Do We Have a Deal?

The famed author of Parkinson’s Law once wrote that there are two kinds of books: those with naked women on the cover, and those without. As a rule, he added, the former sell better. Over the years my blog has carried quite a few pictures of women. However, not one of them shows a pair of naked breasts. Much as I love women, specifically including their bodies, it is a policy I intend to follow in the future, too.

Seriously, the blog is now four years old. During that period it has been clicked-on more than a quarter of a million times. Not nearly enough to compete with, say, Stormy Daniels and her alleged presidential lover. But perhaps sufficient to merit pausing for a bit of reflection. Before I get started, though, I’d like to thank my stepson Jonathan Lewy, who has been running it on my behalf; Mr. Larry Kummer, editor of the Fabius Maximus website, who more than anyone else has taken an interest in my work and encouraged me to continue posting; my friend Bill Lind whose blog, The View from Olympus is always an inspiration; various people who, either after being contacted by me or spontaneously, agreed to write their own essays; and a somewhat larger number who took the trouble to contact me and correspond with me.

Just why I started blogging and kept doing so I am no longer sure. Originally I wanted a forum on which I could write what I wanted at any time and in any form I wanted. Without, what is more, being subject to the whims of editors many of whom have their own agenda and quite a few of whom have always remained more or less unknown to me. That remains true to the present day. Another motive, which was added later, was a growing sense of obligation towards my readers. It is like being married; how could I let them down? Not that I have any illusions that they could not exist without me. However, it is as people say: the one thing worse than a Dutch Calvinist is a Jewish Dutch Calvinist.

Normally I spend about two hours on each post. Often these are times when, for one reason or another, I do not feel like doing more “serious” work. I draw my ideas from various sources. Including, above all, the daily news; any book or books I happened to be reading or working on; and friends’ suggestions. Topics I found particularly interesting included Israeli affairs—I am, after all, a citizen and a resident of that country and have long shared both its triumphs and its failures. Also military affairs in general; women’s affairs (both in- and out of the military); the shape the future might take; political correctness, which is my personal bête noire; why American kids so often take up guns and kill everyone in sight; and others.

Some of these topics have proved much more popular than others. I have, however, never succeeded in guessing in advance which ones would draw many readers and which ones would turn into flops. Truth to say, I have not even seriously tried. Perhaps it is better so; writing to please should only be allowed to go so far and no farther. Some posts, especially those that touch upon the position of women in society as well as the relationship between them and men, have drawn considerable critical fire. Good! May they continue to do so in the future, too.

One part of the work I particularly like is searching Google.com for images. Given enough patience, you will almost certainly find what you are looking for. I know there are a lot of criticisms of Google and I suppose some of them are justified. Any organization as large and successful as they are is bound to make enemies. As, in the past, Western Union, Standard Oil, General Motors, ATT, and Microsoft all did. To me, however, the company has provided a certain kind of freedom people before 2000 or so could not even imagine. Thank you, Google, for your help. It is appreciated.

Finally, I am not getting any younger or healthier. Driving up and down the hills around Jerusalem, which as a young man with twenty kilograms less around the waist I used to run over as if my life depended on it, I often wonder how long before some illness strikes and brings me to a halt. Que sera sera. This, however I promise my readers:

Never, ever, will I deliberately set out to offend people or use swearwords and other uncouth forms of expression to do so;

Never, ever, will I knowingly allow my judgments to be affected by inducements—and there have been a few attempts to offer them—or threats. The kind of threats, incidentally, that are even now being issued by some elements in Israeli academia against any faculty member who dares address any kind of political issue in class.

Never, ever, will I allow anyone or anything to interfere with my right to think, say and write as I saw fit.

Always, always, will I try to keep an open ear to my readers’ suggestions and criticism.

In return, I ask my readers to go on telling me what they think. Preferably by email at mvc.dvc@gmail.com

Do we have a deal?

Age of the Muzzle

Welcome to the age of the muzzle.

In Russia you cannot say that Putin is a dangerous scoundrel. The same, of course, applies to the rulers of many other non-countries.

In Canada, I am told, you cannot say that homosexuality is unnatural.

In Austria you cannot say that there was no Holocaust. Ditto in Germany.

In America, you cannot say that certain countries are s——-s.

In many American schools and universities, you cannot wear a cross pendant for fear someone will be offended.

In the Netherlands any reference to Zwarte Piet (Black Peter, a legendary comic character who has accompanied Santa Claus for ages) is bound to get you in trouble.

In almost all Western countries, you cannot say that many refugees and migrants are uncouth louts.

Ditto, that Islam is a religion that puts great emphasis on violence and the sword (which, incidentally, is its symbol).

Ditto, that trans-gender people are poor confused creatures who do not know what sex they belong, or want to belong, to.

Ditto, that there are some things men can do and women cannot. Or that people of different races have different qualities.

So why get excited when, in Poland, you are no longer allowed to say that quite some Polish people cooperated with the Germans in hunting and killing Jews?

And here is what Supreme Court member Louis Brandeis, back in 1927, in Whitney v. California, concerning a decision to convict a woman who had been sued for setting up a communist cell, had to say about the matter:

“Those who won our independence believed that the final end of the State was to make men free to develop their faculties, and that, in its government, the deliberative forces should prevail over the arbitrary. They valued liberty both as an end, and as a means. They believed liberty to be the secret of happiness, and courage to be the secret of liberty. They believed that freedom to think as you will and to speak as you think are means indispensable to the discovery and spread of political truth; that, without free speech and assembly, discussion would be futile; that, with them, discussion affords ordinarily adequate protection against the dissemination of noxious doctrine; that the greatest menace to freedom is an inert people; that public discussion is a political duty, and that this should be a fundamental principle of the American government. They recognized the risks to which all human institutions are subject. But they knew that order cannot be secured merely through fear of punishment for its infraction; that it is hazardous to discourage thought, hope and imagination; that fear breeds repression; that repression breeds hate; that hate menaces stable government; that the path of safety lies in the opportunity to discuss freely supposed grievances and proposed remedies, and that the fitting remedy for evil counsels is good ones. Believing in the power of reason as applied through public discussion, they eschewed silence coerced by law — the argument of force in its worst form. Recognizing the occasional tyrannies of governing majorities, they amended the Constitution so that free speech and assembly should be guaranteed.”

Did he make himself clear enough?

A Visit to Warsaw

I have been to Warsaw before. This was in the spring of 1989, just weeks before the first free elections that put an end to Communism in Poland. And twenty-two years after Poland had broken diplomatic relations with Israel, which meant that my colleagues and I were the first Israeli delegation to visit the country in all those years.

At the time Warsaw was a weird place. Clean and safe, or so we were told. Built almost entirely of bare concrete, painted exclusively in gray, a sea of unintentional brutalism gone mad. And with hardly any colored signs to relieve the depressing monotony. People living on $ 20 a month. People queuing in front of small kiosks to buy various kinds of preserved fruit, apparently the only food that was freely available. Every corner occupied by old women holding out small transparent plastic bags with a single tomato or cucumber inside. Every street swarming with black market dealers trying to con you as they changed your dollars into zloti.

Very little traffic, consisting almost entirely of locally-produced, antiquated Fiat (Polski) cars on the streets. A hotel with lousy food and no running hot water (when I called reception to tell them of the problem, they sent up a waiter with a glass containing it). Big “magazines” staffed by lazy saleswomen who spoke nothing but Polish and refused to get up if you were looking for something. Returning home, people asked me what Warsaw was like. I used to tell them it was a place where you spent a week looking for a present for an eight-year old—but could not find any.

Twenty-eight years later Warsaw is still clean—as my wife and I could see with our own eyes—and quite safe—as we were told. In other ways, though, such is the change as to merit just one description: stunning. The kiosks, the old ladies, the black market dealers, and the antiquated cars are gone. While traffic is as heavy as in any Western city drivers are, if anything more polite. People are very well dressed. Public utilities gleam with cleanliness. Color is everywhere. Shops, many of them first class (and, for those of you who are contemplating a trip, very cheap indeed) are bursting with the best imaginable merchandise: clothing shoes, leatherware, cosmetics, electronic appliances, what have you. Any number of excellent restaurants serving every imaginable kind of food. Some truly excellent museums. An extremely lively cultural scene. To be sure, compared with London or Paris Warsaw remains quite poor; the minimum wage is about 400 Euro per month. But it has gone a long, long way towards catching up.

All this is interesting, but it is not what I want to talk about today. The reason I went to Warsaw was because the Polish Staff College asked me to give some talks. I readily agreed, and so I found myself lecturing to 40-50 officers, most of them colonels (on their way to becoming generals) and lieutenant-colonels with the odd major thrown in. Average age about 35-50. As agreed, the lectures were based on my book, More on War. The course was a success and the members of the audience, most of whom spoke very good English, seemed very interested. They kept asking questions, which is always a good sign.

Again, though, this is not what I want to write about. What I do want to write about as the fact that, for the first time in God knows how many years, I found myself in a class that did not include any women. Having asked, I was told that the Polish military, which like other Western ones consists entirely of volunteers, does in fact take women; they are, however, mostly limited to ancillary tasks such as medicine, logistics, administration, etc. In the higher ranks there are hardly any women at all. One outcome being that, unlike most Western militaries, the Polish one has no difficulty attracting as many young men as it needs.

Finding myself in this unaccustomed situation, at first I kept opening my talks by saying, “ladies and gentlemen.” As the week went on, though, I discovered that not having females around has its advantages. I found myself able to mention some sensitive, but serious and interesting and important questions; and do so, what is more, without having to follow the obligatory wisdom whereby women are no different from men and can and should imitate the latter in everything. Or having to worry about some crybully getting “insulted” and running off to admin to make a tearful complaint.

Briefly, the evil winds blowing from Brussels did not make their effect felt. Political correctness did not reign. I did not have to worry about anyone feeling “embarrassed” by what I said. Though I only spent five mornings lecturing, the experience of liberation was overwhelming. What a blessing, not having to constantly look over one’s shoulder! All, paradoxically, in the one institution—the military—which is normally considered the most hierarchical and the least open to freedom of thought.

Shame on those who have brought us all to this point. However, I am happy to say that the Director of the College has asked me to come back next year. Health permitting, I most certainly will.

Why I Blog

Some three years have passed since I started this blog, and it is time to draw up a balance. No, my site has not drawn very large numbers of readers and has not developed into the equivalent of the Huffington Post. And no, I do not do it for profit; though at times I was tempted by offers to open the site to advertising, in the end I rejected them all. As a result, never did I receive a single penny for all the work I have been doing (normally, about two hours per week). More, even: since I am not very computer literate, I rely on my stepson, Jonathan Lewy, to run the site for me. But for him it would not have been possible. So let me use this opportunity to thank him from the bottom of my heart.

What I have received and am receiving is feedback. Sometimes more, sometimes less. Some people have used the appropriate button on the site to say what they think of my work or simply in order to get in touch. Others suggested that they write for me or else responded to my request that they do so. Others still have asked, and received, my permission to repost my work on their own sites. A few have even taken the trouble to translate entire articles into their native languages. Except for a few yahoos who ranted and swore, almost all my contacts with the people in question, many of whom were initially complete strangers, have been courteous, informative, and thought-provoking. Thank you, again, from the bottom of my heart.

Most of the ideas behind my posts are derived from the media. Others have to do with my personal experiences; others still, such as the series on Pussycats, have to do with the research I am currently doing or else were suggested by various people. Perhaps most important of all, I often use my posts as what Nietzsche used to call Versuche. By that he meant attempts to clarify his thoughts and see where they may lead. The most popular posts have been those which dealt with political and military affairs. Followed by the ones on women and feminism, followed by everything else. Given my background and reputation as a longtime professor of military history and strategy, that is not surprising.

At one point I tried to enlist the aid of a friend to have the blog translated into Chinese and make my posts available in that language too. No luck; I soon learnt that the Great Chinese Firewall did not allow them to pass. Why that is, and whether my work has fallen victim to some kind of dragnet or has been specifically targeted I have no idea. Thinking about it, the former seems more likely; to the best of my knowledge I have never written anything against China. But one never knows.

That brings me to the real reason why I write: namely, to exercise my right to freedom of thought. And, by doing so, do my little bit towards protecting it and preserving it. My heroes are Julian Assange and Edward Snowden. The former because he has exposed a few of the less decent things—to put it mildly—out dearly beloved governments have been saying and doing in our name. The latter, because he has shown how vulnerable all of us are to Big Brother and called for reform. Both men have paid dearly for what they have done, which is another reason for trying to follow in their footsteps as best I can.

Freedom of speech is in trouble—and the only ones who do not know it are those who will soon find out. The idea of free speech is a recent one. It first emerged during the eighteenth century when Voltaire, the great French writer, said that while he might not agree with someone’s ideas he would fight to the utmost to protect that person’s right to express them. Like Assange and Snowden Voltaire paid the penalty, spending time in jail for his pains. Later, to prevent a recurrence, he went to live at Frenay, just a few hundred yards from Geneva. There he had a team or horses ready to carry him across the border should the need arise. Good for him.

To return to modern times, this is not the place to trace the stages by which freedom of speech was hemmed in in any detail. Looking back, it all started during the second half of the 1960s when it was forbidden to say, or think, or believe, that first blacks, then women, then gays, then transgender people, might in some ways be different from others. As time went on this prohibition came to be known as political correctness. Like an inkstain it spread, covering more and more domains and polluting them. This has now been carried to the point where anything that may offend anyone in some way is banned—with the result that, as Alan Bloom in The Closing of the American Mind has shown, in many fields it has become almost impossible to say anything at all.

Let me give you just one example of what I mean. Years ago, at my alma mater in Jerusalem, I taught a course on military history. The class consisted of foreign, mostly American, students. At one point I used the germ Gook. No sooner had the word left my mouth than a student rose and, accused me of racism. I did my best to explain that, by deliberately using the term, I did not mean to imply that, in my view, the Vietnamese were in any way inferior. To the contrary, I meant to express my admiration for them for having defeated the Americans who did think so. To no avail, of course.

And so it goes. When the Internet first appeared on the scene I, along with a great many other people, assumed that any attempt to limit freedom of speech had now been definitely defeated. Instead, the opposite is beginning to happen. Techniques such as “data mining” made their appearance, allowing anything anyone said about anything to be instantly monitored and recorded, forever. All over Europe, the thought police is in the process of being established. Sometimes it is corporations such as Facebook which, on pain of government intervention, are told to “clean up” their act by suppressing all kinds of speech or, at the very least, marking it as “offensive,” “untrue,” and “fake.” In others it is the governments themselves that take the bit between their teeth.

Regrettably, one of the governments which is doing so is that of the U.S. Naively, I hoped that Trump’s election would signify the beginning of the end of political correctness. Instead, he is even now trying to prevent people in- and out of the government from discussing such things as global warming and the need to preserve the environment. Not to mention his attacks on the media for, among other things, allegedly misreading the number of those who came up to witness his inauguration. Should this line continue and persist, then it will become imperative to do without him and go against him. Not because of what he has to say about both topics is necessarily wrong, but to ensure the right of others to think otherwise.

This won’t do. That is why I promise my readers, however few or many they may be, one thing: namely, to go on writing about anything I please and go on speaking the truth as I see it. The English poet W. H. (Wystan Huge) Auden, 1907-1973, might have been referring to blogging when he wrote:

I want a form that’s large enough to swim in,

And talk on any subject that I choose.

From natural scenery to men and women

Myself, the arts, the European news.

Enter the Donald

For a quarter century now, political correctness has been the blight of our age. Using intolerance to enforce what they call tolerance, its self-appointed guardians always seek reasons to take offense and force their victims to apologize while simultaneously squeezing as much money out of them as possible. On the way they have corrupted whatever they touched, turning discourse into a stinking, horrible goo. In academia—where many universities now have groups of vigilantes consisting of students out to humiliate professors—in the media, in public life, they keep spewing forth a single poisonous message. Beware of what you are saying; or else. Even in private, for walls have ears. And even if you have been making an innocuous joke.

They have long since ended any kind of straight talk, any right to call a spade a spade, any attempt to do serious work that might hurt their alleged sensibilities. With them went many, perhaps most, attempts at original, incisive expression. In respect to the range of subjects they censor they have put nice, open-minded gentlemen such as Philipp II of Spain—he of the Inquisition—Josef Stalin, Adolf Hitler, and Mao Zedong to shame. Worst of all, by forcing the rest of us to keep using euphemisms they have made people doubt whether they are being told the truth, increased their paranoia, and decreased their readiness to believe anything they hear or see.

Enter the Donald. He is possessed of as big an ego as all of his casinos, hotels, plazas, resorts and towers combined; no other man I can think of so well fits what former vice president Dan Quayle once described as a “temperamental tycoon.” Probably more so even than Ross Perot who was the original target of that jibe. Needless to say, I have never met the Donald and do not expect to do so in the future. From what I see and hear I do not think he is particularly likeable or that I miss much. I do not know what makes him tick. Nor whether his run for the White House will be successful, nor whether he has what it takes to be a good president. Not being an American citizen or an admirer of Netanyahu, whom Trump has publicly praised, I cannot even say any of this interests me very much.

What, in my eyes, makes him unique is that, rather than hide behind all kinds of polite euphemisms, he keeps saying what he thinks about people and things. Without apology and without concern for the consequences. Being dugri (blunt, or straightforward), as we Israelis say. Also that, thanks to his billions, and perhaps an incipient change in public opinion, he is getting away with it as few others can or have. Nor does the way he talks and acts seem to hurt him in the polls. To the contrary, he has made the media follow him and listen to him. Some positively beg him to appear on them. To the point, he says, where he actually found himself spending less than he thought he would have to.

Some people see Trump as a clown (one acquaintance of mine fears he may turn out to be a Mussolini). Many others half believe, half hope that his appeal is already fading. Ignorant of foreign affairs and lacking a proper organization, they say, he will never be able to gain the presidency. No matter. Even in the unlikely case he disappears tomorrow, he has already achieved something important; namely, shaken the barriers on free thought which the professional enforcers of political correctness have been so busily surrounding us with. May others follow his example, and may the barriers disappear like the cobwebs which, in reality, they are.

AliceInWonderlandRedQueenTennielOffWithHerHead1And that reminds me of Lewis Carroll, famed author of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865). Towards the end of the volume the Red Queen is about to have another one of her servants executed. The following dialogue develops:

“Stuff and nonsense!” said Alice loudly “The idea of having the sentence first [before the verdict]!”

“Hold your tongue!” said the Queen, turning purple.

“I won’t!” said Alice.

“Off with her head!” the Queen shouted at the top of her voice. Nobody moved.

“Who cares for you?” said Alice (she had grown to her full size by this time.) “You’re nothing but a pack of cards!”

At this the whole pack rose up into the air, and came flying down upon her; she gave a little scream, half of fright and half of anger, and tried to beat them off, and found herself lying on the bank, with her head in the lap of her sister, who was gently brushing away some dead leaves that had fluttered from the trees upon her face.

“Wake up Alice dear!” said her sister; “Why, what a long sleep you’ve had!”