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Post Sacred Preachings, Truth, and Human Behavior
Created by John Eipper on 08/12/14 12:56 PM

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Sacred Preachings, Truth, and Human Behavior (Tor Guimaraes, USA, 08/12/14 12:56 pm)

In my last WAIS post (11 August), I responded to JE's question, "which path holds more promise for peace in the Middle East: a ramping up of 'truer' religion, or a quest to transcend it?" I wished the best to both efforts. For the future, I hope and pray that since increasingly the scientific method has been producing so many intellectual advancements, organized religions will look increasingly as myth and superstition when ignoring strong scientific evidence. In turn, JE commented: "Yet in these Middle East crises, 'truth' is not important. What we need is for people to change their behavior."

This is precisely the main problem with organized religions: they are designed to create conformity to sacred preachings, not to seek the Truth and change people's behavior. Why should any faithful religious person of any stripe change behavior if they have their god behind them? When anger is inflamed by some event, why should rabid Sunni Islamists not destroy the blasphemers behind Shiite preachings? Why should Netanyahu suddenly develop an interest in stopping more Israeli settlements or saving Palestinian lives when he is following his sacred books to take over their lands? Why should Christian fundamentalists not support Israel under any circumstances when their sacred book preach they have been chosen by god and need to be saved by eventually converting to Christianity?

The only hope is a religion that seeks the Truth about the Universe, not based on myths and superstitions, but based on science, reasoning, and doing nothing to others that you don't want them to do to you.

JE comments:  Tor Guimaraes has repeatedly advocated a religion based on secular truth-seeking.  My question:  how can such a process be successfully packaged as "religion," with its inevitable components of myth, faith, and miracle?


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  • Sacred Preachings and Truth; from Ric Mauricio (John Eipper, USA 08/13/14 4:52 AM)
    Ric Mauricio sends the following:

    Such interesting viewpoints presented on religion here. So although I will be stepping outside my financial box by expressing myself in this matter, I submit my two indulgences (I believe the Medicis as Popes sold these to my ancestors) on the subject. First a little bit of background. I was raised a Catholic; yes, I was an altar boy and went to catechism classes, transferred from a public grammar school to a Catholic grammar school, and went on to Archbishop Riordan High School in San Francisco. I married my wife in a Catholic Church although she was not Catholic; she was raised as a Baptist. Fast forward to today and I attend a non-denominational church; however, I often find myself in hot water with my Christian brothers when discussing our beliefs.


    You see, having shed my Roman Catholic beliefs (yes, the Pope made himself infallible in things of religious nature; this was the last straw for me), I have studied religion and philosophy in an informal sense. Call it a search for enlightenment. Recently WAISer Harry Guilbeau shared a book on how the Bible was written. What I found interesting was the energy and effort those who put together the Bible had to go through. Those parchments or scrolls were in such atrocious condition, many full of holes (I guess one could call them "holey") that they had to construe what the missing parts were saying. Sort of like going through the Nixon tapes and filling in the deleted parts.  (Probably our imaginations are greater than what was really there.)


    Then the author, a professor who teaches at a Christian university in Texas, asks why God didn't provide a book that was complete and unblemished? His answer was that some mysteries will never be answered. Oh, wow, such enlightenment. But, he says, you just have to believe. Hmm. We have to believe that the scholars not only filled in the blanks correctly, but that subsequent translations from Aramaic and Hebrew to Greek to Latin, then to English, are getting the point across exactly what was originally intended. Many of you out there who are multi-lingual (I am not; I get a little of Spanish or Mandarin, but not enough to really hold a conversation) might attest to how translating from one language to another just doesn't quite get there. For example, I can think of no real English word that quite presents the Yiddish word "Schmuck."


    OK, so I have a problem with the Bible. The Old Testament is a presentation of Jewish history, highly redacted; after all, the Jews did write the book. My brother-in-law once asked at a dinner why the Jews are the Chosen People. My simple answer was that they wrote the book; that you don't think that they would make the Chinese people the chosen people (my wife is Chinese-American). If we have modern history and current events heavily redacted, what makes one think that ancient manuscripts and subsequent translations are not as highly redacted?


    This of course, leads to my study of books on Judaism, Hinduism, Islam (I am afraid I am not as well read in Islam), Buddhism, Taoism, or Mormonism (and other Christian offshoots). To me they are all written by man (or men)... an attempt to bring order and understanding to the world and beyond. Myths and superstition is man's attempt to explain the supernatural. My definition of supernatural is that it is a natural occurrence that has yet to be explained by man. What science (the secular, be it may) does is move the supernatural into the natural. Whenever I get into a discussion on evolution, the book answer is that there is no evolution, that God made man and woman the way we see them today. Hmm. Archeological findings dispel that notion; early man and woman do not look like today's man and woman. But the Bible says so, they argue. Ah, but cannot the almighty God take a one-celled amoeba and evolve it into man or woman? After all, He/She can do anything.


    My take on the stories of Genesis (creation) is one day, a student asked a teacher how the world and man and woman were created, and the teacher, not wanting to look stupid, made up the whole story. After all, he wasn't there when it happened.


    Ok, now you ask; since I go to church and I believe in the teachings of Jesus (I like the teachings of Lao Tzu, Siddhartha, Plato, and Aristotle as well), what would I call myself, a Christian? I like to think of myself as a spiritualist, or one who transcends religion. I believe that there is a life force in the universe. Some call this force God, or Allah, or Yeoweh, or Buddha, or Great Spirit but ascribe human attributes to this force, a throwback to the times of Zeus and Odin. This is where man molds his god with their own beliefs and prejudices and this is where religion becomes warped.


    Wow, I hadn't realized how long this post has become, so I will leave these thoughts with you. Invest and thrive.


    JE comments:  "Invest and thrive":  I am reminded of the Biblical parable of the talents (Matthew 25:  14-30).  I could never grasp the significance of this story beyond its rousing endorsement of capitalism. Or even regressive taxation:  note that the wrathful master takes the talent away from his poorest servant and gives it to the wealthiest.


    Any other interpretations?


    https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew+25%3A14-30&version=ESV


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    • Writings over Time: How They Change (Brian Blodgett, USA 08/14/14 7:07 AM)
      I was reading with interest the posting by Ric Mauricio on "Sacred Preachings and Truth" and his mention of the Bible (I too was raised Catholic but no longer attend and have not been a practicing Catholic in over 30 years).  What really caught my attention was his comment about the translations from language to language over the years and limited ability to accurately translate from one language to another. His other point was about the writings being incomplete and the writers left to fill in the gap with what they thought should be there.

      Now let us consider the writings that we read every day, be it history or current events. They too are full of gaps, inaccuracies, and written by those who have a bias to have the information presented in a way that favors their viewpoint. With all of this said, those in WAISdom may know to look for more than one source, but even then, they will likely find polar opposites or strikingly similar "facts."  When one looks for news about another country, without knowing the language folks are at a big disadvantage and even if they know it, bias writings still reigns supreme.


      Consider that the average person in any nation is affected by this bias and incomplete news, and I really hesitate to call anything today we see on the television or in the paper "news," as it is compared to what it was in the past where investigative reporters would actually search for the truth rather than rush to publish something the fastest to get the scoop. So, back to the point, how educated are the average citizens today on the "truth," and is it more likely than not that they will favor the path of least resistance and continue to follow the biased "facts" and "truths" until these inaccuracies become the truth of the times and recorded for future generations to view as the truth? if so, what does this say about what folks a hundred of several hundred years from now will say about our cultures that we live?

      JE comments:  Very important questions from Brian Blodgett.  Prof. Hilton himself could have raised them.  Allow me to extend a huge WAIS thanks, by the way, to Brian, who responded to Eugenio Battaglia's appeal for donations (10 August).  You are a hero of WAISdom, Brian!
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  • Myth, Faith, Miracle...and a New Religion (Tor Guimaraes, USA 08/13/14 7:53 AM)
    My last WAIS post (12 August) proposed that the main problem with organized religions is that they are designed to create conformity to sacred preachings, not to seek the Truth and change people's behavior.

    JE made this comment: "Tor Guimaraes has repeatedly advocated a religion based on secular truth-seeking. My question: how can such a process be successfully packaged as 'religion,' with its inevitable components of myth, faith, and miracle?"


    Myths are fun to know and dream about, but you don't want to base your life on them. There is always some room for myth, faith, and miracle. In this new religion, rather than arguing endlessly if there is a God who created the universe, believe that God is the Universe. Atheists will be out of business, same as all religious zealots.


    This new religion requires a huge amount of faith that mankind should establish and jealously guard (enforce) a few principles: freedom of thought and expression, the rule of law, any human killing only in self-defense, free-market systems, and love of science and reasoning (major investments in education) to better understand God, the Universe.


    Miracles? Wow, God is great; we keep discovering so many miracles. For example, science has already allowed humans to know where we came from: the Big Bang, the stars which produce all the chemical elements, the incredible combination of events and circumstances which enable the existence of life on Earth, the process of human evolution, etc. Science has enabled us to go to our Moon and now to explore the planets and their moons, to feed billions of people which was once deemed impossible, to cure diseases, etc.

    JE comments:  Can't we just call this religion Deism, à la Jefferson?

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    • Deism and Humanism (Tor Guimaraes, USA 08/17/14 6:50 PM)
      My last post on religion (13 August) proposed that the main problem with organized religions is that they are designed to create conformity to sacred preachings, not to seek the Truth and change people's behavior. Thus, the only hope is a new religion that seeks the Truth about the Universe, not based on myths and superstitions, but based on science, reasoning, and doing nothing to others that you don't want them to do to you.

      JE's last comment was: "Can't we just call this religion Deism, à la Jefferson?"


      Frankly I do not care what anyone calls my religion, just that I looked for it for over fifty years and finally found something that gives me peace and joy in life; something I can believe in to guide my thinking, feelings, and behavior. Nevertheless, I had little knowledge of Jeffersonian Deism, so this was an opportunity to learn something interesting. After a little homework my conclusion was that Jeffersonian Deism is a little too narrow-minded to capture what I am thinking. However, Deism in general means so many things to so many people over the ages that seemed a little too messy conceptually. Finally I stumbled into A.J. Cave's word that JE reported to us a few days ago: Humanism. My last conclusion is that if I marry some aspects of Deism with Humanism, the result is much closer to what I have in mind. To help the minds interested in this subject, below are the key traditional definitions:


      Deism is the belief that reason and observation of the natural world are sufficient to determine the existence of a Creator, accompanied with the rejection of authority as a source of religious knowledge. Deism gained prominence in the 17th and 18th centuries during the Age of Enlightenment--especially in Britain, France, Germany, and the United States--among intellectuals raised as Christians who believed in one god, but found fault with organized religion and did not believe in supernatural events such as miracles, the inerrancy of scriptures, or the Trinity.


      Humanism is a philosophical and ethical stance that emphasizes the value and agency of human beings, individually and collectively, and generally prefers critical thinking and evidence (rationalism, empiricism) over established doctrine or faith (fideism). The meaning of the term humanism has fluctuated, according to the successive intellectual movements which have identified with it. Generally, however, humanism refers to a perspective that affirms some notion of a "human nature" (sometimes contrasted with antihumanism). In modern times, humanist movements are typically aligned with secularism and with non-theistic religions. Historically however, this was not always the case.


      Human nature refers to the distinguishing characteristics, including ways of thinking, feeling and acting, which humans tend to have naturally, independently of the influence of culture. The questions of what these characteristics are, what causes them, and how fixed human nature is, are amongst the oldest and most important questions in western philosophy. These questions have particularly important implications in ethics, politics, and theology. This is partly because human nature can be regarded as both a source of norms of conduct or ways of life, as well as presenting obstacles or constraints on living a good life. The complex implications of such questions are also dealt with in art and literature, while the multiple branches of the Humanities together form an important domain of inquiry into human nature, and the question of what it is to be human. The branches of contemporary science associated with the study of human nature include anthropology, sociology, sociobiology, and psychology, particularly evolutionary psychology, and developmental psychology. The "nature versus nurture" debate is a broadly inclusive and well-known instance of a discussion about human nature in the natural sciences.

      JE comments:  Follow-up Question of the Day:  can there be any "human nature" outside of culture, beyond the most basic biological needs (hunger, avoidance of pain, etc.)?
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      • Deism and Humanism; the Second Great Awakening (Robert Whealey, USA 08/19/14 4:50 AM)
        In response to Tor Guimaraes (17 August), few 18 year-olds today could give us a coherent definition of either Deism or Humanism, although a good professor might give a few sentences to his graduating class. On Deism, the prof might mention a few sentences about the Deism of Washington, Adams, Jefferson and Madison. By 1820 when James Monroe was President, the use of the word began to fade.

        Humanism has had a longer discussion that began in Italy about 1300. Did Plato and Aristotle call themselves Humanists? Or did that label begin to be applied to the Ancient Greeks by later generations?


        JE comments: Humanism was a Renaissance phenomenon, although it looked back to the classics. In its original form Humanism was not antagonistic towards religion (for example, Erasmus), but now it is commonly seen as its antithesis.


        As Robert Whealey points out, Deism fell out of fashion in the US by the 1820s, a period known as the Second Great Awakening.  A question for discussion:  why did this change occur?  Is there any connection with Westward expansion?  Life on the brutal frontier incentivizes folks to "get religion."


        I'll agree with Robert that today's 18 year-olds don't worry about Deism and Humanism...but it's our job to teach them these things!

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        • Deism and Humanism; an Appeal to WAISers (Robert Gibbs, USA 08/20/14 4:10 AM)

          In our recent discussions regarding religion we seem to be entering into an intellectual black hole, especially regarding organized religion. These postings seem fruitless, as no one is going to agree with anyone regarding religion--and I believe that is the way it is supposed to be.  We have in our midst scientific Deists, lapsed Catholics, Muslims and Baptists, to name a few. As a somewhat practicing Catholic, I have heard things regarding my religion that I neither believe nor heard, either at Mass or catechism or even church doctrine. I believe that we all have free will and we are responsible for our own souls. And, yes, you are allowed to deny the existence of a soul. That is your/everyone's choice. Worship is personal, and yet we seem to want the collective--organization--which is fine, but all organizations are prone to some sort of failure and even seeming hypocrisy. Yet for all the attacks on Christianity (e.g., the Crusades--were they a counter-revolution against Muslim "crusaders"?, the Thirty Years' War, etc.), there are more achievements and goodness from organized religion in this world than many allow.



          Further, it is somewhat ironic that the men like Tor Guimaraes can disparage organized religion and yet call for the creation of another "organized religion" of scientific rationalism. This is fine as far as it goes to show our need to organize our thoughts. It gets trickier when we try to get others to believe as we do. Thus, I have always believed in Churchill's advice regarding religion when asked for marriage advice, "I never give advice on marriage or religion--least I cause someone discomfort in this world or in the next." Thus, my question as to why many here and elsewhere are so determine to "convert" others to their religion, or more commonly here, lack of belief. I always seem to have a harder time with Atheists, always so strident, than with Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormons, and even Christian fundamentalists coming to my door, who seem to be able to take no for an answer with grace.



          I have been to a multitude of services in a multitude of religions observed and practiced. I have taken what might be termed communion with many. But then again I was raised in the Bible Belt and listened to Blue Grass, where the big hit at one time was "You go to your Church and I shall go to mine, but we shall all walk along together."


          I suggest that we leave it alone.


          JE comments: Proselytizing is not in the WAISly spirit, but one of our missions is the discussion of comparative religions. The rub lies in how you do the latter without touching on the former.  (World politics is also one of our core topics, and the same rub applies.)


          Ah, Prof. Hilton always enjoyed a good polemic!

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          • Deism and Humanism; Response to Robert Gibbs (Tor Guimaraes, USA 08/20/14 3:25 PM)
            It is hard to disagree with the "live and let live" attitude of Robert Gibbs (20 August): my grandma always told me literally never to argue about religion and politics. On the other hand Robert is wrong about me on two counts when he wrote, "it is somewhat ironic that the men like Tor Guimaraes can disparage organized religion and yet call for the creation of another 'organized religion' of scientific rationalism."

            First, I do not believe but do not disrespect any religion, including Voodoo, the cult of Yemanja, and even the long-dead religions of ancient history. They all served important purposes in their time and for their followers and preachers.


            Second, I do not call for another organized religion. To me religion should be a very personal thing between you and the Universe. As I wrote earlier, starting as a Catholic boy I searched for the meaning of God for over fifty years and finally found something that gives me peace and joy in life; something I can believe in to guide my thinking, feelings, and behavior. I believe I found it and wish the same for everyone in their own religion. That is all.

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          • Religion and Philosophy: A Film Recommendation (Roman Zhovtulya, USA 08/21/14 3:43 AM)
            The film The Man from Earth (2007) gives a fascinating perspective on religion and touches on archeology, anthropology, philosophy, evolution, and humanism overall.

            Sure it's fiction, but the way it opens up your outlook is staggering. No special effects, just 5 people talking, but it glued me to my seat in the first 20 minutes.


            You can watch it in full on YouTube (1.5 hours only):


            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B2AFSyfvMZk


            It's my new all-time favorite movie, so it'd be interesting to hear what WAISers think about it.


            In fact, they are even trying to make a series:


            https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1759006687/man-from-earth-the-series


            JE comments: Roman Zhovtulya and I talked about The Man from Earth during a nature walk in Los Altos back in March. I still haven't watched the film, but with a handy YouTube link, I'm going to make it a top priority.  (Update:  the link tells me it won't work in "your country"--meaning, I presume, the United States.  Perhaps Roman can send us a different link.)


            The film came up in our conversation shortly after we ran into this fine fellow, the Deer from Earth:





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          • US Policy in the Middle East: Thoughts from the Baha'i Perspective (Vincent Littrell, USA 08/26/14 5:30 AM)
            Prologue: For the first time on the WAIS Forum I'll admit formally that I'm a member of the Baha'i Faith and a lifelong one at that. I know many in WAIS suspected I was probably Baha'i, and I had directly told a few of them.

            Now to my post:


            There are two WAISers whose recent posts very much caught my agreement, Robert Gibbs's 20 August post in this thread and Richard Hancock's 16 August posting on the current US administration's foreign policy. There may have been some small aspects in both posts I might take issue with, but I agree with their broad message.


            I appreciated Bob's comment, "You go to your Church and I shall go to mine, but we shall all walk along together." This certainly falls nicely in line with the ideals of some of the great foundational thinkers of interfaith dialogue like the German Jewish philosopher Martin Buber, of whom I'm a fan and whose work I have in my personal library (in English anyway).


            It pains me to say it, but in the realm of US policy related to the Middle East, the US government, simply put, hasn't followed a sound grand strategy, or as far as I can tell a broad vision linked to concrete leadership with regards to the Arab and wider Muslim world. More precisely, the United States has not, as I see it, executed a divine mandate of high exceptionalism in being a global leader and leading the world to stop the butchery in Syria, Iraq, Libya and the Gaza Strip. In fact, it might be said the Arab world is burning while the US watches. Yes, I know some actions have recently been taken in Iraq that utilize different critical elements of US national power, and no one who watches this can deny that non-lethal humanitarian aid to the region has been real and has helped many. But these reactive humanitarian behaviors are not leadership.


            I do strongly believe, as I've stated in a past WAIS post, that the too early withdrawal from Iraq in 2011 is in large part responsible for the present horrors. So was not following through with intervening in Syria like we should have early on (like containment zones for refugees at a minimum, and the interdiction of those committing large-scale human rights violations). And to re-emphasize a past statement I've made in this Forum, it is not the 2003 invasion of Iraq that is the cause of the power vacuum we see in Iraq; it was the 2011 withdrawal. Though admittedly, the stage was set with a too-rapid handing off of power in 2004 from the terribly inadequate and even ridiculous Coalition Provisional Authority to an immature and nascent Iraqi government. This was done for political purposes, to advance the idea that the facade of Iraqi sovereignty was real, followed by too swiftly handing off the US/Coalition military missions and authority to unready Iraqi forces prior to the final withdrawal in 2011.


            In 2003 the removal of a genocidal tyrant like Saddam Hussein was the right thing to do. People forget just how utterly depraved his regime was (or don't care in the name of the supposed "stability" he seemed to offer). What led to much wrong after the invasion was that many put in power were grossly unqualified to run the initial occupation, and real experts were moved aside (like General Garner, whom I mentioned in this Forum before). This led to the disbandment of the Iraqi security forces and the rise of the terrible insurgency that was largely defeated by the combined US, Coalition, immature Iraqi forces and fierce but non-professionalized Sunni tribal militias.


            In 2011 I disapproved of the withdrawal from Iraq, and I strongly suspected we'd have to go back in even worse conditions. I said as much to friends and colleagues at the time and indeed here we are, in a much worse situation than existed in 2011 with US forces conducting operations.


            How many so far have been butchered by IS, I wonder?


            More broadly speaking; at this particular juncture in world history and human civilizational development, the disengagement of the United States from global power projection and the attendant power vacuum across the globe, and the reduction of US use of all elements of its national power to work towards global stability--these things, quite simply, lead to worse disaster and greater chaos. I think this is clear and evident. The United States cannot sit back in all its might, unilaterally cut its strength, disengage and watch horrific tragedies engulf the world while it wrings its hands and sends non-lethal aid. The American people have a place, a purpose and I believe a divine requirement to exercise their vast national power for the betterment of all humanity.  They need to step up to it. The world suffers when they don't.


            The Persian prophet Baha'u'llah, whom Baha'is accept as the latest manifestation of God for today's day and age and to be the prophesied return of Jesus Christ (as well as the fulfillment of Islamic prophecy regarding "the day of judgement"), commanded the presidents of the United States with the following:


            "Hearken ye, O Rulers of America and the Presidents of the Republics therein, give ear unto that which hath been raised from the Dayspring of Grandeur: Verily, there is none other God but Me, the Lord of Utterance, the All-Knowing. Bind ye the broken with the hands of justice, and crush the oppressor who flourisheth with the rod of the commandments of your Lord, the Ordainer, the All-Wise." (Kitab-i-Aqdas)


            The above is quoted from what Baha'is consider to be "the most Holy Book" or the "Book of Laws," titled "Kitab-i-Aqdas." From the Baha'i perspective, the above statement is divine revelation, meaning God is commanding the rulers of America through his latest prophet, messenger, and divine manifestation to "bind ye the broken with the hands of justice and crush the oppressor with the rod of the commandments of your Lord." What might that mean? It strikes me as a Baha'i that the United States has a mandate to lead on the global stage. I think this implies that when the US fails in leadership on the global stage, when it fails to fulfill its divine requirement, the world and all of humanity must suffer for it. In the Baha'i theology, the United States has a special destiny in the development of global civilization.


            Therefore, I think, until the US leads the effort to strengthen international collective security institutions and standardize methods across the spectrum of security operations, even war to counter violent extremism and simple nation-state aggression, US disengagement leads to global chaos. Also, corrosive national electoral politics leads to disaster... and to me recent examples of this are too myriad to count. Engagement, and when necessary "interventionism," as well as global leadership through robust international and global public diplomacy, are critical to keeping the international state system intact from encroachments of barbarity.  This includes leveraging economic power and working collaboratively to
            change obsolescent national and international political and security
            structures.  The sovereign nation-state system is but a bridge to a higher order and more mature global political evolution.  It is not the end-state in human political evolution. It cannot be, or mankind pays a terrible price.


            To start with, the US needs to advocate for major UN reform. The failure of the UN Security Council to act meaningfully regarding Syria and now Iraq leads to horrific suffering. This reality is unconscionable, and the American people need to lead. The UN needs to be strengthened and the ridiculous automatic veto of the Big Five on the UN Security Council must be removed. Too many people are dying because of it.


            IS/ISIS , Al-Qaid'a, Boko-Haram and their ilk need to be defeated, and mechanisms put in place to counter barbarity of this nature in a swift, decisive, precise yet humane and culturally sensitive way. This would necessitate the simultaneous use of current military forces and diplomatic capabilities on the one hand, while also creating unified military and stability forces in ways with no precedence in the history of warfare and military organization. The US needs to lead the collective effort in this regard, and it would require stupendous visionary leadership. Powerful nation-state regional expansionism for reasons of "power" are an increasing concern.  They need to be addressed. The world with the US in the lead needs to dialogue on the meaning of sovereignty and the purpose of national power in light of mankind's essential oneness.


            I reiterate, the presidents of the United States need to "step up to the plate," using all the elements God has blessed the United States with, lead the world to a new order for peaceable and workable global civilization. To do less only increases the global chaos. Until a global leadership mantle is taken in this regard, the global chaos will do nothing but further compound and worsen.


            Baha'is believe that the unity of mankind is part of God's divine plan. As long as mankind continues to resist or ignore this fundamental reality of existence, i.e. the reality of the oneness of mankind, the compounding problems mankind increasingly faces will get worse, and the greatest statesmen, leaders and philosophers of the age working within obsolete political, religious and philosophical constructs will not be able to resolve them. 


            JE comments:  Vincent Littrell confided his Baha'i faith to me several years ago, but I respected his wishes to keep his private life off the WAIS Forum.


            So now all WAISdom understands that Vince's idealist global worldview is grounded in his religious beliefs.  In this posting, Vince lays out an ambitious appeal for US and International intervention.  "Realists" will respond that it's impossible to put out every fire, or to fight every injustice in the world.  Who has the might, the will, and the treasure to do such a thing?  And there's the psychological aspect:  many peoples in the world simply don't want to be shoved towards justice and enlightenment.  And they will shove back.  This is a point made forcefully--among others--by Dostoevsky.


            I'm grateful for your honest and revelatory post, Vince.


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            • US Policy in the Middle East: Thoughts from the Baha'i Perspective (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 08/26/14 1:48 PM)

              With reference to Vincent Littrell's post of 26 August, I for sure have to agree with his quotation from Robert Gibbs: "you go to your Church and I shall go to mine, but we shall walk along together."


              But please do not speak of a divine requirement to exercise power in the world. Moreover, please do not mention direct divine
              command to the President of a great power; this is blasphemy.


              Furthermore, if everything is going wrong in the Middle East and Africa it is only (well maybe mostly?) due to the very poorly handled self-defeating interference of the Great Power there, starting from the help given by Carter and then Reagan to the mujahideen in Afghanistan up to now. If the Great Power has handled "divine requirements" at home and not there, everybody in the world would be better off.


              JE comments:  I suspect that Vincent's post will inspire a number of responses from the realist school.  The biggest problem with Divine mandates is that they are never universally seen as such.

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            • US Policy in the Middle East; on the Divine Mandate (Francisco Ramirez, USA 08/27/14 1:27 AM)
              In response to Vincent Littrell (26 August), the Divine Mandate is too often invoked to justify killing the Bad Guys. The initial attack of Afghanistan would have taken place regardless of who was President. The Taliban was there and they took responsibility for 9/11. A US President who did not flex muscle at that point would have quickly become the target of bipartisan wrath. This does not necessarily make the attack sensible, just politically inevitable.

              The attack on Iraq was justified by the argument that there was a link between its regime and 9/11 and that there were weapons of mass destruction. Neither justification was evidence-based, but there was broad public support for the attack. But if the true justification is that the regime was depraved, is not the regime in North Korea also depraved?  So, would Vincent really argue that we should attack North Korea? Does the Divine Mandate only apply to the Middle East?


              I would very much like WAISers with military experience to address the question; What military strategy would lead to the permanent destruction of the Islamic State, and what would be the cost in terms of American lives and American treasure? (I realize that there are other lives in the balance, but let us start with the narrow question.)


              One can be an idealist without subscribing to this founding myth.


              See also: Ernest Lee Tuveson. Redeemer Nation: The Idea of America's Millennial Role


              www.amazon.com/Redeemer-Nation.../dp/0226819213


              JE comments:  The Tuveson book, from 1968, is approaching its half-century.  America's redemptive role in the 1960s was to check Communism.  How far back should we go?  John L. O'Sullivan's Manifest Destiny essay (1845) cited this nation's obligation to seek "moral dignity and the salvation of man."  Or how about the Founding Fathers?  The Pilgrims?

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            • The US Role in World Leadership (Richard Hancock, USA 09/02/14 3:23 AM)
              I certainly agree with most of Vincent Littrell's post of August 26. The US is a Christian nation, and while I don't believe that we have a divine mandate to rule the world, we cannot afford to just sit idly by and allow chaos to overwhelm the planet.



              Henry Kissinger has written a book, World Order, which will be published on Sept. 9 by Penguin Press. He has an essay in the Aug. 29 Wall Street Journal which is culled from this book. Pointing to difficulties in Libya, Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Russia and China, he states, "the concept of order that has underpinned the modern era is in crisis."



              He adds that there is a clash between the international economy and the political institutions that ostensibly govern the world. Despite financial crises, the world has enjoyed sustained economic growth. The winners have few reservations about this system. But the losers, e.g., the European Union's southern tier, seek solutions that obstruct the functioning of the global economic system. "Prosperity is dependent on the success of globalization, but the process produces a political reaction that often works counter to its aspirations."



              Another failing is the absence of an effective mechanism for the great powers to consult and possibly cooperate on the most consequential issues. Unless this failing is corrected, the world will be divided into spheres of influence and a struggle among regions could be even more debilitating than the struggle between nations has been.



              Mr. Kissinger offers the following conclusion. "For the US, this will require thinking on two seemingly contradictory levels. The celebration of universal principles needs to be paired with recognition of the reality of other regions' histories, cultures and views of their security. Even as the lessons of challenging decades are examined, the affirmation of America's exceptional nature must be sustained. History offers no respite to countries that set aside their sense of identity in favor of a seemingly less arduous course. But nor does it assure success for the most elevated convictions in the absence of a comprehensive geopolitical strategy."



              Kissinger made no mention of President Obama, but his essay certainly does not advocate "leading from behind."

              JE comments:  I should read his book before opining, but September 9th is a week away.  For now, Mr. Kissinger's  "thinking on two contradictory levels" seems to argue for two antagonistic roles for the US:  sustaining this country's "exceptional nature" while respecting the specific histories and cultures of other nations.  How can this be read other than a call for intervention and non-intervention at the same time?


              "The concept of order that has underpinned the modern era is in crisis."  Do WAISers agree?  Was there ever not a crisis of some sort?  I sense a bit of nostalgia in Kissinger's remark for the Cold War "order."


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              • Kissinger and Comprehensive Geopolitical Strategy (Francisco Wong-Diaz, USA 09/02/14 1:24 PM)
                John E misses the point of Kissinger's argument. (See Richard Hancock, 2 September.) The K is calling for a new paradigm that goes beyond the traditional categories of internationalism and isolationism. A hybrid based on a pragmatic realist approach tempered by geostrategic understanding in an era of limited resources. He believes that the current trend toward spheres of influence needs proper pacing to avoid chaos and war.

                JE comments: I'd really need to see some specifics for this to make sense to me. In broad terms, aren't spheres of influence intended specifically to reduce chaos?



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                • Kissinger and Comprehensive Geopolitical Strategy (Mike Bonnie, USA 09/03/14 2:09 PM)
                  In response to Francisco Wong-Díaz (2 September), I am by no means proficient to write about Henry Kissinger. Rather, I will introduce a book I purchased at a seminar a few years ago after listening to the author talk about Kissinger and the importance of global understanding. The book is Henry Kissinger and the American Century, by Jeremi Suri (2007). Suri is Professor of History at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and author of several other books. Rest assured I don't get kickbacks on any of the books I recommend.



                  Suri writes: "The main argument of this book is that we must understand the experiences of Henry Kissinger and American power as processes of globalism--the interpretation of ideas, personalities, and institutions from diverse societies. Globalization revises what is meant to be a citizen, a leader, a person of faith. Globalization also redistributed power among nations and people."



                  http://www.amazon.com/Henry-Kissinger-American-Century-Jeremi/dp/0674032527




                  A presentation and discussion featuring Jeremi Suri can be found at the Wilson Center, November 2013:



                  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ELeQzAUtMZI

                  JE comments:  Click above, and you can pick up a gently used copy of Suri's book for 41 cents, plus S & H.


                  Since yesterday I've been reflecting on Francisco Wong-Díaz's characterization of Kissinger's call for "a pragmatic realist approach tempered by geostrategic understanding in an era of limited resources." If Francisco would indulge us, I invite him (or other WAISers) to take a stab at what such an approach would look like vis-a-vis:  1) Iraq/Syria/IS, 2) Russia/Ukraine, and 3) North Korea.

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                  • Kissinger and Comprehensive Geopolitical Strategy (Francisco Wong-Diaz, USA 09/04/14 7:09 AM)
                    In response to JE's request of 3 September, I would rather have Kissinger speak/write for himself in addressing the issues of Iraq/Syria/IS, Russia/Ukraine, and North Korea, since my clarification of his strategy is neither an endorsement nor a critique.

                    JE comments: Perhaps, just perhaps, Mr. Kissinger will come across this post. Here's a question I've never asked before: has anyone in WAISdom's wide collective reach ever met HK?


                    (My apologies for the late start today. I awoke to a Wi-Fi outage at WAIS HQ, and I'm writing these lines from a nearby cafe.)

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                    • I Know Kissinger (Robert Gard, USA 09/04/14 11:45 AM)
                      To answer John's question, I know Kissinger personally beginning in the mid 1950s; he was a guest in my home when I was president of the National Defense University in the late '70s. But I have not been in touch with him for many years.

                      JE comments: I had Gen. Robert Gard in mind when I posed the question, but I didn't want to put him on the spot. I'm sure I'm not the only WAISer with a burning curiosity: what is Kissinger like as a house guest?

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                      • Meeting Kissinger in the 1960s (Francisco Wong-Diaz, USA 09/05/14 6:19 AM)

                        To answer John Eipper's question, I happened to first meet Henry Kissinger as a grad student at the U of Michigan in the 1960s at a seminar sponsored by the American Political Science Association in Washington DC. The Vietnam War was raging, and the most influential realist US political scientist was Hans J. Morgenthau, who had just made public his opposition to the War in Vietnam. Henry was more cautious, since he was working his way into the upper echelons of the foreign policy establishment. Another biggie whose hand I shook in those days was Dean Acheson, who had just published Present at the Creation and discussed it at the Law Quad in Ann Arbor. He was very tall and patrician looking. He cut a truly impressive figure, unlike the short Hans (who was about 5'6" and with whom I studied one summer) or the guttural Henry.


                        JE:  For the metric-thinkers among us, that's 167.64 cm of  Morgenthau.


                        I've just learned that Mr K will be discussing his new book, World Order, tomorrow (6 September) on NPR's Morning Edition.  Be sure to tune in; maybe he'll answer our questions about his hybrid global strategy.

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                      • Kissinger as a House Guest (Robert Gard, USA 09/05/14 6:41 AM)
                        To answer John's question of what Kissinger was like as a house guest, I would say cordial.

                        However, he was much less so with his subordinates when he was National Security Advisor.


                        JE comments:  It must have been scary for Kissinger's subordinates.  Imagine being summoned to his office for a reprimand in that booming, Jehovah-like voice.

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                        • When You're Called in for a Reprimand... (John Heelan, UK 09/05/14 2:44 PM)
                          John E mentioned the thought of being reprimanded by Kissinger. (See Robert Gard, 5 September.) A useful trick I learned in that situation is to stare at the tyrant's zip fly. This has two effects. Firstly, the tyrant starts worrying that he is in danger of embarrassing himself with an inadvertent exposure. Secondly, it reminds you (the victim of the tirade) that the tyrant--well all is said and done--is just as human as yourself. The first often cuts short the scolding: the second helps you to put the difference in status into perspective. Try it--it works!

                          JE comments: Not sure I can put my editorial endorsement on this suggestion. Fly-gazing sounds like a great way to get sent directly to the HR office. Unless, of course, you're already in the HR office. Then you may be invited into the "Employee Transition Room," where they'll advise you to polish up your resume... and wish you the best.

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                    • Hillary Clinton Reviews Kissinger's *World Order* (Francisco Wong-Diaz, USA 09/07/14 6:37 AM)
                      Here is a meaty subject for discussion.

                      Hillary Clinton, like Bill, is triangulating.  She appears to be covering herself under Kissinger's hybrid theoretical mantle in preparation for a run in 2016. It is also a raw attempt at distancing herself from Obama's failures while attaching to the "hope" theme.


                      Note how the Clinton-period theme of the "indispensability of America" from Madeleine Albright is interspersed in the essay. (Obama has never stated that view of America; rather he has denigrated it.)


                      Let the discussion begin:


                      http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/hillary-clinton-reviews-henry-kissingers-world-order/2014/09/04/b280c654-31ea-11e4-8f02-03c644b2d7d0_story.html


                      JE comments: Also, here is the HK interview on NPR's Weekend Edition, 6 September:


                      http://www.npr.org/2014/09/06/346114326/henry-kissingers-thoughts-on-the-islamic-state-ukraine-and-world-order


                      Imagine a 2016 presidential showdown between the interventionist--she's hybrid and "soft-powered," but still interventionist--Hillary Clinton and the neo-isolationist Rand Paul.  This could bring a reshuffling of the voting patterns that have held sway over the last generation or two, in which hawks vote Republican and doves vote Democratic.  Could the unthinkable actually happen:  neo-conservatives supporting Hillary?

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                      • Thoughts on 2016 Presidential Election (Tor Guimaraes, USA 09/08/14 1:43 PM)
                        John Eipper (see Francisco Wong-Díaz, 7 September) may be on to something when he wrote: "Imagine a 2016 presidential showdown between the interventionist--she's hybrid and 'soft-powered,' but still interventionist--Hillary Clinton and the neo-isolationist Rand Paul. This could bring a reshuffling of the voting patterns that have held sway over the last generation or two, in which hawks vote Republican and doves vote Democratic. Could the unthinkable actually happen: neo-conservatives supporting Hillary?"

                        I don't consider myself partisan at all, but am sick and tired of Clintonian slick nonsense preaching "democracy, patriotism, and sound economic principles like free trade" while giving the country away with stupid policies: trading jobs for cheap goods, globalization of our technological advantage, and more intervention all over the world when we ourselves are falling apart. I might very well vote for Rand Paul, even though I think he falls short of his father. Certainly not Hillary, but there are many great people I probably would vote for depending on who is available: Elizabeth Warren (D), Bernie Sanders (I), Jeb Bush (R), Chuck Schumer (D), etc.


                        JE comments: I never thought I'd see Bernie Sanders on the same list with a Bush. Is it too early to talk about November 2016? Expect some dark, dark horses to seek a head start right after the midterm elections in November.  Hillary has said she won't announce (if she decides to run) until early next year.



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                      • Hillary Clinton and Henry Kissinger (Massoud Malek, USA 09/09/14 5:24 AM)
                        In his doctoral dissertation, Henry Kissinger wrote: "The most fundamental problem of politics is not the control of wickedness but the limitation of righteousness." Kissinger also believes that "Power is the ultimate aphrodisiac."

                        On 6 September, two days after The Observer reported that the fight to release Amerli from the chokehold of the Islamic State in Iraq brought together the strange bedfellows of the Iraqi and Iranian militias backed by American air support; and one day after the BBC reported that Iran's Supreme Leader had ordered his military to cooperate with the US in the fight against IS forces, Henry Kissinger told NPR's Scott Simon:


                        "I consider Iran a bigger problem than ISIS. ISIS is a group of adventurers with a very aggressive ideology. But they have to conquer more and more territory before they can become a strategic, permanent reality. I think a conflict with ISIS, important as it is, is more manageable than a confrontation with Iran."


                        Kissinger's response to his role during the war in Vietnam, especially the bombing of Cambodia and Laos and the difference between drone attacks and carpet bombing, was the following:


                        "I think we would find, if you study the conduct of [the military], that the Obama administration has hit more targets on a broader scale than the Nixon administration ever did.... On the other hand, drones are far more deadly because they are much more accurate. I bet if one did an honest account, there were fewer civilian casualties in Cambodia than there have been from American drone attacks."


                        Across Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia, the Obama administration has launched more than 390 drone strikes in the five years since CIA drone flattened a house in Pakistan's tribal regions on the third day of Barack Obama's presidency. These strikes have killed more than 2,400 people, at least 273 of them reportedly civilians.


                        With limited data, the range of Cambodian deaths caused by US bombing may be between 40,000 and 150,000. These numbers are much higher than the number of deaths caused by the drones in Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia combined.


                        Based on a tape from the White House, on April 25, 1972, President Richard Nixon and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger discussed bombing the dike network in a conversation on Operation Linebacker II, later published by Daniel Ellsberg:


                        Nixon: We've got to quit thinking in terms of a three-day strike [in the Hanoi-Haiphong area]. We've got to be thinking in terms of an all-out bombing attack--which will continue until they--now by all-out bombing attack, I am thinking about things that go far beyond. I'm thinking of the dikes, I'm thinking of the railroad, I'm thinking, of course, of the docks.


                        Kissinger: I agree with you.


                        President Nixon: We've got to use massive force.


                        Two hours later at noon, H. R. Haldeman and Ron Ziegler joined Kissinger and Nixon:


                        President: How many did we kill in Laos?


                        Ziegler: Maybe ten thousand--fifteen?


                        Kissinger: In the Laotian thing, we killed about ten, fifteen.


                        President: See, the attack in the North that we have in mind, power plants, whatever's left--POL [petroleum], the docks. And, I still think we ought to take the dikes out now. Will that drown people?


                        Kissinger: About two hundred thousand people.


                        President: No, no, no, I'd rather use the nuclear bomb. Have you got that, Henry?


                        Kissinger: That, I think, would just be too much.


                        President: The nuclear bomb, does that bother you?...I just want you to think big, Henry, for Christsakes.


                        Did Obama ever discuss using nuclear bomb? I doubt it. After Kissinger's self-serving response on the subject of bombing and accusing Obama of causing more deaths than Nixon, Scott Simon should have mentioned the nuclear bomb discussion between him and Nixon in 1972.


                        On 4 September, Hillary Clinton, who voted for the Iraq war, "dissed" President Obama for not bombing Syria, and compared Vladimir Putin to Adolf Hitler. In her review of Henry Kissinger's book World Order, Hillary, who dreams of breaking down the highest and hardest glass ceiling in American politics by sending herself to the White house, praised the book by approvingly quoting a passage in Kissinger's book about "respecting national sovereignty" and "adopting participatory and democratic systems of governance."


                        Did Hillary really had to praise Henry and publicly rehabilitate his image? Wasn't Kissinger the one who ignored the national sovereignty of Chile?


                        In September 1970, Salvador Allende, the first freely elected socialist leader in the world, became the president of Chile. But ever since his victory, the CIA and the US government, headed by Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger, were determined to oust Allende. On September 11, 1973, Secretary of State Henry Kissinger played a direct role in the military plot that replaced a progressive, democratically elected government with a brutal military dictatorship. Allende died in the presidential palace. For almost 17 years, Chile was ruled by a ruthless dictator, General Augusto Pinochet.


                        Based on her actions in the past, Hillary like Henry also believes in "not controlling wickedness but limiting righteousness." I believe Senator Elizabeth Warren is a much more righteous woman to break the highest glass sealing of American politics than the wicked Hillary Clinton, who is in search of a political aphrodisiac.


                        Sources:  Wikipedia, and


                        NPR: http://www.npr.org/2014/09/06/346114326/henry-kissingers-thoughts-on-the-islamic-state-ukraine-and-world-order






                        http://observers.france24.com/content/20140904-amerli-iraq-soleimani-video-iran-isis






                        Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers
                        , by Daniel Ellsberg


                        JE comments:  Given Henry Kissinger's efforts to re-brand himself as a moderate senior statesman, I was particularly struck in the NPR interview by his hawkish stance towards Iran.  The IS threat has aligned US-Iranian interests in a way not seen since the 1970s, and if we are to believe the second link above, small-scale military coordination between the two nations is already taking place.  Of course, there is always a downside:  a perceived Persian-American alliance might only drive Sunni Arabs further into the IS camp.


                        For Massoud Malek, Kissinger is a hypocrite.  For anyone, he's a polarizing figure, either for or against.  My question:  is there any way to reconcile Kissinger's current calls for "realist" restraint with his rather bloody record during the Nixon years--Indochina and Chile, in particular?


                        "Power is the ultimate aphrodisiac," HK wrote in the New York Times on 28 October 1973.  Can anyone contextualize this quote?  Specifically, was Kissinger endorsing this view, or was he using it as a way to explain how geopolitics works in general?  Note that the quote appeared just weeks after the September 11th coup in Chile.


                        So--any chance of Kissinger coming out of retirement as Pres. [Hillary] Clinton's Secretary of State?


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                        • Kissinger's "Power is the Ultimate Aphrodisiac" (David Duggan, USA 09/10/14 1:37 AM)
                          In response to JE's question (see Massoud Malek, 9 September), I don't know what was going through Henry Kissinger's mind when he uttered that immortal phrase. But assuming its date is correct, it was shortly before his March 1974 marriage to Nancy Maginnes, a woman quite out of Henry's league, at least in the height and looks department. The Locust Valley lockjawed daughter of a Manhattan lawyer, Ms. Maginnes was close to 6' tall, and in heels towered over the 5'9" Kissinger. A former [Nelson] Rockefeller staffer, she avoided the Megan Marshack fate by trimming her sails in a more academic direction. There is some evidence that she even played a role in brokering the Kissinger-Nixon alliance.

                          Albert Maginnes, a former professional football player with the Canton Bulldogs, was in the same social circles as New York lawyer Nixon in the 1962-68 period. Henry had met Nancy around the time of the 1964 San Francisco Cow Palace convention, Rocky's last hurrah in his near life-long quest for the presidency. As a Rockefeller Institute retainer, Kissinger was there to advise Rocky on foreign affairs. Four years later when Nixon was casting about for a National Security Adviser, Kissinger, with an academic's disdain for the uber-Cold Warrior Nixon, likely needed to be disabused of these notions. Enter Ms. Maginnes, a natural-born diplomat if ever there was one. (Read Walter Isaacson's biography of Kissinger to see how she assuaged the short-of-stature Middle Easterners during Henry's 1973-74 shuttle diplomacy by standing on one leg, crooking the other to appear shorter.)


                          Kissinger is one of those few non-elected public figures popularly known by his first name (Elvis, Michael, Ernest). An earlier iteration of this phenomenon was Napoleon, with whom Henry was often compared in the height and quest for power department. This may be unfair to each man. Henry's 5'9" height was average for men born in 1923, per Army induction records. Although Napoleon's height was often listed at 5'2", this was the French inch which was about 10% longer than an English inch (no jokes please). Other reports show Napoleon to be about 5'7" per the English standard. Regardless, Napoleon forbade his Empress, Josephine de Beauharnais, from wearing heels to elevate her 5'4-5" stature. She evidently complied, thereby proving Henry's adage 170 years before its being uttered, as Napoleon conquered her, too.


                          JE comments:  Power is not only an aphrodisiac; it also makes you taller.  We could say the same thing about money.


                          Family lore, courtesy of my dear grandmother Isabel Emerson Eipper (1911-2012), has it that we are related to Empress Josephine.  Probably not, though I'd love to find out (not enough to actually do the genealogical digging, but I'm still curious).

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                  • Jeremi Suri (Randy Black, USA 09/04/14 7:19 AM)
                    My thanks to Mike Bonnie (3 September) for his update on historian Dr. Jeremi Suri.



                    Now to update Mike and WAIS: Dr. Suri has been employed by The University of Texas at Austin, not the University of Wisconsin, since 2011.



                    He has "a joint appointment in the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs and the UT Department of History." His PhD is from Yale 2001, a BA in history from Stanford, 1994 and Ohio U, MA in history, 1996. He left the U of Wisconsin under some sort of political controversy that seems to have been local to the state.



                    His official appointment is the Mack Brown Distinguished Chair for Leadership, History and Public Policy in Global Affairs. Mack Brown, the winningest football coach in UT history, retired from coaching in 2013.



                    His website: http://jeremisuri.net/



                    The home page of Suri's Website includes an interesting piece on "Containing Russian Fascism."

                    JE comments: History, Ohio U: Suri almost certainly must have studied under our own Robert Whealey.


                    And I'll take advantage of this opportunity to send a "shout-out" to my favorite Longhorn, nephew Eric Simmons, who has just begun his second year in Engineering at U Texas. 


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                    • Is Putin a Fascist? (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 09/05/14 1:47 AM)
                      I wish to thank Randy Black for his post on the historian Jeremi Suri (4 September). I read with great interest the article "Fascism: History and Present."

                      I hope that this article will not be read by Putin. The Russian leader is already screaming against the Ukrainians, calling them fascists. He certainly would not like to be called the same.


                      However, this is nothing new. During all my life I have heard people accusing each other of the crime of being fascist, basing all their knowledge of this Italian phenomenon only on the propaganda of the War Psychological Department.



                      I agree that Putin has, in a certain way, been inspired (unknowingly?) by some fascist ideas, but this is a long way from making him fascist.


                      Furthermore, Francisco Franco was not a fascist but a selfish, astute, conservative, Catholic (in the deleterious Spanish sense) military dictator.


                      It is interesting that Dr. Suri says that fascists are opportunist bullies who will turn away from a fight they cannot win. But this is not true; see the epic RSI.


                      Unfortunately in the last decades we have seen "democratic" bullies getting, without proper knowledge, into fights from which they had to withdraw, leaving complete disasters, millions of dead people and huge environmental damage. Oh, well perhaps with the exception of operation "Urgent Fury" (Grenada 1983), which was such a "great" victory with no serious damage.


                      To keep things brief, can anyone explain to me why in 1962 JFK was a great hero for not wanting a Soviet military base close to the US, while Putin is a bloody fascist because does not want an USA/NATO military base close to his beach?


                      JE comments:  As we've pointed out several times in recent years, "fascist" has become a near-universal signifier in popular thought.  It more or less connotes any authoritarian regime we don't like.  Putin labels his enemies as fascists, and his enemies return the favor.  This is an especially understandable perspective for those who came of age in the Soviet Union, where the Great Patriotic War was a victory over the archenemy:  Fascist (not Nazi) Germany.





                      So is Putin a fascist?  Eugenio Battaglia votes a resounding "no."  I prefer to think of P as a charismatic strongman, with no ideology beyond nationalism and the quest for ever-increasing power.  And an extremely shrewd politician.

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                      • Is Putin a Fascist? (Angel Vinas, Belgium 09/05/14 11:56 AM)
                        My apologies; I´ve been away on holidays for so long. Now I cannot pick up all the threads of the massive flow of WAIS discussions which took place last month. My holidays have been working holidays, so as to make fit for the publication of two books. The first one will be out in November and the second one next April.

                        In the second one, I address the rather vexing issue of whether Franco was fascist or not. By the same token, I try to look into what's behind the jack-of-all-trade concept of "authoritarian regimes," as applied by Juan Linz to the Spanish dictatorship. Please note that I am not a historian of political ideas. My research is based on archival evidence and I think that in Spanish archives there is some evidence which was utterly unknown to Linz and to his followers.


                        I don´t know whether Putin can be considered "fascist." For me Fascism is a time-bound phenomenon which flourished in Europe in first half of the last century. You don´t need to take my word for it. I refer colleagues to the 2012 edition of Zeev Sternhell´s seminal book Ni gauche ni droite, on the genealogy of Fascism in general and--who would say it?--in France, where it seems it was first conceptualized. Pacem Italy.


                        A nice rentrée to all.


                        JE comments: And a warm WAIS homecoming to Ángel Viñas.  August holidays are over.  For the last two weeks, I've enjoyed my return to the classroom for the first time since December.


                        I concur with Ángel that it's best to leave "fascism" with its literal, historically relevant meaning. Was Mussolini a fascist? Yes. Oswald Mosley? Yes. Putin? Nope--even though he's been behaving very badly.

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                    • U Wisconsin Controversies (Mike Bonnie, USA 09/06/14 4:36 AM)
                      My thanks to Randy Black for his update on the professional whereabouts of Prof. Jeremi Suri (4 September). The University of Wisconsin-Madison's loss is University of Texas-Austin's gain. I hope Randy's update set things straight for everyone, and Professor Suri forgives my error. I will not speculate on the cause of Professor Suri leaving Madison in 2011, but truly hope he has found a fine place to pursue his academic interests in Austin.

                      UW-Madison has seldom been without some controversy. In 2010, Wisconsin was suffering the slash-and-burn style of governance by newly elected Governor Scott Walker and a Republican-dominated state congress. See my post from 2011:  "Wisconsin Budget Repair Bill Puts State Employees at Risk": http://waisworld.org/go.jsp?id=02a&objectType=post&o=59914&objectTypeId=54164&topicId=44 As the state capital and heavily populated by Democrats, Madison has been and continues to be the center of ongoing political wrangling, protests and demonstrations, especially this being an gubernatorial election year.


                      However, 2010 may not be the year of most dramatic and lasting change. Perhaps the most memorable (at least among academic historians) was 1894, with the attempted firing of Richard Ely, a professor who (in support of university printers) "advocated labor strikes and labor law reform." The then de facto concept of tenure was furthered by "the notorious case of the dismissal of G. B. Halsted by the University of Texas in 1903 after nineteen years of service; [this] have accelerated the adoption of the tenure concept." http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tenure



                      If you've ever heard or used the phrase "sifting and winnowing," think of UW-Madison. "Sifting and winnowing is a metaphor for the academic pursuit of truth associated with the University of Wisconsin-Madison. It was coined by UW President Charles Kendall Adams in an 1894 final report from a committee exonerating economics professor Richard T. Ely of censurable charges from state education superintendent Oliver Elwin Wells. The phrase has become a local byword for the tenet of academic freedom."


                      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sifting_and_winnowing


                      JE comments: Sifting and winnowing sounds like a euphemism for firing people, but academia was much more genteel in the 19th century.


                      I'd be interested in a report from Mike Bonnie on Scott Walker's re-election bid against Democratic challenger Mary Burke.  The latest polls put Burke ahead by as many as four percentage points.  I presume SW's campaign pockets are full and deep from his sponsors, the Koch Brothers.


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1-TRIBUTES TO PROFESSOR HILTON 2001 Conference on Globalizations Academic WAR Forums Ask WAIS Experts Benefactors Chairman General News Member Information Member Nomination PAIS Research News Ronald Hilton Quotes Seasonal Messages Tributes to Prof. Hilton Varia Various Topics WAIS WAIS 2006 Conference WAIS Board Members WAIS History WAIS Interviews WAIS NEWS waisworld.org launch WAR Forums on Media & Research Who's Who