Heroic Epic Warfighting

Heroic Epic Warfighting:

Michael Ledeen argues that we need a new strategy to win in Iraq. I happen to agree with him that far, although I differ on the practicalities. Ledeen wants to widen the war to Iran and Syria. I want to change the form of the war in Iraq.

Consider this post from the Mesopotamian, addressed to President Bush:

The bones in the mass graves salute you, Avenger of the Bones.

Hail, Friend and Ally, Hail, Sheikh of Sheikhs, GWB; Descendant of the Noble Ancient Celt.

Islam is not, as it has become fashionable to call it, a religion of peace. Islam is a heroic epic. The core ideal of Islam is that the Muslim is joined in a great war to bring the whole world under the peace of rule, not according to fallible human rules, but according to the revealed design of God. That is an epic struggle, and the Muslim is encouraged to think of himself as a mujahid, one of the holy warriors in the fight.

It happens that this fits perfectly with tribal culture. The philosophy of the tribe is informal--that is, it is the natural philosophy of mankind. The bonds of family are to be defended; the power of the family, extended. Peace can finally be had only by destroying those outside the family, or by bringing them within the family. This is the mujahedeen's ethic. It is the ethic of jihad. This is why the tribal parts of the Islamic world have been a strong recruiting ground--Baluchistan, for example, and the Pashtun regions of Afghanistan.

It is also why Islamism is appealing to those radical young Muslims who have been educated in the West. In the Western philosophy, they see an abandonment of this older, traditional ethic, this natural ethic which feels so very right because it comes from our evolved nature. That is a core problem that needs to be fixed if we are to achieve a lasting peace.

The road forward, for the West, is to reinvigorate our own tradition of the Heroic Ethic. I have argued this before, in a piece suggesting the outlines of a new philosophy, one that would answer the Islamist writings of Qtub, on which al Qaeda's on arguments are based. The core of this argument is this: a man who has familiarized himself with the Beowulf, the Iliad, the Odyssey, or the Icelandic sagas, knows exactly what he needs to know to treat with Islamists, both tribal and modernist. A man who has learned all of these epics can not only treat with them, but give them better than they ask. He can convert them--not away from Islam, which there is no cause to do, but away from Islamism, and toward the West.

Let us return to the specific example of Bush's Thanksgiving visit to Iraq. What does it mean to be "Avenger of the Bones?" It seems little notice has been taken of it by the administration; they may think it is an honorific, that it means nothing at all. The opposite is true. It is a title, one that personalizes the American effort and brings it within the circle of the tribal ethic. 300,000 dead fill Iraq's mass graves. The tribal ethic of vengeance requires that the families of those dead take revenge as they can. The Avenger of the Bones is a formal, natural ally--a man to whom loyalty and gratitude are owed. If I were the President, I would be trumpeting that new title from the rooftops. It is one that every Iraqi will understand, and very many--the families of 300,000--will feel called, by their own culture, to respond to with alliance.

Consider the "humiliation" issue. We have heard from everyone that our acts are humiliating the Iraqis. It's humiliating to be searched; to have your house searched; to have your women and children searched; etc. All that may be true, but we have no option--the enemy has chosen to use women and children as bombs.

The way forward? Avenge the bones. The humiliation of the living can't be avoided. We can make up for it by showing honor to the dead. By making the identification of bones, and their return to their families, a priority of our operation in Iraq, we can show the dead a respect that we can't affort to show the living. Think on the positive effect it would have on US operations for us to stage ten public funerals every day, with military honors, for the bones of those dead and identified in Saddam's mass graves. For one thing, it would reduce recruitment for attacks on US convoys--you would not know which ones contained a funerary detachment that might be coming to your own home, to return a brother or a cousin. For another, showing the Iraqi dead the honor we show our own fallen heroes can overcome the humiliation issue. We can solidify our position as "Avenger of the Bones," a friend to the dead, an ally in the duty of vengeance.

Consider also hospitality, another heroic duty. What does it mean that there are many areas of tribal Iraq where Americans only travel in heavily armed convoys? CENTCOM ought to be arranging dinners with tribal chiefs. Go and take dinner with the chief of a tribe, in his home. Take your bodyguards as far as his door, but not into his house. Eat his food, and share his water. Then, make it a point to push this behavior down the chain: so that soldiers regularly accept invitations to dine, trusting in their hosts to protect them, and so that tribal figures are regularly asked to dine with Americans in our tents. Do this, and their honor will be concerned with protecting you. Hospitality will fight the war for you: their honor will demand it.

This is what I wrote about in the essay above, under the heading of "frith." There is an Islamic mirror. It is called the "Covenant of Security". This is how you build a state that even the Islamist must feel obliged to protect. Personal honor, and the heroic ethic, alone can do it. They can do it because the ethic is already native to the men and women of Iraq. Nothing need be changed, except on our end.

On our end, the change is easy. The U.S. military is the segment of American society best suited to undertake a renewal of the Western heroic ethic. Very many of them--particularly in the Marine Corps and SOCOM--already believe in it. Even outside of SOCOM and the USMC, the military is disproportionately Southern, and American Southerners believe in the old heroic ethic, and love it. All that is necessary is to explain the particulars: the general standards are present and accounted for.

The heroic ethic will take us forward to victory, in Iraq as elsewhere. It is the best kind of victory--not the one that destroys our opponents, but the one that brings us all within a family. Just as Saladin sent his personal physicians to treat Richard the Lionheart, as he had come to respect and love that man's courage and chivalry, so can we today win the hearts of our enemies. It is time to make right the opportunity missed between Saladin and Richard, who almost concluded a marriage pact that would have joined Islam and Christendom in friendship.

It was only between warriors that such a peace could be made. It is only between warriors that it can be made today.



Several of you have written to ask me after the snow. The snow is quite deep--nine or ten total inches in the last few days, by my unscientific measurement. However, temperatures remain reasonably warm, and the community has made adequate provisions against such weather. As a result, roads are clear and there has been no trouble about basic services. There's nothing to worry about up here.

I did have to borrow a snowshovel, as every one commercially available has been bought up in the last few days. It took more than an hour to dig my truck out of the frozen ice sculpture created by the snowplows, which was three feet high and frozen to the frame of my vehicle. Still, mission accomplished: all is well.

It occurs to me that this would be a good place to issue a public apology to the state of Maryland. I've spoken and written slander about it on several occasions, most recently that there were only two things to like about it (number one being, the road out).

In fact, exactly the opposite is true. There are only two or three things to dislike about Maryland. They are important matters, and serious complaints. Nevertheless, in fairness, there is far more to like about the state than not. It is a pleasant place, full of pleasant people (except when they are driving, when they unaccountably become ill-tempered monsters. Not sure why that is). If one could but banish the government from existence, it would be as fine a place as Georgia, almost.

I certainly have enjoyed taking long runs through the Black Hills, where the deer are so docile that they aren't bothered by you unless you run right into their herd. If you are fleet of foot, and enduring, you can start a herd by running right into the middle of it, and run with it for quite a while. I've started deer in Georgia afoot many times in the mountains, but one rarely gets so close there.

So, there's much to be said for the state of Maryland. She's not as bad as I've said in the past. Actually, there are parts of her I like perfectly well. My apology for overstating the case.

Un celebration!

Une fete de la culture francaise:

So, I have a new song to sing while practicing my French: Chevaliers de la table ronde. Who can argue with these sentiments, which translate loosely as: "Knights of the round table, let us drink to see if the wine is good!" (You can tell it is a French tune originally, not only because the rhymes only work in French, but also because of the verse which translates "two feet up against the wall, and your head under the tap!")

Clark Attacks

Clark Attack:

The lads at Southern Appeal are reporting on Wesley Clark's newest campaign promises: to bring the troops home at once, to always consider military force the "last resort," and never again to attack anyone pre-emptively.

Drug discovery - biotech, pharmaceuticals, research, clinical trials, etc. In the pipeline - Corante


The other big attack on America was the Anthrax attacks. It happens there's news about that too--or, at least, a new piece of investigative reporting. Needless to say, the FBI doesn't get off easy. They don't deserve to get off easy. The biggest question in the piece is, "could this stuff have been civilian-made?"

So Matsumoto concentrates on the processing of the spores: their particle size, and their possible coatings and treatments to make them disperse better. This is where the homebrew/high-tech distinction should be clear, and this is just where the available information has the most contradictions. Initially, reports were that the spore samples had very small, very uniform particle sizes, and may well have had additives to them to keep them from aggregating. Alan Zelicoff, of Sandia, was quotedat the time saying that whoever made the Senate anthrax had "the keys to the kingdom." (I remember reading that, and having a sudden, terrible vision of just what kingdom that was.) But you can now find leaks and reports that dispute both of these contentions, though. The difference is especially marked in statements the FBI has made in the last few months, which make the spores sound much less well-processed than their earlier reports. As Matsumoto puts it:

The reversal was so extreme that the former chief biological weapons inspector for the United Nations Special Commission, Richard Spertzel, found it hard to accept. "No silica, big particles, manual milling," he says: "That's what they're saying now, and that radically contradicts everything we were told during the first year of this investigation."

Hat tip: LGF.

9/11 Questions

9/11 Question:

Many of you may not be aware of the yeo-woman work being done by Sovay McKnight on 9/11 questions. In spite of her liberal nature (and occasional editorializing), her penchant for fairness and complete research often puts her in the position of defending the administration against wild-eyed claims. There are a number of questions you've probably never heard about, if you haven't been following the business closely.

Here's a question I hope she'll look into sometime, from Dr. Dean himself: was Bush tipped to the attacks by the Saudis?



This week I will be voting for, in the political category, "BarkBarkWoofWoof", whose entry compares Justice Moore with Sir Thomas More. In the nonpolitical category, I vote for Vegan Marshmellows Roasting over an Open Fire.



It's official: NASCAR rules.

Nasi Lemak

Nasi Lemak:

So here is a left-liberal blog called Nasi Lemak attempting to slander George Bush, and Republicans generally, as racists. The occasion for doing so is what must be the least racist remark of recent political history, when GWB said that he and Dr. Rice had, while sneaking to their plane, looked "like a normal couple." How can this remark be turned into a vision of racism? Well, it's a little complicated:

1) Two conservative bloggers (OxBlog and the regrettable Andrew Sullivan) said they thought that GWB's remark was awfully nice, and a positive step.
2) Both of these two bloggers had quoted the Honorable Zell Miller at length on occasion.
3) Zell Miller worked for Lester Maddox, who was a racist, and...
4) ...also said some kind words at Maddox's funeral.

Therefore: Miller is a racist by association with Maddox, the conservative bloggers by association with Miller, and GWB (and conservatives generally) by association with the bloggers. Quod erat demonstrandum.

There's a small problem with the analysis (leaving aside the larger problem, which is that it is an ad hominem attack which is furthermore guilty of the fallacy of guilt-by-association, when the association is extremely tenuous). The small problem is this: Zell Miller is not a racist. Miller, in spite of being the most popular governor in Georgia history, very nearly lost his 1994 bid for re-election for one reason: he pushed with all his political capital to remove the Confederate battle-flag from the Georgia state flag. This was the least popular position any politician could undertake in Georgia. Support for the battleflag remains extraordinary. In fact, when it was finally removed from the state flag, it was done by a legislative trick that precluded debate or a public referendum. The governor who executed that trick was voted out at the next opportunity; his successor, who ran in part on restoring the flag, has instead pursued several tricks to prevent a public referendum. It is without doubt that, should there ever be a public referendum, the battleflag is going right back up on the state flagpole.

But Zell stood up for changing it. It almost cost him the election, and would have sunk any other politician. Yes, he ran against the Civil Rights Act in 1967--most Southerners were opposed to it, including very many black Southerners, as it promised radical change in a hurry in their states, which is always a frightful prospect. Yes, he worked for a racist--it was hard not to in Georgia, once. Yes, he said kind words over the grave of a dead man, as a gentleman ought.

When it counted, though, he put his weight in the right place. He did, and still does. He has earned the respect that we show him who hold high his opinion and counsel.

Just what we've been saying...


Just what we've been saying all along, but now the Guardian agrees: the Commies have hijacked the peace march movements.

Say, How Much Does A "Uranium Enriching" Laser Cost?

Say, How Much Does A "Uranium Enriching" Laser Cost?

It's a question worth pondering:

"Follow the money" is an old adage, and it means that economic interest will eventually explain much human behavior. That France opposed the removal of Saddam Hussein because he owed millions to French banks is proof of this. Less well known, but much more troubling, are key French financial links with other U.S. enemies. They raise the belief that the Franco-American conflict over Iraq was just one slice of the action. For France was not just Baathist Iraq's largest contributor of funds; French banks have financed other odious regimes....

In Castro's sizzling gulag, French banks plunked down $549 million in the first trimester this year, a third of all credit to Cuba. The figure for Saddam's Iraq is $415 million. But these pale in comparison with the $2.5 billion that French banks have lent Iran.

Not that this is a terrible surprise.

This is an Attack Site?

This is an Attack Site?

Dick Gephardt is running a website called DeanFacts. It's meant to show that Howard Dean is unsupportable for the Presidency by citing Dean's actual positions on issues. If I knew nothing else about Dean than what's here, though, I'd be half-inclined to vote for the boy. Dean on Medicare, Social Security, balancing the budget, and so forth and so on: it all sounds pretty good to me.

The only issue is that, even on this site, there's the constant invocation of the need to cut defense spending. That is, in the middle of a war, insane. And the war is, of course, why Dean can't win this upcoming election. There's simply no way that a majority of Americans will vote for the anti-war candidate, or for cuts in military spending at this juncture. The GWOT trumps everything right now, and rightly so.

Need more proof that Dean is doomed? Try FundRace, which has this handy money-map. Dean--or any other Democratic candidate for the Presidency--will need to split the South. It doesn't have to be a big split, if they do well everywhere else, but they will need to win at least one Southern state because, if they win no Southern states, they have to win fully 70% of the races in the rest of the country to get enough electoral votes. Donations are a good indicator of where the candidates are going to find solid support--people who send cash will support you at the polls, too. Select "Howard Dean" in the money mapper, and then compare with GWB. There are two things to notice:

1) Dean, at his darkest, is a full shade lighter in every area from Texas to the Carolinas. In most parts of these states, he doesn't register.
2) The only reason it's even that close is that the money-mapper uses different scales for different candidates. GWB has to raise $3.2 million from a county to get the darkest green; Dean only needs $1.4 million, less than half that. If you plotted it on the same scale, Dean would hardly register in the South at all, excepting a few urban areas like Dallas and Atlanta. Some of that will be because Dean is having to compete with the other Democrats for monetary support, whereas Bush is getting all the Republican money. Even factoring that in, though, it looks like a solid South again in 2004.

I think Dean could have won in a non-wartime election year. I don't think people will take him seriously as a wartime candidate. Excepting those who were always opposed to the war--if we're talking about the Iraq war instead of the GWOT, which is where anti-war sentiment was highest, that's about twenty percent--Dean's not going to draw a lot of support. He's certainly not going to win in the South.

UPDATE: I'm apparently not the only one who thinks this way. This is from the Seattle Times:

"Anybody could win," said Merle Black, political-science professor at Emory University. But "right now, with the economy improving as it is, if Howard Dean is the nominee, he'd have a very hard time winning any of the Southern states."
And more...
"There's a lot of money in Texas to be donated to both political parties, so Dean had to come drag the bag," said Court Koenning, executive director of the Harris County Republican Party. But "he's gonna get his clock cleaned in the general election. I'll run around naked and you can call me Sally if Bush loses Texas."
And then there's this, from the world's most trusted news source.