Tuesday, December 28, 2021

Ten Years Later: Antics and Insight


    I was enjoying my dead week, the weird time between Christmas and New Years, and I found a link to a post from ten years ago!!! Since it has been ten years (!) I thought I should make those thoughts more permanent and broadly available than some comments buried a decade ago. Moreover, they have some good insights that reinforce my good instincts about the heart of just warfare.  

Irony About Geoff:

    This was supposedly a grand breakthrough in Bloggernacle relations by having the Millennial Star blogger post at By Common Consent. Turns out it was a one off that didn’t change anything. In fact, just a few months ago the M* has been delisted, a decision likely made by those at BCC. My opinion is that’s a good call. The M* might have been the rare conservative blog, but they took a hard right turn into crazy town. I’m friends with several of the former perma bloggers there and they plainly admit, Geoff is just crazy. He regularly edited their posts before suddenly locking them out. This post was a mirage that seems even more strange looking back at it ten years ago.

    Specifically, this post is where I started to really dislike Geoff because of his antics. He mentioned directly to me in this thread that he already knows about various authors and discounts them. The problem was, I only posted those authors because his posts in this thread clearly indicated that he didn’t know them. Like many libertarians, he’s pretty good at parroting libertarian philosophers, and proof texting those ideas with Mormon scripture, but he is not very good at knowing or doing anything else like considering alternative interpretations.

    To compensate for that thin veneer of knowledge he and so many libertarians must rely on tactics. One of Geoff’s favorite tactics is to say he is widely read. You can read a few others here.  But his arguments don’t display that supposed knowledge, which tells me this is simply a sophistic and sophomoric tactic. I regularly encounter things like this that I wrote an article about punks and posers.

    One of the most annoying tactics is that I spend more time quoting and explicating scriptures in support of my argument then the people who attack me for being wrong!! I first noticed this trend when reviewing a prominent and nutty isolationist. Geoff does it here too when he starts with a grand assertation that provides no specifics: “after I read the Book of Mormon it was clear [its] message was one of peace, non-aggression and avoiding offensive wars.”

    Really? I know I’m in the minority about offense wars, but the scriptures are so clear I wrote a seven-part series on it and I can’t unsee the points they contain. When Geoff doesn’t provide any scriptures, clearly provides ideas that show he doesn’t understand key concepts, and then claims he knows the subject well he is praised. I provide detailed scriptures, a good explanation of them, and then I’m called a “sophist.”

    (There are several hundred comments in that link, but you can find it by hitting control F. If you’d like to see why I think libertarians are awful you will get a kick out of those comments. Though, it was such a cesspool filled with insults and lame posturing I found it unworthy of my time back then. Reading it now, it’s tough to pick the most ridiculous part. Me continuing to say best wishes even as those people were truly awful. Irven Hill, now “unknown,” admitting he was a total dick even as he called me a prick and the others claiming there was no ad hominem. Me telling them I wouldn’t participate, and them insulting me for another month, wondering if I was going to participate. All their disquiet after I told them their insults were beneath me and unworthy of my time, only for them to turn their antics up to 11. If I were a psychologist, I could write a paper on all their dysfunction, but you might just want to skip it.)  

Just War:

    But enough of visiting the asylum and on to the important material. Most of this post from ten years ago impressed me with my appreciation of basic tenets of just warfare on an intuitive level. In contrast to Geoff who claims he read material and then indicated he didn’t know them well or at all. I hadn’t read much about them (and never claimed to) but apparently knew their arguments instinctively.  So, I must give a shout out to my logical mind, natural ability, and good gut.

    After researching for a new book on just war I found that I had the right ideas a decade ago. Here is my comment about love based on research into Just War:

Yet once this pattern [of the focus on having the right heart] is recognized it permeates the Book of Mormon including many scriptures that weren’t considered pertinent to warfare. Just a few examples include Nephi’s culminating sermon which referenced those who have an unearned sense of ease in Zion (2 Nephi 28:24), and he commanded people to press forward with a perfect brightness of hope (2 Nephi 31:20). Both refer to a blessed heart and state of mind from which our actions flow.

In Mosiah the people of Limhi were in bondage due to iniquity not strategy (Mosiah 23:12) In the multiple descriptions of Captain Moroni, not delighting in bloodshed was more important than strategy (Alma 48:14, Alma 55:19, Mormon 7:4). The idealistic church set up around the Waters of Mormon stressed that their “hearts were knit together in unity” (Moaih 18:21) The war chapters repeatedly set up a dichotomy between the Nephites and Lamanites that center on war goals extending from attitudes. We might compare that attitude with the how the Lamanites are recorded as “rejoicing over the blood of the Nephites” (Alma 48:25). This could also be another ethno centric account of “barbarous cruelty” of the other side (Alma 48:24).

In Alma 43:7-8 the Lamanite are inspired by hatred and anger vs. Alma 43:9 where the Nephites fight to preserve their rights even unto bloodshed (v.14). The Nephites fight to prevent extermination (v. 11-13) of the Anti-Nephi Lehis. In the chapter the contrasts continue with the Nephite desire to defend verses the Lamanite desire to destroy and put people in bondage, again repeated in the next chapter (Alma 43:26, 29-30; 44: 2,) The text plainly states the Nephites fought for a better cause in Alma 43:45. Despite the multitude of verses cited above, this is still just the beginning of ways that the heart of the people turned out to be the most important factor in the health and protection of the realm (not to mention their souls.) Most importantly, when Christ performed his personal ministry the people lived in peace because the love of God dwelled in their hearts (4th Nephi 15).

Here is the quote ten years ago. I start by rebutting an argument that the war was over by 1943 and then use that destruction to pivot to matters of the heart:

The German army seemed spent in 1944-45 because of the significant cost spent by the allies in their strategic bombing campaign and by the Russian army winning the battles of Kursk and Stalingrad. The United States didn’t fight in Europe until 1943 and against North Western Europe until 1944 but still had 300,000 casualties. And Russia lost an estimated 8 million soldiers fighting Germany (up to 23 million deaths if you include civilians), a significant number of that was lost capturing Germany territory and Berlin in 1944 and 45. After the allies supposedly had the war in hand during the winter of 1944 the Germans still waged the Battle of the Bulge causing 100,000 American causalities. These casualties could have been avoided if Britain, France, and America were a bit more “warlike” in opposing Hitler in 1936-38. But according to some here this kind of carnage (not to mention material and monetary cost) was the better moral choice because the U.S. waited until after Pearl Harbor to fight.

Geoff correctly stated that war is full of bad choices. But nobody seemed to mention how allowing others to be raped, enslaved, or murdered by our inaction is also a lousy choice. Some here wag their finger at the “love” the U.S. doesn’t show through military action, but I contend that standing by as Serbians wage a massive campaign of rape against Bosnian women or hundreds of thousands of Africans are slaughtered by a rival tribe is a less loving choice than military action to stop it.

Here is my discussion of the importance of being sorry about taking up arms:

The mention of “unfortunate” in the previous sentence is important, as the Nephites were “sorry” to take up arms against their brethren because they didn’t want to shed blood, and send so many damned souls back to God before they could repent. (Alma 48:23) Both ideas are found and even prevalent in Christian thought. Augustine was just as worried about where the souls of dead soldiers would go as he was about warfare itself. The Medieval monk Gratian warned that force should be used for love of justice, not for love of inflicting punishment.

And my original idea ten years ago:

Hey Ron. By what basis do you define “renounce” they way you do in #57? I define it as Mormon does in Alma 48: 23-24 where the Nephites were “sorry” to take up arms but also couldn’t allow their wives and children to be “massacred by the barbarous cruelty” of those around them.

Too many people, including Mormon bloggers, have fierce debates about important topics, and many unimportant ones for that matter, and yet to borrow from Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, they only know the shadows or forms that are made on the cave wall and haven’t studied the topics in detail. This is especially true in matters of just warfare.

In short, it is important to engage popular mediums and common thought that Latter Day Saints have. So we must look at blog and social media posts and engage the ideas therein. Libertarian and pacifist ideas are popular but haven’t been seriously challenged. (My publication of the new book, Proclaim Peace, is forthcoming.)  In fact, many ideas regarding war, peace and Mormon thought are in their early stages. Plus, it’s nice to look back and see my intuitive grasp of the topic from over ten years ago. And I offered some remarks on the landscape of the bloggernacle. It is unimportant overall but it being ten years brought some additional perspective. I hope you enjoyed the post.

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Tuesday, December 14, 2021

New Book! Beyond Sun-Tzu: Classical Chinese Debates on War and Statecraft

    I'm proud to announce my new book, Beyond Sun-Tzu: Classical Chinese Debates on War and Statecraft is available for preorder. My research into Chinese military history supplies many of the great ideas found for free on this blog. I have unique insights into the nature of warfare, insurgency, military theory, just warfare and so much more. If you find value in this blog, please make sure and check out the book. I keep the prices low so it is a great stocking stuffer for you and your loved ones.

Here is the blurb:

Sun-Tzu (Sunzi) is one of the most popular and widely known military writers in all of history. His ideas have influenced statesmen, generals, and businessmen for hundreds of years in the West and thousands of years in China. But Sun-Tzu was only one of many competing voices in Warring States China, and many Chinese philosophers and leaders, as well as a few modern Western military historians have questioned the privileged status of his theories. Beyond Sun-Tzu: Classical Chinese Debates on War and Statecraft, is the first book to systematically examine the chaotic debates among philosophers in the pivotal Warring States Period.
Military historian Morgan Deane examines scores of texts from the philosophers of Legalism, Confucianism, Daoism, the Seven Military Classics, and many others to find the truly dominant ideas of Chinese thinkers, areas of disagreement, surprising points of agreement, and a sophisticated synthesis. The result forces us to fundamentally reexamine Chinese military theory and gives us the tools to understand contemporary matters. This "broad knowledge" of Chinese military theory becomes an invaluable tool to help readers better assess the strength of Communist China, the relative unimportance of super weapons, the primacy of winning the allegiance of the people to your government, the importance of timeless counter insurgency methods, and so much more.
    I'm looking for reviews so if you'd like a free copy and have a blog or significant social media following feel free to drop me a line. Thanks!

    I work as a freelance author. If you found value in this work please consider donating using the paypal button below, or you can buy one of my books.

Monday, November 1, 2021

New Jobs, New Writing


    Hello everyone. Frequent readers probably noticed my posting pattern. I try to do at least one post towards the beginning of every month. Things were different last month for a few reasons. I started several new jobs. I had two free lance positions. One of them was very much an, ug I need this to pay the rent job. The other is with the Epoch Times. The latter sounds like a great free-lance position from a financial standpoint but from a career standpoint as well. Despite the mainstream media trying to claim they are not credible; they are one of the most popular news sites in the world. Please make sure to check it out. (It may be behind a pay wall, but I’m doing my part to make sure it’s worth the price of admission.) 

    The final piece allowed me to quit that first free lance job. I’m working for a tech start up called Banq. I know they spelled bank wrong, but it is a nice and steady historian position. I’m developing new hire training and that means I’m studying all sorts of things like block chain, non-fungible tokens, and today I studied initial coin offerings. It seemed very intimidating but as I study it is new terms, but old concepts. For example, when you were a child at Chuck E Cheese you understood tokens. Non-fungible simply means that instead of interchangeable currency it is unique and not interchangeable. Blockchain sounds mysterious, or like some bling a rapper would wear, but it is the code that makes a digital ledger and tracks changes. Each block is unique, has a digital fingerprint, and every change in the ledger creates a new block in the chain. If you try to change a past block it changes future blocks and thus is easily detectable and makes the block chain an immutable record.

    This has all sorts of applications ranging from concert tickets that can be digital tickets. Digital tickets are nothing new, but it can also be a unique piece of art or (non-fungible) token that includes album art, song playlist, a code that gives you unique access to physical items like merch or concerts, and its code can give artists royalties every time it is sold, or access to an online vault of bonus material. There are secure private keys matched with public keys (the security features to verify your access to currency or NFT in the blockchain) that prevents this from becoming another Napster. The immutable part of block chains will be appealing to real estate deeds among other items. You can even include code that lets investors sell, buy, and trade, their portion of ownership in the deed far more quickly than today’s technology.  I’m dropping tons of terms, but they are simply digital uses of technology we are familiar with like ledgers, tokens, banking records, and online purchases. There is a great deal to discuss, and my job is to organize it into easy training for new employees. It is supposedly the wave of the future, so you heard it here folks. 

    I’ve also done some writing on the Book of Mormon. I received an advanced copy of, Proclaim Peace, from the Maxwell Institute. I thought their timing was good since my research on just warfare in the Book of Mormon makes this book right up my alley. My review ended up being about 6,000 words. There are four sections that outline methodological problems I found. The first was the narrative spin they had to put on scriptures to make it fit a peace narrative. They ignore stronger readings plainly described in the text for far more speculative reading that fits their narrative and politics. I already noticed this problem in discussing Mason’s previous work. The second problem was sadly common to pacifists in that they that obliterate the tension in Christian ethics between pacifism and just war. The scriptures must be carefully reconciled, but pacifists militantly focus on Christ’s mortal ministry, and ignore the rest. Third problem was that they did not address any just war arguments. They had a perfunctory summary, dismissed it as neither broad nor comprehensive, denigrated military service as a resigned acknowledgement of telestial duties and generally ignored a rich body of robust just war literature. Collectively these writers influenced Western ideas regarding humanitarian intervention, human rights, international law, natural rights that influenced the American constitution, peace keeping and international bodies. Needless to say, I was incredibly disappointed with their dismissal of such a rich body of work. The final part consists of some personal notes. I can’t wait for the reaction to my piece because the people who talk about the power of assertive love don’t even seem to like their opponents in relatively low stakes academic discussions. But I’m supposed to believe that their love will transcend ethnic strife, political tension, and centuries of conflict.  

    I think it is a good rebuttal that is representative of the importance of understanding just warfare in general, and how it interacts with the Book of Mormon. I hope to bring you the review and the book on just war in the Book of Mormon soon.

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Wednesday, September 1, 2021

When Renouncing War is a Sin: Section 98, Mormon 4, and the Heart of Just War


    Section 98 is most famous for its command to renounce war and proclaim peace. Yet at the same we have righteous Latter-Day Saints that participate in war. This makes it important to consider how one can be peaceful, or renounce war, while wielding a sword. Then this post shows then shows a rote recitation of the standard of peace, can bury important ideas in the scriptures and ideas concerning when we can and should use force.[1] The Nephites in Mormon 3 were the most justified to wage war, on paper, but their wicked hearts meant that any justification from scripture remained hollow and it provides a warning for modern members when discussing the use of force. 

    The apparent contradiction between peace and wielding the sword erases when one considers the heart. We should be peaceful and renounce war. But with a heart filled with love we take the Good Samaritan as our example. We consider how if we came upon the beaten traveler in the middle of the robbery, we would not lift his cheek so the other cheek could be beaten.[2] We would fight to protect him. This is a common thought about Christian fathers, clearly described in the Book of Mormon (Alma 43:47), and discussed extensively by Christian thinkers as I summarized here.

    Similarly, while the period is difficult to study because of its wickedness, the Book of Mormon and the Nephites in the terminal period had many just reasons for fighting.  Nephites were fighting for their home and families. At one point that motivation led them to a victory in battle (Mormon 2:3). By Mormon 3 the people had lost the Land of Zarahemla. A loss of a territory that had been theirs for hundreds of years must have been shocking to the Nephites and constituted a historically recognized justification for war.[3]  The predations of the Lamanites were well known (Alma 48:24; Mormon 9), and the suffering people would constitute the poor and the needy cited in Psalms, and subsequently quoted by the medieval Thomas Aquinas as a reason for force.[4] In short, the Nephite rights of life, home and family were threatened which seems like a classic justification for warfare seen through exemplars like Captain Moroni.

    On top of that, the Nephites were attacked twice in this incident (Mormon 3:7-8) which apparently fulfilled the Lord Law of War given to the Nephites described in Alma 48:14!! When you read all of Mormon the Nephites were attacked 25 times!!!! In fact, Mormon lists these instances in 1:8(12), 2:1, 2:4, 2:5, 2:6, 2:9, 2:20, 2:21, 2:22, 2:25, 2:26, 3:7, 3:8, 4:2, 4:7, 4:14, 4:16, 4:17, 4:19, 4:20, 4:21, 5:3, 5:4, 5:6, 6:8. Of course they were justified.

    As tough as it is to believe because of Nephite wickedness, this was one of their most justified military actions, on paper. It fulfilled several strong criteria for just war given by the Lord. But Mormon condemned the Nephites, correctly, because of their wickedness hears and most assume, incorrectly, because it was an offensive strike.  

    Most readers of the Book of Mormon take Mormon’s refusal to lead the Nephites in their offensive as a blanket probation against offensive warfare (Mormon 3:11).[5] What is left out is the Nephite wickedness and gross spiritual behavior in verses 9 and 10 that were the actual and overlooked causes for Mormon’s refusal and this causes modern readers to over rely on rote recitation of chapters like D&C 98.

    Mormon 3 record the sins of the soldiers as boasting, swearing, and avenging themselves in the blood of their enemy (Mormon 3:9-10).  Mormon 3:15 also seems to prohibit preemptive war. However, the real sin recorded by Mormon was not the offensive tactics but rather the bloodlust and vengeance that dictated Nephite strategy (v. 14). One might also say it was their false oath (to a false god?) in Mormon 3:10 that finally forced Mormon into his utter refusal. The Nephites were a people whose day of grace had passed (Mormon 2:15), and though they struggled on they were lost because of their hearts.

    We might consider the juxtaposition of two scriptures to show the difference a heart makes in determining strategy. The Nephites soldiers in this period cursed God, wished to die, but struggled on. This compared to the righteous People of Ammon, who praised God, wished to live, but allowed themselves to be killed (Mormon 2:14; Alma 24:21). The spiritual state of the Nephites that made Mormon refuse to lead them were tormented, conflicted, and unwilling to cede control of their lives. The proper attitudes were shown by the People of Ammon who praised God, wanted to do what was just, but found peace in knowing they could only do their best and might die anyway.[6]

    The key to the denunciation wasn’t the strategy or citing favorite scriptures like renouncing war but the hearts of the people making that strategy. In that spiritual state of the tormented and fallen Nephites they were doomed no matter which strategy they pursued. (They lost on the defensive too.) Yet many people use those verses not to condemn the Nephite wickedness but instead to condemn the strategy.

    This often means that many people proclaim Section 98 as their standard but can still never arrive at a just strategy. They renounce war and proclaim peace, they cite verses about the first and second offense, but don’t consider the command to “forsake their sins, and their wicked ways, [and] the pride of their hearts” just a few verses before that (v.20). Most importantly, they might see misfortune in the news and underreact by quoting section 98. Raped Yadizi women, genocide, active terrorists, Afghans so terrified they hang onto planes, and instead of supporting the use of force to stop it they quote scriptures about love.

    But without a loving heart they don’t consider the little girls suffering tremendous abuse, the millions suffering around the world, and the millions that could die in a terrorist attack, and feel that the love of God, and love for neighbor shown by the Good Samaritan should compel them to use force to stop that injustice. They have their standard, and they need no other. The verses in section 98 becomes an excuse to ignore suffering around the world when we have the power and duty to use force in the protection of the weak, abused, and suffering.  Without the key principle those who cite section 98 don’t realize that if we have the love of God in our hearts, we shouldn’t be afraid or unwilling to act around the world to deliver the poor and needy (Psalms 82:4).

    After looking at the callous refusal to help compared to the heart felt love we should have, God might tell many of these people: “If a ruler sheaths their sword and keep their hands unsullied by blood, while the wicked roam about massacring and slaughtering, then so far from reaping praise for their goodness and justice, they make themselves guilty of the greatest possible injustice.”[7] Or to paraphrase Alma 34:28: “if ye do not any of these [actions to help those suffering], behold, your [love] is vain, and availeth you nothing, and ye are as hypocrites who do deny the faith.”

    Section 98 is important, but it’s more important that we not lose sight of having a peaceful and loving heart. And that love should compel us to action when we witness suffering and have the power to stop it, not be used as an excuse to witness more suffering. We have an example of Nephites that waged sinful war despite fulfilling scripture because of their wicked hearts, and we must be careful not to be so devoted to our favorite scripture bumper stickers, that we ignore the love for our neighbor that should inspire just war. 


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[1] Adapted from, The Book of Mormon and the Historical Just War Tradition, forthcoming.

[2] Paul Ramsey, The Just War: Force and Political Responsibility, (New York: Rowan and Littlefield, 2004), 223.

[3] Michal Walzer, Just and Unjust Wars: A Moral Argument With Historical Illustrations, (New York: Basic Books, 2015),  53, 56.

[4] Gerhard Beestmoller, “Thomas Aquinas and Humanitarian Intervention,” From Just War to Modern Peace Ethics, Heinz-Gerhard Justenhoven and Jr. William A. Barbieri eds., (Berlin, Boston: De Gruyter, 2012), 71-75.

[5] Kyle McKay Brown, “'Whatsoever Evil We Cannot Resist with Our Words': An Exploration of Mormon Just War Theory” (master's thesis, University of Edinburgh,) 2012, 15. Duane Boyce, “Captain Moroni and the sermon on the Mount: Resolving a Scriptural Tension,” BYU Studies, 60:2 (2021), 127-162.

[6] Some might consider this an example of the primacy of pacifism, but this was a special case due to the wickedness of the people avoiding the sword. Duane Boyce, “The Ammonites were not Pacifists,” Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship 20 (2016): 293-313.

[7] David Corey, J Caryl Charles, Just War Tradition: An Introduction, (Princeton, Princeton University Press: 2014), 110.

Friday, August 6, 2021

The Atomic Bombing Was Necessary and Justified


    August 6th marks the dubious day in 1945 when America became the only power to use a nuclear bomb. This continues to spark controversy. There was a great deal of racial animus during the war with both sides holding disdainful views of the other.[1] Using an area effect weapon that didn’t distinguish between civilians and military targets invites condemnation.[2] The lack of military targets in Hiroshima and the dubious effectiveness of the bomb makes some people say this was terrorism.[3] After all, the Strategic Bombing survey revealing that the trains ran normally a mere two days later and this was often considered a way to stun the Japanese into surrendering and impress the Russians with the viability of the program.[4] Plus, there were supposedly peace feelers from the Japanese that made this completely unnecessary. These are all extremely flawed arguments that don’t accurately reflect the historical context, and seem like excuses to blame instead of understand.  

    The strongest attacks seem to be the peace overtures. This theory argues that the Japanese were ready for peace and only block headed generals kept the war going.  These were detailed by a revisionist historian, Gar Alperowitz and thus come long after the fact when it became more fashionable to search and promulgate these theories.[5] More importantly, they cherry pick some information and leave out much more important events that shows these peace feelers were completely impotent and the U.S. was correct when they disregarded them.

    The best evidence against this theory comes after the Japanese emperor’s decision to surrender. After the bombs dropped and the emperor wanted peace the military challenged and almost reversed the decision through a military coup. It’s incredibly unlikely that minor officials would have produced peace when the atomically convinced emperor almost couldn’t. Let me stress, even AFTER the atomic bomb dropped there were significant factions in Japan that wanted to keep fighting. Peace was not possible before the bombs were dropped. Plus, American willingness to negotiate before the bombs would have emboldened the Japanese and aggressive army generals to think that more fighting would have gotten them more concessions.

    Other critics quote leaders who sound authoritative but really aren’t. One example comes from Eisenhower who said: [I believe] that Japan was already defeated and that dropping the bomb was completely unnecessary…[6]

    But with all due respect to Eisenhower and other generals cherry picked for opposing nuclear weapons, he was thousands of miles and away and was not privy to the intelligence and decision-making councils that led to it. It would be like Admiral Nimitz second guessing Eisenhower’s decision to stop at the Elbe. Eisenhower is a particularly odd choice for opposing nuclear weapons since his New Look military relied so heavily on nukes and spooks.[7] 

    Other critics were more vocal against nuclear weapons because they were delivered by bombers and this helped Curtis LeMay argue for the creation of an independent Airforce. In turn, this would take resources and prestige away from the Navy and Army chiefs, who were incredibly territorial and wanted the air corps assets divided between them.[8] Their opposition had little to do with the qualms of modern pacifists and posting quotes from them ignores the historical context from which they were produced.

    The sad truth is that the Japanese would not surrender without the atomic bomb dropping or millions (of Americans, Japanese, and Chinese) dying from an invasion. An estimated two hundred thousand Chinese a month were dying at this point in the war. The Japanese launched the Ichigo offensive in late 1944 which was comparable in size and scope to the German invasion of the Soviet Union.[9] An invasion by American forces on the Japanese homeland would have skyrocketed those figures.

    There was the option not to fight which would have left China and much of Asia in the hands of a regime as bad as Hitler’s. You also have to wonder how long they would have felt comfortable with the U.S. in Hawaii so they would probably have attacked America again anyway. The U.S. could have continued to bomb them. The firebombing of Tokyo and conventional attacks actually caused more deaths than the nuclear bombs so that couldn’t have been a better option.

    The U.S. could have blockaded the country. Scholars argue that the U.S. had already destroyed much of Japanese shipping and merchant marine by August 1945,[10] and this may have been what Eisenhower meant by already defeating Japan, but then America would have to wait for the country to starve to death. That would have caused more deaths and in a slow manner arguably worse than two nuclear bombings. It also would have given the Japanese time to kill more Chinese soldiers and civilians. So between deaths from famine and deaths from the Greater East Asian War that option would have killed millions more. Even then, any peace offering from the Emperor would have likely faced a coup just like the surrender after the atomic bombings.

    Dropping the atomic bomb quickly ended the war which prevented the Soviets from invading as well. The first atomic bomb was dropped literally the day after Stalin finalized plans to invade Japan and he invaded a a day after the second bombing. We saw how well Eastern Europeans were treated show trials, mass deportations to the gulags, the Soviet army’s refusal to help the free Poles in the Battle of Warsaw etc., so that wasn’t a good option. You can easily argue that the Japanese Constitution and rebuilding under MacArthur was far preferable to Soviet occupation.

    After looking at the other options and strategic context in late 1945, the decision to drop the bomb was moral and justified. In fact, ending the war at about 170,000 deaths compared to the abject blood bath that awaited all sides is the reason why the allied leaders considered this weapon a godsend. The same prominent ethicist that condemned the bomb also said that ending the war swiftly with a minimum of causalities is the greatest kindness a leader could offer.[11]  Secretary of State Henry Stimson exemplified this idea when he said: My chief purpose was to end the war in victory with the least possible cost in the lives of the men in the armies which I had helped to raise. In the light of the alternatives which, on a fair estimate, were open to us I believe that no man, in our position and subject to our responsibilities, holding in his hands a weapon of such possibilities for accomplishing this purpose and saving those lives, could have failed to use it and afterwards looked his countrymen in the face.[12]

    Thus, every other alternative was far worse, but you have your pacifist, blame America, soldiers are barbaric Nazis storyline. THAT is the made up history. Again, considering every option and the context of their war the dropping of atomic weapons was justified and necessary. I hope you can use this as a resource the next time someone attacks America for this eminently defensible action.

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[1] For a good overview, see John Lynn, Battle: A History of Combat and Culture, (New York: Basic Books, 2009), chapter 7.

[2] Micheal Walzer, Just and Unjust Wars, (New York, Basic Books, 2015), 250-260.

[3] Howard Zinn, “Breaking the Silence.” ND. (https://web.archive.org/web/20071201172331/http://polymer.bu.edu/~amaral/Personal/zinn.html Accessed August 6th, 2021.)

[4] The United States Strategic Bombing Survey: Summary Report: 24.  Though it should be noted that Nagasaki was home to one of the most important military garrisons and was a foremost military shipping depot, and thus remained a valid military target. The United States Strategic Bombing Survey: The Effect of the Atomic Bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, 6.  https://docs.rwu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1000&context=rwu_ebooks

[5] Gar Alperovitz, The Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb, (Vintage Books: 2010). https://mises.org/library/hiroshima-myth

[6] Julian Borger, “Hiroshima at 75: Bitter Row Persists Over US Decision to Drop the Bomb, The Guardian, August 5th, 2020, (https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/aug/04/hiroshima-atomic-bomb-us-japan-history (Accessed August 6th 2021.)

[7] Gordon H. Change, He Di, “Eisenhower’s Reckless Nuclear Gamble over the Taiwan Strait,” American Historical Review 98 (December 1993), 1502-1523.

[8] Keith McFarland, "The 1949 Revolt of the Admirals" Parameters: Journal of the US Army War College Quarterly. XI (2): 53–63.

[9] Morgan Deane, Decisive Battles in Chinese History, (Westholme Press, 2017), chapter 12.  

[10] Strategic Bombing Survey: Summary Report, 11.  

[11] Michael Walzer, Just Wars, quoting Moltke the Elder, 47.  

[12] Henry L. Stimson, as quoted in The Great Decision: The Secret History of the Atomic Bomb (1959) by Michael Amrine, p. 197


Sunday, July 4, 2021

New Scriptures, Old Debate


[A recent post from a Facebook group. The group, Latter Day Lobsters and Sorted Saints, is awful. But it led me to produce this good summary. I particularly liked this post because it explained how Mormon debates about war and peace follow the contours of Christian thought which means we can benefit from reading those Christian thinkers.]

It's time prohibitive to comment on everything posted thus far but reading through the posts has been very enlightening.

It's ironically appropriate that the only significant response, until Slaughter started throwing Moroni under the bus and splitting hairs from section 98 was from the person that agreed with me about the lack of substance from most of the anarchist, libertarian, pacifists that dominant this group but show little of the Peterson ultra-competence. (Even though Slaughter is the only one that approached a substantive response it had serious flaws. See below.)

What strikes me the most is how much the research in my book applies to this discussion. The scriptures Mormons use might be unique, but the debates about them are extremely old. And yet, outside of a brief mention of Augustine by Tyler, there is no indication that anybody knows of that rich history of discussion by scholars like Grotius, Suarez, Vitoria, Walzer, Ramsey, Kant, and even John Locke. The shallow pacifist crowd on this page has indicated some knowledge of 20th century pacifism, and their favorite proof texts in the scriptures, but little else.

A knowledge of this rich body (explained in my book) would affect the debate in multiple ways. For example, in their book on the just war tradition out of Princeton press Charley and Cooke describe many examples of how modern pacifists wrongly elevate the Sermon on the Mount and diminish many others. They provide excellent analysis that shows why the Sermon on the Mount is a personal code and that and other scriptures clearly allow the use of force and warfare.

With knowledge of that intellectual trend and a strong debunking of that method in mind (even if they disagree), the shallow crowd here would be much more cautious about diminishing Moroni's comments on warfare in favor of their Sermon on the Mount pacifism. I guffaw every time I see it because it's like they volunteer to be the basic bitches of the pacifist movement AND they do it while having a condescending and mocking attitude towards their opponents.

Studying the rich intellectual tradition behind just war would also show there are many scriptures that suggest the Sermon on the Mount is not a silver bullet that supersedes all else. John the Baptist didn't tell the soldier that came to him to retire because it disagreed with Christ's gospel (Luke 3:14). Jesus didn't tell the soldier that came to him to retire, but praised his faith (Matthew 8:8-10). Jesus himself didn't turn the other cheek when struck (John 18:23). And of course, Romans 13:1-4 receives heavy treatment because it grants the state permission to use power and calls them God's servants. Those are just a few of the scriptures.

Of course these justifications on paper can be abused in practice, which leads to even more thought and strong guard rails in the form of caution and caveats from the theorists. Very smart people for thousands of years have covered this subject in every way, and applied it to rather sticky questions while also coming up with ideas like international law and human rights. (See Grotius and Vitoria respectively.) The failure of pacifists to recognize that when they cast their sophomoric emojis it's simply one more example of their dilettantish approach to the subject.

Getting back to the Bible, Paul Ramsey made the strong case that the love a Christian has for their neighbor explained in the parable of the Good Samaritan not only justifies, but REQUIRES the use of force. (Which is a major reason why I don't really buy the whole justified but not righteous interpretation of section 98.)

Ramsey asks the simple question, if the good Samaritan happened upon the beaten traveler, in the middle of the being beaten and robbed, would he not intervene to protect him? It would be ridiculous to assume he would hold up the other cheek of the beaten traveler and doing nothing would breach the love of neighbor that Christ was trying to teach.

Even more widely, there is a false dichotomy between the Sermon on the Mount and the just use of force that few on this site recognize. It has to do with the hearts. Christians can be peace loving in their hearts, fulfilling the commands in the Sermon on the Mount, while also using the love for God and their neighbor to protect their neighbors by participating in warfare, as shown by the thought experiment with the good Samaritan.

This wasn't something I invented to have my cake and eat it too as I try to squirm out of Mormon pacifist’s proof texting section 98 about renouncing war and proclaiming peace. (Which is an attack that has been levelled at me. At least those critics used words so they have you beat.) But it is something that goes back to Augustine and has been expounded upon since then. My favorite quote comes from Martin Luther about how physicians can saw off a leg, with all the associating screaming, squirting blood, and horrible sound of grinding through bone. But they are praised for it because they are trying to save the patient's life. https://opensiuc.lib.siu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi...

In short, the scriptures are different, but the contours of the debate and even the tactics used are extremely familiar as people would know if they studied more than a handful of pacifists.

If you liked any of my posts I encourage you to read some of my chapter drafts on my next book and offer feedback. Thanks!

Thursday, June 3, 2021

Jeremy Runnells is a Total Poser

    I commented over on Hanna Seariac's facebook page about what she labels as men unfairly flexing their power against a less powerful female. 

    So I think Runnells schtick is hilarious and read his response for kicks and giggles. [It is long, but hit control f and type Hanna.] 

    What's ironic to me is that Runnells ignores the implication in your post that you should do better research and then claims that your post is a thought stop technique. Then two paragraphs later he calls the CES a "head jack" and links to a picture of some robot with a hole for downloading information. The article says its the port that connects you to the matrix. That screams cultish programming to me so apparently Runnells has as little grasp of irony as he does scholarship.

    But then in his own post he says it's "simply a letter," "not a thesis for a Phd," not a "textbook" or "dry scientific paper," and not "rigorous" which sure sounds like he agrees with you.

    Yet in the same breath he claims his CES letter leads into his line by line debunking, which he implies, is the pinnacle of in depth research because it is thousands of pages of rebuttals. I've looked at the rebuttals that intersect with my research and he is laughable. For example, here he simply invokes "science" while being factual incorrect, ignorant of history, and not having a good grasp of the research and analysis that makes strong conclusions. 

    The truth is that Runnells is a total poser. He takes the mantle of scholarship and all the associating benefits and prestige when it suits him, and runs away from the burden of creating and defending scholarship when used to critique him.

    This explains why he can take offense at your criticism of the letter not being serious research at the same time that he says it's not a rigorous piece of scholarship, and right before he invokes his debunking articles as the final word of serious scholarship. He's the best scholar in the world, except when he has to defend his "research," and then he isn't.

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Thursday, May 6, 2021

Bad Quotes and Good Ideas


    I have a new book coming out, someday, called Beyond Sunzi: Classical Debates on Chinese War and Statecraft. The book was exciting to write as I showed how various strands of Chinese thought interact with each other. I mention it here, besides venting my frustration at glacial publishers, because I see lots of false quotes with somewhat catchy ideas with no sources that don't pass the smell test. Here is a link to many of the worst quotes.

    What’s interesting though is that many of these lousy or fake points are related to good points found in Chinese writing. This post lists a bunch of fake quotes followed by good ideas that are represented in classical Chinese theory (and sometimes elsewhere.)  Because I’m so often responding to memes that have no sourcing at all, I’m making sure to show you the translation and page number I take it from.

 "A leader leads by example, not by force?"

    This has some relation to the teachings of Shen Pu Hai (Shenzi.) He talked about a ruler's need to display inaction or a placid mirror, so his ministers don't try to change their opinions to curry favor. This is more of a Daoist kind of actionless action.[1]

"Sweat more during peace: bleed less during war."

    This sounds a bit like a description of the Roman army by Josephus where he says that Roman training maneuvers were like bloodless battles, and battles like bloody maneuvers.

"If quick, I survive. If not quick, I am lost. This is 'death.'"

    The cadence sounds correct. Classical writing often follows something called the four-character formula. Mao’s basic rules for guerilla warfare was so popular and easier to remember because they were 4 sets of 4 character formulas. Because of the strong stylistic resemblance, it could be from a bad translation of Sunzi though I’ve read multiple translations and still don’t recognize it. 

    Sunzi often talked about quick wars, fast movement, and seizing something the enemy wants. On quick wars, “a victory that is long in coming will blunt their blades and dampen their ardor.”[2] On forcing enemy movement, “One who excels at moving the enemy deploys in a configuration to which the enemy must respond. He offers [or seizes according to Sun Bin] something which the enemy must seize.[3] Moving quickly was something that Confucians valued.

"Victory is reserved for those who are willing to pay its price."

    The points sounds like this from the Wei Liaozi, though this line is disputed (see the next point). "I have heard that in antiquity those who excelled in employing the army could bear to kill half of their officers and soldiers."[4]

"Who does not know the evils of war cannot appreciate its benefits."

    I don't know ANY author that would say this. Sunzi stressed the benefits of winning without battle mostly due to the high material cost of warfare (see above). Confucians would point to the needless loss of life. Legalists would be upset at the economic impact of losing so many farmers/ taxbase. I tried to get, "wading through blood and treading through guts" into my title because that summarizes how pretty much every writer found battle.

"When you understand what suits the terrain…investigate the rules for marching and formation…White blades meet; flying arrows are exchanged; you wade through blood and tread through guts; you cart the dead away and support the wounded; the blood flows for a thousand li; exposed corpses fill the field; thus victory is decided. This is the lowest use of the military."[5]

    Sun Bin, a purported lineal descendant of Sunzi, advised against commanders that employ them like tossed chunks of earth and grass.[6]

    The writer considered the prototypical Confucian minister, Guanzi, said that if the people were forced to crack the bones of their children for cooking then the state uproots itself.[7]

"The King is only fond of words, and cannot translate them into deeds."

    This one sounded close to something but is not in Sunzi’s text. It is in the history about him. After executing the king’s concubines because they failed to follow orders correctly the king dismissed the army. Sunzi responded to him, “Your majesty only likes the words, he is not able to realize their substance.”[8] That is a close enough translation, but it is not in the Art of War!! Moreover, his concept of punishment was disputed by many, including Sun Bin who said it wasn’t urgent.[9]

"Convince your enemy that he will gain very little by attacking you; this will diminish his enthusiasm."

    The general point is echoed in many places. Sunzi talked about displaying profit to entice the enemy and dampening their chi by waiting to attack. Sun Bin and Wuzi talked about how to manipulate the enemy. Here is the former:

The enemy’s generals are courageous and difficult to frighten. Their weapons are strong, their men numerous and self-reliant. All the warriors of their Three Armies are courageous and untroubled. Their generals are awesome, their soldiers are martial, their officers strong, and their provisions well supplies. None of the feudal Lords dares contend with them. How should we strike them?

To strike them, announce that you do not dare fight. Show them that you are incapable; sit about submissively and await them in order to make their thoughts arrogant and apparently accord with their ambitions. Do not let them recognize your ploy. Thereupon strike where unexpected, attack where they do not defend, apply pressure where they are indolent, and attack their doubts.[10]

"In peace, prepare for war. In war, prepare for peace."

    At first glance this sounded like a Latin phrase, and it is indeed: If you want peace prepare for war.

"Even the finest sword plunged into salt water will eventually rust."

    This echoes a point that Confucians would make about the importance of character, proper rites, filial piety and the dangers of a corrupt state. Xunzi talked about nations that had the sharpest swords, highest mountains, toughest armor, and yet because they forfeited the mandate of heaven they fell.

"The men of Ch’u make armor out of sharkskin and rhinoceros hides, and it is so tough it rings like metal or stone. They carry steel spear made in Yuan, sharp as the sting of a wasp, and move as nimbly and swiftly as a whirlwind. [Notice the reference to swift movement.] And Chu’s troops were defeated at Chiu sha and their general Tang Mei, was killed; and…the state was ripped apart. Surely this did not come about because Chu lacked stout armor and sharp weapons. Rather it was because its leaders did not follow the proper way."[11]

    Confucius wrote that "an inhumane man cannot long abide in comfort."[12] And: "Only when the year turns freezing cold do we realize that pine and cypress are the last to winter."[13]

    Wei Liaozi wrote: The perfected man [chunzi] does not stop criminals more than five paces away….If you flog a person’s back, brand his ribs, or compress his fingers in order to question him about the nature of his offense, even a state hero could not withstand this cruelly and would falsely implicate himself.[14]

    As you can see, these are bad quotes but good ideas. Some are real quotes that are attributed to someone else. But most of these are bastardized ideas that have little relation to Sunzi and some relation to Chinese thought if you know Chinese well enough. Luckily, I do and have a book about it coming out soon. The zi/ tzu ending in Chinese means master, and they were masters of their craft. It’s a shame people don’t put much energy into learning from such great texts, many of which are translated and easily available, but rely on diluted ideas and fake quotes.

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[1] Herlee Creel trans., Shen Pu Hai: A Chinese Philosopher of the 4th Century, (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1974), 249, 351.

[2] Ralph Sawyer trans., The Art of War, in The Seven Military Classics of Ancient China, (New York: Westview Press, 1993), 159.

[3] Ralph Sawyer trans., Sun Bin: The Art of Warfare,(Westview Press, 1995), 165, 186. One line reads: cause the enemy to roll up his armor and race far off.

[4] Sawyer, Wei Liaozi in the Seven Classics, 276.

[5] Andrew Seth Meyer trans., Huainanzi, by Liu An, chapt 15, (New York: Columbia University Press), 103.

[6] Sawyer, Sun Bin, 200.

[7] W. Allyn Rickett, Guanzi: Political, Economic, and Philosophic Essays from Early China v.1, (Princeton: Princeton University press, 1985), 294.

[8] Spring and Autumn Annals as quoted by Sawyer, Seven Classics, 151.

[9] Sawyer, Sun Bin, 90.

[10] Sawyer, Sun Bin, 169.

[11] Burton Watson trans., Xunzi: Basic Writings, (New York: Columbia University Press, 1963), 71-73.

[12] Chicung Huang, The Analects of Confucius, (London: Oxford University Press, 1997), 67.

[13] Ibid., 107.

[14] Sawyer, Wei Liaozi, 258.