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A DoubleQuote from Peter C Vangjel

Wednesday, April 8th, 2015

[ by Charles Cameron — Col Kurtz meets Frederick Nietzsche ]
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Peter Vangjel tweeted a DoubleQuote yesterday, and I’ve now formatted it and am reposting it here:

SPEC Nietzsche Kurtz

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I’m always happy to see that others find the DoubleQuote concept serviceable.

What are your views on Col. Kurtz? What did Capt. Willard think of him? And Francis Ford Coppola?

And where would you locate the heart of darkness?

Bobcat jumps shark..

Wednesday, April 8th, 2015

[ by Charles Cameron — I suppose you could call this “land-sea battle” ]
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I couldn’t quite let this tweet go by without recalling the two quotes that gave me the DoubleQuotes idea in the first place:

From Haniel Long’s Letter to Saint Augustine:

My friend Jens Jensen, who is an ornithologist, tells me that when he was a boy in Denmark he caught a big carp embedded in which, across the spinal vertebrae, were the talons of an osprey. Apparently years before, the fish hawk had dived for its prey, but had misjudged its size. The carp was too heavy for it to lift up out of the water, and so after a struggle the bird of prey was pulled under and drowned. The fish then lived as best it could with the great bird clamped to it, till time disintegrated the carcass, and freed it, all but the bony structure of the talon.

And from Annie Dillard‘s Teaching a Stone to Talk:

And once, says Ernest Seton Thompson–once, a man shot an eagle out of the sky. He examined the eagle and found the dry skull of a weasel fixed by the jaws to his throat. The supposition is that the eagle had pounced on the weasel and the weasel swiveled and bit as instinct taught him, tooth to neck, and nearly won. I would like to have seen that eagle from the air a few weeks or months before he was shot: was the whole weasel still attached to his feathered throat, a fur pendant? Or did the eagle eat what he could reach, gutting the living weasel with his talons before his breast, bending his beak, cleaning the beautiful airborne bones?

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The photo almost, though not quite, captures the full circularity of the two narratives above — but even so, the sense of two elemental beasts, one of earth, one of water, grappling each with the other, is powerful, rare, and memorable.

The battle flags of religion

Sunday, March 29th, 2015

[ by Charles Cameron — vexilla regis prodeunt, comparative version ]
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Two recent examples of religious iconography on the battle field.. from the Badr Brigade, outside Amerli, Iraq:

badr brigade

and from Pro-Russia fighters near the eastern Ukrainian city of Starobeshevo:

Christ flag

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The Vexilla regis is a hymn written by Venantius Fortunatus to welcome the procession bringing a fragment of the True Cross to St Radegunda‘s convent in Poitiers: the first line translates to “The banners of the king go forth”.

Here it is, illustrated with battle flags flown by Catholic and Royalist troops during the War in the Vendée:

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Sources:

  • Iraq
  • Ukraine
  • The man who could help prevent a holy war

    Sunday, March 15th, 2015

    [ Charles Cameron — Garry Wills sees “holy war” lurking just around the corner ]
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    Christ-flag and tank
    Pro-Russia fighters near the eastern Ukrainian city of Starobeshevo in Donetsk region, on 25 February. Photograph: Vasily Maximov/AFP/Getty Images

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    Let’s be clear. the image above is from the confrontation in Ukraine, whereas the holy war that Garry Wills sees is quite another business. Under the headline that also heads this post, he writes:

    Discussions ricochet around Pope Francis’s ability to reconcile the Catholic Church’s bureaucracy, theology and practitioners. But for a man of Francis’s scope and skill, this is too narrow an assignment. His real task, for which he is ideally situated, is to prevent the world’s descent into religious war.

    Many people want to make our “war on terror” a war on at least a segment of the Muslim religion. Sen. Lindsey Graham (RS. C.) makes this very clear: “We are in a religious war.” Some think of this war as being waged in revenge for the attacks of 9/11 — to prove, as former deputy undersecretary of defense Lt. Gen. William G. Boykin once put it, that their God is greater than Islam’s. But there are 1.3 billion followers of Islam scattered around the world, and an ambitious Gallup poll of Muslims in 35 heavily Muslim countries found that the vast majority of them did not approve of the 9/11 attacks. Significantly, those who condemned the attacks based their opposition to violence mainly on religion, while the 7 percent who considered them “completely justified” relied heavily on political arguments. How can we blame the Muslim religion for this horror?

    I don’t agree with everything that Wills says, but his view of Francis’ “scope and skill” is worth pondering.

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    I posted the image above because it gives a vivid and immediate sense of what “Onward, Christian Soldiers” might look and feel like, if it left the churches and turned up on the evening news.

    Image source:

  • The Guardian, Frontline Ukraine:’How Europe failed to slay the demons of war’
  • Mad Dog Mattis – Blogger

    Friday, March 6th, 2015

    [by Mark Safranski, a.k.a. “zen“]

    General James N. “Mad Dog ” Mattis, USMC (ret.), the semi-legendary, no-nonsense, fighting general of our recent wars, beloved by his Marines, has accepted a Distinguished Visiting Fellowship at the highly regarded Hoover Institution, where he has been writing an online column. A fancy way of saying that General Mattis has become a blogger.

    In fact, he’s quite good at it.

    His most recent post can be found here:

    Using Military Force Against ISIS

    ….Following more than a decade of fighting for poorly articulated political goals, the Congress needs to restore clarity to our policy if we are to gain the American people’s confidence and enlist the assistance of potential allies, while sending a chilling note that we mean business to our enemies. With enemy influence expanding rapidly, patience or half-measures cannot replace a coherent strategy for taking measured steps, aligned with allies, to counter the mutating Islamist threat in the Middle East. The AUMF that Congress passes should be constructed as one building block in a coherent, integrated strategy for dealing with a region erupting in crises. Thus the AUMF needs to serve an enabling role for defeating this enemy, and not a restrictive function. Congress’ voice in the AUMF must not reassure our adversary in advance about what we will not do:

    1. We do not enter wars to withdraw; when we must fight, we fight to win. We should not set arbitrary deadlines which would only reveal that our hearts are not really in the game and would unintentionally embolden our enemies with the recognizable goal of outlasting us.
    2. We should not establish geographic limits in a fight against a franchising, trans-national terrorist group and its associates.  Our AUMF must be fit for the purpose of defeating this specific enemy (a non-state entity) and whoever stands with them, but not be hidebound by the rules for how we fought previous wars against nation states.  We must adapt to our time and the threat and not try to fight as we did in the past using rules no longer effective or applicable.
    3. The AUMF should put the enemy on notice that we will deploy all our military capabilities, as well as our diplomatic and economic tools.  If employing our ground forces will help build the international coalition against ISIS, will hasten the enemy’s defeat, will help to suffocate ISIS’ recruiting through humiliating them on the battlefield, or negatively impact their fundraising cachet, then our Commander-in-Chief should have that option immediately available to achieve our war aims.  When fighting a barbaric enemy who strikes fear into the hearts of many, especially those living in close proximity to this foe, we must not reassure that enemy in advance that it will not face the fiercest, most skillful and ethical combat force in the world. 

    While I am not enthused about the idea of a large ground deployment back to Iraq – mainly because our national leadership has no idea on how to assemble a constructive political end that a decisive military victory would buy them, nor a willingness to entertain realistic, stabilizing outcomes (like Kurdish statehood) that would mean changing longstanding US policies – I’m very much in tune with Mattis that any warfare should be waged without a set of needless, self-hobbling, anti-strategic restraints. Note what he writes here:

    The AUMF must also make clear that prisoners taken from forces declared hostile will be held until hostilities cease. There is no earthly reason for the Congress to acquiesce to funding a war in which we do not hold prisoners until the fight is over, as is our legitimate right under international law. The AUMF should make clear that the same standards that applied to prisoners in Lincoln’s or FDR’s day will be imposed today. This will ensure that we have a sustainable detainee policy instead of the self-inflicted legal quandary we face today, with released detainees returning to the battlefield to fight us.

    “Catch and release” by the Bush and Obama administrations – and the latter tightening ROE in Afghanistan into the gray, blurry zone between military force and law enforcement, was self-defeating and probably is responsible for a sizable number of American casualties.

    Mattis writes with admirable clarity and focus. More importantly, his military reputation lends invaluable credence toward educating the public and civilian officials about the nature of strategy and the uses and (more importantly) limitations of military force. Hopefully he will gain an even larger platform in time, but for readers at ZP, here are previous posts by the “Mad Dog” :

    A New American Grand Strategy

    “The Enemy Is Not Waiting”  

    The Worsening Situation in the Middle East–and America’s Role   

    Pruning the U.S. Military: We Will Do Less But Must Not Do It Less Well


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