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Is Blackwater Unconstitutional?

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This week Bill Maher's increasingly far left and out of touch show featured repeat guest Jeremy Scahill, who launched into his usual righteous rant against Blackwater and the evils of hiring mercenary troops to augment American forces in our various ill-considered military deployments overseas.

Some of it was interesting. For example I hadn't realized that President Obama had increased our overall mercenary deployment by 29 percent in only six months. But Scahill also said something which I found troubling. After listing the usual litany of Blackwater crimes and accusing Eric Prince of being a Crazed Christian Crusader, he threw out the idea that using mercenary troops in foreign wars is unconstitutional.

It grabbed my attention, because it is a great example of how little some of these very earnest advocates on both the left and the right really understand what is in the Constitution and what certain passages of it actually mean. It seems as if they decide something is bad and then assume that anything which seems bad to them must inherently be unconstitutional. After all, if they'd written the Constitution they wouldn't have allowed for the hiring of mercenaries, because mercenaries are evil.

The thing is, they didn't write the Constitution and apparently haven't read it either. Statements like this display both an ignorance of the Constitution and a dismaying ignorance of American history and the role which mercenaries have played in it.

The ironic truth is that while the Constitution does not authorize the existence of a standing army and many of the founding fathers would have liked a stronger and clearer prohibition on any kind of standing army, the Constitution does explicitly authorize the hiring of mercenaries. What's more, mercenaries have been a component of some of our most notable military operations throughout our history.

This is all about Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution, where it clearly says that Congress can "raise and support Armies, but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a longer Term than two Years," essentially forbidding the kind of long-term, established army we have had since the Civil War. It also authorizes Congress to "grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal," which is 18th century terminology for hiring mercenaries, bounty hunters, privateers and assassins — essentially any kind of private contractor to exact revenge and attack the nation's enemies for a reward or a stipend.

So the great institutional army which so many view as legitimate is actually kind of unconstitutional and those evil mercenaries who Scahill and his friends on the left so revile actually enjoy a unique position of Constitutional authority. The vision which the framers of that document actually had for our military was that it would consist of a militia which was never deployed for any long term and would only be called up for specific short-term uses in the direct defense of the nation, while military operations outside of our borders would largely be carried out on a small scale by hired mercenaries.

As one example of how this Constitutionally authorized system worked before it was pushed aside for expediency, consider the role which privateers have played in American military operations. Privateers are privately owned military ships commissioned to attack enemy shipping and in some cases even enemy cities on behalf of the government. Much of our very limited naval strength in the Revolution was composed of privateers. The most famous of them was John Paul Jones. We continued to use privateers into the early 19th century, including in our undeclared war with France and later in the War of 1812. When most of the nations of Europe signed the Declaration of Paris in 1856 outlawing Privateers the United States refused to sign, and as late as World War II the government commissioned the airship Resolute as a privateer operating in the air off the coast of California and used other private contractors like the Liberty Ships to support the military.

Mercenaries like Blackwater, or what they now call Private Military Companies, have a long history going back to the ancient world. Groups of soldiers for hire have played a role in almost every war. They fought for pay on both sides during the Revolution. President Jefferson hired Greek mercenaries to augment his small force of US Marines for his attack on Tripoli. They fought in the Napoleonic Wars and the War of 1812. The Swiss Guards who guard the Vatican and the Pope are essentially mercenaries. The use of mercenaries fell into disfavor in the West in the late 19th and 20th centuries, but they have continued to be used extensively in the third world. The United Nations and other groups have tried to prohibit the employment of mercenaries with very little success. The United States continues to use mercenaries in some situations and it is done under the authority of that same part of Article 1, Section 8 which authorizes privateers.

I'm not going to argue the advisability or the pros and cons of hiring mercenaries to fight your wars for you. It just seems bizarre that we have reached the point where even the most anti-war among us like Jeremy Scahill accept the existence of a standing army as routine and even desirable when compared to the hiring of professional mercenaries for a short term and limited engagement. The Founding Fathers thought a standing army would be an unacceptable threat to the Republic, but had no problem with the idea of some hired troops protecting our interests outside our borders. The Constitution reflects this, and while modern leftist sensibilities may find mercenaries unappealing and politically incorrect, that doesn't make them unconstitutional.

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About Dave Nalle

  • http://biggesttent.blogspot.com/ Silas Kain

    I have to admit, Dave, you’ve caused me to rethink my opinion. Though Scahill is a lefty, he brought out points which bothered me about Blackwater’s founder. And after reading your argument, based upon the Constitution, it dawned on me that the use of mercenaries may very well BE Constitutional. My concern remains that a handful of right wing, Christiban white men made millions, if not billions, at the taxpayer’s expense. I completely agree with Scahill’s call for prosecution and would hope that the majority of us would taker pause and realize that we need to be given the facts no matter how politically incorrect. As Maher pointed out, apologies are not a sign of weakness.

  • http://www.republicofdave.com Dave Nalle

    Prosecution for what? Your arguments in your comment are absolutely bizarre.

    I’m not a fan of Blackwater’s supposed Christian agenda, though there’s zero evidence of it in their actual behavior and it’s all based on supposition about Prince’s personal views.

    But the provable crimes Blackwater personnel have been involved in are already being tried, and there’s no suggestion that as a group they’ve done anything but fulfill their contractual obligations and been paid as was agreed to. Being Christian and white and making money from government contracts is NOT a crime.

    Dave

  • http://biggesttent.blogspot.com/ Silas Kain

    Perhaps it’s not a crime, Dave. We all know to well the dangers of religious extremism. Is it so bizarre to ask for a full accounting of what’s been spent? Scahill did make a point about the wages these mercenaries earn as opposed to our own military. I’ve got a problem with that but based on your treatise, I’m not so certain that mercenaries violate the Constitution. I don’t care what the circumstances are, the men who won these mercenary outfit contracts have earned a lot of money at our expense. If they are going to act at the direction of this government, there must be standards by which to operate which includes the Geneva Convention.

  • http://www.maskedmoviesnobs.com El Bicho

    Was not Scahill’s point that because these forces aren’t answerable to Congress, that’s why they are unconstitutional?

    With the recent sworn statements of ex-employees, there’s not zero evidence, but how much weight you give the evidence is another issue.

  • http://biggesttent.blogspot.com/ Silas Kain

    That was Scahill’s point, but Dave has made a compelling argument along with historical precedent. In this case I would have to give Dave’s side more credence.

  • http://delibernation.com/blog/3 Silas Kain

    While Scahill’s motivations may be Left leaning, isn’t it possible that some of his testimony bears review?

  • http://www.republicofdave.com Dave Nalle

    Statements by ex-employees by themselves don’t carry much weight as evidence. Many of them could even be classed as hearsay.

    So far the allegations by ex-employees have not been followed up on by any law enforcement agency. Since some of these alleged crimes took place within the US and most under US jurisdiction in some form, if there’s evidence I’d be troubled if the justice department did not follow up and investigate.

    As for being answerable to Congress, that they are not is basically a coward’s argument which Congress would make if it wanted to deny responsibility. Congress certainly has the ability to investigate and compel action from our various intelligence and law enforcement agencies and they also control the funding for these mercenaries, and remember they ARE mercenaries, so if the money goes away, so do they.

    Dave

  • http://www.republicofdave.com Dave Nalle

    Of course, how much they are being paid is another issue. To me there are two ways to look at it.

    First, it’s not good that they are being paid more than regular soldiers, but presumably that price is being set by the market, suggesting we should actually be paying our regular troops a hell of a lot more.

    Second, most of them ARE former military and who can begrudge them the higher salary they get based on their military experience?

    Dave

  • Clavos

    Another likely reason for the disparity in compensation, in addition to Dave’s point about the market, is that mercenaries are hired guns, with no allegiance to a given country or political idea, while national troops are presumably motivated at least in part, by patriotism

    For that reason, I disagree with the idea that we should pay our troops market rates.

  • http://delibernation.com/blog/3 Silas Kain

    I also don’t feel we should pay our troops market rates. But Dave’s argument remains compelling. I’m not sure I disagree with the use of mercenaries but I do think there has to be accountability and that responsibility remains with members of Congress who appropriate the cash.

  • Baronius

    What, you can’t be a government contractor just because your founder is crazy? Someone break the news to Henry Ford and Howard Hughes.

    Fascinating article, Dave.

  • http://delibernation.com/blog/3 Silas Kain

    There’s a difference between being “odd” and being a fanatic, Baronius. In this case, the founder of Blackwater is on equal footing with Islamic terrorists. Because he worships Christ instead of Allah (PBUH) is no justification for his motivation when acting under contract with the United States Government who is under contract with the citizens of this once great land.

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    The founder is crazy.
    The employees are crazy.
    The tenets of the organization itself are crazy.

    No wonder Baronius supports them.

  • http://www.republicofdave.com Dave Nalle

    We don’t actually have any evidence that Prince’s fundamentalist lunacy manifests iteself outside of his private life. He hasn’t got his people over in Iraq performing forced conversions or even handing out religious literature.

    As with any other person working for the taxpayers, so long as their beliefs don’t interfere with their job performance, why are they any of our business? If the guy who fixes my plumbing worships Satan it really makes no difference to me so long as the voices in his head don’t interfere with his job performance. Same thing with Blackwater.

    Dave

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/christine-lakatos-/ Christine

    Dave, thanks for the insight on this topic. I watch Bill Maher too and noticed each year he goes further and further left. Check out my review of his so-called documentary here on Blog Critics. I must have missed this one but am sure I will find it on re-runs. However, Blackwater is one of Rachel Maddow’s favorite topics, but she spins everything! Yes, I swing Left to see what they are up to! LOL

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    He hasn’t got his people over in Iraq performing forced conversions or even handing out religious literature.

    He’s got lunatics in Iraq killing people because they’re racists.

    Not good enough? Gotta be handing out fundamentalist literature too? Or aren’t you aware of that Dave? Have you even looked?

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    Maybe he’s getting more intelligent Christine.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    “accept[ing] the existence of a standing army as routine and even desirable when compared to the hiring of professional mercenaries for a short term and limited engagement.”

    Nothing bizarre about it, and you know it. It’s one reason why draft [involuntary conscription] is a more honest way of going about or facing America’s wars – because the entire population is involved – not just those who volunteer for armed services.

    In fact, it was the condition of there being a draft that was instrumental in generating massive anti-war protests during the Vietnam era and no doubt expedited American withdrawal.

    So yes, in democratic societies, having a draft is a more honest way to go.

  • http://delibernation.com/blog/3 Silas Kain

    Dave, there are a lot of allegations out there. In all likelihood many are not based in fact. That being said, we do have the right to know how much each company earned. The Congress has an obligation to insure that these contractors are executing their jobs within a defined set of rules of engagement. If they are responsible for murder, prostitution or abject slavery we need to know about it. I don’t want hyperbole. Nor do I want to feed the left wing flame. However, I DO want to know what fact is separate from fiction. I hardly think I’m being unreasonable.

    Insofar as Bill Maher I was very distressed during the last season when he was so rabid about Obama. This season has been different. Maher has been critical. Maher has painted an accurate picture of how well Republicans execute their craft. And through it all the Democrats remain impotent, staring like deer in headlights. They’re praying they make it through next year’s election cycle and won’t take a stand on anything important. It’s pathetic. If they were employed by a private company that would have been terminated.

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    Dave, there are a lot of allegations out there. In all likelihood many are not based in fact.

    I agree. In all likelihood the allegations are probably innumerable times worse than the ‘facts’ of the stories that are out there.

    Judging by history, for everything that has been uncovered there are likely a myriad atrocities that remain undiscovered.

  • Diningroomtable

    “President Obama had increased our overall mercenary deployment by 29 percent in only six months.”

    See? Obama is Hitler!

    We’re fucked…

    (breaking into song) – We want our revolution…NOW.

  • Diningroomtable

    ps — I wonder what Blackwater would charge to overthrow the US.

  • Baronius

    “In all likelihood the allegations are probably innumerable times worse than the ‘facts’ of the stories that are out there.”

    Good point Cindy. In fact, some of them might even be witches! Racist witches!

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    We know they’ve engaged in murder and torture. But really, do we have any evidence at all that whatever else they did wasn’t generous and kind?

    Right-o, Baronius. There’s no point jumping to conclusions.

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    21, 22

    I think I love you diningroomtable.

    (Somebody copy that sentence down. I may need it as evidence during my late life sanity hearing. Surely, with the world so chock full of assholes, I am bound to find myself on trial eventually.)

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    Meantime I have a new blog post. It has nothing to do with this thread. That’s what’s good about it.

  • Lumpy

    It might be a very good idea to disband the US military entirely and fight all future wars with mercs. I’m sure Cindy would agree.

  • Clavos

    It might be a very good idea to disband the US military entirely and fight all future wars with mercs.

    I’m not so sure about that. When all your troops are mercs, their only loyalty is money; they can and do turn on their employers on a dime.

    Literally.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    You might remember the incident from EL Cid, Clavos, when the dispute between the opposing forces was settled by the fight between the respective champions.

    The heroic age.

  • zingzing

    lumpy: “It might be a very good idea to disband the US military entirely and fight all future wars with mercs.”

    wow. that idea slipped out of your brain without going through the “checkout” line. it’s like reality shoplifted stupidity. (what i’m saying is that’s the kind of thing you may want to actually think about before blurting it out for all to hear. unless you’re just trying for a chuckle.)

  • http://delibernation.com/blog/3 Silas Kain

    I think Lumpy was serious, zing. I wonder if he is a card carrying member of the NRA?

  • Deano

    There are pluses and minuses to the usage of any type of mercenary force.

    Minus -: It lowers accountability and control – this was a primary reason why privateering has gone by the wayside. Privateers would hit enemy ships yes, but they would often hit neutrals as well. When peace came, they would often continue their efforts, seguing into full piracy. Its hard and expensive to put the tiger back in the cage.

    Plus+: It lowers acountability and control allowing governments to distance themselves from the actions of the mercenary force it hires (this is also a significant minus as it means you just sidestepped any specific legal limitations your government or consitution might have on their actions, thus undermining your own system).

    Plus +: When a mercenary dies, the government is not visibily at fault(i.e. they were hired for the job, too bad, so sad.). Also when a mercenary does something egregious, the government is at arm’s length and can duck or limit the blame. (We are shocked to discover that they …blah, blah, blah…)

    Minus – :Private contractors are hard to control. Mercenary companies break up, reform, individuals leave and go free-lance and before you know it some small, ambitious crew is hitting some third world junk pile, setting up their own government and selling off the resources like a bad version of the “Dogs of War”. You are creating and nuturing the rise of small, highly trained, capitalist-oriented entreprenuers with a very particular skillset…Where do you think the market demand might take them?

    Minus – :It may weaken your own military both in manpower and morale as they either a). leave in favour of higher pay or b). develop resentment / discontent.

    Plus+: It may extend your reach into other regions or give you opportunity to do things that your own military may not be able to do easily (i.e. develop unofficial allicances through mercenary contracts)

    Minus – : Mercenaries may allow governments to more easily do things that otherwise would be in violation of international law or things that are morally questionable from a political / military perspective.

    Plus+: You get more flexibility in applying national power through hidden or less overt means…

    Minus – : so does everyone else.

  • http://theugliestamerican.blogspot.com Andy Marsh

    “reality shoplifted stupidity” I like that!

  • FutureWars

    Future wars (and police actions) will be fought by mercs and funded by those whose interests they serve — multinationals.

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    It might be a very good idea to disband the US military entirely…

    I agree with that part Lumpster. You know, you’re sorta cute–like a baby rattlesnake.

  • http://delibernation.com/blog/3 Silas Kain

    I have found a use for a mercenary force! In today’s NY Post the headline is that Bernie Madoff is dying of cancer. While “officials” will nether confirm or deny, this troubles me. So, let’s send the mercenaries to the prison to interrogate Bernie. While they are “interrogating” have two other mercenary cells visiting 1) Bernie’s wife and 2) Bernie’s kids. Have a video feed to all three locations and let the questions fly. We’ll get more answers in two hours than we’ve gotten in the last year because of the ineptitude
    of our Justice Department.

    And when it’s over, let’s all pray for world peace.

  • http://handyfilm.blogspot.com handyguy

    Dave’s contention that it’s the US Army that’s unconstitutional has gone largely uncommented upon.

    Is this just another libertarian/black helicopter bold-but-silly assertion?

    Has anyone ever challenged said constitutionality in court?

    Has anyone ever suggested a constitutional amendment to fix this [alleged] flaw?

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Handy,

    I believe I sort of touched upon it, indirectly, see #18.

    I didn’t get a response.

  • http://www.republicofdave.com Dave Nalle

    Read the Constitution and tell me where it authorizes the creation of a federal military force other than the navy.

    The intent of the framers, if you read their writings, was clearly to have national defense handled by state militias which could be called into service only in times of crisis. Not only that, but they generally regarded a standing army as a dangerous threat to the nation. Don’t take my word for it — they wrote extensively on the subject.

    The existence of a federal military is justified (like every other government excess) under the “general welfare” provision of the Constitution, and because we think we need it we accept that very weak argument.

    Dave

  • STM

    Dave: “Not only that, but they generally regarded a standing army as a dangerous threat to the nation. Don’t take my word for it – they wrote extensively on the subject.”

    Which might have been OK for 200-plus years ago.

    The framers are also on record as saying that as they were just men they couldn’t have got it everything right, and that they hoped future generations of Americans would change the constitution to meet their changing needs – and as they saw fit.

    As has happened, of course.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Compliments on your article, Dave. I learned a few things I didn’t know.

    I do see that you covered your butt by stating that your article was not about the pros and cons of America hiring mercenaries…but I think your sympathies were exposed by your first reply to Silas when you asked exactly what could they could be prosecuted for. Of course, a cursory search for ‘blackwater’ and ‘crimes’ or ‘murder’ will show quite a few – IMO ALL of which were a direct result of the Bush doctrine (disguised as a ‘legal loophole’) that while American military were subject to the UCMJ, certain US contractors in Iraq were effectively subject to NO law, neither American, Iraqi, or international. This particular Bush doctrine was one of the most irresponsible of all doctrines ever promulgated by a US president in our history, because when men are subject to NO law, they will commit crimes with impunity.

    As to whether we should utilize mercenaries are not – yes, we, like every other government, will hire mercs and assassins to do our dirty work. BUT when we hold their conduct to a lower level, we can expect their crimes to reflect on America as a whole – which is precisely what happened with Blackwater.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Clavos made a VERY good comment: “Another likely reason for the disparity in compensation, in addition to Dave’s point about the market, is that mercenaries are hired guns, with no allegiance to a given country or political idea, while national troops are presumably motivated at least in part, by patriotism. For that reason, I disagree with the idea that we should pay our troops market rates.”

    I distinctly remember Clavos saying what a low opinion he had of the usefulness of patriotism – but this wouldn’t be the first time I’ve seen a conservative change his opinion to fit the issue at hand.

    Be that as it may, I strongly agree with what Clavos said.

  • http://handyfilm.blogspot.com handyguy

    Dave, as is his wont, answers my question without answering it, and avoids revealing his own opinion on having a standing army. Would you disband it tomorrow morning, sir, and would you accept all the consequences of doing so?

    If it’s unconstitutional, is anyone seriously arguing to do away with it and replace it with state militias? Or are you just playing provocative games?

    As with almost all your writing about states’ rights and New Radicals and such, you always carefully frame these ideas and actions as someone else’s, and your attitude is rarely if ever explicitly expressed.

    So where do you stand? Do you want to disband the Federal Government and the US Army? What’s your personal take on all this? Stop being so coy.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    handy –

    I really don’t think Dave means to imply that he supports the disbanding of our standing army – he’s not stupid. I think he would also agree with STM’s observation that our ‘founding fathers’ said that they were human and their work would need to be changed from time to time. I think that Dave would agree that – contrary to what he sees in the Constitution, America does indeed need a standing army.

    That said, I wonder how many conservatives would agree that the same lack of foresight, the same human error in the constitution has led to the present-day pervasiveness of guns, gun violence, and gun nuts who apparently think ownership of a gun is more precious than the right to vote.

  • Deano

    “And Caesar’s spirit, raging for revenge,
    With Ate by his side come hot from hell,
    Shall in these confines with a monarch’s voice
    Cry “Havoc!” and let slip the dogs of war,
    That this foul deed shall smell above the earth
    With carrion men, groaning for burial.”

    Just thought I would drop it into the discussion to add a little flavour…

    “Vive la mort, vive la guerre, vive la sacre mercenaire…”

  • http://delibernation.com/blog/3 Silas Kain

    That said, I wonder how many conservatives would agree that the same lack of foresight, the same human error in the constitution has led to the present-day pervasiveness of guns, gun violence, and gun nuts who apparently think ownership of a gun is more precious than the right to vote.

    I’ve got no problem with a citizen’s right to bear arms. I do have a problem with the definition of arms. This country was built on a foundation of violence — from the massacre of Native Americans, to gun toting outlaws in the Western frontier. The right to bear arms was and continues to be a necessity. It is a subtle reminder to the government that citizens ARE the government. Are there citizens who should NOT bear firearms? Absolutely. We need to come to a common sense compromise between the divides.

  • http://www.republicofdave.com Dave Nalle

    Dave, as is his wont, answers my question without answering it, and avoids revealing his own opinion on having a standing army. Would you disband it tomorrow morning, sir, and would you accept all the consequences of doing so?

    I’m actually on record as having advocated the elimination of the standing army in a print article written back in 1981, and I haven’t changed my position much since then.

    On constitutional grounds there is an argument that the navy and the marines are legally authorized.

    What I’d like to see is the control of the national guard returned entirely to the states except in times of national emergency, with a prohibition on deploying them outside of our national borders.

    To go with that I think that federal armed forces should be reduced to the absolute minimum necessary to provide national security for our embassies overseas, the defense of our shores and borders and the maintenance of infrastructure necessary to mobilize a larger military if forces were called up for service as authorized in the Constitution.

    Is that explicit enough for you, Handy?

    Dave

  • http://www.republicofdave.com Dave Nalle

    That said, I wonder how many conservatives would agree that the same lack of foresight, the same human error in the constitution has led to the present-day pervasiveness of guns, gun violence, and gun nuts who apparently think ownership of a gun is more precious than the right to vote.

    Gun nuts are generally NOT the ones responsible for gun violence. About 99.99% of gun violence is committed by people who are criminals and nothing at all like those who are strong advocate of 2nd Amendment rights. Plus those 2nd Amendment supporters DO vote, in large numbers. The NRA claims 3.5 million registered voters among its members.

    Dave

  • Clavos

    @ #46,

    Well put, Silas.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Except that the notion of the citizens protecting themselves from the government by means of arms is no longer a viable one.

  • Clavos

    I distinctly remember Clavos saying what a low opinion he had of the usefulness of patriotism…

    And I stand by that conviction, especially as regards my own loyalty to any political entity.

    Nothing in my comment negates that opinion; I don’t value patriotism, but it would foolish of me not to recognize that plenty of people do; it’s the primary emotion to which politicians appeal to control and manipulate the masses.

    Likewise, it can be used to ensure your troops remain loyal, which mere money won’t.

    This characteristic of patriotism, the ease with which it can be manipulated, is exactly what Dr. Johnson meant in his well-known aphorism.

  • Clavos

    Except that the notion of the citizens protecting themselves from the government by means of arms is no longer a viable one.

    True, but not even close to Silas’ point.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Citizens are the government? That needs to be defined. Are we talking about self-defense? That won’t do as a definition. So perhaps in the sense of “taking the law in their own hands”? That’s overreaching.

  • http://delibernation.com/blog/3 Silas Kain

    Look, the bottom line is that the government has no right to prohibit a citizen’s right to bear arms. However, the government does have the right and the moral obligation to define the parameters inside which we bear those arms. Weapons for sport, hunting or collecting must be protected. Weapons which are designed to incur mass slaughter (assault weaponry) should only be allowed use by those in the military. Insofar as bearing arms at a public forum, common sense dictates that this kind of act must be prohibited. Do it like they did an old Western saloon. Leave your guns at the door and come on in.

    No government official in the United States — from President to Alderperson should have to be concerned with the threat that a person other than security personnel is bearing arms at a public event, period. I understand the passion of both sides and see the validity of points made. Still, there’s no doubt in my mind that a consensus is achievable. Perhaps if we kept the extremists out of the debate, we’d actually forge a policy to the satisfaction of the majority.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Missing the point, Silas. I haven’t objected to the right to bear arms – only to the fact that the statement “to remind the people they are the government” has no role to play in this debate.

  • http://kitchendispatch.blogspot.com Kanani

    Given that many soldiers have done 3 deployments in 6 years, have seen the destruction of a good many marriage and families, have plummeted many of them into major depression with a suicide rate through the roof, I’d say we’re not given much choice but to hire independent contractors –unless we’re going to reinstate the draft. Many are at the breaking point, and many of them will indeed, break past the point of being fixed again.

    “Dwell time” is something not thought about by those who toss Blackwater into the bucket of maladies. If there are crimes prosecute.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Kanani,

    I’d say then that there is something wrong with the Defense department for allowing the situation to deteriorate to that point. The low morale among the troops should be indication enough that something is rotten in Denmark.

    I don’t believe it’s right for the mercenaries to fight our wars. If the war is just, re-institute the draft. If there are serious questions, get the fuck out.

  • http://delibernation.com/blog/3 Silas Kain

    I don’t believe it’s right for the mercenaries to fight our wars.

    Roger I used to feel that way until Dave wrote this piece and I gave it a lot of thought. Whether we like it or not, there are situations which arise that may call for the use of a mercenary force. We live in dangerous times — the most in history thanks to our technology.

    When smaller industrialized countries have biological or nuclear weapons in their arsenals, terrible decisions have to be made. In some cases it would not be practical or diplomatically correct for a government-military sponsored campaign. The use of mercenaries have historical precedent and after consideration it has a practical application.

  • http://kitchendispatch.blogspot.com Kanani

    Roger,
    Dwell time. It’s just one more thing to think about. If there’s anything wrong it’s that that most people outside the military never have reason to think about the multiple deployments, the high suicide rates, the divorce rates through the roof. They’re so far removed, it’s all abstract. The don’t read the Army Surgeon’s General Blog, they don’t know any soldiers!

    At Ft. Stewart, they had long-planned to bring in 3 more brigades. In fact, the city of Hinesville got word and a lot of new stuff was built.

    But this was all changed last Fall. Gates decided to sack the plans to bring in new brigades there and on a few other bases. The result? Less dwell time for the soldiers who have already gone on multiple deployments.

    Like it or not, Blackwater is a necessary component of today’s war. We don’t force anyone to enlist –it’s all volunteer. Find more volunteers to enlist, and fewer contractors will have to be used.

  • http://www.republicofdave.com Dave Nalle

    I don’t believe it’s right for the mercenaries to fight our wars. If the war is just, re-institute the draft. If there are serious questions, get the fuck out.

    A draft is such a fundamental violation of individual rights that it’s a far bigger conern — or should be — than whether we have mercenaries fight our wars for us. A draft is a direct attack on the liberty of the American people.

    In some ways a volunteer service is not unlike hiring mercenaries. As volunteers they serve under a contract and serve for pay at will like any other employee of government. If you took away some of the coercive measures used to keep them in the service then the difference between volunteer soldiers and mercenaries would consist only of whether they are hired directly by government or through an intermediary.

    And don’t think that mercenaries aren’t patriotic or loyal to the nation. I’ve known a number of them, and while they do fight for money, one of the benefits of the independence that they gain as mercenaries is that they can decide as a group who to fight for and who not to fight for. In fact, they really have a lot MORE control over whether or not they fight for unjust causes or regimes they don’t support than any nation’s armed forces do.

    Dave

  • Clavos

    Dave,

    You contradict yourself here:

    And don’t think that mercenaries aren’t patriotic or loyal to the nation. I’ve known a number of them, and while they do fight for money, one of the benefits of the independence that they gain as mercenaries is that they can decide as a group who to fight for and who not to fight for.

    Implicit in your idea of using mercs is that they’ll all be American. Of course, we could make that a prerequisite for the job, but one wonders if, as they exercise their right and judgment noted above to decide whether or not a war is “just,” we will find enough American mercs to fight an unpopular war such as those in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    Mercenaries who are foreigners will ONLY be loyal to the money; if, say, the Taliban offers them more money, we have a problem.

    Also, the opprobrium from all the rest of the world which will arise at the spectacle of a US mercenary military will make the current worldwide disgust with America look like a love fest.

  • Oy!

    Oy! is it ever a mistake to generalize from limited acquaintance.

    Blackwater hires internationally and requires loyalty to company not country. We’re not talking about a chapter of the Hell’s Angels here nor the crew of the Black Pearl; the notion that decisions about who to fight are made by the ‘group’ is misguided. You want your check, you go where you are told and fulfill your contract.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Kanani,

    “Like it or not, Blackwater is a necessary component of today’s war. We don’t force anyone to enlist –it’s all volunteer.”

    I find this proposition very problematic – especially for democratic societies. It tells me more about the kind of wars we are fighting than anything else.

    Silas, you would really have to convince me. True, I haven’t read Dave’s article – sorry – but as far as I’m concerned you don’t offer good enough reasons.

    I will agree with one thing: that technological advances in modern warfare have rendered the whole proposition of waging war problematic in general – to the extent of removing it from the specter of pain, suffering and loss. And it’s not a good idea. Wars are the most serious affairs and they should never be undertaken lightly. Pain and suffering and loss ought to figure in the decision-making process regarding waging wars.

    So no, I don’t believe in wars by proxy. I’d have to convince me.

  • Clavos

    Actually, “wars by proxy” is EXACTLY what we (and the Soviets) practiced throughout the cold war — not with mercenaries, with so-called “client nations” as our proxies.

  • http://delibernation.com/blog/3 Silas Kain

    Clav, you are right. And while using mercenaries or “client nations” as our proxies may be distasteful I really can’t see negating their use all together.

  • Clavos

    I agree, Silas. I was only objecting to the idea of relying SOLELY on mercenaries for military forces.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    I wasn’t negating their use altogether (especially when it comes to providing support, auxiliary services); but you’re arguing, Silas, on complete dependence. That is absolving oneself of moral responsibilty.

    I really can’t see how you fail to be sensitive to this issue.

  • http://delibernation.com/blog/3 Silas Kain

    It’s not a matter of sensitivity, Roger. It’s a matter of reality and historic precedent. I didn’t say I liked it and I certainly have issues with the parameters of mercenary use in days gone by. However, we need to be realistic as well. There may be times when this type of strategy is necessary but it should NOT be our first line of defense. For most situations we have our military. In exceptional circumstances it’s quite a different matter. I also don’t condone the use of mercenary forces without the express consideration of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    I don’t buy your historical precedences and excuses, Silas. The picture of modern warfare has changed so dramatically from the past that these examples do not apply – or at least you would have to argue that they apply.

    I wasn’t speaking of sensitivity, besides, in any touchy-feely kind of way but in categorical moral terms. War is a serious proposition, I’ll say it again, and we should never take it lightly – especially in today’s day and age when you can wipe out cities and countries by the touch of a button and do everybody in in an antiseptic, clinical kind of way.

    Again, if we think it necessary to wage the war, we should have courage enough and fortitude and gumption to put our own asses on the line, or you’ll never going to convince me that that kind of war is worth fighting for. And I should hope you’ll never be able to convince a bunch of other people too. It’s the cowards way, and wars have no business getting started by cowards.

    Forgive me, but I am totally unsympathetic to your view. I really have nothing else to add.

  • STM

    The cold war was actually a hot war by proxy. From Korea (the first obvious manifestation) on, the US, Australia and Britain fought directly against communism in south-east Asia in the Malay archipelago and Vietnam while the US helped its client states do the same thing in south and central america.

    Then, of course, there were the Soviets …

    Peace? Don’t think so.

  • http://www.republicofdave.com Dave Nalle

    Implicit in your idea of using mercs is that they’ll all be American.

    Not really. There are all sorts of Mercenaries of various levels of quality and from various bckgrounds. Blackwater is actually only a very small part of the mercenary force we’re currently using.

    However, the best trained and best equipped are going to mostly be products of western civilization with a preference for working for other westerners.

    Of course, we could make that a prerequisite for the job, but one wonders if, as they exercise their right and judgment noted above to decide whether or not a war is “just,” we will find enough American mercs to fight an unpopular war such as those in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    No war is unpopular with mercenaries. Without war they have no jobs.

    Mercenaries who are foreigners will ONLY be loyal to the money; if, say, the Taliban offers them more money, we have a problem.

    There’s more than just money involved. They want to work for reliable employers too. They don’t want to be hung out to dry or backstabbed or not paid, and western nations and especially the US can be counted on to fulfill their obligations to the people they hire far more reliably than some tinpot dictator or band of fanatics.

    Also, the opprobrium from all the rest of the world which will arise at the spectacle of a US mercenary military will make the current worldwide disgust with America look like a love fest.

    So France which has its own permanent mercenary force in the Foreign Legion and also has a long history of hiring other mercenaries is going to look askance at us for it? I don’t think so. Perhaps Britain with its Gurkhas? Not seeing it.

    Dave

  • Clavos

    However, the best trained and best equipped are going to mostly be products of western civilization with a preference for working for other westerners.

    Wonder why so many work in Africa and other Third World areas then? Oh, right, that’s where most of the jobs for mercenaries are.

    But you knew that: No war is unpopular with mercenaries. Without war they have no jobs.

    There’s more than just money involved. They want to work for reliable employers too.

    Again, you contradict yourself. See above.

    So France which has its own permanent mercenary force in the Foreign Legion and also has a long history of hiring other mercenaries is going to look askance at us for it?

    You’re right. The French are never hypocritical in their attitudes about the USA.

  • Deano

    The Legion Etrangere and the Gurkas are not mercenaries. They are part and parcel of their respective national militaries not mercenaries. They happen to be made up of foreigners. It is not a separate entity from national control. Neither the Gurkhas nor the Legion negotiate contracts with the nations they serve. It is merely a foreign branch of the military. They are not “for hire”.

  • http://drdreadful.blogspot.com Dr Dreadful

    Indeed, Deano.

    And both the Foreign Legion and the Gurkhas are among the finest, most respected and most decorated regiments in their respective armies.

    On a related note, Gurkha veterans (the Gurkhas are hill people from Nepal) recently won the legal right to UK residency, which they previously did not have despite their long record of distinguished service.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    It’s arguable, in fact, that many in the Foreign Legion were more patriotic than the regular conscripts. The service offered some of them a second lease on life.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writer/dan_miller Dan(Miller)

    It has been suggested that mercenaries are paid more than their counterparts in the U.S. military. That may be true; I suspect it is, and I hope so.

    I seem to recall that veterans get various government benefits not available to mercenaries. These include the GI bill which provides various educational benefits (I had completed college and law school before entering the army, and so didn’t need the GI Bill for that.) I got training as a commercial pilot, with multi engine and instrument ratings, at a cost of several thousand dollars. I paid about 10% and Uncle Sam paid the balance. Then there were (and for all I know still are) significant types of mortgage assistance available to veterans — GI loans, as I seem to remember.

    Contrary to the views of most, I think a military draft would on balance be a good idea. It would be useful if most citizens had some real idea of what the military is like, its good and bad points. There is no other way to formulate such ideas. Additionally, military training involves rather more than how to kill people and break things. Many recruits learn to fix and maintain cars and trucks. Some learn how to be excellent paramedics. Many trades useful in civilian life are taught, and taught pretty well.

    I understand that most mercenaries have already been trained in their military specialties — including how to kill people and break things — and their employers don’t have to pay to do it all over again. That training is worth quite a lot and I can think of no valid reason why their compensation should not reflect it.

    One problem with the draft, as used in the late 1960s, was that mentally and otherwise unqualified people had to be accepted, as a social experiment. They were referred to as “McNamara’s One Hundred Thousand.” A far higher percentage of those I tried as a special court martial military judge were in that group than in any other. It was a social experiment and did not work very well.

    It seems unlikely that the military would want to see the draft re-instituted. From a military perspective, it is probably far better to be able to pick and choose from among people who want to serve than to have to take from the bigger pool of those who don’t.

    Dan(Miller)

  • Deano

    In addition, French Legionnaires could apply for French citizenship after three years of service. In some cases if they were injured they could apply for French citizenship as “Français par le sang versé” or ”French by spilled blood”.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Good point, Deano. I wonder whether the idea is still workable to depopulate our growing prison population.

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    Oh, I see, the military isn’t just about killing people and war and stuff, it’s sort of like a school where you can learn how to fix stuff and then also kill people too!

    Well then, that makes all the difference.

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    Dan(Miller),

    Great idea! If there were to be a draft, I hope they start by drafting all of the retired lawyers. They seem to know what’s best for everyone else. And if they get killed, just think of the savings to the health care system. So, it works out well all around.

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    The military would then be chock full of knowledgeable people who are expendable.

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    Dan(Miller),

    It seems unlikely that the military would want to see the draft re-instituted. From a military perspective, it is probably far better to be able to pick and choose from among people who want to serve than to have to take from the bigger pool of those who don’t.

    From a govt perspective, a draft is the last resort. They learned not to draft people from the result of the Vietnam War draft. The last thing they want is people who normally don’t care, to start caring. It causes widespread protest. Hard to keep a war out of sight and out of mind with widespread protest.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    #80 is cold, Cindy. But you’re right, of course, about the draft. The reason why neither the military nor the powers that be cherish the idea is precisely because it would lead to massive protests about unpopular wars. Not to mention the fact that our fearless leaders would hate the idea of their offspring being subjected to harm’s way. Why take a chance on the lottery when you can draw safely from the immense pool of the underclass?

    In fact, when Charlie Rangel was contemplating the idea of instituting the draft, if only to put out a feeler, it fell on deaf ears. Again, our fearless leaders don’t want their sons and daughters implicated in this or any other war for as long as they have recourse of course to the hoi poloi.

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    Why is it cold Roger? Dan(Miller) was just considering using the govt to forcibly require my niece and nephew to enlist in the military.

    I can’t imagine anything colder than volunteering other people’s children for the military. Sounds like something a dictator would support.

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    I agree Roger, with the rest of the reasons you put about why there is no draft.

  • STM

    The Gurkhas kind of really ARE mercenaries, even though they form two regiments of the British Army.

    Since Indian independence, most of those who used to go to the British Army (which is still the plum job) now go to seven Gurkha regiments in the Indian Army, while those who aren’t recruited for either of those get a third chance with the Gurkha contingent of the Singapore police – mainly employed on counter-terrorism operations. They are a fearsome sight at singapore airport, and armed with H&K submachine guns. They are also able to be used like an Army unit during a crisis.

    The Sultan of Brunei also hires an army unit of some 2000 men employed only on close personal protection duties – all must be Gurkha veterans of the British Army.

    So yes, technically they are mercenaries.

    Forget those perfumed legionnaires. These guys are the real deal.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Well, the French idea of fighting a war is a different one, I should think.

    It calls for . . . panache?

  • http://drdreadful.blogspot.com Dr Dreadful

    I beg to differ, Stan – partly.

    The Gurkhas working with the Singapore police, the Sultan of Brunei’s men and those employed in various private security capacities in Hong Kong may be mercenaries; those serving in the Gurkha regiments of the British and Indian armies are most emphatically regular soldiers – albeit employed under different conditions than the rest of those armies, which has been a bone of contention in recent times, particularly in Britain.

    The Gurkhas are nothing if not pragmatic and it came as rather a surprise to the British when most of them elected to join the Indian army’s Gurkha regiments following independence. Although the pay wasn’t as good, it allowed them to serve closer to home and in somewhat familiar territory.

  • http://drdreadful.blogspot.com Dr Dreadful

    As for the Foreign Legion, I saw a documentary once which followed some silly journo as he went through the Legion’s training programme for new recruits.

    He didn’t last five minutes. Those are tough hommes (et, aujour d’hui, quelques mademoiselles).

  • STM

    Your French ancestry is showing Doc, and it’s nearly as worrying as your use of “American” words :).

    Make sure that if you have kids, Doc, they’re born in the Old Dart! (They’ll still be eligible for US citizenship either way but this way they get the benefit of being born on blessed soil).

    Just ship the missus back over the pond, and then ship ‘em back again to Fresno after. Save a HUGE quid too on doctors’ and hospital costs.

    But yes, I’ll give you that on the Frogs’ legionnaires. They’re tough fellas all right. Their only problem (apart from being nominally French) is they march waaaaay too slowly (88 paces per minute) and really do sing too many silly songs. I dunno, call me old fashioned … but it looks weird to me. I always feel like they’re getting tired should all be stopping for a nice ham baguette, a quick chat about existentialism and a cafe au lait to get their energy levels up

    Kind of the polar opposite of the D.L.I. (one of your mob, from my grandparents’ area – and era) in that respect, who marched everywhere at a MINIMUM 140 paces a minute. No time there for silly songs.

    On the Gurkhas: It is still more prestigious for the Nepalese to go to the British Army, not the Indian.

    The only reason more go to the Indian Army is that when the Gurkha regiments were split in 1947, the Indian Army got the Lion’s share – six regiments as opposed to four of the British Army’s.

    Plus, prior to Indian independence, they were part of the Indian Army anyway.

    So in a post-apocalyptic world, and heaven forbid there should be one, could the scenario ever arise whereby Gurkhas are fighting Gurkhas as India becomes a genuine superpower (rather than an almost superpower)???

    I must say do feel a lot safer at Singapore airport and around the city with the Gurkha police units around. They certainly look cool, calm and collected – but dangerous too, especially if you’re a naughty terrorist.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    I hope you’re not Francophobic, STM. The “Frenchies” have their redeeming graces. For my part, the world would be a poorer place without them.

  • STM

    No Rog, it’s probably hard for an American to understand, but it’s almost expected that an anglo will give the Frogs some light-hearted stick.

    It’s all tongue in cheek, of course. I actually really like them and I really like France too. I have had some wonderful experiences of friendship there. They are good people generally in my experience and you’re right, the world would be a poorer place without them.

    They can still be ratbags, though, when they choose – and usually for no good reason. I guess if you accept that’s how they are, it’s all good.

    The funny thing is, the French and English say the same things about each other: that the other is arrogant.

    What does that tell you??? Birds of a feather I think …

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    I kind of figured that. It’s an affinity born of radically different cultural/ethnic traits.
    So to second Dreadful, Vive la difference!

  • Deano

    It’s an affinity born of them smacking each other around constantly for the last 1,000 years……

  • John Lake

    As to the employment of mercenaries, it occurs to me that such use might create an unequalled opportunity for profiteering by some in government.
    I am including a quote from President Eisenhower’s farewell speech on his final day in office.
    In the quoted portion of the speech, he warns the citizenry of the potential for hazard with regard to the growing military-industrial complex.

    “..This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence-economic, political, even spiritual-is felt in every city, every state house, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society.

    “In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.

    “We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.”

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Great point, Deano.

  • http://drdreadful.blogspot.com Dr Dreadful

    It’s an affinity born of them smacking each other around constantly for the last 1,000 years……

    And when we’re not doing that, we’re squatting in each other’s backyards.

    For hundreds of years, the official language of England was French. Also for hundreds of years, until that twit King John managed to lose most of them, huge chunks of what is now France were owned by the English Crown.

    Our histories are inextricably intertwined.

    One thing to bear in mind though: despite all the needle, thanks to the English Channel we and the French haven’t fought each other nearly as much as the French and Germans have.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    “… huge chunks of what is now France were owned by the English Crown.”

    That doesn’t make exactly for a relationship between equal – discounting the feudal notions of the lord-vassal relationships.

    Were parts of England ever a French fiefdom?

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Well, Bonaparte was an exception. But I don’t think he had any animosity vs the English, just that the idea of Imperial France required the action.

    The history of the world might have been way different if the French and the English had a non-aggression pact. But I suppose this was a political impossibility for the Imperial France and English Consitutional Monarchy to co-exist side by side.

  • http://drdreadful.blogspot.com Dr Dreadful

    Were parts of England ever a French fiefdom?

    Strictly speaking, no. The Saxon kingdom of England was conquered by the Normans, who although they spoke French and had entirely adopted French culture and customs, were actually Vikings by descent.

    Hence the fact that French was the language of the court, politics and business in England until the mid-14th century.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Unless we go back to the Frankish dynasties, no? (Descendants from the Gauls?)

    Opens up an interesting question, though, since at the heart of feudal relations wasn’t a sense of nationalism but lineages and bloodlines. And this the mix and affinities all the more complex and interesting.

  • Deano

    Let me see, you had the Britons, the Celts, the Romans, the Saxons, the Aengles, the Danes, and then the Normans…did I miss anyone? Small wonder the English built an empire…they had so much experience smacking each other around at home, when they finally got around to exporting it, they conquer half the globe.

  • http://www.republicofdave.com Dave Nalle

    Those who suggested some comments back while I was busy that the Gurkhas and Legion are not for hire were displaying remarkable naivete. Many national militaries are effectively for hire. The US hires other nations to do our military dirty work all the time as do France and Russia.

    Others have already addressed the basic mercenary nature of the Gurkhas and Legion as units, so I won’t go over that territory again.

    I’ll just make the point that there isn’t really ANY functional difference between any paid professional military force and mercenaries. Both fight for hire and on salary and where and against whom their employers tell them to.

    The real dividing line is between a citizen militia which fights only in national defense and all the rest who are mercenaries in function even if not in name.

    Dave

  • http://www.republicofdave.com Dave Nalle


    Strictly speaking, no. The Saxon kingdom of England was conquered by the Normans, who although they spoke French and had entirely adopted French culture and customs, were actually Vikings by descent.

    Really strictly speaking, under Feudal law as Duke of Normandy William the Conqueror and his successors were still feudal vassals of the King of France, a situation which continued for more than 100 years, until John I solved that problem by making England a feudatory of the Papacy.

    Dave

  • STM

    Strictly speaking, while the Normans – and Doc’s right, they were Vikings (check the Norman long boats in the Bayeaux tapestry) – took over the place, they never really subjugated the Saxon population. Saxons continued to speak and write in old english, not French.

    France, BTW doc, was a separate kingdom at the time of William. The Normans didn’t consider themselves French.

    It’s also why we speak English, not French. French contributed enormously to modern English, and for 300 years was the official language, but eventually English took over as the Normans literally married into anglo-saxon culture. The dominant force in modern English is saxon old english.

    It’s also why in the north of England, the accent is so different … it’s a hangover from the Vikings and how they pronounced words.

    Many scandinavians who go to the UK say they find it easier to understand English speakers from the north.

    Many of the words in use are still to be found in the scandinavian languages, too.

    Yes, so that mixture of blood would appear to be the reason the Poms took over the world.

    They were a) good sailors with a long heritage of sea voyaging and b) had mixed a whole bunch of warrior tribes, as Deano points out, with the feaudalism of Norman culture (the born to rule and conquer attitude).

    Anglo-saxon isn’t strictly an accurate description of the English, either.
    … Anglo-celtic would be a far more accurate description of the English over the past 500 years

  • STM

    Rog: “Well, Bonaparte was an exception. But I don’t think he had any animosity vs the English, just that the idea of Imperial France required the action.”

    Are you serious, Rog? He hated the English (or the British, to be more accurate). They were constant thorns in his side.

    Especially at sea. The Royal Navy essentially stopped him from exapnding his empire beyond the borders of continental Europe.

    He famously described the English as a nation of shopkeepers.

    Angry shopkeepers though, I suspect. Which makes the defeat of Napoloen by Nelson at Trafalgar by Nelson and then by Wellington in the Peninsular War and then later during his “100 days” at Waterloo, a sweet victory for the British.

    What people forget is that at the time, the British were fighting for liberty and democracy – yes, even if it’s a tad different to that understood by Americans – against a tyrant every bit as nasty as Adolf Hitler and whose rampages through Europe cost millions of lives.

  • STM

    Deano: yes, mate, you did miss someone … the Jutes – a Germanic warrior tribe originating from the Jutland peninsular (which is also where the Angles came from).

    When I was a kid learning about this stuff, it was always “Angles, Saxons and Jutes”.

    Everyone in the English-speaking world should study the history of Britain for a better understanding of their own history, going back to and beyond the Roman conquest.

    I won’t hold my breath hoping that will happen in American schools, however.

    No history existed as I understand it prior to the departure of the Mayflower.

  • STM

    Whoops. Forgot the Picts from Scotland.

  • STM

    Back to the Sacon/Viking/Norman history of England: The Saxon King Harold Godwinson (himself of Viking descent), who had defeated (slaughtered, actually) a huge Viking invasion army under Harald Hardrada of Norway at the Battle of Stamford Bridge in 1066, was then confronted with news that William had landed at Hastings.

    Harold had to force march south to Hastings, where he was to to die in the battle, with his army changing as it went as some troops who had served their tenure went home and others took their place.

    The English had their name for William: Duke William the Bastard of Normandy.

    I don’t know whether they meant literally or figuratively.

    He certainly was, though, by all acounts.

    The Poms have never liked the Frogs much :)

  • STM

    Of course – America sleeps … I’m here talking to meself once again.

    Must stop that before they cart me off.

  • http://drdreadful.blogspot.com Dr Dreadful

    I’ll just make the point that there isn’t really ANY functional difference between any paid professional military force and mercenaries. Both fight for hire and on salary and where and against whom their employers tell them to.

    Then why bring up the Gurkhas and the Foreign Legion?

    You’re right, I suppose, though, if the only differentiations are:
    1. Whether the force is legally mandated by or an arm of a government;
    2. Whether the members of that force are fighting primarily for the country which employs them, or for money.

    It’s a fine line, but I suspect that if Vladimir Billionairovich called up the general in charge of the Brigade of Gurkhas and said he’d pay them fifty thousand quid each to go and fight for him in country X, the Gurkhas would go precisely nowhere.

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    Dave,

    Did you get the two posts I have been chasing you around with? I think you were away. (Don’t worry, if you don’t see this one, I will ask you 42 more times. You’ve heard of ruthless and relentless? Well, just call me relentless.)

  • Deano

    From the sound of it Dave is equating ANY paid military as been “of mercenary born”, (i.e. fighting for some form of pay or plunder) versus citizen-soldiers of some militia that fights strictly for the the protection of home and hearth.

    The usual distinction between a paid military and a strictly mercenary force are generally that mercenary forces are usually only hired for a campaign or specific role, while standing militaries are permanent fixture of a state (generally also with the express purpose of protecting the kingdom).

    Stan – thanks for the reminder on the Jutes, I had forgotten them. The Picts I always mentally lump in with the Celts for some reason.

  • Clavos

    Stan has always been Picty that way…

  • STM

    Stop picting on me Clav. It’s about 5am Sunday here. I’m completely rooted.

  • http://www.republicofdave.com Dave Nalle

    Did you get the two posts I have been chasing you around with? I think you were away. (Don’t worry, if you don’t see this one, I will ask you 42 more times. You’ve heard of ruthless and relentless? Well, just call me relentless.)

    I saw them once when browsing on my cell phone and was never able to find them again when I could reply. And I actually looked for them fairly hard.

    Dave

  • http://www.republicofdave.com Dave Nalle

    What people forget is that at the time, the British were fighting for liberty and democracy – yes, even if it’s a tad different to that understood by Americans – against a tyrant every bit as nasty as Adolf Hitler and whose rampages through Europe cost millions of lives.

    Woah, hold on there anglocentric boy. Napoleon thought he was also fighting for liberty and equality and he was nowhere near as bad as Hitler. He certainly had no death camps. He also brought to many areas of Europe the first decent legal system and a badly needed realignment of the entrenched class structure.

    Dave

  • http://www.republicofdave.com Dave Nalle

    The English had their name for William: Duke William the Bastard of Normandy.

    I don’t know whether they meant literally or figuratively.

    Actually, William was quite literally a bastard, and that rather than his behavior was the basis of his name. His son William Rufus was far worse than he was as king.

    Dave

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    I’m glad you intervened, Dave (#117), since I’m in no position to question Stan’s competence; but I’ve never heard of Napoleon’s hatred of the British expressed in such vivid terms. If the picture is true, then we must view him as some kind of maniac (on analogy with Hitler, then, in this respect) and his decisions as a military marshal of France as having been motivated by petty personal jealousies rather than by his picture of geopolitics at the time and what he deemed as best strategy for the French commonwealth.

    Which still leaves open the question: was his campaign vs England inevitable?

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Are You Avoiding Me Dave?

    Dave,

    I think you are.

  • STM

    No, sorry Dave, can’t agree on that.

    Any realistic view of history puts Napoleon in one camp and one camp only: A tyrant forcing his will over the people of Europe, and at the point of the bayonet.

  • STM

    And if I’m anglocentric, Dave, it’s because anglocentric is good.

    Just look at the history of the world for the past 400 years (even given those couple of minor hiccups on the other side of the pond) and see where the world might have gone without the English-speaking nations yes, yours included).

    You guys don’t need to look far for a bird’s-eye view of how it might have been.

    Turning south will give you the answer … just about all the evidence you need is right there, between the Mexican border and Patagonia.

    I’ll never be flogging myself about that particular view of mine.

    The ledger is way in the black overall on that one.

    And Napoleon was just one more hateful little foreign tyrant bent on the destruction of a way of life he neither understood nor cared for.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Yes, but all have benefited from the ideas of the French Revolution – the thorn in the flesh of your Burke. And the history is far from having been writ, Stan. I think yours (and our) days of glory are over.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    And the Enlightenment.

  • http://www.republicofdave.com Dave Nalle

    Stan, if you look at the history of the various European nations and their colonies, the Napoleonic code provided a considerable improvement in the legal systems of those countries. Perhaps not as good as English Common law, but way better than some horrible amalgem of rehashed cannon law and ancient tribal legal codes.

    Dave

  • http://www.republicofdave.com Dave Nalle

    And Cindy, I’m not avoiding you, I just have no idea where your posts are. I saw them once on my phone and haven’t been able to find them since then.

    Dave

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    Okay, I’ll put them here.

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    Dave,

    I am hoping you will factor this evidence into your theory.

    Legal Prostitution in Australia a “Failure”

    Ten years ago, Australia made a risky policy move it thought would help protect women and children: it legalized prostitution. Today, only 10% of the prostitution industry operates in Australia’s legal brothels. The other 90% takes place in underground, illegal sex markets thick with forced prostitution and human trafficking victims.

  • http://www.republicofdave.com Dave Nalle

    Cindy, Australia is hardly the only place prostitution is legal. Legalization seems to have worked much better in France and in Nevada.

    The article you link to points out that there’s a problem but doesn’t offer any explanation of why that has anything behind it beyond the author’s opinion, and her assumption that legalized prostitution has led to a growth in underground prostitution is incredibly speculative.

    Regardless, none of this changes the fact that the slavery and exploitation are the real crimes, NOT the act of being a prostitute or going to a prostitute. It’s just not right to punish all sex workers and oppress those who could operate legally becuase some they happen to be in the same industry as criminals.

    It’s like punishing all businessmen because Bernie Madoff is a criminal who happens to also be a businessman. Of course you DO believe in that, so your moral compass is completely out of whack anyway.

    Dave

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    Dave,

    I can see that we’ve made real progress tonight.

  • STM

    Roger, I would argue that The Enlightenment began in western Europe in Britain, with the Glorious Revolution of 1688-89. That is not simply my view, however, but the view of many scholars.

    I also believe the Declaration of Independence was part of the Englightenment.

    In France, however, apart from all the hoo-haa, the empty rationalism and the baroque music, what you got were: decadent aristocrats who wouldn’t give up their positions of wealth and power, a revolution that descended into a bloody terror and didn’t even pay lip service to its supposed ideals of liberty and equality, followed very soon after by the rule of a bloody tyrant whose reign caused millions of deaths across Europe and who – as I’ve said before and strongly believe – tried to force his will on the populace at the point of a bayonet and wanted to set up vassal states across the continent wjo would be virtual slaves in service of France.

    Not until the Treaty of 1814 and the Treaty of Paris a year later, mainly imposed by Britain and the coalition on France after Napoloeon’s defeat at Waterloo (and imposed in a very magnanimous fashion considering what had gone on), could the rest of Europe seriously be said to have benefited from whatever changes to legal systems etc that Napoleon supposedly brought to the table.

    Indeed, many serious scholars use either the French revolution or the start of Napoleon’s reign to mark the END of the enlightenment.

    Somehow, guillotines and bayonets just didn’t fit the picture of an enlightened society.

    Whereas in Britain, the Glorious Revolution ended the power of the King under constitutional monarchy and gave power to the people through their elected representatives in parliament based on anglo-saxon notions of personal liberty, while the American revolution gave power to the people through a republic under a constitution based on the very same principles.

    It is the ultimate paradox here when talking political enlightenment especially that these two nations with near identical ideals were to come to blows. However, neither Britain nor the US paid lip service to freedom and liberal democracy; they actually did it. Unlike Dave or many Americans, I also see the principles upon which the US was founded not as something special, radical and unique, but merely an extension of western European liberal democratic ideals, picked up and plonked across the pond and set down in a document.

    Americans should never look to France for an idea of where they came from: Indeed, the excesses of the French revolution and the plunder, burn and kill philosophy of Imperial France very nearly took Europe back to the dark ages.

    And once again, it was the anglo countries that remained the beacon on the hill during the period. That is, the US and Britain.

    So I don’t agree with Dave’s misguided premise at all; Napoleon was not a bringer of light in any way shape or form – he was a destroyer and a herald of darkness. And, with respect, I don’t believe from what you’ve written here Rog that you really know that much about it and are therefore not really in an ideal position to argue the point beyond simple pontification based on erroneous belief.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    I thought we might embark on a serious and interesting discussion, since the view your’re presenting is definitely an interesting one and worth considering. And I definitely don’t rule it out. In light, however, of your last remark, I find it useless to continue any further discussion. Apparently, Stan, you are more concerned about sticking to your version of history and history of ideas rather than having a fruitful exchange. And I have to look no further for evidence of your apparently fixed mindset than the closing of your otherwise interesting and thought-provoking comment. So do have a good day.

  • http://delibernation.com/blog/3 Silas Kain

    I thought we might embark on a serious and interesting discussion…

    OK, now that I’ve stopped laughing hysterically…

    …Napoleon was not a bringer of light in any way shape or form – he was a destroyer and a herald of darkness.

    With all due respect I disagree. For Poles, Napoleon was a liberator. I think one needs to look at the totality of Napoleon. As a child I sang the Polish National Anthem every day in school and here is the English translation:

    Cross the Vistula and Warta
    And Poles we shall be;
    We’ve been shown by Bonaparte
    Ways to victory.

    It’s interesting. The French side of my heritage argues that Napoleon was an oppressor while the Polish side celebrates his role in freeing the oppressed.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    I’m not affected by any of that, Silas: true, Napoleon was considered by many nation-states to be a liberator, although he failed to deliver. But the notion of Enlightenment goes beyond the political realm; it’s a notion of the advent of the Age of Reason and doing away with an Age of Faith. And with all due respect to Stan, that’s the point that’s being missed. And France, more than England, was the fertile ground because of the influence of Catholicism, whereas the English have long effected a separation of Church and State as institutions and in the realm of idea. We might even look to Descartes as a starting point, and the school of Rationalism. And in Germany, one might look to Kant. But what was the typical reaction from across the channel by the conservative Burke: one of suspicion: “We don’t wan’t none of that crap here.” So I guess not much has changed. The Anglos are just too impressed with themselves to recognize that they aren’t the only contributors. And so I say, let them.

    We’re still in the age of Enlightenment in that, more important sense — the age of reason that is – although our suspicions are growing that the project has been a failure.

  • http://delibernation.com/blog/3 Silas Kain

    Every age is an Age of Enlightenment in my mind. As every civilization advances, change erupts — not from the point of reason in many cases. The Dark Ages were the Church’s last attempt to maintain a stranglehold on people. With the rise of “heresies” an Age of Enlightenment came into being. Things aren’t that different today. Technological advances, education and “free” societies have caused people to question Dogma once again.

    In my personal search for “enlightenment”, I’m beginning to understand that “Natural Law” and God’s Law” are very much one in the same. What’s separating them right now is a set of interpretations which lead one to become more confused. I see the fundamental teachings of Christ as being consistent with Natural Law and explained from the point of view of the people to whom He preached.

    For thousands of years before the rise of Judaism or Christianity there were other religions. They were developed to respond to the people of their times. The basic fundamentals are similar in many respects. Maybe in our intellect we’ve blinded ourselves to that which is most obvious. Is there a “force” which guides us? Yes, I think there is. But it is our own force, or energy. Once we die, we simply change our form of life. While death is final on this plain or in this realm, it does not negate the value of life. What we do in this short time on Earth will define our next step in the process. Is it reincarnation? Perhaps, I’m not in touch enough with the Divine to understand.

    I think that’s where we’re at in our collective evolution. We are faced with issues that at times seem insurmountable — but they are not. We have our intellects and common binds to guide us into the next stage. There are changes coming in this world. Some will be good, some catastrophic. That’s the cycle of life. What we need to try and forge is a common understanding among all cultures that there is a Natural Law which guides us. In order for humanity to continue, we need to stop and assess where we are at and what it is that we are leaving behind for our descendants 100 years from now. We’re so engaged in the here and now that we’re forgetting we have a responsibility for future generations. It is incumbent upon each of us to try and leave this world in better shape than it was when we arrived. That’s our common bond — and moral obligation. Teddy Roosevelt understood that concept, that’s why he is the godfather of conservation which, in all respects, is consistent with conservative fundamentals.

    Basically, Roger, I’ve come to understand that Christ’s “Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s.” is at the basest level nothing more than common sense. We are such that we require some type of governmental oversight to maintain a just and peaceful society. I get that. And what is God’s is quite simple — it is everything. By rendering to Caesar what is his, we are actually carrying out God’s work provided Caesar is a just and righteous leader. In Christ’s time it was Caesar – the “king” of the Roman Empire. Today it is the collection of Presidents and Prime Ministers around the globe who share in Caesar’s legacy.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Silas, you’re stretching the term beyond its accepted usage and meaning, which makes it unusable for the debate at hand.

    Which isn’t to say I don’t understand where you’re coming from, but that’s a wholly different topic.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    To add to the above, I’m less interested with individual growth, expanding one’s consciousness, etcetera and etcetera, not because these topics aren’t interesting but because we can more or less take then for granted. We each proceed along an arc, some more slowly than others.

    My interests, however, lie with the status of the modern society, the unrealized hopes and dreams that the advent of the Age of Reason was being heralded as a promise. It is in this sense that the Enlightenment project still is of utmost importance because the questions remain unresolved.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Silas,

    The following remark to Cindy on another thread, #106, will give you some feel for the context.

  • http://delibernation.com/blog/3 Silas Kain

    I guess what I was trying to get at, Roger, is that I wonder if we really have entered the “age” of reason? Is it at all possible that we are at the precipice of the ultimate Age of Reason? Perhaps we have been deluding ourselves all these years.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Yes, age of reason it was as originally conceived by Descartes and Kant (again, the proper contrast here is faith). But reason degenerated and become limited to instrumental reason, of harnessing and dominating nature(and dominating of men by men). So if you’re pessimistic about the results, the unrealized hopes and promises welcome to the club. You’re expressing a fairly common sentiment.

    The question remains: What’s next? Quo vadis?

  • STM

    Rog, you entered this discussion with me by suggesting that Napoleon might not have had much animosity towards the British, which, while you have certainly boned up nicely on the arts and philosophy, shows me that your knowledge of modern history might be a bit wooly.

    The invasion of Russia – which Napoleon tried to couch in terms of a war of liberation for Poland – was in fact a direct result of Tsar Alexander, a one-time ally of Napoleon, breaking the French blockade of British trade to continiental Europe (which was sending Russia broke).

    Napoleon was so incensed, he decided to attack Alexander.

    Just before the invasion, he’s on record as saying: “I know Alexander. I once had influence over him; it will come back. If not, let destiny be accomplished and let Russia be crushed under my hatred of England.”

    Silas: while Poland might have been freed temporarily by Napoleon from Russian, Austrian and Prussian influence, in the end the invasion of Russia led to the carving up of Poland.

    Most alliances with Imperial France were done out of fear; he forced them on those he’s vanquished or threatened to vanquish. Mostly, as the Emperor rampaged across Europe, he left no crops or farm animals for the populace as he fed his armies, and millions starved.

    It’s interesting on that score to note that those allied with Britain in Napoleon’s eventual defeat were nations that had been forced into vassal-state alliances with France and were only too happy to be rid of him and his murdering, locust-like armies.

    As for anglos feeling self-important, Rog, there’s less of that than these is of feeling glad to be among a people who were instrumental in a) ridding Europe of both the excesses of revolutionary France and Napoleon’s Imperial France (a tyrant’s reign) b) fostering genuine modern liberal democracy on both sides of the atlantic, c) standing up to and defeating Prussian militarism d) crushing murderous Nazi ideology and murderous Japanese imperialism gone mad and e) standing up to and ultimately crushing communism.

    All those ideologies (except democracy) are among the most hateful to emerge in the context of modern history and all are now in the dustbin of history, where they belong.

    If that’s “anglo” self-importance, then long may it continue.

    Let’s face it: Without it, you’d very likely not be where you are now (you and Silas). You’d at the very least still have your neck under a French boot – or worse.

    Besides which, as Americans you are now part of the anglo heritage and beneficiaries of its freedoms.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    I was only posing a question – a hypothetical if you get my meaning, mate. And the discussion never turned on any denial of the English contributions. So long as these contributions went unquestioned, you could afford to show magnanimity towards lesser, poorer nation-states, like the second cousin, the French. But the cat surely got out of the bag once the British supremacy in all matters from politics to philosophy and arts appeared to be challenged. It was then that you took it personally and fell back on your English pride.

    So be it. I’m not here to cure you of your ethnocentrism.

  • STM

    Not English pride, Rog. For a start, I’m not English.

    Make that “Anglo” pride. That encompasses the whole of the English-speaking world, including America.

    Let’s not cloud the issue by talking only of the English. While I admire them, as an Aussie I’m no fan generally of “Englishness”.

    However, I do respect and love their love of enlightened liberal democracy and their willingness to stand up in defence of it, a love and a willingness that also spread to America – and of which you and I are beneficiaries.

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    Basically, Roger, I’ve come to understand that Christ’s ‘Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s.’ is at the basest level nothing more than common sense. We are such that we require some type of governmental oversight to maintain a just and peaceful society. I get that. And what is God’s is quite simple — it is everything. By rendering to Caesar what is his, we are actually carrying out God’s work provided Caesar is a just and righteous leader. In Christ’s time it was Caesar – the “king” of the Roman Empire. Today it is the collection of Presidents and Prime Ministers around the globe who share in Caesar’s legacy.

    “Then the whole assembly rose and led him off to Pilate. And they began to accuse him, saying, ‘We have found this man subverting our nation. He opposes payment of taxes to Caesar and claims to be Christ/Messiah, a king.’ ” (Luke 23:1-4)

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Well, count the days then, because they’re all crumbling from under the stress. The political system will hold on for only a while the remaining aspects, which contribute to ever greater concentration of power and control, are taking over.

    The crisis is facing all post-industrial societies (though Australia may be the last to go) – the crisis of legitimation in the sciences, in the political system which fails to deliver, in our political and other institutions. Perhaps you’re too removed from the scene of the action, isolated in a sense from the rest of the world; hence your sense of security and the resulting perception that all is well. I don’t happen to share this view, neither do many Americans, and certainly not the Europeans, the UK residents included.

    And it’s for that reason, mainly, that I don’t care to get into one-upmanship, valorizing one nation-state over another. It’s old thinking which will get us nowhere.

    You may think the liberal democracies have done such a great job, but a great many would disagree. For my part, I’ll take a pass and watch the history unfold.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Cindy,

    I’m missing the reference of #144. What are you connecting this to?

    BTW, I posted a citation concerning the narrative concept as used in the current polemics. Did you find it?

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    Biblical support for the following argument:*

    “…argue[s] that Kingdom people are called to pledge their allegiance to God alone, not to any nation, government, political party or ideology. Because Kingdom people are under the rule of God alone, they are not under any other rule.”

    Leo Tolstoy wrote: “Not only the complete misunderstanding of Christ’s teaching, but also a complete unwillingness to understand it could have admitted that striking misinterpretation, according to which the words, ‘To Cæsar the things which are Cæsar’s,’ signify the necessity of obeying Cæsar. In the first place, there is no mention there of obedience; in the second place, if Christ recognized the obligatoriness of paying tribute, and so of obedience, He would have said directly, ‘Yes, it should be paid;’ but He says, ‘Give to Cæsar what is his, that is, the money, and give your life to God,’ and with these latter words He not only does not encourage any obedience to power, but, on the contrary, points out that in everything which belongs to God it is not right to obey Cæsar.”

    The Forgotten Politics of Jesus’ Rule of Love (pdf)

    (*info courtesy of Irene)

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Who is contesting anything? I don’t remember ever being a part of this argument.

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    One last quote, from the pdf above:

    “Christianity in its true sense puts an end to the State. It was so understood from its very beginning, and for that Christ was crucified.” – Leo Tolstoy

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    Roger,

    This is just some information for Silas (or any other Christian) to consider if he’d like. I am placing another interpretation of the Render unto Caesar koan for him to consider.

    (It’s just some info I give to all nice Christians I meet.)

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    OK them; I thought you were making a connection with anything we talked about.

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    146- Thanks for posting that, Roger. I found it and I’ll read it tomorrow. It’s now time to settle down with a book on CD. Exhausting day with my family at a water park. (It’s better exercise than a gym and really fun! I recommend it if you have one nearby.)

    Nite nite. :-)

    Have a good night.

  • STM

    Rog, I’d reply if I could work out what you’re trying to get at here.

    Valorising nation states? No, more like valorising good ideology over bad. I’ll make no apology for that, especially in any discussion of the murderous tyranny of Napoleonic France. They were hardly enlightened, unless bayonets count.

    That’s your problem Rog … everything’s going nicely, then you read things but you don’t read them, and then you “read” your own stuff into it, make a judgment, lose sight of what’s being said and write puffed up answers that don’t appear to address anything except your own intellectual vanity – which all serves to distort the issues beyond repair.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    You’re beginning to sound like you know who.

    No intellectual vanity, Stan. It is you who are reading things into context for the simple reason you fail to understand that your ideas and interpretations just won’t wash with everybody, as clearheaded and incontrovertible as they may appear to you.

    As I’ve told you, I have no stake in disputing the merits of the ideology you’re so beholden to because it’s my conviction it’s bankrupt. But you’re thinking I’m just throwing it in because you presented me with a dilemma.

    So yes, I’m operating with another, larger context in mind, and I haven’t lost sight of anything. It’s just that discussing the issues at this level I don’t consider fruitful. How much more tactful can I be?

    But you’re free, of course, to put whatever spin on this that you like.

  • STM

    Oh, what, just so you don’t lose face, it you that’s shafting me, now is it? Nothing if not transparent.

    You are unbelievable. I’ve just remembered why I stopped answering your posts previously.

    And, ah, who is you know who?

  • http://www.republicofdave.com Dave Nalle

    Napoleon paved the way for the glories of the French cultural renaissance of the 19th century, plus Carlyle thought he was almost as cool as Frederick the Great. So there.

    Dave

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Stan,

    I have no fear of losing face, not in real life, not online, and certainly not in the context of an intellectual argument. Especially in the latter, because so much more depends on asking questions and having a dialogue than anything else. There’s no other way of breaking a new ground, so yes, intellectual humility is an essential aspect of intellectual growth.

    So let’s rehash the exchange in question.

    I started by positing a proposition about Napoleon, for discussion’s sake. You argued to precisely the opposite conclusion, never mind the rather questionable and one-sided radical position.

    I really have no stake one way or another about Napoleon – the discussion, remember, was about the relative merits or demerits of the French civilization and culture (vis-a-vis that of the British). So I changed the topic on moved on to Enlightenment, arguing that we owe great deal of it to the French.
    In a typical fashion, you argued to the contrary, and although your argument was interesting and worth considering, you in effect denied my point, closing your argument with ad hominem.

    I have no use for these kind of conversations, because they lead nowhere, so I posted a reply, trying to explain that the notion of enlightenment you were operating with was a narrow one, that the proper, more comprehensive notion, transcended immediate results in the political arena and referred to a change in the Western mindset, reason and rationality becoming the spring of human thought and action rather than faith. And France, more so than England, was a more fertile ground for the new mindset to germinate and take hold. And in that, more comprehensive sense, the Enlightenment is still with us, rather than having come to an end, as you claimed, whenever. Obviously, it should have made it apparent that we were operating with two different notions. But rather than taking this into consideration and expanding the universe of discourse, you keep on harping about the evils of Napoleon and the virtues of Queen and country. When I tell you that continuing discussion at that, parochial level, is of no interest to me, that it’s petty and fails to recognize the kind of problems which affect all post-industrial societies, you accuse me of muddying the discussion in order to save face, or in the name of intellectual vanity or some other such thing.

    The problem is, Stan, you seem intolerant of intellectual disagreement, or perhaps you just can’t handle ideas that don’t fit neatly into your organized mind. I have no idea about your formal education – you’re certainly an articulate, well-informed and cogent enough person. And yet … you do seem unable to tolerate exchange of ideas. And if there’s anything that any prolonged exposure to an intellectual environment – such as college or university – ought to instill in one, it is precisely this kind of tolerance, tolerance to a much greater level than is found among the less well-educated ones. I don’t mean it as an insult, mate, because higher education doesn’t mean anything in and of itself: there are fools with all kinds of degrees, as well as first-class a ….s. But the ability to tolerate stress when divergent opinions are exchanged … this quality, Stan, is the quality the human mind. So don’t get personal on me, mate, and perhaps we can make some headway now and then. It’s up to you.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    #156, Dave –

    The excesses of the French Revolution – the Reign of Terror – also had to figure in as a factor, Dave: the idea of restoring order and normalcy. (In fact, the French themselves couldn’t stay indifferent to Napoleon; they either hated him or loved him.)

    But for the life of me, I’ve never come across an account of Bonaparte as the kind of Anglophobe that STM portrays. I’m gonna have to look it up.

  • http://delibernation.com/blog/3 Silas Kain

    Interesting points to ponder, Cindy. I never quite had that take on Christ’s message. I must ponder these points and share my in-conclusions once the process is complete.

  • STM

    Dave: “Napoleon paved the way for the glories of the French cultural renaissance of the 19th century.”

    Yep, he paved the way all right. By disappearing. What they’d have had if he’d stuck around is anyone’s guess but it wouldn’t have been a cultural renaissance. There wouldn’t have been any culture left … just a nation of widows and orphans chewing on breadcrusts and grass soup.

    Even then, they couldn’t get rid of his influence in a hurry … or his relatives.

    So there …

  • http://drdreadful.blogspot.com Dr Dreadful

    Even then, they couldn’t get rid of his influence in a hurry … or his relatives.

    I’ll say.

    Took ‘em until the late 1950s and de Gaulle coming out of retirement before they finally hit on a political and governmental system that worked properly.

  • STM

    Rog: “And France, more so than England, was a more fertile ground for the new mindset to germinate and take hold.”

    This is simply untrue and is not backed by historians.

    Why is it then that the vast majority of learned scholars believe the enlightenment began with the end of the divine right of kings during the Glorious Revolution (some say it was further back, during the English Civil War but I’d disagree), around the time of Newton’s Principia, John Locke’s writings (“tabula rasa”) or in the years closely leading up to it, and ended either with the French Revolution or the coming to power of Napoloeon??

    The enlightened thinkers of France who are credited with being part of it came a bit after the late 1600s. As late as 1730 to be precise. Voltaire was exiled to England in the early 1700s and became an avid reader of Locke and Newton. Voltaire himself believed that collective liberal thought in England made it a better, and possibly a more advanced, society than France at the time (Letters Concerning The English Nation, published in 1733). In France, there’s no dispute that the enlightement began around the time of Voltaire’s return (about 1730 or so) and became centred on the arts (writing included), music and philosophy, while in England it remained focused heavily on liberal thought and religious, political, scientific and economic change.

    This is perhaps where people mistakenly believe that it only ocurred in France. The oppostite is true: it began elsewhere.

    The American Revolution, too, was forged on the anvil of The Enlightenment, but owing far more to liberal English thought than to French. The French Revolution, in contrast, became the twisted, bastard child of The Enlightement in the hands of lunatics like Robespierre and Marat. It was almost inevitable, however, that this would happen – because the enlightement in France had focused on areas other than religion and politics, where absolutism still ruled. (This aspect of French society caused Voltaire himself much grief). Its bloody outlet – especially at the guillotine – was like a volcano, full of pent up frustration and anger. The ideal of liberty through revolution is all very well, but it’s preferable for those seeking such liberty that they can all take part equally such a revolution without losing their heads (literally) in the process.

    Nevertheless, Yale and Harvard might be interested in your new theory of how the enlightenment owes everything to France.

    Given the ease with which you fit in to an intellectual (academic?) environment, they might even give you an honorary doctorate :)

    On a serious note: When you discover through your reading the depth of Napoloeon’s hatred of the English and how it drove him in the end to his defeat both in Russia and in Iberia and western Europe, I hope you’ll at least realise that if I can be right about certain things, I can also be right about others.

    This, however, has nothing to do with Queen and country as you suggest. As an Australian, I could only be regarded as nominally “British”, and only by an association that is slowly petering out to become nothing more than a link of shared tradition and heritage. I recognise the failings and triumphs of all people. My view of history is not purely anglocentric, even if I am on occasion. If I’m anglocentric, it’s because there’s a lot to admire, when you start digging around, that has benefited us all. But it’s more about the truth of history and the need for everyone, especially Americans now given their current place in the world and their anglo background at the time of the declaration of independence and the writing of the constitution (which wasn’t plucked out of thin air), to have some genuine, honest understanding of it all.

    Sometimes to shift a viewpoint, one needs to think outside the square and seek the truth.

    Those who think they know everything and thus believe they have nothing further to learn have already lost the capacity for intellectual thought.

    Puffery can sound good, but it often ain’t saying much.

  • STM

    Doc: “Took ‘em until the late 1950s and de Gaulle coming out of retirement before they finally hit on a political and governmental system that worked properly”

    G’day good doctor.

    So true … it’s the one area, for all their “cultural enlightenment” (and I won’t dispute that aspect), in which they have struggled dreadfully. Upheaval and fall of governments became the norm, even up to the post-war period with the crisis in Algeria.

    The evidence is there for all to see: the fourth and fifth republics.

  • http://drdreadful.blogspot.com Dr Dreadful

    Indeed, Stan. De Gaulle may have been an ungrateful bastard (hated the fact that he’d had to ask the Brits and the Seppos for help to liberate his country) and an insufferable snob, but purely for the fact that thanks to him France has a stable government – for the first time since the end of the monarchy – he counts as perhaps the greatest Frenchman.

    In the long run, he did far more for his country than Napoleon ever did.

    (And Bonaparte wasn’t even French, anyway…)

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    You’re ignoring the points I made, namely that in France there was a reason to rebel – against religion. Properly speaking, Enlightenment, which signifies the Age of Reason, is best contrasted with the Age of Faith. Disregarding for now the different field of application you’re alluding to, the key development was a brand-new methodology – namely, relying on reason and rationalism as the main tool by which to understand the natural world. Applications came later, the revolution was in the mode of thought. Your chronology can also be disputed, but it’s less important really, because in a manner of speaking, Descartes could be considered the philosophical founder. Which isn’t to discount events in other countries, because there is such a thing as serendipity. So as to the first point of my contention, I will argue that French events were just as significant as anywhere else, if not more so, because of the area of applications: Voltaire and his clique dealt with ideas, with liberation, not just the limited field of liberal political democracy which, granted, was a peculiarly English institution. What in fact I would argue that the arc in the development of political thinking and political philosophy, and whatever instututional changes have transpired as a result, would have proceeded in England regardless, because of the tradition and the simple fact that institutions evolve over time at any rate. It was besides mostly local in character, of local importance, less dramatic as to the impact as the ideas of Rousseau, for example, or the Liberté, égalité, fraternité slogan which had literally fired the world.

    So it all, depends, Stan, not so much on the facts of the case (not to say they’re unimportant) but more so, in a case like this, on your concept of what enlightenment means and represents. And the way I envisage the Enlightenment Project (which, contrary as you’ve argued earlier, had come to an end), it is still very much alive (though on its deathbed), according to some of the most contemporary philosophers and historians and men of ideas.

    I do appreciate your input about the English contributions and participation: it does offer an interesting, and, as I said earlier, challenging viewpoint; and I do intend to look at it more closely. But for the time being, these are my thoughts. Between you and I, I don’t have that much at stake where and when the goddamn thing started; my interests lie in the present-day problems which are still traceable to the Enlightenment Project: the reason, the sciences, and yes, even the liberal democratic societies are on trial – because the rule of reason failed to deliver. This is the current debate among the thinkers of today and that’s where my interests lie.

    For future reference, however, I will not be responding to you anymore unless you clean up your mode of discourse and stop resorting to personal aspersions. There’s nothing puffy about my views, these are my views, and you have to convince me that I am mistaken; and you’re mistaken if you think you’re contributing anything to your argument by making stupid digs. It tells more about you than anyone else.

    Again, I have no problem with being mistaken, because being mistaken is a human condition and the only we can grow. So if you abide by those rules, I’m game and we can have a go. If you can’t, then count me out and it was nice chatting with you.

    Again, the decision is yours.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Forgot to mention. Definitely the philosophy of John Locke was more instrumental in providing the basis of constitutional government in the US. No one argued to the contrary. But it does stand to reason, because we are talking here, in a manner of speaking, an offshoot of the English system of government.

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    Dave,

    Australia is hardly the only place prostitution is legal. Legalization seems to have worked much better in France and in Nevada.

    It’s only preliminary (because I am still looking for ‘best’ evidence), but from the info I am reading, the assertion you made could be wrong.

    Do you have any evidence for your claim, Dave? Being the rational fact-based person I take you to be, I assume you have actually researched what you claim and that you will give me some evidence for your statements, so I can inform myself of the facts.

    TIA, Dave

  • STM

    Rog: “You’re ignoring the points I made, namely that in France there was a reason to rebel – against religion.”

    Actually, that point is very strongly addressed in that post.

    This is the problem, Rog, and why people get frustrated with you.

    We suspect you only read a bit of the posts before answering.

  • STM

    And Descartes is generally not considered part of the Enlightement. You could possibly throw up a case for it, I daresay, but I was always taught that he was one of the prime movers of the scientific revolution.

  • STM

    Lastly, in what is likely to be the final correspondence between your good self and I, I believe all your views on the enlightement to be misguided and wrong, completely arse-about, and seemingly fuelled by a desire to believe what you want to believe rather than any desire to believe what is right, historically accurate – and generally accepted.

    It’s fine to challenge, but the facts of history cannot be disputed. They are the bedrock.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Stan, you did not address the conflict between religion and reason. England wasn’t particularly exercised by that. Not to mention another thing I failed to mention. France was more in the grip of the feudal tradition and social order than England was – and what I mean of course is the French aristocracy and rather absolute monarchy. To my mind, these two elements make for the more fertile ground, as I had termed it.

    As to Descartes, the claim I admit is rather far fetched. But on the other hand, why don’t you name an English philosopher or man of letters who gave the full expression to the Enlightenment idea.

    Yes, I admit I do read only bits and pieces of many posts, so if I did miss anything, please point it out. I don’t believe I have and, besides, I was responding more to the general tenor of your thought rather than the details – in particular, your propensity to view and interpret history from the English perspective. As I said, I’ll be the last to argue against their contribution to civilization – the most important of which I consider the language – but your way of seeing things strikes me as overly propagandist; I have no respect for that. It has no place in any honest intellectual discourse. Which is one main reason, to tell the truth, why I don’t pay your remarks the total attention they no doubt deserve. And yet, correct me if I’m wrong, I did acknowledge that your position merits looking into. At any rate, it’s unavoidable that both participants to a discourse will use their judgement what features to focus on and what features to ignore. So now you know where I’m coming from. Yes, perhaps I’m guilty here of a willful omission.

    Lastly, let me cite from your remark:

    “This is the problem, Rog, and why people get frustrated with you.”

    Which people are you talking about now. Yourself, Chris Rose, name some more. I’m a far more frequent participant in these debates on BC than you have been of late. So do name please some names so as to arrive at a contingent.

    And again, who is the royal “we” in the “we suspect …” closing line. But that’s just a variation on the theme.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Facts of history, Stan, facts in any subject matter in fact – even in hard science – are always subject to interpretation and re-interpretation. It’s not the facts that rule but ideas, ideas by means of which you connect the facts.

    And by the way, there is no such a thing as “right” when it comes to characterizing interpretations of history or even any theory in the hard sciences like physics. But historical accuracy, yes: but all means it is of critical importance.

  • STM

    Quite unquote (from my post: “The French Revolution, in contrast, became the twisted, bastard child of The Enlightement in the hands of lunatics like Robespierre and Marat. It was almost inevitable, however, that this would happen – because the enlightement in France had focused on areas other than religion and politics, where absolutism still ruled. (This aspect of French society caused Voltaire himself much grief).”

    I rest my case, especially in regardes to you not reading the whole post.

    English philosphers of note, off the top of my head: Thomas Hobbes and John Locke for starters, and the Scots James Mill and David Hume. And if you are going to stretch backwards to Descartes, I’ll stretch forward to J.S.Mill, the London-born son of James Mill, and his work of the mid 19th century: On Liberty.

    The Scottish Enlightenment deserves a mention here too.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Correct, you do make allowances for receptivity (which I called “fertile ground”); but in the negative, which is why I felt it was necessary to hammer the point.

    Hobbes still represents old thinking and Locke’s work can be looked at as a reaction to Hobbes. And John Stuart Mill, of course, in the libertarian tradition – most concerned with what he felt were the excesses of the Industrial Revolution and other vital issues of the day, such as emancipation. It’s arguable, besides, that in Mill’s case we’re dealing with aftereffects (or fallout, shall we say), rather than a precursor. However, Mill stands as a very significant figure in the English milieu precisely because one of the few liberal thinkers (excluding Locke) against the predominance of the conservative voices. Of course it was different among men of letters in general – Byron, Shelley, etc – the exponents of Romanticism. These were the voices which clamored vs. the Industrial Revolution.

    David Hume wasn’t really that much caught up, to the best of my knowledge, in those issues: his main work was in epistemology and the thrust was the opposition of Descartes’ rationalism: a/c to Hume, all we had were sense impressions, sense-data, called later – which gave rise to the school of British Empiricism. (Locke was in the same camp insofar as epistemology was concerned, but Hume’s version is the most radical, resulting in almost total skepticism as regards our knowledge of the external world); also of note are Hume’s poignant critiques of religions and religious beliefs.

    Perhaps there is to much being made here of the French Revolution. Though certainly one of the consequences of enlightenment, it was but a mob response to philosophical and high-minded ideas. The Reign of Terror is indeed a dark page in French history, but I wouldn’t judge the fruits of enlightenment by these event.

    It would be like attributing the excesses of the Bolshevik Revolution or Stalinism to Marx’s theory of history. Although I’m certain there are many who would do so without hesitation.

  • STM

    Yes, many of at the forefront of the enlightenment on the English side of the ditch felt that French enlightenment was foundering on empty rationalism.

    Perhaps there’s some truth to it when you look at the result. That’s not to denigrate the input, but I always have the sense that because of the political and religious situation in France, there was a lot of a sense of tilting at windmills about the whole thing.

  • Mark

    Speculating about how people ‘felt’ and some kind of a ‘sense of tilting’ a couple of hundred years ago strikes me as just so much historians’ hubris.

    …unless, of course, you got to know those folks while on a massive LSD trip.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    I believe I understand your point of view, but we’re still operating with different conceptions, which is the root of the difficulty. When looked at it from the point of view of governmental forms and institutions, no question that the developments in England are much more orderly and, one might say, constructive – until, that is, the Industrial Revolution provided additional impetus to instituting further changes to the working of the liberal democracy.

    I, however, view Enlightenment in a broader sense, and from this perspective political/economic forms are only some of its concrete manifestations. So in mind mind, the critical aspect is the inauguration of Reason as the chief faculty in all human affairs – the way we see the world, do science, understand ourselves and others (in addition to our form of government, which is only one of the mentioned considerations). So from your point of view, the immediate effects of the French experiment was a failure; and it may be so in the political sense. But I’d like to argue that for all of that, the effects are still with us precisely in terms of the mindset which had come to dominate all Western thinking – a mindset which is still with us. And it transcends the political forms.

    And it is in this sense that many contemporary thinkers regards the present times as times of crisis – because the reign of reason failed to deliver.

  • STM

    Mark: “Speculating about how people ‘felt’ and some kind of a ‘sense of tilting’ a couple of hundred years ago strikes me as just so much historians’ hubris.”

    It’s all there on record Mark … their comments, not mine – I just put it in modern English.

  • STM

    Roger: “I believe I understand your point of view, but we’re still operating with different conceptions, which is the root of the difficulty.”

    Yep.

    Can’t see that ever changing, either.

    We’re certainly on completely different wavelengths.

    I like to think mine’s on Earth somewhere, while from my point of view yours might be “out there somewhere, turn left at Venus, and keep going ’til you bump into something”.

  • Mark

    Wasn’t it Shakespeare who wrote: ‘Trust thee not the record lest thou be sucked in by thine own bullshit festival.’

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    End of conversation.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Mark,

    Left you a comment on “Deby’s” thread. She won’t mind if you respond there, I’m certain; or you can do it here.

  • Mark

    A true conundrum, Rog. Perhaps you perceive the influence of spending too much time with Quine in my impressionable youth.

  • Mark

    Rog, I agree with your assessment of Kirby’s thesis. I don’t think that he grasped (in 2006) where the post postmodern movement would (could) go.

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    180 lol

    178 Not all of it is on the record you were handed Stan. And if you haven’t the curiosity to look further than that, then you have not looked at all there is and your assessments are biased.

    If you look at Inca* life from the perspective of the Spaniards you get whole different story than if you look at what the Incas said. Wait, where IS what the Incas said???? Hmmm, it must be around here somewhere…That’s strange, it’s almost like what the Incas said doesn’t even matter to ‘anyone’. Well, maybe to the Incas, but they weren’t ‘anyone’.

    Wait, there is one thing, we have a single account from a single Andean named Guaman Poma. He wrote a letter to the Spanish King. Somehow it ended up in the Danish Royal archive in Copenhagen. No one knew what it was and it had never been translated. (Who cares what people who don’t count have to say.) Then 350 years later, we see what GUaman Poma had to say. It’s not looking really pretty for what the Spaniards were doing there in that 1200 page treatise called The New Chronicle and Good Government.

    History is a lie. If you don’t understand why, you’re nothing but a unwitting propagandist.

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    185 isn’t a lecture. I’m just a brute.

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    Inca*

    That asterisk was for you Clav. Thanks for making me drop the ‘n’.

  • STM

    Mark: “Trust thee not the record lest thou be sucked in by thine own bullshit festival.”

    [personal attack deleted]

    Mate, please, as an American you have NO right to give me snide little lectures about getting caught up in bullshit festivals. You’re right there, living the dream to the max.

    That aside, in this case though it’s probably pretty apt since we’re talking about about a) a conversation with Roger and b) his thoughts mainly (I still can’t work out what he’s on about) on the directionless meanderings of the French enlightenment.

    France: the nation whose major contributions to the world have been the baguette, the toasted ham and cheese sandwich, bad cologne, even worse government, non-military men with in oversized black berets, the foolish embrace of existentialism, the gallic sniff, strong, stinking tobacco, vin ordinaire, fun with the guillotine, nasty colonialism, shocking cars (I know, I’ve got one) and empty rationalism.

    There’s one giant, ongoing bullsh.t festival.

    21st century America, where it still appears 90 per cent of the population has a wire loose between brain and mouth, isn’t quite up there yet – but it’s heading that way.

    And blokes like Roger aren’t helping to have that view changed.

  • Mark

    Sorry you took it as a snide lecture, dude.

    [personal attack deleted]

  • Mark

    As the neomarxists point out — those of you who require Authority to validate comments see the works of Resnick and Wolff — the problem with neoliberal Positivists of all stripes is their inability to comprehend the necessity of relativising their own thought processes.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    I was under the impression that rigidity of thought is the trademark of “the conservatives.”

    Now I realize I was grossly mistaken. It comes in all colors, shapes and sizes.

  • http://drdreadful.blogspot.com Dr Dreadful

    History is a lie. If you don’t understand why, you’re nothing but a unwitting propagandist.

    History is what it is. It’s not any one particular document but a big picture which you get by amassing as much diverse information as you can. A single account of the defeat of the Inca Empire (to use your example) should indeed NOT be taken at face value, but tested by comparing it with other data from the period – such as letters from eyewitnesses (often more frank than official reports), oral history passed down by generations of the Quechua people, archeological evidence and, indeed, Guaman Poma’s letter. His, BTW, is by no means the only contemporary or near-contemporary Inca account of the Spanish invasion. There is also the magnificently-named Don Diego de Castro Titu Cusi Yupanqui, the penultimate native ruler of what was left of the Inca Empire. A consummate diplomat, he maintained a relatively peaceful coexistence with the Spanish until his untimely death, and dictated his version of events – detailing the mistreatment of his people at the hands of the Europeans – to the friars at the Vilcabamba monastery. A translation of the document is published by, I believe, Harvard UP.

    So when Stan talks about ‘how people felt’ at a point in time, he’s getting that from a whole raft of contemporary sources, not just his ‘Boys’ Big Book of American History’.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Apart from your point, Dreadful, which is well taken, you’ve got to admit that Denton’s view of the Enlightenment is kind of skewed in one particular direction. I went the full mile with him, accommodating his point of view to the extent possible. He, however, refuses to budge an inch.

    I don’t expect you to take sides in this debate. The least I want to do is contribute to any estrangement, so you really needn’t answer. The only reason I am making this comment is that while it may be convenient to see a flaw in Cindy’s argument but more cumbersome to address the general tenor of Denton’s rhetoric – especially when it is necessarily coupled and punctuated with digs and personal innuendos.

    I’ve been around enough all kinds of people not to make any hasty generalizations. Stubbornness and false sense of pride are no strangers to any ethnic group or nation. Germans of course have a reputation for being thickheaded, but surely you can’t say that of all Germans – especially if you had people like Goethe. And I certainly don’t have this view of the Anglo-Saxon race in general. But if this pattern continues, I’m inevitably being swayed to a conclusion that there is certain arrogance at work – yes, arrogance is a good term.

    Well, that has no frickin’ place in intellectual debates. You don’t win your arguments by being or trying to be a bully – and that is as good a description I can think of Denton’s overall arguing style especially with those he happens disagrees – but by trying to present a better argument.

    What fucking planet he comes from is beyond me? And the amazing thing is – no one dares to challenge him on that. Why? Because he’s gonna beat you up? Well, challenged he must be, and so I have.

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    There is no flaw in my ‘argument’*. I chose those words carefully. To argue with them is not seeing the point of them. Try again, harder.

    BTW – I also agree with Dr.D in that history is what it is and has various accounts. That in no way removes any meaning whatsoever from my statement or discounts it. It’s, in fact, irrelevant. History is still a lie.

    *There actually, may be a flaw that I am unaware of. No one here has pointed to any though.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    I know I misspoke. I wanted to throw a bone, and I did it at your expense – to launch into my own tirade. I hope you’ll understand and forgive me.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    It’s the pragmatics of speech acts. I got carried away.

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    So when Stan talks about ‘how people felt’ at a point in time, he’s getting that from a whole raft of contemporary sources, not just his ‘Boys’ Big Book of American History’.

    The ‘Big Boys’ book of history, as I see it, relates to the world, btw, not American history. It is the same history of every culture that has come down the ‘Conquest Pike’. It is about the Inca as victims of their conquerors but it is also about the Inca as conquerors of their own victims. And it relates to history the same way it relates to contemporary thought.

    It is a way of viewing the world. I like that name,you gave it, btw, as it is very much the ‘Big Boys’ POV. It is not a POV that one generally overcomes only by reading several accounts. (Although reading accounts from marginalized voices is important and helps.) But, as far as I can see, one must necessarily have struggled with one’s indoctrinated ways of viewing the world and incoming information. (For whatever else Sonia Sotomayor might believe or say, she explained this very well in her controversial speech.) Barring that, one must have been raised in an alternate way (one that takes a different POV than the one indoctrinated). It’s a viewpoint, I see no evidence that Stan (along with 95% of other people I talk to) has overcome to any usable degree. But there are people who have been and are doing this.

    (Just the way I see things, so far. Sorry for being frank and callous.)

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    I wouldn’t make too much of a distinction between “Boys’ Big Book of American History” and the English version. Apart from the internal squabbles as to the nature of secession, it’s the same spirit.

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    Roger,

    193 – I had a funny image reading Stan’s rude comment to you. I pictured a school bully using the same words against someone who dared to wear clothing that wasn’t in style. I refrained from mentioning it, but then you used the word – bully.

    “What planet are you from?”

    It says a few things to me. It says the speaker feels validated because his thinking is supported by the conventional wisdom. It says the speaker is trying to ostracize someone else whose thinking he perceives to be unconventional.

    (Whilst everything unconventional doesn’t necessarily seem right, nearly everything right seems necessarily unconventional. Or at least that is how things often appear to me.)

    Maybe the best answer to this question was made by Zaphod Beeblebrox, when he said, “I’m from a different planet. — Seriously! You want to see my spaceship?”

    195, 196 :-)

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    It got me to thinking, too. And the oddest thing is, I don’t believe he realizes that.

    I’m gonna have to look a little more closely at the English/British education system – Eton and other schools. If they all promulgate this kind of attitude, not being critical of Queen and Country, it’s a sad situation indeed. Perhaps it’s limited to high school education. I can’t imagine Oxford or Cambridge continuing in this tradition. They wouldn’t have the kind of reputation they do.

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    I wouldn’t make too much of a distinction between “Boys’ Big Book of American History” and the English version.

    Me neither. Nor the ‘Big Boys’ history according to the Incas or the Spanish or every culture that has dominated other cultures. (Or every part of a culture that has dominated another part.) There is something in common they all have. Their stories always lie about those they dominate. Their stories are necessarily lies* (even when they try to be honest–which they mostly don’t) because they don’t see through the same perspective of those they dominate. Marginalization means someone gets shut up and someone else gets to tell their account–uncontested in the final form that gets transmitted to the incoming youth–which is generally favorable to the teller. And even when it is giving some credit or thought to the marginalized, it interprets the entire reality (itself and the other) according to its own POV. Reality itself is different from the perspective of the marginalized. The dominant culture does not account for that POV of the other. (Though in universities now, and in anthropology and sociology, and likely other fields, there is movement toward seeing and trying to correct the dominator POV, by individuals. And probably always has been. But it’s not the norm, yet.)

    Wherever there is an imbalance of power between competing realities, the dominating one sends out its own PR campaign to determine which reality prevails and becomes understood. Like every PR campaign it’s a lie–though it also contains some truth–it’s one-sided. It’s based on eliminating part of the story.

    As the dominating culture is in control of the media, it’s PR campaign is what everyone has easy access to. Think of the man who was killed in England during the protests. Only the Guardian even tried to investigate from his POV (and his POV was shared by the protesters). So here you have a huge amount of people who see one reality–that of the brutality of the police against citizens. And on the other hand you have the dominant culture, the status quo. Reporters are generally part of the status quo. They would not be allowed to be reporters of major news outlets for long if they weren’t.** They will touch on other POVs briefly, but then they return to the POV of the main culture. They are not changed by what they report. We do not see newspapers learning lessons and then taking a POV that is outside the range accepted by the dominating one. (**See Chomsky’s Manufacturing Consent for an eye-opening presentation on this.)

    *You understand I am being emphatic. And what I mean is not that there is never a fragment of truth, but that truth is always filtered through a POV. That POV cannot be escaped by the viewer. So, if I can only see things through the bias of my cultural indoctrination and I am so unaware of that indoctrination as to never have questioned it–what is my truth, but a lie?

  • http://drdreadful.blogspot.com Dr Dreadful

    A word of caution before you embark on your inquiries, Roger.

    Taking Eton as representative of the British education system would be rather like concluding that the Playboy Mansion is representative of Los Angeles.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    I like that. Do you really mean they’re so out of step? What are they breeding?

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Comparable to West Point, except even more highly strung?

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    West Point actually is breeding a species from another planet.

    I’m sure I told you what it’s like to be a fly on their wall, when I bartended their event. They are farking psychos! Even the nice ones. They are so out of touch with reality, (pick your version and they will be out of touch with it) I was incredulous. One thing I know for certain, these are the last people who should be entrusted with any sort of decision that effects anyone else–least of all decisions that have to do with life and death.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    I remember your story, Cindy, with all the generals and high brass, and a dollar tip which they thought was magnanimous.

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    Indeed, to give the scum of the earth (a bartender) a tip. They probably figured we should bask in their presence. It wasn’t just the tipping though. It’s what you get to hear. They say what they really think in front of people who don’t count to them as human. The nicest ones treated us with condescending patronism.

    I learned a lot from being around them. It was almost like I wasn’t white for awhile.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    I’ve been in situations like that. And believe you me, even among the California liberals. These people think the world is their oyster. Consequently, they have no inhibitions when they’re among themselves.

  • STM

    Roger: “Well, challenged he must be, and so I have.”

    I must have missed that bit.

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    It’s not surprising either.

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    You’d be expected to miss an awful lotta bits, owing to your skewed insight.

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    mate

  • STM

    Cindy, pleasw, what are you doing? Consider the hypocrisy.

    It’s OK for you to be rude to everyone when they don’t go along with your world view, but if I challenge Roger on what consider to be puffery, bollocks and pseudo-intellectual nonsense, I’m a bully?

    I’d say Roger does pretty well on the bullying stakes too, don’t worry about that – but he does it in a passive aggressive way and isn’t bad at little put-downs. And he flip flops.

    At least I’m saying exactly what I believe. And I still believe it to be true.

    Here’s the source of my annoyance at Roger.

    He’s given to long-winded verbosity and puffery, but doesn’t read the posts in reply beyond the first few lines – which he’s admitted – yet he still wants to challenge you. From that, it appears: It’s almost like he only wants to read what he’s written himself.

    He’s banging on here about the British education system, even after I’ve made a very strong point in one of the posts above about my NOT being British (beyond having some ties). I did go to school there for a few years, and at a British school in the middle east too when my father was working there, but most of my schooling was in Australia – a completely separate sovereign nation with no great love of the English. Finding out about an Australia’s thought processes and my educational background by studying the British education system is a bit like doing a paper on the American health system by spending five minutes at the Betty Ford clinic and then doing a year’s research at a hospital in Nova Scotia.

    But I bet he didn’t read that bit.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    STM,

    Missing the point, as usual. Not this particular debate or the next. It’s water under the bridge, going nowhere. It’s your arrogant style, mate. Yes, they all let you get away with it, because you are a nice guy, and I mean it. Well, you’re a bully too when push comes to show. And so I called it.

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    We all have flaws. Not just Roger, but you Stan, and me. One of mine might be hypocrisy. I’ll think about it. And I am certain Roger can defend himself, much better than I can.

  • Clavos

    That asterisk was for you Clav. Thanks for making me drop the ‘n’.

    De nada, Cindy.

  • Clavos

    Push comes to shove

    Can’t help it; I, too, was educated in a British school, in my case of course, in Mexico.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Well, some of it has rubbed off, and you know it. You are a tough nut to crack.

    They wouldn’t believe me, ma, but it’s true. I really love the English, especially the language. Jane Austen is my favorite. But I love the French too; and the Russians. And don’t forget the Irish – my favorite people.

    What am I to do?

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    I had better get off while I’m still within bounds. No offense intended but I said what needed to be said.

    Mañana.

  • STM

    That’s nice Rog. I’m half Irish BTW. The good half.

  • STM

    Mark: “As the neomarxists point out — those of you who require Authority to validate comments see the works of Resnick and Wolff — the problem with neoliberal Positivists of all stripes is their inability to comprehend the necessity of relativising their own thought processes.”

    I’ll try to remember that next time I’m at the shops.

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    Resnick and Wolff sound interesting. Sounds like a verification of things I have heard or would expect.

    “Resnick and Wolff formulate the most fully developed economic theory of communism now available, and use that theory to answer the question: did communism ever exist in the USSR and if so, where, why and for how long? Their initial, and controversial, conclusion: Soviet industry never established a communist class structure. This conclusion then leads to the hypothesis that the twentieth century’s defining struggle was not between communism in the USSR and capitalism in the United States, but rather between their respective state and private capitalism’s. Combining class theory and Soviet history, the book yields key lessons for the future of private capitalism, state capitalism, and communism.”

  • STM

    Rog: “And so I called it.”

    Sorry, must have missed that bit too.

  • Mark

    Cindy, I recently discovered that David Harvey’s infamous course Reading Capital is available online and gratis. Take a look if you are still interested in developing your understanding of that old tome and Marx’s program. (I had trouble with the player about half way through each of the early lectures, so I ended up downloading them – that works best.)

    I brought Resnick and Wolff to the table as their work builds on Althusser’s concept of overdetermination and represents another track of French thought to piss off the anglophiles and satisfy Rog’s urges.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    It’s OK, Stan. It’s all quiet now on the Western front. All my vitriol had dissipated.

    Mark, Cindy:

    I’ve heard some good things about Althusser’s but am rather skeptical about the Frankfurt school. I’ll look it up, though, especially if it leads to another track.

    Cindy, I hope you rec’d my notes. I think it would be better strategy to take one article at at time (like Eco’s, for example, for starters), exchange notes. The conceptual system at work is just too complex to try to master it by way of an overview. It’s got to be done from inside out, from details to general, abstract features, one plank at a time. Then it will all come together.

    What’s in it for you: critical tools of analysis.

    Mark, is that Robert Wolff? (e.g., The Poverty of Liberalism)

  • Mark

    Richard Wolff

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Mark,

    I also think it would be better strategy not to delve into Marx directly (because one can get stuck in it forever), but examine it from the vantage point of French thought. Then one is liable to pick and choose – see what kind of things are still useful and which are problematic and in need of reformulation.

    It appears to work for me. (It’s another Wolff, just checked.)

  • Mark

    Stick to the garden path, you mean? Been there, done that. I’m more into looking for not-so-random connections these days, though I do appreciate your approach.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Not exactly, but it still serves as a point of departure.

    But then again, you may be already sufficiently well versed. I’m not; and I don’t know about Cindy.

  • Mark

    Sufficiently well versed in Frogthink? Never.

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    Roger,

    The Eco book arrived, but I don’t know what I’m supposed to read. Is it the whole thing or just part?

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    Roger? I am not sure where you are going. I am less interested in studying the entire history of world dominator thinking and more interested carefully testing my own ideas for validity.

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    224 – Mark,

    That’s wonderful! I think that style of presentation will be very helpful. And I like him. I’ve read and viewed some of his stuff. Thanks. :-)

  • Mark

    De nada.

    I’ve been searching online for Harvey’s materialist critique of the postmodernists to no avail thus far.

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    Roger,

    See, I knew you could do it! Look, it’s a first: Mark (25 comments)

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    #234,

    Mark, Let me know when you do.

    Cindy, I just want to have a group discussion. But if Mark is too advanced at this point, I’ll just have to catch up. I hope you’re game, too.

    No, just one essay, “Language, Power, Truth.”

    And stop being obstructionist. I’m not gonna lead you down the primrose path. Trust me. It’s quite doable.

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    Okay, thanks, Roger. I am game. And that is the one I’m reading.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    At least you’re being modest, Mark. (Didn’t see that comment, so perhaps I responded prematurely above.) That’s more like I picture you, always open to new ideas rather than as a “know-it-all.” I’ll do my best not to slow you down or at least to keep it interesting.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    #232,

    And who says you shouldn’t? But this way you can do that in light of some powerful conceptions by others. That’s the best way, I’d seem to me.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Apology to Dave: If you think I abuse this thread by being off topic, please let me know.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Later then. I’d better quit for now before I get reprimanded.

  • Mark

    Rog, if you are concerned about hijacking others’ threads, we could use any of your articles’ comment section as the whiteboard.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Sounds great to me. I know I’ll still be snubbed, but what else is new.

  • Mark

    Here’s Harvey’s book on the subject. If I find a good presentation of his argument online, I’ll post it.

  • Mark

    Choose the article you want to use as ‘homebase’.

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    I found this summary earlier, but I’m sure you saw that though, Mark.

  • Mark

    Hadn’t seen that page, Cindy. Thanks.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    My last one … “Bye-bye . . .”

    It’s a point of departure; that’s where I ran into a snug, trying to come up with a “general description” of the present day ailments. And that’s where I’m at.

    Here’s the link.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    snag … (stupid me)