Tag - history

History Comes Alive

As the taxi drove me in to Moscow for my first arrival via air (my first time in Moscow I came on the train) I saw this strange monument on the side of the road. I asked the taxi driver what it was?

“The furthest advance of the Germans toward Moscow,” he said. “My grandfather and two great uncles died near here fighting Nazis.”


There is an IKEA on the other side of the road now. Strange world, ours is.

Texas Independence Day

Texas fought for its independence from Mexico for one primary thing. This they do not teach you in the history books. That one thing?


Mexico outlawed it and the American settlers in Texas wanted it. So they had a little war.

And yes, I recognize this is a cheap rhetorical point (not to mention a gross oversimplification). I don’t care. I am having fun insulting every one today.


Methodology Moving Forward

I’m not sure how many of you are aware of my present circumstances so I ought to bring you up to date.

I’m living in San Antonio again. I am also actively pursuing my Master’s in History and fully plan on getting my PhD after that. I spent enough time in corporate America to know that what I really am supposed to do in life is teach history. My plans for the next twelve months are like this:

This summer I will travel first back to the ‘Stans: Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. I’m working on a project regarding the ancient city of Merv during the era of the Seljuk Turks. That is May and June.

In June I will get on a bus and ride south towards Belize, stopping in Mexico City to see friends and then to Taxco to see my cousins. Finally, I will be working for a six weeks on an archeological dig near Xunantunich, Belize. I will also be helping some anthropologists out on some of their projects. All of this is for credit. When I return in the fall I will then, more than likely, be a teaching assistant in Urbino, Italy for that semester. Then I will return home, write my Master’s thesis and look for a PhD program.

In the last two years I’ve changed. I’ve learned some things. Learned some new ways of thinking ideas and problems through. I’ve also become much, much more socialist. I lean hard towards more little “d” democracy, smaller, more local autonomy and solutions will be better for the people in the long term. While, if the USA wants to remain a going concern it needs more large scale socialist projects, in the sense that we need government working on bigger projects, government re-nationalizing the airlines, government taking some serious hard looks at transportation infrastructure and building more tracks. Government looking at laying fiber, because cable companies aren’t going to. Seriously when it’s easier to deal with the DMV than your cable company free enterprise has stopped being free. But I have absolutely ZERO faith any of this will happen.

I doubt with all of my reading–which is about 1 book every other day right now–I’ll be doing many think pieces. You need to go read Ian for that kind of stuff. You’ll mostly just get reactions from me. I wish I could offer you more, but my brain is really stretched to the limit right now.

On occasion you will get a think piece, but it will mostly be informed by the study of history and more often than not it will be international in character. That being said, you are welcome to read any and all of my academic papers, if you wish. Just ask. I’ve written several already.

Why do I mention all this? Well, domestic American politics is a wasteland. We’re slowing sliding into a strange hybrid of Huxley and Orwell, with a smattering of Gibson thrown in for good measure and I’m dubious that much can be done about it. As Numerian said several years ago: economically it’ll be neo-feudalistic.

Boy, was he proven right. What I really care about, and why I founded The Agonist way back in 2002 for, was international events. So, we’re moving back into that directions. Hope you come along for the ride!

Flinging Boogers During History Class

StudyI’m reading a book of historical criticism by Gordon S. Wood presently. I am enjoying it. He’s a cantankerous old fart who doesn’t approve of anyone’s version of history, not even his own. That’s the best type of historian if you ask me. Humility like that takes you a long way. But I digress.

I’m reading his book and came across this sentence about Turner’s “frontier thesis” on American history. You all know it—at least you should—how the frontier being open for so long was one thing that allowed America the space to create institutions of democracy and liberty. (I know, I know, just bear with me, okay?)

So I get to this sentence, “Although Turner’s particular “frontier thesis” has long since been modified or discredited, the general assumption of his interpretation—that American society can best be understood as a response to the circumstances of the New World—have remained very much alive through the twentieth century.”

And for some reason the rotund and orotund voice of Winston Churchill began a replay loop in my head, until I was reminded of a famous quip by him.  Read More

Did counterinsurgency work in Iraq? (No)

sunniawakeningMost accounts of the Second Iraq War (2003-11) attach great importance to counterinsurgency programs in ending the conflict there. The shift from using heavy firepower to winning hearts and minds is said to have created a “Sunni Awakening,” which changed the course of the war and brought a measure of peace.

In retrospect, the effectiveness of counterinsurgency (COIN) was an illusion. Its doctrines were uncritically bruited amid a vexing unpopular war. The Sunni Awakening came from entirely different reasons.

The invasion of Iraq ousted Saddam Hussein but it also displaced a Sunni minority from control of the predominantly-Shia country’s army, state, and economy – positions of privilege they’d enjoyed since the British installed the Sunni Hashemites in Baghdad in the 1920s. The sudden loss of power, capped off by the US-ordered dissolution of the Sunni-dominated army, created widespread resentment and anger, which developed into armed opposition. A deadly insurgency raged for several years and the American occupation was becoming costly, if not precarious.

Read More

#IdleNoMore: What Do Protesters Want?

Dr. Dawg:

The other day, I got into it a bit with John Ivison, who expressed polite disdain for the allegedly “hapless” Chief Theresa Spence—and then admitted that he had no idea what her demands actually were.

That’s all too typical.

But not all of us who support #IdleNoMore are as informed as we should be either. Let’s start with the Harper government’s current treaty-breaking campaign—and yes, a flurry of bills in the House of Commons, rammed through without consulting indigenous peoples as the Constitution requires, counts as a “campaign.”

Here, to save us all time, is an excellent compilation of the effects of these bills, taken from an address by aboriginal Constitutional scholar Pam Palmater. Or you may wish to hear this straight from her own mouth, delivered with clarity and a wealth of detail.


de Bellaigue: Sanctions On Iran Cause Economic Strife But Are Not Working

Christopher de Bellaigue on why sanctions on Iran have thus far been, and will likely continue to be, a failure:

The assumption is that the more Iranians suffer, the more their leaders will feel the pressure and either change course or be overthrown in a popular uprising. And yet, there is no evidence to suggest that this is probable, and the Iraqi case suggests the opposite. During the U.N. blockade, Saddam was able to blame foreigners for the nation’s suffering, and ordinary Iraqis—those who might have been expected to show discontent at his misrule—grew more and more dependent on the rations he distributed. Furthermore, America’s insistence that an end to sanctions was conditional on Saddam’s departure removed any incentive he might have had to cooperate with U.N. weapons inspectors. In 1997, he stopped doing so, with the results we all know.

This time, the U.S. is at pains to show that the Islamic Republic will gain a life-saving reprieve if it falls in with U.N. resolutions calling on it to stop enriching uranium. If that happens, Hillary Clinton said in October, sanctions might be “remedied in short order.” But Iran’s supreme leader dismissed her words as a “lie.”

Khamenei and those around him believe that sanctions policy is part of a bigger American project of Iraq-style regime change. There is some logic to this; recent western tactics against Iran include sabotage, assassination and diplomatic isolation—hardly indicative of a desire for detente. The most recent round of nuclear negotiations foundered, in part, on Iran’s growing conviction that the U.S. will make no significant concession on sanctions unless Iran drastically scales down its program of uranium enrichment. That seems unlikely to happen–not simply for reasons of image and prestige, but because, as American hostility sharpens, Iran may judge its nuclear program to be the best defense it has against the fate that befell Saddam.

h/t Trita Parsi

ICYMI: The Choice 2012

Must-watching from PBS FRONTLINE:

Mitt Romney and Barack Obama have spent hundreds of millions of dollars to tell their own stories, but in “The Choice 2012,” FRONTLINE goes far beyond the headlines on a journey deep into their worlds, among their friends and family, critics, and closest colleagues, to understand what drives these men. Based on dozens of new interviews and hundreds of hours of research, FRONTLINE’s authoritative profiles that emerge are also a portrait of America in an era of uncertainty — and a guide to the choices that lie ahead.


Related: Frontline senior editor Andrew Golis (h/t):

Tonight, in a pretty thrilling act of transparency, we published over 8 hours of the footage from those interviews on “The FRONTLINE Interviews” site. And we didn’t just publish raw video, we edited and finished the interviews, paired them with their transcripts, and created a rich environment for users to explore them either by person or by topic.



Environmentalist Barry Commoner:

Commoner was a biologist and author whose seminal 1971 book, “The Closing Circle: Man, Nature and Technology,” argued for the connectedness of humans and the natural world. It said environmental problems were related to technological advances and had a role in social and economic injustice.

He conducted research that helped propel a successful campaign for a nuclear test ban treaty in the early 1960s and drew early attention to the dangers of dioxins, the potential of solar energy and recycling as a practical means of reducing waste.

Historians of the environmental movement often name Commoner as one of the country’s most influential ecologists, along with scientist-author Aldo Leopold, “Silent Spring” author Rachel Carson and the Sierra Club’s John Muir and David Brower. Time magazine featured him in 1970 as the “Paul Revere of Ecology.”

“Together with Rachel Carson he was the most important person in catalyzing the modern environmental movement,” said Occidental College historian Peter Dreier, who named Commoner in his recent book “The 100 Greatest Americans of the 20th Century: A Social Justice Hall of Fame.”

“He was a bestselling writer, a scholar who understood how to translate science into everyday language. His analysis of the environmental crisis that was considered radical in the ’60s, ’70s, ’80s is pretty much now taken for granted,” Dreier said Monday.

Historian Eric Hobsbawm:

A Marxist, he was peerless as an anatomist of the nineteenth century bourgeois social order. A loyal foot-soldier of Communist “democratic centralism,” he wrote perceptively of the anarchical “social bandit.”  A refined intellectual, he dug deep into the study of workers’ lives and proletarian autodidacts. A historian of society and impersonal economic “long waves”, he composed a classic of autobiography. An aficionado of traditions of labor, jazz, and Marxism, he helped create a virtual sub-field in the modernist construction of “invented traditions.” Even as a holiday-home owner in Wales, mystified by local resentment of interlopers, he produced a masterpiece on the phenomenon of nationalism.

Also see The Graun for a report and an obituary (h/t Chris Bertram).