had devastating news to deliver: Shiban’s maternal uncle Makarem, a former veterinarian who had practically raised her, had been killed by ISIS fighters in Aleppo. …
A College senior’s aunt and uncle were beheaded by rebel groups in Daraa.
An Arabic language preceptor often woke up in the middle of the night worrying about her brother and sister in Damascus.
A College freshman lost 13 relatives in the bloodshed. …
A junior volunteered at the Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan in an effort to do something to ease the pain of her fellow Syrians.
A surgeon in Harvard’s Scholar at Risk program helped set up makeshift infirmaries to provide care to a bleeding city.
I didn’t find anything that was both recent and analytical (ie, not a human interest story,) but the bombing did happen only a few days ago and stories take time to publish, so we may have to wait for more reactions.
President Obama is asking for Congressional approval of an attack against the government of Syria, in response to that government’s apparent use of nerve gas in eastern Damascus. …
The problem is that this strike doesn’t seem likely to help the United States. At least, that’s a problem for me, and it might even be a problem for some of the players in Washington.
First, we could be wrong. It does seem that a nerve agent killed over a thousand people in eastern Damascus—but who did it? The Syrian government certainly has chemical weapons, but it is possible to imagine ways in which some group among the rebels could have obtained some. Sarin isn’t even that difficult to manufacture. A Japanese nut cult, Aum Shinrikyo, managed it by themselves it back in 1995, killing 13 people in the Tokyo subway. The main objection to the official scenario, where Assad’s people used the nerve gas, is that doing so would have been irrational. …
So the Alawites are kind of interesting. Maybe not as fascinating as the Yazidis (*waves to Yazidi followers,) but still worth learning about and potentially extremely relevant to the situation. You probably already knew this, but Assad and his regime are Alawites, an ethno-religious group that forms about 11% of the overall Syrian population.
According to Wikipedia:
Alawites have historically kept their beliefs secret from outsiders and non-initiated Alawites, so rumours about them have arisen. Arabic accounts of their beliefs tend to be partisan (either positively or negatively). However, since the early 2000s, Western scholarship on the Alawite religion has made significant advances. At the core of Alawite belief is a divine triad, comprising three aspects of the one God. These aspects or emanations appear cyclically in human form throughout history. The last emanations of the divine triad, according to Alawite belief, were as Ali, Muhammad and Salman the Persian. Alawites were historically persecuted for these beliefs by the Sunni Muslim rulers of the area.
So it looks like traditional Alawite religion might have been kind of a mix of Christianity and Islam. This makes sense, given that Christianity was prominent in the area for about 600 years before Islam showed up, and when you leave behind the modern political/ethnic animosities people hold toward each other, both Islam and Christianity are built on pretty much the same base (Muslims even regard Jesus as a prophet.) There are weirder things than regarding Mohammad as just yet another prophet in the long line of Jewish prophets–like Mormonism, which is polytheistic but still gets grudgingly classed as a branch of Christianity. Continuing:
Their theology is based on a divine triad, or trinity, which is the core of Alawite belief. The triad comprises three emanations of the one God: the supreme aspect or entity called the “Essence” or the “Meaning” (both being translations of maʿnā), together with two lesser emanations known as his “Name” (ism), or “Veil” (ḥijāb), and his “Gate” (bāb). These emanations have manifested themselves in different human forms over several cycles in history, the last cycle of which was as Ali (the Essence/Meaning), Muhammad (the Name) and Salman the Persian (the Gate). …
Alawites have historically been kind of isolated, often oppressed and poor, but somehow managed to get control of the country after independence.
Considering that the majority of Syrians are Muslims, as are the majority of people in neighboring countries, the Alawites have good reason to want to be perceived as Muslims. I get the impression that a hundred years ago, the Alawites may have thought of themselves as pretty different from their Islamic neighbors, but today they see themselves as more similar–the push to get others to accept them as good Muslims, plus increased interaction with their neighbors due to urbanization, cars, TV, etc., may have changed their own view of themselves. (This process happened a while ago with different Christian groups–a Methodist would hardly balk at marrying a Lutheran–and is hard at work in Reform Jews, who have pretty high out-marriage rates.)
But as Cochran notes, just because they want to be accepted as good Muslims, doesn’t necessarily mean that they are:
Traditionally, Alawites were considered non-Muslim and treated like dirt—worse than Christians or Jews. You can see how the Sunni majority might resent being ruled by them—indeed, it’s hard to imagine how that ever came to pass. …
So, while the Baath party took over in 1963, the Alawites took over in 1966—and they haven’t let go yet.
The thing is, when you ride the tiger, you can’t let go. Although they have made efforts to build support outside their sect, through nationalist and redistributionist policies, the Alawite government has always faced violent opposition. They’ve put down full-scale revolts, most notably in Hama, 1982, where they leveled the city with artillery, killing tens of thousands. All that official violence means that they can’t afford to lose. Once the Alawites were despised, but now they’re hated. At this point, Peter W. Galbraith, former ambassador to Croatia, says “The next genocide in the world will likely be against the Alawites in Syria.”
From A War Apart: Syrians at Harvard:
As the conflict worsened and alliances formed, the war took on sectarian dimensions. President Assad’s family is Alawite, a minority Muslim sect that comprises roughly 10 percent of the Syrian population but has ruled over the majority Sunni country since the 1960s. Prior to the Arab Spring, Syrians across ethnic backgrounds had coexisted in a fragile peace, despite undercurrents of tension.
Shiban—who was born in Syria, moved to Qatar, then settled in the United States when she was 12 years old—comes from an Alawite family. Her family had close Sunni friends in Aleppo before the war. Shiban remembers playing with their children as music floated over the balcony where the adults sat sipping a traditional Middle Eastern drink and smoking hookah.
But when predominantly Sunni rebel groups began fighting for Assad’s overthrow in 2011, they were challenging not only the regime but also long-secure Alawite control. Some used religious affiliation as a rallying cry to mobilize the population against what they considered an oppressive minority. Faced with the very real threat of a take-over by a hostile majority, the Assad regime invoked Alawites’ identity to intimidate them into allegiance.
Swayed by this rhetoric, Shiban’s cousin and uncle left for the front lines. Neither would return.
Meanwhile, Shiban and her family noticed their Sunni friends sharing Facebook posts written by a Sunni religious leader promoting violence against Alawites. “We were very heartbroken. We were confused,” Shiban says. “When you hear about all of the infringements on human rights, constant censorship by the government… you can understand why a war like this would happen, but nobody could see people literally going against loved ones, friends, family.”
I am reminded here of similar accounts during the breakup of Yugoslavia–prior to the war, people spoke warmly of Yugoslavia as a multi-ethnic state in which people of different backgrounds lived in peace and harmony. Following the Fall of Communism and the Rise of Democracy, Yugoslavia degenerated into civil war and “ethnic cleansing,” a mild euphemism for genocide. Friends and neighbors turned on each other.
As frequent commentator SFC Ton notes, when countries collapse, they tend to do it on ethnic lines–and Syria is no exception.
David Cunningham, an expert on civil wars, has argued that the more external actors are involved, the longer civil wars last. With few hurting significantly as a result of their involvement, these actors rarely withdraw until their independent agendas are met; and the more agendas in play, the more difficult for any resolution to satisfy all players. If these agendas shift over time, resolution becomes even more difficult. Instead, the players act as “resolution blockers” prolonging the war. In Syria, feeding into the mixed agendas of the various domestic players, the six key external players have contributed six further agendas, none of which have remained static over the course of the conflict.
Though I admit that I admit very little about the situation, I am not in favor of US intervention against Assad. It’s not that I like Assad (I don’t know enough to have an opinion of the man;) I just think ISIS sounds much more frightening and have no confidence in America’s ability to make matters better. Remember that time we invaded Vietnam, and lots of people died and Vietnam still became a communist country? Or that time we supported the mujaheedin in Afghanistan and they turned into Al Qaeda and flew some planes into the NYC skyline? Or that time we invaded Iraq, deposed a dictator, installed democracy, and then got ISIS? Or that time we helped France and Britain instal a democracy in Germany, and the German people went and elected Hitler?
Our track record isn’t all bad–Japan is handling democracy just fine, though the Japanese idea of democracy seems to be re-electing the same party every time–it’s just mostly bad.
I started reading about Syria mostly because I found the media reaction to the bombing confusing: why were they so uniformly happy? Weren’t these the same people who were just telling us that Trump is a trigger-happy madman intent on hurting Muslims? Shouldn’t at least some of them be pointing out that Trump is now actually killing Muslims by bombing their country? Shouldn’t someone express concern that we don’t have good information about what’s actually happening in Syria, and so don’t know for sure that gas attack actually happened and was actually committed by Assad’s regime? I mean, “find out what actually happened before you act” is a moral taught in cartoons aimed at toddlers.
My confusion was compounded by the fact that most of the people I know expressed reservations about the bombing; many believe we should be supporting Assad against ISIS and that Assad is basically the “good guy” (or at least the “less bad guy”) in this whole mess.
And I don’t feel like I’m coming from a particularly partisan perspective, here. I don’t think your opinions about Obamacare or abortion or racism are really going to affect whether you think Assad used chemical weapons on his own people and now we should rain bombs on his people (because it is really bad when you die of chemical weapons but totally rainbows and kittens when you are blown to smithereens by a bomb.)
But then I remembered that democracy is America’s religion. Just as Muslims think non-Muslims should all convert to Islam, so Americans tend to think that non-democracies should all become democracies. Unfortunately, multi-culturalism seems to be one of democracies failure modes, as different ethnic groups start trying to vote themselves a larger share of the national pie.
Assad is a dictator, and in our simple heuristics, “dictator=bad.” The rebels are (or at least originally were) fighting for democracy, and “democracy=good.” Therefore people think Assad is a bad person (after all, if he were a good person, why would anyone rebel against him?) and needs to go. They’re not really thinking two steps down the line to, “If we take out Assad, the resulting power vacuum could allow someone even worse to come to power, like ISIS.”
There are many rebellions in the world. Go read the history of pretty much any African country and you’ll find a bunch. Few of these rebellions actually result in a real improvement in the lives of ordinary people, as the rebels often aren’t idealistic, moral young men who just want to make their country a wonderful place, but rival power factions that want to take the country’s wealth for themselves.
Even the Iranian Revolution began with many groups that wanted to oust the Shah so Iran could be a democracy–and the theocratic state they got in the end looks positively peachy next to ISIS.
A dictator might be bad, but it’s hard to be worse than civil war or ISIS.
ETA: more terrorist attacks have happened since I wrote this. I give up on covering them all.
Most of the world’s ethnic groups divide up pretty neatly–if not into countries, then into distinct groups spread across several different countries. Alliances between countries are normally formally announced, so that you know that if you attack, Japan circa 1942, you’re likely to be counter-attacked by Germany. You don’t have to worry, though, about being attacked by China, or random Chinese people living in your own country, because China isn’t Japan, doesn’t have an alliance with Japan, and the Chinese people don’t particularly care what you do to Japan so long as you don’t do it to them. (In fact, the Chinese were pretty pissed at Japan by that point.)
As long as two countries don’t have an alliance, you can normally attack one without worrying about the other.
Islamic identity seems to function somewhat differently (at least in some cases.)
Americans are used to thinking of religion as a set of beliefs, eg, “God made the world in 6 days,” or “Enlightened people move on to a higher plane of existence,” or “You shouldn’t turn on the lights on Saturday.” Religion therefore falls under our philosophical notion of freedom of conscience, enshrined in the First Amendment.
But throughout much of the world, religion functions much more like ethnicity than like belief. Yes, technically people from different religions believe different things, but as a practical matter, the belief that “We are people who follow the true religion and they are people who follow the false religion,” is more important than the specific details of the religions involved.
If you don’t believe me, just ask yourself what were the theological underpinnings of the conflict between Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland?
It’s a near meaningless question. Knowing that the Catholics have a Pope and the Protestants don’t because centuries ago because King Henry VIII wanted a divorce tells you nothing useful. You just need to know that Catholics and Protestants see themselves as different groups.
Judaism is the only religion Westerners have much experience with and are used to thinking of as operating like an ethnic group. Most Westerners I’ve discussed the subject with seem vaguely confused about what exactly Judaism is, but they understand pretty well that if you start massacring Jews in your country, you should expect a visit from the Israeli air force.
But Jews are a relatively small group, with only one official country which has clearly articulated alliances with others, so there is not too much confusion on the point.
Recent random terrorist attacks in the West have included a Pakistani couple who opened fire at a Christmas party in an Bernardino, CA; a Moroccan Tunisian man who drove a truck into a crowd of French folks celebrating Bastile Day; and an Afghan teenager who attacked a train full of Germans with an axe.
The US is not at war with Pakistan*, France with Morocco, nor Germany with Afghanistan. Random American, French, and German citizens abroad do not, to my knowledge, make politically motivated mass-attacks on their host countries.
*Or is the US? I know Obama has authorized drone strikes on targets within Pakistan, among other countries. It was easy under Bush II to keep track of America’s military engagements, because they were big, declared, and obvious. Under Obama, we are not exactly at war with Pakistan, but we do sometimes kill people who happen to be living in Pakistan, like Osama Bin Laden. It’s confusing.
At any rate, according to Wikipedia, the Farooks were motivated by the desire to be jihadis and allegiance to ISIL, not Pakistan. Riaz Ahmadzai, the 17 year old Afghan, also appears to have acted on behalf of ISIL (though probably not on ISIL’s instruction,) not Afghanistan’s. Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel, the Tunisian armed with a 19-ton truck, also committed his attack on behalf of ISIL, not Tunisia. Fun fact: “A UN report from May 2015 shows that 25,000 “foreign terrorist fighters” from 100 countries have joined “Islamist” groups, many of them working for ISIL or al-Qaeda.”
The US, France, Germany, Russia, India, and probably the majority of the world are, in fact, at war with ISIL, which makes it kind of incredible that it still exists–the rest of the world has forgotten how to conduct wars.
“I always thought the people most likely to join a terrorist group were the people praying five times a day with a beard and being very pious and going to a radical mosque,” says Usmani, who is Muslim and was born in Pakistan. He came to the U.S. to do his PhD at Florida Institute of Technology.
But what he found is that they are more likely to go from secular to radicalized. They are often educated online — among the 5,000+ YouTube videos from supposed Muslim “scholars.” Technology has enabled an explosion of content that is far from true Islam.*
Now, this is a rotten pickle. It’s bad enough to worry about about Japanese-Americans when you are at war with Japan; it’s another thing entirely to have to worry about anyone whose parents were vaguely Buddhist.
I am particularly saddened by all of this for personal reasons. This isn’t the world I asked for; I certainly don’t want this conflict.
I assume the solution is to actually defeat ISIL instead of pussy-footing around so that it stops being a problem. But look how well that went the last time we tried to take over a country in the Middle East and replace its government with a more favorable regime.
*Phrases like “true Islam” annoy me because as far as I know, there is no Islamic “Pope” who gets to decide what is and isn’t “true Islam.” Nevertheless, it remains a constant in my experience that really devout people (of whatever religion) tend to believe more in principles like “love everyone because we are all God’s children,” than moderate religious folks.
(With special thanks to Pwyll for the translation!)
Es ist OK. Sie können ruhig aufhören, sich zu entschuldigen.
Ja das stimmt, vor etwa 80 Jahren hat Deutschland einen Fehler gemacht. Dieser Fehler hat viele Menschen getötet. Keine Sorge, diese Geschichte kenne ich schon. Und jetzt tut es Ihnen Leid, sehr Leid. Sie wollen, daß die Welt weiß, daß Sie gute Menschen, nette Menschen sind.
80 Jahre ist eine lange Zeit. Fast alle, die daran beteiligt waren, sind jetzt tot.
Liebes Deutschland, du mußt dich für deine Großväter und Urgroßväter nicht dauernd entschuldigen. Die Vergangenheit kann man nicht ändern. Ihre Vorfahren können Sie nicht ändern.
Sie müssen für deren Sünden nicht sterben.
In der Nikomachischen Ethik hat Aristoteles die Moral als das Verhalten zwischen Mangel und Übermaß definiert. Ein Mensch der zum Beispiel zu viel ißt, ist der Fressgier schuldig. Ein Mensch, der mit Absicht verhungert, ist jedoch genauso schuldig, und bereitet zusätzlich seiner Familie viel Qual und Leid.
Mit dem Nationalismus ist es auch so: zu viel ist ein Laster, zu wenig jedoch auch.
Deutsche haben das Recht auf Sicherheit, Frieden, und Glück. Sie haben auch das Recht, auf Ihre Leistungen und Ihre Kultur stolz zu sein.
Und Sie haben das Recht, Wut für die Leute zu empfinden, die versuchen Sie zu töten und Ihnen Leid anzutun. Die Deutschen haben das Recht, sich zur Wehr zu setzen auch wenn es heißt, zurückschlagen zu müssen und Maßnahmen zu ergreifen, die solchen Situationen vorbeugen. Sie haben das Recht auf Ihre Existenz.
Ich wünsche Ihnen viel Glück,
It’s okay. You can stop apologizing.
Yes, about 80 years ago, Germany made a mistake. It killed a lot of people. Don’t worry; I already know the story. And now you’re sorry, really sorry. You want the world to know that you are good people, nice people.
80 years is a long time. Almost everyone involved is now dead.
Germany, you don’t need to keep apologizing for your grandfathers and great-grandfathers. You can’t change the past. You can’t change your ancestors.
You don’t need to die for their sins.
In the Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle defined morality as behaving between deficiency and excess. A person who eats too much, for example, is guilty of gluttony. A person who purposefully starves himself, however, is equally guilty, and causes his family great distress and suffering.
So, too, with nationalism; if too much is a vice, then so is too little.
You have a right to safety, peace, and happiness. You have a right to pride in your accomplishments and your culture.
And you have a right to be mad at the people who are killing you. You have a right to fight back. You have a right to exist.
Say what you will, the IRA, ETA, and PLO had clear, coherent goals. Goals they were willing to kill babies to achieve, but still goals. You knew what they wanted and could at least hypothetically negotiate with them about it.
Since 9-11, the attacks have been increasingly incoherent. Why would Pakistani-American citizens attack the US in support of one side or the other in a civil war going on in Syria? Why would the children of Chechen refugees attack the country that took them in? Why would a guy living in Afghanistan believe it is anti-Muslim for the US to protect the interests of Muslims in Kuwait? Why move to the EU and then violently object to the laws or foreign policy? For that matter, why the hell would anyone support ISIS?
We may infer a kind of pan-Islamic tribalism which regards the US (and other Western nations) as acting against Islamic interests, but even this is incoherent. Why would Osama bin Ladin feel the need to stand up for Saudi Arabia when the Saudis could do it perfectly well themselves?
In reality, the US prior to 9-11 was pretty agnostic on Muslims. Palestinians were unpopular, due to terrorist attacks against Israel, but countries like Egypt and Jordan attracted the average person’s interest only because of their pyramids and long history. Most US actions in the Middle East over the past 55 years had been motivated by Cold War or “peace keeping” concerns.
The US supported Egypt in the Suez Crisis, keeping the Suez Canal under Egyptian control, an obvious economic boon to Egypt. We have supported, at various times, the Shah of Iran, the King of Jordan, Iraq against Iran, Pakistan, and Afghanistan against Soviet invasion. We intervened militarily on behalf of Muslims in Bosnia, Kosovo, Kuwait, and Somalia.
The US gives a substantial amount in foreign aid to other countries every year; in 2013 (the Wikipedia only lists our foreign aid for 2013 and 2012,) we gave 42.829 billion dollars–or $134 from every American citizen–to Muslim countries from Afghanistan to Yemen. (See bottom of post for my list of aid dollars per country.)
It has only been since 9-11 that Americans really become aware of the “Muslim world” as a coherent entity (if such exists) with which “we” are supposedly in conflict.
Before then, as mentioned before, our concerns were largely leftovers from the Cold War era. The “modernizers,” like Kemal Ataturk, King Hussein of Jordan, the Shah of Iran, and Saddam Hussein were “the good guys,” capitalists intent on modernizing their countries and promoting free market economic opportunities.
I recall a conversation I had with a high-ranking US government official in the weeks before 9-11. He pointed out a picture of the King of Jordan he had hanging in his office, and referred to the king as “a good guy” and “one of our friends.”
The “bad guys” were the Communists. If you’ve read Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis, then you know that the Iranian Revolution was a communist revolution. The triumph of “radical Islam” in Iran was a Communist revolution against Western Capitalism.
Saddam was our guy against the Ayatollah, until he invaded Kuwait (which may be partially our fault due to our ambassador inadequately conveying the idea that we would invade if he did.)
The Palestinians are supported by the likes of Noam Chomsky, Cultural Marxists, and regular Marxists.
Anti-capitalism is anti-colonialism is anti-modernism is anti-Westernism is radical religious fundamentalism.
The Muslim world is split between two factions, modernizers who want capitalism and are happy to work with the West, and radical internationalist who oppose Western influence and want to return to religious fundamentalism through out the Islamic world.
This is why the invasion of Iraq failed and could not help but fail: we took out our own guy, the modernizer, the capitalist. Who would replace him? Another capitalist? No, we got the opposition party, the fundamentalist, the communist, ISIS.
We took out the capitalist and put the communists in power.
We fucked ourselves, to the tun of 3 trillion dollars and thousands of dead soldiers. (And Iraqis.)
Table of 2013 US Aid to Muslim countries in millions of dollars (I picked Bosnia, on behalf of whose Muslim population the US intervened following the breakup of Yugoslavia, as my “minimum Muslim %” cut-off for inclusion in this list.) My apologies if I’ve missed any.
Burkina Faso 1040.11
Guinea Bissau 103.6
Sierra Leone 443.7
“The April 20, 1859 edition of the Macon Messenger  carried a short obituary notice for King Gezo stating, “…His majesty, the King of Dahomey, the great negro seller of Africa, has departed this life. He was in the habit of ransacking all the neighboring African kingdoms, for the purpose of making captives, whom he sold to the slavers. At his funeral obsequies, his loving subjects manifested their sorrow by sacrificing eight hundred negroes to his memory. He is succeeded by his son, King Gezo II.”1. Marriages and Obituaries From the Macon Messenger; Willard R. Rocker 1988King Gezo’s soldiers also did a lot of beheading. Oh, yes, many of them were women, members of the “Dahomey Amazons,” so I guess they’re the sorts of folks that academics like to hold up as shining examples of how gender egalitarianism dominated the world before evil Europeans stepped in and changed everything.Of course, many of those women soldiers were foreign captives or child soldiers forced into the army by their families, so I find it difficult to get too excited about female empowerment that’s basically jut slavery.