Blogs > Cliopatria > Some Quick Notes ...

May 4, 2004 4:20 pm

Some Quick Notes ...

Murray Polner and Anne Zook remember Kent State; and, over on the HNN mainpage, our colleague, Tom Palaima, tells us why it is important to remember the names of the dead and their numbers in Iraq.

Robert Campbell and Charles W. Nuckolls at Liberty & Power continue to follow the story at the University of Southern Mississippi. The recent settlement assures Professors Glamser and Stringer a salary for the two years until retirement, but it does not return them to the classroom. President Shelby Thames remains in office. The settlement appears to be considerably less than his critics had hoped. The struggle continues ...

Scott McLemee's article in the Chronicle of Higher Education on the conservative American historian, Russell Kirk, is here. On Thursday, Scott will host an on-line discussion of Kirk's place in post-World War II American conservatism with Wesley McDonald, author of a new biography of him. But for a sense of Kirk's really bad taste in clothes, go here.

In "Liberals Get Cross-wise", the cover story for The Progressive Populist, The Village Gate's Allen Brill makes the case for the necessity of a Christian left.

Eugene Volokh reminds us that the archaic"thou" in English was the informal, familiar word, not the formal word, for"you". Carelessly used, it could start a barfight around here ...

An Iranian court has re-instated the death sentence of Hashem Agajari, a historian who called on Iranians not to follow its religious leadership uncritically. The Chronicle of Higher Education's article is for subscribers only, but this AP report is accessible and reports that Agajari will not appeal his sentence, thus effectively challenging Iran's religious authorities to execute him.

Kenneth Woodward gives Martin Marty's new biography of Martin Luther for the Penquin Lives series a thumbs up. Meanwhile, Francis Fukuyama says that Islam awaits its Luther. I suppose, but clearly not, if you're aiming at democracy, modernization, or unity.

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Anne Zook - 5/5/2004

Hey. You're talking about me!

Yes, I was 12. And let's not undestimate the idyllic but isolationist effect of living in a small town in Kansas. Back then, and in that place, at 12 you were very much a young child. Don't let the sophistication of today's pre-teens make you forget that it hasn't been that long (I am NOT old) since "getting into trouble" over a boy meant you'd been seen holding hands without your parents' permission. (I estimate Kansas lagged 10-20 years behind the times and, at proven by their recent attempt to repeal the theory of evolution, they've been falling farther behind every since.)

And, while I'm lecturing the staff :) let me point out that that was also an era when "studying history" meant memorizing a bunch of dates and little more. Four or five bare facts, the name assigned to the event, and the date.

Imagination? Don't make me laugh. History is facts. Memorize these dates and be prepared to fill them in on the test. Imagination has no place in the classroom.

Jonathan Dresner - 5/5/2004


Richard Henry Morgan - 5/5/2004

I'm not sure there is a single meaning to that expression. What I meant is that I think he's trying to flush out the mullahs, and make them act in such a way as to make themselves a better target -- like flushing pheasant from talk grass, where they are hard to find, and forcing them to take to the air, where they can be dropped.

Jonathan Dresner - 5/5/2004

As embarrassing as it is to admit it, I have no idea whatsoever what that expression means. I've heard it before, and I just don't get it. Explanations entirely welcome.

I'm not sure there is a winning move for the religious establishment. If they execute him, they set up the final conflict between secular and religious institutions (and I'm not sure who'd win, myself, but I really don't think they're ready to fight that battle). If they don't then they subordinate themselves to secular courts, effectively surrendering. I wish I had your confidence in the weakness of the religious movement, but the last round of elections were rather disheartening.

Richard Henry Morgan - 5/5/2004

I think he's hunting in the tall grass. I think his goal is nothing less than the ouster of the mullahs. They are hanging on by their nails now, but if they execute him, I think the game is over for them.

Oscar Chamberlain - 5/4/2004

I took a western civ course as an undergraduate in which the prof argued that the Renaissance was simply a brief bright spot in between two medieval periods.

Oddly enough, he was a Lutheran.

Jonathan Dresner - 5/4/2004

I have to give the man immense credit for guts. I'm not sure about brains, but he is without a doubt a much braver person than I.

This really is a test of Iran's judiciary, and the degree to which it is a structure of law or a structure of faith.

Richard Henry Morgan - 5/4/2004

No, not necessarily. What you need are market-clearing prices, or even just the willingness to assign more regular army units to the fray. What we particularly need is the movement away from open-ended assignments, like Korea and Bosnia.

In this particular case, what we have is a prison run by MI, with MP's attached, whose chain of command is located elsewhere. Add the fact that they are National Guard, and you have a recipe for people feeling they are not accountable. The MP's were instructed in Geneva Convention material, at the level of abstract propositions. But the Army knows, and practices, that all practical knowledge is knowledge by doing. So they only had practice in searching EPW's, in in-processing them, writing up the documentation and tags, segregating, evacuating, and guarding -- and escorting from interrogation to cell and vice versa. Think of Stanley Milgram's experiment, and Philip Zimbardo's Prison experiment, and add the fact that though they were isntructed in Geneva Convention material, they had no training in how it applies to interrogation -- and then add the fact that they were essentially tasked with aiding in interrogation ... what a mess.

Ralph E. Luker - 5/4/2004

I assume, then, that you foresee the necessity of re-establishing a national draft.

Richard Henry Morgan - 5/4/2004

Ralph, it might be best to take such protestations, from those accused, with a truckload of salt. The Geneva Convention is covered at some length in basic training, and at AIT for military police -- as well as refresher training, SQT, etc.

These were people with their civilian heads on, who were given more power than their ethics and self-discipline could handle, and who were allowed or induced in such a direction by those above them who just wanted results, period. The idea that you can take what are basically civilians, and put them in other than medical slots, has been disappearing rapidly from the Army, particularly since the last Gulf War. For the most part the Reserves and the National Guard (other than the Air National Guard) are a waste of resources, and a danger if relied upon. This might be the final nail in the coffin.

Jonathan Dresner - 5/4/2004

Fukuyama, and those who call for an Islamic Luther, are making several false claims. First and foremost, I think, they are reviving Weber's "Protestant = Capitalist" thesis. Second, they see Islam as monolithic and authoritarian, like they see pre-Lutheran Roman Catholicism, and they hope for the kind of religious toleration and diversity that eventually emerged in Europe (forgetting that Europe's "tolerance" encompassed only Christians, and came after decades of holy wars and persecutions; also forgetting that in most places different sects and strains of Islam coexist at least as comfortably as 18th century European Christians). Third, of course, is the argument, currently being flogged by Huntington, that Protestantism is the foundation of democracy, whatever that means.

Ralph E. Luker - 5/4/2004

Yes, thanks for the addendum! One thinks also of American national guard sent into Iraq without instruction in the Geneva Accords. All the more reason not to mobilize troops without adequate forethought and training.

Richard Henry Morgan - 5/4/2004

To be fair, Zook was only 12 at the time ...

Richard Henry Morgan - 5/4/2004

"I didn't know that could happen."

So says Anne Zook. One of the functions of the study of history is to fuel the imagination, and to understand the full spectrum of human behaviour. Boston Massacre? Haymarket Riot? How is it that Kent State should be beyond the imagination? Poorly trained, poorly motivated, and poorly led troops, kept up for a couple of days straight, then tossed into a situation where they serve no other apparent function than to be potential targets. I incline to the view that it would be unusual if something untoward did not happen in such a mix.

Ralph E. Luker - 5/4/2004

Michael, I hope it was Fukuyama, not me, who touched _this_ off. Otherwise, you and I may have to stop referencing each other as "thou." I meant to indicate my own skepticism about Luther as a liberal, a modernizer, or a unifier.

Michael C Tinkler - 5/4/2004

Now THIS is a historical analogy of which I am reeeeeealy tired. Islam has had any number of "back to the text" radicals -- including the N. African Almohads* and Muhammad ibn Abd al Wahhab. Is that what you mean by Luther? Or do you just mean "person who upsets religious status quo"? Or do you mean.... Given the history of interpretations of Luther, the possibilities are endless. I find it really hard to read Luther as a "liberal voice" and leave it at that.

*I am uninterested in transliteration wars. Spell it however you like, but don't expect me to follow. Semitic and Indo-European languages are about as alphabetically unrelated as possible. There's no since worrying students OR yourself about "correct" transliterations. For example, I've read people saying that "Musulman" in English is "offensive." It happens to be the most common French word for "Muslim," and a perfectly reasonable spelling of a a common word for followers of Islam in Pakistan (I've watched several subtitled videos from Pakistan this term with my Islamic Art & Architecture class).