Fear, Honor, and Ophelia?

The ZP comment filter didn’t preserve the Greek so I’m posting what was originally a comment here:

The two passages in Attic Greek (with Thucydides’ phrases bolded) are:

Thuc. 1.75.3:

ἐξ αὐτοῦ δὲ τοῦ ἔργου κατηναγκάσθημεν τὸ πρῶτον προαγαγεῖν αὐτὴν ἐς τόδε, μάλιστα μὲν ὑπὸ δέους, ἔπειτα καὶ τιμῆς, ὕστερον καὶ ὠφελίας.

Thuc. 1.76.2:

[2] οὕτως οὐδ᾽ ἡμεῖς θαυμαστὸν οὐδὲν πεποιήκαμεν οὐδ᾽ ἀπὸ τοῦ ἀνθρωπείου τρόπου, εἰ ἀρχήν τε διδομένην ἐδεξάμεθα καὶ ταύτην μὴ ἀνεῖμεν ὑπὸ τριῶν τῶν μεγίστων νικηθέντες, τιμῆς καὶ δέους καὶ ὠφελίας, οὐδ᾽ αὖ πρῶτοι τοῦ τοιούτου ὑπάρξαντες, ἀλλ᾽ αἰεὶ καθεστῶτος τὸν ἥσσω ὑπὸ τοῦ δυνατωτέρου κατείργεσθαι, ἄξιοί τε ἅμα νομίζοντες εἶναι καὶ ὑμῖν δοκοῦντες μέχρι οὗ τὰ ξυμφέροντα λογιζόμενοι τῷ δικαίῳ λόγῳ νῦν χρῆσθε, ὃν οὐδείς πω παρατυχὸν ἰσχύι τι κτήσασθαι προθεὶς τοῦ μὴ πλέον ἔχειν ἀπετράπετο.

A note by E. C. Marchant accompanying 1.75.3 on Perseus places this phrase in its original historical context:

28. ὑπὸ δέους—fear of the Persians. τιμῆς—the honour enjoyed by Athens when she had once accepted the ἡγεμονία. ὠφελίας —interest.

In other words, a historical sequence of…

  1. δέους
  2. τιμῆς
  3. ὠφελίας

1.76.2 merely harks back to 1.75.3.

Google Translate translates 1.75.3 as “awe then and price afterwards and benefit” and 1.76.2 as “honor and awe and benefit“. Perseus translates ὠφέλεια as “help, aid, succor“. Perseus’ online Greek-English Lexicon (originally published in 1940) lists these definitions:

A. help, aid, succour, esp. in war

II. profit, advantage

2. source of gain or profit, service

3. esp. gain made in war, spoil, booty

Paul’s koine uses ὠφέλεια in Romans 3:1:

1 Τί οὖν τὸ περισσὸν τοῦ Ἰουδαίου, ἢ τίς ἡ ὠφέλεια τῆς περιτομῆς;

The King James Version of the Bible rendered Paul thus thirty-one years before Hobbes:

What advantage then hath the Jew? or what profit is there of circumcision

My preferred alternative study Bible (my church uses the KJV), the NASB (1995), translates Paul:

Then what advantage has the Jew? Or what is the benefit of circumcision?

Jerome translated Paul into Latin as:

quid ergo amplius est Iudaeo aut quae utilitas circumcisionis

The word is also used in Jude 1:16:

οὗτοί εἰσιν γογγυσταί, μεμψίμοιροι, κατὰ τὰς ἐπιθυμίας ἑαυτῶν πορευόμενοι, καὶ τὸ στόμα αὐτῶν λαλεῖ ὑπέρογκα, θαυμάζοντες πρόσωπα ὠφελείας χάριν.

KJV:

These are murmurers, complainers, walking after their own lusts; and their mouth speaketh great swelling words, having men’s persons in admiration because of advantage.

NASB:

These are grumblers, finding fault, following after their own lusts; they speak arrogantly, flattering people for the sake of gaining an advantage.

Vulgate (Latin):

hii sunt murmuratores querellosi secundum desideria sua ambulantes et os illorum loquitur superba mirantes personas quaestus causa

ὠφέλεια Anglicizes as ópheleia. It’s derived from ὄφελος (ophelos). It goes back to Proto-Indo European (PIE):

From Proto-Indo-European *obʰelos, from *h₃bʰel- (whence also ὀφείλω (opheílō)). Cognates include Old Armenian աւելի (aweli, “more”), յաւելում (yawelum, “I add”).

Some reconstructions of the diffusion of Indo-European languages link proto-Greek tightly with the shadowy proto-Armenian.

In modern Greek, ὄφελος become όφελος (ófelos):

όφελος (ófelos) n, plural οφέλη

  1. (finance) profit
  2. benefit

ὄφελος also seems to be the root for the female name Ophelia, most famously held by Hamlet’s doomed girlfriend in Hamlet.

The Western Strategic Tradition

Whence Springs a Strategic Canon?

T. Greer asked for comments on how the Western strategic canon aligns with the Chinese strategic canon. Here are a few:

The Western (Latin Christian) strategic tradition up to c. 1500 springs from three major sources:

  1. The Vulgate by Jerome: Most military historians pay little attention to the Old Testament as a source of Western military thought. They think of the Old Testament as a book instead of what it really is: a library (from Koine Greek τὰ βιβλία, tà biblía, “the books”) containing the core works of the Israelite nation. A medieval warlord could summon his court prelate and have suggestive examples of strategytechnology embargoes, asymmetrical warfare, fortification, and other topics related to war read and translated to him to supplement his knowledge of warcraft. Through Jerome’s Latin translation, he had access to a canon predating China’s strategic canon by up to 500 years. When Mesopotamian and Egyptian influence is included, it goes back even further. Here’s a good example.
  2. De re militari by Publius Flavius Vegetius Renatus: A kluge of many better but often lost Greek and Latin works inexpertly pieced together by a concerned citizen of the Roman Empire within 20 years (either way) of the Gothi sack of Rome in AD 410. This kluge became Latin Christendom’s go to strategic treatise for the next millennium. Wikipedia muses:

    …it was “one of the most popular Latin technical works from Antiquity, rivaling the elder Pliny’s Natural History in the number of surviving copies dating from before AD 1300″. The early English historian Bede (672/673 – 735) cites Vegetius in his prose Life of St Cuthbert. The earliest extant manuscript from England to contain Vegetius’ text is Cotton Cleopatra D.I (of the 11th, possibly late 10th century). De Re Militari came to the forefront in the late Carolingian period through Hrabanus Maurus (d. 856), who used the text for his own manual De Procincta Romaniae Militiae, composed for Lothair II of Lotharingia (r. 855-869).

    The Roman Empire at Constantinople had higher quality military manuals than De re military such as the Strategikon attributed to Mauricius and the Taktika of Leo VI but they didn’t reach Latin Christendom until the Roman Empire fell in 1453. Even those manuals drew heavily from De re militari despite its haphazard flaws.

  3. Scuttlebutt: A lot of Western strategic thought was proprietary tacit knowledge passed orally and by example from practitioner to practitioner. This scuttlebutt was similar to the scuttlebutt Ralph Sawyer speculates was compiled by Chinese schools such as the Swun family into the original six of the Seven Military Classics (Questions and Replies between Tang TaiDzung and Li WeiGung dates from the early Tang dynasty).

If I were to draw a rough analogy between the Old Testament and De re militari in Chinese history, the Old Testament would be a compilation of all the major Spring and Autumn and Warring States‘ literature of one of the smaller seven warring states (Judah) redacted by a Legalist-leaning Confucian (the Deuteronomists of Josiah’s reign) right before Chin (Neo-Babylonian Empire) completed its conquest of China (Fertile Crescent) and then re-redacted by Szma Chyan (Ezra) in the early days of the Han (Achaemenid) Dynasty. The theme of the Deuteronomists (“In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes.” Judges 21:25) is similar to a strong theme emphasized by editors of the Seven Military Classics that China had to be unified under one authority (“all under Heaven” (TyanSya) to eliminate the disorder of warring states during the Warring States era. This theme was recently expertly propagandized by the Beibing Regime in the interesting Jet Li film Hero on Jau Jeng.

De re militari would be a compilation of stray bits of the six existing Seven Military Classics studiously assembled by a public-spirited provincial Confucian scholar with no military experience and submitted as a memorial to the Late Han court in the hopes that its ancient virtues would rouse the court to reverse the collapse of the dynasty.

The Western strategic tradition after 1500 drew heavily on works synthesizing De re military and more recent recovered works from antiquity like Polybius and especially Livy. Wikipedia relates this example of a direct transmission from antiquity to present by Willem Lodewijk, Count of Nassau-Dillenburg to his cousin Maurits of Nassau:

William Louis played a significant part in the Military Revolution of the 16th – 17th centuries. In a letter to his cousin Maurice of Nassau, Prince of Orange of December 8, 1594 he set out (from reading Aelianus Tacticus) an argument around the use of ranks by soldiers of Imperial Rome as discussed in Aelian’s Tactica. Aelian was discussing the use of the counter march in the context of the Roman sword gladius and spear pilium. William Louis in a ‘crucial leap’ realized that the same technique could work for men with firearms.[1]

” I have discovered evolutionibus [a term that would eventually be translated as "drill"] a method of getting the musketeers and others with guns not only to practice firing but to keep on doing so in a very effective battle order (that is to say, they do not fire at will or from behind a barrier….). Just as soon as the first rank has fired, then by the drill [they have learned] they will march to the back. The second rank either marching forward or standing still, will then fire just like the first. After that the third and following ranks will do the same. When the last rank has fired, the first will have reloaded, as the following diagram shows…

Most works written from Machiavelli to Guibert were books on tactics, what Clausewitz (no mean military historian himself) called the “science of war” (as opposed to the “art of war” which correlates more with strategy than tactics). Guibert seems to be the one who revived modern use of the term “strategy”. The term “stratagem” survived and passed into English separately.  

The book to read on the evolution of the Western strategic tradition is Beatrice Heuser’s The Evolution of Strategy. Readers may be surprised to find how poor scholarship on Western strategic thought really is. Heuser also published a selection of translations from neglected European military writers between Machiavelli and Clausewitz. 

Most of them lie outside the Received Narrative of current Western military thought that tolerates ahistorical abominations like the “Western Way of War” which hold that face to face infantry battle was the go to Western tactic from Marathon to present without specifying how this supposed continuous thread was transmitted from Greek to Roman to Frank and so forth.

 

John Lynn, who Greer cites in the footnotes to his post, has written that the medieval Western Way of War was more in the spirit of De re militari (“the main and principal point in war is to secure plenty of provisions for oneself and to destroy the enemy by famine. Famine is more terrible than the sword” or “”It is better to beat the enemy through want, surprises, and care for difficult places (i.e., through maneuver) than by a battle in the open field”). De re militari, unlike the mythical Western Way of War, represents a continuous transmitters of such ideas as manifested in the tactics like the chevauchée used during the Hundred Years War.

Some other miscellaneous notes on Greer’s post and footnotes:

  • A good resource for learning more about Japanese strategic tradition during the Age of the Country at War (a direct riff on China’s Warring States period) is the Samurai Archives podcast by some folks at the University of Hawaii.
  • Edward Luttwak, who can disable much larger men using a variety of nerve pinches, suggests the Shahnameh is the core of Persian strategic tradition derived from the “writings of pre-Islamic Persia”. The Illiad and Odyssey probably played a similar role for the Greeks and Romans but the influence of those epics was diffused in medieval Latin Christendom because they weren’t available in Latin and mainly passed through derivative works like the Aeneid.   

It’s the division of power, stupid

America is oppressed by consolidated power. The only check on the tyranny of this consolidated power is the liberty of dispersed power.

Consolidated power is a fatal bottleneck. It forces America’s attempts to learn and change through those few hands that hold all the power. While those few hands may contribute toward fruitful learning and change, those few hands may also be exactly what must be unlearned and changed.

Tilting the balance of power in favor of good fruit and away from bad fruit requires a wide and deep division of power. Only then can unconsolidated power centers independently reward good fruit and punish bad fruit. The liberty America was supposed to be founded is based on the proposition that fruitful exercise of liberty is rewarded while unfruitful exercise of liberty is punished.

Consolidated power rewards the fruit of the few hands holding it irregardless its quality. With size comes powerful advantages: the economies of scale generated by consolidated power make doing whatever you do cheaper. Much of this increased affordability is realized in escaped punishments. Indeed, allowing escape from punishment is the main purpose of consolidated power. Unfortunately, escape from punishment makes doing good or bad equally affordable. There is a tradeoff between economies of scale and liberty. Liberty withers under the shadow of economies of scale. Any use of liberty exercised by those holding consolidated power is rewarded equally for good or bad while liberty for consolidated powerlessness is punished equally for good or bad.

The entire architecture upholding consolidated power is hostage to the competence in learning and changing of those happy few who hold consolidated power. If their competence fails, everyone all together is subject to sudden bursts of events that topple everyone all together. Punishment, long denied, falls on deserving and undeserving alike and great is the fall thereof.

Competence to learn and competence to change must be spread widely and deeply for social learning and change to be vigorous and robust. Foremost of all, competency in using power must be spread wide and deep. This is the fulfillment of liberty: creating competent self-government of power by rewarding good and punishing bad. If only the few have opportunity to exercise power, there is no liberty. The number of hands holding power will shrink to the lucky. Once those hands consolidate power, they will do everything in their power to consolidate luck in their hands regardless of their ongoing competence.

Sources of power must be diverse and must be in many hands. Interception and consolidation of control over the supply lines of society leads to consolidation of all power in a few hands. Then every incentive favors rewarding incompetent hands over competent hands.

The most reliable source of power remains violence. Assets backed by the sword have a durability and profitability that no other source of power can match. The first step in dispersing power is dispersing violent power broadly and deeply across the population.

Dispersal of power is often confused with separation of violent power from other forms of power. This separation is both mythical and unreachable. The source of violent power is other forms of power. Any consolidation of “non-violent” power leads inexorably to the temptation if not choice to supplement the uncertainty of non-violent power with the certainty of violent power. Consolidated power, whether initially derived from violent or non-violent power, inevitably leads to consolidated violent power. No wall of tissues will prevent one form of consolidated power from being transformed into violent consolidated power if left unchecked by opposing power.

Dispersal of power is often confused with localization of power. But localized power, if consolidated power, is just as oppressive as remote consolidated power. Dispersed power must be broad and deep. It must be broadly dispersed not only in the large but in the small, not only remotely but locally.

A local monopoly of power is as dangerous as a remote monopoly on power. One of the strongest drivers of consolidated remote power is when those oppressed by local power seeking relief from remote power. Remote power suppresses local power but by doing so remote power becomes remote consolidated power. Consolidated power in any form must be dispersed, locally and remotely. Current local consolidated power and its relief is the father of future remote consolidated power and its oppressiveness.

Dispersal of power means one thing: dispersal of all power, inseparably, as broadly and deeply as possible. Consolidated power in any area of power, however much its proponents tout the benefits of the economies of scale that it bestows, cannot be tolerated. The advantages economies of scale give with one hand today will be seized back with both of the hands that consolidated power unshackles tomorrow. Liberty must not be sacrificed on the altar of efficiency. Efficiency now is inefficiency tomorrow: consolidated power dooms even the most efficient to consolidated inefficiency tomorrow as consolidated action is rewarded indiscriminately.

There must be balance in all things. Carrot must be matched by stick, violent power must be checked by violent power, wealth by wealth, liberty by liberty, parity with parity, and equal by equal. Tilting the balance of power within society tilts the balance of violence and ultimately the balance of terror. The result is inescapable: consolidation of power, consolidation of violence, and, inevitably, consolidation of terror. Terror will infest the weak and flee the strong. Violence will hurt the powerless and bless the powerful. Shifting balance will topple the unconsolidated and elevate the consolidated. Swings of fortune focused and intensified by consolidated incompetence and consolidated weakness will ravage all.

America, it’s time for a breakup. It’s the only way to remove the burden of consolidated power from liberty’s bowed shoulders.

Christmas: A Parthian shot

An annual Committee of Public Safety Official Committee of Public Safety Christmas tradition. From Wikipedia c. 2008:

Before

Before

The metamorphosis of Saint Nicholas into the more commercially lucrative Santa Claus, which took several centuries in Europe and America, has recently been re-enacted in the saint’s home town: the city of Demre. This modern Turkish town is built near the ruins of ancient Myra. As St. Nicholas is a very popular Orthodox saint, the city attracts many Russian tourists. A solemn bronze statue of the Saint by the Russian sculptor Gregory Pototsky, donated by the Russian government in 2000, was given a prominent place on the square in front of the medieval church of St. Nicholas. In 2005, mayor Suleyman Topcu had the statue replaced by a red-suited plastic Santa Claus statue, because he wanted the central statue to be more recognizable to visitors from all over the world. Protests from the Russian government against this action were successful only to the extent that the Russian statue was returned, without its original high pedestal, to a corner near the church.

After

After

Alas, poor Russia. So far from God, so close to the North Pole.

Merry Christmas.

Ho

Ho

Sketching…

  • Politics is the division of power. It is a climate whose state and behavior result from a constantly unfolding pattern of interference generated by agents that act and react.
  • Politicking is interference in politics. It is the range of possible patterns allowed by the current state of the political climate.
  • Policy is a specific state of interference that politicking should build towards.
  • War is violent politics. It is a climatic constant of now more and now less prominence.
  • Warfare is politicking in war. It is whatever patterns of violent politicking the current state of the political climate supports.
  • Strategy is violence-laced interference that warfare should converge upon.

There’s no such thing as “nuclear” warfare

New Books in Science Fiction and Fantasy interviewed historian Michael Gordin about his book The Pseudoscience Wars: Immanuel Velikovsky and the Birth of the Modern Fringe in a podcast episode released earlier today. The beginning of the interview covers topics Gordin covered in a previous book (Five Days in August: How World War II Became a Nuclear War). He specifically refers to problems with studying of the military history of the Cold War that overlap with some of my concerns about how studies of the military history of nuclear warfare are flawed:

  1. There is no such thing as “nuclear” warfare.
  2. Use of the catchall term “nuclear warfare” mixes up two distinct forms of warfare: fission warfare and fusion warfare.
  3. Fission warfare uses influence and violence produced by splitting atoms of certain elements for a war.
  4. Fusion warfare uses influence and violence produced by merging atoms of certain elements for a war.
  5. Violence in fission warfare has an upper bound imposed by physics that places limits on its physical side-effects.
  6. Violence in fusion warfare has no upper bound imposed by physics that place limits on its physical side-effects.
  7. Successful use of fission warfare is possible because its violence is intrinsically limited.
  8. Successful use of fusion warfare is problematic because its violence has no intrinsic limits (at least on a planetary scale).
  9. The influence produced as an effect of fission warfare or fusion warfare is hard to anticipate since that influence acts on the human mind and that mind, as an agent unto itself, reacts in ways that no existing predictive model can predict with uniform accuracy.
  10. However, knowledge that the violence of fission warfare has limits can reduce the influence produced by fission warfare because the target of its use can react with measures like dispersion to counter its effects.
  11. Knowledge that the violence of fusion warfare is only limited by the motives or production capacity of an opponent and that counter-measures have a slim chance of success can boost the influence effects that might be produced by fusion warfare.
  12. The analysis of War Minister Anami Korechika and other officers in the Japanese military after Hiroshima and Nagasaki that the military effects of fission warfare were not intrinsically different from military effects produced by other forms of Allied warfare like the American aerial bombardment or naval blockade was not fundamentally wrong or irrational.
  13. Their suggested alternative plan of forcing the Allies to invade Japan and fight an Okinawa-style exhaustion campaign as the best way to force the Allies to negotiate terms that would allow Japan to escape World War II with some of its gains was not intrinsically wrong or irrational.
  14. The primary effect of fission warfare on Japan was giving Emperor Hirohito and the “peace faction” a politically expedient excuse to do what they already wanted to do: end the war. They could now save face by blaming this “new and most cruel” form of warfare for defeating the otherwise victorious and virtuous Japanese. As Hirohito AKA “We’s” surrender message read:

    Despite the best that has been done by everyone — the gallant fighting of the military and naval forces, the diligence and assiduity of Our servants of the State and the devoted service of Our one hundred million people, the war situation has developed not necessarily to Japan’s advantage, while the general trends of the world have all turned against her interest. Moreover, the enemy has begun to employ a new and most cruel bomb, the power of which to damage is indeed incalculable, taking the toll of many innocent lives. Should We continue to fight, it would not only result in an ultimate collapse and obliteration of the Japanese nation, but also it would lead to the total extinction of human civilization. Such being the case, how are We to save the millions of Our subjects; or to atone Ourselves before the hallowed spirits of Our Imperial Ancestors? This is the reason why We have ordered the Acceptance of the provisions of the Joint Declaration of the Powers.

  15. If the coup attempt by elements within the Japanese Army on August 14-15, 1945 had succeeded, Anami and the “war faction” could have followed their preferred approach with a thoroughly cowed Hirohito or, at worst, a conveniently dead Hirohito and a pliable twelve-year-old Emperor Akihito.
  16. Future use of the one available atomic bomb and six in the pipeline were unlikely to persuade such a junta to surrender all by themselves. Whatever influence the bomb would have had would have diminished as the use of each wonder weapon failed to drive Japanese Army fanatics from the war. Anami and other Japanese officers had already speculated that the American supply of bombs was limited and that those supply limits as well as their observed yield limits made the new weapon no more violent or influential than the equally violent and influential American aerial bombardment and naval blockade and Japan was already enduring those.
  17. Plans for using fission warfare as an adjunct to conventional military operations were not “irrational” during the period before fusion warfare was developed (1945-1952). The violence and contamination effects of fission warfare were containable during this time. While they were unpleasant, they were not decisive.
  18. From 1952-1965, the United States could have used fission and even fusion warfare in a war with successful effect. The USSR’s weapon, targeting, and delivery mechanisms were too few and too underdeveloped to substantially degrade American military and military-supporting capacities throughout most of that period (though the American margin of safety diminished as time went by).
  19. It was only with improvements in Soviet missile technology that gave their fusion weapons intercontinental range with reasonable accuracy and their deployment of these missiles on a large-scale in land and sea launch platforms that created an environment where “destroying the world”, “ending human civilization”, or “mutual assured destruction” were plausible (even if they weren’t guaranteed).
  20. A political entity with fusion warfare fighting capacity is not the same as a political entity with fission warfare fighting capacity. The former can inflict more physical violence than the latter and even that assumes the former has appropriate delivery vehicles and that their warfare making ability can endure retaliatory strikes by their target.