Wednesday, January 28, 2015

A Humble Note From Your War Mongering Propagandist

          I read an interesting thread over at Pure Mormonism.  The author, Rock Waterman mentioned a book about the war chapters in the Book of Mormon. Being the literal Deane of warfare in the Book of Mormon I thought it worth point out I have a book and several publications on the subject. Unfortunately, instead of reading my book, Irven Hill, has decided to write a post in response.  Irven Hill’s poor arguments and frequent use of ad hominem undermine his attempts to be taken seriously. 
(All quotes from the article unless otherwise noted.)

“Apparently Deane fails to understand the first part of his sentence, “once the Nephite lands were invaded.”

          “Apparently” is the only correct word in that sentence.  As I described in Moroni’s preemptive war  Moroni also expelled the Lamanites from their lands during a time of peace see (Alma 50:7 for example.) This is on top of preemptive action against Amalickiah when there wasn’t a time of war. You have an example of preemmptive action both within and outside Mormon lands without a peep from the narrator, who, if we are to believe my opponents, was so against preemptive war that he refused to lead his people and would rather they were slaughtered than commit an act of preemptive war. This is a strange place in the narrative to suddenly go silent.   

“Do the weapons and travel arrangements of “dangerous People” change the nature of what constitutes offense and/or aggression? If so, maybe the travel arrangements of attractive women could change what constitutes adultery. After all, worldwide airline travel easily transports beautiful women. “Thou shalt not commit adultery”, may not apply in the modern world. Of course, that is ridiculous, right on the face of it, but what’s the difference?”

Yes. The wonder of modern pills notwithstanding, a person still has to commit adultery by being in the same room (and probably within nine inches or so) of the person with whom they are committing adultery. Though Jesus did say you can commit adultery in your heart just by looking at a women. In that sense modern technology does make it easier to commit adultery. A person can watch smut on television, or porn on their computer and commit adultery with far greater ease. That means modern technology has changed the many ways we must prepare and defense ourselves.

Part of this defense includes preemptively, (rut roh), deciding to take a course of action. This means using the vchip, filters on the computer, or adopting a very proactive policy of combating (ahem) the problem.  I normally don’t include explanations this long.  But Hill tried to use the adultery example to show how ridiculous it is to believe that modern technology can change the speed and destructiveness of adultery or enemy technology. (Keep in mind that nuclear weapons delivered by terrorists and facilitated by rogue regimes getting weapons of mass destruction were the major reasons Bush gave for preemptive war.) The easy facilitation of porn, that is, modern technology, has changed adultery for men, to the point that those who are in combat with pornography have to adopt preemptive measures to avoid it.  In short, he proved my point. 

“Of course, being “up and doing” in defense of our liberty is no sin. The key word being defense. Or are you speaking “offensive defensive” here? Does that term mean the same as only defense, in your mind?”

          The offensive defensive is a specific strategy described by Russell Weigley to describe, among other things, the Confederate strategy during the civil war.[1] Of course Hill would know if he bothered to read the several published chapters I have on this matter, and not argue with a preliminary blog post more than a half decade old. On the Pure Mormonism thread I practically begged him and others to read the refined and published material, but these people, who always claim to be very serious about liberty and warfare, can’t be bothered to read some important texts on the matter, such as the one endorsed by Rock Waterman himself: War and Peace in Our Times: MormonPerspectives. 

“Now many nations, if any that have not had American military/CIA interventions into their lands are supporting terrorism and seek the “most devastating weapons known to man”? Did it ever cross your mind, that maybe….just maybe, “terrorist promoters” and “devastating weapon” seekers have had the American military intervening in their affairs for at least 50 years or more?”

          I assume he is referencing the blowback argument, though asking questions is a poor form of arguing. Instead of asking questions, a stronger argument would simply answer the questions and make the point. (In contrast to the war mongering that libertarians think I promote with my students, I really teach them how to write expository essays, which includes not advancing the argument with questions.)  That aside, this is referring to the blowback theory that blames America for terrorist actions. Their central point is that the CIA intervened in Afghanistan and we ended up supplying and supporting the people who ended up attacking us on 9/11. There isn’t a straight line between the two events, nor do blowback theorists properly account for the cost of inaction.  Outside of vaguely implying it, the author didn’t make a case for blowback. So I’m not going to make his argument for him, and then provide my counter argument.  If he wants to get serious and provide one, I reserve the right to respond.

“Could you please describe what a “neo-isolationist” foreign policy is? Did it ever occur to you that non aggression and non interventionism are different than isolationism?:”

          This is more weak argumentation in the form of questions.  Yes it occurred to me and I reject the notion they are different. I have significant archival experience studying early Cold War politics for which I won the George C. Marshall Award. I have seen the same arguments, and sometimes almost the same words, in support of isolationism from today with those made in 1950.  These arguments include America lacking a moral right to intervene, American actions causing foreign hostility in the first place (see above), the material cost of war being too much, and American imperialism taking away from nation building at home.  If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it’s a duck, no matter how much you want to be called something slightly different after the ducks have been discredited. Since one is newer than other, modern proponents making the same arguments earn the term “neo,” which is another word for “new.”   

“It is disheartening, Mr. Deane, that you have influence on so many youth at BYU-I. You go to great lengths to attempt to construe the Book of Mormon in a way that fits your world view and your former craft as a government troop. I would have rooted you and your propaganda on back when I was younger in the early 2000’s.”

          This is the most frustrating part in dealing with libertarians.  A person that disagrees with them is not just wrong, but they are a war mongering propagandist, a brainwashing teacher, or a biased apologist for the military.  Others have labelled their opponents as Gadianton Robbers, even labelled the church PR department Nazis.  I understand there are strong differences of opinion. Since war is the way to life or death, as Sunzi said, it demands a thorough examination.  But arguments such as these from Mr. Hill, are incredibly light on argument, but heavy on attacks and poor questions. That isn't close to the kind of study that subject demands. 

          His frequent attacks are somewhat ironic as well. Hill accused me of providing a fallacious straw men argument. And at Pure Mormonism, a pedantic poster named Gary Hill kept posing as a fallacy cop. After demanding I take a pop quiz before he talked with me, he pointed out all of the supposed fallacies I was making, and he even suggested I study them!  But sprinkled in with all of this fallacy policing was a liberal dose of the ad hominem fallacy. As I said before,  I wish radical libertarians would spend a little more time in the library, with serious books about warfare in the Book of Mormon, and a little less time hurling insults in their online echo chambers.  

          The biggest irony of all, is that people like Hill have hyperventilated so much over this subject, they failed to realize that I have additional research that points out the negative consequences of Moroni’s actions.  In case that isn't clear enough, that means I'm somewhat walking back my previous arguments! But I'm doing so based on a careful and detailed study of Helaman and 3 Nephi, not because my opponents call me a propagandist and fail to read anything that disagrees with them! (See the last paragraph of his post where he explains why he won’t buy any of the books I recommended). I often joke that I sit alone because the conversation is better.  Well, I also have to argue alone because few even summarize my arguments correctly, let alone engage them in a substantive and scholarly manner. Thanks for reading.  




[1] Russell Weigley, The American Way of War: A History of United States Military Policy and Strategy (Bloomington: University of Indiana, 1977), 97.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Research Grant: The Long Road to the Long March

[I'm pleased to announce I've been rewarded a research grant from American Public University.  You can see last year's winners here. The following is the first part of my research grant application and outlines the need for this study and what has already been written. I also include a paragraph that discusses its importance in the classroom. The majority of the archive work will occur at the Hoover Library's Chen Cheng collection at Stanford University, and I'm very excited to pursue this research!] 
Mao Zedong is hailed in largely hagiographic terms as a result of his eventual ascension to power and victory in the Chinese Civil War.  But there is little critical examination of his early military leadership.  This study seeks to assess the military leadership of Mao and his chief military officer, Zhu De during the Jiangxi period of 1927-1934. It will determine the degree to which Mao deserves his status as a brilliant strategist.  Since the two leaders were often conflated into one person called Zhu Mao, I seek to study both the strategic and tactical planning as well as the execution of Soviet military operations to better determine the merits of their respective leadership.   Finally, since the doctrine of People’s War affects the local population I seek to examine the impact of Soviet military operations on the people of the Jianxi Soviet.   
This period witnessed Mao’s first actions as leader of a small insurgency in southern China. The years between 1927 and 1934 also witnessed several important counter insurgency campaigns by the Nationalist government and it detailed the reaction of Communist forces as well as the first application of Mao’s strategic theories.  Sinologist William Wei called this period “more or less wide open” and suggested that an examination of Mao as a military thinker is “long overdue.”[1] Many histories of the PLA start at the landmark dates of the Communist victory in 1949, the Long March of 1934, or the Marco Polo Bridge incident in 1937, and often provide little analysis of earlier periods or analyze them through the lens of later ones.[2]
Mao himself only has only has one scholarly piece assessing his leadership.[3]  Even then, the article was specifically intended as a “preliminary assessment.”  That article starts to suffer from the problems above as the author examined the broad scope of Mao’s career; with the Jiangxi period only serving as a prelude to the Long March and eventual victory. This did include a description of Mao’s poor management and often confusing directions to his generals.  My study will focus specifically on the beginning of Mao’s early military career which allows me to focus on matters that may have been condensed in the broader examination.
Zhu De only has two biographies in English.  The first by Anges Smedly, was published in 1956.[4] While the book fills an important literary gap, Smedly is more accurately described as a reporter than a scholar.  She traveled with the Red Army through much of the 30s and the book contains lengthy excerpts of oral interviews from Zhu De. She died before this book could be completed and it focuses on a personal biography more than a military history of this man.  So it is doubly important for a military historian to examine Zhu’s life.  The other book is by Shum Ki-Kwong, and it can more accurately be described as a twenty page pamphlet.[5] 
There is an unpublished dissertation that examines Zhu De’s early career and his impact on the strategic thought of the Chinese military.[6]  It remains unpublished, but provides several excellent points.  Russell’s piece is an excellent scholarly treatment of the subject and it places the development of Chinese strategic thought in a worldwide, and particularly Russian, context.  His examination ends in 1926 with Zhu De’s defection from the Republican government. Since my examination begins in 1927, it will act as a case study and test his conclusions.
Russell also stated that “[this study]…highlighted many gaps in the English language military history of China…these studies in particular need to address wars at the strategic, operational, and tactical levels…”[7]  Russell went on to claim that in contrast to the assumption of this being an early example of protracted war, “the Red Army was, in reality, a hybrid force made up of regular troops, fulltime guerrillas units, and local part time defense forces.”[8]  Thus his study introduces the idea that Communist operations in this period were not always a clear example of an insurgency campaign. But Russell’s assertion seems to understate Mao’s three phase insurgency and may overstate the clear delineations between regular soldiers and full time guerillas.  So my study will engage a debate concerning the exact composition, strategy, and tactics of the Red Army.   
Francis Grice is a teaching fellow at the Defense Studies Department at Kings College London and is studying the influence of Mao on past, current and future insurgencies.[9]  The thesis is forthcoming and I don’t have access to his conference presentations. His research so far appears to focus on the influence of Mao’s theories around the world in the second half of the 20th century. My study, in contrast, will focus on the specific development and execution of his theories in China before his eventual victory. It also contrasts his leadership and influence with that of Zhu De, and focuses exclusively on an early period in Mao’s insurgency. I expect my research will benefit from, but also challenge his thesis...
This study fits the mission of American Public University by enhancing the breadth and depth of the curriculum offered. Insurgency is a topic of immense contemporary importance, and even personal importance for the many veterans in the student body that serve(d) abroad.  China is a rising world power with relatively few programs offering basic courses on Chinese history, let alone a course that covers Chinese military history.  After consultation with Dr. Richard Hines I may teach a topical course on Chinese military history, and this research project will enhance that ability. 


[1] William Wei, “Mao and the Red Army” in An Introduction to Chinese Military History Robert Hingham and David Graff eds.  (NewYork: Westview Press, 2002), 247.
[2] See for example, Chen-hsia Huang, The Chinese High Command: A History of Communist Military Politics, 1927-1971 (New York: Praeger, 1973).
[3] Jacques Guillermaz, “The Soldier,” in Mao Tse-Tung in the Scales of History: A Preliminary Assessment ed. Dick Wilson (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1977.)
[4] Anges Smedly, The Great Road: The Life and Times of Chu Teh (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1956).
[5] Shum Ki-Kwon, Zhu De (St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1982.)
[6] Matthew William Russell, “From Imperial Soldier to Communist General: The Early Career of Zhu De and His Influence on the Chinese Army.” Unpublished dissertation, George Washington University, 2009.
[7] Ibid., 424-425.
[8] Ibid., 422.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Futile Victory in Jacob 7:26

[This is my application to the Mormon Theology Seminar. Last time there were over 80 applications for seven spots, but I'm still very proud of my ideas regardless of the decision and hope to pursue this line of thought in the future.]

The poignancy contained in Jacob 7:26 serve to highlight Nephite military conflicts. They combine with several key words and phrases, and a judicious comparison to the legendary Chinese general Yue Fei, to suggest that Jacob talked as a martial leader that was victorious in battle, but also sensed the failure represented by those victories.   

Confucianist and Taoist teachings on war highlight the contentions mentioned in verses 24 through 26. Alastair Johnson argued that Chinese thought held what he called a Mencian view, named after a prominent disciple of Confucius, which believed that the righteousness and good governance of a ruler could prevent conflict.[1]  Much like Doc& Cov 121: 121:46, a righteous ruler would have power “flow unto [him] forever and ever.” For example, the martial leader and philosopher Wuzi wrote. “The Sage rests the people in the Way [Tao], orders them with righteousness, moves them with forms of propriety [li], and consoles them with benevolence. Cultivate these four virtues and you will flourish. Neglect them and you will decline.”[2]  Even when military thought didn’t condemn violence, one of Sunzi’s principle beliefs said that a commander must configure his troops in order fight with the military power of a suddenly unleashed torrent of water.[3]  As a result, ancient Chinese historians blamed the defeat of the Northern Song (960-1126 AD) on rulers who forfeited Heaven’s Mandate through unrighteous behavior.[4]

So the need to use military force represented a moral failure and these thoughts amplify the poignancy of the Nephite’s failure to persuade the Lamanites. If we accept Grant Hardy’s strong argument that Nephi’s mission was to keep the brothers from splintering,[5] the “continual” warfare and “eternal hatred” (v.24) of the Lamanites represented a stunning defeat of that mission. Even though the Nephites were successful in their martial defense (v.25), Jacob was perhaps the last living person to hear Father Lehi’s voice and understand how Nephite success on the battlefield couldn’t overcome the moral failing that required fighting in the first place. 

Moreover, Jacob was only a link in the chain of Nephite record keepers and spiritual leaders; after Jacob there is a noticeable decline in the spirituality, length of writing, and marvelous testifying within their writing. A few generations after Jacob, one author confessed he was a “wicked man” (Omni 2), another couldn’t claim any additional revelation (Omni 11), and Jacob’s descendants were inconsequential third person observers of Nephite history that actually turned over the plates to the secular king and historian (Omni 24-25).  On top of his personal link, Jacob presumably knew of Nephi’s prophecy concerning the eventual destruction of his people, suggesting a subtle and parallel pattern within the text.

Yue Fei (1103-1142 AD) only rose to prominence during the collapse of the Northern Sung Dynasty, but despite all of his victories he never did recover Northern China. For various political reasons he was arrested and had his death arranged by the Emperor he faithfully served. He fought to preserve his people, but the need to fight in the first place represented moral failings on the part of rulers. And he died knowing that his fight, despite all of his victories, remained futile.   Jacob’s personal link in the chain seemed futile, his defense of his people represented the failure of Nephi and himself to unite the people, he was the last link before the deteriorating spirituality of descendants, and he feasibly knew that the Nephites were destined for extermination.  It is no wonder at the end of his book he compared his journey to that of a solemn and lonesome wanderer. Conceivably, like Yue Fei or Moroni, he wandered a desolate, war scarred landscape, shell shocked at the failure of his life’s mission, and “mourning” (Jacob 7:26) his days while feeling his contribution was “small” (v. 27) and ultimately futile.




[1] Alastair Iain Johnson, Cultural Realism: Strategic Culture and Grand Strategy in Chinese History (New York: Princeton University Press, 1998) 155.
[2] Wuzi, Ralph Sawyer trans., The Seven Military Classics of Ancient China, (New York: Westview Press, 1993), 207.
[3] Sunzi, The Seven Military Classics, 165, 168.
[4] Neo Confucianist historians that dominated the court of the Southern Song Dynasty would have especially believed that. Contemporary historians, though, argue it was stunningly poor military and political choices of the Emperor that turned a devastating Jurchen raid into utter collapse. Peter Lorge, War, Politics, and Society in Early Modern China: 900-1795, (New York: Routledge Press, 2005), chapter 2.   
[5] Grant Hardy, Understanding the Book of Mormon: A Readers Guide (New York: Oxford University Press, 2010). 

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Maintaining and Manipulating the Appearance of Your Camp in The Book of Mormon and Chinese Theory

I had the pleasure of reviewing an advanced copy of David Spencer’s new book: Moroni’s Command. I offered some thoughts and brief endorsement for the back cover. But there was one particular passage that really stuck out to me based upon my knowledge of Chinese military theory:

When scouts were sent out from Manti to determine the strength of the Nephite force, they discovered that the Nephite force was not too large, so the Lamanite force began to make preparations to attack. Helaman’s own scouts reported the Lamanite activity, and he began to make demonstrations carefully designed to give the impression that his force did not suspect the actions of the Lamanite force. Along the main approach to his camp he dispatched two small forces, one under Gid and the other under Teomnor and ordered them to take up hidden positions to the left and right of the main path (Alma 58:16-17). Meanwhile he made an effort to maintain appearances that everything was business as usual in the Nephite camp, seeking to allay any Lamanite suspicions, so they would approach without caution. Helaman’s maturity as a commander since the Antiparah maneuver is evident in this account, as his forces in the main camp coolly waited until the last possible moment before fleeing from the advancing Lamanite force dispatched to destroy them.  This was an essential component of the plan because, by keeping up these appearances Gid and Teomner remained completely undetected.[1]  

The appearances of an armies camp is an important tool that China theorists prescribed for finding out the strength of the enemy. Since those theorists also described warfare as the “way of deception”.[2] It is no surprise then, that military commanders often manipulated their appearance to fool the enemy. 

Tai Kong wrote:[3]

If [your plans] are heard about, the enemy will make counter plans. If you are perceived they will plot against you. If you are known, they will put you in difficulty. If you are fathomed, they will endanger you.

Thus one excels at eliminating the misfortunes of the people manages them before they appear. Conquering the enemy means being victorious over the formless.[i.e., good at denying the enemy a chance to know your plans…]

To be the first to gain victory, initially display some weakness to the enemy and only afterward do battle. Then your effort will be half, but the achievement will be doubled.

And Wuzi wrote:[4]

In employing the army you must ascertain the enemy’s voids and strengths and then race [to take advantage of] his endangered points. When the enemy has just arrived from afar and their battle formations are not yet properly deployed, they can be attacked. If they have eaten but not yet established their encampment, they can be attacked. If they are running about wildly, they can be attacked. If they have labored hard, they can be attacked. If they have not yet taken advantage of the terrain, they can be attacked. When they have lost their critical moment and not followed up on opportunities, they can be attacked. When they have traversed a great distance and the rear guard has not yet had time to rest, they can be attacked. When fording rivers and only half of them have crossed, they can be attacked….In general circumstances such as these, select crack troops to rush on them, divide your remaining troops, and continue the assault- pressing the attack swiftly and decisively.

And the most famous Chinese theorist, Sunzi, touched upon each of these matters as well. “Thus if I determine the enemy’s disposition of forces [hsing] while I have no perceptible form, I can concentrate [my forces] while the enemy is fragmented.”[5]

And he offered a warning to those that judge based on enemy camps:

Thus the strategy for employing the military: Do not approach high mountains; do not confront those who have hills behind them.[6]  Do not pursue feigned retreats. Do not attack animated troops. Do not swallow an army acting as bait…[7]

There is a clear congruence between Spencer’s narrative of how this battle developed, and the way that theorists described the need to study, and sometimes manipulate or avoid being manipulated by the enemies’ organization in their camp.  As I described in my book, this doesn’t mean that Helaman opened up his copy of the Seven Military Classics. But if we assume that military theory categorizes and measures military operations the same way a thermometer can measure heat, then using this theory to analyze the Book of Mormon is no different than checking the temperature on your food.  Moreover, if we assume the events described in the text are historical, then we should notice its relation to historical military texts.  Finally, I should not that I’m not completely convinced this is how the battle happened. I think Spencer fills in some blanks that aren’t readily apparent to this reader. But given that my second books is entirely about filling in blanks and making sometimes large (though well founded) assumptions based on small amounts of text;[8] and I find his description of the events matches up surprisingly well with military theory, so I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt in making those assumptions. I rather enjoyed describing connection and I hope you enjoyed reading about it. Thanks.  




[1] David Spencer, Moroni’s Command: Dynamics of Command in the Book of Mormon,  (Salt Lake City: Cedar Fort Books, 2015), 137-139.
[2] Ralph Sawyer, trans. The Seven Military Classics of Ancient China (New York: West View Press, 1993)158.
[3]Ibid., 68-69.
[4] Ibid., 213.
[5] Ibid., 167.
[6] An army with hills behind them would be in fatal terrain, making them especially dangerous. See chapter 4 of my book, Bleached Bones and Wicked Serpents.
[7] Sawyer, Seven Military Classics, 170-171.
[8] And several anonymous reviewers, one in particular, seemed especially nit-picky and ridiculous in offering criticism of that approach.