defend the right

"...Defend the Right."

Professor Hugh White, of Australia's National Defence University, is a fellow whose opinion I respect. Nevertheless, I must take issue with his recent thoughts on the situation in Iraq.

I'm very doubtful that, for example, by training up an Iraqi army we can impose the kind of law and order in Iraq which will prevent this happening. In the end, no army, and no police force in the world has ever been better than the Government it has served. And the Iraqi army at the moment and Iraqi police force at the moment has no effective and legitimate government to serve...
Emphasis added.

I think that is flatly untrue. When war comes suddenly upon a people, the very best men rise up to defend their nation. It is the worst men who go seeking political office in those times, to profit and put themselves forward by the tribulations of their kin.

No plainer demonstration can be made than to point to the case of the American Civil War. Someone, somewhere, may have written praises for the Confederate civil government -- I have not seen it. It seems to have been a conglomerate of competing interests, political infighting, bad ideas, and -- lest we forget -- the defense of slavery.

Yet, for the Confederate Army, any number of praises have been rightly made. They are honored at Arlington, at the request of US Presidents McKinley and Taft. Theodore Roosevelt devoted several chapters of his Hero Tales from American History to the Confederate soldiers -- as he did, just as rightly, for the Union soldiers. What is commonly called the "Confederate Flag," so hotly opposed in so many places, is in fact the flag of the Army of Tennessee, also used as the Confederate Navy Jack.

Most Americans, even most Southerners, couldn't recognize the first Confederate National Flag if you put it in front of them. Rightly not -- there is nothing about the Confederate government that merits praise.

Yet I think the Iraqi Army, like the Confederate Army, is apt to be made of the best of men. What I have heard from friends and correspondents in-country suggests that this is the right view of it. For Iraqi politicians, like Confederate ones, there isn't much to be said -- with luck, they will do to hold the line until the Army can finish its business. When that time comes, fighting men freed of their duties on the battlefield can turn their attention to politics. With the deserved love and respect of the people, and the administrative experience necessary to managing a fighting army, they should be a positive force in a future Iraq.

Patrick of Ireland

St. Patrick:
(also posted here)

Patrick wasn't born in Ireland. As a matter of fact, his first encounter with the Irish was being taken by a war-party.

The war-party had been out raiding along the coast of the English isle, and brought Patrick back to Ireland as a slave. The next six years of his life were spent as a slave, herding his mster's flocks.

During that time, Patrick became very fervent in his prayers and pursuit of the religion of his youth. Those beliefs served as a solace while he lived as a stranger enslaved in a foreign culture.

After an escape, Patrick returned home to fervently study Christianity--the faith of his youth, and solace of his captivity. Eventually, a series of dreams drew him back to Ireland as a missionary.

Patrick went to Ireland, and set about to preach Christ wherever he could. Though not the first missionary to attempt this, he was the most successful. Perhaps his years of imprisonment on the island gave him a better understanding of the people. Perhaps his mastery of the Gaelic tongue was better than previous missionaries.

Patrick's mission turned Ireland upside-down. The Emerald Isle became home to a vibrant community of believers.

There are even historians who claim that these Irish believers helped sow the seeds for the growth of a new civilization in northestern Europe, after the decay and death of Roman civilization in that part of the world. Apparently Irish monks played a significant role in seeding northwestern Europe with monasteries. Those monasteries became centers of learning and culture. Cities grew up around the monasteries.

Without a doubt, Patrick left a lasting legacy in his adopted land. The most visible part of that legacy is the way in which the people of Ireland celebrate his feast-day every year. It is celebration of all things Irish, especially the legends that grew up around St. Patrick and his life's work.

This year, as I celebrate St. Patrick's Day, I'll remember the young man who didn't know he was leaving a mark on history. All he knew was that he had once been a captive in Ireland, and that in his dreams the people of Ireland were calling him to return and teach them his faith.

Patrick did leave behind an autobiographical work entitled Confessions, which tells most of the story that I tell above. The Catholic Encyclopedia also has a good summary of his story.

Fighting & Chess

The Fighting Spirit:

LawDog was talking the other day about aikido, and what he thinks of its ideas about fighting spirit:

Both dojos were big on instilling the idea that aikido was, for lack of a better description, a way to make fighting civilized.

I can't wrap my mind around that concept. Civilized behavior is what happens prior to a fight, and after a fight.

A fight itself is the antithesis of civilization, and should remain so. A fight is savage, brutal and barbaric. It should tweak the reptilian hindbrain and draw out your inner Viking.

If it doesn't, and you go up against a foe for whom it does -- you're going to lose.
I would like examine that idea further.

For most people, that is probably precisely right as it is written. For most people, including almost all students of marital arts, the right mindset remains: focused aggressive intent, "pushed down" to a level where there is no conscious thought to get in the way. Training has to be repeated and practiced to the point that there is no conscious thought necessary to act on it.

Nevertheless, the most dangerous man I ever met believed that fighting was precisely like chess. Speed chess, but chess.

This position is entirely compatible with finding your inner Viking, as a matter of fact. The Vikings were great fans of both chess and an earlier board came called tafl. Try it, if you like -- there's a downloadable version there. My experience is that it's an easy game to win from the center, and very hard to win from the sides.

In any event, Ken Caton taught me to fight. Take a look at the picture. Doesn't look like much, does he?

Well, he was a former Marine sergeant, instructor of jujitsu and ryu ku kempo -- and he believed that fighting was like chess in three dimensions. A man's arm, like a rook or a bishop, can only move in certain directions without breaking. Based on where it is, and where you are, you can predict its entire possible range of movement. The body to which it is attached, likewise, can only move in certain ways. Each movement creates openings in the defense. Furthermore, striking the body in certain ways will also create openings with complete certainty. If you know how to hit someone, you can strike their arm so as to open their neck. If you know in advance that your first move will create the second opening, you can be moving to attack that second opening before it is even there. By the time your attack arrives, the opening is created, and there is no possibility of defense.

All that sounds very complicated, and one of the most certain rules of combat is that complicated things break down. Nevertheless, I saw it work often enough that I believe in it.

All kinds of people came by to the dojo in the back alley of Gainesville, GA -- Ken referred to his school as the "Alley Ryu" -- to try Ken. We had boxers come by, knife-fighters, stick-fighters, and the like. I never saw anyone win; I never saw Ken try very hard.

They might have been warned by the framed letter he had on the wall, on official stationary from the Army Rangers who train at Camp Frank D. Merrill. It read, simply, "Dear Mr. Caton: Thanks for coming out and showing us we weren't as tough as we thought."

After class, we would often sit and play chess for hours, five or six games running at once all night and well into the morning. I was in college then, and I liked to play chess. I'd won my high school's chess tournament, and at Georgia State University I would occasionally go off with friends to the Groundhog Tavern, drink three rounds of Guinness interspersed with three rounds of tequila shots, and then come back to the rec room and challenge all comers on the chessboard.

Even so, one night I remember surrendering a game at the dojo, and Ken walking over and berating me. "Never surrender!" he said.

"Yeah, but look at it," I answered. "Can't win it; why waste time on it?"

"You don't know you can't win," he replied. "Your opponent may not be as smart as you. He may not see what you see. He may make a mistake. Never surrender."

And just to prove the point, he took over my position and played it out. He won, of course: my opponent made not one but several mistakes, and lost from a position that should have been an inescapable victory.

It's still a matter of training to the point that thought is not necessary; the "empty mind" that the martial arts pursues is exactly the right road. But, like the chessmaster, you can learn to see angles and avenues, to predict and to control, to fight several moves ahead.

A final aside -- if any of you knows how to reach Ken, I'd love to be put back in touch. Neither the address nor the phone number works. He vanished a few years ago, and none of us know what's become of him. I suspect he went "walkabout," as I can't imagine anything except an unforseen accident claiming him.



I'm not sure I've ever seen a comment thread quite like this one. BillINDC defends Islam -- and in two quick comments, has everyone agreeing with him.

As a fighting man, I have to tip my hat.

To read

Things You'll Like Reading:

You should probably be reading Dennis the Peasant's guide to blogging, including the introduction to the introduction linked above, plus parts actual introduction, and parts one, two, and three. Not only is it funny, it's an insightful critique of blogging as a mechanism for thinking things through. I believe Grim's Hall violates every one of his rules, with the result that our traffic hangs around 185 hits a day.

It's possible to post informed, intelligent analysis and succeed as a blogger -- two examples of people who do are Winds of Change and The Belmont Club. Indeed, I'd like to think that almost anyone on the blogroll here is among the "good guys" who post up top stuff... nevertheless, a lot of people are doing just what he says, and it seems to pay off. I think he's hitting a lot of the reasons right on the head.

Second, you should definitely like The LawDog Files, to which I was kindly directed by Gwa45. There is some truly worthy storytelling going on over there. Any Southerner will appreciate the stories about folks moving in from Liberal states; but anyone at all should appreciate the story about poor Desmond. "Smarter, not harder," aye.

Angel & The Badman

Angel & The Badman:

In 1947, a young man named John Wayne -- already the star of many movies, including the classic Stagecoach -- decided to produce a movie of his own. He also starred in it, as the gunfighter Quirt Evans. The movie's real theme was the beauty of the Quaker faith: the role of the gunfighter was first to serve as a contrast with the Quakers, and then, to be converted by them.

Quirt Evans [looking at a cross-stiched plaque]: Is that Quaker stuff?

Penelope Worth: Uh huh.

Quirt Evans: You mean that nobody can hurt you but yourself?

Penelope Worth: That's a Friend's belief.

Quirt Evans: Well, suppose someone whacks you over the head with a branding iron? Won't that hurt?

Penelope Worth: Physically, of course. But in reality it would injure only the person doing the act or force of violence. Only the doer can be hurt by a mean or evil act.

Quirt Evans: Are there very many of you Quakers?

Penelope Worth: Very few.

Quirt Evans: I sort of figured that.
The movie is a remarkable one, and deserves to be seen if you've not seen it. It is a Western in the old style, a black-and-white hat feature film, but it manages to use that model to provoke sophisticated philosophy. On the surface, Quirt Evans starts as a bad man, and turns into a Friend of Man; but, in spite of the film's pacifist message, it makes clear that there are deeper issues at stake.

For example, early in Quirt's transition, he rides up to talk to a selfish landholder who is restricting the Quakers' water rights. He uses no violence to convince the man to give them more water -- at least, no actual violence. He very plainly does, however, trade on his reputation, and the assumptions the landholder will make about what kinds of methods he would employ. What the Quakers could not accomplish, he accomplishes using their methods: but the nonviolent methods only work because of the implied threat behind them.

By the end of the film, Quirt has been transformed by the love of a beautiful young Quaker woman. He refuses to draw on the evil Laredo, in spite of the fact that it should mean certain death. Yet the film's message is true, at least in the film: Laredo's violence harms only himself, as the Territorial Marshal -- unseen but nearby -- kills Laredo with a rifleshot when the black-hat gunfighter draws. Because Quirt refused to attempt violence, he is not punished in any way; he rides off, not mounted astride a horse but in the back of a wagon, leaving his gun in the street.

The film ends with the Marshal watching the wagon ride away, and retrieving the discarded weapon:
Bradley: [the marshal picks up Quirt's gun] Hey, Quirt might need that!

Territorial Marshal Wistful McClintock: No. Only a man that carries a gun ever needs one.
The beauty of the Quaker faith, and its way, are the subject of the film. Yet the film is clear about the reality of evil, and more than that: it distinguishes between three different types of moral violence. There is the kind the Quaker model can and ought to help, the violence of Quirt Evans, which arises from recklessness and selfishness and an insensitivity to love. There is the kind that the Quakers cannot help, the violence of Laredo, which is in love with its own cruelty. And there is the violence on which the Quakers survive: the violence of the Marshal.

Unspoken but obvious is the fact that, except for the marshal on the hill, evil would have triumphed. Quirt can go and live his new life of peace, rejecting anger and violence, because the Marshal rides the territory to defend it from evil. It is not clear that the Quakers mind whether they live or die; expecting heaven, they may go to their grave as if to bed. Yet, insofar as they live to serve as an example to us in this world, they do so because of the marshal.

It is not for the sake of art alone that I mention this movie today. Sadly, it has become relevant, through the example of another rifleman -- every Marine is a rifleman -- who laid down his gun for a life of peace:
We forgive those who consider us their enemies. Therefore, any penalty should be in the spirit of restorative justice, rather than in the form of violent retribution.

We hope that in loving both friends and enemies and by intervening non-violently to aid those who are systematically oppressed, we can contribute in some small way to transforming this volatile situation.

Tom Fox, Springfield, VA
Cassandra compares him with the case of a Muslim apostate, now a psychologist in California, Dr. Sultan. She draws the lesson that Tom Fox's beliefs were helpless in the face of evil, whereas Dr. Sultan's example may change the world.
Interestingly enough, Tom Fox was in Iraq to help Palestinian Iraqis against what he saw as an unjust American occupation. He refused to condemn, opppose, or otherwise speak out against Islam or the insurgency....

The irony of Tom Fox's death is that it shows that peace was not the answer either. Nor was silence. Or tolerance. All Tom Fox's enlightened tolerance gained him was an agonizing death at the hands of zealots who viewed his determination to forgive them as confirmation that Western culture is rotten to the core....

The other is Dr. Wafa Sultan, a woman whose voice, had she stayed in the land of her birth, we should never had heard. No one knows better than she the risks she takes by speaking out. And yet she does so anyway, in defense of that which is beyond price. Dr. Sultan is the West's answer to radical Islam: a living sword thrust into the beating heart of terror.

Out of darkness has come light, and it seems somehow all the more fitting that it should be a woman who dares to say, "You will not silence me and mine. Some things are intolerable."

If only her courage were a universal value.
I think Mr. Fox was participating in bad philosophy, by not distinguishing between the service of the soldier, bound by a code to defend the noncombatant as much as to pursue victory in his cause, and the murder of the terrorist, who seeks the death of the innocent at the first moment it becomes useful to him. This is a failure, I think, even within the Quaker tradition: pacifism still must distinguish between those who are wrong although they are trying to help, and those who are wrong because they love evil. The failure to do so is not devotion to a higher truth, but closing your eyes to the truth. It is a truth that they were told to expect:
Then he told them many things in parables, saying: "A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. He who has ears, let him hear."
Yet I will not go so far as others have gone, and say that the Quakers were wrong. I do not think that. I think the Quakers represent something true and beautiful, but which I do not understand. Chesterton wrote of what such truths are like:
I have found Europe and the world once more like the little garden where I stared at the symbolic shapes of cat and rake; I look at everything with the old elvish ignorance and expectancy. This or that rite or doctrine may look as ugly and extraordinary as a rake; but I have found by experience that such things end somehow in grass and flowers. A clergyman may be apparently as useless as a cat, but he is also as fascinating, for there must be some strange reason for his existence. I give one instance out of a hundred; I have not myself any instinctive kinship with that enthusiasm for physical virginity, which has certainly been a note of historic Christianity. But when I look not at myself but at the world, I perceive that this enthusiasm is not only a note of Christianity, but a note of Paganism, a note of high human nature in many spheres. The Greeks felt virginity when they carved Artemis, the Romans when they robed the vestals, the worst and wildest of the great Elizabethan playwrights clung to the literal purity of a woman as to the central pillar of the world. Above all, the modern world (even while mocking sexual innocence) has flung itself into a generous idolatry of sexual innocence -- the great modern worship of children. For any man who loves children will agree that their peculiar beauty is hurt by a hint of physical sex. With all this human experience, allied with the Christian authority, I simply conclude that I am wrong, and the church right; or rather that I am defective, while the church is universal. It takes all sorts to make a church; she does not ask me to be celibate. But the fact that I have no appreciation of the celibates, I accept like the fact that I have no ear for music. The best human experience is against me, as it is on the subject of Bach. Celibacy is one flower in my father's garden, of which I have not been told the sweet or terrible name. But I may be told it any day.
This is the point of departure for me from Wretchard's account, which like Cassandra's contrasts Tom Fox with Dr. Sultan. Yet I depart from him although I agree with every word of his argument, which is subtle and beautifully wrought:
I knew a man once who rushed to church in tears of gratitude over the fact that he didn't have to kill someone. It was at the height of Ferdinand Marcos' power and his secret agents were taking a tremendous toll of the underground. Two men in this mans' cell had disappeared. The first had taken a Greyhound-type bus to the Cagayan Valley and had never gotten off. Another had gone by outrigger from Luzon to the island of Mindoro, where it was said, he had been killed on a beach upon landing by a .45 pressed to his nape as he walked unsuspectingly on the sand. The suspected betrayer was a small, bucktoothed man with almost childish enthusiasm for basketball, given to hysterical fits of laughter. But he was certainly the informer and had to die before he betrayed a third. As it happened, someone else killed the informer and man whose job it was to shoot him was everlastingly grateful that God had arranged for the cup to pass away. Someone else had done the deed and he could go from out the darkness of the Marcos dictatorship with only sweet memories upon his soul.

The question that always bothered me was whether that person -- or any man -- had any right to expect someone else to do the dirty job for him. Can we ever simultaneously acknowledge the necessity of a deed and the absolute immorality of doing it? That in a nutshell is the Problem of Evil: that evil exists and that by and by we will have to face it. The question Tom Fox should have posed is "how do you stand firm against a car-bomber headed straight for a schoolbus?" And if you say, "shoot to save the children" ask yourself if it ever justified to be glad that God had sent someone else to shoot the bomber and go hell in your stead.
What I think it is necessary to believe is that there are Quakers for a reason, and that reason may be Quirt Evans: the young man, of good heart but reckless life, who might be rescued by their example. There may be some other reason. Like the apparently useless cat, there is something likewise beautiful about it; if we do not understand, the flaw is in us. It may be they have been told a truth we have not heard.

But likewise, it may be that we have been told one that they have not. The West has room for Quakers and Marshals alike. Wretchard asks whether it can ever be right to expect someone else to do the dirty job for you. I answer that it is not a question of whether it is right or not to expect it: it is not clear that the Quaker would ask, and in any event, the marshal volunteered.

The Quakers of the movie would not have wished Quirt to use even his unvoiced reputation for violence to pursue their interests, but that does not mean that they must refuse the water. They didn't ask him to go, any more than they asked the landholder to come and dam the stream.

I have chided the Christian Peace Teams for failing to make a distinction between those who are wicked, and those who may be wrong in spite of good intentions -- I do not say they are wrong, and in fact believe them to be right, but the Quaker faith holds them to be wrong. We who stand on the other side must also make a distinction, between those who want to destroy us, and those who we think are wrong but who are trying likewise to defend us in their way: to look after our souls, to spread kindness in the world. These are not the enemy, not even if they stand in the way.

It may be, in fact, that we need them. Not all of us, but some of us: perhaps some future Quirt Evans, who has done his duty in defense of the West, and finds himself hurt by it. I have known such men, especially veterans of Vietnam, and surely many of you have also. The Friends may have a home for some where, amid a people who refuse violence in any form, they can find a kind of peace we do not know in the rest of this world.

For that alone, the marshal is glad to stand between them and what evil he can. Why not volunteer to dare Hell, as Wretchard says, protecting a kind and innocent people as you would protect a beloved child?

That is what warriors are for. I do not know precisely what Quakers are for; but I am sure there is a reason.

HuT traitors

Dissent & Treason:

An article in The Australian outlines the tipping point between dissent and treason:

The Hizb ut-Tahrir, which is being investigated by ASIO, said fighting Australian troops and the other occupying forces in Iraq was a "universal right and religious duty".... Mr Doureihi's comments come after The Australian revealed yesterday the inflammatory pamphlet disseminated by the group outside of Sydney mosques, urging Muslims to rise against Australian troops in Iraq and support the insurgency.

"We urge you to make the calamity of Samarra as a motivator to repel the invaders and that you take them as enemies," the flyer says, referring to the bombing of the Samarra mosque last month.

Mr Doureihi said the group stood by its belief that attacking the occupying forces in Iraq and other Islamic nations was an "Islamic obligation".
The Hizb-ut Tahrir, "Party of Liberation," was founded to pursue the peaceful establishment of the Caliphate. This is the point at which you cast away the "peaceful" part, and begin actual incitement to violence. Australia, like America, is a part of the free West. It is that kind of state I was talking about below:
What is not -- is never -- acceptable is undermining the nation's security or stability in order to pursue what you prefer. As a point of philosophy, it is bad philosophy; as a point of ethics, it is unethical. It is wrong whether or not it is criminal. Neither Aristotle nor Socrates thought of undermining Athens' defenses in order to advance their philosophy. They were serious minded for a good reason: city-states were wholly destroyed sometimes, in ancient Greece.
And indeed, that is just what Hizb-ut Tahrir desires.
Mr Doureihi said banning Hizb ut-Tahrir in Australia, as it has been banned in Britain, Germany and other countries, would reflect the Government's appetite for repressing discourse and dissent.

"If anyone was to be proscribed it would be the Australian Government itself," he said.
That is treason.

We simply do not speak of treason anymore, except rhetorically. Yet I speak of it now. This is what treason means: to levy war against the state, to give its enemies aid and comfort, to try not merely to defeat but to destroy it. We are at the point at which Hizb-ut Tharir is ready to throw away its long-accustomed mask, to set aside peace and declare for war. Who has the courage to look on their true face? Who remembers how to answer this challenge?

I wager the Australians do. The title of the article is, "Jihad on troops a duty, say fanatics." Let us prepare to support them.