29 August 2006

On "Bestowing the Gift of Development"

In opposition to the development policies pursued by non-Western states, international NGOs focused on alternative grass-roots models of development. This approach is explained by David Korten, a former worker for the United States Agency for International Development:
The widespread belief that development is primarily a task of government has legitimised authoritarianism and created major barriers to true development progress in the [global] South and over the past four decades the people have been expected to put their faith and resources in the hands of government. In return governments have promised to bestow on the people the gift of development. This promise has proved a chimera born of a false assessment of the capacity of government and the nature of development itself.
As [global] Southern states were crippled by the debt crisis and later by the World Bank Structural Adjustment Programmes, state provision of welfare collapsed in many societies. International relief NGOs, with Western government funding, attempted to fill in the gaps. As two Oxfam workers explained:
Gallantly stepping into the breach come the NGOs very much in the neo-colonial role. Whole districts, or once functioning sections of government ministries, are handed over to foreigners to run especially in health or social services. This process is enhanced as Structural Adjustment Programmes bite even deeper ... 40 percent of Kenya's health requirements are now provided by NGOs ... The more the NGOs are prepared to move in the easier it is for government to reduce support.
SOURCE: From Kosovo to Kabul and Beyond: Human Rights and International Intervention, new ed., by David Chandler (Pluto Press, 2006), p. 33 [reference citations removed]

Today's NGO employees are the direct inheritors of the colonial project not so much in the manner of the imperial civil services as in the manner of the religious missionaries, who were often at odds with the imperial powers in their respective mission fields, and who often provided a good measure of whatever health, education, and welfare services governments failed to provide. The religious missionaries of my parents' ("greatest") generation were succeeded by the secular missionaries of my ("boomer") Peace Corps generation and the current horde of NGOptimists all over the globe—all of whom have gone to do good, and many of whom have done rather well indeed, just like the older missionary elites (or nouveaux évolués), whose offspring often ended up as area specialists in government or academia (or both). On this score, I know very well whereof I speak.

On "the Military Wing of Oxfam"

The strongest critique of needs-based humanitarian action is from the human rights movement itself, which argues that responding to crises by sending humanitarian relief is merely an excuse to avoid 'more vigorous responses'. Humanitarian relief is increasingly seen as giving Western governments the appearance of 'doing something' in the face of a tragedy while providing an alibi to avoid making a riskier political or military commitment that could address the 'roots of a crisis'. Under the cry that humanitarianism should not be used as a substitute for political or military action, they are in fact arguing for a new rights-based 'military humanitarianism'. As journalist David Rieff notes: 'humanitarian relief organizations ... have become some of the most fervent interventionists'.

The rights-based critique of humanitarianism provided the military in Western states with the opportunity to portray their actions as increasingly ethical in the 1990s. Ironically, this occurred at the same time as armed interventions moved away from the UN Blue Helmet approach that overlapped with the humanitarian principles of neutrality, impartiality and consent. As Michael Pugh observes, 'military humanism' is no longer an oxymoron because military action has increasingly been justified through defending human rights goals. From the perspective of the military establishment, this new role is important and the cultures of the military and the human rights activist are increasingly being brought together through the idea of helping the 'victim', as can be seen from recruitment advertising in Britain and the United States. The humanitarian motives for military action have been so heavily stressed that some critics have warned that the British Army is in danger of being flaunted as 'the military wing of Oxfam'.
SOURCE: From Kosovo to Kabul and Beyond: Human Rights and International Intervention, new ed., by David Chandler (Pluto Press, 2006), pp. 48-49 [reference citations removed]

Well, sure, but the Atlantic slave trade could not have been suppressed without the intervention of the British Navy. Nor could slavery have been suppressed in the United States without the intervention of the U.S. Army (against whom my own ancestors fought). Would selective, righteous boycotts of rum, sugar, molasses, tobacco, and cotton have been as fast and effective? The Royal Navy and the U.S. Army both served as the "military wings" of abolitionists.

28 August 2006

Putzi Hanfstaengl, Hitler's Harvard PR Flack

Putzi was the Nazi movement's only Harvard man. Though a figure of fun among the more hard-core Nazis—Putzi played "Sam" to Hitler's Bogart, entertaining him at the end of the day with his piano playing—he was instrumental in making Nazism salonfähig, or "presentable to society," the upper classes who were a crucial source of funds for a party founded by a locksmith and led by a former army corporal. Hitler used Hanfstaengl's affable nature and white-shoe pedigree to forge many of his important links to German and American rich people. While the Baltic Germans provided access to the Russian aristocracy, Putzi was the connection to old American, British, and German families. His mother was a Sedgwick, from the old New England family. (Two of his grandfathers had been Civil War generals; one of them, a German immigrant 48er, was a pallbearer at Abraham Lincoln's funeral.) His full name was Ernst Sedgwick Hanfstaengl. The name Putzi, which means "little squirt" in the Bavarian dialect, was given to him by his wet nurse. His father was one of the most prominent men in Munich in the late nineteenth century, and the Hanfstaengls had visitors such as Mark Twain, Richard Strauss, and Fridtjof Nansen, the famous arctic explorer and passport inventor, to their lavish villa. How on earth had this white-shoe boy gotten involved with a bunch of lower class, anti-Semite beer-hall politicians?

In 1908 Putzi had taken part in an Orientalist cross-dressing show at Harvard's Hasty Pudding Club. For this show, called Fate Fakir, the WASP Harvard boys "cross-dressed" in two ways, some dressing up as girls and others as Hindu and Muslim fakirs. The hulking six-foot-five Ernst Sedgwick Hanfstaengl played a Dutch girl named Gretchen Spootsfeiffer. With him in the cast was a young man named Warren Robbins. Putzi and Warren went their separate ways after Harvard, one returning to Bavaria to serve in the Royal Bavarian Horse Guards and the other to join the American State Department. In 1922, when Robbins was working as a senior officer at the American embassy in Berlin, he called up his old chum "Gretchen" from the Pudding.

All the revolutionary nonsense down in Bavaria had the embassy concerned, Warren said, so they were sending down a young military attaché, Captain Truman-Smith, to have a look around. Would good old Gretchen mind taking care of the boy and introducing him to a few people in Munich? "He turned out to be a very pleasant young officer of about thirty, a Yale man, but in spite of that I was nice to him," Putzi wrote in his 1957 memoir, Unheard Witness, and recalled his fateful lunch with the Yalie on the last day of his visit to Bavaria. The American had been interviewing anyone who was anyone in Munich, [and he gave Putzi a ticket to a talk that the American couldn't attend]....

Putzi took the ticket and went to hear Hitler speak at the Kindlkeller that night. He remembered Hitler talking a lot about Kemal Ataturk in Turkey and the example of Mussolini. Putzi described the speech to the Yale man, as he'd promised, and then he joined the movement himself.

An inventive cheerleader for the Harvard football team, Putzi transferred that position to Hitler's Nazi entourage. Among his many creative contributions to the early Nazi movement was turning the Harvard football song—"Fight Harvard! Fight! Fight! Fight!"—into the model for the chant "Sieg Heil! Sieg Heil! Sieg Heil!" of the Nazi mass meetings....

One of the many early Nazis who were slated to be done away with by Hitler's inner circle in the 1930s, Hanfstaengl escaped assassination by fleeing to Switzerland, then on to London and Washington, where he eventually went to work for the OSS—but only after proving he was not a homosexual by resisting the advances of Somerset Maugham's boyfriend, Gerald Haxton, who was apparently sent in by the Feds to see if Putzi could be seduced. When interviewed in the 1970s, Putzi rolled out all the piano tunes that Hitler had most enjoyed hearing him play—from the Harvard fight song to Wagner overtures—and complained how the Roosevelt administration had refused to take his advice on the invasion of Italy in 1943.
SOURCE: The Orientalist: Solving the Mystery of a Strange and Dangerous Life, by Tom Reiss (Random House, 2005), pp. 261-264

24 August 2006

Aztecs Ate Conquistador Carriers and Cooks?

Skulls and bones from the Tecuaque archeological site near Mexico City show about 550 victims had their hearts ripped out by Aztec priests in ritual offerings, and were dismembered or had their bones boiled or scraped clean, experts say.

The findings support accounts of Aztecs capturing and killing a caravan of Spanish conquistadors and local men, women and children traveling with them in revenge for the murder of Cacamatzin, king of the Aztec empire's No. 2 city of Texcoco.

Experts say the discovery proves some Aztecs did resist the conquistadors led by explorer Hernan Cortes, even though history books say most welcomed the white-skinned horsemen in the belief they were returning Aztec gods.

"This is the first place that has so much evidence there was resistance to the conquest," said archeologist Enrique Martinez, director of the dig at Calpulalpan in Tlaxcala state, near Texcoco.

"It shows it wasn't all submission. There was a fight."

The caravan was apparently captured because it was made up mostly of the mulatto, mestizo, Maya Indian and Caribbean men and women given to the Spanish as carriers and cooks when they landed in Mexico in 1519, and so was moving slowly.

The prisoners were kept in cages for months while Aztec priests from what is now Mexico City selected a few each day at dawn, held them down on a sacrificial slab, cut out their hearts and offered them up to various Aztec gods.
Of course, Reuters is reporting this, so there may have been some photoshopping of the evidence.

Rapacious Rats Deforested Rapa Nui?

Pace Jared Diamond, who "described Rapa Nui as 'the clearest example of a society that destroyed itself by overexploiting its own resources'," new archaeological results from Rapa Nui (Easter Island) suggest that it may have been rats, not humans, who deforested Rapa Nui—and Oahu in the Hawaiian Islands.
For thousands of years, most of Rapa Nui was covered with palm trees. Pollen records show that the Jubaea palm became established at least 35,000 years ago and survived a number of climatic and environmental changes. But by the time Roggeveen arrived in 1722, most of these large stands of forest had disappeared.

It is not a new observation that virtually all of the shells housing palm seeds found in caves or archaeological excavations of Rapa Nui show evidence of having been gnawed on by rats, but the impact of rats on the island's fate may have been underestimated. Evidence from elsewhere in the Pacific shows that rats have often contributed to deforestation, and they may have played a major role in Rapa Nui's environmental degradation as well.

Archaeologist J. Stephen Athens of the International Archaeological Research Institute conducted excavations on the Hawaiian Island of Oahu and found that deforestation of the Ewa Plain took place largely between 900 and 1100 A.D. but that the first evidence of human presence on this part of the island was not until about 1250 A.D. There were no climatic explanations for the disappearance of palm trees, but there was evidence that the Polynesian rat (Rattus exulans), introduced by the first human colonists, was present in the area by about 900 A.D. Athens showed that it was likely rats that deforested large areas of Oahu.

Paleobotanists have demonstrated the destructive effect of rats on native vegetation on a number of other islands as well, even those as ecologically diverse as New Zealand. In areas where rats are removed, vegetation often recovers quickly. And on Nihoa Island, in the northwest Hawaiian Islands, where there is no evidence that rats ever became established, the island's native vegetation still survives despite prehistoric human settlement.

Whether rats were stowaways or a source of protein for the Polynesian voyagers, they would have found a welcoming environment on Rapa Nui—an almost unlimited supply of high-quality food and, other than people, no predators. In such an ideal setting, rats can reproduce so quickly that their population doubles about every six or seven weeks. A single mating pair could thus reach a population of almost 17 million in just over three years. On Kure Atoll in the Hawaiian Islands, at a latitude similar to Rapa Nui but with a smaller supply of food, the population density of the Polynesian rat was reported in the 1970s to have reached 45 per acre. On Rapa Nui, that would equate to a rat population of more than 1.9 million. At a density of 75 per acre, which would not be unreasonable given the past abundance of food, the rat population could have exceeded 3.1 million.

The evidence from elsewhere in the Pacific makes it hard to believe that rats would not have caused rapid and widespread environmental degradation. But there is still the question of how much of an effect rats had relative to the changes caused by humans, who cut down trees for a number of uses and practiced slash-and-burn agriculture. I believe that there is substantial evidence that it was rats, more so than humans, that led to deforestation.

Our work on Anakena, as well as previous archaeological studies, found thousands of rat bones. It seems that the Polynesian rat population grew quickly, then fell more recently before becoming extinct in the face of competition from rat species introduced by Europeans. Almost all of the palm seed shells discovered on the island show signs of having been gnawed on by rats, indicating that these once-ubiquitous rodents did affect the Jubaea palm's ability to reproduce. Reason to blame rats more than people may also be revealed in the analysis of sediments obtained at Rano Kau, which, like the Hawaiian evidence, appears to show that the forest declined (leaving less forest pollen in the sediment) before the extensive use of fire by people.
via Arts & Letters Daily

Poor Pluto: A Very Far Outlier Demoted

Poor Pluto has been kicked off the world-famous Solar Planets for regularly failing to stay in its lane—or clear its own lane—during repeated orbits of the sun.
PRAGUE, Czech Republic (AP) -- Leading astronomers declared Thursday that Pluto is no longer a planet under historic new guidelines that downsize the solar system from nine planets to eight.

After a tumultuous week of clashing over the essence of the cosmos, the International Astronomical Union stripped Pluto of the planetary status it has held since its discovery in 1930. The new definition of what is -- and isn't -- a planet fills a centuries-old black hole for scientists who have labored since Copernicus without one....

Much-maligned Pluto doesn't make the grade under the new rules for a planet: "a celestial body that is in orbit around the sun, has sufficient mass for its self-gravity to overcome rigid body forces so that it assumes a ... nearly round shape, and has cleared the neighborhood around its orbit."

Pluto is automatically disqualified because its oblong orbit overlaps with Neptune's....

Now, two of the objects that at one point were cruising toward possible full-fledged planethood will join Pluto as dwarfs: the asteroid Ceres, which was a planet in the 1800s before it got demoted, and 2003 UB313, an icy object slightly larger than Pluto whose discoverer, Michael Brown of the California Institute of Technology, has nicknamed "Xena."
It's a cold world out there at the far end of the solar system!

UPDATE: Matt of No-sword and his commenters offer some interesting observations about the etymologies of 'planet' and 'dwarf planet' in Japanese, Sino-Japanese, Chinese, and even Greek.

23 August 2006

Biafra and the Birth of the 'New Humanitarianism'

The birth of the modern human rights-based 'solidarity' movement has often been located in NGO responses to the Biafran famine in 1968. The famine resulted from the independence war fought by Igbo secessionists of the state of Biafra in south-eastern Nigeria against the federal government. The secessionist struggle received no diplomatic support from the West, the Soviet bloc or other African states, which were concerned over the destabilising effects of questioning state borders. Within a few months the dominance of the government forces and the lack of outside aid had doomed the struggle to failure. As Alex de Waal notes, it was only by accident that Biafra became a cause célèbre for the human rights movement. The international attention stemmed from the famine becoming news through the publication of photographs of severely malnourished children. As Frederick Forsyth, at that time a journalist, recalled:
Quite suddenly, we'd touched a nerve. Nobody in this country at that time had ever seen children looking like that. The last time the Brits had seen anything like that must have been the Belsen pictures ... People who couldn't fathom the political complexities of the war could easily grasp the wrong in a picture of a child dying of starvation.
The media coverage of the first African famine to become headline news led to accusations that the British government's arms shipments to the Nigerian leadership and lack of support for the Biafrans was making it complicit in genocide by starvation. The lack of UN or outside government relief for the secessionists enabled the humanitarian aid effort to be monopolised, for the first time, by the NGOs. Biafra was the ICRC's first large-scale relief operation and Oxfam's second field operation. The first real test for non-governmental humanitarian organisations resulted in a split between the Red Cross and major NGOs over the nature of humanitarian action. Oxfam broke its commitment not to act unilaterally and took an openly partisan approach claiming that 'the price of a united Nigeria is likely to be millions of lives'. Several international NGOs followed, arguing that breaking from the ICRC position of non-criticism was the only ethical way of assisting the population because if the Biafran people lost the struggle for secession they would face systematic massacre by federal forces.

The NGOs and the church-funded campaigns became the main propagandists and source of international support for the Biafran struggle. The Joint Church Airlift supplied aid and attempted to establish a Biafran air force, against Nigerian government opposition. This led to a federal ban on outside aid flights. The ICRC did not engage in any publicity and accepted the federal government's ban on aid flights. This position was condemned by the more interventionist and partisan aid NGOs. A leading critic was French doctor Bernard Kouchner, who declared that their silence over Biafra made its workers 'accomplices in the systematic massacre of a population'.

The Biafran war was not only notable for the creation of the new committed and increasingly invasive ethics of human rights intervention. It also set a much more worrying marker for the future of 'new humanitarian' rights-based interventionism. The war was already over when the famine became news, and the international interest was immediately used to rekindle the struggle. Speaking later, Paddy Davies of the Biafran Propaganda Secretariat explained:
Biafra realised that this was an angle they could play on. It had tried the political emancipation of oppressed people, it had tried the religious angle ... but the pictures of starving children and women, dying children ... touched everybody, it cut across the range of people's beliefs.
For the Biafran government, the provision of aid was secondary to the propaganda and international standing gained from the aid agencies siding with the war aims of the secessionists. Internationalising the struggle put pressure on the Nigerian regime and enabled the Biafran leadership to prolong the war. The aid agencies took on trust the claims of the Biafran government, and its public relations firm Markpress, regarding genocide and 'thousands dying daily' and according to Oxfam's official history 'they fell for it, hook, line and sinker'. The secessionist line forwarded by Kouchner and other agencies, that the Biafran people would be faced with systematic massacre by federal troops if they lost the war, turned out to be unsubstantiated. In fact, de Waal notes that even as the international relief operation was being massively expanded there was already a large amount of evidence that there would be no genocide. In the large areas of Biafran territory taken over by the federal government there had been no government massacres.

In 1971 Bernard Kouchner established Médecins sans Frontières (MSF), which has since symbolised the 'new humanitarian' cause. There are two 'solidarity' principles, which were developed out of the Biafra experience and have since become central to the new rights-based humanitarianism. First, the 'freedom of criticism' or 'denunciation'.... Second, the 'subsidiarity of sovereignty' or the 'right of intervention', the 'sans frontières' of the MSF movement. [inline reference citations removed]
SOURCE: From Kosovo to Kabul and Beyond: Human Rights and International Intervention, new ed., by David Chandler (Pluto Press, 2006), pp. 29-31

Even needs-based, rather than rights-based, humanitarian NGOs who profess neutrality are forced to take sides.

22 August 2006

Remembering Iwo Jima, Both Victors and Vanquished

Joe Rosenthal has died. By a stroke of good luck, he was able to capture an image of victory after one of the most hard-fought battles of the Pacific War.
Joe Rosenthal, the Associated Press photographer who captured the enduring image of the American fighting man in World War II with his depiction of five Marines and a Navy corpsman raising a huge American flag over the Japanese island of Iwo Jima, died Sunday in Novato, Calif. He was 94....

His photograph of the flag-raising atop Mount Suribachi on Feb. 23, 1945, may be the most widely reproduced photo in American history. It was re-created on at least 3.5 million Treasury Department posters publicizing a massive war-bond campaign. It was engraved on three-cent Marine Corps commemorative stamps that broke Post Office records for first-day cancellations in 1945. It was reproduced as a 100-ton Marine Corps War Memorial bronze sculpture near Arlington National Cemetery. And it brought Mr. Rosenthal a Pulitzer Prize.

But almost from the day the photograph was emblazoned on the front pages of Sunday newspapers as a symbol of embattled patriotism, Mr. Rosenthal faced suspicions that he staged the shot, posing the Marines. He always insisted that he recorded a genuine event, and others on the scene corroborated his account.

“The picture was not posed,” Louis Burmeister, a former Marine combat photographer who was among four military photographers alongside Mr. Rosenthal as the flag went up, said in a 1993 interview for “Shadow of Suribachi,” by Parker Bishop Albee Jr. and Keller Cushing Freeman. [It's amazing how persistent that rumor is in newsrooms that can't spot photographs that are not just posed, but photoshopped, from current war zones.--J.] ...

After being declared 4-F by the armed forces because he could see only one-twentieth as well as an average person, Mr. Rosenthal joined the United States Maritime Service, taking photos of Atlantic Ocean convoys. In March 1944, he went to the Pacific on assignment for the A.P. and later photographed the invasions of New Guinea, Hollandia, Guam, Peleliu and Angaur.

On Feb. 19, 1945, Mr. Rosenthal accompanied the early waves of a 70,000-man Marine force ordered to seize Iwo Jima, a 7.5 square miles of black volcanic sand about 660 miles south of Tokyo. The island, defended by 21,000 Japanese troops, held airstrips that were needed as bases for American fighter planes and as havens for crippled bombers returning to the Mariana Islands from missions over Japan.
By coincidence, the Japan Times [registration required] recently ran a fascinating profile of Gen. Kuribayashi, who commanded the Japanese forces on the island.
The warrior Japan chose to lead this fight to the last in the spring of 1945 was a mercurial, contradictory man: a samurai descendant and loyal servant of the Emperor who detested much of Japan's authoritarian, military culture; a fanatical Imperial warrior devoted to his family; an elite graduate of Japan's top military academy who read Shakespeare, spoke fluent English and narrowly opted for the army over a career in journalism.

"The United States is the last country in the world Japan should fight," Kuribayashi wrote in a letter home days before his doomed forces inflicted massive casualties on U.S. forces landing on the 22.4-sq.-km (7-sq.-mile) island.

The tensions in Kuribayashi's character, and his reluctance to go to war with the U.S., slowed his rise through the ranks of Japan's military, says grandson, Yoshitaka Shindo. "My grandfather was sidelined because he didn't fit in with military thinking. He had friends in America and respected the country."

According to colleague Army Capt. Kikuzo Musashino, "The general spoke about his years in America, saying they had enormous industrial resources. He said: 'When war comes, they can convert all that ability into military use. The people who planned this war in Japan know absolutely nothing about this. Whatever way you look at this war, we can't win.' "

21 August 2006

Moeller, Spengler, and the Rising East

Moeller van den Bruck—a Prussian philosopher and translator of Dostoevsky who committed suicide in 1925—had been obsessed with the coming triumph of "the East," from bolshevism to Islam over the bankrupt cultures of the West. In Germany the Occident is called Abendland, or "evening land" [just as Arabic al maghreb or Romanian apusul mean 'the place of the setting sun' and therefore 'the west', as opposed to the Levant 'rising place, east'], and Moeller—like his friend Oswald Spengler, author of The Decline of the West—thought that the sun was certainly setting on it. The rising sun was in the East, no matter how one defined it. Moeller thought that the right kind of collectivism, so manifestly "natural" among the Russians, offered an antidote to the anomie and selfishness of the Western societies.

Moellerians believed that the "German-Russian side of the world" was meant to do cosmic battle against the forces of Western bourgeois liberalism, with help from sundry other Eastern forces. They saw nations as either young or old. Germany was "young" because it was in an expansionary period, infused with a "leader-idea" (Führergedanke) and relying more on feelings than reason. Russia was in a similar phase, and the Bolshevik Revolution was a manifestation of it. Both Russia and Germany were searching, experimental nations, obsessed with their deep origins in barbarian I conflict; therefore, the Soviet Union was a false enemy. The real enemies lay in the West: they were the victors of Versailles. The United States, however, would be welcome in the coming "Eastern" alliance because it had a youthful spirit, a farm culture, and a lively "inner barbarian." Moeller's ideas, at times difficult and fruitlessly obscure, would more than likely have sunk into obscurity after his death, eclipsed by the work of his more media-savvy and self-promoting friend Oswald Spengler.*

([Footnote:] *In fact, Moeller had originally helped Spengler to feel better about the "decline of the West" back in 1919. Spengler had gone into a funk when his book's publication had coincided with Germany's defeat in the First World War; though one might think the philosopher of decline and despair would feel vindicated, the decline he had been thinking about was supposed to result from Germany's victory—and the subsequent decline of its warrior fiber, as it grew fat and complacent—not from something as straightforward as an actual military defeat! Like most Germans, Spengler had not even considered that possibility. Moeller, apparently in a "high" period, convinced Spengler that by losing the war, Germany had won, because by facing the decline first, Germany could embrace its loss and form an "alternate West," with the "young nations" of the East—in order to deliver a coup de grâce to the west West, so that the real revolution—not the "bourgeois Marxist Revolution"—could succeed at last.... Whatever one thinks of the logic, it apparently cheered Spengler up. The two became fast friends.)

But luckily for the Moellerians, their hero had written one final work before he killed himself and had given it, as an afterthought, a title that would resonate like no other. Moeller was going to call the little volume The Third Force, but at the last minute he changed his mind and called it The Third Reich.
SOURCE: The Orientalist: Solving the Mystery of a Strange and Dangerous Life, by Tom Reiss (Random House, 2005), pp. 244-246

Does this shed a little more light on the pen name of the cold-blooded Asia Times columnist who calls himself Spengler? His latest column, entitled The peacekeepers of Penzance, begins in typical fashion.
Like W S Gilbert's cowardly policemen in The Pirates of Penzance, Europe's prospective peacekeepers have decided that "a policeman's lot is not a happy one". Europe's serious exercise in peacekeeping led to the massacre of Bosnian Muslims at Srebrenica, when Dutch soldiers turned over Muslims in their charge to Serb death squads.

France offers no more than 200 engineers to join the peacekeeping force that the United Nations Security Council has mandated as a buffer on the Israeli-Lebanese border. The last time French peacekeepers ventured into Lebanon, a Hezbollah suicide bomber killed 58 paratroopers. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has appealed to Italy to lead the 15,000-strong UN force. The last time an Italian army confronted a well-armed and determined force in the region, at the Ethiopian battle of Adwa in 1896, the Italians suffered 70% casualties.

Otto von Bismarck pronounced the Balkans unworthy of the bones of a single Pomeranian grenadier, and Europe's governments seem unwilling to sacrifice a single soldier to maintain the peace in southern Lebanon. This raises the question: What is Europe's interest in the Middle East? The answer appears to be: To disappear and be forgotten with the least possible fuss.

"Social Monarchism" in Weimar Germany

Lev [Nussimbaum aka Essad Bey] was not only [a would-be Burkean] conservative, he was a monarchist—as he announced in an article in Die Literarische Welt in 1931. "So why have I remained to this day a monarchist despite my having lived in a republic for years, and why am I becoming more monarchistic every day?" ... His answer is simple and even rather sensible: "The world of today faces two great dangers: bolshevism and a nationalism that is overrunning everything. I know of only one means to stave off these two dangers: monarchy." To which he adds, it must be "true monarchy and not its constitutional, nationally limited, Wilhelmine version." ...

Lev's eclectic politics led him to ever weirder groups on the fringe of Weimar society. One such was the Soziale Konigspartei—the "Social Monarchist party"—which ran against the spirit of the times in various conflicting ways: it was philo-Semitic and called for a restoration of the kaiser but also wanted to form a kind of "workers' state." The idea was to get the kaiser to return with the backing of the proletariat, thus ending the farce of competing extremisms and finger-pointing that parliamentary democracy had brought to Germany. The Social Monarchists attacked everything the Nazis stood for, and didn't find many allies anywhere else, so they were doomed from the start. It didn't help that their leaders were an obscure mixture of liberal but penniless nobles and "creative proletarians."

Lev's dabbling in such groups evokes something of the disorientation of the time. Many people in the 1920s looked back on the monarchies and could not fathom that it was all over. This was not ancient history—this was life the way it had always been throughout history, back to Charlemagne, Saladin, or King David, and up until last year, or the year before that. This was the world that Lev had over his shoulder. And it had been replaced by—what? Fiends on all sides, bloodthirsty, completely unrestrained by their fathers' and grandfathers' traditions of politics, society, and decency. All the groups Lev tried joining in these years would have in common the idea that the only way to avoid bolshevism or fascism was a revival of monarchism with the support of the "people," however defined. It was really a "happy valley" sort of politics that hoped to achieve something familiar from Robin Hood and King Arthur stories: the world righted by placing the "good" king back on the throne, his people content in their old time-tested traditions. But Lev's state of mind had something in common, too, with modern libertarianism and its suspicion of central authority (and with a lot more justification). As he commented, "The less a government tried to make me happy, all the better I felt."
SOURCE: The Orientalist: Solving the Mystery of a Strange and Dangerous Life, by Tom Reiss (Random House, 2005), pp. 246-247

Genius or crackpot? Wingnut or moonbat? Lev or Essad? We excerpt, you decide.

20 August 2006

Back to the Balkans: No Victory, No Justice?

This Sunday's lesson in international humility comes via The Rhine River, who quotes a sobering excerpt from an article entitled "Milošević in Retrospect" by David Rieff in the Summer 2006 issue of Virginia Quarterly Review:
Milošević's death accomplished what all his delaying tactics and coutroom antics could never do--cement perception of the International Criminal Tribunal of Yugolsavia's failure....

But this is not to say that victors' justice can never succeed; what it cannot do is succeed in a political vacuum or when the outcome on the battlefield has been indecisive....

And in Serbia, this is emphatically not the case. Even in Bosnia, nationalism burns almost as fiercely in the Serb areas as it ever did, and certainly few ordinary Serbs, let alone the former leadership, feel any remorse for Srebrenica or the siege of Sarajevo. In Serbia proper, the current government, while not extreme itself, depends on the support of Milošević's Socialist Party in order to remain in power. Under those circumstances, it is almost impossible to imagine that had Milošević lived and been convicted, the Tribunal's judgement would have seemed legitimate to many Serbs. With his death, one more name has been added to the martyrology of extreme Serb nationalism--a victim, in this accound, of a kangaroo court whose pretensions of delivering justice ring hollow.
On Thursday, the BBC also included some retrospection in its report on forensic experts exhuming bodies from the largest mass grave yet from the war in Bosnia.
The team unearthed 144 complete and 1,009 partial skeletons at the site in Kamenica, a village in eastern Bosnia near the border with Serbia.

The grave contained victims of the 1995 Srebrenica massacre, in which about 8,000 Muslim men and boys were killed by Bosnian Serb troops.

The bodies had been brought to Kamenica from elsewhere to conceal the evidence.

"Kamenica is the biggest mass grave" found since the 1992-1995 war, said Murat Hurtic, a member of the forensic team.

The massacre is the only event from the Bosnian war classified as genocide by the UN war crimes tribunal in The Hague.

The two men accused of masterminding the massacre, former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic and his military commander Ratko Mladic, remain at large.

The forensic team found documents in the mass grave indicating that the victims died in the massacre, the Associated Press reports.

Bullets and bindings around the victims' arms were also found there.

In July 1995 Bosnian Serb forces overran the UN-protected enclave of Srebrenica, where tens of thousands of Bosnian Muslim civilians had taken refuge from earlier Serb offensives.

The Serb forces later separated thousands of men and boys from the women and killed them, dumping the bodies in mass graves.
Is anyone intimidated by international war crimes tribunals? Two alleged "masterminds" of mass slaughter in Bosnia have been at large for over a decade, most probably in the mountains of Serbia. If they are indeed guilty, better they should die in battles decisively lost than to be hauled before an unconvincing international court. And the same goes for other alleged war-criminal "masterminds" who may still be at large in the mountains of Pakistan.

Surviving Nine Months Adrift at Sea

This Sunday's inspirational reading comes from a story that appeared last Thursday on Canada.com.
Three Mexican fishermen who disappeared in the Pacific Ocean nine months ago have been rescued nearly 8,000 kilometres from their home, saying they survived by eating seagulls, drinking rainwater and reading the Bible.

A Taiwanese tuna boat scooped the men out of the water about halfway between Hawaii and Australia on Aug. 9. They had drifted all the way from San Blas, a fishing village about 160 kilometres north of Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, where they were last seen in late October or early November, 2005....

Crew members aboard a Taiwanese trawler spotted the men’s small boat and realized they were alive, said Eugene Muller, manager of Koo’s Fishing Company Ltd.

“They seemed to be in very good health, given what they just went through,” Mr. Muller said in an interview from Majuro, the capital city of the Marshall Islands. “Other than being very hungry and having lost a lot of weight, our crew said they didn’t need any medical attention.”

The survivors told a Mexican radio station that it rained nearly every day of their ordeal, providing them with fresh water to drink. One of the men had a watch that kept track of the days. They passed time by reading a copy of the Bible one of the men brought along.

“We ate raw fish, ducks and seagulls. We took down any bird that landed on our boat and we ate it like that, raw,” Mr. Vidana, 27, said from aboard the trawler. He said they frequently saw ships during their months at sea, but were lucky to be picked up because they were asleep when trawler’s crew saw them.

“We never lost hope,” Mr. Vidana said. “They passed us by, but we kept on seeing them. Every week or so, sometimes we’d go a month without seeing one, but we always saw them so we never lost hope.”
via Althouse via Bizzyblog

19 August 2006

Wordcatcher Tales: Kimoi, Muzui, Mendoi, Omoroi, Uzai

Over dinner recently, the Far Outliers were talking about ways to describe food with a visiting Japanese college student (the niece of old friends) here for a bit of English immersion. The only Japanese equivalent for gross or yucky that came readily to mind was kimochi warui 'unpleasant feeling', which she shortened to kimoi.

("Kimochi warui" is how my feistiest niece's kindergarten classmates in Japan described her blue Irish eyes. "Your blue eyes give me the willies!" She always fought back when teased or excluded—and still does to this day.)

When I googled "kimoi", I found an interesting set of similar terms on the sci.lang.japan FAQ wiki.
  • kimochi warui 'feeling bad/unpleasant'
  • muzukashii 'difficult'
  • mendoo kusai 'troublesome' (lit. 'stinking of trouble')
  • omoshiroi 'interesting, funny' (written 'whitefaced')
I don't think you can describe these shortenings in strictly mechanical terms, especially when you include the final member of the set: uzai for urusai 'noisy, aggressive, bossy'. ("Urusai!" is what people yell at loud revellers to tell them to pipe down.) In the other cases, the shortening rule seems to be to keep just enough syllables (or moras) to turn the compound into what sounds like a one-word adjective ending in -i in the present tense and -katta in the past. I suspect omoroshiroi 'interesting' would have ended up omoi were it not for the inconvenient homophone omoi 'heavy'.

Mezurashii ('strange, curious'), ne?

UPDATE: Two commenters who are far more kuwashii than me on Japanese have suggested that uzai is most likely short for uzattai, not urusai. That makes the shortening look a little more regular.

17 August 2006

Looking East from Berlin in the 1920s

At twenty-one, Lev had a young writer's classic lucky break: perhaps through the Pasternaks, he got an introduction to Die Literarische Welt's powerful editor, Willy Haas. In no time he was one of the favorites, part of the inner circle around the charismatic Haas, who gave Lev top billing when most of the columnists were twice his age or older. Haas called him the paper's "expert on the East," and that was a timely thing to be. Whatever the reason for Haas's initial patronage—and spotting an improbable hurricane of talent and energy had to have been the main thing—Lev, or rather "Essad Bey," became one of the journal's three most prolific contributors.

Lev's first article, appropriately enough, was "From the East," in 1926—a discussion of newspaper journalism in Malaysia and Azerbaijan. His contributions would range from a consideration of the poetry of Genghis Khan (Genghis got a positive review) to "Film and the Prestige of the White Race," a seemingly frivolous but actually prescient consideration of how images of European and American immorality were lowering the status of the West in the eyes of Easterners, Muslims in particular. Lev prescribed some positive images of Western culture on the double, if the "white race" did not want to permanently lose the respect of the increasingly independence-minded peoples of Asia. He reported on curiosities like "The Eunuch Congress," describing how the former palace and harem eunuchs of the Ottoman sultan had recently held a trade organization meeting in Constantinople. And he wrote a positive review of the first German biography of Ataturk, concluding that Mustafa Kemal is the "least Turkish of all Turks, who aided the victory of the West with Eastern methods, with cunning, tyranny and deception."

In these early pieces, Lev pays particular attention to Eastern leaders who know how to use the West to their advantage, like Ataturk and, later, Reza Shah Pahlavi, who becomes a subject of particular fascination. During the 1930s Lev would become obsessed with Peter the Great, the monarch who, more than any other, united East and West in his realignment of Russia to absorb the European Enlightenment. Lev loved and hated Peter, but in the end he was overwhelmed by his subject and could not finish the book. For another author that might have meant wasted years; for Lev it meant bringing his study of Peter to biographies of Czar Nicholas and Reza Shah. (Lev believed that the dictator of Persia came much closer to ruling like Peter the Great than the last czar, Nicholas, ever did.) But in a droller vein, Lev also covered the glamour of the East. In one feature, "Buchara at the Hotel Adlon: The Last Emir, Fairytales from 1,001 Nights in the 20th Century," he describes in amusing detail how the royal courts of Central Asia, defeated by the Bolsheviks, are now living rather well in the heart of the Potsdamer Platz, entertaining and going to formal parties.

The series of articles Lev wrote for Die Literarische Welt and other papers about the visit of the dynamic Afghan monarch King Amanullah to the German capital in 1928 allowed him to combine his nose for East-meets-West drama with critical political analysis. Though the articles paint a picture of the bleakness of both the geographical and social climate of Afghanistan (it "is inhabited by wild, mutually alien clans ... who hate everything foreign [and] patrol their borders on small ugly horses, stare greedily at the armed caravans that come from far away, and show them pyramids of skulls that until recently marked the borders"), Lev also conveys the bright hope that characterized Afghanistan in the twenties, where "in contrast with the other Islamic countries that found a rather humble present on a glorious past, it is a country without a past but with a great future."
SOURCE: The Orientalist: Solving the Mystery of a Strange and Dangerous Life, by Tom Reiss (Random House, 2005), pp. 206-208

16 August 2006

Education of Essad Bay Nousimbaoum, Orientalist

On October 17, 1922, Lev enrolled as a student in classes in Turkish and Arabic in the Seminar for Oriental Languages at the Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität. On his application, he wrote his name as "Essad Bey Nousimbaoum," from Georgia. This was the first recorded official use of his new name—which was essentially "Mr. Leo Nussimbaum" transposed into Turkish. (However, the word "Bey" had connotations of Turkish nobility, and his new name helped build the impression that Lev was of princely origin.)

The inconvenient detail that Lev had not yet graduated from high school was not mentioned, and it became his great secret for the next year and a half. At first he was slightly disturbed by the university lectures, for he found that "the professors spoke about their subject matter as though they were speaking about completely ordinary things." But gradually, he understood that the professors saw the Orient as a professional pursuit, while he was driven by "a mysterious compulsion." Lev started to figure something out—a neat trick, in fact; a mental survival skill. He found that his love of ancient crumbling walls and winding souks was a guiding light he could shine on almost any landscape, no matter how bleak and intimidating it might seem. He would learn to carry a portable "Orient" inside him, one that he could unpack whenever he found a comfortable spot and the right audience.

He began to keep a crazy schedule. He was determined that no one in the Russian gymnasium find out that he was attending the university (under false pretenses), and at the same time no one at the university must realize that he was still in high school. At 6 a.m. each day, he set out from Charlottenburg and walked all the way to the other side of the city to the university. He would spend the morning in seminars while the gymnasium was still full of German girls. When the Russian school opened, at 3 p.m., he would be there just as if he had been loafing all day like his classmates. "While the teacher was explaining a geometric theorem, the Arabic grammar lay on my knees."...

Lev's capacity for hard work and mental focus was something that would drive the rest of his short life. The emigre writers were known for drinking and working like fiends, but Lev would soon astound even them. His clandestine academic activities made him feel at times like he was in an "exclusive club," and at other times as though he lived in another world. He was glad to have a reason for being separate, however. Both the work and the schedule were a sort of emotional survival strategy. "Most likely I would have perished from this leap into poverty, if it had not been for the love of the ancient Orient that kept me going," he recalled. Lev also found he enjoyed having a secret life. He was different, he knew, because of what he had done and what he was doing. He was now an Orientalist....

On the day of his final examination at the Russian gymnasium, Lev felt lost and hopeless. He had spent far too much time at night school, studying Arabic, Turkish dialects, and Uzbek geography. There was no hope he could pass in his basic subjects—especially Latin and mathematics. He felt a fool and imagined how his and his father's prospects would become even worse when he flunked the exam. He would not be able to face the old man, who had experienced so much hardship. It would be more than he could bear.

The chairman of the examination committee, a wrinkled old Romanov prince with a monocle sunk impossibly deep into his face, seemed to take barely any notice of Lev during his exam. Then Lev saw he had written on his pad, "in his melancholy aristocratic handwriting" next to the name Nussimbaum, "a very poor candidate." During the history examination, the old chairman practically seemed asleep as Lev was quizzed, sitting there indifferently and gazing off into the distance. Suddenly, he raised his head, fixed Lev through his monocle, and said: "Tell us something about the dominion of the Tartars and Mongols over Russia."

The question would already have been the ultimate gift to Lev, even if he wasn't in his third semester at the Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität.
"I saw before us the wide Mongolian steppes and the horsemen ... and there was no stopping me," Lev recalled. I think I even forgot that I was in the middle of the examination. I spoke and spoke, I quoted Arabic, Turkish, Persian authors in the original languages. Indeed, I even knew some Mongolian. The committee was dumbstruck—the prince dropped his monocle. Then suddenly he started posing questions, and lo and behold!—he posed questions in Persian, in Mongolian, he even quoted the classics of Oriental literature.... Only later did I find out that the prince was one of the most renowned Orientalists of Russia. The examination committee sweated; the whole thing went beyond their imagination. The teacher suddenly looked like a little schoolboy. What started out as an examination turned into a discussion in all different languages about all sorts of Oriental problems. I think it lasted two hours and it would have continued into the evening if the person sitting next to the prince, a former Russian privy councilor, hadn't given him a nudge.
The discussion saved Lev. Whatever other mistakes he made on his examinations, the old prince saw his talent and would not let him fail. In place of "a very poor candidate," the chairman made sure that all his examiners marked Lev as "average." He could graduate.
SOURCE: The Orientalist: Solving the Mystery of a Strange and Dangerous Life, by Tom Reiss (Random House, 2005), pp. 193-194, 198-199

15 August 2006

Weimar–Soviet Alliance, 1920s

At the world economic conference in Italy, [German Foreign Minister Walther] Rathenau charmed and negotiated around the clock, trying everything to press the Allies for some concessions on reparations. He wanted Germany to deal with the West, but France was adamantly opposed—and Rathenau was not the sort of man to let the company collapse just because it was unsuccessful in one market. If the Western democracies would not help Germany, he was determined to "play the Russian card." In a midnight phone call with the Russian delegation, Rathenau arranged a secret meeting in the nearby seaside town of Rapallo. There, he entered into negotiations with none other than Leonid Krasin, the elegant bomb-maker of Baku ... Krasin's terrorist days were over, and he was now helping bolshevism with his smooth negotiating skills and wide knowledge of the oil business. (In fact, his main brief was to sell Baku oil concessions to Western companies on behalf of the new Bolshevik regime ...)

The new special relationship between Germany and Soviet Russia was based on their purely negative common affinity—a hatred for the West and the "victors of Versailles"—and would have terrible unforeseen consequences. Its secret codicils would allow the German Army to illegally rearm and train on Russian territory throughout the twenties and thirties. Tens of thousands of German "work commandos" would come to Russia in 1923 and begin experimenting in the new, still theoretical technique of the blitzkrieg, the idea that small, high-quality, mobile forces backed by airpower could overcome a country before it could react. Under the treaty, the Germans built aircraft outside Moscow and manufactured poison gas in a plant in the Russian provinces. Red and German armies trained their aviators and tank officers together at a series of new schools throughout the Soviet Union. Thus, the armies that would slaughter each other in the 1940s in the most massive mechanized battles in history trained together in the 1920s.
SOURCE: The Orientalist: Solving the Mystery of a Strange and Dangerous Life, by Tom Reiss (Random House, 2005), p. 183

A great many alliances based on "purely negative common affinity" seem to have "terrible unforeseen consequences."

Human Rights Interventions: Principles vs. Practices

During the Kosovo conflict, the human rights consensus seemed particularly powerful to those who sought to question the policies forwarded by the advocates of rights intervention. Kirsten Sellars noted that questioning the altruistic motives behind the Kosovo bombing campaign was regarded as 'heresy': 'The consensus rules that anything done in the name of human rights is right, and any criticism is not just wrong but tantamount to supporting murder, torture and rape.' The use of available facts to challenge the case for war, found relatively little support or media space in this climate of consensus. This was true whether the issue at hand was the manipulation of the Rambouillet talks by US officials, to cut short peace negotiations by demanding Nato freedom of manoeuvre across the entire Federal Republic of Yugoslavia; or the fabricated stories during the bombing campaign of alleged evidence of planned genocide and fake German Defence Ministry documentation of 'Operation Horseshoe'. For critical factual coverage of the conflict many people turned to non-Western media sources, where strongly researched articles were published in many countries, including Russia, China, India, Greece, Egypt and Israel. It seemed that the facts on the ground mattered less to the Western advocates of intervention than the principle that a stand must be made on the side of the human rights cause.

This would appear to be confirmed in the responses of commentators to the revelations, in the years since the Kosovo war, that the claims of mass slaughter or genocide of Kosovo Albanians, which were the media focus during the bombing campaign, were an exaggeration. In August 2000, the ICTY put the preliminary body count of Serbs and ethnic Albanians that died in the civil conflict at between 2,000 and 3,000, raising doubts over the alleged 'proportionality' of the Nato military response of 12,000 high-altitude bombing raids, including the use of cluster bombs and depleted uranium munitions over heavily populated areas and destruction of much of the civilian economy of the region. The leading British liberal broadsheet, the Guardian, editorialised in response that, yes, Nato may have 'lied' about its bombing campaign, and yes, massacre claims may have been 'exaggerated' and 'manipulated': 'Yet the sum of all these criticisms does not change the central issue. Was intervention needed?' What the Guardian sought to defend was that 'the principle of intervention was right' rather than the practice of it or its outcome. It appears that once the discussion of international relations revolves around 'principles' rather than 'practices' the existing consensus on human rights activism can all too easily sidestep factual criticism.

This confidence in the justice of the cause of the Nato bombers, and of the principle they were seen to be acting on, reflected a profound transformation in the perception of international priorities. In fact, the most common criticisms of the Nato campaign, from human rights activists, were that it should have been launched earlier or that it should have been extended (against US opposition) to send troops in on the ground and to the Nato occupation of Serbia itself. Back in 1990, few people would have imagined that, within the decade, the international human rights community would be advocating the military occupation of independent countries on human rights grounds, the establishment of long-term protectorates, or the bombing of major European cities on a humanitarian basis.
SOURCE: From Kosovo to Kabul and Beyond: Human Rights and International Intervention, new ed., by David Chandler (Pluto Press, 2006), pp. 15-16

14 August 2006

The Showa War: Japan's Poor Grasp of Global Trends

The Daily Yomiuri, Japan's largest newspaper (and a far cry from the Daily Worker), has been running a series of historical retrospectives leading up to the August 15 shusen kinenbi 'end-war memorial-day'. Notice that they call the war that lasted from 1931 until 1945 the Showa War, named for the third emperor of modern Japan, known outside Japan as Hirohito. Here's the 18th instalment, about Japan's poor grasp of global trends as several regional wars mutated into a global conflagration.
What should we learn from Showa War?

Many people who experienced the Showa War have died in the 61 years since the curtain came down on the fighting. To younger generations, the war is a distant event.

The Yomiuri Shimbun's War Responsibility Verification Committee attempted to determine the truth behind the hostilities, examined the facts and found many lessons that can be learned. To close the committee's yearlong verification process, we summarize the mistakes made by the political and military leaders:

A nation's future will teeter on a knife-edge if it cannot accurately read the balance of power among nations and global trends. After World War I, Japan found itself in such a situation.

Japan's first mistake was the Manchurian Incident.

At the Washington Naval Conference held in Washington from late 1921 to 1922, the Nine-Power Treaty, whose signatories agreed to respect China's sovereignty, and the Five-Power Treaty that limited tonnage of aircraft carriers and capital ships by the United States, Britain, Japan, France and Italy, were concluded. The invasion by the Kwantung Army into Manchuria challenged these treaties, which formed the backbone of the international order at the time.

The expansion of the Imperial Japanese Army into Manchuria provoked a fierce response from the United States, the country that advocated compliance with international agreements, nonintervention in domestic politics of other countries, market liberalization and equal opportunities. The reaction led to the Stimson Doctrine of January 1932, named after U.S. Secretary of State Henry Stimson. The doctrine said the United States would not recognize any territorial or administrative changes imposed on China by Japan through the use of military force.

Japan's growing isolation from the international community was highlighted by its withdrawal from the League of Nations in March 1933. Less than seven months later, Adolf Hitler's Germany also left the league.

Japan's plan to seek closer ties with Germany exacerbated this isolationism. The plan to conclude the Tripartite Alliance with Germany and Italy was once dropped due to circumstances in Europe described as "complicated and mysterious" by Prime Minister Kiichiro Hiranuma. However, dazzled by Germany's string of victories in Europe, Japan finally concluded the Tripartite Treaty in September 1940.

Conclusion of the pact meant Japan was allied with the nation bombing London. This was a fatal choice.

The Japanese military, whose leaders mostly were pro-Germany at that time, were unaware of the repercussions the treaty would have on the Sino-Japanese War. Britain had further clarified its stance of assisting Chiang Kai-shek, and the United States also promised substantial assistance. Japan had, accidentally, internationalized the Sino-Japanese War.

Japanese military and government leaders at that time failed to accurately grasp the international situation. They did not understand the rise of nationalism in China that set the foundations for the country's unification after the Chinese Revolution of 1911.

At the heart of the problem was the common perception in Japan in those days that "Shina [China] isn't a country." Japan justified its invasion into China by claiming that China was a "society of marauding bandits." The prevailing view in Japan at that time was that Chinese people lacked the ability to establish a modern state.

Of course, a few politicians, such as Tsuyoshi Inukai, clearly understood the nationalism in China. However, such politicians were shunted from the political stage early on during the Showa War by acts of terrorism by the military, making it impossible for them to influence Japan's policy toward China.

Furthermore, army officials who should have played important roles in policy toward China instead became "an advanced group" to lay the groundwork for invading China. Dubbed "army China specialists," they included Kenji Dohihara, chief of the Mukden Special Service Agency, and Takashi Sakai, chief of staff of the China Expeditionary Force. As military advisers to warlords possessing territories in China, they used conspiracies and various tactics as if they were real-life characters from the "Three Kingdom Saga."

They ignored moves by Chiang Kai-shek and other leaders of the Chinese Nationalist Party (Kuomintang) and the rapidly rising Communist Party led by Mao Zedong. They also failed to consider the united national front of the Kuomintang and Communists that would later determine China's destiny.

The leaders lost a balanced perspective of the international situation because Japan analyzed only one-sided data collected from Germany in Europe and warlords in China.

In the Imperial rescript on the declaration of war against the United States, as well as Britain, Emperor Showa said the war was for "self-existence and self-defense." However, Japan changed the purpose of the war to create the Greater East Asia Coprosperity Sphere after the war started. This was based on the concept of dividing the world geopolitically into four spheres--East Asia, the Americas, Europe and the Soviet Union--in which Tokyo planned to create a self-sufficient bloc of Asian nations led by Japan and free of Western powers.

However, this concept ignored the existence of China and focused too much on ideology. Consequently, it opened the door to an almost limitless expansion of the battle, although Foreign Minister Mamoru Shigemitsu, who played an important role in wartime diplomacy, took steps such as holding the Greater East Asia Conference in November 1943.

As Japan sought to bring an end to the war, it asked the Soviet Union, which had remained a virtual enemy of Japan, to serve as a mediator in peace negotiations. Japan's leaders were unaware that the Soviet Union had pledged in a secret agreement at the Yalta Conference to enter the war against Japan within 90 days of Germany's defeat, the U.S. success in developing atomic weapons and the U.S.-Soviet tug-of-war for the postwar global political leadership. In the end, Japan suffered two atomic bombings and was attacked by Soviet forces in the final days of the conflict, which led to the incarceration of many Japanese in Siberian internment camps after the war.
via Foreign Dispatches, who comments:
The day that Korea's largest newspapers are capable of such candor about the less than glorious aspects of their country's past is the day that I'll know there are more than two true liberal democracies in East Asia (Taiwan being the other apart from Japan). As for China - well, I won't expect any such thing in my lifetime ...
UPDATE: Taiwan urges Japan to 'face history'

UPDATE 2: As commenter Peter North observes, this piece is far from hard-hitting. Instead, it reads like a wishy-washy committee report. The other instalments I've read are similar in that regard.

13 August 2006

Ataturk and the Last Caliph, 1922–24

After the disastrous Young Turk flirtation with Germany, the last Ottomans were in fact cosmopolitan and progressive. The brief "jazz years" of Constantinople saw the throne reject its recent disastrous leap into ethnic nationalism and resurrect its centuries-old tradition of tolerance. The city got a Kurdish chief of police and a flowering of Kurdish newspapers. The Armenians were left in peace. Women's hemlines were rising and the veils were falling. Yet these last Ottomans were enormously unpopular. It was not that the Turkish people weren't ready for liberalization of all kinds, as Ataturk would prove shortly thereafter. It was rather that the last Ottomans had shown a love for all things modern, liberal, and Western—fast cars, fast women, "high life," as Mr. Osman called it—just as their empire was being picked apart by the European powers. They were seen, quite simply, as traitors.

Ataturk was firmly in control of the "new" nation of Turkey by 1922, though it was unclear what his official position was. He had moved the seat of government to Ankara, a small, barren city in Anatolia, in order to insulate Turkish politics from the intrigues of Constantinople. He had removed the temporal rights from the Ottoman throne—that is, detached the title of sultan from caliph—turning the position, for the first time in history, into a purely religious one, but he was not prepared to abolish it yet. To end the caliphate at the same time as the sultanate might have been too much for the hidebound Turks, especially the religious establishment. Ataturk did not want a civil war, so he ended the sultanate first, and then looked around for the cleverest, most honorable Osman to become caliph.

He chose ... Abdul Mejid, who was a serious-minded Renaissance man—an accomplished scholar, painter, musician, and poet—and perhaps the most progressive ruler ever to have sat on the throne. An American magazine profile in 1924 noted that the caliph "read a great deal ... German and French philosophers ... he regretted his inability to read English well enough to understand the English philosophers. He found politics distasteful, because it is 'the cause of so much hardship and unhappiness.'" Mr. Mejid had told the magazine that he counted on foreigners to come to Turkey. "Their coming here should be of great assistance to this country," he said. "Their money will enable us to build schools and enlighten the people of this unfortunate nation, who until now have been nothing but excellent warriors, though they have all the aptitudes for becoming philosophers and scientists."

Most astonishingly, perhaps, the spiritual leader of all the world's Sunni Muslims flatly denied the superiority of Islam. The scholar-sultan told the American reporter that he dreamed of a world "where all human beings will call one another brothers, racial and religious considerations will disappear, and people will live obeying the true word of God as it was brought to them by His prophets, Moses, Christ, Confucius, Buddha and Mahomet."

Then, on March 3, 1924, Ataturk suddenly abolished the position of caliph, a little more than a year after convincing the enlightened Mr. Mejid to take the job. On March 23, the vali of Constantinople, a sort of lord high chamberlain, received instructions from Ankara that "the Caliph should be treated with utmost courtesy but must be out of Turkey before dawn." All male descendants of the Osmans were to be given twenty-four hours to leave. Princesses and others had three days. The caliph would receive $7,500 in cash, and $500 each would go to the other members of the Osman family. The Osmans had never handled money before, as their servants had always had unlimited access to the country's treasury on behalf of their material wishes. Many barely knew how to dress themselves. The family's passports were to be stamped to bar them from ever returning to Turkey; they were to be permitted to live wherever they chose in the West, but no Osman was to take up residence in a Muslim country, for fear that he could resurrect himself as either sultan or caliph.
SOURCE: The Orientalist: Solving the Mystery of a Strange and Dangerous Life, by Tom Reiss (Random House, 2005), pp. 117-118

11 August 2006

The Head Heeb on the UN Peace Plan for Lebanon

The resolutely level-headed Head Heeb offers a positive take on the latest Franco-American UNSC resolution on Lebanon.
The compromise reportedly has the backing of all five permanent Security Council measures, which if true will make it virtually certain to pass. The Israeli and Lebanese governments have both been consulted, and although the IDF brass may be reluctant to give up on the planned push to the Litani and Lebanon is wary of an expanded French role, it would be politically unfeasible for either country to reject the United Nations' terms. The real question mark is Hizbullah, which would have to accept three conditions that it had vehemently rejected up to today: a ceasefire with IDF troops still on Lebanese soil, an augmented international force south of the Litani, and the loss of its military presence in the border region.

The decisive vote in this respect may be neither the United States nor France but Qatar. Qatar is the sole Arab country currently sitting in the UNSC, and as such has spoken for the Arab world and been the focus of the Arab League's crisis diplomacy. If the Qatari delegate votes in favor rather than abstaining or dissenting, then Hizbullah could only say no at the price of bucking the United Nations, its own national government and the Arab world. It might be willing to chance the first two, but probably not all three.

If all these hurdles are overcome, then the Israel-Hizbullah war will end on terms that allow everyone to gain something. Israel will have weakened Hizbullah and will get a stable northern border for the first time in more than 30 years, Hizbullah will be able to claim that it fought the IDF to the end, and the Lebanese government will obtain sovereignty over the entire country as well as a chance to resolve its outstanding disputes with Israel. France, as Lebanon's once and future patron, will increase its regional influence, and even the United States will (against all odds) have played a critical role in brokering the settlement.

This means that the proposed resolution is, at this point, about the best possible end that can be imagined for the whole sorry mess. A war in which all parties can claim achievements is one that is less likely to fester and more likely to provide a foundation upon which the underlying issues can be settled. As Israel has learned from bitter experience, a draw that leads to a resolution of the root conflict is preferable to a victory that doesn't - the Yom Kippur War ultimately resulted in peace with Egypt while the Six Day War led to nothing but an endless nightmare of occupation. If this war, like the war of 1973, leaves all parties proud but chastened, the not-defeat may have better results in the long term than an unequivocal battlefield victory.
UPDATE: The half-life of hope about anything that involves the combination of the Middle East and UN resolutions is about equal to that of ununoctium.

Young Turks and "Deutschland über Allah" in the 1910s

The spirit of universal Ottoman brotherhood soon melted away, revealing a harder, more exclusive ideology. The Young Turks [who seized power in 1908] embraced something called "pan-Turanianism"—the notion that all Turks from the Russian steppes to Anatolia came from a single ancestral land called "Turan." In this view, the entire historical orientation of the Ottoman Empire toward Europe and the Middle East had been misplaced. Instead, the empire should be focused on reuniting the Turanic peoples in Russia and Central Asia. In his book Allah Is Great, Lev [Nussimbaum aka Kurban Said] compared the Turanian obsession to "blood and soil" ideas in Germany. In a kind of Turkish parallel to the German idea of lebensraum, the future was to be found in the East—in an invasion of Russia to reclaim ancestral lands from the thirteenth century and earlier, not only those of the Ottomans but of the other great Turanians, the Mongols and the Huns.* (*Since at least the eighteenth century, Russian ministers and theorists had referred to the Ottoman capital not as Constantinople but as Czargrad, in anticipation of absorbing it into the new world-dominating Super Russian Empire. The counter-theory of the pan-Turanian principle meant that if the Russians wanted to reconquer Constantinople, the Turks would do them one better, reconquering half of Russia.)

What clinched the Turkish-German axis in the First World War was really the personality of Enver Pasha. A dark fireplug of a man who had served as the Ottoman military attaché in Berlin, Enver had embraced all the pointed helmets and polished boots and talk of Wagnerian Götterdämmerung-cum-Jihad. (Kaiser Wilhelm did his part by spreading the rumor that he had converted to Islam.) When Enver led the Young Turks to power in 1908, as war minister, he was sporting a Kaiser Wilhelm mustache, which should have been a clue as to which way things would go. What ensued may have amounted to the most dramatic "self-colonization" in history: in the name of achieving instant modernization and international power, the Young Turk junta turned the Ottoman Empire into a virtual military colony of the German Reich. "Deutschland über Allah," said some diplomatic wags. But it was a dead serious maneuver, and it happened with lightning speed. Enver turned over the entire Ottoman officer corps to the Germans; more than twenty-five thousand German officers and NCOs assumed positions of direct command. A Prussian officer founded the Turkish Air Force, and two German battleships arrived in the Golden Horn. The German crew brazenly donned fezzes and sang "Deutschland über Alles" beneath the seaside villa of the Russian ambassador.

The Young Turks had launched the Ottoman Empire off a cliff. It is hardly remembered now what a large role Turkey played in the First World War, except for the storied Gallipoli landing, where the defending Turks slaughtered British, Australian, and New Zealander expeditionary forces. Almost everywhere else, it was the Turkish soldiers who were slaughtered. More than three hundred thousand Turkish soldiers died fighting the Russians in the Caucasus alone, as a result of Enver's plan to begin a great reconquest of the ancient Turkish heartland. The plan was to take Baku so as to launch Turkish armies across the Caspian in oil tankers, landing at Kizel-Su and crossing Turkestan, conquering Bukhara, Samarkand, and eventually, even Mongolia. On the eve of the revolution, the czar's forces poised for a final attack on Constantinople. Had Russia stayed in the war and the Bolsheviks not prevailed, Istanbul might today be called Czargrad and the Middle East might be an imperial Russian federation. The Turkish rout was the fault of poor planning and bluster—Enver sent Turkish troops to fight in the Caucasus in winter with no overcoats and without even boots—but the increasingly fanatical Young Turk junta looked for someone else to blame for the failure of the Turanian dream. Thus, the infamous Armenian massacres of 1915 were set in motion.
SOURCE: The Orientalist: Solving the Mystery of a Strange and Dangerous Life, by Tom Reiss (Random House, 2005), pp. 106-108

09 August 2006

Impressions of Persia, c. 1920

The years 1918–20 represented almost as close to a global apocalypse as the world had ever come. Most of the important monarchies of Europe and Asia, having provided stability for hundreds of years, suddenly ceased to exist. The khanates of Central Asia were distant backwaters, but Lev [Nussimbaum, aka Kurban Said] was deeply struck by the spectacle of "those glorious old kingdoms," collapsing one after another, as "the desert fell beneath the power of the red star."... There was nowhere to flee but south, so the Nussimbaums joined a caravan of Russian and Muslim refugees heading for Persia.* (*The nation would become Iran only in 1935, as part of a Nazi-influenced name change. As some Iranians will still proudly tell you, they are more closely related by blood to the Germans than to their Semitic neighbors: Iran means "land of the Aryans," a notion that pleased Reza Shah Pahlavi, the country's dictator at the time, and founder of a dynasty that would end with his son's overthrow by the Ayatollah Khomeini in 1978.)

The desert borderland between Bukhara and Persia was still quiet, and the caravan crossed into the nominal domains of the shah without incident. Like Turkestan, northern Persia was largely unsettled, but the culture was older and more civilized. The caravan traveled for days across the desert, coming occasionally upon luxuriant oases and the ruins of old cities and forts, dusty and lonely, like some sprawling string of elegant ghost towns. The inhabited cities were surrounded by walls six feet deep and twenty feet high, made of pounded clay; as in the Middle Ages, city gates were opened in the morning and closed at night. The walls could not withstand modern artillery but served to keep out tribes of marauding bandits and nomads. The Kurds were common raiders in northern Persia, but, along with the ethnic Azerbaijanis, they also provided the bulk of the Persian Army. The native Persians did not like to fight. In this class-bound society, they thought it declassé to take up arms....

Of course, Persia was full of life—its forests were filled with wolves, tigers, foxes, and wild boars, while lions roamed the deserts along with Persian horses, which were famed for their beauty, even if they were not as fleet-footed as the Arabians. The country was also known for its agricultural wealth—some of the world's finest wheat, cotton, sugar, grapes, and tobacco. Everywhere Lev went, he smelled tobacco and hashish, as well as the famous roses of Persian love poetry that bloomed in so many varieties in the gardens and oases. The kingdom of the Qajar shahs seemed like a sanctuary from history, where the people lived among the fig trees and orchards, spending their time distilling roses into precious perfumes, weaving rugs, guarding harems, and composing poetry. In this literary graveyard of versifying tent-makers, he found a land yet to be set upon by the modern world.

The caravan's journey through post–First World War Persia sometimes sounds like a swing through the American Bible Belt. "In Persia religion alone is alive," Lev wrote, but it was a religion of many strange branches, sects, and secret societies. He encountered Ismailis, devil worshippers, Babists, and Bahaists, a sect of universalist Muslims who believed that a Muslim messiah had returned to earth sometime in the mid-nineteenth century—around the same time Joseph Smith found the Books of Mormon—and that we were living in a millennium when all religions could come together. Mainstream Muslims despised the Bahaists as blasphemers, and they often persecuted them.* (*Until the 1980s, in fact, anti-Semitism was uncommon in Persia, whereas anti-Bahaism was rampant. In the minds of many of today's mullahs, the two seem to be merged, so that the disciples of the Ayatollah Khomeini have warned of Zionist-Bahaist-American plots.) Islam's original triumph in Persia in the seventh century had represented the defeat and banishment of the local religion, Zoroastrianism, whose dualistic creed had prevailed in the Persian court for hundreds of years. But along with the Muslim conquerors came another kind of Koranic proselytizer—refugees, not conquerors—who called themselves Shi’Ali, "the Partisans of Ali," or simply the Shiites. The Shiites taught the Persians not to trust the Arab conquerors, who claimed to represent the way revealed by the Prophet Muhammad.

The Shiites believed that the right to be caliph, or spiritual leader, of Islam should have fallen after Muhammad's death to his cousin and son-in-law, Ali. Ali was chosen caliph for a short time, just four years, but then he was murdered with a poisoned sword. A few years after Ali's assassination, his sons Hassan and Hussein tried to assert their family's rights and were similarly dispatched: Hassan by poison, Hussein in a heroic last stand in the desert, near the town of Karbala, in modern-day Iraq, where, like Ali, he was killed by the Sunni warriors who opposed him. The martyrdom of Hussein, in which the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad sacrificed himself for the true message of God, was for his followers something like the crucifixion of Jesus was for Christians (though Hussein was not considered divine): in the eyes of the Shiites, Hussein's death is Islam's central tragedy. Shiite ideology was complex and kaleidoscopic, varying from place to place, but it all came down to one belief: the Prophet's rightful successors were murdered, injustice ruled in the House of Islam, and the world would not be made right until the Mahdi, the Shiite messiah, arrived to implement the Divine Kingdom on earth....

Lev found Persia's Shiite Muslims theatrical and seductive. It was Islam in its most intoxicating form—a self-sacrificial dance of outsiders and rebels. He loved the raw religious fervor all around him, which he had never experienced in Baku. Shiism's encouragement of the underdog nurtured Lev's view of Islam as a bastion of heroic resistance in a world of brute force and injustice.
SOURCE: The Orientalist: Solving the Mystery of a Strange and Dangerous Life, by Tom Reiss (Random House, 2005), pp. 62-65

08 August 2006

Journalism: The First Draft of What?

I don't feel the need to join all the sharks circulating around the self-inflicted wounds of Reuters and other propaganda facilitators (on whichever side) covering the latest outbreak of hideous warfare in the Middle East, but I would like to take this opportunity to sneer in the general direction of the legacy media and their much vaunted editors.

In keeping with the Far Outliers focus on items that languish in undeserved obscurity, I'd like to highlight a recent letter to the editor headlined Iwo Jima, Revisited on page A17 of Saturday's Washington Post, a newspaper for which I retain more respect than most (a very low threshold, I admit). The letter reads:
Regarding "Next Exit Marine Land; Along I-95, a New Military Museum Goes Up -- And Up" [Style, July 31]:

Philip Kennicott succumbs to the old canard that the famous photo of the flag-raising on Mount Suribachi during the battle for Iwo Jima in 1945 was "a restaging of an earlier flag-raising on the hill that was not quite so visually dramatic."

The second and larger flag was put up so that it might be more visible to the troops below. The second raising was not staged, and it was serendipitous that Joe Rosenthal was there to snap one of the most famous photos of all time.

I refer those interested to "Flags of Our Fathers," a book by James Bradley and Ron Powers.

-- Terrence Leveck
For 60-something years, this rumored "first draft" of history has been embedded in newsrooms and press clubs around the world (though not in Tokyo's press club, I recently learned). If he really cared about accuracy, culture critic Kennicott didn't need to go to the trouble of consulting the recommended book; he could instead have consulted a source far more accessible and reliable than any piece of fresh news off the wire or cable: Wikipedia. Journalists may wish to think they are writing the first draft of History, but in almost every case they are just writing the 51st draft of (edited!) Conventional Wisdom. (The stench of CW being synchronized is why I can no longer tolerate PBS's Washington Week even though I regularly watch the NewsHour.) Wikipedia on almost any controversial topic is, by contrast, the 51st draft of History, if not the 101st. And Wikipedia's editors are usually volunteers, often specialists in their fields, unlike the paid professionals whose job it is to know even less about more topics than the jack-of-all journalists they supervise.

Did the vaunted editors of the WaPo Style section catch the CW myth that the complacent Mr. Kennicott included in his article? No. It took an agitated reader to bring it to the newspaper's attention. Bloggers and journalists who either provide email addresses or enable comments get the same kind of feedback all the time. What was the difference again?

I'd like to give the last word to a commenter at NYU journalism professor Jay Rosen's thoughtful blog PressThink.
Michael Schrage of MIT’s Media Lab e-mails:

Sorry to come to Nick’s ‘analysis’ so late. Read your comment and Jeff Jarvis’s. May I just add a couple of cents?

In the course of being the Washington Post’s first “tech” correspondent back in the early and mid-80s, I had to cover Detroit and Ross Perot’s acquisition by GM. I learned a lot about the autombile industry (and, frankly, I really hadn’t planned on that or wanted to…)

Forgive the preamble but it leads to my key point: Detroit just sucked at competition. It thought of itself and behaved like a domestic oligopoly and even Chrysler’s near-death experience didn’t change that dynamic.

Competition from Japan? Establish voluntary export restraints and insist on domestic content and greenfield plants.

It took well over a decade—and literally hundreds of thousands of layoffs—before Detroit even began to be a global competitor. To this day we can see that competition more often drew out the worst of Detroit’s executives and employees rather than their best.

I feel this dynamic replayed in the so-called MSM; in 2001, I would have bet real money that competition from the blogs and Google was going to make the New York Times, WSJ, CBS, CNN, Time, LA Times, etc. better and sharper publications.

What I see and read today are so-called ‘professional’ journalists operating from a defensive crouch and the breathtaking (to me) arrogance that competition from ‘amateurs’ and responses by reader/viewers are, net-net, not worthy of their time. It’s astonishing to me.

My political biases and perceptions aside, I am just flat out disappointed by how poorly the MSM competes. And it’s clear to me why Rupert Murdoch—for whom competition is both fuel and goad—has done so well over the past twenty years.

07 August 2006

From Glasnost to Nihilistic Terror in the 1800s

In the early 1790s, while the king of France was having his head cut off, Empress Catherine had applied her own novel interpretation of human emancipation to keep revolution at bay: she had granted rights exclusively to the nobility. Since Russia had started with a system where no one possessed rights except the czar, or czarina, this had been deemed great progress and the beginning of enlightened civil society in Russia. Russian nobles now basked in their new freedom from whipping and poll taxes and arbitrary arrest; no noble could be deprived of life, property, or title without trial by a jury of his peers. But with their new inalienable rights, the nobles began to treat the serfs more and more like slaves. Under Catherine, Russian nobles bought, sold, and traded serfs—using them to settle gambling debts or equip brothels—both privately and at open markets, which visiting Europeans and Russian abolitionists took to comparing to the slave markets in the Americas (though Russian nobles like Pushkin violently objected to the comparison).

By the 1830s, a Russian noble's status was measured in the number of "souls" he possessed. But as Russian nobles came to feel more and more like the elite in the rest of Europe in terms of their own status, they developed a sense of embarrassment and guilt over the outmoded system under which they held human beings in bondage to their land. Abolitionist proposals almost always included plans to sell the emancipated serfs small parcels of land, or to let them sharecrop, after they were freed. But the serfs did not acknowledge that the nobles had the right to sell them anything. A kind of organic socialism already existed among many serfs under which land was held by a rural commune, the mir, that distributed the right to work it according to a household's size and needs. (Some reformers, like Prince Kropotkin, the famous anarchist, formed their ideas of socialism by idealizing the communal relations of the serfs their family owned.) The serfs believed that when the czar gave them their freedom, the Little Father must naturally also recognize their right to the land as well—for what was freedom without land? It was a potentially devastating clash of interpretations.

Coming to the throne in the 1850s, Czar Alexander II had resolved to modernize his country from the ground up, and he not only set about freeing the serfs but also reformed a host of other institutions: the press laws (eliminating most censorship), the universities (ending most government control over professorships and academic speech), the military (dropping the twenty-five-year draft that had made Russia's armies a kind of martial serfdom), and the judiciary (replacing secret government courts with public trial by jury). The Liberator Czar also vastly improved conditions for Russia's Jews. In her Memoirs of a Grandmother, Pauline Wengeroff, who was born in the Pale in 1833, describes the hope she and her family felt after Alexander II "liberated sixty million peasants from bondage and the Jews from their chains." She described how the czar opened the gates of Russia's cities, welcoming a generation of Jewish youth "to quench their thirst for European education in the universities. In this brilliant period of intellectual flowering, the Jews took part in the ferment in the whole country, the rise of the fine arts, the development of the sciences."

It is important to resurrect the forgotten optimism of those days—when the original term glasnost, "openness," was coined—in order to understand the true horror of what followed.

During Alexander's reign, the disaffected children of the elite exploited the new freedom at the universities to join countercultural organizations that grew consistently more violent. Always the author to write the headlines, Turgenev, in his novel Fathers and Sons, gave the sixties generation its most popular new word—"nihilist." The turning point was the "mad summer" of 1874, when Russian students ditched school en masse, in a movement they called To the People. The students dressed like peasants, or at least their romantic impression of peasants—overalls, red shirts, and unkempt long hair for the men; loose white blouses, black skirts, and short hair for the women—and walked or hitched rides out of the cities into the countryside, carrying sacks of tools they barely knew how to use. Like the hippies a hundred years later, they planned to work the land, shoeing horses or planting crops. The students were shocked when "the People" regarded their strange appearance suspiciously, often turning them in to the local police. Stung by the peasants' rejection, the student radicals returned to the cities determined to shock the system by other means. ("The ideal of the French Revolution, draped in the barbaric vestment of Russian nihilism, inspired the upper classes of St. Petersburg's youth," as Lev [Nussimbaum, aka Kurban Said] would later write.) They formed the People's Will, a self-proclaimed terrorist organization.
SOURCE: The Orientalist: Solving the Mystery of a Strange and Dangerous Life, by Tom Reiss (Random House, 2005), pp. 23-25

Naturellement. Who better to understand and express the People's Will than the "disaffected children of the elite"—especially after being rejected by the very people they presume to speak for?