Friday, August 5, 2022

Moral Clarity on the Anniversary of the Atomic Bombings

 


[Updated and expanded from previous posts.]

    August 6th marks the dubious day in 1945 where America became the only power to use a nuclear bomb. This continues to spark controversy. From 1945 to 2005 American approval of the bombings has dropped from 85 to 57 percent. And a record low number of Americans are proud of their country. This is somewhat understandable as societal attitudes change and there is a great deal to critique over the decision. But it might also be what the editors at the National Review recently pointed out is part of the crisis of self-doubt gaining traction in America and what Wilfred McClay called a deeply unserious country that doesn’t believe in itself. Yet a proper study of the history surrounding the decision to drop the bombs and an examination of ethics finds the bombing was both justified and necessary.

    During the war both sides held a great deal of racial animus towards one another, which suggests the bomb might have been more willingly used because of racism.[1] Though, the bomb wasn’t ready in time to end the war against Germany so that is hard to gauge. 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 revealed 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] (Though it should be noted that both cities had important military components. Nagasaki for example, was home to one of the most important military garrisons and was a foremost military shipping depot, and thus remained a valid military target.) Plus, there were supposedly peace feelers from the Japanese that made this completely unnecessary.

    As I will show below, these are all extremely flawed arguments that don’t accurately reflect the historical context and seem like excuses to blame American and undermine moral confidence today, instead of understanding the tragic but justified decisions of the past.

    The strongest criticism seems to be the peace overtures. Who doesn’t want the war to end early? This theory argues that the Japanese were ready for peace and only block headed, blood thirsty, and maybe even racist generals kept the war going. These were detailed by a revisionist historian, Gar Alperovitz and thus come long after the fact when it became more fashionable to search and promulgate these theories.[5] More importantly, this theory cherry picks some information and leave out much more important events that shows these peace feelers were completely impotent and U.S. officials were 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 army leaders 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 didn’t. Let me stress, even AFTER the atomic bombs were 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 dropped 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. Many of these quotes also ignore historical context. One example comes from Eisenhower who said: [I believe] that Japan was already defeated and that dropping the bomb was completely unnecessary…[6]

    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] Those that blanche at the use of nuclear weapons and hate the national security state should probably avoid quoting a general that as president, threatened to use nuclear weapons in the Taiwan Strait crises, and unleashed CIA sponsored coups on democratically elected governments in Iran and Guatemala that still reverberate today.

    Other military critics were vocal against nuclear weapons not because of moral principles, but because of parochial rivalries. The bombs 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, had differing strategies and demands, and wanted the air corps assets divided between them.[8] Thus it isn’t surprising to find that admirals would elevate the role of commerce raiding in the defeat of Japan and minimize the “barbaric” “toy” dropped by the budding air corps. Their opposition had little to do with the moral concerns of the time and are especially dissimilar from modern antiwar sentiments. In fact, the admirals preferred a blockade of the Japan that would have slowly killed millions, and the army preferred an invasion that would have also killed millions (see below.)

    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. The East Asian victims of Japanese aggression are often forgotten in Western centric debates over the war. But 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] Nationalist Chinese leader Kiang Chai Shek had seen a great deal of bloodshed, but called this period the worst of his entire life. An estimated two hundred thousand Chinese a month were dying at this point in the war. An invasion by American forces on the Japanese homeland would have skyrocketed those figures. Secretary of War Stimson estimated that 400,000 to 800,000 Americans would have died, (including 100,000 prisoners of war that were set to be executed upon invasion), and 5 to 10 million Japanese would have died from an invasion.[10]

    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. Yet one has to wonder how long the imperial Japanese 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. The admirals at the time and later scholars argued that the U.S. had already destroyed much of Japanese shipping and merchant marine by August 1945,[11] 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. Its effects would have been unevenly felt across the population. With the elites that caused the war suffering far less than the population that fought it. It also would have given the Japanese army in China more time in their genocidal war against China. So between deaths from famine and deaths from the Greater East Asian War that option would have killed millions more than the bombings. Even then, any peace offering from the emperor would have likely faced a coup just like the surrender after the atomic bombings. Keep in mind that the admirals who argued for this possibly unjust and criminal course are the same admirals being quoted out of context today for entirely different reasons than the military leaders originally intended.  

    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 day after the second bombing. The Soviets treated Eastern Europeans to show trials, mass deportations to the gulags, the Soviet army’s refusal to help the free Poles in the Battle of Warsaw etc., so it was a good option to end the war quickly and prevent the negative effects of Communist rule seen in East Germany and Eastern Europe even today. 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 for mere hundreds of thousands compared to the abject blood bath and millions of deaths that awaited all sides is the reason why the allied leaders considered this weapon a godsend. Even though Michael Walzer opposed nuclear weapons, he also said that ending a war swiftly with a minimum of causalities is the greatest kindness a leader could offer.[12]  Secretary of War Henry Stimson exemplified the latter 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.[13]

    In short, every other option than using nuclear weapons was worse. Taken in vacuum nuclear weapons are horrific, but that weapon wasn’t used in a vacuum and its incredibly unfair to blame America for being barbarians while ignoring the context that justified and compelled their use. This is probably because few have studied military ethics in depth, they simply think that some things are “bad.” But again, considering every option and the context of their war the dropping of atomic weapons was justified and necessary. The war was ended more quickly, saving lives, including millions of Asian lives.

    Americans and members of the church must rightly hope to avoid the tragedy of any having any conflict. But Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine sadly reminds us that the specter of war can never be vanquished with hopeful thoughts. Americans can recognize that war, particularly defending life against the most genocidal regimes of the 20th century, was necessary, and the atomic bombings were a necessary and justified choice in World War II.  And every American should strive to have the knowledge and tools to properly judge the morality of the past, which in turn provides the moral confidence to justly proceed in the present.

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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.  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] Frank, Richard B. (1999). Downfall: The End of the Imperial Japanese Empire. New York: Random House, 340.

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

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

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

 

Friday, July 1, 2022

Outrage and Fighting for Life: Insights from Brad Wilcox to Abortion, via Ukraine

 


    When the war in the Ukraine started it was mere weeks after Brad Wilcox gave a controversial speech. I noted with irony and anger that many commentors wrote more often and more passionately about the supposed racism and sexism of Brad Wilcox than the actual deaths in Ukraine. Here you see at least five articles, from February 8th to the 15th, attacking Wilcox in strong terms. Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24th, and you see two tepid articles about the war in Ukraine. Both are rather generic that talk about food storage and the impact on missionaries, and another that reposted the church’s statement on peace followed by some grousing about the church’s position. Eventually, they talked about refugees, and the church in a time of troubles. Even over a longer time frame they produced fewer articles with none of the emotion that Wilcox inspired.

    I sardonically noted at the time, maybe if Putin gave a speech about "the blacks" and "the gays" then American liberals and isolationists will start to give a damn about his slaughtering innocents. In a moment of dark humor, after I noticed the inconsistent pattern to Wheat and Tare bloggers they posted a three part series about the dangers faced by homosexuals in Eastern Europe!!!!!

    Fast forward a few months and no one really cares about Ukraine anymore. Even though this week the Russians targeted a shopping mall filled with innocent people we already read many that question the need for continued aid.  The controversy of the day is the abortion ruling, but I have a long memory and can compare different reactions. With the tepid fight for Ukrainian life in my mind I read with interest this person's thoughts who seems ready to join the fight...to defend abortion.

    The author of the article tried to summon their inner Churchill and used the word "fight" a zillion times in addition to rather vivid imagery about battle wounds. The use of the word “fight” is odd coming from the same crowd that calls excommunication spiritual violence and barbaric. Putting aside the hypocritical use of violent rhetoric when it suits them, we should consider the ends that rhetoric is used for.

    Looking at their history on the blog, the author of fighting for abortion had nothing to say about the slaughter of innocents in Ukraine. Just a couple weeks after the war started, she did a three-part post on domestic violence. That is important, but I think the wide scale violence of war might be worth mentioning too. The author did say that "silence is violence" regarding LGBT issues. Overall, they have lots of passion and "fight" for the right to slaughter babies but very little fight against the wide scale suffering in Ukraine.

    To summarize from what I’ve learned in the Brad Wilcox fiasco through the Russian invasion of Ukraine and overturning of Roe v. Wade: gay people, “the blacks,” domestic violence, and the right to kill babies: Those are fighting words, except when fighting words are used to excommunicate liberals. The actual slaughter of innocent men, women, and children, including babies in the womb: shrug. Lets talk about the impact on missionaries in Eastern Europe or my pet passion for gay people.

    Lives are important. (You might even say all lives matter if that hadn’t been cancelled.) And when people being slaughtered through war or slaughtered as a means of convenience to a better life and back up birth control, it is wrong. (You’ll notice I left out cases of rape, incest, or life of the mother. As a military ethicist I recognize that while killing is wrong, sometimes, while still regrettable[Alma 48:23], it is necessary and just.)  

    The outrage that people show reveals their true intentions. Brad Wilcox inspired outrage because he touched upon items that are vitally important to some groups. Even though Putin’s invasion of Ukraine was the most aggressive military action I’ve seen since World War II, very few felt passionate about it, and fewer had those feelings long term. Though as I pointed out at the time, the problems that led to war don't vanish in a just a few weeks because there is something new and shiny to argue about. The potential conflict requires more than your standard talking points but thoughtful and sustained study that challenges your assumptions and demands your time even if it’s not click bait in your news feed. The recent supreme court decision has become the new shiny thing. But we must maintain moral perspective for all life and recognize that some people have skewed priorities that make them care about a poor speech from a church and killing babies more than truly Hitler like invasion and slaughter.

I work as a free lance author. If you found value in this work please consider donating using the paypal button at the bottom of the page or buying one of the my books linked to the top left. 

Monday, June 20, 2022

Case Closed? On President Nelson's Peace Talk


 

    Last April President Nelson commented on matters of war and peace during his addresses. His words seem authoritative. But if we examine longstanding issues the church has seen before this is not the case.  This post explains his words, the competing ethics in the scriptures, and the way church leaders apply the gospel during times of war using historical examples. They show that President Nelson’s words about bringing peace, are only one part of the story and his words in general were more narrow than past church leaders during times of war.

    He commented on the war during his Saturday and Sunday talks. On Saturday he said:

[Christ’s] gospel is the only enduring solution for peace. His gospel is a gospel of peace. His gospel is the only answer when many in the world are stunned with fear. This underscores the urgent need for us to follow the Lord’s instruction to His disciples to “go … into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.” We have the sacred responsibility to share the power and peace of Jesus Christ with all who will listen and who will let God prevail in their lives.

    On Sunday morning he said:

Any war is a horrifying violation of everything the Lord Jesus Christ stands for and teaches. The Savior commanded us to turn the other cheek, to love our enemies and to pray for those who despitefully use us. It can be painfully difficult to let go of anger that feels so justified. It can seem impossible to forgive those whose destructive actions have hurt the innocent. And yet, the Savior admonished us to ‘forgive all men.

My call today, my dear brothers and sisters, is to end the conflicts that are raging in your heart, your home, and your life. Bury any and all inclinations to hurt others — whether those inclinations be a temper, a sharp tongue, or resentment for someone who has hurt you. … We are followers of the Prince of Peace. Now more than ever, we need the peace only He can bring. How can we expect peace to exist in the world when we are not individually seeking peace and harmony?

    Case closed right? We should seek peace and stay out of conflict. Unfortunately, President Nelson makes the same mistakes that past church leaders and theologians have. He only presents one ethic when there are actually competing ethics in scriptures. In fact, when compared with past president his words are more narrow and one sided.  

    In my  forthcoming book on just war I describe what happened during World War II:[1]

McKay acknowledges some of the competing ethics found in the New Testament but takes great pains to minimize those that support the use of force. He says those instances of Jesus using force, or using the sword, do not refer to a foreign policy. But ironically, he does so by narrowing the scope of Jesus’ words and deeds, even as McKay [and now President Nelson] take the opposite approach and maximize the Saviors teachings about peace in the Sermon on the Mount to directly apply to foreign policy. If one assumes that Jesus’ teaching that he brings the sword is not “any justification for one Christian nation's declaring war upon another,” then in the same vein, the command of Jesus to turn the other cheek should be considered a personal standard and not a guide to foreign policy.

    President Hinckley also spoke about war and peace and offered different insights. He started, unlike President Nelson, by acknowledging the “contradictions of the peace of the gospel and the tides of war.” He recognized the duty for citizens to obey their sovereign authority, and for soldiers to obey the oaths they made. He acknowledged the right to protest as part of renouncing war and proclaiming peace in section 98.

    But the majority of his talk offered scriptures in support of just warfare:

When war raged between the Nephites and the Lamanites, the record states that “the Nephites were inspired by a better cause, for they were not fighting for … power but they were fighting for their homes and their liberties, their wives and their children, and their all, yea, for their rites of worship and their church.

“And they were doing that which they felt was the duty which they owed to their God” (Alma 43:45–46).

The Lord counseled them, “Defend your families even unto bloodshed” (Alma 43:47).

And Moroni “rent his coat; and he took a piece thereof, and wrote upon it—In memory of our God, our religion, and freedom, and our peace, our wives, and our children—and he fastened it upon the end of a pole.

“And he fastened on his headplate, and his breastplate, and his shields, and girded on his armor about his loins; and he took the pole, which had on the end thereof his rent coat, (and he called it the title of liberty) and he bowed himself to the earth, and he prayed mightily unto his God for the blessings of liberty to rest upon his brethren” (Alma 46:12–13).

It is clear from these and other writings that there are times and circumstances when nations are justified, in fact have an obligation, to fight for family, for liberty, and against tyranny, threat, and oppression.

    It can be seen here that President Nelson was hardly the final word on the subject. In fact, compared to the scriptures, and previous statements from Presidents McKay and Hinckley, his was one sided and borderline superficial. He is the current leader, and quoted Jesus, so most many members will declare the debate over and use this a cudgel against those who believe differently.

    Mormon doctrine is not found in single statements from church leaders. The scriptures and modern-day leaders have competing ethics regarding war and peace. And the strongest ones, like those from Presidents Mckay and Hinckley, account for all the scriptures. Weaker ethics instead latch onto some and ignore others and they don’t maximize their own while simultaneously minimizing others (something that Mason and Pulsipher do in their book as well). Those that believe in peace don’t take a prophet’s words about peace, and then unironically use them to start rhetorically violent fights against their fellow saints. But that is what happens often.  (But don’t worry, “they don’t wish to offend.”)

    President Nelson offered some good words on peace. I share the same wish for peace on Earth. Unfortunately, the desire for peace in the face of unchecked slaughter is what Thomas Aquinas called an evil peace.[2] And I can’t support a peace that allows slaughter, regardless of some superficial remarks in conference from the current leader of the church.

I work as a free lance author. If you found value in this ad free research please consider donating using the paypal button at the bottom of the page, or considering buying one of my books off Amazon linked in the top left. 

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[1] “Message of the First Presidency,” One Hundred twelfth Annual Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, [1942], (Salt Lake City; The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 90-94.)

[2] Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, 40, article two, answer to objection 4. https://www.newadvent.org/summa/3040.htm (Accessed September 5th, 2021.)

Friday, May 6, 2022

Book Review: Proclaim Peace



I'm proud to present my review of Proclaim Peace! The whole thing is too long to repost on this blog but see the whole thing here. The following is a few thoughts I had on its release: 

 What I found is that Latter Day Saints usually don't think about these matters that much. They have some gut reactions and at most, they add some new scriptures to what is a very old debate. But very few have read the great thinkers who informed the debate. Most people probably think Francisco Suarez is a nice place to visit in Mexico. As a result the scriptures they cite, even the new ones that seem clear, are asserted in isolation from other verses and from that rich tradition, which makes the ethic weak and unconvincing.

All of that occurred in the book I reviewed. They have thought through their position more than most, but mostly as a way to have Mormons, mostly liberal scholars like themselves, be accepted into the pacifist club, instead of really developing a broad and comprehensive ethic using restoration texts.

So on that note you can consider this review a sneak preview of the book I've got coming out on just war. As you can read below, I use much more than the preaching of Ammon and section 98. I never really considered myself an ethicist. But I've been trained by the best, from Sunzi, to Francisco Vitoria to Mormon so here is it is. Please like, read, and share. 

Saturday, April 23, 2022

The Gadianton Raid!

 


[An excerpt from my upcoming book on just warfare in the Book of Mormon.]

    The text contains enough information to recreate the raids on scattered settlements that made a consolidation so needed and may have made a defense pact with the Gadiantons more attractive to the people than dying for the far away Nephite government. The people at this point in Nephite history had spread throughout the land and were likely in small settlements that had few or little soldiers (Helaman 3:3). When Mormon came from the sparse territories in the Northern lands, he was so impressed he thought the central lands had so many people they numbered the “sands of the sea” (Mormon 1:7). And even those built-up territories were susceptible to a quick attack (Helaman 1).

    Upon seeing the attackers in the distance the farmers would have little time to react, even King Noah on his tower had little time to alert his people (Mosiah 19:6). Not too unlike their ancestors the people outside of the central lands would be out in the fields or with their flocks when they realized the danger (Mosiah 11:16-17). They would have to flee so quickly from their fields their pregnant women would be trampled (Helaman 15:2). When they reach their homes, they had a decision faced by peasants throughout time. The average peasant didn’t have much, but the prophets often criticized the people for their attempts to “get gain” (Helaman 6:8; 7:5), so they could try to hide whatever treasures they had and flee or fight (Helaman13:18-20). 

    Samuel made sure to point out that their spiritual loss was more important than their physical treasures, but it was a sign of the bankruptcy of both as he quickly moved on to the great physical destruction brought about by their wickedness (Helaman 13:21). If they tried to fight, their swords were “taken from [them] in the day we have sought them for battle,” useless against such a horde bent on destruction (13:34). Again, this reinforces the point that one’s spiritual state is more important than strategy as it was the wickedness that caused the people’s impotence. (The same people seemed more powerful when their imminent destruction brought them to their knees in prayer, 3 Nephi 4:8). The people faced swirling demons (Helaman 13:37), which could represent the chaotic orgy of death and destruction that surrounded the hapless peasants in a Gadianton attack that the people’s running, hiding, or fighting couldn’t stop.

    Readers have focused on Samuel’s spiritual message. But Samuel’s speech wasn’t simply an exemplary sermon about Christ and the need for repentance. I argue that he took an event that was quite common, the raid of Gadianton robbers, and used the utter fear and despair felt by their victims to explain spiritual principles and drive home the need for repentance. Maybe there were even some refugees in Zarahemla listening to his speech. Much like Biblical writers, he took violent spiritual events that seemed to overwhelm society but used robbers instead of Babylon or Assyria.

I work as a free lance author. If you found value in this work please consider donating using the paypal button at the bottom of the page, or buy one of my books linked in the top left. 

Thursday, March 3, 2022

Fainted But Not Fallen: Learning From The Stripling Warriors

 


I delivered the following to the unofficial Las Vegas Singles Conference over President's Day Weekend. It's been a busy time for a military analyst but I wanted to post this before too much time had past. I hope you enjoy it.

    Thanks so much for having me. I attended these conferences for years. Being the geek that I am I mostly attended the classes, and being the guy that I am I mostly stayed for the food. I was very disappointed that it was cancelled but very pleased that some unofficial version of it has been recreated. I hope everyone is having a good time and learning a great deal…and maybe meeting a few people. 

    Before we get started, I wanted to highlight a few things from my background that might help enhance the message I’m going to share. I wasn’t always going to be a military historian. It was what I love studying the most but as an undergraduate I was told that you can’t really have a career in military history. So, I applied to various programs around the country with specialties in other areas. But I got rejected from all of them. I was questioning my ability, feeling like a failure, and wondering what I was going to do moving forward when I found a military history program. It was online, expensive, and not very well known so it was kind of a gamble. But I did it, and it was great. I received advanced training in what I have always loved. The rest is…history eh eh eh. Not only do I specialize in military history, but I also regularly teach, publish, and present on the subject. That success was because I failed. I can’t imagine doing anything else and I don’t know if I would have specialized in military history if I succeeded at first. 

    Going back farther than that, I served in the Marine Corps. After I discuss some of the military history about wounded soldiers suffering from combat stress, I’ll give you some application. Those applications might sound indulgent or lazy. I’ll talk about this more after I set the stage, but I expect all of you are really good at giving yourself the Mormon version of the Patton speech, but not very good at paying attention to your mental health and emotional needs.  So, it’s important to realize that when this crusty old Marine who knows a thing or two about sucking it up and pushing through it, suddenly talks about mindfulness, and self-help, you should give yourself a break too.

    The final point is simply that I’m single too. I know that you can get good advice from any source. Yet it does get kind of annoying when you’re getting advice from someone who’s single experience consists of marrying the first person they dated six months after their missions when they were 21. As some of might feel in back or knees every day, 21 was a long time ago. I’ve been single for awhile like many of you here, and I hope that helped me really personalize the message for you today. 

    With those personal notes out of the way we can get to the scriptures. The Stripling Warriors were always very inspirational. I read all the war chapters during boot camp and appreciated them a great deal. The young men sacrificed their own happiness to march off to war, and fulfill an obligation for their parents, who had covenanted not to take up arms. And the young men had so much faith they trusted their commander to lead them into battle. It’s recorded in Alma 57 that they fought and to the great astonishment of Helaman, not a single one of them had died. 

    But many of them had fainted due to their battlefield wounds. In Alma 57:25 and 26 we read:  And it came to pass that there were two hundred, out of my two thousand and sixty, who had fainted because of the loss of blood; nevertheless, according to the goodness of God, and to our great astonishment, and also the joy of our whole army, there was not one soul of them who did perish; yea, and neither was there one soul among them who had not received many wounds.

    And now, their preservation was astonishing to our whole army, yea, that they should be spared while there was a thousand of our brethren who were slain. And we do justly ascribe it to the miraculous power of God…

    What impresses me about this scripture, and it forms the central point of my talk, is the treatment of those who fainted was no different than those who hadn’t. All of them received many wounds, and those who fainted from them weren’t put in a different category that had less faith. They weren’t considered doubters cast off from God because their wounds made them stop participating in the battle. They were described in verses 19 and 20 of Helaman 57 as “firm” and “undaunted.”   And yet even though they were faithful- to use modern terms they were rms, went to church, attended seminary, and were considered valiant youth- they still faced wounds in battle to the point that at least for a time they couldn’t continue the fight. 

    How long they were out of the fight depended on the care they received. We have some clues from scriptures that discuss the care of wounded soldiers. Alma 6:40 indicates that the Nephites had an understanding of herbs used to cure fevers. Alma 4:20 suggests Alma the Elder was wounded in battle and he recovered enough to lead the nation and preach for years. The survival of these individuals suggests medical care on the battlefield, though the majority of cases refer to off-field treatment. We don’t know what care the Stripling Warriors received. Alma 58 concludes the account of the war in that theater. It included garrison duty, but also daring maneuvers of Helaman’s small army. So, it is possible that they were in that army, or they convalesced for quite a while in garrison duty.

    Either way they would likely have mental scars that lasted far longer than their physical wounds. Surviving a battle often left both long-term physical and psychological scars. Our knowledge of conditions like post traumatic stress, and combat stress as we’ll see below is rather new but suffering from it is not a uniquely modern experience. Shakespeare suggested that victorious soldiers would reminisce every St. Crispin’s day, and those who didn’t participate in battle would “hold their manhood cheap” or feel like less of a man for missing the battle. Yet in reality, those who survived battle still suffered a great deal. Many people lost limbs, walked with a limp, or held battle scars. Captain Moroni died at the relatively young age of 43 shortly after the war (Alma 43:17; 63:3), allowing for the possibility that his life was cut short because of the rigors of the campaign, the lingering effects of his wound in Alma 52:35, and the stress of nearly 20 years of constant combat and campaigning.

    Lisa Hawkins and Gordon Thomasson writing for what is now the Maxwell Institute employed a methodology used to describe survivors of the Holocaust and found that both Almas, Amulek, Jacob, and especially Mormon and his son Moroni showed elements of being survivor witnesses to incredible carnage. 

    The Stripling warriors survived the battle, and were considered faithful. But they likely needed mental support after the battle and for the rest of their lives. Thankfully, we have modern research that indicates how that might have looked in the immediate sense of combat stress, and how that can look generally as they and we pursue our spiritual goals 

    One of the modern terms we know best is called Shell Shock. This was first reported in British soldiers who reported the symptoms of head wounds- things like a ringing in their ears (which having TMJ I relate to), amnesia, headaches, dizziness, tremors, and hypersensitivity to noise- without reporting any head wounds. By World War II this had been identified as combat stress disorder, which occurs during combat, as opposed to post traumatic stress which is long term and after combat. Combat stress includes symptoms like fatigue, slower reaction times, indecision, disconnection from one's surroundings, headaches, hyper vigilance, nausea, and the inability to prioritize. Many of these symptoms are like regular stress we face in everyday life. Where the body’s reaction system is left in the on position, with resulting flooding of chemicals into our brains and bodies, which in turn produces physical challenges. 

    The difference between World War I and II was seen in the treatment of those soldiers. It remained poorly understand early on and as a result it wasn’t treated very well. There was confusion regarding how it was caused, if it was more physical than mental, and how closely related to battle it really was. Shell shock related to physical conditions like close artillery fire and concussions in the British army resulted in the soldier receiving a wounded stripe and qualification for a pension. If the shellshocked soldier was not closely related to a shell explosion they were labelled as sick and that soldier was not entitled to the wounded stripe or pension. 

    Going back to the Book of Mormon, it would have been like attaching an asterisk to the fainted Stripling Warriors and only praising those who didn’t succumb to wounds. Thankfully, by World War II the identification and procedures for handling combat stress was much better. It was recognized as a combination of physical and psychological stress and in high intensity combat scenarios- think the Battle of the Bulge in World War II- could be just as common as physical injuries. 

    These simple methods addressed two competing factors that often complicated treatment. Both factors had to be accounted for at the same time but were often contradictory when seen in the soldier. First, there was an overwhelming physical reaction and need to get away from combat. And the second was a feeling that they needed to stay strong and prove themselves IN combat, and that they were letting down their friends who were still fighting. In short, and to repeat this important point, you had people who physically felt compelled to flee combat but also the compelling urge to stay in combat. It is no wonder their nervous systems went crazy, because they were being pulled apart from the inside. 

    Accounting for these competing principles in dealing with combat stress are the most import part of understanding the spiritual concepts of being fainted without fallen like the Stripling Warriors. You won’t get this from other speakers who got married at 21 like it was no big deal and have stayed married, or the usual homilies you hear so often at church that never help. 

    But being single is painful. 

    You see everyone else get married. For year after year and eventually decade after decade you wonder when your turn will ever come. You go on hundreds of dates, thousands of church activities, say millions of prayers, give yourself the same pep talk over and over again and nothing ever changes. You have to endure everyone’s meet cute stories in sacrament meetings, you get told that you can get married after you die, which is the Mormon version of better off dead. You have bad date after bad date to try and remedy the problem, and you get accused of being sinful, mean, or jealous if you roll your eyes at any of the above examples. 

    At a certain point, like the soldier in the trench, or the Stripling Warrior in battle the pain is too much, and you have to faint, or get away from the battle. Your nervous system and body are telling you that you need a break. That is the first point of combat stress, to get away from the pain. 

    The second point exists at the same time, and it is most important to a Mormon audience. The second point is that you worry over feeling like a failure. You want to show faith in God, build the church, raise righteous kids and worry that fainting from the fight means you have failed in all of those goals.  

    I’ve lived this so I know it well, but Mormons are really good at putting pressure on themselves instead of recognizing their own mental health needs.  In other words, you are really good at prioritizing the second imperative, the notion that you are Saturday’s warrior and can’t give up the fight, instead of the first notion, that the pain is too much and you need some rest and recovery before you have a mental breakdown or leave the church for good.  

    As a result, you end up being the combat stressed soldier, that no one ever treats for stress. You already know why that is, because you’ve internalized the mantras to the point that you probably hate yourself for even feeling point number one, or the desire to get away from the pain. The mantras include: You don’t have enough faith; you don’t try hard enough to make meeting memorable. You don’t have a positive attitude for the lame singles activity. There are no boring meetings only boring people. You have to endure to end and return with honor.  I could go on. 

    Yet, the Stripling Warriors were allowed were enough space to feel both. They exited the battle, its true, but remained faithful. Allied soldiers were fighting Hitler, and they were allowed a break from the battle. You are a beloved child of Heavenly Father, Jesus died for you, you can give yourself a break too. 

    And the techniques for dealing with combat stress aren’t that complicated. One British officer summarized it pretty simply: for emotional cases, unless they are very bad…give him a rest at the aid post if necessary and a day or two’s sleep, [hot shower, and warm food, then] go up with him to the front line, and, when there, see him often, sit down beside him and talk to him about the war and look through his periscope and let the man see you are taking an interest in him.

    Put simply, they let the soldier go to the rear areas. In most cases, it was only a couple miles from the front.  Sometimes simply a warm meal, shower, and good night’s sleep for a couple days was enough to get them battle ready. The leaders cared about the soldier’s life and emotional wellbeing. So, a short break from the combat relieved imperative number one, to get away from the pain, and some self help with the expectation that their break was temporary, was enough to get them back into battle and obviate imperative number two, the feeling that you are letting down your fellow soldiers and country. 

    It isn’t an exact comparison, but we can make some spiritual points here that are very clear. Most singles are good soldiers, but there comes a point when the battle pains effect every faithful member.  The Stripling Warriors showed you don’t have to feel split in two by denying either of them. 

    Let me say clearly, if any experience, attending church, singles events, reading scriptures, going to the temple- is painful, so much so that you feel like you’re bursting your emotional stiches, stop doing it. It is okay to prioritize your mental health. If attending church is too much, you can do something else until you feel emotionally healed enough to go back. Go to the park, watch church videos. And because you’re good at those Patton speeches I have some scriptures that will help. Jesus has said plainly in John 4:24 that he is spirit, and you can worship him in spirit and in truth. Alma asked the Zoramites in Alma 32:11, “do you suppose you can only worship God in your synagogues once a week?” If the singles activity isn’t something you want to do, stop doing it. Host your own movie and pizza night instead. If the temple experience isn’t helping, try reading some books about it instead, or simply enjoy the lush courtyard instead of the ceremony. 

    This is where my Marine Corps experience comes in handy to make me sound authoritative. I was a corporal and had to put my foot in the rear end of people that wouldn’t perform. And I’m telling you, it is okay to prioritize your mental health at the expense of your church obligations. At worst you have fainted, but you haven’t fallen and like the Stripling Warriors there is no asterisk by your name for supposedly having less faith because you attend to your emotional pain and stress. 

    Perhaps more importantly we might look at Moses. I first heard this scripture from a psychologist at a past singles conference. He treated, basically, overworked LDS housewives, that were so worn out that they were committed for psychiatric care. In Exodus 18 the father-in-law of Moses came to him. Moses was working all day hearing the cases brought before him and leading the people. Moses said he had to do this because the people needed him (or in other words, imperative number two for those suffering from combat stress.) But Jethro’s advice addressed imperative number one, the need to address his mental health, he said, “What you are doing is not good. You and these people who come to you will only wear yourselves out. The work is too heavy for you; you cannot handle it alone.” 

    The psychologist at the conference hammered this point home with personal application. How many people would Moses have helped if he drove himself mad? How many members of your family are you helping if you’re in the car sobbing in between meeting at church? How many people is that relief society president helping when she’s in the white padded room?  You aren’t living the blessed life God wants you to if your stress has made you numb and on the verge of a nervous breakdown. In that fraught mental state, you aren’t enjoying the sunset, smiling and laughing with your kids, providing service to your neighbor, or doing any of the good things that God wants for your full and happy life. I’ve been watching the Office. And if you can relate to Michael, who was so stressed and hurting from life that he saw a train in the background and start sprinting towards it, you aren’t going to advance the work of God. And most importantly, you aren’t going to meet your eternal companion by hoping they’re making themselves miserable the same time you are. 

    You’re more likely to attract someone while living your best life. Be mindful of your stress and anxiety. Make sure you are eating and sleeping.  Fill your life with good activities and hobbies. We all have this fear that maybe we will never find someone to marry. If you don’t, at least you are still living in a way that gives you the best chance of making yourself happy. You aren’t waiting for someone else to come along before you start living. 

    In summary, if the things in the above paragraphs applied to you, then you might be a fainted soldier, but not fallen. You can give yourself treatment to get back into the fight. If you’re computer has virus you take it into the shop. You get your broken car fixed right away. But you won’t take the time to deal with the trauma, and yes, I mean trauma, of being a single, divorced, or gay member of the church. Like the Stripling Warriors, or shell-shocked rifleman in the trench, you may feel the need to withdraw from combat, but it doesn’t have to be long term or bad for your spiritual health. 

    I tried to offer a theory based on the Stripling Warriors and likened that story to combat or just plain stress, and the great emotional pain of being single in a church. I then gave advice about how to be fainted without fallen by giving yourself time to heal. This involved two major imperatives: You want to remove the pain at the same time you struggle not to betray the cause and disappoint God. Hopefully I given you some good advice that addresses both imperatives. 

    The modern member who is fainted but not fallen might not look like a traditional member of the church for awhile. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t faithful, they don’t care about the fight, and they aren’t trying their hardest to rejoin the fight as soon as possible. They are attending to their combat wounds by increasing their mental health. They might be staying active in nontraditional ways. Because they care about their mental health, they are likely far more sensitive to their fellow warriors who might seem ready to faint, but are unnoticed by any of their church leaders. 

    As you do these things you will be granted greater calm. Like the Stripling Warriors in Alma 58:11 they could feel God’s Spirit speak peace to their souls. As you heal, eventually you’ll be able to rejoin the fight and be a member that is considered no less faithful than the fainted Stripling Warriors. 


Tuesday, March 1, 2022

Loving Neighbors By Standing Up To Their Slaughter

    


    I'm proud to present my article published at Public Square Magazine.  It reflects my sincerely held beliefs combined with a rigorous synthesis of the Book of Mormon and the heritage of just war thought. That means you'll find keen insights from people like Thomas Aquinas, Hugo Grotius, and Paul Ramsey, and how they interact with obvious scriptures like the Title of Liberty in Alma 46:12, but also ones that don't seem obviously applicable like Alma 34:28. Most Latter Day Saints have a basic conception of these theories, but have never truly thought them out or studied the great thinkers that have. I think it is a compressive and motivating statement about Ukraine, but also an excellent preview of my upcoming book. I hope you read it and enjoy. 

I work as a free lance author. If you found value in this work please consider supporting more of this ad free research by either buying one of my books linked in the top left, or donating using paypal at the bottom of the page. 

Saturday, February 26, 2022

Who is our Neighbor? Ukraine and the Christian Duty


    The following is a response to an LDS isolationist that wrote an apology for Putin here. I thought it was a concerning argument because it minimized the Christian duty that Latter Day Saints should have to stop the slaughter of Ukrainians. I reprint it here because, frankly, I'm kind of offended that an expert on the topic is so blithely censored by someone who claims to love liberty. 

    My response is also a sneak preview of an article I wrote for Public Square Magazine. I think it is a pretty good public statement on the Ukrainian crisis from a military historian with an upcoming book on military ethics.

    For my military analysis on the invasion please see my articles from the Epoch Times, particularly the Temptation of Isolationism, which applies to article I'm rebutting here, and Patterns in the Dust, which tells you what to notice and learn from the Russian performance. As they have stumbled in the early days to meet their goals I think it was particularly keen.

    Also notice below how much more closely I align to scriptures and major thinkers on the topic than the writer who deletes me for not "contributing" to the conversation. Without further ado:

    It's very concerning that your response to the most blatantly unjustified and nakedly aggressive war that I've ever seen is to try and make the issue grey. And you do so by claiming there are nefarious actors manipulating us into war, and by using a skewed history, from antiwar.com lol, to try and claim there are really no good guys. 

    You say you aren't excusing the invasion, but then you pretty much do by blaming NATO for it, linking to posts saying we should have recognized Russian territorial ambitions, and claiming we are manipulated if we think there are good and bad guys. 

    I agree that peace is the highest goal we should all strive for. But standing idly by in the name of peace as people are slaughtered is uncaring and frankly, un Christian. John Calvin called standing by while people are slaughtered the greatest injustice. Thomas Aquinas labelled situations like that an "evil peace."

    Catholic theologian Paul Ramsey summarized the point simply when he asked, what would the Good Samaritan have done if he happened upon the beaten traveler in the middle of the attack instead of after it? It is absurd to think in the name of peace (or the Mormon version of the impulse, renouncing war), he would have picked up the other cheek to be struck. Or posted a meme about peace or filter as he watched it. Maybe he would have lectured other would be interventionists that try to stop the beating about peace while giving a long tendentious history of Jewish bandit relations. 

    Clearly, the Good Samaritan would have done something, up to and including the use of force to stop it. That impulse doesn't stop because the scale is bigger or you have ideological filters and geopolitical quibbles. And that motivating love for our neighbor is before we consider clear Book of Mormon verses that plainly teach we shouldn't let those we love be killed by the "barbarous cruelty" of aggressors. Or the very plain, "ye shall defend your family unto bloodshed" (Alma 48:24; 43:47). 

    The Ukrainians are our neighbors. Despite your attempts to muddy the waters  they are more so than the Samaritans were to the Jews. (Which is why Jesus chose a good Samaritan and not a good Pharisee, wiseman, or libertarian to illustrate that love).  And all the talk of peace in your post is really a deflection from the loving obligation we owe to our neighbors. 

I work as a free lance author. If you found value in this work, normally I'd ask for a donation. But in this case please donate to an appropriate charity that will help the people of Ukraine. 

Monday, February 14, 2022

Now Available! Beyond Sun-Tzu: Classical Chinese Debates on War and Statecraft


    I'm proud to announce my newest book, Beyond Sun-Tzu: Classical Chinese Debates on War and Statecraft is now available for order. Here is the book blurb and I'm still looking for reviewers if you're interested: 

    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.

Friday, January 21, 2022

Fear and Hatred in Zarahemla

 

Nationalist Chinese WW2 Propaganda Poster 

    Kendal Anderson is a libertarian writer (I originally put thinker, but as you’ll see, I think that is too generous,) with a new blog called Book of Mormon Perspectives. I wasn’t expecting to find much, but I was curious about what he had to say and found an amazing series of poor arguments that turned out to be right in my wheelhouse. What follows is a brief review of his ideas and supporting evidence that shows how an author can use a string of faulty or vague statements to build an argument that appears compelling but falls apart upon cursory examination.

    The review begins in the section called “Fear and Hatred.” (That section plus the famous movie inspired the title of this post.) There is so much wrong is so little space my rebuttal goes mostly line by line, but I suggest you read a few paragraphs to get a gist of his argument and then read my breakdown.

    We don’t start out too bad. He starts by quoting Alma 48:1-2 and the use of towers by Lamanite leaders to disseminate anger inducing sermons that will eventually inspire the Lamanites to war. Those scriptures are important. Though propaganda is more easily disseminated in modern age so using a modern term without the distinction between ancient and modern isn’t the best foundation.  Moreover, as I was checking past writings about the use of modern concepts in an ancient book, I found a paragraph I wrote that is frighteningly like the argument Anderson is about to build:

He [builds his argument about propaganda] by quoting a modern writer [discussing] the use of modern mediums in a modern society.… He then advanced his conspiracy theories with an uncited quote from Ezra Benson [and] he admittedly ‘imagines’ what Amalickiah says. Unsurprisingly, it sounds like George W. Bush’s rationale for his foreign policy. 

    Using modern concepts and inventing quotes are tactics you will see Anderson commit as you read below. I don’t discuss it here, but Anderson also used a book from a close associate of Ezra Benson so my description of their playbook holds up well. All quotes are from his section on fear and hatred unless otherwise cited.

Group hate, based upon fear of a foreign enemy, can make murderers out of average citizens, who can be easily persuaded to support an unjust war when a ‘strong leader’ declares it.  

    Group hate can make people do those things, but the author mentions hatred as the only assumed reason for war. He ignores the long Christian tradition that war can be based in love. A long line of historic thinkers from Augustine all the way to the modern Catholic theologian Paul Ramsey talked about love and the latter used the story of the Good Samaritan as a justification for warfare that is directly opposed to hatred. Anderson also misquotes the term strong man and says strong leader. That may not seem like a big deal, but when a person is building an argument out of a house of cards it matters.  

We all saw this happen in 2003 when Bush declared an unconstitutional war on Iraq with no evidence of WMDs.

    There is no indication, primary source, or statement that shows hatred inspired the Iraq war. The United States was attacked on 9/11 and as a result they responded to Taliban that sponsored the terrorists, and Bush preemptively attacked a long-standing source of terror. People can debate the soundness of those reasons, especially in Iraq, but neither are necessarily derived from hatred. To support his contention Anderson needed to provide evidence.

    Also, it’s popular to complain that there was no declaration of war, but the authorization of force from congress was functionally the same. This ranks up there with “we’re a republic and not a democracy,” and “the civil war didn’t end at Appomattox” that are annoying, pettifogged facts people use to sound smart but don’t really mean anything. Finally, that congressional resolution which authorized the war listed many valid reasons beyond WMDs, though that was the one most focused on by the Bush administration. 

Even the supposed prophet of God, Gordon Hinckley, capitulated to government propaganda in a talk called War and Peace.   

    I highlighted the bold word and members of the church can assess if that is the proper way to speak about prophets. Propaganda is also a loaded term. I talk a great deal in my first book, and elsewhere, that many terms are used for their emotional value and not for their descriptive value. So, when I see an emotionally charged word it’s a clear signal that his argument is based upon emotion and not facts, which is supremely ironic considering the author’s main argument is that governments use fear inducing propaganda to inspire war. In my review of Anderson’ book I relied upon Richard Hofstader’s famous description of the Paranoid Style in American politics, and part of that style is becoming what you oppose. It shouldn’t surprise me that Anderson uses fear and hatred in building a case about how evil governments use fear and hatred.

    Moreover, he is on poor factual ground as well. My mentor when I was an undergraduate wrote a book about war time intelligence and his take, published shortly after the Iraq war, was that the administration presented the worst case, least likely scenario about WMDs, but that isn’t necessarily lying or propaganda.

[Hinckley] was wrong; the intelligence was faulty. He should've quoted the Book of Mormon and spoke out against unjust war.

    I again bolded his sustainment of the prophet. I would like to know which verses Hinckley should have quoted. In addition to Anderson being vague, President Hinckley did quote Alma 43:45-47 along with numerous other scriptures. I suspect Anderson wanted something more to his liking, but he should have been more specific.  As you’ll read in my review of a recent book on Mormon pacifism, there are verses in restoration scripture and the Bible that can be used to support both just war and nonviolence. (Mormon thought is so preliminary on the matter that many discuss and argue about the topic as though they alone have the answers or they’re the first ones to notice the tension between peace and war.) A vague denunciation of the prophet for not quoting “the Book of Mormon” is useless.

The Nephites were nationalists just like we Americans are. It is easy to hate the idea of a foreign people that you've been taught is an enemy.

    This is a broad statement that needs support, especially because there are verses that directly contradict this idea. Alma 48:23 says the Nephites were sorry to take up arms and send so many unprepared souls to meet God. That is the opposite of hatred and suggests a loving heart that wanted to avoid war. This is before we consider Ammon, the former crown prince who was so concerned about Lamanite salvation he evangelized to them. If this isn’t an ethno-centric exaggeration, it was the Lamanites that taught their children to hate (Mosiah 10:17). As I described at the beginning of this piece, nationalism, like large scale propaganda, is a modern concept. Thus, the author must provide specifics to show a premodern form of nationalistic propaganda that equals modern America.

This is why very few Americans care when drones kill foreign women and children; they are part of the abstraction, the collateral damage.

    Again, this follows the playbook I described at the top. Anderson provides pure fiction about the average American. If he relied on facts and not creative fiction to support his arguments he would know that Americans generally support drone strikes against terror targets, but that support drops a great deal if it causes civilian casualties. While any death is tragic, there is a robust body of thought that governs the morality of double effect, and this body of thought guides policy makers. The argument that Americans hate the world so much that they condone the indiscriminate killing of civilians is a lazy and wrong argument.

[Quoting Alma 25:26] Let us take up arms against them, that we destroy them and their iniquity out of the land, lest they overrun us and destroy us.

    This is a very important verse but not for the reasons the author thinks. First, let us consider that he ignores the Christ like love that Ammon had for the Lamanites which inspired his mission, but then he selectively uses Ammon’s words when they seem to support his theory that Nephites were hateful. Second, Ammon’s mission inspired a series of events that caused the death of innocent Nephites. A short summary of that post includes how Ammon’s mission was successful because of his martial skill. It caused the death of many of his converts, resulted in the Lamanite attack on Ammonihah (which was seen as God’s punishment of that wicked city), caused innocent civilians around Noah to be captured. And required a massive battle to recover them. That battle resulted in God’s punishment of the Amalekites, but also resulted in the death of many innocent soldiers.  All of which supports the idea that maybe Nephite policy makers that wanted to “take up arms…and destroy them” had some merit to their preemptive war.

Kill the abstraction before they kill us. We are better than them; they are savages and terrorists. We should just nuke the entire Middle East. They are little more than animals. They won't stop until we are all dead so we should kill them first. Don't let them practice their religion here. Every Mosque is a terrorist cell. Throw them all in Guantanamo and torture em. Go Murica!

    This is in quotes, but I’ve never heard any person or policy maker say anything remotely like this. It figures that the only direct quote from this author is a fictional straw man to show the platonic ideal of a fearful and hateful American. Once again it matches my description of libertarian arguments at the beginning of this piece. The author is vague or silent when it comes to citing scriptures and data to support his claims but suddenly verbose when inventing fictional American hatred.

The human mind is more powerful than the world's most advanced quantum computer. There are no limits to the amount of knowledge and data it can hold. Our potential to learn new concepts and store them in our brains is limitless.

    This is the merciful and massively ironic conclusion to his piece. The human mind is amazing, but significantly less so when filled with ideological blinders and lazy thinking.

    The author’s piece isn’t as revelatory as he would like us to believe. His piece shows how conspiracy theorists and posers can sound convincing without knowing or showing much. They take a bunch of vaguely familiar ideas without supporting evidence, mash them up, start stacking, and after a paragraph or two the argument starts to sound authoritative. But that’s only an illusion. When you take the time to examine each idea, as I did above, and then provide evidence for those rejoinders, the reader finds that strong man was incorrectly transposed as strong leader, the hatred of Americans and Nephites were invented, basic ideas of just war like the loving heart and doctrine of double effect ignored, the Iraq war was authorized by congress, President Hinckley did quote clear verses in the Book of Mormon that support just war, the author’s scriptural support is nonexistent or selectively used and so on. Truly, this author has an appearance of scholarship, but without the logical command of details to have the power of scholarship (2 Tim 3:5).

I work as a freelance writer. If you found value in this work please consider donating using the paypal button at the bottom of the page, or you can buy one of my books using the link in the top left.)