zenpundit.com » russia

Archive for the ‘russia’ Category

Jessica Dawson on Relationships with God and Community as Critical Nodes in Center of Gravity Analysis

Friday, April 13th, 2018

[ by Charles Cameron — An important article, meaning one with which I largely, emphatically agree ]
.

Let me repeat: Jessica Dawson‘s piece for Strategy Bridge is an important article, meaning one with which I largely, emphatically agree — a must-read.

**

Prof Dawson writes:

There is a blind spot in U.S. joint doctrine that continually hinders operational planning and strategy development. This blind spot is a failure to account for critical relationships with a person’s conception of god and their community, and how these relationships impact the operational environment.

Let’s just say I was a contributing edtor at Lapido Media until its demise, writing to clue journos in to the religious significance of current events:

  • Lapido, Venerating Putin: Is Russia’s President the second Prince Vlad?
  • Lapido, ANALYSIS When laïcité destroys egalité and fraternité
  • Lapido is essentially countering the same blind spot at the level of journos, and hence the public conversation.

    **

    I haven’t focused on the relationship with community, but I have written frequently on what von Clausewitz would call “morale” in contrast with men and materiel. Prof Dawson addresses this issue:

    Understanding religion and society’s role in enabling a society’s use of military force is inherently more difficult than counting the number of weapons systems an enemy has at its disposal. That said, ignoring the people aspect of Clausewitz’s trinity results in an incomplete analysis.

    Indeed, I’ve quoted von Clausewitz on the topic:

    Essentially, war is fighting, for fighting is the only effective principle in the manifold activities designated as war. Fighting, in turn, is a trial of moral and physical forces through the medium of the latter. Naturally moral strength must not be excluded, for psychological forces exert a decisive in?uence on the elements involved in war.

    and:

    One might say that the physical seem little more than the wooden hilt, while the moral factors are the precious metal, the real weapons, the finely honed blade.

    **

    And Prof Dawson is interested in “critical nodes” and the mapping of relationships, vide her title:

    Relationships with God and Community as Critical Nodes in Center of Gravity Analysis

    :

    This too is an area I am interested in, as evidenced by my borrowing one of my friend JM Berger‘s detailed maps in my post Quant and qualit in regards to “al wala’ wal bara’”:

    That’s from JM’s ICCT paper, Countering Islamic State Messaging Through “Linkage-Based” Analysis

    Indeed, my HipBone Games are played on graphs as boards, with conceptual moves at their nodes and connections along their edges, see my series On the felicities of graph-based game-board design: twelve &c.

    **

    My specific focus, games aside, has been on notions of apocalypse as expectation, excitation, and exultation — in my view, the ultimate in what Tillich would call “ultimate concerns”.

    As an Associate and sometime Principal Researcher with the late Center for Millennial Studies at Boston University, I have enjoyed years of friendship and collaboration with Richard Landes, Stephen O’Leary and other scholars, and contribuuted to the 2015 Boston conference, #GenerationCaliphate: Apocalyptic Hopes, Millennial Dreams and Global Jihad

    **

    I could quote considerably more from Jessica Dawson’s piece, but having indicated some of the ways in which her and my own interests run in parallel, and why that causes me to offer her high praise, I’d like quickly to turn to two areas in which my own specialty in religious studies — new religious movements and apocalyptic — left me wishing for more, or to put it more exactly, for more recent references in her treatment of religious aspects.

    Dr Dawson writes of ISIS’ men’s attitudes to their wives disposing of their husbands’ slaves:

    This has little to do with the actual teachings of Islam

    She also characterizes their actions thus:

    They are granted authority and thus power over the people around them through the moral force of pseudo religious declarations.

    Some ISIS fighters are no doubt more influenced by mundane considerations and some by religious — but there’s little doubt that those religious considerations are anything but “pseudo religious”. Will McCants‘ book, The ISIS Apocalypse: The History, Strategy, and Doomsday Vision of the Islamic Stat traces the history of ISIS’ theology from hadith locating the apocalypse in Dabiq through al-Zarqawi and al-Baghdadi to the loss of much of the group’s territory and the expansion of its reach via recruitment of individuals and cells in the west.. leaving little doubt of the “alternate legitimacy” of the group’s theological claims. Graeme Wood‘s Atlantic article, to which Prof Dawson refers us, is excellent but way shorter and necessarily less detailed.

    On the Christian front, similarly, eschatology has a role to play, as Prof Dawson recognizes — but instead of referencing a 2005 piece, American Rapture, about the Left Behind series, she might have brought us up to datw with one or both of two excellent religious studies articles:

  • Julie Ingersoll, Why Trump’s evangelical supporters welcome his move on Jerusalem
  • Diana Butler Bass, For many evangelicals, Jerusalem is about prophecy, not politics
  • As their parallel titles suggest, Trump’s decision to move the US Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem — which received a fair amount of press at the time that may have mentioned such a move would please his evangelical base, but didn’t explore the theology behind such support in any detail — has profound eschatpological implications.

    Julie Ingersoll’s book, Building God’s Kingdom: Inside the World of Christian Reconstruction, is excellent in its focus on the “other side” of the ceontemporary evangelical right, ie Dominionism, whose founding father, RJ Rushdoony was a post-millennialist in contrast to La Haye and the Left Behind books — his followers expect the return of Christ after a thousand year reign of Christian principles, not next week, next month or in the next decade or so.

    Sadly, the Dominionist and Dispensationalist (post-millennialist and pre-millennialist) strands in the contemporary Christian right have mixed and mingled, so that it is hard to keep track of who believed in which — or what!

    **

    All the more reason to be grateful for Prof Dawson’s emphasis on the importance of religious knowledge in strategy and policy circles.

    Let doctrine (theological) meet and inform doctrine (military)!

    Not a target, squared — plus one

    Wednesday, April 4th, 2018

    [ by Charles Cameron — Putin, Mueller, Trump, and Nada Bakos ]
    .

    IMO it is a pure coincidence that these two barely related headlines popped up on the same day:

    That’s “not a target” squared. Not that I generally believe in coincidence — I favor synchronicity, but admittedly switch between magical and naturalistic worldviews as suits the moment.
    **

    Sources:

  • The Week, Report: Mueller named Trump a subject, not criminal target
  • NY Times, For Russia, Trump Was a Vehicle, Not a Target
  • **

    while we’re on the subject of targets, here’s the Targeter par excellence, Nada Bakos, whose can’t wait book is currently targeted for redaction by the relevant CIA publications review office::

    Hers is the definitive al-Zarqawi-ISIS story.

    Foolishness, Martin Luther King Jr and the Resurrection

    Sunday, April 1st, 2018

    [ by Charles Cameron — from MLK via St Basil the Great to Mullah Nasruddin ]
    .

    Three lines from the Apostles Creed locate the Resurrection between a descent into hell and an ascent into heaven. These lines are worth pondering in concert:

    He descended into hell;
    on the third day He rose again from the dead;
    He ascended into heaven,

    In what world of three worlds are these three utterances, so poetically juxtaposed, credible as declarative propositions?

    **

    He is risen!

    Bach’s Easter Oratorio, with Ton Koopman and the Amsterdam Baroque Choir and Orchestra:

    **

    Martin Luther King Jr gently lays out the liberal / modernist perspective on the Resurrection:

    The last doctrine in our discussion deals with the resurrection story. This doctrine, upon which the Easter Faith rests, symbolizes the ultimate Christian conviction: that Christ conquered death. From a literary, historical, and philosophical point of view this doctrine raises many questions. In fact the external evidence for the authenticity of this doctrine is found wanting. But here again the external evidence is not the most important thing, for it in itself fails to tell us precisely the thing we most want to know: What experiences of early Christians lead to the formulation of the doctrine?

    The root of our inquiry is found in the fact that the early Christians had lived with Jesus. They had been captivated by the magnetic power of his personality. This basic experience led to the faith that he could never die. And so in the pre-scientific thought pattern of the first century, this inner faith took outward form. But it must be remembered that before the doctrine was formulated or the event recorded, the early Christians had had a lasting experience with the Christ. They had come to see that the essential note in the Fourth Gospel is the ultimate force in Christianity: The living, deathless person of Christ. They expressed this in terms of the outward, but it was an inner experience that lead to its expression.

    **

    The Jesuit priest Fr James Schall defends that outward interpretation, as found in the Apostles and Nicene Creeds, taken for dogmatic purposes as declarations of fact:

    To the wise Greeks, as St. Paul tells us, the whole aura around Christ’s death and resurrection seemed to be “foolishness.” And it is foolishness unless considerable evidence is found showing that something astonishing was in fact going on. This evidence is basically the testimony of the women and men who attested to the fact that Christ did rise again. This is the same Christ whose death on the Cross they had witnessed a few days before.

    **

    To take these declarations as reporting historical fact, it may help to have an upside-down worldview — that of the wisdom of the fool. Appropriately, this year Easter is celebrated on April Fools Day. Indeed, Fr Schall opens his piece from which I quoted above by noting that fact, then moves to a discussion of Christ himself as a Fool:

    A tradition exists about “Christ the Fool.” It probably originates from when Pilate sent Christ to see Herod. Herod was anxious to see him. See him do what? See him perform. He had heard much about this man and his miracles. So naturally the king wanted to see what Christ could do; he wanted a private show to entertain the court. In response, Christ was simply silent.

    Christ, we might say, played the naïf for Herod.

    **

    Scripture declares how a naturalistic worldview perceives the eruption of God’s wisdom into this world as folly, and vice versa:

    For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight.

    while:

    the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

    and, in an almost tongue-twisting formulation:

    For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe.

    **

    All of which leads Christians to imitate the foolishness of Christ:

    We are fools for Christ’s sake

    That too is St Paul, writing of himself and his contemporaries, followers of the pattern set by Christ — and his message has echoed down the centuries among those who wish to imitate that pattern closely:

    One form of the ascetic Christian life is called foolishness for the sake of Christ. The fool-for-Christ set for himself the task of battling within himself the root of all sin, pride. In order to accomplish this he took on an unusual style of life, appearing as someone bereft of his mental faculties, thus bringing upon himself the ridicule of others. In addition he exposed the evil in the world through metaphorical and symbolic words and actions. He took this ascetic endeavor upon himself in order to humble himself and to also more effectively influence others, since most people respond to the usual ordinary sermon with indifference.

    **

    In the Orthodox tradition — in which, this year, Easter and the Resurrection will be celebrated next Sunday — the foolishness of saints is a recurrent story. As I noted, quoting from the National Catholic Register in an earlier post:

    In Russian history the greatest of the “holy fools” was Basil the Blessed, a man so revered that the famous Cathedral in Moscow’s Red Square next to the Kremlin was named in his honor. Basil walked through Moscow wearing nothing more than a long beard. He threw rocks at wealthy people’s houses and stole from dishonest traders in Red Square.

    Few doubted Basil’s holiness. Tsar Ivan the Terrible feared no one but Basil. Basil was also given to eating meat on Good Friday. Once he went to Ivan’s palace in the Kremlin and forced the tsar to eat raw meat during the fast saying, “Why abstain from eating meat when you murder men?” Countless Russians died for much less but Ivan was afraid to let any harm come to the saintly Basil.

    **

    I don’t suppose one could speak of left and right wing parties under the Terrible Ivan, but evcen if one could, I don’t think St Basil’s approach would fit either description — he’s acting in a manner that is plain contrary to all sane opinion — and indeed, the term “Contraries” is applied by anthropologists to trickster shamans and holy foots in many traditions. Interestingly, in Sufism the “path of blame” has at times been highly esteemed — its practitioners, like the Russian Holy Fools, draw blame on themselves to awaken those around them while subverting their own propensity to take pride in how “spiritual” they are.

    **

    Mullah Nasruddin really didn’t want to loan his donkey to a neighbor.
    My brother borrowed him yesterday and hasn’t brought him back, the Mullah said..
    Just then, the donkey brayed.
    Who are you going to believe, the Mullah asked hastilyy — me or a donkey?

    Now, who in that little vignette is more of an ass?

    Of steel, low-background steel, and my father’s bones

    Saturday, March 10th, 2018

    [ by Charles Cameron — low-background steel is no longer so necessary, but the remains of naval lives lost at sea are still of passionate concern ]
    .

    With all this talk of tariffs on steel, I was reminded of the rare steel salvaged from sunken warships at Scapa Flow, in Indonesia and elsewhere. I read about “low background steel” in this Guardian title: Lost bones, a mass grave and war wrecks plundered off Indonesia. As you’ll note, bones — the long-inaccessible remains of sailors — are also part of the story.

    **

    Let’s tackle the steel first. Here’s how the Guardian explained it:

    As well as brass, copper, and bronze, one reason the salvaging has gone wholesale is the ships are a source of “low background steel” – produced before the first atomic bomb was detonated in 1945.

    Virtually radiation-free, low-background steel is used in sensitive medical and scientific instruments. These old sunken warships are among the few remaining sources.

    Cecil, however, knowledgeable as ever, tells us that supposedly rare and invaluable subset of steel isn’t anything we need to concern ourselves with:

    Sorry, the market for old steel is now pretty much sunk. Reduced radioactive dust plus sophisticated instrumentation that corrects for background radiation means new steel can now be used in most cases. There’s some lingering demand for really old maritime metal, though. When researchers at one national lab wanted shielding that emitted no radiation whatsoever, they used lead ballast retrieved from the Spanish galleon San Ignacio, which had been lying on the bottom of the Caribbean for 450 years.

    **

    That more or less leaves the bones..

    The Guardian has been following different aspects of the story, and the bones come in focus in their article, The world’s biggest grave robbery: Asia’s disappearing WWII shipwrecks:

    Dozens of warships believed to contain the remains of thousands of British, American, Australian, Dutch and Japanese servicemen from the second world war have been illegally ripped apart by salvage divers, the Guardian can reveal.

    An analysis of ships discovered by wreck divers and naval historians has found that up to 40 second world war-era vessels have already been partially or completely destroyed. Their hulls might have contained the corpses of 4,500 crew.

    Governments fear other unmarked graves are at risk of being desecrated. Hundreds more ships – mostly Japanese vessels that could contain the war graves of tens of thousands of crew killed during the war – remain on the seabed.

    And from the first article:

    “You can imagine the massive outrage if someone drove a bulldozer through the big first world war Commonwealth war grave at Saint Symphorien,” [British naval historian Phil Weir] says, referring to a military cemetery in Belgium. “But taking apart a shipwreck doesn’t seem to have the same effect. It is kind of out of sight, out of mind, I fear.”

    Let’s put it this way. I don’t care.

    But if HMS Sheffield had been sunk with my father aboard by the Hipper’s superior guns [8″ vs Sheffield’s 6″] at the Battle of the Barents Sea — a not implausible alternate history — you can bet I’d be up in arms if divers harvested Sheffield for its steel, with my father’s remains trashed as worthless in the process..

    Oh, except that if my father had gone down with the Sheffield, I’d never have been conceived. Thank God, things didn’t work out that way.

    Getting religion, forgetting circumcision

    Thursday, March 8th, 2018

    [ by Charles Cameron — some characteristicc lacunae in journalisti praxis ]
    .

    As you know, I used to work for Lapido Media, which in turn used to be a media-eductional outlet that emphasized the major role of religion(s) in world affairs, so often overlooked by typically skeptical, secular journos.

    Get religion is a fine site with a similar purpose, and today it has a fine article titled With Russia all over U.S. news map right now, how fares its huge Orthodox Church? For instance:

    In addition to politics, there’s a historic religious turnabout in Russia that stateside reporters could well develop through interviews with the experts. The dominant Orthodox Church, which managed to survive Communist terror and regained freedom, has latterly emerged as a strategic prop for Putin’s Kremlin.

    If that election day peg doesn’t work for your outlet, another signal event comes July 17. That’s the Orthodox feast day of the doomed final czar, Nicholas II, and his family, shot to death by Bolshevik revolutionaries in 1918 and canonized by the national church in 2000 as saints and “passion-bearers.”

    **

    It’s not just journos who forget / don’t get religion — pols in the extreme north do it, too. How else explain this header from Iceland: Iceland male circumcision ban: MP behind plan ‘didn’t think it was necessary to consult’ Jewish and Muslim groups, amid growing anger. The subhead is (from my POV) idf anytbing even more mind-boggling:

    ‘I don’t see it as a religious matter,’ insists Silja Dögg Gunnarsdóttir

    What does Silja Dögg Gunnarsdóttir imagine the origin of the practice was?

    **

    What else do journos tend to miss?

    Well, there’s female obits, for onr thing — although things may be improving in that regard. Here’s a New York Times’ obit, belated but in a good faith effort to catch and patch up: 1932-1963 Sylvia Plath –A postwar poet unafraid to confront her own despair. It begins:

    She made sure to spare the children, leaving milk and bread for the two toddlers to find when they woke up. She stuffed the cracks of the doors and windows with cloths and tea towels. Then she turned on the gas.

    And it quotes her poetry:

    Dying
    Is an art, like everything else.
    I do it exceptionally well.
    I do it so it feels like hell.

    Okay, it’s International Women’s Day 2018.

    Thank you, Anemona Hartocollis and the NYT editors. We mourn you, Mrs easily forgotten behind your husband Hughes.


    Switch to our mobile site