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Post Whirlwind Trip to Europe, Israel
Created by John Eipper on 01/17/18 1:59 AM

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Whirlwind Trip to Europe, Israel (Istvan Simon, USA, 01/17/18 1:59 am)

I would like to offer a few comments on Ric Mauricio's take on Buddhism (11 January). I welcome Ric's comments, but I do not think that Buddhism is similar to the Holy Spirit in Christianity. Following my comments on his post, I will report on my recent visit to Greece, Italy, Austria, Germany, England, France and Israel. I just returned to the USA 2 days ago from a 2.5-week whirlwind voyage.

It is true that Buddhists seek enlightenment through reaching Nirvana. But in my opinion, Buddhism is not a religion without God. It is not a philosophy either. Buddhists believe in reincarnation, they believe in the spirit, and through reincarnation in the continuing quest for Nirvana. These transformations definitely are not of either a philosophical or physical nature. They are supra-natural, and therefore Buddhism is a religion. An attractive religion, I might add, for Buddhists believe in the sanctity of life, all life, not just human life. This to me is very attractive, because I think that it is wrong to kill animals for food, and it is I believe wrong to cause suffering, especially of mammals, which are very close to the human species. Though I eat meat, I wish I did not. Ever since I was a child, I thought that killing to eat is wrong. My mother would buy live geese in Hungary, and cut the poor bird's neck. I always refused to eat anything that I saw alive and then dead, and always on moral grounds.

Regarding Christianity, I definitely think that Jesus did not want to found a new religion. He was happily a Jew, even if in some ways he had truly new and revolutionary ideas for the time. His followers, as far as I know, were also all or mostly Jews. It was his followers that founded Christianity, most notably Paul of Tarsus, in today's Turkey, or Saul, and Peter. Both were Jews, and both murdered by Rome under Nero. Paul was decapitated on Nero's orders, and Peter crucified like Jesus. Nero was definitely not a nice guy. But killing was common in Jesus's time for all sorts of imagined or otherwise infractions.

Peter, or Shemayon Keppa, שמעון בר יונה‎ Shim'on bar Yona, in Hebrew, also judged others, and on his orders some people were killed. It seems therefore to me somewhat doubtful that Peter himself understood the commandment against killing, or the teachings of Jesus that he professed. I regret the horrible way that Peter himself was killed by the Romans. Crucifixion is a particularly cruel and heinous form of murder.

So Christianity was founded by Jews, and it is regrettable the subsequent deep anti-Semitism of the Christian Churches, both Catholic and Protestant. Martin Luther was a rabid anti-Semite, and we all know about the Spanish Inquisition.



Now the report about my travels:

Let me start with my last stop, my visit to Israel. Recently on this topic, I endorsed the possible Internationalization of the Holy places in Jerusalem. As a result of my visit to the holy places, I withdraw my support for that idea. Israel is doing a marvelous and commendable job of protecting the Holy places of all, Muslim, Christian, and Jewish, and the free access to them to all, and I do not see how the UN or anyone else could do a better job. I give 10 out of 10 to the job Israel is doing.

The first thing that strikes any visitor new to Jerusalem like me is that in spite of all the Palestinian propaganda so often reproduced in Western media, Jerusalem is an open, safe and welcoming place to all, no matter what religion or non-religion they follow. I met plenty of Muslims walking the streets of Jerusalem unmolested. I enclose some pictures to emphasize the point. Jerusalem feels like any European capital, say Paris, which we also visited during this trip, or London, or Rome. In spite of being in the eye of the storm, Jerusalem does not have a feel of a police state at all. One feels being in a police state much more in Putin's Russia, or Xi Jingping's China than in Jerusalem. One sees soldiers with machine guns, particularly in the holy parts of Jerusalem. But one sees soldiers with machine guns at any railway station in Italy or France as well. And the general atmosphere is one of relaxed freedom. I was never questioned by anyone. Never my backpack was searched for example. Oddly enough, my backpack was searched in Switzerland, at Zurich's marvelous airport, by an overzealous "security" woman, who started asking me all sorts of personal questions about where my hotel was in Athens, for example, and then selected me for a "random" security test, which of course I passed immediately with flying colors. In my opinion she was incompetent. Never could she select a less likely terrorist than me. I fight with the pen and ideas, and dislike violence and guns of any kind.

The second thing that struck me and impressed me, is that once one enters the Jaffa gate, most of the merchants in stores are Palestinians. Many live in Hebron, in the West Bank, and commute daily to their shops in Jerusalem.

The third thing that struck me, is that the Palestinians are the best salesmen in the world. You have to bargain with them, or you will vastly overpay what they want to sell you. They will ask a price which is much higher than the value of what you will buy, but since I am not the best bargainer, I usually settled for 2/3 of the initial asking price. I suspect, I would have been successful if I offered 1/2. The only place I did not bargain, was from a Jewish merchant, whose prices were very fair to begin with.

Once you enter a Palestinian's shop, you will not be able to leave without buying something. They will say "My friend, business is very bad, and I have 6 children to feed. I will do a special price just for you." And so the bargaining starts. I said to one of these merchants: "Your wares are beautiful, and of high quality, but I already spent all I wanted and have no money left." He would not let me leave, until I bought a beautiful handmade leather belt, with a special price just for me.

I asked 4 people I met there the same question, 3 Palestinians, and 1 Israeli. I asked: In your opinion what percentage of the Palestinians want peace with Israel? I did not argue or offered my opinion, I merely asked for theirs. More details on this later. The first Palestinian merchant I asked this who sold me some drinks, said 50%. There is no doubt that all the merchants are for peace. They greet the Israeli soldiers in the most friendly manner, who themselves stopped to buy a drink. If there is no peace, they have no business, so they have a vested interest in peace.

The second person I asked the same question was an Israeli soldier guarding the Wailing Wall and vicinity. He said he has many Palestinian friends, and estimated the number that want peace to be 75%. The third and fourth persons I asked was in a Palestinian's shop. He saw me returning from the Wailing Wall, and invited me in to have tea with him. I had already purchased some beautiful things from him, and he called me "my friend" and invited me to chat with him in his establishment. He lived in Hebron too. Samir and I had a two-hour conversation that included some politics, the USA and the Middle East in general. He thought that the USA gets anti-Palestinian reporting in the media, and I assured him that this was not true. Samir did not answer my question directly. He started saying things like what is peace, which I answered it is when no one is shooting at anyone. In any case he did not give me a straight answer. Still, he thanked me for talking to him, and inviting him to voice his opinions. The fourth Palestinian that I asked the same question was a beautiful young Muslim woman who entered Samir's shop. She was belligerent when I asked her the question and answered 1%. She was obviously a well-off beautiful Palestinian young woman, just from the elegant way she was dressed.

As I said, I did not offer my opinions to her, though during the two-hour conversation with my new friend Samir, of course I was more forthcoming.

In this trip we left on Christmas day, flew to Athens, where we stayed 3 days, and where I had a mini-WAIS summit with my good friend Harry Papasotiriou. Yesterday John E posted a photo of this meeting.

It is impossible not to love Greece. I always had enormous admiration for this marvelous little country that gave so much to humanity. From science, to arts, theater, history, medicine, the Greeks were simply extraordinary, and I believe that there is no parallel anywhere in human history where one could quote Churchill in a different context, "so much is owed by so many to so few." Here the so few are the Greeks of ancient Greece, and the so many is the rest of humanity.

On a note about prices, not only is Greece marvelous and beautiful, but also a huge bargain compared to the rest of Europe, which is at least twice as expensive in everything from food to transportation and hotel rooms. Greece is a bargain, and marvelously beautiful to boot.

From Athens we flew to Rome. From Rome by train to Florence. From Florence my son Johnny and I went on by train again to Austria.

A note about Italy. I love Italy yet I found it to be very expensive, and at times outright rude. I speak Italian fairly well, in fact after very little practice I am fluent in Italian, though some people speak fairly good English as well in Italy. I made reservations at the Termini station in Rome to go by Eurorail to Salzburg. The woman who made the reservations for me was incompetent and unprofessional, and when I complained about the outrageous price charged for her services, which I was required to pay for anyway, she showed complete indifference and at the end was even outright rude. I took her name down to complain about her. I have not yet done so, therefore this is a WAIS exclusive. I'd hope she would be fired, as she should be, but from the way she reacted it seems like she feels fairly safe to mistreat customers by Italy's railway company connected to the Eurorail system. I asked to go to Salzburg. She gave me a ticket to a Rosenheim. As it turned out we ended up in Innsbruck. (see below). For her incompetent services she charged me 120 Euros! An incompetent, rude and stupid woman. It is a shame and an outrage that that Italy's railway company employs such rude idiots.

The train originally was supposed to go all the way to Munich through marvelously beautiful country. But due to an accident apparently the previous day, the tracks were being repaired. So we were transferred to buses, which took us to Innsbruck. In Innsbruck I rented a car at a ridiculously high price. It was a Renault, a nice but unexceptional car, a 5-speed stick, which originally I wanted to drop off for a fee in a different place, but they would not have it, so we had to return to Innsbruck later. I drove this car for about 1000 miles in a few days.

My wife decided to stay behind in Florence with her daughter, my stepdaughter, so only my son Johnny and I had these adventures in Austria and Germany. We drove from Innsbruck to Bad Ischl, not too far from Salzburg. It is a beautiful city, with a river with crystal clear waters. Sissi is supposed to have succeeded in conceiving in Bad Ischl, and the shops are called Sissi this and Sissi that. A surviving Habsburg still lives in the royal castle.

From Bad Ischl we drove to Salzburg. Being a Mozart worshipper, who in my opinion was closer to being God than anyone on Earth, I had to show Salzburg to my son. Salzburg is a very beautiful city, but even if it were ugly I'd have gone because of Mozart. I had been to Salzburg before, so I knew the city, but wanted to show it to Johnny. It was January 2, so they were playing on loudspeakers the previous "Silvester" famous annual concert by the Vienna Philharmonic. It struck me as a little odd, that they would play Strauss rather than Mozart in his city. I like Strauss waltzes as much as the next guy, but they are light fare compared to anything that Mozart wrote. I always thought of the New Year's concert by the Vienna Philharmonic led by some famous conductor as an example where the most refined and exquisite performance to perfection was given to Strauss's music. Always very pleasant, bubbly like champagne, but ultimately very lightweight entertainment music.

In any case we visited the beautiful Salzburg Cathedral at the end of our visit. It was open even though it was dark by then. Many of Mozart's masses were first performed there. The Archbishop, Mozart's employer, who treated him like crap, did not like long pieces of music, so Mozart ofren wrote abbreviated versions called Missa Brevis. Archbishop Colloredo would hardly be remembered today. He is remembered only as the pompous ass who treated Mozart so badly and unfairly.


From Salzburg we drove to nearby Munich. We arrived in Munich by the evening. And went to see the famous Glockenspiel at Marienplatz.


But the glockenspiel must have been broken. It played the music and the bells, but it did not go around like it was supposed to.

Nonetheless, we had a good time in Munich, including a little sightseeing the next day, when we drove to the most marvelous castle in the German Alps, near Fuessen, Neuschwanstein. Built by the raving mad king Ludwig II, it is nonetheless from the outside perhaps the most beautiful castle I have ever seen. It is only when one goes inside that Ludwig's fragile mental condition is exposed. I had gone inside and saw it decorated with swans and Wagner's weirdest ideas, but this time we just stayed in the valley below this marvelous castle. From there we drove to Heidelberg.

Heidelberg is another marvelous city in Germany with a famous University. I met there with a friend I first knew in Donetsk, Ukraine, before it was turned into a hellhole by Putin. She escaped the war zone with her daughter, and now lives in Heidelberg. But she could meet us only in the afternoon. So after buying cheaper gasoline where ironically later I discovered she lived, outside Heidelberg, we drove back to our hotel and met her. We drove around this gorgeous beautiful city, and then took her home. We left later than originally planned, for I wanted to show Johnny a bit of the Black Forest which is so incredibly beautiful. We indeed drove through the black forest a little, but saw not much of it for it was by then dark. We then drove back to Innsbruck. The drive back to Innsbruck is all Autobahn until the German/ Austrian border. After that from the border to fairly near Innsbruck, where it turns again into an Autobahn, it was a frightening drive, through an Alpine two-way dangerous road, with a snowstorm blowing, and buses buzzing by in the opposite direction at night. But we made it and even found accommodations at a hotel which was fairly expensive, near the center of the city. By then I just wanted a bed. I bought airline tickets to London the next day, and after dropping off our Renault we reunited with my wife and stepdaughter in London. Our hotel was near Victoria station. There are a bunch of relatively inexpensive hotels there. They give you about 170 square feet, divided between a room with no furniture other than a bed, and a tiny bathroom. It costs around 60 pounds a night, with no breakfast included. By way of comparison, in 1975 I stayed at a similar bed and breakfast, at which I did get breakfast, but only access to a common bathroom then. It cost 3.50 pounds at that time. My room had actual furniture beside the bed, and I got a British breakfast for that. I include some pics from our London stay.

I contacted a friend of mine who today is a professor at Cambridge University and a fellow at Trinity College. In 1983 when I spent a year in Cambridge he was an undergraduate student of the Trinity fellow and Mathematician who invited me to spend a post-graduate research year in Cambridge. My friend was delighted to hear from me, and in spite of the late notice we arranged to meet 11:30 am. He gave us a wonderful private tour of Trinity College. I already knew Trinity College fairly well from my 1983 visit, but his tour was a real delight and he showed us many things I deeply appreciated and did not know. For example he showed us Issac Newton's room, and the place where Newton first measured within 10% accuracy the speed of sound by clapping his hands in a long corridor in Trinity's courtyard, and measuring the time for the echo to arrive back. He spent some 2 hours with us, and then we were on our own. Trinity College was founded by Henry VIII, who was not a nice man, but his last wife convinced him that he should endow a College in Cambridge, and he gave Trinity a lot of money. Because of this, Trinity is the richest College in Cambridge, and founding Trinity College was probably best contribution of Henry VIII to humanity. Once on our own again we visited King's College for a fee. King's College has the most beautiful and grandest Chapel in Cambridge. It has a priceless picture of the adoration of the Magi by Rubens at the altar and absolutely marvelous stained glass windows, and much other priceless art.

Europe's churches are empty. The younger generation simply does not believe anymore any of the religions, and the same is true of Cambridge. So religious ceremonies at King's chapel are now sparsely attended, but they have marvelous concerts in this most wonderful of chapels. King's College was founded by Henry VI.

Opposite Trinity College there is a great Heffer's bookstore, sort of like the Stanford bookstore, only bigger. Cambridge is an intellectually vibrant place, and so Heffer's still makes serious money there by selling books. I loaded up. More on this in a future post.

Opposite King's College there is a place where they sell delicious fudge. Most of them were a bit too sweet. I liked the most one that had a bit of tartness because it was made with raspberries. But we bought a bunch of them with chocolates of various flavors, which all eventually was consumed by the end of our trip.

We walked back to the train station and went back to London on an express train. The next day we took the bullet train to Paris.

I found Paris very different from when I visited it the last time. The French then were fairly unfriendly to anyone that did not speak perfect French which was my case. I learned 4 years of French in school, but the teaching emphasized grammar over communication, so to this day, I can speak some French, but only with difficulty and not very well. But today's French people are much friendlier, and most speak English and are very helpful and hospitable. Needless to say, we loved Paris; how can anyone not love this marvelous beautiful city? We paid to go to the top of the Eiffel tower, expensive but spectacular. After the tour we got into a taxi, which charged us the outrageous price of 35 euros for a 10-minute, 6 km drive. I thought he robbed us, and was upset, but at the hotel they told us that this was normal. Our hotel, on the other hand was reasonably priced and was excellent. One can use the Metro everywhere in Paris, and so the next day we went to the Louvre. The last time I was in Paris I also wanted to go to the Louvre, but I could not because both the metro workers and the Louvre workers were on strike. The day we went the admission was free. So we enjoyed its treasures without a fee. The Louvre is enormous and one can walk miles and miles through its marvelous collections of art work. We visited just two of its floors, naturally the one that has Leonardo da Vinci's Gioconda or Mona Lisa. We then spent major bucks at the gift store. One of the salespersons believe it or not was Brazilian, so I talked Portuguese to her.

From Paris back to Athens where after staying at a hotel my wife and children embarked for the US, where school had already started. I flew to Israel by myself the same night for an additional 3-day visit. I enclose a small sample of pictures of all of the above. Those interested can find much more on my Facebook page where I will publish much more, and which would be impractical in a WAIS post.

JE comments:  Istvan, what stamina!  I am awed by the number of places you saw in a short time.  My tourism style tends to involve biting off less, and chewing more.

Istvan sent a number of photos.  I'll assemble an Athens gallery for a later post.  For now, Jerusalem.  Enjoy!

Western Wall, Jerusalem

Young Muslim Women, Jerusalem


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  • Buddhism, Enlightenment, and Johnny Nash; from Ric Mauricio (John Eipper, USA 01/17/18 1:59 PM)

    Ric Mauricio writes:

    In response to Istvan Simon (January 17th), I would like to clarify the reasoning behind my comparison of Buddhism's enlightenment and Christianity's Holy Spirit. Enlightenment is simply a path towards, in Buddhist-speak, Nirvana, which of course, is equivalent to Christianity's heaven. Due to karma, most people are given a second (or third or fourth or so on) chance through reincarnation. Thus the deja vu moments that people seem to incur.

    In Christianity, according to Biblical texts, when the motley crew experienced the dove or flame or however the text illustrates it, the Holy Spirit descended upon them and wham, bam, they no longer were these scared revolutionaries, but were "enlightened" to go out and spread the gospel of Jesus, even under the threat of torture and death from those whose power was threatened by this schism.

    This is the story I share with non-believers and many, like my Jewish, Muslim, and Buddhist friends, see how I equate enlightenment and the Holy Spirit of Christianity. By the way, Atheism can be a religion. My atheist friend denies the existence of Jesus Christ despite the historical writings of non-Christian Roman scholars. I can see where he would have an issue with the deity label, but denying that he existed indicates to me that he is thinking much like religionists, believing in some things, despite physical evidence to the contrary.

    Here's a question, though. Considering the virgin birth, did Jesus pull Matthew and Luke aside and tell them that my mom was a virgin when she conceived me? Somehow I cannot picture that, but then again, there were no third-partner witnesses to Saul's conversion to Paul, nor of course, the beginning of the world or Adam and Eve. I point this out not to disparage the Christian religion, but to refocus on what is important: the teachings of Jesus. (Would His teachings be a philosophy rather than a religion?)  Also, in Buddhism, one has to also remove the garbage that takes the focus off of Siddhartha's teachings. (Would His teachings be a philosophy rather than a religion?)

    My definition of enlightenment is summed up by these lyrics: ♫ I can see clearly now the rain is gone. I can see all obstacles in my way. Gone are the dark clouds that had me blind. It's gonna be a bright (bright) Bright (bright) sunshiny day.♫ --Johnny Nash

    JE comments:  Where'd you find those eighth notes, Ric?  Johnny Nash (I checked) is still alive and active at 77.  He had but one mega-hit, but I just learned that Nash was also instrumental in introducing Jamaica's Reggae music to the US public. He even discovered an obscure musician named Bob Marley.  That global perspective makes Nash a WAISly fellow.

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    • My Concept of God (Istvan Simon, USA 01/19/18 2:57 AM)
      I am delighted to continue this conversation with Ric Mauricio (January 17th) and others, in spite of John E mentioning that this thread might have gone on for too long. Yet a conversation on religion and God is in my opinion one of the two most worthwhile topics to discuss. The other one is love.

      So Ric says that Nirvana is "of course" the same as the heaven of Christianity. I do not think this is as obvious as he says. The two seem very different to me. I wish we had a Buddhist within WAIS who could perhaps shed further light on this. But in my understanding, imperfect as it may be, Nirvana is not at all like the Christian heaven. To me Nirvana is a state of understanding of the world, how living creatures have a place in the space where we live, that is on the planet we live. A state of contemplative bliss, mostly dealing with life and living things. Heaven is nothing like that--in the Christian conception it is a place filled with the souls of dead people, and angels, the souls of those who did not go to hell instead. In the Christian heaven you share this hypothetical place with the souls of other good people who are dead, and with Jesus and God, and the Virgin Mary.

      There is a joke that I would like to now share about heaven and hell that I heard in Brazil, which was very much a Catholic country when I heard this joke. A person dies and enters hell rather than heaven. He finds out that hell is divided into countries just like when he was on Earth. He goes to one of the gates where there is almost no one waiting. He asks, what happens here? The tortured soul near the gate tells him: We get up early morning and get firewood, we light it, put water and oil in a vat, then sit the rest of the day in the mixture of boiling water and oil. It is terrible, let me tell you. He goes to another one, and asks what happens here? The answer is the same, get up early morning, get firewood, light it, sit in boiling water and oil the rest of the day... He looks around and finds a huge line in front of the gate for Brazil. He asks what happens here? We get up early morning, find firewood, water and oil, light it, sit in boiling water and oil. He is exasperated and asks, but if so why is there a huge line here, and is empty everywhere else? Well you know, one day we can't find the firewood, the other there is no water, the next one no oil, so we mostly just sit in an empty cold vat the whole day...

      There is as far as I know no similar concept in Buddhism.

      About atheists, Rick Mauricio should not generalize from the beliefs of one atheist friend. He will find plenty of atheists, if he looks a little harder, who do not deny that Jesus walked on this earth. What they might not believe, and I am one of those, is that Jesus resurrected and went to heaven, though I would not necessarily describe myself as an atheist either. I also do not believe that Mary was a virgin impregnated by the Holy Spirit. I believe Jesus was conceived much like the rest of us. I believe that WAISer Jordi Mollins professes to be an atheist, so if I am right, perhaps he would care to comment.

      I would like to further comment on the concept of God. I wrote about the theorem I proved at age 10 that God with certain properties does not exist. But now I would like to further comment on a God that I can believe in. There is no contradiction between my theorem and this new conception I am going to write about.

      The whole idea relies on the famous observation by Irish 18th century statesman Edmund Burke (January 12, 1729 - July 9, 1797), the truth of which is in my opinion hard to deny. Burke said: "All that is necessary for evil to succeed is for good people to do nothing." So what has this have to do with God? In my conception, plenty.

      For suppose that God is not a white-bearded wise and immortal being sitting on some cloud in heaven. Suppose that God is a concept instead. Suppose that God is all that is good in life, mercy, goodness, kindness, infinite love. A famous Rabbi once said, "The Torah (the Jewish Bible) is about one fundamental thing: the Golden Rule. All the rest is just commentary." So back to God, the concept.

      A concept is an idea. Therefore it does not make sense to say that God is all powerful. Instead, just like Burke said, God's work is done by people, the good people who do something about evil. The people who went to airports, for example, all over this country, to protest about the disgraceful Muslim ban of President Trump. They were doing God's work, because the Muslim ban is evil and wrong. Now, if all the good people unite and do something about evil, it can change things for the better really fast. Collectively they are a very powerful force for good. God is just a concept, so is powerless without the people that do the right thing. But the good people of the world are perhaps not all-powerful, but very very powerful. So axiom 1 of my theorem needs to be changed a little--instead of all-powerful, say very powerful. All the other axioms stay unchanged. God is good and loving and so on, because the good people who do God's work are good and kind and loving and so on... They are moral beings. Axiom 2 is true. God cares about you and me, because the good people who do his work care about all humanity and all living things. Axiom 3 is true. And Axiom 4 is true, because the good people do intervene when it is within their power to do so to impede evil things. Axiom 4 is Burke in action, when the good people do something rather than nothing. Now my theorem is changed. Because such a God exists, and satisfies all 4 axioms, with the weakening of axiom 1 I mentioned above. I believe in this God.

      JE comments:  Fellow WAISer and Istvan Simon's colleague at Cal State East Bay, Massoud Malek, has been a practicing Buddhist.  I'm not sure if he is at present.  Massoud, what have you been up to lately?

      I have long had a question about Judaism that perhaps Istvan can address:  What is the Jewish notion of an afterlife?  Specifically, unlike in Brazil (!), there is no Jewish concept of hell, correct?

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      • Ric Mauricio on the Afterlife (John Eipper, USA 01/25/18 11:15 AM)

        Ric Mauricio writes:

        I like the concept of "concept." Thank you, Istvan Simon, for your post on the concept of God (19 January).

        When I compared nirvana and heaven in my earlier comment, I saw them as concepts conceived by two different trains of thought, but the similarity is that they are the highest levels of consciousness (in Buddhism, this can exist in life or afterlife; in Christianity/Judaism, it will exist in the afterlife).

        When I illustrated that my atheist friend's beliefs/or non-beliefs can be a religion, I was comparing him to non-atheists who believe when there is no scientific evidence or do not believe when there is scientific evidence. To do so is religious. I was not generalizing that other atheists may think this way.

        But returning to the Christian/Judaic concept of the afterlife, I am often drawn to discussions with others on the 'concept' of heaven (or hell). Wouldn't streets of gold be slippery when it rains? Oh, no, because there is no rain. If no rain, then no trees and flowers? And it goes on and on. I tell people that if they get there before me, to email me. No computers in heaven? OK, just sneak down to the nearest public library. No fingers to type? This discussion is going absolutely nowhere. But I tell you, if there are no burritos or Chinese food in heaven, I'm coming back.

        But now the thought process really starts. Are we not in heaven? And hell, if your life is that way (many times I observe that hell is self-inflicted)? Look around you. Trees, birds, waterfalls, canyons, great food, great friends, family, great discussions with others about religion, politics and money on WAIS.

        Don't be alarmed if I join WAIS discussions from the other side; I would be solving the greatest mystery of all for you. Wouldn't that be enlightening?

        JE comments: We have lost too many WAIS colleagues in the last couple of years. If any of you are reading this--please drop us a line! (We need Ric Mauricio on this side, thank you.)

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        • In Praise of Ric Mauricio (Tor Guimaraes, USA 01/26/18 5:05 AM)
          I thoroughly enjoy Ric Mauricio's WAIS comments for many reasons. They tend to be thoughtful, contain a more balanced view than most by not being too ideological and narrow-minded, and Ric never shows juvenile name-calling.

          Above all, Ric shows a great sense of humor. His post of January 25th is a perfect example.

          JE comments: WAIS doesn't normally do attaboys, heartywelldones, and especially paeans, but an exception from time to time is refreshing.  I've met Ric Mauricio on a few occasions, and his good cheer, optimism, and sense of humor are infectious.  I have no hat, but if I did, I'd take it off to Señor Mauricio.

          Ric:  is it your diet, your healthy exercise routine, or perhaps WAISitol...?



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        • Sartre on Hell (John Heelan, UK 01/28/18 4:09 AM)
          Ric Mauricio (25 January) discussed Heaven and Hell in the afterlife. Sartre claimed that "Hell is other people" in his play No Exit, on the basis of the shame one feels if caught in a disreputable act. Other peoples' knowledge of that act increases the shame.

          Monotheist religions use the shame/guilt motivation as a means of controlling their disciples.

          JE comments:  Aldona teaches No Exit in her European literature course, and the Sartrean concept of Hell is a great discussion-starter for the students.  Hell can be other people, yet solitude is also Hell.

          WAIS prefers light and peace to fire and brimstone, but should we open up an infernal conversation?  What--and more importantly, why--is Hell?  How about this quote for starters:  "I don't give them hell.  I just tell them the truth and they think it's hell."  Of course, this one's from the "Give 'em Hell" guy himself, Harry S Truman.

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          • Give 'Em Hell Harry and MacArthur (Tor Guimaraes, USA 01/28/18 2:48 PM)
            John Eipper's comment about Harry Truman being the "Give 'em Hell" guy made me think of him juxtaposed to Douglas MacArthur during the Korean War.

            Truman was a folksy guy with clever words. He projected a slightly macho man personality to counterbalance his wimpy persona while growing up. MacArthur always measured himself against his dad's great military accomplishments, including the Medal of Honor.

            When I contrast Truman and MacArthur in more detail, the part that I don't get is that after the brilliantly successful Inchon invasion, as any macho man would, full of bravado, MacArthur carelessly assumed he could squeeze the enemy all way up against the Yalu river and China (perhaps even a little beyond if necessary). His bravado turned into a disaster when American soldiers were trapped by Chinese intervention and had to drag themselves back under fire and murderous cold weather. That is likely to be his greatest blunder in his famous military career.

            On the other hand, Truman, listening to his advisors, was much more careful and sacked MacArthur, perhaps saving us from WWIII. Did the two macho man part company because one was forced to think strategically as a US President, while the other could only behave as a great military leader in a war theater, with no global strategic understanding?

            JE comments:  WAISer Miles Seeley served in Korea, and he wrote a vivid account of how much the GIs hated "Dugout Doug" MacArthur.  See link below.

            (When searching for Miles' post, I was shocked and extremely saddened to find his obituary.  Miles passed away in March of last year, at his home in Kansas City.  I never met him in person, but he was a model WAISer and a wonderful correspondent.  More to follow.)


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            • Truman and MacArthur: A Political Rivalry? (John Heelan, UK 01/30/18 4:24 AM)
              Tor Guimaraes asked on 29 January: "Did the two macho man [Truman and MacArthur] part company because one was forced to think strategically as a US President, while the other could only behave as a great military leader in a war theatre, with no global strategic understanding?"

              On the other hand, the politically astute Truman might have just been removing the threat of a potential future presidential candidate. After all Eisenhower was successful in leveraging his prestige as commanding general of the victorious forces in Europe during World War II.

              JE comments:  Truman (I just checked) did dip his toes in the water for the 1952 elections, but after a poor showing in New Hampshire he chose to drop out.  (HST had already served most of FDR's fourth term, plus one of his own.)  LBJ would follow suit in 1968.  Note the similarities between the two:  both were VPs who ascended upon a president's death, and both were mired in unpopular wars.

              MacArthur, on the other hand, was already 72 in 1952, probably past the "due date" for the White House at that time.  Eisenhower was ten years younger.

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            • Appraising Mao (Tor Guimaraes, USA 01/30/18 12:40 PM)
              A short while ago several WAIS postings addressed the accomplishments of Chairman Mao and compared him negatively against Hitler and Stalin. The discussion produced more heat than information, but it made me realize a few things:

              When we compare national leaders like Stalin and Mao who are responsible for the death of millions of their compatriots, should we not take into account what the motivation and objective was, whether the killings happened through war or a deliberate extermination attempt, whether they enjoyed support from a majority of the population, etc. Those things are important to me.

              Another consideration is that compared to the judgment from their respective national populations, the personal opinions from armchair experts from the other side of the world are somewhat hollow. We need evidence and clear reasoning before name-calling.

              Last, how do we compare the disgusting atrocities by the governments of Mao, Stalin, Hitler, Pol Pot, etc. to the more "civilized" systematic long-term devastation Western colonial powers imposed on many weaker nations all over the world including China, Vietnam, several African nations, etc. Ditto for imperial powers dictating law and order, replacing governments, causing everlasting civil wars costing trillions of dollars and millions of lives, etc. to suit their own interests.

              JE comments:  Another crucial distinction:  Mao was never overthrown or discredited.  Stalin was at least discredited, although he is still seen with nostalgic affection by some Russians.

              We should all take Tor Guimaraes's final paragraph seriously.  Before decrying the beam in another system's eye, acknowledge the possibility of motes in one's own.  (In the previous sentence, switch beam and mote if desired.)

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            • Truman and MacArthur (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 01/31/18 9:27 AM)
              I appreciated Tor Guimaraes's post (28 January) on the personalities of MacArthur and Harry Truman.

              MacArthur was consistent with his theory: no substitute for victory. Truman, on the other hand, first killed a dead enemy (Japan) and then chickened out before a strong enemy, thus starting the long list of unwon wars.

              Anyway the most disastrous president who wanted to measure himself against his father was George W. Bush.

              To comfort myself, however, this evening I am going to watch one of the most amusing war films on TV, Operation Petticoat.

              JE comments:  That one's a classic, with Cary Grant and Tony Curtis (1959).

              One of the several things Truman and MacArthur had in common:  combat experience in the Great War.  No US president besides Truman saw action on the Western Front--Harry S definitely was not a chicken.  (Eisenhower was never in Europe during WWI.)

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              • Truman a Coward? Mao Misunderstood? From Gary Moore (John Eipper, USA 02/01/18 5:13 AM)

                Gary Moore asks:

                A riddle for WAIS courtesy: What to reply when there is no reply
                and yet a reply seems demanded?

                Eugenio Battaglia says Truman was chicken and Tor Guimaraes says
                Mao is a victim of armchair experts, so that, like, we need more evidence.

                Do these things come in waves? Should we ask the astrologers: Is the moon
                in Jupiter or something?

                I do sort of agree with Eugenio on George W. Bush, and with Tor (I think) on God. Is that riddle-reprieve enough?

                JE comments:  Eugenio Battaglia (next) has qualified his earlier appraisal of Truman, and to be fair, Eugenio said HST "chickened out," not that he was a chicken per se.  For his part, Tor Guimaraes never said Mao was a victim, only that we judges in Western (if Chinese-made) armchairs should not overlook the deaths that have resulted from our own military adventures.

                I think I got that right.  As for world leaders, what is preferable, cowardice or bravado?  The latter invariably results in one thing:  war.

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                • Truman Appraised: Cowardice, Bravado, Neither? (Tor Guimaraes, USA 02/02/18 3:52 AM)
                  John Eipper asked, "As for world leaders, what is preferable, cowardice or bravado?"

                  Both characteristics if shown by world leaders should be cause for dismissal. Both can become way too expensive to be tolerated by the nation, which will ultimately have to pay the cost. In other words, world leaders should be honest, sober, measured, courageous, and preferably good-looking.

                  The bravado by Douglas MacArthur was only human: After helping win WWII over the Japanese, he also won the peace in my estimation with an outstanding administration of post-war Japan. Then he implemented against Washington's advice/pressure the brilliant Inchon invasion in Korea. I believe most humans might indulge in some bravado in this context. Proud teenagers love any opportunity for bravado. Cowardice is what bad guys show when their goose gets cooked à la Saddam Hussein, the Shah of Iran, etc.

                  MacArthur was a proud human being, thus he indulged in what he probably thought was the coup de grace against the North Korean military by squeezing them against the Yalu river (Chinese border), totally neglecting to consider what he would have to do if the Chinese Army entered the fight. The result was a very embarrassing defeat for the USA and the worst military result for any MacArthur military campaign. He deserved to be canned by Truman for the extremely difficult conditions the American troops had to suffer.

                  Commenting on Eugenio Battaglia's post, JE wrote, "Regarding Truman, History's jury is still deliberating. Would HST have been a greater president had he not used the Bomb? Or was he 'great' precisely because he took that weighty decision?"

                  Eugenio is correct, the Japanese nation was already on its proverbial last leg. The overwhelming invasion of Manchuria by the Russians (which by then had run over the "invincible" German army all way to Berlin) was a huge shock to the Japanese. Once the US government limited the wording of the unconditional surrender demands to "armed forces," the major obstacle was removed. Japanese surrender was delayed only because they would not compromise their living God and because the military leadership alone preferred to commit suicide rather than surrender.

                  A better person (i.e. Eisenhower) would not have dropped the bomb. The aggressive and nasty Japanese military deserved to get burned, but not civilians who had no choice to surrender. Truman knew the A-bomb was justifiably popular at the time, because an invasion of Japan would kill many thousands of American soldiers. A million is likely a huge exaggeration, given the enormous military superiority the US then enjoyed over Japan. Generals MacArthur, Bombs-Away Le May, and other hawkish generals held the opinion that the A-bomb was not necessary for the surrender. That is conclusive enough for me.

                  JE comments:  Was Eisenhower a better person than Truman, or was he "better" because he didn't drop the Bomb?  If you use marital fidelity as a yardstick, Ike comes up lacking.

                  About once a year, WAIS raises the question of whether Japan would have surrendered anyway (i.e., without Hiroshima and Nagasaki), and at what cost to the US.  A million more casualties?  "Only" a few thousand?  We'll never know, but Truman in 1945 would have had a hard time justifying even a single additional US death to spare the lives of the despised Japanese.  On the other hand, there's also the conspiracy interpretation that the Bomb was primarily a warning signal to the Soviets.

                  Now, to Mao (Istvan Simon).

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                • Mao and "Armchair Experts": Response to Tor Guimaraes (Istvan Simon, USA 02/02/18 4:19 AM)
                  I would like to start this comment by thanking Gary Moore for his riddle (February 1st) and all that he said in his post. It needed to be said, and he did it with truly extraordinary skill, admirable tact and diplomacy. Thank you Gary. I much admire your skill in saying things diplomatically.

                  Still, while I am in awe at Gary's diplomatic skills, I am much less refined than he is in saying things with riddles. I am usually much more direct and explicit and even prefer, at least for myself, the not-mincing-words approach, while still, I hope, remaining within the bounds of civility.

                  John Eipper said commenting on Gary's post that Tor Guimaraes did not say that Mao was a victim. I am sorry John, but I believe that this is inaccurate or at least misleading. I understand and applaud you that you made the comment with the best of intentions to fulfill your role as moderator, but nonetheless I feel that I need to point out the inaccuracy. Tor very much said that Mao was a victim. Worse, he did so by personally criticizing WAISers in the process qualifying their criticisms of Mao as that of "armchair experts." Further, he said that the discussion produced more heat than information, a second criticism of his fellow WAISers, and in my opinion an unfair one.

                  I am no doubt one of the armchair experts to which Tor's remarks and criticisms were directed. Both his critical remarks were in part clearly directed at me. Tor did not name me explicitly, but he did not have to. I was clearly involved in the discussion that he responded to. Let me state that I do not take offense for his criticisms, for I am, paraphrasing Harry Truman's words, able to take the heat and do not need to get out of the kitchen.

                  Nonetheless, I must respond to Tor, and I shall do so much more forcefully and explicitly than Gary's diplomatic and magistral post.

                  I do not take offense for him calling me an armchair expert, nor that the posts he referred to, mine included, on the subject produced more "heat than information". If Tor wants information, he can read George Zubin Gu's magnificent posts on WAIS, so full of detail, names, references, and what is still more important for me, humaneness. Or he can read Mao's personal physician's account in his superb book that I referred to in my post. Here is the explicit reference for interested WAISers' enlightenment:


                  I will not waste any more of this post with the criticism that Tor directed at me. It is irrelevant for my purposes and does not deserve any further comment. Rather, I will reserve my fire to the overall tone of his post. For I consider Tor Guimaraes' post one of the most callous ones ever published in WAIS. His remarks and defense of Mao should be offensive to any human being in my humble opinion. It exhibits a level of callousness and indifference towards the deaths of 70 million human beings, and the unspeakable sufferings of their families that Mao's misrule produced. Tor asks an irrelevant question, which he says is important for him, that is to examine Mao's motivation. I must comment on this further, for when one is responsible for the deaths of 70 million human beings, motivation is really irrelevant. For the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

                  But beyond that, Mao was truly evil, and not at all even mildly well-intentioned. Consider the vile, despicable and ruthless methods that he used to remain in power. After the disasters of the killings of sparrows and the stupidity of the Great Leap Forward, Mao was criticized in the Politburo. He first appeared to accept the criticism--in reality he never did, as it will be apparent shortly. Mao actually generalized it. He invited people to freely criticize him and his regime, and to offer well -intentioned suggestions for improvement. Hundreds of thousands of Chinese responded in good faith, and wrote about what they thought could be improved. Having invited such criticism, what did Mao do? He used the invited criticisms as a means to identify people in opposition to his rule. He had them arrested, tortured, murdered. Good intentions Tor?

                  Further, Tor said that "compared to the judgment from their respective national populations, the personal opinions from armchair experts from the other side of the world are somewhat hollow. We need evidence and clear reasoning before name-calling."

                  As for evidence, I think we armchair experts have provided plenty. Second, I could write volumes about the judgment from their respective populations. I reported on my conversations with Chinese people in a previous post. When I mentioned to one of my Chinese acquaintances in 2004, who asked me where I had been, that I was in Beijing visiting Mao's corpse in his mausoleum, he had this to say: " A terrible man, a horrible despot, a Saddam Hussein." He was being too kind to Mao, for though Saddam was an unspeakable villain, he was never responsible for 70 million deaths. But in any case this is typical of the answer of many many native Chinese I have spoken to, and it makes it clear that Mao is regarded as a bloody despicable despot by quite a few Chinese. Among these of course is George Zubin Gu. Likewise my wife and her friends. This is also the view of my Chinese students, many of whom candidly appraised Mao as absolute evil.

                  But suppose, for the sake of argument, that this was not the case. Why would my opinion be somewhat hollow? It isn't. I am entitled to my opinion regardless of whether the Chinese themselves view Mao favorably or unfavorably. So, no Tor, my armchair expert opinion is not at all hollow.

                  Finally let me address another point in Tor's post, which I found also offensive. He asks:

                  "Last, how do we compare the disgusting atrocities by the governments of Mao, Stalin, Hitler, Pol Pot, etc. to the more 'civilized' systematic long-term devastation Western colonial powers imposed on many weaker nations all over the world including China, Vietnam, several African nations, etc. Ditto for imperial powers dictating law and order, replacing governments, causing everlasting civil wars costing trillions of dollars and millions of lives, etc. to suit their own interests."

                  So why do I find this offensive? I don't find any of what he said about colonial wars, the sins of the West and so on, offensive at all per se. Tor is welcome to discuss and excoriate them all to his heart's content. What I vehemently object to is the comparison to Mao Zedong's murderous misrule, the juxtaposition of the West's sins to Mao's rule. This juxtaposition is deeply offensive, because even if we accepted Tor's possible thesis, that the sins of the West are far worse than Mao's misrule, which by the way I do not accept, even in that case two wrongs do not a right make. So it can never be an excuse for Mao's evil rule.

                  JE comments:  A large part of the WAIS moderator's job is to unruffle feathers.  Having said that, I did not interpret Tor's comment as drawing a moral equivalency between Mao's "disgusting atrocities" (Tor's words) and the military adventures of the West.  Am I being too indulgent?  Tor?

                  I plan to read Li Zhisui's book (above link).  Mao's physician died in 1995, in exile in Carol Stream, Illinois.  Did anyone in WAISworld know or meet him?

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                  • A-Bomb Revisited: Japan Would Have Surrendered Anyway (Tor Guimaraes, USA 02/04/18 7:15 AM)
                    John Eipper commented on the February 2nd post of Istvan Simon: "I did not interpret Tor's comment as drawing a moral equivalency between Mao's 'disgusting atrocities' (Tor's words) and the military adventures of the West. Am I being too indulgent? Tor?"

                    I believe John's interpretation of my earlier statements is exactly right. I greatly appreciate his careful reading of all WAIS postings, his attempts at reducing misinterpretations and toning down any aggressive language which only adds unnecessary heat to the discussion but little new information. Thank you, John. Keep up the good work.

                    Regarding the first two uses of the A-bomb, the evidence is clear that the US had the moral high ground due to how the Japanese started the war and the continuous Japanese atrocities against soldiers and civilians alike all over the war theater. Nevertheless, the results in Hiroshima and Nagasaki are considered by most people to be a nasty blow to humanity. Was it necessary? I already explained the reasons why it was clearly not necessary, but let me elaborate.

                    1. The Japanese was badly beaten.  They had no air power or naval power to speak of. The civilian population was starving and honor-bound and trained with sticks to fight to death if necessary. But they were hardly a worthy opponent against American forces.

                    2.  The overwhelming invasion of Manchuria by the Russians (which by then had run over the "invincible" German army all way to Berlin) was a huge shock to the Japanese.

                    3. The Americans in the best position to know, Generals MacArthur, Bombs-Away Le May, and other hawkish American generals, held the opinion that the A-bomb was not necessary for the surrender. That is conclusive enough for me.

                    4. Once the US government limited the wording of the unconditional surrender demands to "armed forces," the major obstacle (threat to their living god) was removed. Only the military leadership preferred to commit suicide rather than surrender, the rest of the cabinet knew resistance was futile and was ready to surrender.

                    5. Above all Truman was a politician. He knew the A-bomb was justifiably popular at the time because an invasion of Japan would kill many thousands of American soldiers. A million is likely a huge exaggeration, given the enormous military superiority the US enjoyed over Japan at the time. Any military resistance could have been vaporized by our overwhelming conventional military power.

                    JE comments:  Howard Zinn's People's History argues that the Bomb was used for two reasons only:  to shock and awe the Soviets, and to justify the enormous capital investment.  Francisco Ramírez has forwarded a thoughtful critique of Zinn's categorical thesis.  Tune in later today.

                    Thank you for your kind words, Tor.  I do try to give every incoming WAIS post a thorough and open-minded reading.

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                    • Howard Zinn and the Dropping of the Bomb on Japan (Francisco Ramirez, USA 02/05/18 3:49 AM)
                      Below is a critique from Sam Wineburg of a very popular textbook, Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States.

                      Part of the critique focuses on the question of whether Japan was ready to surrender and we dropped the bomb to either punish them or impress the Soviet Union. The critique relies on more recent archival data and charges Zinn of sticking to his earlier thesis and ignoring recent evidence relevant to the thesis.

                      This is not my area of expertise, but I thought it would be good to consider evidence when putting forth our opinions on historical events.

                      Using nuclear weapons is not the sort of decision I even remotely have ever had to make. Informing some faculty that they are not getting tenure was bad enough for me.

                      JE comments:  Tenure denial feels like getting nuked, if it happens to you.

                      Wineburg takes issue with Zinn for his historiographical certainty, the cocksuredness of his iconoclastic interpretations.  Zinn has no use for nuances or the "perhaps," even when discussing counterfactuals.  Regarding Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Zinn sees two (and only two) explanations for the US decision:  to justify the massive capital investment, and to awe/intimidate the Soviet Union.  Wineburg presents evidence against the "imminent surrender anyway" thesis, specifically the peace overtures sent by Japan to the Soviet Union.  The Soviets did not see the communication as anything other than a Japanese play for more time.



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                    • Peace/War, Humility, and Armchair Experts; from Ric Mauricio (John Eipper, USA 02/05/18 4:07 AM)
                      Ric Mauricio writes:

                      "War is over, if you want it." --John Lennon

                      But there is something called the ego. There is something in humankind that causes us to compare ourselves to others, and to base our self-worth on whether we are more superior than others. Whether it be in the corporate halls or the halls of government, it causes humans to degrade others by calling them names, by bullying, by destroying others with innuendo.

                      This ego leads to arrogance, and arrogance leads to destructive behavior. This is why empires rise and fall. And of course, this is why wars happen. But the only way to stop the maddening crowd and the insanity is to humble ourselves. Yes, we are but armchair experts, but at least we are attempting to flail against the futility of the insanity exhibited by humankind.

                      MacArthur's arrogance led to his downfall. How many times, my dear General, did they have to photograph you stepping back on Philippine soil on that beach? And why did you, my dear General, leave the Philippines when you were the most needed, only to return after the Japanese annihilated and beheaded many Filipinos and Americans in Bataan? But yes, you staged it well, with your "I Shall Return" speech and the photo op. Oh, what an ego.

                      I heard the justification that dropping the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki was necessary to save American lives. Shock and awe? No, my ego demands that my MOAB is bigger than your MOAB.

                      JE comments:  Economists understand warfare as societies competing for limited resources, but the psychological explanation is perhaps more convincing:  we have wars because enough people want them.

                      Mother of All Bombs, yes, but how about brain-altering electromagnetic waves?  Boris Volodarsky (next) gives details.

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              • Re-Appraising Truman: an Apology (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 02/01/18 7:25 AM)
                I want to apologize for the second part of my recent post of 31 January, with reference to President Truman. It was an overly easy occasion to engage in bad polemics, for which I am sorry.

                In reality I recognize that the decision of Truman to stop MacArthur and to reach an armistice with North Korea was not a "chickening out," but was rather a fantastic, almost unique, example of wisdom that saved an infinite number of lives and avoided infinite destruction which could have impacted all humanity.

                I remain convinced, however, that Japan was ready to surrender even without using the atomic bomb, considering its approaches to the USSR and its internal discussions. A request for unconditional surrender by the victors is never the wisest choice.

                JE comments: Negotiated peace or unconditional surrender? History has ample examples of both, and each has its disadvantages. Going back to Korea, was MacArthur correct in wanting to take the war into China?  Did the US have the stomach for an all-out war against a major power?  I would say not.

                Eugenio Battaglia has shown admirable humility in this post.  The Missourian in me thanks him.  Regarding Truman, History's jury is still deliberating.  Would HST have been a greater president had he not used the Bomb?  Or was he "great" precisely because he took that weighty decision?  Any verdict probably reveals more about the person issuing it than about Truman himself.

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                • If MacArthur had Stayed Away from the Yalu... (Timothy Brown, USA 02/02/18 2:38 PM)
                  On Truman v MacArthur: During my post-Korean War 1961-65 tour at FMFPAC/CINCPAC, I recall having heard several times that the real problem had been that Truman had given MacArthur a direct order not to go near the Yalu but MacArthur had disobeyed him. It was one thing for MacArthur to energetically disagree with his "commanding officer," but another for him to deliberately and knowingly violate an order from the President.

                  Both knew that Chinese troops were massing on the Chinese side of the Yalu, and neither knew for certain their intent. MacArthur believed they were bluffing: Truman wasn't sure but, since we had pushed the North Koreans out of most of the peninsula already he did not want to challenge China.

                  Speculation on what "might" have happened on the peninsular had MacArthur obeyed his orders is always easier than confirmation. But, in my view, had MacArthur not provoked China into entering the Korean War, the peninsula would probably not have been divided into North and South Korea--and we might (I say might) not be faced with the potentially disastrous threat we face today.

                  JE comments:  This is a profound "what if," and one I had never considered.  Was MacArthur directly on the border when China entered the fray?  How much of a distance would have been enough?  Ten miles?  Fifty miles?

                  A fascinating point, Tim.  Imagine a united Korea today.  Would it be a true world power, or was the Peninsula's division itself one of the principal motivators for the South's vertiginous development?

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