Friday, May 24, 2019

Publications and My Newest Book on Modern Chinese Strategy

IISH / Stefan R. Landsberger / Private Collection; Recruiting poster from the 1970s. It is the cover of my book and I like how it shows a different facet of Chinese history than dragons or Western stereotypes. 

I’ve got many exciting non Book of Mormon news to share. I published a piece about supposedly new technology revolutions in two different places. Both Real Clear Defense and The National Interest are national publications with wide audiences so they represent good feathers in my cap.

Today, May 24th, I checked Real Clear Defense where a piece of mine was also published. It was on Sunzi and China’s possible preemptive war.  All of this becomes a nice preamble for my biggest news. It wasn’t on the Book of Mormon so I didn’t talk about it much here, but my book on modern Chinese warfare dropped yesterday. It’s listed at a great price and you don’t have to take my word for its quality, as all of the publications linked to above are from the same author, using the same base of knowledge, and some parts of the above pieces came from the book!! They were good enough for leading publications so they should be good for your coffee table too.  

The title is Dragon’s Claws with Feet of Clay: A Primer on Modern Chinese Strategy. The first half of the title acknowledges that China is doing scary things, but the second half of the title suggests that China isn’t nearly as powerful as the click bait articles say. If you are reader of this blog you probably already know and like my writing style, it’s just on a slightly different subject. Considering China is in the news on a weekly basis you will amaze your friends and be the smartest person in the room after reading this book. Make sure to grab your copy today!!

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Notes on Book of Mormon Insurgency from Late Roman History

I’ve been trying to go through the entire thing, but I haven’t made it through yet. I have found some great material that reinforces what I’ve said about insurgency before and provides insights into the Book of Mormon generally. Amminaus Marcellinus was a late Roman historian that provides valuable insight and as Hugh Nibley said, when we come to expect an outrageous collection of potpourri we instead find confirming context.
14.2.1-2: For the Isaurians  too, whose way it is now to keep the peace and now put everything in turmoil by sudden raids, abandoned their occasional secret plundering expeditions and, as impunity stimulated for the worse their growing boldness, broke out in a serious war. For a long time they had been inflaming their warlike spirits by restless outbreaks, but they were now especially exasperated, as they declared, by the indignity of some of their associates, who had been taken prisoner, having been thrown to beasts of prey in the shows of the amphitheatre at Iconium, a town of Pisidia—an outrage without precedent.
And, in the words of Cicero,  as even wild animals, when warned by hunger, generally return to the place where they were once fed, so they all, swooping like a whirlwind down from their steep and rugged mountains, made for the districts near the sea; and hiding themselves there in pathless lurking-places and defiles as the dark nights were coming on-the moon being still crescent and so not shining with full brilliance—they watched the sailors….[then attacked] and since their natural ferocity was fired by greed, they spared no one, even of those who surrendered, but massacred them all and without resistance carried off the cargoes, led either by their value or by their usefulness.
The key comparisons are in bold. This list could get quite long but just a brief look includes “being stirred up to anger” (Helaman 11: 24) and the next verse was “murder and plunder…done from wilderness and secret places” (11:25). They, or their lambskins, were died in blood being great and terrible and recalls wild beasts (3rd Nephi 4:7). Speaking of beasts Gildas described mountain insurgents as a hive of bees (1.26). They used their tough terrain to hide and defeat Nephite armies: “sally forth from the hills, and out of the mountains, and the wilderness, and their strongholds,” (3rd Nephi 4:1). (More on the Nephite army’s defeat below) “Get gain” (Helaman 7:21) is repeated frequently throughout the books of Helaman and 3rd Nephi speaking to their greed.

The most interesting part might be the outrage that stoked them to war. It’s not very popular to say it, (I’ve been called a Marxist Schmuck for doing so) but a critical reading suggests that Nephite misrule gave the robbers legitimate complaints.

From my 2016 FAIR presentation:  
There is evidence that the Gaidnaton Robbers were really just seeking land reform. At the end of this phase of conflict in 3 Nephi 6:3, the peace treaty specifically included distribution of land. It reads that Nephite leaders granted unto those robbers who had entered into a covenant to keep the peace… “lands, according to their numbers, that they might have, with their labors, wherewith to subsist upon; and thus they did establish peace in all the land.” That’s a rather odd peace treaty. If we take a straight forward reading of the text, the Gadianton Robbers revolt for no good reason beyond being influenced by the devil, and having a lust for money and mayhem. After many years of battle and devastation they caused, when they are finally defeated in epic battle they got…more land? And the next verse described the “equity and justice” of the peace (3 Nephi 6:4), which at least infers that those qualities were lacking in Nephite laws and might have inspired the insurgency in the first place.
Moving back to Amminaus:
14:2.5-6 Anger at [the slaughter of their people by the robbers] aroused the [Roman] soldiers quartered in the numerous towns and fortresses which lie near those regions, and each division strove to the best of its power to check the marauders as they ranged more widely, now in solid bodies, sometimes even in isolated bands. But the soldiers were defeated by their strength and numbers; for since the Isaurians were born and brought up amid the steep and winding defiles of the mountains, they bounded over them as if they were a smooth and level plain, attacking the enemy with missiles from a distance and terrifying them with savage howls. 
And sometimes our infantry in pursuing them were forced to scale lofty slopes, and when they lost their footing, even if they reached the very summits by catching hold of underbrush or briars, the narrow and pathless tracts allowed them neither to take order of battle nor with mighty effort to keep a firm footing; and while the enemy, running here and there, tore off and hurled down masses of rock from above, they made their perilous way down over steep slopes; or if, compelled by dire necessity, they made a brave fight, they were overwhelmed by falling boulders of enormous weight.
In addition to reinforcing the view of the Isaurians as a scary other and the ethno centric stereotypes we see about Lamanites from the Nephites in the Book of Mormon, I think this is simply a more detailed version of the defeat of the Nephites in Helaman 11:27-30:
Now behold, these robbers did make great havoc, yea, even great destruction among the people of Nephi, and also among the people of the Lamanites. And it came to pass that it was expedient that there should be a stop put to this work of destruction; therefore they sent an army of strong men into the wilderness and upon the mountains to search out this band of robbers, and to destroy them. But behold, it came to pass that in that same year they were driven back even into their own lands… And it came to pass in the commencement of the eighty and first year they did go forth again against this band of robbers, and did destroy many; and they were also visited with much destruction.
The Book of Mormon doesn’t say explicitly say this but the defeat recorded above implies it and the history Ammianus’ record provides the likely details. If I were asked to comment on terrain in general I would have suggested that rough mountain terrain would prohibit the deployment of broad military fronts, and mountain dwellers with specialized weapons (slings and boulders), as well as sure footing would prevail. In fact, in discussing the effects of Moroni’s reforms on the Nephites after he passed away as a national hero, I suggested that their heavy armor was a negative in fighting these bands. As I summarized on page 112:
It gave [the Nephites] a tactical advantage in some areas, but also made them more susceptible to fatigue and the hit and run tactics of their enemies. This cost them strategic mobility which allowed robbers to flourish in more inhospitable regions. The heavier infantry may have inspired the hit and run tactics and mountain hideouts of the insurgents. The greater logistical need of the heavy infantry couple with their inability to operate in rough terrain led to an increase of banditry in the land.
14.2.7: Therefore extreme caution was shown after that, and when the marauders began to make for the mountain heights, the soldiers yielded to the unfavourable position. When, however, the Isaurians could be found on level ground, as constantly happened, they were allowed neither to stretch out their right arms nor poise their weapons, of which each carried two or three, but they were slaughtered like defenceless sheep
 As I just wrote, heavy infantry is great on the plains and gives the counter insurgent forces a tactical advantage. The Romans gained the advantage by luring them out on level ground, and the Nephites won their climatic battles against the Gadianton Robbers by doing the same thing.


This has been a brief overview of what I see as a typical insurgency found in a few short verses from a late Roman historian. The Isurians were viewed as a barbaric and ferocious other, who subsisted on plunder, with complaints against the central government. They were excellent in the mountains and could defeat armies there but when they tried to plunder in the plains they could be caught and defeated.

On a larger point, this once again shows that my writings about insurgency in the Book of Mormon are not radical revisions for those who know history and military history. Heavy infantry has trouble in the mountains, ancient historians depict other ethnic groups negatively, states have trouble extending control in difficult terrain, rebellious groups can cause problems but often don’t have the state apparatus (taxes, agriculture, military) to overthrow the central government. The Book of Mormon fits comfortably within the context of an ancient insurgency and we need to the read the book with the same critical eye that we read other ancient histories.