Blogs > Cliopatria > Things Noted Here and There ...

Jul 16, 2005 6:09 am


Things Noted Here and There ...



Even if I do repeat myself, in"The Very Model of a Modern Labour Minister," Gilbert and Sullivan protest Tony Blair's plan to require an identity card for every British citizen; and George Orwell protests against British forces shackling German prisoners of war in 1942. Thanks to Andrew Sullivan for the tips.

History Carnival XII is up at Mode for Caleb. There's some excellent reading for your weekend. While you're over there celebrating, tell Caleb what a fine job he did!

When Wretchard at Belmont Club posted about the engagement of United States and Japanese naval forces around Guadalcanal in 1942, Robert Farley at Lawyers, Guns, and Money caught him with his history pants down. Farley begins:"Wretchard, at the Belmont Club, is such a moron ...." See also: Anthony at Irregular Analysis and Daniel Nexon at The Duck of Minerva. Thanks to Chris Bray at Historiblogography for the tip.

In the midst of all the spin, Paul Krugman,"Karl Rove's America," New York Times, 15 July, helps to keep the record straight.

Jonathan Yardley reviews two books for the Washington Post: Mary Hollingsworth's The Cardinal's Hat: Money, Ambition, and Everyday Life in the Court of a Borgia Prince, a biography of Ippolito d'Este; and another commodity history, Anthony Wild's Coffee: A Dark History.

Among the history bloggers: HiramHover tries to find the merits of the case in the dust-up between Alan Dershowitz and Norman Finklestein. You have to have a strong stomach to do that kind of work. Stanford's Jon Christensen has temporarily abandoned his Easy Chair to finish his book about his journey last spring, retracing the 1940 voyage of John Steinbeck and Ed Ricketts to the Sea of Cortez. On the other hand, Mark Grimsley returned to his Blog Them Out of the Stone Age and insists that blogging was his means of finishing an important article on deadline.

Survey USA tracks the approval ratings of 50 state governors. There are some surprises. Hurt by" coin-gate," Ohio's Robert Taft (R) has a 17% approval rating. That could be an all-time record low. Other Republicans in trouble: Frank Murkowski of Alaska, Ernie Fletcher of Kentucky, Matt Blunt of Missouri, Arnold Schwarzenegger of California and Rick Perry of Texas at 31, 34, 35, 36 and 38%. Among Democratic governors, Michigan's Jennifer Granholm at 37% and Illinois's Rod Blagojevich, Oregon's Ted Kulongoski, and Washington's Christine Gregoire at 38% have comparably low approval ratings. Thanks to David Noon at Axis of Evel Knieval for the tip.




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Jonathan Dresner - 7/17/2005

"Orwell's fear of tit-for-tat is inapplicable because Al Qaeda's treament of prisoners is unrelated to ours."

Perhaps.

However al Qaeda's recruitment is related to our treatment of prisoners.


Jonathan Dresner - 7/17/2005

No, I don't. I read Okrent's criticisms, and I've read others, and I found them tendentious and partisan.


John H. Lederer - 7/16/2005

You don't agree then with the comment of Daniel Okrent when retiring as the New York Times Public Editor:

"Op-Ed columnist Paul Krugman has the disturbing habit of shaping, slicing and selectively citing numbers in a fashion that pleases his acolytes but leaves him open to substantive assaults."


Ralph E. Luker - 7/16/2005

If abu Ghraib did not replicate problems in the American prison system, first, and at Guatanamo, secondly, your argument about failures of discipline, control command structure might be persuasive.


Jonathan Dresner - 7/16/2005

Krugman's refusal to stick to administration spin does not constitute "distortion": I've read any number of attempts to debunk Krugman, none of which proved anything except that some facts are inconvenient to Republicans and difficult to explain away.


John H. Lederer - 7/16/2005

"You continue to insist that what the enemy does to its prisoners is determinative of what the United States should do with its prisoners of war"

Sorry, I think we have failure of communication.

You commended Orell's piece to me. I responded that Orwell's fear of tit-for-tat is inapplicable because Al Qaeda's treament of prisoners is unrelated to ours. You then assert that "I continue to insist..." that Al Qaeda's treatment of prisoners determines ours.

No. I don't.


I do not see abu Ghraib as "highlighting the question of what in the dickens we are doing in Iraq in the first place..".

I do see it as indicative of a command failure. It is also a demonstration of one of the problems of any torture-- the difficulty of controlling it in any organization. As a less charged example it is much easier for an army to follow a rule of "no plunder" than "no plunder except when a,b, and c are met..".

But that, and abu Ghraib are problems of military discipline and command and control. They do not require the presence in Iraq--witness our sad history of Civil War prisons and the occasional scandals at Army stockades for our own court martialed troops over the decades.


Ralph E. Luker - 7/16/2005

You continue to insist that what the enemy does to its prisoners is determinative of what the United States should do with its prisoners of war. Do you not understand that when the United States occupied Saddam Hussein's horror house at abu Ghraib and there committed its own horrors that it highlights the question of what in the dickens we are doing in Iraq in the first place -- there being no wmd, etc.? What is it about that that you don't understand?


David Silbey - 7/16/2005

"None of the discussion I followed the links to talked about bushido (not really a religion, but close) in discussing the Japanese reaction. My understanding, admittedly extremely shallow, is that bushido and shintoism (at least WWII shintoism) both emphasize matters of will,spirit, and purity of heart as being more important in the outcome of events, and particularly battle, than more prosaic numbers. In that context, a willingness of the US Navy to continue a series of hard fought battles with high casualties might have a disproportionate impact on Japanese thought."

I'm not sure that a weblog discussion constitutes evidence of a general pattern by professional historians. How do written histories of the Japanese Navy deal with the bushido aspect?

Ronald Spector's _At War, At Sea_, for example, discusses the social history of the Japanese Navy and deals with the spiritual aspect in some detail.

"Battles, after all, are rarely won by the total destruction of the enemy. They are more often won by convincing the enemy that he has lost."

That's a bit of a red herring. Battles are frequently won by the destruction of enough of the enemy that the rest decide that they've lost.

I'm paraphrasing someone when I say that while being willing to die for your country is impressive, it's better to make the other guy die for his country.

Second, aren't we assuming something not in evidence? If the Japanese were deeply impressed with our resolve at the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal, wouldn't they have changed their behavior or tactics afterwards? Did they? Did they do something that reflected their changing perception of American resolve? Talk about it? Shift to different methods and strategies?


John H. Lederer - 7/16/2005

The books I referenced are:
Japanese Destroyer Captain, by Tameichi Hara

and

Samurai! by Saburo Sakai and Martin Caidin


John H. Lederer - 7/16/2005

"Lapdancing" was one of the tortures inflicted on Khatani. I, of course,grant that others were far more severe, and used the lapdancing for emphasis.

The point remains that the concern that Orwell expressed, an escalating tit-for-tat in regard to the treatment of prisoners is inapposite when applied to an enemy whose initial treatment of prisoners has been to gruesomely slaughter them for PR purposes, videotaping the event for maximum exposure.





John H. Lederer - 7/16/2005

I have been remiss in pursuing the examples, mea culpa.


There is a minor example in one of the discussions that Ralph Luker cites to -- the naval battles around Guadalcanal, with the point of contention being the morale impact on the Japanese.

None of the discussion I followed the links to talked about bushido (not really a religion, but close) in discussing the Japanese reaction. My understanding, admittedly extremely shallow, is that bushido and shintoism (at least WWII shintoism) both emphasize matters of will,spirit, and purity of heart as being more important in the outcome of events, and particularly battle, than more prosaic numbers. In that context, a willingness of the US Navy to continue a series of hard fought battles with high casualties might have a disproportionate impact on Japanese thought.

Battles, after all, are rarely won by the total destruction of the enemy. They are more often won by convincing the enemy that he has lost.

There were two post WWII semi autobiographies by a Japanese destroyer captain and a naval pilot that are very illuminating in regard to Japanese military thought.


Ralph E. Luker - 7/16/2005

I don't recall anyone talking about lapdancing in Guantanamo. Mr. Lederer saw and ignores the photographs from abu Ghraib. Apparently, he wants to see if the United States cannot find even more ghastly ways to treat enemy prisoners than the terrorists have demonstrated. He has a way of abandoning conversations when he has lost them. Could we put the "stopped clock is right twice a day" cliche on the shelf for a while?


John H. Lederer - 7/16/2005

Yes. Well, before we worry about the terrorists torturing prisoners in retaliation for lap dancing in Guantanamo, we'll have to persuade the terrorists not to saw the prisoners heads off won't we?

In regard to Paul Krugman I can think of no columnist given such a prominent position who has so regularly twisted and distorted facts for political purposes. He is a shame to the profession of economists (assuming of course that economists comprise a profession and can be shamed...).

A stopped clock is of course right twice day. But most would hesitate to assert that the stopped clock will now set the record straight as to the time.





David Silbey - 7/16/2005

By the way, Mr. Lederer, I'm still waiting on your list of historians who have trouble dealing with religion as a motivating force. I was reminded of this because I was reading N.A.M. Rodger's _The Command of the Ocean_ (London: Penguin, 2004) and he does what I think was quite a nice job talking about the religioius motivations of British sailors during the Civil War and Interregnum (1642-1660). A sample quote:

"After the Restoration, it was fashionable to deride them as canting hypocrites, and there certainly were not a few trimmers who successfully mastered the pious language acceptable to their seniors. But there were also many of profound faith, who served God and the Navy with equal devotion." (p. 64).

So, any citations?


Ralph E. Luker - 7/16/2005

I just have. I also recommend that you read Orwell on the shackling of German prisoners.


John H. Lederer - 7/16/2005

"In the midst of all the spin, Paul Krugman, "Karl Rove's America," New York Times, 15 July, helps to keep the record straight."


Can you really say that with a straight face?

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