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Archive for July, 2009

The First Genocide?

Thursday, July 23rd, 2009

Or perhaps the analogy of Cain and Abel?

Remains Show Human Killed Neanderthal

Newly analyzed remains suggest that a modern human killed a Neanderthal man in what is now Iraq between 50,000 and 75,000 years ago. The finding is scant but tantalizing evidence for a theory that modern humans helped to kill off the Neanderthals. The probable weapon of choice: A thrown spear.

The evidence: A lethal wound on the remains of a Neanderthal skeleton. The victim: A 40- to 50-year-old male, now called Shanidar 3, with signs of arthritis and a sharp, deep slice in his left ninth rib. “What we’ve got is a rib injury, with any number of scenarios that could explain it,” said study researcher Steven Churchill, an associate professor of evolutionary anthropology at Duke University in North Carolina. “We’re not suggesting there was a blitzkrieg, with modern humans marching across the land and executing the Neandertals [aka Neanderthals]. I want to say that loud and clear.” But he added, “We think the best explanation for this injury is a projectile weapon, and given who had those and who didn’t, that implies at least one act of inter-species aggression.”

What is interesting about the disappearance of the Neanderthal is that it is hard to explain simply in terms of competition for resources with early Homo Sapiens, given that the global human population was astronomically low. The Neanderthal too, would have had many physical advantages, given their more robust physiology, over their evolutionary cousins. Speculation has ranged from climate change, to immunological differences to the cognitive and cultural.

Could a key cultural difference have been a propensity of Homo Sapiens to make war? To seek out, rather than avoid conflict?

Cantigny Museum

Wednesday, July 22nd, 2009


Spent a pleasant afternoon at Cantigny, the estate of legendary Chicago Tribune publisher, broadcast pioneer and ardent isolationist,  Colonel Robert McCormick. After his death in 1955, McCormick had willed that the 500 acre grounds located in Wheaton, Illinois,  be turned into a memorial to the 1st Infantry Division of the US Army, in which he had served ( McCormick was a veteran of the Mexican Expedition and the Great War). Operated by the McCormick Foundation, a charitable and educational trust with an endowment that rivals that of Yale or Harvard universities, Cantigny now is home to an opulent garden, golf course, mansion museum, several restaurants, a greenhouse, a tank and artillery park, a children’s playground, visitor’s center and the Museum of the First Division.

The grounds contain an array of armor on display for the tank aficianado, including the Sheridan, Sherman and variations of the Patton series up to the M-1 Abrams, including several “experimental” models plus a selection or artillery pieces going back well before WWI. Just added was a fully restored D-Day landing craft (still being unloaded from the trailer).  Aside from children’s tours and families present, I saw not a few veterans today, some very elderly and in wheelchairs, reminiscing together quietly by particular tanks or displays.

The museum has a collection of artifacts that run the gamut from the Revolutionary War to the Iraq War but the major sections are concerned with the two World Wars and the Vietnam War. Museum staff are friendly and helpful but unobtrusive and the basement contains a military library and archive that is open to the public for research.

The grounds are very extensive and the landscaped garden, which covers many acres,  is a world class feature in itself. The fee for admission is a mere $ 5 to park – the amenities and facilities (except the golf course and restaurants) are all free of charge.

Ralph Peters Finds the Deep End….and Keeps on Going

Tuesday, July 21st, 2009

It’s not every day I hear a military analyst hope for the execution of one of our own soldiers captured by the Taliban. Even the FOXnews anchor babe, psuedo-journalist looks like she’s trying to find her jaw on the floor when Peters finishes his rant.

Was Peters on crack during the taping of this segment? WTF?

Guest Post: “The Spartan Sense of Humor” by Steven Pressfield

Monday, July 20th, 2009

Steven Pressfield is the acclaimed author of Gates of Fire and Killing Rommel: A Novel and other works of historical fiction, who recently began blogging at It’s the Tribes, Stupid! . Steve graciously agreed to contribute a guest post here at Zenpundit and I’m very pleased to present the following: 

                                                                     THE SPARTAN SENSE OF HUMOR

                                                                      by Steven Pressfield

[Fair warning: this is NOT a political column.]

In ancient Sparta, there was a law prohibiting all citizens from hewing the roofbeams of their houses with any tool finer than an axe.  The Spartans wanted their homes to be–spartan.  Result: roofbeamsin Sparta were just tree trunks with the limbs lopped off.

Once a Spartan was visiting at Athens, staying in an elegant home with frescoes, marble statuary–and impeccably-squared ceiling beams.  Admiring these, the Spartan asked his host if trees grew square at Athens.  The gentleman laughed.  “Of course not; they grow round, as trees grow everywhere.” 

“And if they grew square,” asked the Spartan, “would you make them round?”

Probably the two most celebrated Spartan sayings come from the battle of Thermopylae.  First is King Leonidas’ admonishment to his comrades onthe final morning, when the defenders knew they were all going to die.”Now eat a good breakfast, men, for we’ll all be sharing dinner in hell.”

The second is from the warriorDienekes, on the afternoon before Xerxes’ million-man army first appeared.  The Spartans had taken possession of the pass but had not yet seen the enemy.  As they were going about their preparations, a local Greek came running in, wild-eyed, having just gotten a glimpse of the Persian multitudes approaching.  The invaders’ archers were so numerous, the man breathlessly told the Spartans, that when they fired their volleys, the mass of arrows blocked out the sun.  “Good,” replied Dienekes, “then we’ll have our battle in the shade.”

Spartans liked their quips terse and lean.  They trained their young men for this.  Youths in the agoge (“the Upbringing”), the notorious eleven-year training regimen that turned Spartan boys into warriors, would from time to time be called out before their elders and grilled with rapid-fire questions.  The boys were judged on the wit and economy of their answers.

The reason for this was fear.  The Spartans developed their style of humor from combat and from the apprehension that precedes combat.  Hoplite warfare was surely among the most terror-inducing for the individual fighter, not only because he knew that all the killing would be done hand-to-hand, but because he often had hours preceding a battle to stare at the enemy phalanx across the field, while his own imagination ran riot.The Spartans prized the type of wit that cut such tension, the kind of humor that could release fear with a laugh and pull each individual out of his own head and his own isolation.

Think about Dienekes’ quip for a moment.  If we imagine ourselves there at the “Hot Gates,” it’s not hard to picture our imaginations working overtime as we wait for the enemy host to make its appearance.  What would these alien invaders be like? We knew they were fierce horsemen and warriors, drawn from the bravest nations of the East.  And we knew they’d outnumber us 100 to one.  What weapons would they carry?  What tactics would they employ?  Could we stand up to them?  Now suddenly a local farmer comes racing into camp, bug-eyed and out of breath, and starts regaling us with tales of the scale and magnitude of the enemy army.  Were we scared?  Hell, yes!  You can bet the young warriors clustered around this messenger, each of them thinking, “What the hell have I gotten myself into?”  Then Dienekes, a commander of proven valor about forty years old, offered his icy, unperturbed quip.  What happened?  You can bet that after the defendershad their laugh, they noticed that their palms weren’t as clammy as they had been thirty seconds earlier.  The warriors looked at each other–darkly no doubt, and grimly–and went back to their tasks of preparation for battle.

Several qualities are worth noting, I think, about both Dienekes’ and Leonidas’ one-liners.  First, they’re not jokes.  They’re not meant just to raise a laugh.  Yet they’re funny, they’re on-point.  Second, they don’t solve the problem.  Neither remarkoffers hope or promises a happy ending.  They’re not inspirational.  They don’t point to glory or triumph–or seek to allay their comrades’ anxiety by holding out the prospect of some rosy future outcome.  They face reality. They say, “Some heavy shit is coming down, brothers, and we’re going to go through it.”

And they’re inclusive.  They’re about “us.”  The grim prospect they acknowledge is one that all of us will undergo together.  They draw each individual out of his private terror and yoke him to the group.

That’s it.  That’s enough.

The reason contemporary Marines relate so instinctively to the Spartan mind-set, I suspect, is that their own attitude is so similar.  Marine training, as anyone who has gone through it knows, doesn’t build supermen.  Marines don’t have any special tricks to kill you with a butter knife.  But what Marines know how to do better than anybody isto be miserable.  That’s what Marine training teaches.  Marines take a perverse pride in having the crappiest equipment, coldest chow and highest casualty rates of any American armed force.  What’s the dirtiest, crummiest, most dangerous assignment?  That’s the one Marines want.  They’re pissed off if they don’t get it.  Nothing infuriates Marines more than to learn that the army has gotten a crappier assignment than they have.

I recommend this attitude, by the way, for all artists, entrepreneurs and anyone (including bloggers) who has to motivate himself and validate himself all on his own.  For facing the blank page, nothing beats it.  It also engenders a wholesome species of dark, gallows pride.

Another Spartan was visiting Athens.  (The river at Athens, we should note, is the Cephisus; at Sparta the river is theEurotas.  The Spartans were famous, as well, for never letting any invader get anywhere near their city.)  The Athenian was bragging about prior wars between the two rivals.  “We have buried many Spartans,” he declared, “beside the Cephisus.” 

“Yes,” replied the Spartan, “but we have buried no Athenians beside the Eurotas.”

Recommended Reading

Sunday, July 19th, 2009

Top Billing! Sebastian Gorka in the National Post – “Understanding the jihadis, by way of Sun Tzu

The Taliban are not al-Qaeda and al-Qaeda is not the Taliban. Yes, the Taliban gave safe-haven to Osama bin Laden and his organization after he was expelled from Sudan in the late-1990s. Yes, members of al-Qaeda and even bin Laden’s own family have intermarried within Taliban power-groups, including the so-called Quetta Shura. But the Taliban must be understood as a heterogeneous group of warlords with variegated pasts and disparate interests. Some are former members of the governing regime that was dislodged by U. S. special forces and the CIA after 9/11. Others are primarily narcotraffickers, while some are tribally defined and established masters of regions which have proved impossible to domesticate for centuries

Professor Gorka teaches at National Defense University and is a fellow at Joint Special Operations University.

AFJ – Frank HoffmanStriking a balance:  Posturing the future force for COIN and conventional warfare

Analyst Frank Hoffman on the biggest debate in the defense community for the next four years – if not ten.

DNI How Would Boyd Analyze Afghanistan? and Chuck Spinney’s piece in Counterpunch.

John Boyd’s acolytes Chet Richards and Franklin “Chuck” Spinney on Afghanistan, the OODA Loop and COIN.

David IgnatiusKicking The CIA (Again)

Ignatius nails the specious nature of the charges being leveled by House Democrats.

The Left wing of the Left wing of the Democratic Party is quietly engaged in a concerted effort, outside of public scruitiny, to check presidential authority in foreign policy and shift America’s stance sharply leftward by gaining greater Congressional power over the IC and diminishing the bureaucratic leverage of the DoD through Senator Carl Levin’s bill proposing an unwanted, unasked for, “reorg” of deputy secretary positions. The GOP appears to be asleep. Or perhaps just dead.

SWJ Blog – Small Wars Journal $8,000 Writing Competition – Warning Order

$ 8000 ain’t hay.

Red Team JournalInterrogating the “Evil Futurist”

Foxes and Hedgehogs of the 21st century.

ubiwarSecrecy and Cybersecurity

Secrecy has a point of diminishing returns.

That’s it!

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