Monday, August 31, 2015

Map on Monday: IRAN

The Physical Ecology, Communal Loyalties, and Geopolitics of Iran

by David Pence and A. Joseph Lynch

Physical Ecology: Natural Resources and Physical Geography 

Iran is the second largest in land area of the Mideast countries (Saudi Arabia is first). If Iran were compared to a U.S. state, it would be nearly four times the size of California. The Iranian plateau at the heart of the nation is dominated by mountains, particularly the Zagros Mountains running along its borders with Turkey and Iraq. Although Iran's climate is mostly semi-arid, Iran is situated near major water areas in the region, particularly the oil-rich Caspian Sea and Persian Gulf. Iran is ranked third in the world in oil reserves. Almost all of them are along its western border with Iraq and the Persian Gulf. In addition to petroleum, Iran is also rich in natural gas, coal, chromium, copper, iron ore, lead, manganese, zinc, sulfur.

Communal Loyalties: Ethnicity, Language, and Religion

Iran is the most powerful of the Shia-majority states (the others of which are Iraq, Azerbaijan, and tiny oil-rich Bahrain which is ruled by a Sunni king). It is an inspiration and at times supplier of Shia minorities (Hezbollah in Lebanon, the Houthis in Yemen, and the eastern province of Saudi Arabia.) The Iranians speak Persian (60%), Kurdish (10%) and Azeri (15% - a Turkish dialect spoken in northern provinces adjacent to Azerbaijan.) Iran had a significant religious and military history before its conversion to Islam (A.D. 633-655). It was the center of Zoroastrianism; and Cyrus of Persia freed the Jews from their "Babylonian [modern day Iraq] Captivity" in 539 B.C. Iran has 80 million people - comparable to Egypt (88 million, comprised of 85% Sunni and 10% Christian) and Turkey (78 million, another non-Arabic country with 70% Sunni and 15% Shia).

Many present-day Shiite populations in Sunni countries correspond to the boundaries of the last Persian empire of A.D. 200-650

Geopolitics: Political Geography and Foreign Policy

Iran borders Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Turkmenistan to the east and north east; the Caspian Sea, Azerbaijan, and Armenia to the north; Turkey and Iraq to the west; and the Persian Gulf, Strait of Hormuz, and Gulf of Oman to the south.

Modern Iran formed the geographic core of the old Persian Empire. Persia, weakened by war with the Byzantine Empire, was rapidly overrun and converted to Islam in the seventh century. For centuries the non-Arab Muslims of Persia stood apart from their religious brethren. The rise of Shia Islam in Persia, however, made this non-Arab, non-Sunni area of the Mideast anathema to the majority of Muslims in the region.

In 1953 Iran was one of the first Mideast countries to nationalize its oilfields. The US-inspired overthrow of Prime Minister Mohammed Mosaddegh in 1953, and return of Mohammed Reza Shah Pahlavi, is a history event better remembered in Iran today than the USA. The secular Shah ruled in the name of modernity like Ataturk of Turkey. He introduced female suffrage and compared his national goals with the post-war economic resurgence of Japan. During his rule, Iran and Israel had a multi-layered alliance against their majority Arab and Sunni neighbors. Most Arab nationalists were secularists but still hostile to the Jewish and Persian states. Israel in the early 1950’s under Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion struck an “Alliance of the Periphery” with Muslim non-Arab states.

The Shah ruled until his overthrow by the popular Ayatollah Khomeini in the Shiite Spring which preceded the Arab Spring by twenty years. The "Holy Defense War" of 1980-88 against the secular Saddam Hussein leading his majority Shiite nation further shaped the Iranian understanding of their national identity and destiny. They correctly accused the U.S. of supporting Saddam’s invasion.

As religious identity has trumped Arab nationalism as the organizing principle in the Mideast, the Shiite nation-state of Iran is at the top of the ISIS enemy list. The Wahhabi-driven Saudis have long seen Iran across the narrow Strait of Hormuz as a religious and geo-strategic enemy. The Likkud party in nuclear-armed Israel also defines Iran as its greatest existential threat. In the US Congress there has not yet been a serious argument that Shiite Iran might be a proper ally in the war against the jihadist Salafist purification movement of Wahhabi Islam and their supporters in the house of Saud.

Stratfor on Iran's Geographic Challenge

Stratfor - short for Strategic Forecasting, Inc. - is a private global intelligence company that offers geopolitical insight into the interplay of nations. Stratfor has developed an excellent series of short (~2-4 minute) videos which provide the viewer with a specific nation, along with its basic history, geography, culture, and geopolitical allies and adversaries. In the following video, they present the geographic challenges facing Iran.

For more information on Iran, visit its page on the CIA World Factbook.

This post originally appeared on Anthropology of Accord on February 16, 2015.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Religion and Geopolitics Review: Saturdays, August 15, 22, and 29

by David Pence and A. Joseph Lynch 


The three American boyhood pals who saved countless lives by stopping the jihadist on a French super train teach a great lesson. They are living examples of the best homeland security program we could devise. Let us revive a trained patriotic masculine presence and identity everywhere that American men gather. We are brother protectors all the time in every situation. The civic culture should train all men to be efficient fighters (this means obligatory masculine military training, not universal national service). The Church should cultivate the virtue of courage as a response to danger, and teach men that loving our neighbors means protecting those around us. The men on the train were prepared to act courageously, and the military training of some of them helped them act effectively. French President Hollande in awarding the heroes France's highest honor saw them as a symbol of "humanity." In an earlier statement he said that "brave women and men" like them would be the antidote to terrorism. We Americans must remind the modern Frenchman that Napoleon swept Europe by calling  "every male a citizen soldier." That other French warrior, Joan of Arc, knew the same truth. Her cry was always: "Men of France, do your duty." Both the Maid of Orleans and the Little Corporal knew that the essence of citizenship in a Christian culture was based on a male fraternity of sacrificial love. This is the essence of male citizenship: men do for our countries what Christ did for humanity. A dying culture will not make such men. A culture of life will.


CHRISTIAN REALISM: A review of the work of Reinhold Niebuhr. Niehbuhr disagreed that progress would always come from education, so he was against Dewey. He thought nations in the real world would do actions that would harm the innocent. He had a low view of the morality of nations,  thinking they were always agents of self-interest.

HENRY KISSINGER INTERVIEW ON REALISM AND STRATEGY - DON'T MAKE RUSSIA AN ENEMY: Thirty-year anniversary of National Interest magazine interviews Mr. Kissinger. In a understated way he attacks the momentum of US policy toward Russia and our utterly ahistorical approach to the relationship of Russia and Ukraine. He doesn't explain Kiev Rus, but he knows it exists.


CATHOLICS IN NATIONS ON THE RISE (PINS): John Allen of Crux (Boston Globe project to report on the Catholic Church as a worldwide institution) looks at the Philippines, India, Nigeria, and South Korea.

CATHOLIC CHURCH AND THE BIG BANKS: Letting criminals go while extorting big money from the institution is not just a legal strategy against the Catholic Church. Fines after The Great Wall Street Robbery have a similar feel - pick the deep institutional pockets and let the individual crooks take their profits.

POPE FRANCIS, SPIRITUAL WARRIOR FOR MARRIAGE: Paul Kengor on the Pope Francis strategy to defend marriage. Is he giving away the store or is he a wily spiritual warrior?


THE MYTH OF INCLUSIVE GOVERNMENTS IN THE WAR AGAINST ISIS: The war in the Mideast will be fought as shifting coalitions of communal groups. The criticism against Iraq's first Prime Minister Maliki (2006-2014) that he wasn't inclusive was never fair. He might have been a bad ruler - I don't know, but his sin was not that he tried first to consolidate Shiite control and then find Sunnis who would deal with him. The new prime minister is going to do the same as the agreement with Iran affects strategy in Iraq.

SAUDI ARABIA AND 9-11: One part of the national debate on foreign policy during the presidential campaign should insist on the release of the 28 pages of the 9-11 Commission report that deal with the role of the Saudis in the attack. House of Saud and House of Bush tells one tale while Wikipedia is as far as your research has to go to find, not just the Clinton Foundation, but the Carter Center deeply beholden to the Saudis. People talk about the Jewish lobby and Israel, but the Saudi lobby is much more nefarious -- for it seems both ubiquitous and hidden.

MUSLIMS IN THE US-MATURATION US: Muslims can be a strong force for bringing America back under God. Will religious Americans see them as fellow citizens and believers? It took Protestants a long time to admit Catholics into the American Covenant. There is a parallel for men who understand that political bonds emerge from religious loyalties.

TURKS FIGHT KURDS AND SAUDIS KILL THE HOUTHIS--WHO WILL FIGHT THE SALAFIST SUNNIS? Stratfor has a lot of reporting on the Saudi invasion of Yemen in the Mideast which seems to have garnered the news coverage of black men shooting black men in American cities. Stratfor (which we learn from daily), however, maintains its almost pathological insistence on reporting conflicts as if religion doesn't exist. Meanwhile, Turkey's new commitment to fight is much more aimed at the Kurds, not ISIS.

IS THERE DISSENT IN ISRAEL ON IRAN NUCLEAR DEAL? Is there a security bloc that doesn't agree with the Netanyahu depiction of the Iran nuclear deal as a catastrophe?

SUNNI EGYPT: The Muslim Brotherhood won an election, and now there is a military government. Is that a problem?


JAPAN AND WWII: A moving apology and perspective from President Abe.

CHINA AND A US MARITIME STRATEGY: The Defense Department Strategy document on Maritime policy with special emphasis on the expanding shores of China.

POLAND'S NEW PRESIDENT: President Duda's worldview.

THE ARCTIC NATIONS: Understanding Finland.


SECULARIZATION AND CHRISTIAN COMMONWEALTH: Aidan Nichols, O.P. is a great scholar of history, theology and philosophy. At the Imaginative Conservative, he writes about secularization.


NATURE IS NOT YOUR MAMA: The antidote to pantheism and nature worship is to understand a few salient facts about the physical universe. Most of the universe is utterly hostile to life. Even on earth -- which is a set-aside environment improbably, but unmistakably, conducive for life -- nature herself is utterly unforgiving. The Universe begins with a casting out, and still manifests that in the expanding dissipating universe. It is a place of conflict and has been, long before man was created and sinned.

God called back matter with the attractive forces (strong nuclear and gravity) and the elements were formed in the stars. Eventually by an act of the Holy Spirit, a handful of matter on earth was incorporated into a cell. It was an enclosure of life -- a sort of tiny Eden. About 3.5 billion years after the first life, Man was created in another enclosure: the Garden of Eden. He was cast out into the battlefield where now he is being integrated into the Body of Christ who appeared also by an act of the Spirit in a sacred enclosure. Only selected matter associated with human beings and our dominance are being integrated onto Christ. Most of matter is still being cast out with the spiritual beings who started the battle long ago. Matter itself is law-abiding, but it has no preference for man. Bishop Robert Barron, who usually does not comment on this aspect of the Universe, sees clearly here the radical indifference of Nature.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Friday BookReview: Robert Moses -- the outsized power of an unelected official

"The pivotal day in my life as a young reporter,” [historian Robert] Caro recalls, was when he was covering the state capitol in Albany. There was a proposal to build a bridge across Long Island Sound, a project which virtually no one favored, because it would increase pollution and congestion. But, Caro remembers, the news was whispered through the capitol that Robert Moses was there, and “the next thing I knew everybody from the governor on down was for the bridge. I saw I didn’t know how anything works."


From a review by the president of Harper's magazine of Robert Caro's study of urban planner Robert Moses (1888-1981):

It is something of a mystery why the Bodley Head has decided to publish Robert Caro’s The Power Broker in Britain more than 40 years after the initial appearance in the US of this classic work — but better late than never. Caro’s remarkable portrait of New York City’s master planner Robert Moses merits publication in any language, at any moment in time. For its scope extends beyond Moses, fascinating though he was as a person, builder, wrecker, and manipulator of men and money.

Caro’s ambition — in a journalistic sense equal to Moses’s ambition in architecture, park creation, and road and bridge construction — is greater than conventional biography. Over 1,200-odd pages, with immense precision and considerable verve, Caro aims to describe the essence and pathology of Moses’s political power, not just the uses to which he put it or how he got away with the worst of his bulldozing, both physical and political. So we learn as much about the intoxication and addiction of power as we do about the bureaucratic titan whose imprint on New York bears comparison with his only modern equivalent, the smasher and rebuilder of Paris, Baron Haussmann.

Unfortunately, New York today remains ugly, congested, and harsh compared with Paris, and the tactics Moses employed to transform the city, adjacent Long Island, and upstate New York to suit his tastes were uglier still. Thus any assessment of Moses’s legacy, or potential revision of Caro’s devastating critique, must include the question: did Robert Moses make New York a better or a worse place to live?

Caro demonstrates that he made the city and the surrounding state much worse... though he can’t help acknowledging successes like Jones Beach State Park, Moses’s first big public-works project, which was constructed in the late 1920s on the South Shore of Long Island.

This vast refuge for the sweltering masses exists, in part, because the Yale and Oxford-educated Moses began his career as an earnest, idealistic reformer, very much in the mainstream of Progressive Era thinking. Principally interested in the reform of government administration, he wrote his Oxford PhD thesis on the British civil service, and upon his return to New York he campaigned for the elimination of patronage appointments by political bosses.

But, as Caro recounts, Moses at Oxford shortly before the first world war was already exhibiting the arrogant elitism that would mark the rest of his life, no matter how public-spirited his projects purported to be: ‘What Moses admired’ in the British administrative system was its rigidity and segregation — ‘that it had two separate and distinct classes’ of chiefs and drones. ‘The competition Moses wanted [in civil service exams] was a competition open only to a highly educated upper class.’

Good intentions, such as they were, didn’t get Moses anywhere back home, and he despaired of beating the political professionals at their own game. That is, until he attracted the attention of Belle Moskowitz, a pragmatic reformer who had allied herself with New York governor Al Smith, a brilliant machine politician with an eighth-grade education. Smith was just the sort of talented poor boy that the well-born Moses wanted to exclude from meaningful government service. But when Moses realised that Smith, a pure product of Tammany Hall, could guarantee him a pathway to power through park-building, he threw all his enormous energy, intelligence and charm into befriending him.

Al Smith with Babe Ruth

The Irish-Catholic Smith protected and promoted the secular-Jewish Moses because huge, contentious park projects made good politics, especially when the press presented these projects as clashes between an oppressed working class, desperate for greenery and fresh air, and land-hogging robber barons devoted to preserving their privacy and privileges. Moses had no formal legal training, nor had he studied engineering or architecture. But he was the quickest of studies in the laws of appropriation and eminent domain, trial tactics, bill drafting, public bond issues, and the short and long-term political effects of pouring concrete.

And he was a ruthlessly adept political infighter, propagandist, and dispenser of patronage himself. Until 1962, when his command of the two main state parks administrations finally ended, he ruled almost unchallenged in the realm of public construction and urban renewal in the commercial and cultural capital of the United States. Having expanded his influence far beyond the preservation of open space — by controlling the boards of public, bond-issuing ‘authorities’ like the one governing the Triborough Bridge — Moses intimidated and outlasted a succession of governors and mayors, who came to fear him as much as they needed him to get the big jobs done.

But the big jobs, especially road-building, were a brutal business that defaced and constricted New York forever. As ‘America’s…most vocal, effective and prestigious apologist for the automobile’, Moses also influenced other cities, as he had New York, to chop themselves up with expressways and starve desperately needed public transport for generations to come.

Ironically, it was a patrician adversary, W. Kingsland Macy, who first seems to have recognised the danger Moses posed to the ordinary people he pretended to champion. Responding to the Long Island State Park Commission’s blatantly illegal seizure of a millionaire’s hunting preserve, Macy warned that if Moses prevailed, ‘No one’s home is safe.’ Little did Macy know that in future decades Moses’s expressway construction and ‘slum clearance’ would uproot, displace, and demoralise at least half a million low-income New Yorkers, predominantly black and Puerto Rican, who had none of the influence and money of the wealthy Long Islanders.

Moses’s Cross-Bronx Expressway also destroyed the working-class and largely Jewish East Tremont neighbourhood, and it’s in these chapters that Caro most vividly exposes the gratuitousness, the sheer cruelty of Moses at his darkest. The one mile of roadway that did the most damage, that stabbed the heart of East Tremont, could easily and inexpensively have been shifted to a less intrusive route than the one selected by Moses. As Caro writes, ‘Democracy had not solved the problem of building large-scale urban public works, so Moses solved it by ignoring democracy.’ But with his ‘dictator’s powers’, Moses wasn’t, like some other dictators, merely concerned with constructing enormous edifices. He was a sadist who enjoyed his powers —

"for using them gave him what was his greatest pleasure: the imposition of his will on other people…. He didn’t just feel that he had to swing the meat axe. He loved to swing it."

Caro has moved on to writing the definitive biography of Lyndon Johnson, for which he is justly lauded. But sadly, his detailed reporting and rhythmic prose, his great acuity for understanding and describing the nuances of politics and power, seems to be going out of fashion. He has no contemporary rivals, and perhaps only a few imitators. It’s worth noting that he learned the reporter’s craft on 'Newsday,' the once-excellent Long Island daily, and not on the 'New York Times,' so often the handmaiden to Moses’s most grandiose projects — projects that aggravated traffic jams while they enhanced Moses’s political sway through toll-collection on bridges and tunnels and by the judicious awarding of insurance business.

A couple of years ago, I ran into Caro on Central Park West, where we both live, and we chatted about the hideous high-rise luxury apartment buildings sprouting up on West 57th Street, now visible from a great distance to the north. I asked him why the then mayor, the billionaire Michael Bloomberg, got such easy treatment from the press, despite his terrible laxity on zoning and his excessive tolerance of the super rich. ‘I think everybody gets a pass nowadays,’ Caro said. I think he’s right.

"I was so angry at Robert Moses. He dispossessed five thousand people from one block -- elderly Jewish people -- to build the Cross-Bronx Expressway. When I interviewed these people, I’d ask them, ‘What is your life like now? ” And they’d say, ‘Lonely.’ And in my experience, that’s a word people don’t say unless it comes from deep inside. One evening I went to interview Moses and asked him if he thought these people were upset. He said, ‘No, there’s very little discomfort. It was a political thing that stirred up the animals there.’ I wanted to punch him in the teeth."

Mr. Moses in 1938 

Monday, August 24, 2015

Map on Monday: JAPAN

The Physical Ecology, Communal Loyalties, and Geopolitics of Japan

by A. Joseph Lynch 

Physical Ecology: Natural Resources and Physical Geography

The island nation of Japan is composed of four main islands: Hokkaido, Honshu, Shikoku, and Kyushu. Japan also stretches southward through the Ryukyu Islands. To Japan's north are the Kuril Islands - claimed by both Japan and Russia. Japan's physical geography generally orients it towards the Korean peninsula and Russia to the west and north (which taken together forms a perimeter around the Sea of Japan), and the Pacific Ocean to the east and south. Honshu, where the capital of Tokyo is located, is slightly larger than Great Britain, the second most populated island on the planet after Java, and the seventh largest island in the world. About 60% of Japan's population lives on Honshu. Japan has very few natural resources and with its forested and mountainous terrain, only 12% of Japan is suitable for agriculture. Japan is the world's largest importer of coal and natural gas and the second largest importer of oil.

Communal Loyalties: Ethnicity, Language, and Religion  

At 871 people per square mile, Japan is one of the most densely populated nations in the world, ranked fourth behind Bangladesh (2,840), India (999), and the Philippines (873) among nations with populations above 100 million.  At the other end of the spectrum are the United States (84.5), Brazil (62), and Russia (22). In addition to its issues of population density, however, Japan faces another demographic problem: an aging population. Over one quarter of Japan's population is over the age of 65 and sales of adult diapers in Japan are eclipsing those of infants. Language in Japan is split between Japanese language spoken on the main islands and the Ryukyuan languages of the Ryukyu Islands, the latter becoming endangered due to the spread of mainland Japanese throughout the islands. Kanbun - or classical Chinese - also played an important linguistic role in Japan. Akin to Latin in Europe, many classical, intellectual, and official works of Japan were written in Kanbun and the language remains a mandatory subject in Japanese secondary schools. Religion in Japan is dominated by folk Shintoism (52% of the population) and Buddhism (35% of the population). The non-religious population comprises 7% of the population while Christianity stands at less than 3% (compare this to nearby South Korea where the nation is almost 30% Christian and rising). The Shintoism of World War Two Japan was a mystically powerful combination of religion and racism which all of us must learn from.

Geopolitics: Political Geography and Foreign Policy

Japan's geographic orientation towards the Korean peninsula and Russia brings Japan into potentially confrontational contact with its peninsular and continental neighbors. While much media attention is given to North Korea, the dispute of the Kuril Islands has kept Japan and Russia from signing a peace treaty since the end of World War II. A 2012 poll of Japanese revealed that, with a 72% unfavorable view of Russia, Japan was the most Russophobic nation surveyed at the time. Japan's past history with South Korea and China, particularly during the days of Imperial Japan, leave her in poor standing with both today. The rise of China, however, has led South Korea and Japan to move more closely towards military pacts (both have security agreements with the United States). Where the Japanese islands - numbering 6,852 in total - face China are in Kyushu and the Ryukyu islands (of which Okinawa forms the southernmost bastion). These islands play a key defensive role in containing any potential Chinese military aggression while also denying Chinese fleets entry into the Pacific. As Prime Minister Shinzo Abe seeks to bolster Japan's armed forces, a defensive strategy such as this is one of his options. Japan also play an important role in the geopolitics of the South China Sea.

Stratfor on Japan's Geographic Challenges

Stratfor - short for Strategic Forecasting, Inc. - is a private global intelligence company that offers geopolitical insight into the interplay of nations. Stratfor has developed an excellent series of short (~2-4 minute) videos which provide the viewer with a specific nation, along with its basic history, geography, culture, and geopolitical allies and adversaries. In the following video, they present the geographic challenges facing Japan.

For more information on Japan, visit its page on the CIA World Factbook along with our Friday Book review on Japan - the first great modern Asian nation.  

This post originally appeared on Anthropology of Accord on March 2, 2015.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Friday BookReview: Stalingrad


The Battle of Stalingrad began on the 23rd of August 1942, and lasted roughly five months. It may well be the bloodiest struggle in all of recorded history.


Here are excerpts from a review that appeared in the Cleveland newspaper:

Yorktown and Gettysburg rank highest among American martial epics of valor and victory. Most Brits would probably choose the World War II aerial Battle of Britain as their "finest hour." To the French, Verdun – with its defiant cry, "they shall not pass" – represents a national Calvary of agony and endurance in World War I.

For the Russian people, even more deeply engraved on the national psyche, it's Stalingrad, "the most ferocious and lethal battle in human history." This titanic five-month encounter, with roughly a million casualties – dead, wounded, captured or missing – on each side, culminated in a shattering defeat of the Nazi invaders by the Soviets.

Military historians universally recognize it as the turning point of the Second World War, or, as it's known in Russia, the Great Patriotic War.

In Stalingrad: The City That Defeated the Third Reich, Jochen Hellbeck assembles what amounts to an ... all-encompassing chronicle, of this pivotal contest. The book, previously published to great acclaim in Germany, centers around a remarkable collection of oral histories gathered by Soviet researchers during, and in the immediate aftermath of, the battle in 1942-43.

This documentary trove languished in the basement of a Moscow archive until Hellbeck, a German-born historian who teaches at Rutgers University, came upon it in 2008.

Comprising 215 eyewitness accounts – thousands of typescript pages – from participants ranging from generals to privates, as well as civilians, these interviews paint, writes Hellbeck, a "multifaceted picture" of incredible bravery and fortitude. Due, however, to their "candor and complexity," they were censored during the war.


Afterward, the scholar who compiled them fell into political disfavor, and his project was buried and forgotten for more than six decades.

Hellbeck's signal achievement lies in how he deploys and supplements his sources. He begins with an overview of the battle, placing it in the context of both the war and Soviet society. He reminds us that the U.S.S.R. did more than any country to defeat the Nazis and paid a much higher price.

The Red Army inflicted about 75 percent of all the casualties suffered by the Wehrmacht. Roughly 27 million Soviet citizens died – around 15 percent of Russia's prewar population. In contrast, American World War II deaths number just over 400,000...

[W]e get multiple angles of vision on events such as the capture of the overall German commander at Stalingrad or a costly, failed assault on a Nazi-held position. Hellbeck aptly likens the effect to "a chorus of soldierly and civilian voices."

The book also contains gripping, stand-alone accounts. Nurse Vera Gurova was among the nearly 1 million women who served in the Red Army. She and her sisters elicited this from her commander: "They can't do what a man can do physically, but they outdo men in terms of courage."

Sniper Vasily Zaytsev killed 242 Germans and was honored as a Hero of the Soviet Union. Explaining his remorseless hatred for the enemy, he commented to his interviewer: "You see girls hanging from the trees. Does that get to you?"
Barmaley Fountain in Stalingrad
Rounding out Stalingrad are many photos, transcripts of German prisoner interrogations, excerpts from the diary of a dead German soldier and a brief coda that describes the battle's aftermath and the unhappy fate of the band of researchers who tried to capture the Stalingrad experience in full.

Besides illuminating the human side of this colossal battle, Hellbeck also revises the common Western image of the Red Army as a horde driven forward "by pistol-waving political officers."

To be sure, savage penalties were meted out to perceived shirkers. One general casually remarked that he personally "shot the commander and commissar of one regiment, and a short while later" executed "two brigade commanders" for their failings.

Nevertheless, Hellbeck's findings compellingly suggest that it wasn't just, or even mostly, coercion that motivated Soviet troops. Rather, it was a combination of effective "political conditioning" and genuine patriotism that inspired them.

Hellbeck concludes with a visit to the giant memorial in Volgograd, the name that replaced Stalingrad in 1961 as part of that era's de-Stalinization. Words penned about the battle and its heroes by the renowned Soviet novelist Vasily Grossman are engraved on an exterior wall: "An iron wind struck them in the face, yet they kept moving forward. . . . Are these mortals?"

Inscribed inside the monument is this response: "Yes, we were mortal and few of us survived, but we all discharged our patriotic duty to our sacred Motherland."

A comment that appeared in another review:
"It is important to keep Soviet history in mind when thinking about morale at Stalingrad. During the Russian Civil War, Joseph Stalin led communist forces in defending the city of Tsaritsyn against the White Army. The city was renamed Stalingrad in 1925 to recognize this achievement. Soviet soldiers who fought at Stalingrad did not see Stalin as a ruthless dictator responsible for the deaths of millions; most, according to Hellbeck, were proud to be fighting in the same city that he had defended."

UPDATE: While all this was going on, life in Leningrad was also hell as residents were enduring an almost 900-day siege. It was lifted in late January of 1944.

Some of the experiences of a teenage girl who survived.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Map on Monday: NIGERIA

The Physical Ecology, Communal Loyalties, and Geopolitics of Nigeria

by A. Joseph Lynch

Physical Ecology: Natural Resources and Physical Geography

Nigeria is located in western Africa with its Atlantic coast oriented south just four degrees north of the Equator. At roughly 356,000 square miles in size, Nigeria is about twice the size of California. Nigeria's two largest rivers, the Niger and the Benue, converge at the Niger Delta and flow together into the Atlantic Ocean from the north. This southern part of Nigeria is also home to a tropical rainforest climate. In the north, however, Nigeria borders the dry Sahel, a semi-arid region that runs along the Sahara's south. Rugged highlands in Nigeria's east form a geographic border between Nigeria and Cameroon. In the far northeast is Lake Chad (which is also bordered by three other nations: Chad, Cameroon, and Niger). Nigeria is a resource-rich nation with deposits of tin, iron ore, coal, bauxite, gold, tantalite, limestone, niobium, lead, zinc, and natural gas. Almost 80% of Nigeria's land is arable. Despite this, Nigeria's agriculture has been overlooked by government development in favor of another vital natural resource: oil. Nigeria is the world's 12th largest producer of oil and is ranked 10th in overall proven reserves.

Communal Loyalties: Ethnicity, Language, and Religion

Nigeria is the most populous nation in Africa. At nearly 174 million people, it accounts for about one-sixth of the continent's population and one-fifth of Africa's sub-Saharan population. Nigeria's focus on oil production over agriculture has lead to food shortages as much of its arable land is either unused or poorly farmed without modern equipment. Although Nigeria is divided among 250 ethnic groups, the largest three comprise some 68% of the population. The largest ethnic group is the Islamic Hausa-Fulani in the north at 29%, followed by the Yoruba (21%) and the Igbo (18%). Despite the fact that over 500 languages are spoken in Nigeria, the British left behind their unifying national language after leaving Nigeria in 1960. Christianity and Islam comprise the two largest religious groups in Nigeria with a religious civilizational fault line dividing the Islamic north and the Christian south. Although Islam has had a long presence in Nigeria, Christianity is now only slightly behind Islam demographically in Nigeria.

Geopolitics: Political Geography and Foreign Policy

Nigeria is bordered by Christian-majority Benin to the west, Islamic Niger to the north, Islamic-majority Chad to the northeast, and Christian Cameroon to the east, with access to the Atlantic in the south. Despite the large size of Lagos (9 million) on the coast, Nigeria made Abuja its capital both due to its central location and also to the area's perceived neutrality between Nigeria's various communal loyalties. Since its independence in 1960, Nigeria has placed much emphasis on the African subcontinent, opposing apartheid in South Africa, sending military into the Congo, and promoting self-government among former European colonies. It's military (200,000 men) has been involved in peace-keeping efforts in Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Ivory Coast. Nigeria remains non-aligned yet formed strong ties to Israel in the 1960s. Radical Islam is perhaps Nigeria's gravest military threat. The terrorist group Boko Haram operates in Nigeria's northeast, but is also found within Niger, Chad, and Cameroon, making its defeat difficult for any one nation. Boko Haram has killed some 17,000 since 2009 and is perhaps known most for its kidnapping of 276 schoolgirls in 2014.

Stratfor on Nigeria's Geographic Challenges

Stratfor - short for Strategic Forecasting, Inc. - is a private global intelligence company that offers geopolitical insight into the interplay of nations. Stratfor has developed an excellent series of short (~2-4 minute) videos which provide the viewer with a specific nation, along with its basic history, geography, culture, and geopolitical allies and adversaries. In the following video, they present the geographic challenges facing Nigeria.

For more information on Nigeria, visit its page on the CIA World Fact Book along with our post from 2011. The April 2015 election of Muslim Muhammend Buhari was a set back for Boko Haram - here were our thoughts at the time.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Friday BookReview: "The first nation in history to have worldwide reach"


Here are excerpts from a review of Spain: The Centre of the World, 1519–1682 by Robert Goodwin, a London professor:
As every schoolboy knows, ‘the empire on which the sun never set’ was British, and ‘blue-blooded’ was a phrase applied to the nobility who ruled it for most of its history. And every schoolboy is wrong. The phrase was coined to describe the dominions of the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V (or Charles I of Spain), which were the first to span the requisite number of time zones; and ‘blue blood’ — sangre azul — referred to his Visigothic ancestors who reconquered Spain from the Moors, who had held it since 711 AD. These northern warlords would apparently show the purity of their ancestry by revealing the visible veins in their untanned forearms. 
The Reconquista was completed by Charles’s grandparents, Ferdinand and Isabella, in 1492, when they finally took Granada. A few weeks later they met Columbus in Cordoba and sent him on his ultimately vastly remunerative westerly voyage to the ‘Indies.’ 
Robert Goodwin’s book — whose title correctly places Spain, Jerusalem-like, at the centre of the 16th-century geopolitical map — picks up events in 1519, just as the first American treasures arrived in Seville, the southern capital of Spain and sole licensee to all cargo returning across the Atlantic.
On one level this book is the story of how that treasure was spent: on pomp and on war, on the arts and the architecture to house them. And what a lot of treasure there was...  
These vast riches were placed in the hands of the master of one of the most brutal and battle-hardened armies in the world at the very moment that the faith of which he was secular head was undergoing a massive schism. Martin Luther penned his 95 theses in 1517.
What distinguishes Goodwin from other historians of the period is the sheer multiplicity of his perspectives. He is erudite and concise in covering familiar ground, while full of original insight when it comes to the motives and actions of the key players...  
Goodwin also has an eye for the apposite detail to illustrate his general theme. In 1580 Spain had a greater caseload of litigation in its courts than the United States did in 1970, yet had a 20th of the population. This endless recourse to law across all social classes was the direct result of a system of legal aid so comprehensive it almost ground this global empire to a halt.

However, Goodwin’s real interest shines through in his description of the art and literature of this golden age, and he offers a detailed analysis of many great works, from the famous — such as Don Quixote, Cervantes’s postmodern take on the picaresque, and ‘Las Meninas,’ Velázquez’s masterpiece of misdirection and reflection [above] — down to lesser-known masterpieces such as Francisco de Zurbaran’s vivid ‘Christ on the cross’ and Juan de Valdés Leal’s terrifying ‘In ictu oculi’... 
The most notable effect on this reader was an urge to return to Spain, especially to Goodwin’s beloved Seville, that ‘deeply religious and very beautiful provincial backwater’, with ‘its quiet lanes and courtyards’, its ‘grand monuments’ and its ‘ghosts’. After all, it is not enough to bring truth to history. One must also bring life — and this book has it in golden abundance.
Zurbaran's painting is in the Art Institute of Chicago

From an interview with Professor Goodwin --

"Centre of the World"? Really?

Yes. I’m going to quote my book here: “On Halloween, 1519, a lone carrack [large merchant ship] reached the shores of southern Spain and sailed up the Guadalquivir, the Great River of the Moors, to Seville, capital of Andalusia, a region known to medieval Arab poets as paradise on earth. The first ship to reach Europe from the newly conquered coast of Mexico, the little Santa María had 'so much gold on board that there was no other ballast than gold,' or so it was reported to King Charles. At that moment, the modern Western world was born and globalization began”...

The great thing about Columbus was not so much that he reached America, but that he came home with the news.

So your book is about Spain as the centre of this globalising world. How were Spaniards affected by all this money?

During the 1500s Spain was held together by a relatively strong crown and perhaps the most fascinating consequence of that combination of grass-roots chaos and an overall sense of order is that Spaniards became one of the most litigious societies in history. They trusted their courts because of the strong crown, despite some cases lasting for generations (Columbus v. the Crown, begun in 1510, was eventually settled in the 18th century) and levels of corruption that seem astonishing to us. (An advocate was struck off in the 1550s after he was discovered to have accepted instruction from both the aristocratic plaintiff and the powerful municipal defendant.) But illiterate peasants and even slaves also went to court and they did not just sue each other, they also took on their lords.

Another massive structural social consequence was the growth of education and universities, the institutions needed to train so many lawyers and the officials who administered the empire abroad and the government of Spain at home. This led to considerable social mobility. Where there is education, there is also intellectualisation. So in a world we usually associate with the Inquisition, there is perhaps no better example of independence of thought than the School of Salamanca, a group of theologians and jurists who sowed the seeds of modern international law and human rights on the fertile soil of Catholic faith.

The Inquisition still happened, of course.

Yes. But there was enlightenment too. The Habsburgs were deeply troubled by the rise of Protestantism and Spaniards came to dominate the Counter-Reformation. On the one hand it encouraged religious intolerance generally and specifically gave the Inquisition raison d’être after it had run out of steam in the 1520s. On the other, it gave impetus and focus in art, both high religious art like that of El Greco or Murillo, but also popular art, most obviously manifest in the fluoresence of Holy Week, Semana Santa, which survives today.


So all that money was partly invested in culture?

So far as Spanish culture goes, this was the period known as the Golden Age. There is a fascinating intersection of the twin influences of religious devotion and the kind of moral and existential self-questioning displayed by the Salamancans and their monarchs, that produced some of the most brilliant poetry, theatre and literature to sit alongside the beautiful paintings of Diego Velázquez... .

But unquestionably the greatest figure of this world of belles lettres was Miguel de Cervantes, who drew on his experience travelling the length and breadth of Andalusia as a tax-gatherer to write "Don Quixote." It was not simply the first modern novel... but the very rise of the novel to its supreme form in 18th-century Britain is unimaginable without Cervantes showing Defoe, Swift, Sterne and Fielding the way. Mark Twain as much as admitted that there could have been no Moby Dick without Quixote and Sancho.

The intersection of novel experience and religion led Spaniards to question every aspect of reality itself. They had a name for this phenomenon, this strange crisis of faith; they called it 'desengaño' or disillusionment and they sought the experience of a sudden revelation of the real beneath the imaginary at every opportunity. And desengaño could be divine. The great art critic, Antonio Palomino, wrote in the early 1700s that Martínez Montañés had created the breathtaking image of the Christ for the leading Seville Confraternity of the Passion, “with such an anguished expression that it excited the devotion of even the most lukewarm heart and it is said that when they carried this sacred image in procession during Holy Week, the artist himself exclaimed it was impossible that he should have made something so wondrous and realistic.”

In the Seville Cathedral (where Columbus is buried)

UPDATE: Take a look at our earlier post about Spain (and its map).

Monday, August 10, 2015



by A. Joseph Lynch

The map above depicts the southeastern Asian nation of Malaysia along with the tiny nation at the southern tip of the Malay peninsula: Singapore.

Sunni Islam came to the region during the 14th century and formed the first independent peninsular state called the Malacca Sultanate. Beginning in the early 16th century the region was dominated by Portuguese and later British imperial rule.

Although most attention is given to Malaysia's peninsular portion (where its capital, Kuala Lumpur, is located), approximately 61% of Malaysia is located on the northern edge of the island of Borneo (which itself is host to two other nations: Brunei and Indonesia). In 1963, both portions of the nation voted to forge the Federation of Malaysia and have since been one nation split between the South China Sea.

The island nation of Singapore was considered the "Gibraltar of the East" by the British Empire due to its strategic location at the eastern entrance of the Straits of Malacca. Still geopolitically important today, 25% of today's oil - along with countless other goods - passes through this narrow maritime choke point (see this Map on Monday article for more, along with another map). The Japanese capture of the area in the opening months of its entry into World War II was called the "worst disaster" and "largest capitulation" in British military history by Winston Churchill.

In the early 1960's, Malaysia and Singapore nearly forged one nation fully uniting the lower Malay Peninsula with the Malaysian Borneo coast. Racial tensions and political unrest, however, led to Singapore's expulsion from Malaysia and its formation as an independent nation. Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore's first prime minister and founding father who died last month, had desperately sought to keep Singapore within Malaysia. Singapore today has become an economically and culturally vibrant nation, hard at work and well-balanced ethnically and religiously. While trained by Israelis in the self-defense of a small nation, it has succeeded in establishing a nation where Muslims, Christians, and Buddhists thrive side-by-side.

Situated between a rising China, India, and Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore are bound to be important regional players in the decades ahead.

This article was originally posted on April 4, 2015.

August 10, 2015 UPDATE: Stratfor - short for Strategic Forecasting, Inc. - has created a new video explaining Malaysia's Geographic Challenges. This video is part of an excellent series of short (~2-4 minute) videos which provide the viewer with a specific nation, along with its basic history, geography, culture, and geopolitical allies and adversaries. To view, click on the video box below. 

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Religion and Geopolitics Review: Saturday, August 8

by David Pence and A. Joseph Lynch


Whenever I hear people refer to a certain set of papal encyclicals as the "social teaching of the Church," I tighten a bit. First, because I think all of these encyclicals betray a stunted view of masculinity and the nation. They teach what Russell Hittinger calls the "scissors approach" to the State. The State should not infringe on the family which is below it, but in possession of a sacred sanctuary. The State should not infringe on the Church which is bigger than the State, and also has many prerogatives not under the jurisdiction of the state. So the State is defined by two scissors that cut off the extent of its authority. But there is no positive fraternal view of the nations or states as defined public relationships (the res publica) among men. When I think of social teaching, I think of Church, nation, and marriage as forms of communio. All these forms stem from the greatest social teaching of the Church: The Trinity.


One of the most influential essays I have ever read was by Robert Louis Wilken on the early life of the Church: Church as Culture.


When the problem is one of proportion, the solution is usually to be found in Chesterton by Ahlquist. And speaking about proportion, we should remember the distinction between rich man trophy hunting vs the hunters and outdoorsmen of Pheasants Forever.


On July 28, 2015, Orthodox Christians of America joined the Russian government (represented by Vladimir Putin) and the Russian Orthodox Church (represented by Patriarch Kyrill) to celebrate the 1000-year anniversary of the repose of St Vladimir in Moscow. There, all could witness the Christian tie that both transcends and binds the nations of Slavic Orthodoxy. The European nations share a similar pre-national religious bond which they have ignored at their great peril. The statue of St Vladimir which will soon dominate the Moscow city-scape is not without controversy and spiritual significance.


Commonweal magazine is a progressive Catholic journal that was a very important venue of both literature and theology a half century ago. It is now a reliable advocate for Catholics of the feminist, homosexual, pacifist school of Christianity. They have allowed Andrew Bacevich space in their magazine before, because he brings military credibility and foreign policy sophistication to their magazine's antiwar position. It is to their credit that they published Bacevich's Under God editorial which noted that the Supreme Court decision on homosexual marriage will have a significant effect on our stance in foreign policy with nations who think doing God's will is part of a nation's spiritual calling. Almost every responder vehemently disagreed and a fraction wondered why he was published.


It is a failure of love that so many Europeans (compared to Asians, Americans and men of the Mideast) will no longer fight for their country.


An evenhanded appraisal by committed Euros of how Russia and assorted nationalisms are shattering the European myth. The authors are evenhanded, as well as soulless, in their description of their project in disarray.


Two Sunni nations are more militarily engaged in the last few months than they have been for several years. But while Turkey is fighting the Kurds in Syria, the Saudis fight the Shiite Houthis in Yemen. The salafist Sunnis of ISIS in Syria and Iraq and AQAP of Yemen are left untouched. A recent satirical article explains the situation in terms of a bizarre board-game in which the regional powers (Israel included) believe the best way to fight ISIS is to fight their religious, ethnic, or local enemies.


Phillip Jenkins reviews a book on BOKO HARAM.


John Allen reports on Indian martyrs with no one to pay their way to canonization.


The strange world of the Israeli homosexual movement -- nuances in Gaydom.


To understand the Pope, understand the place of Peron in Argentine history.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Friday BookReview: Mark Twain's veneration for Joan of Arc


"... she is easily and by far the most extraordinary person the human race has ever produced."  (Mark Twain)

Here are excerpts from a review by Maurice Williams:
Mark Twain originally had "Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc" serialized in magazines, then published it in three separate booklets, then later in one combined book. It has since been published in many reprints. Mark Twain considered it his most ambitious work; covering the career of someone he admired most of his mature life. [It] was not very well received by critics, and this subjected Mark Twain to some ridicule, but he never wavered in his admiration of Joan of Arc... 
I didn’t know that he owned a publishing house that prospered when he published the notes of Ulysses S. Grant and went into bankruptcy when it embarked on an ambitious and expensive marketing plan to publish the biography of Pope Leo XIII... 
[Twain] wrote many criticisms of Christianity, even going as far as to state: “If Christ were here now, there is one thing he would not be-- a Christian.” But in spite of all this criticism, Twain appears to be a man with a sense of moral uprightness. He helped Frederick Douglass, an escaped slave, to acquire a college education at Twain’s expense. He thought it correct, after filing for bankruptcy, to pay back all his creditors even though, under the laws of bankruptcy, he was not obligated to do so... 
[As for the saint's life]: After the Dauphin believed Joan and commissioned her as General-in-Chief of the armies of France, she dictated a letter of warning to the English holding Orleans on April 21, 1429. She moved with the army to attack Orleans [about a week later], but discovered that her generals had countermanded her orders and had the army on the wrong side of the river. A few days later, she approached Orleans from the correct side of the river. [Joan directed the different attacks, in one of which] she was wounded. By May 8, the siege of Orleans was lifted. An incredible success: seeing that France had been steadily engulfed by England for almost 100 years. 
For inexplicable reasons, the Dauphin then disbanded the army. Then on June 9, the Dauphin regrouped a new army. Joan liberates Jargeau, where Joan is wounded a second time. On June 18, Joan defeats the English at Patay. This broke the back of England’s one-hundred year ambitions in France, and the road was now open to have the Dauphin crowned in Rheims. There was a more or less bloodless march to Rheims. Some English-held cities let Joan and the Dauphin pass without battle, some tried to stop them and were defeated. One city, Troyes, was strongly garrisoned by English and their Burgundian allies and offered resistance. Joan defeated them on July 9. The Dauphin was crowned king on July 17, 1429. 
While in Rheims, Joan sent a message to the Duke of Burgundy urging him to seek reconciliation with the Dauphin, now that he is anointed King and do not fight against him, for, “if you do, you will surely be defeated.” The Duke sent emissaries to Rheims, and Joan thought the King would argue for a good firm peace. Instead, the King settled for a two-week cease fire, which only weakened the King’s position. Joan and the generals felt this was foolish. Since lifting the siege of Orleans and having the Dauphin crowned was the objectives of her commission to assist France, after the coronation, Joan resigned from the army and prepared to return home. Her generals convinced her to encourage the King to continue to Paris and liberate all of France, which probably could have been done in a few months, given the terror Joan’s presence did to the English and Burgundian soldiers. The King was willing at first, but later had second thoughts. He was not fully convinced that conquest was desirable at this point. He felt negotiation would be more effective. He vacillated... 
Joan’s voices no longer had anything to say about attacking Paris, but her generals and she, herself, wanted to liberate Paris. But the King still [hesitated] between conquest and negotiated peace. Nevertheless, Joan and her generals did begin an attack to liberate Paris, but, as the attack was in progress, the King withdrew his support and ordered a retreat. Joan was wounded a third time during this attack. 
Joan then spent several months in the King’s service fighting many minor battles against rebellious cities and bands of partisans. Then, the Burgundians laid siege to Compiegne, a recently liberated city near Paris, so Joan, with about 400 fighting men went to raise the siege. She charged against the defending troops who retreated, apparently a ploy to lead her and her men into an ambush. When her men realized the risk of ambush they had to force her to retreat toward the city. The captain of the city, seeing a great many English and Burgundians close on the heels of Joan and her men, quickly closed the gates of Compiegne to insure that the pursuing army could not enter the city, leaving Joan and her soldiers trapped. Joan was taken prisoner by the Burgundians, who later sold her to the English, who [then] staged a rigged trial to have her executed as a witch... 
I was surprised by Twain’s take on the life of Joan of Arc. He describes her as being “gutsy.” This is quite a compliment from someone as critical and satirical as Mark Twain. He is known to make such bold statements as: “The Bible is full of interest. It has noble poetry in it; and some clever fables; and some blood-drenched history; and some good morals; and a wealth of obscenity; and upwards of a thousand lies.” “Our Bible reveals to us the character of our god with minute and remorseless exactness. It is perhaps the most damnatory biography that exists in print anywhere.” “If Christ were here now there is one thing he would not be -- a Christian.” “I do not believe He has ever sent a message to man by anybody, or delivered one to him by word of mouth, or made Himself visible to mortal eyes at any time in any place.” “I believe that the Old and New Testaments were imagined and written by man, and that no line in them was authorized by God, much less inspired by Him.” “I think the goodness, the justice, and the mercy of God are manifested in His works: I perceive that they are manifested toward me in this life; the logical conclusion is that they will be manifested toward me in the life to come, if there should be one.” 
... Twain spent twelve years researching her life, including many months in France doing archival work and then made several starts until he felt he finally had the story he wanted to tell. Because of his aversion to established churches, one might expect an anti-Catholic bias toward Joan’s beliefs or at least toward the bishops and theologians who condemned her. Instead, one finds a remarkably accurate biography of the life and mission of Joan of Arc. The very fact that Mark Twain wrote this book and wrote it the way he did is a powerful testimony to his open-mindedness toward the religion Joan placed her faith in. 
In his book, here’s what Twain had to say about the church Joan remained faithful to: “Joan was deeply religious. Her religion made her inwardly content and joyous. He face had a sweetness and serenity that justly influenced her spiritual nature. If sometimes she seemed troubled, it came from distress for her country, no part of the distress can be charged to her religion.” Twain recounts that the first person Joan approached about her mission, Robert de Baudricourt, had decided that Joan was either a witch or a saint. To resolve this question, he brought a priest with him to exorcise the devil within her if there was one. “The priest performed his office and found no devil in her. The priest had offended Joan’s piety for he had already heard her confession and he should have known that devils cannot abide the confessional.” Twain relates how he understands Joan’s genius coming into play when she has the Dauphin crowned by the Church. “Now, then consider this fact, and observe its importance. Whatever the parish priest believes, his flock believes; they love him, they revere him; he is their unfailing friend, their dauntless protector, their comforter in sorrow, their helper in their day of need; he has their whole confidence; what he tells them to do they will do; with a blind and affectionate obedience, come what may. Add these facts thoughtfully together, and what is the sum? This: The parish priest governs the nation. What is the King, then, if the parish priest withdraw his support and deny his authority? Merely a shadow and no king; let him resign.” For someone distrustful of ecclesial influence, Mark Twain is certainly open to the influence of the Church in this case. 
I wonder, sometimes, why God intervened into human affairs in such a spectacular way when the man [that] God wanted confirmed as king of France turned out to be such a problem for those who went out of their way to make this happen. I think the reason goes beyond the careers of Joan’s contemporaries. It has something to do with God putting enmity between the woman and her seed (Jesus Christ) and Satan and his seed (those humans who follow Satan) when God punished Adam and Eve and Satan when God first created the human race. I think this ongoing struggle has influenced human history ever since Satan dared to tempt the human race. 
On December 30, 1905, Mark Twain was the guest of honor at a dinner given at the Aldine Association by the Society of Illustrators. Many well-known magazine and newspaper artists were present. It had been arranged that when Twain was speaking, a young model wearing armor like Joan of Arc would appear followed by a young boy carrying Joan’s banner. While Twain was in the middle of his talk, he was astonished to see this young woman approaching. Twain’s face suddenly changed. He looked like he had seen a ghost. Joan presented him with a wreath of flowers. He merely bowed and watched her as she turned and left the room. Then, his voice broken, he stunned the audience by saying: “There’s an illustration, gentlemen, a real illustration. I studied that girl, Joan of Arc, for twelve years, and it never seemed to me that the artists and the writers gave us a true picture of her. They drew a picture of a peasant. Her dress was that of a peasant. But they always missed the face—the divine soul, the pure character, the supreme woman, the wonderful girl. She was only eighteen years old, but put into a breast like hers a heart like hers and I think, gentlemen, you would have a girl—like that.” Even at this time, he still felt admiration for Joan and still felt the sting of the poor reception of his biography of Joan... 
I can visualize Mark Twain when he stood before the judgment seat of God and feeling as uncomfortable as you and I would feel when we finally are there. And while he is feeling so uncomfortable and regretting at least some of the things in this life, I can imagine Joan arriving. I sincerely think it proper that he who defended Joan so ardently in this life should have someone like her to plead his case in the next life.

The map is from this site; another fine website is here.

Here, from several years ago, are some insights of Pope Benedict XVI.

“Joan was a being so uplifted from the ordinary run of mankind that she finds no equal in a thousand years.”  (Winston Churchill)

UPDATE -- From a salute to a new statue of the saint at Fort Drum, New York (about 90 miles north of Syracuse):

"The more closely we examine Balan’s sculpture, the more we are confronted with its specifically Christian themes of Joan as a saint whose sword was her means of doing God’s will, not a contradiction to it...

"Balan has carefully sculpted Joan’s face—she is very distinct and realistic—while the soldier is more roughly handled, an anonymous face with eyes wide in pain and mouth agape. One easily imagines him partially in wonder at the lovely face looking down at him, partially in anticipation of his approaching death. This moment is very significant: it is based on eyewitness accounts of Joan comforting a soldier, who was, as it happens, an English prisoner too poor to be ransomed. When she saw her Frenchmen mortally strike this prisoner, she rushed to him, summoning a priest for the last rites.

"The scene is lovingly described by Mark Twain in his book on Joan of Arc..."


Monday, August 3, 2015

Map on Monday: KENYA

Map of Kenya (click here to enlarge)
by A. Joseph Lynch

Physical Ecology: Natural Resources and Physical Geography

At roughly 225,000 square miles, Kenya is slightly smaller than the state of Texas. Kenya is situated in east-central Africa with the equator running laterally across the heart of the nation and the mostly dormant volcano and lake-filled Great Rift Valley dividing its far west from the east. Kenya's capital city of Nairobi is located in the nation's south, placing it in the southern hemisphere. Farther south on the Indian Ocean is Kenya's major port city of Mombasa. The tropical climate on the coast turns into savanna grasslands further inland before becoming more arid in the north and east, particularly around the Chalbi desert. Kenya's west borders Lake Victoria, the largest tropical fresh water lake in the world. Kenya is also home to the continent's second-highest mountain, Mt. Kenya.

Kenya's natural resources includes limestone, soda ash, salt, gemstones, fluorspar, zinc, diatomite, oil, gas, gypsum, wildlife and hydropower. Kenya's economy, however, is dominated by the services industry (61% of GDP) in relation to tourism, while agricultural production ranks second (24% of GDP). Despite being the most industrially developed nation in region, Kenya manufacturing totals only 14% of the nation's GDP.

Communal Loyalties: Ethnicity, Language, and Religion

Kenya may be about the size of Texas, but its population of 45 million is roughly equal to the populations of Texas and New York state combined. Moreover, 73% of Kenya's population are under the age of 30, placing an already populous nation in the middle of a boom. The ethnic population of Kenya is more or less divided among two major groups, the Bantus (who comprise two-thirds of the population) and the Nilotes. Within the two groups are approximately 69 different languages spoken despite the fact that English (due to Kenya being a British colony from 1888-1962) and Swahili are Kenya's official languages.  Kenya is 83% Christian (48% Protestant and 24% Catholic) and 11% Muslim (8% of these are Shiite and 73% are Sunni). As a Christian nation, Kenya soundly rejected the lecturing of President Obama on the topic of homosexuality.

Geopolitics: Political Geography and Foreign Policy

Kenya borders Tanzania to its south, Uganda to its west, South Sudan and Ethiopia to its north, and Somalia to its east.

While Kenya resists the "ideological colonization" of the atheist West, Kenya is geographically situated on the civilizational fault line that divides Africa's Islamic north from its Christianizing south. Due to a porous border with Islamic Somalia, Muslim terrorists belonging to Al Shabaab often attack Christian Kenya (recall the 147 Christian Kenyans killed this past April). As a result, Kenya has at times been forced to launch military operations in Somalia (see our past Map on Monday posts regarding African terrorism and the Horn of Africa for more).

Kenya is a founding member of the East African Community with its five member nations consisting of Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, and Burundi. As 76% of the population in these nations are Christian, it is no wonder that Islamic Sudan's application to the EAC was rejected in December 2011 while Christian South Sudan is considered to be the most likely next member nation. Other nations which may be integrated into the EAC include Malawi (68% Christian), Congo (95% Christian) and Zambia (98% Christian and constitutionally-declared Christian). Although Islamic Somalia seeks integration into the EAC, the decision to allow it entry has been deferred since last February.