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Monday, June 28, 2021

WE STILL HAVE PARIS

Tomorrow, after two years, Susie and I will return to Paris. It turns out we do not need a PCR test to get into Paris but we will need an antigen test to get back into the United States, always assuming that something does not change while we are there.  We return in three weeks, on July 20. I am already ordering in my mind the dishes I shall have at our favorite restaurants.

 

As I think I have mentioned, we will be selling the apartment to a couple who formerly rented it and since they are buying it furnished and intend to rent it out themselves, we will be able to go back to essentially the same pied-à-terre (only without the 40 volume set of the works of Marx and Engels in German, which I shall ship home.) We have owned the apartment for 17 years and in that time we have been to Paris 35 times or more. We will not go to museums and tourist attractions, although we will probably have lunch at the Musée d’Orsay.

 

I am afraid my long early morning walks are a thing of the past.  But they are inscribed in my memory and I can see each of the streets as clearly as if I were on them.  For reasons that are beyond my comprehension, sometimes I can get on my blog when I am in Paris and sometimes I cannot, so I do not know whether I will be posting from there. If I am unable to, then I will be back in touch with you all when I return.

 

The political news from France is no better than it is here and since I am unable to do much about the world from either location, I plan simply to take a vacation from anxiety and enjoy Paris one more time.

142 comments:

David Zimmerman said...

The political news from France is not all bad, since the parties of Macron and the vile Mme LePen have done badly in the provincial elections, perhaps auguring better news for the left in the upcoming national elections. Hope springs.....

David Palmeter said...

Enjoy!

Robert Paul Wolff said...

Yes, David Zimmerman, I read that just after I posted on my blog. I shall ask my friends there what it means.

David Zimmerman said...

Good.... further information from on the ground will be useful.

Try Benoit in the Marais district... a very good bistro.

chrismealy said...

Bon voyage!

s. wallerstein said...

Have a good trip!!

Christopher J. Mulvaney, Ph.D. said...

Safe travels. Enjoy!

Terry Williams said...

Enjoy!

David Zimmerman said...

If only we could all confidently echo the actual line from "Casablanca":

"We'll always have Paris."

james wilson said...

Wrt the query and response on what might be going on in French politics, Section III of the following touches on that:

https://phenomenalworld.org/media/site/e60c5fa499-1612369640/PW-Volumes-001-Social-Democracy-singles.pdf

Sections I and II reflect on the situations in Italy and Spain. And Adam Przeworski's essay is also worth a look.

Unknown said...

I have just stumbled upon your work and lectures and you seem a remarkable academic and a good man. Much respect for you and your work, I very much hope that the world does not cause too much anxiety. Rest well and enjoy your travels sir.

- A curious McMaster student

Michael Llenos said...

the actual line from "Casablanca":

"We'll always have Paris."

I've never got to see Casablanca yet, but I'll always remember that line from "Explorers".

F Lengyel said...

We'll always have Paris. Really? Remind your students--and most of all yourself--about the proclivity to discount the value of future study.

Another Anonymous said...

Take it for a pedantic academic to put a damper on the greatest combined love/heroism movie ever made. Well, Rick does accurately remember his exhilarating fling with Ilsa in Paris, because we shared it with him at the beginning of the movie, and we felt his pain when, standing in the rain at the railway station, Ilsa does not show up. We share his pain, because most of us have experienced the pain of unrequited love – and have accurate memories of it. To compare the purported fallibility of such memories with the fallibility of memorizing words is simply hogwash – and demonstrates a singular inability to appreciate the emotional effect of great art.

Another Anonymous said...

On a separate cinematic note, this weekend my daughter and I watched the movie “Love, Actually,” which I had seen before, but she had not. She was looking forward to watching it, because many of her friends had raved about it as a wonderful movie about romance and love. Well, at the end of the movie she was very disappointed and astutely observed that the move is more about romantic infidelity than true love - and, although I had not thought this after my first viewing of it, she was right. There is very little true love realistically displayed in the movie, but there is a lot of infidelity – the Keira Knightly character encourages her husband’s best friend to continue to pine for her; the Emma Thompson character resigns herself to a loveless marriage. The portrayal of successful romances depicts wholly unrealistic relationships – the one between the Prime Minister of Great Britain (Hugh Grant) and a low level employee of 10 Downing Street and the one between the Colin Firth character and the Portuguese housekeeper, for whom he flies to Portugal on Christmas eve in order to make a marriage proposal. My daughter noted that there were only two authentic expressions of love in the movie – the expression of love between the Laura Linney character and her emotionally disturbed brother, whose co-worker offers her no emotional support whatsoever, because he is only interested in shagging her; and Liam Neeson’s son (who Prof. Wolff pointed out in a prior post also played the chess champion/competitor in “Queen’s Gambit”), who learns the valuable lesson at an early age, if you love someone, be sure to tell them.

The entire premise of the movie is in fact feel-good rubbish. The movie opens with a narrator making the point that what happened on 9/11 is not an accurate statement about the status of love in the world– that there is more love in the world than hate, which one can see displayed at airport reunions. But the love expressed at airports is only between relatives and friends who already know one another. It is not emblematic of love between strangers who respect one another’s basic humanity. The movie is not about love, actually, but a disappointing simulacrum about love, and the fact that so many people think it is a wonderful movie about love is, actually, rather disappointing. I will take the depiction of love in “Casablanca” over the fantasy of “Love, Actually” any day.

Another Anonymous said...

s. wallerstein, et al.

Those of Prof. Wolff’s readers who are Nietzsche scholars and commentators, I just learned that Frithjhof Bergman, who taught the philosophy of Nietzsche at the University of Michigan for many years, passed away on May 24, at the age of 90.

Another Anonymous said...

Post-script regarding Frithjhof Bergmann:

I failed to mention that Prof. Bergmann was one of the first academics to hold teach-ins opposing the Vietnam War during the mid-1960s. The University of Michigan was the home of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), headed by Tom Hayden, who later became a senator in the California assembly – as well as the husband of Jane “Vietnam” Fonda.

Another Anonymous said...

Ex mundo hoc,

I believe in Latin the demonstrative adjective “hoc” is supposed to precede the noun, “mundo,” which it modifies.

LFC said...

AA,

I've never thought of the movie Casablanca as involving "unrequited love." Unrequited love is when X loves (or, more loosely, is very attracted to or infatuated with) Y, and Y does not have the same feelings about X.

By contrast, in Casablanca Ilsa is, roughly speaking, in love with two men: Rick and Victor Laszlo. She is committed to helping the latter's anti-Nazi work and role in the resistance. When she stands Rick up by not showing up at the train station in Paris, it's not a case of unrequited love but rather a case of her putting Laszlo and the importance of his political work above her attraction to Rick.

It's been a long time since I last saw the movie, but that's always been how I've read it. If this were really a case of unrequited love, then the ending wd make no sense: Ilsa wants to stay w/ Rick, or at the very least is torn, but he tells her to get on the plane, saying that if she doesn't she'll regret it, "maybe not now, but soon, and for the rest of your life" (paraphrasing from memory).

So this is not a movie about unrequited love; rather, it's about, in part, a woman torn between two men. Very different scenario.

Another Anonymous said...

LLC,

Sorry, I disagree with you (what else is new?)

You are analyzing the plot as an outside viewer who knows the finale. But from Rick’s standpoint, as he is standing in the rain waiting for Ilsa to show up, not knowing why she has not shown up, he suffers from the agony of the sense of unrequited love. Hence, when she appears a few years later at his casino in Casablanca, he reacts in anger, thinking that she had rejected him. Hence, his poignant outburst to Dooly Wilson, “Of all the gin joints in all the world, she has to walk into mine!” Thus, at least half-way through the movie he suffers from his sense of unrequited love. When she shows up at his apartment and holds a handgun aimed at him, demanding that he give her the letters of transit, he tells her he has them in his jacket pocket, and says, "Why don't you shoot me. You will be doing me a favor," i.e., putting him out of his misery, believing that the woman he loves does not love him in return.

Regarding the conclusion, you, as I, believe that Ilsa actually does love him, and he makes the noble gesture of ordering her to leave with her husband so that he can do his important work of defying fascism. I have a very good friend, who has watched Casablanca numerous times, but has an opposite perspective. He believes that Ilsa actually does not love Rick, but has only exploited his love for her so that she can obtain the letters of transit so that she can escape with Paul Henreid. I reject that interpretation, but it is, after all, a work of art that allows for multiple interpretations.

What did you think of “Love, Actually,” if you have seen it?

Another Anonymous said...

I meant LFC.

I have been married now for 37 years to the same woman. One of the advantages of marriage – of which there are many – is that one no longer has to go through the traumatic ups and down of romantic entanglements, the exhilarations of love/lust, the disappointments of rejection, and the pain of rejecting others. And after many years of marriage, one almost forgets these experiences. Watching a movie like “Casablanca” can bring them back. And what heterosexual male cannot fall in love with the flawless beauty of Ingrid Bergman!

A post-script: I saw an interview with Ingrid Bergman, in which she indicated that no one participating in the making of Casablanca knew while they were making it, how it would end - whether Ilsa would leave her husband, and stay with Rick; or whether she would leave with her husband. The decision for Ilsa to leave with her husband was made the last minute of filming.

LFC said...

To answer your question, I have not seen "Love, Actually."

I take your point about Rick's perspective.

P.s. I saw "In the Heights" in a movie theater this past weekend. I don't have time right now to write anything about it.

David Zimmerman said...

There is a difference between a movie's being about unrequited love itself and its being about someone's sense of unrequited love.

The latter does not entail the former.

LFC said...

@ D. Zimmerman

Yes.

Another Anonymous said...

David Zimmerman and LFC,

Well, I disagree with both of you.

One’s sense of unrequited love does in fact entail unrequited love. Even if one’s sense of x is false, and one’s sense of x is not discredited by a realization of the truth, then one sense of x is x. If I am paranoid, and believe that my best friend has betrayed me, but my best friend has not betrayed me, and is unable to convince me that s/he did not betray me, then, for me, my sense of betrayal is my reality.

The same is true of Rick’s sense of unrequited love, up until he is convinced that Ilsa does, in fact, love him. All the while that she has continued to love him, he suffered from a sense of unrequited love; therefore, his reality was a reality of unrequited love.

I have just read an article about Phillip Roth. In his later years, he grew to hate his 2nd wife, Claire Bloom. She maintains that she did everything she could do disabuse Roth of his hatred of her. She was unable to do so. In fact, he wrote “I Married A Communist” as his scorching condemnation of her. She would insist that he got it all wrong. Roth would insist otherwise. For many of us – if not for all of us – our perception of reality, and of others, however erroneous, is our reality.

yet another anonymous said...

I'm struck by the claim that "our perception of reality, and of others, however erroneous, is our reality." Does this leave space for the judgement that someone is insane? Just asking.

David Zimmerman said...

Another Anonymous says: "One’s sense of unrequited love does in fact entail unrequited love."

That is an astounding claim to encounter on a philosophy blog.

One might just as well say: "One's sense that Jones is angry at me does in fact entail [all on its own] that Jones is in fact angry at me." But Jones may not even know that you exist.... He may have been snarling at Smith, or just clearing his throat, or something.

Sheesh

David Zimmerman said...

More on Another Anonymous's implausible claim:

Here is a better analogy:
"My sense that Jones is ignoring me does in fact entail [all on its own] that Jones is in fact ignoring me."

No again....
Jones may not even know that you exist.... and if so, he cannot be ignoring you.
Or Jones may perfectly well know that you exist and, unawares to you, is paying close attention to you, in which case he cannot be ignoring you, despite what you think.... but it is Smith that he is actually ignoring, not you....
And so on.....

Another Anonymous said...

David Zimmerman,
You wrote:
“There is a difference between a movie's being about unrequited love itself and its being about someone's sense of unrequited love.”
It was in reference to this assertion that I wrote what I wrote. In a work of art, whether it be a movie, a novel, a play, etc., being “about” something which is a character’s experience is the same as being about the object of the experience. So, when I say or write, Tolstoy wrote about Pierre Bezukhov’s unrequirted love, he is writing about Count Bezukhov’s sense of unrequited love, regardless whether Count Bezukhov’s sense of unrequited love is in fact accurate. Since Rick in Casablanca believes thru half of the movie that he has been the victim of unrequited love, even though Ilsa elsewhere in Europe still loves him, just as she loves her husband, Victor Lazslo, then the movie is about Rick’s unrequited love for half of the movie, even though Ilsa does in fact love him.

I have seen defense attorneys take statements out of context and distort their meaning. It is a cheap trick, and I would have thought it would have been below the dignity of a Prof. of Philosophy.

aaall said...

Perhaps we should recall that Ilsa, in her mind, was a widow when she met Rick in Paris and the movie was about folks making the right decisions when it was important (anti-fascist propaganda in a nation in which isolationism and fascism was recently a thing). Also, while the ending wasn't known at the beginning, there was no way Ilsa was going to leave Laszlo for Rick because Production code.

Another Anonymous said...

aaall,

Good points.

David Zimmerman said...

Re Another Anonymous's latest ridiculous claim.

He says: "In a work of art, whether it be a movie, a novel, a play, etc., being “about” something which is a character’s experience is the same as being about the object of the experience.

This is astoundingly wrong-headed.

The "In a work of art" operator doesn't help save the conflation of "A person has the sense that P" with "A person is correct in having the sense that P"...... Not at all.

Another Anonymous, please pay close attention here:

In Act I, scene 1 of [oh heck, you know what play it is] Lear had the sense that Cordelia did not love him as much as Goneril and Regan did...... But, here it comes.....that [on its own] does not entail that Cordelia did not love him as much a Goneril and Regan......Or indeed, that she did not love him a whole lot more.

Or else, the play makes no sense at all.

Adding "In a play" [or movie, novel, take your pick] doesn't render your original entailment claim valid.

Gee.... I hope that my "dignity" as a Philosophy Professor" is intact.

David Zimmerman said...

BTW, Another Anonymous.....

Some free advice: when the only reply you can offer to a criticism is another lame example of your thesis [from W$P} and a gratuitous jab at your critic..... your original thesis is in bad trouble.

So... what say you about Cordelia, Goneril, Regan, and the hubristic and delusional King Lear?
If your thesis is correct, then HE COULD NOT BE HUBRISTIC AND DELUSIONAL.

But he is.

David Zimmerman said...

Another Anonymous insists:

"Tolstoy wrote about Pierre Bezukhov’s unrequited love, he is writing about Count Bezukhov’s sense of unrequited love, regardless whether Count Bezukhov’s sense of unrequited love is in fact accurate."

The entailment does not even go that way...... since Pierre could have been [in the novel, mind you] quite unaware, i.e. without any sense, that his love was unrequited.

OY.

Another Anonymous said...

David Zimmerman,

We are talking in circles. The issue is the role of the preposition “about.”

If a character in a play, such as King Lear, believes, erroneously, that he is the victim of unrequited love by one of his daughters, then the play is “about” unrequited love, even though there is no unrequited love. “If King Lear believes he is the victim of unrequited love, even though he is not the victim of unrequited love, entails that the play is ‘about’ unrequited love.” This is not the same as your proposition, which you claim I am offering: “If King Lear believes he is the victim of unrequited love, even though he is not the victim of unrequited love, entails that he is, in fact, the victim of unrequited love.” I agree with you that the latter proposition is not necessarily true. The play can both be “about” unrequited love from the perspective of King Lear, as well as about the mistaken belief that one is the victim of unrequited love.

I have sent these propositions to Saul Kripke, and he agrees with me.

Perhaps Prof. Rapko, whose area of expertise is the philosophy of art, can offer some illumination.

Another Anonymous said...

On a more serious note, I would like to raise a question which is entirely unrelated to the subject of this thread.

The reports coming out of Afghanistan are disturbing and heart-breaking.

I would like to know the opinion of the enlightened readers of this blog.

Has Pres. Biden made a mistake, from either a foreign affairs standpoint, and/or a moral standpoint, by withdrawing the U.S. troops from Afghanistan?

Was this conflict a lost cause for all intents and purposes?

Do we have a moral responsibility to the women of Afghanistan to protect them from the travesties and brutality of the Taliban, even if it means losing more American lives?

Should Biden reverse his decision, and admit that he made a mistake, even if he loses face?

John Rapko said...

Thanks for the invitation to comment. What I would note with regard to (first-order) question of what Casablanca, Anna Karenina, and King Lear are about is that (cough, cough) ascriptions of 'aboutness', like ascriptions of 'content' and 'meaning', to works of art are (a) probably not the sort of things about which we have strong pre-theoretical views or convictions; but (b) we might think that such ascriptions are loosely correlated with understanding. That is, we specify 'aboutness' in light of what we take to be the most interesting/rewarding/enjoyable account of the work: THAT'S what it's about. A third point to keep in mind is that (c) part of the appeal of great works of art is that they admit of multiple such ascriptions, even when they seem to conflict. Consider Lord Jim: is it about Jim's idealism, Jim's heroism, Jim's cowardice, or Marlow's attempt to grasp these?

Another Anonymous said...

John,

Thank you for your input.

I agree with what you have written. The appeal of works of art – be it a novel, a play, or a painting (e.g., a Pollack painting), is that they are amenable to differing, and contradictory, interpretations.

I have not read Lord Jim, but I have read Heart of Darkness, several time. Marlow is the principal character in the latter work. Does he also appear in Lord Jim?

LFC said...

The withdrawal prob cd have been handled in a better way, w more advance thought to issues involving, for ex., making sure that the thousands of Afghans who worked for the US/NATO forces can get out of the country (the U.S. is attending to this now, but prob more shd have been done on it before). That said, I don't think the decision to withdraw is a mistake.

The narrow US natl security interest here is in seeing that Afghanistan under the Taliban (or whatever form of govt) does not again become a haven for terrorists of the al Qaeda sort. The Taliban as part of their agreement w the US committed not to align themselves again w al Qaeda or ISIS. They shd be held to that.

The question of the condition/status of Afghan women is a difficult one, morally and otherwise, and I don't have the answer. Again, the withdrawal might have been a bit too abrupt, but I don't see prolonging the U.S./NATO presence as the answer. Eventually the Afghans collectively have to determine their own fate, and perhaps an eventual de facto partition or division of the country is the best solution, so that those who want to live under a Taliban regime can do so, and those who don't, don't have to. I'm not an expert on Afghanistan and don't follow the developments there as closely as I once did, so I don't know whether that's feasible. I've gone on longer than I meant to.

John Rapko said...

Yes, the same Marlow is the narrator of Lord Jim as of 'Heart of Darkness' (as well as of the novel Chance and the story 'Youth' (neither of which I've read)).--I've been reading Conrad recently to pass the time and to try to understand better why Faulkner said that his major influences were the Bible, Melville, Dostoyevsky, and Conrad. I found Marlow garrulous and irritating at first, and recently learned that that is the typical reaction in a first reading, according to Albert Guerard in his magnificent Conrad the Novelist; it's the second reading that reveals the riches. Conrad determinedly deceives the reader in the early part of Lord Jim as if a precursor to Faulkner's massive deception in As I Lay Dying.

LFC said...

My above comment is on Afghanistan obvs., not the main topic of thread, but AA asked about it.

As it happens, I've read Lord Jim in fairly recent years, though not *that* recently. I would probably say off the top of my head that it's "about" the psychological and other repercussions of one fateful decision, and Jim's effort to redeem his sense of himself as a "worthy" human being after an act of cowardice (for lack of a better word) that he cannot undo and in some sense can't totally escape from, though he goes a long way in that direction. That said, I don't remember the plot all that well, and it's not a novel that I feel a particular impulse to revisit. I've also read Heart of Darkness (again, no particular impulse to revisit it) and The Secret Sharer, which I liked quite a bit, though whether I'll re-read it is somewhat doubtful.

I don't really care what AA says Casablanca is "about," btw, nor really what anyone says any work of art is "about." I do think that aaall is right in suggesting that the movie is a piece of very high-class political messaging (I think "propaganda" is perhaps too derogatory here, maybe not).

LFC said...

What I like about Conrad, to the extent I like anything, is the style and the very subtle prose where you feel he is constantly playing w implications and what is left implicit and unspoken (English, of course, was not his first language, making it more amazing). The plots and the characters don't grab me all that much, frankly, but the use of the language is pretty great.

s. wallerstein said...

Try Nostromo, for Conrad on South America.

I'm a Conrad fan. I generally detest 19th English fiction, too provincial, too moralistic. With the exception of Shakespeare, I can't think of any writer in English before Conrad (I majored in English and have an MA in it) I'd reread.

Conrad is as worldly as Dostoyevsky or Tolstoy or Thomas Mann.

John Rapko said...

One last bit on Conrad: I very much agree with both of LFC's excellent remarks; but note how the statement of what Lord Jim is 'about' is pretty much unsurpassable--for a first reading. On a first reading, Marlow is just an annoyance, one tends to overlook Jim's early idealism and phantasies of heroism, one doesn't pick up on Jim's psychic deadness, one fails to take seriously Jim's recognition of a kind of kinship with the evil Gentleman Brown, etc.--The above-mentioned book by Guerard devotes two fine chapters to all this.

LFC said...

John Rapko

Yes, I only read it once, and am pretty sure my views wd change or deepen on a second reading (or if I systematically read some of the lit. criticism etc.)

Btw I don't agree w s.w. on 19th
cent English fiction. I think Middlemarch is great. So is some Dickens. But this is all v subjective.

s. wallerstein said...

Compare Middlemarch with Madame Bovary and Anna Karenina, all about a woman in a boring marriage. Middlemarch has to moralize everything: the husband has to be a hideous person.
In Madame Bovary and Anna Karenina, the boring husband isn't a bad person, just boring.

Charles Bovary, in fact, is hopelessly well-intentioned and one of those nice guys who finish last. That seems more real to me: we cheat on our spouses because they're boring, not because we're good and they're bad.

Moralism turns me off, but, as LFC says, it's all subjective. De gustibus non est disputando.

Another Anonymous said...

Great discussion about literature.

At the end of 1999, the Modern Library issued a list of the 100 greatest novels of the 20th century in the English language.

You can find the list here:

https://www.modernlibrary.com/top-100/100-best-novels/

Now, of course such lists are entirely subjective and therefore subject to disagreement. That said, which author has the most entries on the list?

Answer: Conrad, with 4 (first coming in at No. 46 with The Secret Agent, followed by Nostromo, Heart of Darkness and Lord Jim)

Three other authors come in second, with 3 entries each:

Joyce, with No. 1 (Ulysses, of course; Portrait of An Artist; and Finnegans Wake note, no possessive apostrophe).

James, with The Wings of The Dove, The Ambassadors, and The Golden Bowl.

Lawrence, with Sons And Lovers, The Rainbow and Women In Love

Faulkner, with The Sound And The Fury (No. 6), As I Lay Dying, and Light In August.

When the list first came out, I had read only 23 novels on the list; I have since increased my reading to 53.

My original goal was to read all 100 by 2010, but I am way off from that objective, and don’t expect to complete the list before my demise.

I got stuck about a year ago on To The Lighthouse. Just could not get into it.

Some notable omissions: not a single novel by Thomas Wolfe or Pynchon.

Some surprises: Call Of The Wild, by London (at 88); Kim, by Kipling (at 78)

So far, the most difficult book I found to read was Malcolm Lowry’s Under The Volcano. (I have not read Ulysses.) I could only read about 1-2 pages a day. Very little dialogue and a lot of dense narrative. Does anyone (John Rapko?) share my view of Under The Volcano? (It was made into a movie with Albert Finney starring; his performance as an alcoholic was superb.)

My favorites have been (in their order on the list); The Great Gatsby (2); Catch 22 (7); I, Claudius (14); Slaughterhouse Five (18); Winesburg Ohio (24); All The King’s Men (36); The Heart Of The Matter (40); Lord Of The Flies (41); The Secret Agent (46); The Naked And The Dead (51); The Maltese Falcon (56); The Catcher In The Rye (64); Heart Of Darkness (67); The Day Of The Locust (73; the protagonist’s name is Homer Simpson!); Ironweed (92); Sophie’s Choice (96; I would have rated it much higher); The Ginger Man (99).

What do they have in common? Nothing, as far as I can tell. They are perhaps more easily digestible than some of the more modern novels, which have less dialogue and more stream of consciousness.

The list will no doubt generate a lot of dispute among this blog’s readers.

s. wallerstein said...

I read Under the Volcano and liked it. Maybe because Latin America interests me.

As for Ulysses, I read it in graduate school in a Joyce course. Also "read" Finnegans Wake there. I could no more read them now outside of an academic setting than I could read the Critique of Pure Reason.

I now read fewer high-brow books. To be honest (and to show how middle brow I now am), my favorite 20th century British writers are Orwell (by far) and John Le Carré. I've never gotten far in Virginia Wolff either.

After you reach a certain age, you realize that there's no final exam and you feel freer in your reading choices.

Another Anonymous said...

s. wallerstein

Agreed. At our age we want to read to relax, and not tax our brains too much. I have of late been reading a lot of mysteries; some of them are very well written (in a prior post I recommended The Woman In The Window).

Yes, there was a lot of untranslated Spanish in Under The Volcano. It drove me to distraction.

I am going to force myself to read Ulysses before I kick the bucket. I have a library full of books – fiction and nonfiction – which I have not read, and there is little prospect that I will get to them before, you know. I still haven’t read Moby Dick or War and Peace.

I have a coffee cup which is imprinted with, “So many books; so little time.”

David Palmeter said...

I’m a fan of Ulysses. It would be my desert island book. I’ve read it in it’s entirety 4 or 5 times and single episodes many times, particularly at Bloomsday readings. It’s not a book “about” anything other than one day in Dublin in 1904, centered on Leopold Bloom, an ad salesman whose wife, he knows, will be having an affair that afternoon with a character known as Blazes Boylan.

Many people give up after episode 3—Proteus—which is mostly Stephen Dedalus’ internal monologue while walking along a beach. My advice is that you skip it and read it after you’ve read the rest of the book. Episode four begins with those wonderful words, “Mr. Leopold Bloom ate with relish the inner organs of beasts and fowls.” It’s a delight to hear a great actor say those words—“relish” “beasts” and “fowls” emphasizing the s’s.

One of my favorites is episode 14—Oxen in the Sun. Every one or two paragraphs he changes style, beginning with an imitation of the Latin prose style of Sallust and Tacitus (I’m told), ending with Carlyle and hitting the likes of Anglo Saxon alliteration (“Before born babe bliss had”), Middle English, Elizabethan prose, Milton, Pepys, Swift, Gibbon and half dozen others in between.

If you haven’t read it before, I’d recommend getting a copy of Stuart Gilbert’s “James Joyce’s Ulysses” which discusses each of the 18 episodes. And if you really want to splurge, get Don Gifford’s Ulysses Annotated, which is essentially a line-by-line commentary.

David Palmeter said...

Are there any Gibbon fans out there?

His Decline and Fall was my major reading project during the pandemic. Historians (other than intellectual historians) no longer read Gibbon. Modern scholarship has moved way beyond him. But his wry cynicism is a delight to read. He gets off some great lines. Here are 3 of my favorites:

“The various modes of worship, which prevailed in the Roman world, were all considered by the people, as equally true; by the philosopher, as equally false; and by the magistrate, as equally useful.”

“Revenge is profitable, gratitude is expensive.”

“Besieging Rome by land and water, he thrice entered the gates as a barbarian conqueror; profaned the altars, violated the virgins, pillaged the merchants, performed his devotions at St. Peter’s, and left a garrison at the castle of St. Angelo.”

Another Anonymous said...

Dave,

Thank you for the advice and the road map.

I will give it a go.

LFC said...

s.w.

Middlemarch is about a great deal more than one marriage. It's among other things a brilliant depiction of rural or semi-rural life in one part of England in the years just before the 1832 Reform Bill, and politics are interwoven with the plot. I first read it as a freshman in college, and did basically nothing else for 2 or 3 days -- it was unputdownable, for me at any rate. It is also happens to be, in places, very funny, as great novels prob often are.

LFC said...

Typo "it also happens to be"

John Rapko said...

When recovering from back surgery a decade ago, I read Boswell's Life of Johnson. It was the summit of my reading life. Never, sirs, has so unfortunate an experience been turned to such profit and pleasure. The last part is a bit grim, as the aging Johnson, suffering various ailments, frets about his personal afterlife; but the first thousand or so pages is the portrait of a most splendid, intelligent, witty, and high-spirited fellow. Among so many things, I hugely enjoyed his contempt for the yearning for 'freedom' of the American colonists: "how is it that we hear the loudest yelps for liberty among the drivers of negroes?"

s. wallerstein said...

Summit of my reading life

Reading all night Camus's The Stranger at age 18, a book, which I had just been lent and seeing for the first time in my life someone as alienated from, feeling as little represented by and caring as little about conventional norms, values and opinions as I did
without subscribing in the least to standard non-conventional or alternative norms, values and opinions.

Runners up: Nietzsche's Genealogy of Morality read a few years later and Russell's Why I Am not a Christian read a few years after that.

aaall said...

1. I consider "propaganda" to be a neutral term. It can be for good or evil and well executed or not. Woody Guthrie's guitar advertised itself as killing fascists.

2. AA, you must have heard Bush's disgusting interview. Recall that he invaded Afghanistan because Al Qaeda, Rummy let OBL escape, and then 43 put Afghanistan on the back burner for the Iraq project.

Absent genocide and a war with Pakistan (the Taliban takes refuge there) there's no end to this. The women are screwed and starting in August we evacuate a bunch of Afghans (as we should) who would be killed if we left them.

Women were far better off when Afghanistan was a Soviet satellite but we bought the Mujahideen/anti-communist kayfabe and here we are.

This may be of interest:

https://www.duckofminerva.com/2021/07/getting-counterinsurgency-wrong.html

We've been doing this off and on since the AEF Siberia in 1918.

Another Anonymous said...

aaall,

I hope that your are right, that in August the U.S. will be evacuating Afghans who assisted the U.S. troops which had been fighting there. I believe the U.S. was supposed to do that at the end of the Vietnam war, but some were left behind and were tortured by the North Vietnamese.

Funny that you should mention the AEF (American Expeditionary Force) Siberia. I had never heard of it until last week when a friend of mine told me that his great-grandfather, who had escaped Czarist Russia to avoid being inducted into the army, and because he was a socialist, emigrated to the U.S., and then, during WWI, served in the U.S. Army in Siberia fighting the Bolsheviks as part of operation Polar Bear.

Michael Llenos said...

Because the U.S. Green Berets had such a close relationship with the Hmong tribal people's, thousands were relocated in the USA at the end of the war. In the book Kissinger on Kissinger Winston Lord talks about how Vietnamization was actually working but once Nixon was forced out of office the anti-war forces in Congress immediately stopped sending money and ammunition to South Vietnam causing the collapse of the S.Vietnamese military.

David Zimmerman said...

Michael Llenos says:

In 1974-5

"Vietnamization was actually working"?

"...but once Nixon was forced out of office the anti-war forces in Congress immediately stopped sending money and ammunition to South Vietnam causing the collapse of the S.Vietnamese military"?

And he bases this extraordinary judgment on a book of interviews a Henry Kissinger lackey did with.... Henry Kissinger!
What better source to go to for an analysis of how the American [mis]adventure in Vietnam ended so badly.
Bad "anti-war forces in Congress! How could they have done such a thing?.... after more than 10 years of failed American involvement in Southeast Asia? [Let's not forget how Nixon/Kissinger expanded the war into Cambodia, with horrendous consequences]

Lord save us from self-serving revisionist histories by the perpetrators.





aaall said...

"...once Nixon was forced out of office..."

I guess that's one way of looking at it.

David Zimmerman said...

Nice point, aaall:

He did, after all, resign....after being caught with his fingers in the proverbial....and even on the urging of even a few Republican senators [Howard Baker, etc.].... something unthinkable these days.

Michael Llenos said...
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Michael Llenos said...
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Michael Llenos said...

The idea was that with Nixon in office and the losses the Viet Cong suffered during the Tet Offensive by the S. Vietnamese Army & it's allies, Hanoi gave into the demands of the Nixon Admin. But as soon as Nixon left or resigned, the anti-war party in Congress wanted to get all U.S. personal out of S. Vietnam as soon as possible & now had the power to do so, so they stopped supplying the S. Vietnamese Army with the supplies of ammunition they got daily. So the anti-war party in Congress caved into Hanoi's requests and not for the U.S. to re-supply S. Vietnam's military was one of Hanoi's requests.

Michael Llenos said...

Actually I mixed up the Tet Offensive with the major N. Vietnamese Offensive of 1972 that the S. Vietnamese defeated before October of 1972. My bad...

R McD said...

Michael, Michael, what can I say (though I suggest you listen to D Z on this)? Anyway, no matter what the great and glorious war criminal Kissinger said it was pretty evident to most of us who were actually living through the American experience of the war on the Vietnamese that the Vietnamese were winning. Or to put it another way, the Vietnamese were fighting against the American invaders both physically and politically and they were certainly winning the latter while holding their own on the former. Besides, by the early 1970s the US had already built up quite a record of starting and losing wars. There was, e.g., its failure in Korea and its failure in its earlier proxy war in Indochine (where the French were their proxies). It would take the invasion of Grenada, a place about the size of Oshkosh Wisconsin in area and polulation for them to have a sort of ludicrous victory.

Anonymous said...

"polulation" should be population

Another Anonymous said...

Those of us who are old enough to have lived through the Vietnam War and learned of the atrocities committed by the U.S. forces, i.e., the Mai Lai massacre, and the unrest and loss of life at home, e.g., Kent State, generally agree that it was a deplorable waste of life and resources, and appears to have been unwinnable. It was a civil war in which our indigenous allies were not particularly sympathetic. Remember the Buddhist monks immolating themselves protesting against the ruling Catholic regime? It was for me, growing up in N.J. and a philosophy graduate student, an eye-opening experience of culture shock. Drawing a draft lottery number of 45, I signed up for the Army Reserve and was sent to Ft. Campbell, Ky., for basic training. I had never fired a weapon in my life, and certainly had not thrown a hand grenade or crawled under barbed wire with live ammunition (so they told us) being fired over my head. Though I was miserable for the four months of basic training, and got into arguments about the war, it was, in retrospect, a maturing experience in which I became acquainted with people who had grown up in rural America and did not read the N.Y. Times. After basic training, it was on to Ft. Sill, Ok., for training as an artilleryman. Thankfully, back then, unlike in Afghanistan, Army Reservists and National Guard personnel were not sent into combat. I do not believe I would have survived.

Compared to the North Vietnamese, the Taliban are a barbaric gang of religious zealots who have no respect for human life or alternative religious cultures. Last week they slaughtered a regiment of Afghan security forces after they had surrendered. In the coming months, we are going to witness a blood bath in Afghanistan. If there were a way to destroy the Taliban without causing massive collateral damage, I would be all for it.

Michael Llenos said...

The NVA and Vietcong were not made of supermen. They were flesh and blood human beings like everyone else. I believe they were feared on the battlefield because their cause was more just than ours. They were trying to unite their two countries, while we were promoting an anti-communist ideal that was not proven to be correct or just. That being said more Communists died fighting American troops than American troops died fighting them. Although the U.S. military cared for such facts the American civilian did not. Civilians hated the draft. They thought the war was pointless. And the politicians, not the Generals & Admirals, conducted the War. When President George Bush Sr. sent forces to conduct Operation Desert Shield he let the Generals conduct the war & not the politicians. He did not want to repeat the mistakes made in S.E. Asia. That being said here is a personal saying of mine: "North Vietnam, too big for South Vietnam, but too small for the rest of Asia."

LFC said...

@ Michael Llenos

There's an entire library of v good books on the Vietnam War. Some offer short-ish overviews: I'd suggest Mark A. Lawrence, The Vietnam War: A Concise International History or Larry Addington, America's War in Vietnam: A Short Narrative History or the latest edition of George C. Herring's book.

A book by Winston Lord in which he interviews or writes about Kissinger -- no. There's a whole other entire library on Kissinger. If for some reason you must have Kissinger's (self-serving) side of the story, goes to his memoirs.

LFC said...

typo: "go to" not "goes to"

LFC said...

Or if you prefer watching to reading on this, watch the Burns/Novick PBS documentary on the Vietnam War -- it's open to a lot of legitimate criticism but it does convey the basic facts.

aaall said...

ML your account is way too compressed and depends on there being an "anti-war party." It is a classic "stab-in-the-back" account. You might recall that the Case Amendment passed with veto-proof majorities.

We are now hearing similar rumblings about Afghanistan.

You might ponder and compare the results of "losing" that war with the outcomes of our "successes" in Iran and Guatemala in the 1950s.


s. wallerstein said...

aaall,

Michael Llenos does say that their cause (that of the North Vietnamese) was "more just than ours".

LFC said...

"the politicians, not the generals and admirals, conducted the war"

Well, yes and no (but mostly no). Certainly LBJ, eager to avoid drawing China directly in, placed limits on what certain military people wanted to do. OTOH the implication here is that Johnson and/or Nixon micromanaged strategy and tactics, and as far as the ground operations are concerned, that's not the case. Indeed, quite a few analysts and historians think that Westmoreland shd have been subject to more critical scrutiny (and direction) by civilian policymakers and military higher-ups of what he was doing and how.

LFC said...

@R McD

I've always thought of the Korean War as something of a draw in terms of the outcome, rather than one side failing and the other succeeding. That's basically why there was an armistice rather than a formal treaty at the end, no? (That said, I know somewhat less about the history of the Korean conflict than the Vietnam War.)

LFC said...

ML: "Hanoi gave into the demands of the Nixon admin"

George C. Herring: "Nixon and Kissinger's later claims that the so-called Christmas bombing [of 1972] compelled the North Vietnamese to accept a settlement satisfactory to the United States seem open to serious question." (He says the bombing gave Hanoi reason to resume negotiations, but resuming negotiations is different from giving in to the other side's demands.)

The Jan. '73 agreements were a compromise the terms of which were violated or sidestepped by both sides and consequently just set the stage for the next phase of the war. Congress's cuts in military aid to S. Vietnam in '74 did affect the regime's ability to hang on and conduct mil. operations, but Congress's actions have to be seen against the backdrop of the fact that a majority of U.S. voters had simply had it w/ the whole thing, a feeling that cd not be overcome by claims about U.S. moral obligations to the S Vietnamese regime. As one person wrote to the conservative columnist James J. Kilpatrick in early 1975, "My God, we're all tired of it, we're sick to death of it. 55,000 dead and $100 billion spent and for what?" (quoted in Herring, America's Longest War, 2nd edition, p. 266)

aaall said...

"Congress's cuts in military aid to S. Vietnam in '74 did affect the regime's ability to hang on..."

Perhaps we should view that in the light of our recent experience. In the end it wouldn't have mattered. The North wasn't going to give up and we should remember that they were aided by the PRC and the SU.

Also, there was a mild recession ~1970 and a more severe one ~1973 - 75. There was the beginnings of the '70s inflation mostly caused by the OPEC induced oil price shocks (I'm sure some of us remember thirty cent per gallon gasoline then it was gone). This was also the beginning the ongoing divergence between wages and productivity, not necessarily to the advantage of workers.

In short, it didn't matter what we did, the North could out-last us. After us Vietnam had beefs with China and Cambodia. Also Kissinger needed a trip to the Hague. I assume Kissinger didn't mention Nixon committing treason by conspiring with the south in 1968 to prolong the war.

s. wallerstein said...

A few disconnected reflections on the Viet Nam War.

First of all, I don't have the factual knowledge about the war that many of you do.

I was involved in the anti-war movement and as I recall, we (myself and my friends) didn't distinguish clearly between two very different criticisms of the war.

1. The war was unwinnable. "Ho, Ho, Ho Chi Min, the NLF is gonna win".

2. The war was criminal.

Now the difference seems clear to me, but at the time I did not draw that line nor did many around me in the anti-war movement.

I have no idea of whether the U.S. could have won or not. I've never studied the war since it ended almost 50 years ago.

However, what now strikes me is that the U.S. involvement in the war was completely criminal, that the U.S. committed war crimes, crimes against humanity and, according to the Russell Tribunal, genocide, a verdict which I will not contest.

In retrospect, the ethical criticism of the war seems to have much more force to me than the fact that it was possibly unwinnable.

F Lengyel said...
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F Lengyel said...
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Another Anonymous said...

s. wallerstein has referred to the U.S. role in the Vietnam War as criminal, and therefore, I assume, immoral.

But what makes engagement in a military conflict criminal, and therefore immoral? I assume that most of the readers of this blog would agree that North Korea is a totalitarian regime, and that if it threatened to invade South Korea, for all intents a democratic country, it would not be criminal or immoral to come to South Korea’s defense to prevent North Korea from eliminating the South Korean democracy and replacing it with a totalitarian regime. During that conflict, it could be expected some atrocities would be perpetrated by the U.S. forces defending South Korea from North Korean aggression. That would not make the U.S. defense of South Korea itself a criminal or immoral action. The bombing of Dresden by the Allied forces did not make the Allied resistance to Nazi hegemony immoral, but the bombing was a vindictive and immoral act.

If the Vietnam War was immoral, on what basis was it immoral? An assessment requires an understanding of the historical events which gave rise to the conflict. The historical events giving rise to the Vietnam War arise from the fact that it was originally a French colony as part of French Indochina. The French imposed French culture and government on the inhabitants of French Indochina, including converting many of the inhabitants, which was predominantly Buddhist, to Catholicism and installing Catholic converts to run the government. A movement arose promoting Indochinese self-determination and independence, led by a French educated leader, Ho Chi Minh, who led a guerilla war against the French. When the French were defeated by the Viet Minh at the Battle of Dien Bien Phu, the parties were in the process of peace negotiations in Geneva. They reached an accord, in which the Viet Minh were given control of Vietnam north of the 17th parallel; the Catholic regime (which had been oppressing the Buddhist majority) was given control of the country south of the 17th parallel. They agreed to hold free elections in all of Vietnam to determine which side would have control of the entire country.

Enter the U.S. under Eisenhower, which had played no role in the 1954 Geneva accords and had angered DeGaulle because it had failed to provide air support for the French troops at Dien Bien Phu. The foreign policy of the Eisenhower administration, after the Communist victory in China under Chairman Mao, was dedicated to containment of the expansion of Communism in Asa and elsewhere. Eisenhower was convinced that if elections were held in Vietnam, that Ho Chi Minh and the Viet Minh would prevail, and all of Vietnam would be under Communist rule. So the U.S. prevailed on the Diem regime to cancel the elections. There lies the basis for why the Vietnam War was, as s. wallerstein, states, a criminal and immoral war, because it prevented the South Vietnamese from determining their own form of government. This was compounded by the strategy and tactics which the U.S. military used in the conflict, resulting in atrocities such as the use of napalm and the Mai Lai massacre. Unlike the bombing of Dresden, which was an immoral act in furtherance of a moral war, the U.S. atrocities were committed in furtherance of an immoral war.

In her book "The March of Folly," Barbara Tuchman devotes several chapters to an analysis of the Vietnam War and its folly. I recommend it.

LFC said...

I don't disagree w what AA has written here, and I would note that basically the same point can be put in the framework of traditional just-war theory's division into jus ad bellum (i.e., whether the ends being fought for are justified) and jus in bello (whether the means used are justified and morally defensible). In the case of the Allies in WW2, as AA observes, the jus ad bellum was just, but the jus in bello was sometimes violated b.c some of the means (e.g., bombing of Dresden and Hamburg, fire bombing of Tokyo, atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki) were, in the judgment of many at any rate, not morally defensible.

In the case of Vietnam, the war doesn't pass muster under either heading. But even if you think, which I don't, that there's a case to be made that the U.S. was justly responding to aggression, the means used were, in a lot of instances, so excessive that one might still be able to call the war "criminal."

Are there any instances in which it is permissible to use unjust means in furtherance of a just cause? In his book Just and Unjust Wars, Michael Walzer argued that there are such instances, which he labeled cases of "supreme emergency." During the early part of WW2, when Britain was basically standing alone vs. Nazi Germany and had few or no offensive instruments at its disposal other than bombing, Walzer suggested that some ordinarily impermissible bombing might get by under this "supreme emergency" exception. This argument subsequently generated a certain amount of debate among those who write about this stuff.

To take a more contemp. example, I think the use of drones in the "war on terror" has been often probably impermissible, given e.g. the civilian casualties they have caused when their remote operators have made errors, mistaking civilians for non-civilians. And a supreme emergency exception doesn't apply here, b.c., notwithstanding drones' capacity to deliver force in some rugged, relatively inaccessible areas, the U.S. obvs. does have other instruments at its disposal.

Anonymous said...

P.s. And also b.c the overall situation usu. doesn't rise to the level of "supreme emergency."

LFC said...

sorry, Anonymous above was me.

Another Anonymous said...

LFC,

Point of clarification: Does "don't disagree" equate to "agree"?

s. wallerstein said...

An excellent discussion topic is not the behavior of the U.S. and the Brits during World War 2, but of the Red Army. They freely raped German women, they looted, they mistreated German war prisoners and executed some.

The context obviously is the way the Germans behaved when they invaded Russia, shooting all communists, starving the civilian population, executing war prisoners, etc.

Was it wrong for the Red Army to take revenge on the Germans? On German civilians?

If it was somehow abstractly "wrong", do you care? I don't, but I write as a Jew.

Another Anonymous said...

s. wallerstein,

To your question, I maintain that it is always morally wrong, and a war crime, to kill or rape civilians, regardless the righteousness of the cause, or the atrocities committed against the population of the victorious army during the conflict. Like you, I have no particular sympathy for the German people per se, but not all of them were members of the Nazi party, and in the face of Nazi brutality, one would have to be willing to risk not just one’s own life, but the lives of your family members if one showed any resistance to the Nazis. I could not demand that of others. I have personal knowledge of Germans who did not support the Nazi party - my in-laws were German teenagers living in Poland during the war. My mother-in-law's father died fighting with Polish resistance. My father-in-law was sent to a Russian concentration camp in Siberia, even though he had never served in the Wehrmacht. or was a member of the Nazi party.

Suppose, for example, somehow the North Vietnamese succeeded in invading the United States and overthrowing our government. Would our use of napalm and the massacre at Mai Lai justify the indiscriminate killing of Americans, and raping American women? I would think, and hope, that you and others would say “No.”

s. wallerstein said...

Another,

Finally, I don't give a fuck about abstract morality. As a Jew, the gloves are off for Germans in 1945 and while I don't cheer the crimes of the Red Army, I don't condemn them either.

Since I write as a Jew, your example of the North Vietnamese invading the U.S. is neither here nor there.

In my old age, I grant myself the right to be as tribal as I feel.

Another Anonymous said...

s. wallerstein,

While I appreciate your candor, your answer, frankly, shocks me. Is there a difference between “abstract morality” and “practical morality,” and if so, then there is no such thing as morality. Morality only exists when put into practice. I believe we have a moral obligation to avoid and resist the descent into tribalism. If there is no justification for moral precepts and tribalism is justified, then none of us has the right to complain if and when we become its victim. It is, as Hobbes claimed, a war of all against all, and may the strongest prevail. And to be clear, I am also Jewish and lost relatives in the Holocaust.

LFC said...

AA,

"Does 'don't disagree' equate to 'agree'?"

Yes, but I guess I cdn't quite bring myself to put it that way. ;)

s. wallerstein said...

Another,

There is no justification for moral precepts besides social consensus and because of that, Hobbes is right that we need strong governments and the rule of law to control the war against all.

I believe very little in morality, but I do believe in law and in international law, but in the absence of law and international law, tribalism and the right of vengeance make sense.



Another Anonymous said...

LFC,

Ha Ha. Old habits, do indeed, die hard.

David Palmeter said...

LFC

To Dresden et al, you could add the likes of Shanghai, Guernica, London, Coventry all of which preceded Dresden et al.

LFC said...

@ David Palmeter

If you go back to my comment, I was specifically talking about the Allies in WW2, whose underlying cause was just (as these things go) but who sometimes used arguably unjust means.

By contrast, Shanghai, Guernica, London, and Coventry were bombings carried out by parties whose underlying cause was not just. So they don't fit what I was discussing, or trying to discuss, namely the possible disjunction betw a just cause and sometimes unjust means. I'm very tired rt now, so maybe was not expressing myself as clearly as I cd have.


LFC said...

p.s. if one is going to list all the occasions on which the jus in bello (means, or conduct) was arguably violated by *any* parties in WW2 (or Spanish Civil War), that's going to be a quite long list.

Anonymous said...

A small point (to help those looking for it on wikipedia, etc.): unless there's some to me unknown system of transliteration from Vietnamese into English, I believe it should be My Lai, not Mai Lai.

David Palmeter said...

LFC

What strikes me is that the irony that two countries that were the victims of Dresden and Hiroshima were the two earliest to bomb civilians, the Japanese in China and the Germans with their training exercise at Guernica in Spain.

R McD said...

I don't want to let anyone off the hook, but it seems to me you have it a bit wrong, David. For there’s this:

“The 1920s British air bombing campaign in Iraq”
https://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-29441383

and this:

http://www.worldfuturefund.org/wffmaster/Reading/war.crimes/World.war.2/Air.Control.htm

and this:

https://en.internationalism.org/wr/265_terror1920.htm

and . . .

David Palmeter said...

LFC

Your history is better than mine! I'd never heard of the Brits bombing Iraq. Didn't the Germans try to bomb England from dirigibles during WWI? A question for all of these: were they intentional bombings of civilians the way they were at most if not all of the places we've mentioned. Somewhere in here the doctrine of double effect kicks in for just war theorists.

s. wallerstein said...

Here's another dilemma. I've written about this before in this blog, but it seems appropriate now.

I've always condemned the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Maybe about 15 years ago I discussed the subject for the first time with my father.

He told me that his unit was scheduled to participate in the invasion of Japan (he was a lieutenant and so maybe he was somewhat informed about such plans) and that since it was either nuke Japan or participate in an invasion that might have cost his life and surely that of some his pals in his unit, he celebrates Truman's decision to nuke Japan.

Never having been in that position, I had nothing to reply to him.

Yes, I know, that some theorize that if the U.S. had inflicted a severe naval blockage on Japan, Japan would have had to surrender sooner or later, although maybe with as many civilian deaths through starvation and lack of fuel as through two nuclear bombings and others say that if Truman had dropped the bomb on a unhabited island somewhere, the Japanese government would have gotten the message and surrendered.

However, let's pretend that Truman had only two options, invade or drop the bomb.

In addition, let's look at the situation not from the viewpoint of some non-existent neutral observer, but from that of a U.S. soldier in the artillery corps sitting in San Diego in 1945 and scheduled to be sent to Japan, that is, my father. What do you conclude?

John Rapko said...

Isn't there always a problem in the very framing of these 'let's pretend there are only two options' thought experiments? Option A: I/we do something, and in an immediate and foreseeable way, many people are harmed. Option B: I/we do something, and in an immediate and foreseeable way, many people are harmed, including me and/or my family and or my friends and/or my country folk. That's not a thought experiment about moral reasoning; it's rather a truism in the service of a swindle.--I'm largely ignorant of history, including the relevant history here, but my (quite possibly mistaken) understanding is that the real-world third option was for the U.S. to accept a conditional surrender, not the unconditional surrender they wanted. The cities were bombed to force an unconditional surrender. If that's more or less accurate history, it seems to me that the bombings were among the greater war crimes of the twentieth-century.

David Palmeter said...

s. wallerstein

I’m old enough to remember the end of WWII. I was seven. My father got drafted right at the end and never saw action. His brother did in the Pacific; my mother’s two brothers served in Europe. One was killed in the battle for St. Lo. He was 18.
The War pervaded society as I recollect it. And the relief and celebration I can still recall—a spontaneous parade of people on the main street of town; wild celebration.

That war affected a breadth of society unmatched since—not Korea, not Viet Nam.
If Truman had not dropped the bomb, he probably would have been impeached and convicted. The choice came down to the lives of American soldiers against those of Japanese civilians. But most of the soldiers were really civilians themselves, like your father—not professional military.

So I come down on the side of justification. But I’m impressed with John Rawls’ different attitude. He was in the Army in the Pacific and was certain to have participated on an invasion of Japan had there been one. As it was, his unit landed in Japan after the surrender. Apparently not much was known about radiation at the time and the unit’s trucks drove through either Hiroshima or Nagasaki (I can’t recall which.) Based on what he saw, he deplored the bombing even though it may well have saved his life. I’m afraid I’m not that noble.

David Palmeter said...

John Rapko

My (non-historian's) understanding is that unconditional surrenders were demanded because of the experience with Germany and the WWI armistice.

LFC said...

David Palmeter,

Your comment at 2:59 p.m. above should have been addressed to R McD, not me.

Michael Llenos said...

s. wallerstein,

If I was a soldier in 1945, about to be transfered for the invasion of Japan, I would probably be relieved that Japan surrendered because of any action taken by the U.S. government. But if I knew the citizens of Heroshima and Nagasaki or even if I didn't know them but I saw the aftermath firsthand, I would most likely have had deep depression over that fact and even suicidal thoughts for a lifetime just over the event itself. The Japanese people are a beautiful people, and the whole world is filled with beautiful people no matter where you go--& to witness such a loss of life and such grave suffering anywhere would be unthinkable to me. Some may call me weak minded and that I am. And I am in favor of our troops over any enemy troops. American troops are the deterrent for any enemy country wanting to invade America or it's neighbors and to turn us all into slaves. But bombing enemy civilians is inconceivable. I can sympathize with a Force Recon or L.R.R.P. patrol ambushing NVA in the Mekong Delta. But I can't sympathize with soldiers going into a village and harming civilians in the Mekong Delta. Imagine if America had television and Walter Koncrite during the Pacific War in the 1940s. I believe WWII would have been longer for America than just 3-4 years.

Now I believe in ghosts. And I've heard rumors that there has been much ghost activity where those two bombs dropped ever since the event. Whoever dropped those bombs have probably a lot of bad karma to deal with--even in the grave. If delivering those bombs ended in the shark massacre told in the movie Jaws, just imagine what kind of bad karma those crew members had for dropping them. Some may say that orders are orders. But surely all orders don't have to be obeyed in the end? Or do they? Should we all be robots for the state or not?

LFC said...

Re unconditional surrender -- having announced a policy of unconditional surrender vis-a-vis Germany at the Casablanca Conference in Jan. 1943, Roosevelt cdn't have a different policy for Japan, I think, nor cd Truman, given among other things the bitterness of the U.S.-Japan conflict on both sides. The classic work on that is John Dower, War Without Mercy (which I haven't read but prob well worth reading for those interested in this).

aaall said...

There was a one-two punch against Japan in August, 1945. Besides the atomic bombs, the Soviet Union invaded and quickly overwhelmed the Japanese forces in Manchuria, Korea, and the far northern islands.
There was no way Japan could have dealt with a two pronged invasion and the Japanese government now had to factor in a Soviet occupation of at least half the nation. As a bonus, Hiroshima and Nagasaki likely served as a way to concentrate Stalin's mind on not over-reaching.

Another Anonymous said...

I have a couple of observations regarding the discussion of the nuclear attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

First, it is easy for us., some 75 years after the events, to make moral judgments about what Truman did. But the decision to drop the nuclear bombs on both cities, rather than launch a land invasion, was largely based on an evaluation of what had happened during the battles of Iwo Jima and Okinawa, where the Japanese fought fiercely and would not surrender, fighting to the last man. It was estimated that if the Japanese resisted a land invasion on their homeland with the same ferocity, multitudes of thousands of American servicemen would die. Given this calculus, it was decided that the only way to get Japan to surrender was to drop the bomb on a Japanese city, despite the loss of civilian lives. In addition, there was also no sympathy for the Japanese given the sneak attack on Pearl Harbor (a tactic which the Japanese had also used against Russia in their surprise attack on Port Arthur during the Russo-Japanese War).

Michael, regarding the gentility of the Japanese culture, there was little of that displayed during WWII, e.g., the Burmese death march, in which thousands of British and American captives were marched hundreds of miles without food or water; the bombing of Shanghai. There are many movies displaying the Japanese cruelty during the war, e.g., Bridge On The River Kwai; Empire Of The Sun (starring a young Christian Bale in a superb performance as a British prisoner in a Japanese camp on the outskirts of Shanghai). Regarding the suggestion that maybe a test demonstration of the destruction caused by the nuclear bombs, remember that Japan did not surrender after Hiroshima was devastated; it took a second bombing of Nagasaki to force Emperor Hirohito to surrender. Moreover, there were only two bombs already manufactured and available – if one were used on a demonstration, then the remaining bomb may not have sufficed, given the refusal to surrender after Hiroshima was bombed. So I do not believe we are in a position to criticize Truman for his decision, for which he took full responsibility. Regarding the pilots, based on what I have read, they suffered no sense of remorse. They felt they did their part to end a war which otherwise could have gone on for many more months.

That said, one of the experts who analyzed financial damages in lawsuits at the law firm I worked at had served as an adjutant under General MacArthur when he was appointed the military commander over the Japanese government. MacArthur commissioned him to do an analysis of the economic status of Japan before the nuclear attack. He told me that he did a thorough analysis of the food stockpiles, economic status of the country, armaments, etc., and reported to MacArthur that it was his conclusion that Japan would have collapsed internally without the bombing. Mind you, however, this was an after-the-fact analysis based on data which was not available to the Americans before the bombing.

Michael Llenos said...

AA wrote.
Michael, regarding the gentility of the Japanese culture, there was little of that displayed during WWII, e.g., the Burmese death march, in which thousands of British and American captives were marched hundreds of miles without food or water; the bombing of Shanghai. There are many movies displaying the Japanese cruelty during the war, e.g., Bridge On The River Kwai; Empire Of The Sun (starring a young Christian Bale in a superb performance as a British prisoner in a Japanese camp on the outskirts of Shanghai).

I saw such movies as well. But I meant the admiration of Japanese civilians and not the military of WW2 Japan. There might have been several thousand Japanese Buddhist saints fighting in Japan's military in WW2 (who were forced to use a weapon) but not enough to fullfil Einstein's Two Percent pacifist speech in the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in December of 1930.

Eric said...

Do any of yall listen to Radiolab?
Historian Alex Wellerstein discusses his hypotheses that Truman did not realize Hiroshima would not be a "purely military target" (ie, just munitions factories & military bases, not a metropolis filled with civilians), as he had written in his diary, and that Truman had not ordered that the second bomb be dropped so soon—the generals decided that on their own. Wellerstein provides additional details in his blog.
https://www.wnycstudios.org/podcasts/radiolab/articles/nukes

Eric said...

David Palmeter,
Michael Parenti, in the first few minutes of one of his lectures on imperialism, points out a major problem with Gibbon's Decline & Fall.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OOF56wYTl1w&t=199s

Another Anonymous said...

Michael,

In WWII, Japan was clearly the aggressor. The Buddhist monks whom you refer to were more likely Shinto priests, not Buddhist monks, since Shintoism developed in Japan as a reaction against Buddhism. In any case, regardless whether Shinto or Buddhist, if they served in the Japanese military, even under coercion, they were not pacifists. If they were pacifists, they would have resisted the coercion. And Japanese culture, the culture of the samurai, was not known for pacifism. Moreover, it is a mistake to assume that Buddhists are necessarily pacifists, opposed to the use of violence. Who do you think are abusing and persecuting the Rohingya in Myanmar?

The aspects of Japanese culture which you may admire, their aesthetic appreciation of horticulture and paper cutting, etc., is not inconsistent with, and preclusive of, the militaristic character of their culture prior to, and during, WWII. It is a mistake to think that aesthetic appreciation fosters humanism – many of the Nazis were great devotees of Goethe, Schubert and Beethoven. That did not prevent them from interring and murdering millions of Jews, Poles, Roma, and homosexuals.

Michael Llenos said...

AM wrote.
[The aspects of Japanese culture which you may admire, their aesthetic appreciation of horticulture and paper cutting, etc. is not inconsistent with, and preclusive of, the militaristic character of their culture prior to, and during, WWII. It is a mistake to think that aesthetic appreciation fosters humanism...]

My response.
Buddhists (Shinto-Buddhists as well) & Christians have many ethics and virtues in common. Many differences, yes, but many virtues and ethics in common like: the belief in a Hell after death for the wicked, the need to honor one's parents, and a belief in the need not to do bad actions in life. There were around 6 million Japanese soldiers in the Japanese Army during WW2. When I made the basic statement that several thousand Japanese troops may have been pacifist saints forced to fight in a war they didn't want to fight in, I don't see how that cannot be a possible fact.

LFC said...

@ Eric

Interesting re Alex Wellerstein on Truman. I wd be curious to know what Martin Sherwin says about this in _Gambling with Armageddon_ (2020). Haven't read it.

Another Anonymous said...

Michael,

You are probably a very personable, well-meaning individual with high ideals, to which you both ascribe and make a diligent effort to live by. But you are deluding yourself when you state that “several thousand Japanese troops may have been pacifist saints forced to fight in a war they didn't want to fight in.” If they were truly pacifists, they would not have fought in that war, no matter how much coercion was imposed on them. In the speech by Albert Einstein to which you referred, he stated that true pacifism consists in “uncompromising war resistance, refusal to do military service under any circumstances. In countries where conscription is established, the real pacifist must refuse military duty.”

Although Einstein avowed support for pacifism, he endorsed it in countries which were aggressors, not those which were resisting aggression. Otherwise, he would not have written the letter to President Roosevelt, at the urging of Leo Szilard, warning Roosevelt about the efforts of the Third Reich to build an atomic weapon and stating that it was imperative that the United States begin development of such a weapon before the Nazis succeeded. He appreciated the destructive power of such a weapon, stating, “extremely powerful bombs of a new type may thus be constructed. A single bomb of this type, carried by boat and exploded in a port, might very well destroy the whole port together with some of the surrounding territory. However, such bombs might very well prove to be too heavy for transportation by air.” Einstein, while professing pacifism, appreciated that in the real world of bullies in which we exist, pacifism is not always a practical choice.

David Palmeter said...

This has been a very interesting thread, but I'm ready to hear from RPW a la Paris.

Michael Llenos said...

AM
Fight or you & your family will be shamed. Fight or you & your family will pay more taxes. Fight or you'll go to jail. Fight or you'll be executed. There are numerous ways to motivate people.

BTW, I hope Professor Wolff is okay. I wonder if he's having computer problems?

s. wallerstein said...

Maybe Professor Wolff decided to stay a few more days in Paris and can't post from there, but
I imagine that he took a notebook or at least a phone with him and if so, he can comment in the comments section and assure us that he's okay.

aaall said...

Perhaps we should keep in mind that Buddhism, like Christianity and Islam, has many different branches - both between and within nations. Also there were left and religious opponents/resistance/pacifist movements in all the Axis nations. Not a few in Japan considered the war a shanda and a few wound up aiding China and the U.S. Of course, one can only do so much in a totalitarian fascist police state (if there wasn't serious internal opposition why would they need secret police, etc.?).

A quibble perhaps but Shinto is indigenous and long predated Buddhist and Confucian introductions. Its nature allowed for a lot of syncretism (ditto China and Tibet).

LFC said...

Note that in RPW's orig. post above, he says sometimes he can post from Paris and sometimes not, and if not will be in touch on his return.

David Palmeter said...

LFC

I'm noting that he said he'd be back July 20. Give a day or two to recover from jet lag, and we should be hearing from him fairly soon.

GJ said...

"If they were truly pacifists, they would not have fought in that war, no matter how much coercion was imposed on them."

A truer version of the no true Scotsman fallacy would be hard to come by.

Another Anonymous said...

GJ,
You are wrong.

My statement is not an example of the “No true Scotsman” fallacy, e.g.:

A: “No Scotsman puts sugar on his porridge.”
B: “I’m a Scotsman, and I put sugar on my porridge.”
A: “But no true Scotsman puts sugar on his porridge.”

The “No true Scotsman” fallacy deals with behavior which purportedly negates the right of a person to claim to belong to a given category of individuals. The behavior in question does not purport to represent the individual’s own beliefs about a particular subject.

The assertion that no Japanese individual who purported to be a pacifist – of whom Michael claimed there were thousands, who nonetheless served in the Japanese military – would not serve in the Japanese military no matter how great the coercion if they were actually pacifists is a different statement from the “No true Scotsman” fallacy. The “No true Scotsman” fallacy does not reflect the belief of the Scots themselves. It is a statement about them by one who, presumably, is not a Scotsman. A person who claims to be a pacifist, however, is making a statement about his/her own beliefs about their own behavior. It is an oxymoron for such a person to then claim that, although a pacifist, s/he was forced to serve in the military against his/her own will. I can fully understand, as Michael states, that when people are threatened with their family being shamed, or their taxes being raised, or being executed, that they succumb to the coercion and serve in the military. But they are not pacifists. They are either ordinary human beings, or hypocrites.

In the United States, there were individuals who did in fact refuse to serve in the military during WWII, asserting that they were conscientious objectors. But they did not then succumb to coercion and serve. One such individual was the actor Lew Ayres, who had portrayed Dr. Kildare in several movies. His refusal to serve ruined his career. Another example was Desmond Doss, who refused to carry a weapon in combat during WWII, despite intense persecution by is military superiors and fellow soldiers. Instead, he served with great honor and courage as a medic. His heroism was depicted in the movie “Hacksaw Ridge.” He did not succumb to coercion. When I was in basic training during the Vietnam War, there was a soldier who maintained he was a conscientious objector and refused to hold a weapon. They punished him by having him dig a hole, then fill the hole, then dig the hole again, from 5 A.M. until 9 P.M. (A scene in the movie “Cool Hand Luke” may have inspired the punishment.) He did not succumb to coercion.

So, I stand by what I wrote. Any Japanese citizen who claimed to be a pacifist and opposed to the war which the Japanese initiated would have refused to serve in the Japanese military by carrying a weapon, regardless the coercion. I can fully understand someone succumbing to coercion and carrying a weapon – as I probably would – but they were not pacifists.

GJ said...

Let me put it this way, AA: Your claim that a genuine or "true" pacifist wouldn't serve in the military even if they were facing, say, execution if they didn't is patently false. Have you heard of weakness of the will, akrasia, and the like? My fear of death might simply overwhelm or override my (genuine) belief in nonviolence. Pacifism is simply the *belief* that disputes should be settled peacefully, and we act contrary to our true beliefs all the time. The cases you've cherrypicked are simply *exemplars* or models of pacifism. They nowise show that a true pacifist cannot be weak-willed.

Another Anonymous said...

Right, and according to Michael thousands of “true” Japanese pacifists, “Buddhist saints,” succumbed to “weakness of the will” and bore arms in support of the Japanese armed services, as they marched through the Philippines, Burma, China, etc., killing indiscriminately. Were they all threatened with execution, or did the threat of having their family disgraced or their taxes raised sufficient to overcome their earnest pacifist beliefs?

s. wallerstein said...

Another,

We really don't know if the "Buddhist saints" killed indiscriminately. There are lots of reports of U.S. soldiers who in battle fire their weapons over the heads of the enemy because they don't want to kill anyone. One could imagine that a Japanese soldier with pacifist tendencies might well try to avoid killing anyone and that in a dictatorship like Japan they served in the Army because otherwise they and even their families might be killed by the government.

Another Anonymous said...

s. wallerstein,

Yes, one can imagine a lot of things about combat during WWII, but unless informed by actual accounts of what occurred, such imaginings are not likely to be accurate. I suggest you watch two particular movies based on actual accounts of the American assault on Iwo Jima, both based on historical accounts – “Flags Of Our Fathers,” based on American accounts, and “Letters From Iwo Jima,” based on letters written by the Japanese defenders. They do not show many, if any, Japanese (or American) combatants shooting over the heads of their enemy, in order to preserve their sense of pacifism

LFC said...

I'm not interested in entering the debate about pacifism.

However, S.L.A. Marshall's Men Against Fire concluded that fewer than 25 percent of soldiers in combat actually fire their weapons at the enemy.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/S.L.A._Marshall


The figure may be roughly right in general (though it's been debated). However, I doubt it applies to, for example, Iwo Jima, which was brutally fought on both sides. (I.e. I think 25 % wd be too low a figure for Iwo Jima.) Probably also doesn't apply to Guadalcanal, for example.

N.b. I'm not a military historian, but since afaik no one else on this thread is either, I figure what the heck...

GJ said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
GJ said...

Michael's claim is a speculative empirical one, AA, and probably false, but it's irrelevant. Your claim about pacifism is false even if, in all of history, there's been only one true pacifist who has taken up arms as a result of weakness of the will.

Another Anonymous said...

LFC,

LFC,

That less than 25% figure is misleading. There have been many soldiers in every military campaign since the use of rifles were deployed who did not fire their weapons because they never engaged in actual combat, or were never directly confronted by an enemy combatant. In Vietnam, for example, in which many of the campaigns occurred in dense, jungle and where many soldiers never saw a member of the Viet Cong. As the Wikipedia article you cite to states, “Some veterans and historians have cast doubt on Marshall's research methods, challenging the data collection methods used to support his ratio-of-fire theory.” The percentage that would be relevant would be the percentage of soldiers who were actually engaged in live combat or who came face to face with an enemy soldier, and who fired, or tried to fire, their weapon. I suspect that percentage would be far higher than 25%, and would be well over 90%. And while I am not a military historian, I have read books about military history, and none of them suggest the 25% figure that Gen. Marshall proposed.

Another Anonymous said...

GJ,

This exchange has deteriorated into just being silly nonsense. Your rebuttal is specious. First, this thread began with Michael’s assertion that there were probably several thousand Japanese pacifists, “Buddhist saints,” who were coerced into serving in the Japanese military despite their avowed pacifism. Michael’s assertion was intended, I assume, to exonerate the Japanese during WWII from an accusation of being brutal aggressors. I replied that a devout pacifist would not serve in the military, regardless the coercion. You accused me of engaging in the “No true Scotsman” fallacy, a claim that I then debunked. You have now resorted to claiming that I am wrong if, in all of history, there were at least one true pacifist who succumbed to coercions and served in his country’s military. This “rebuttal” is specious, for several reasons. (1) serving in the military, as LFC’s comment points out, does not equate to firing one’s weapon. I maintain that a devout pacifist would avoid firing his weapon. (2) it depends on the degree of coercion – was the pacifist threatened with torture, or with the murder of members of his family; obviously, submission to such coercion would not vitiate a claim of pacifism. Succumbing to anything less, however, would invalidate an avowal of pacifism. Please, do not retort with any more of your feeble rejoinders in a futile effort to prove me wrong.

LFC said...

AA,

I do want to make a comment about this pacifism discussion and related matters. And then turning off computer for the night.

I did not read Michael's claim as particularly "intended..to exonerate the Japanese...from an accusation of being brutal aggressors." I'm not sure what the "intention" was w/o going back upthread, but I did not read it as an attempted "exoneration" of the Japanese regime.

A few points.

(1) even if several thousand Japanese pacifists served, that wd have no bearing on the justification for the Japanese government's (or regime's) policy, which obviously was one of mil. expansion aimed at creating what the Japanese govt called a Greater East Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere (if memory serves) or, less euphemistically, a Japanese empire.

(2) the U.S. oil embargo on Japan, imposed sometime in the '30s (I forget exactly when), probably helped pushed the Japanese regime to the conclusion that war w the U.S. was inevitable and hence that striking first might be their most viable strategic option. It also helped increase the pressure for expansion. This does not exonerate the Japanese govt, which was dominated by militarists, in any way, but it broadens the overall historical context. Recall that the Japanese moved into Manchuria in 1931, which prompted the so-called Stimson Doctrine that the U.S. wd not recognize the results of aggression, heightening the two countries' collision course in the region. Then of course the Japanese invaded the rest of China in '37.

(3) the point being that Michael's claim about several thousand Japanese pacifists (or purported pacifists) having served has little or nothing to do with the broad historical picture here, which I don't think Michael ever said it did. Probably millions of people served in the Japanese military, after all, so why spend so much time arguing over whether a tiny fraction were pacifists, or claimed pacifists.

Another Anonymous said...

LFC,

First, I want to say that it has been enjoyable exchanging comments with you of late, even if the best you can do is occasionally to say that you do not necessarily disagree with me.

What, exactly, was Michael’s point of asserting that there were probably several thousand pacifists, “Buddhist saints.” who reluctantly served in the Japanese armed forces in WWII if not to exonerate them, make them seem more civilized, exemplars of the Japanese culture devoted to such aesthetic exercises as cultivating beautiful horticulture, etc.?

Yes, the American embargo of Japan played a significant role in fostering Japan’s military response, but of course this was not a legitimate excuse, since the embargo was imposed due to Japan’s invasion of China and its annexation of Manchuria.

aaall said...

I believe the United States did recognize certain aspects of Japanese culture and made Kyoto off limits to bombing.

Why not those Christian or Jehovah's Witness "saints" in Germany, the U.S., Italy, etc.?

BTW, Lew Ayres joined the Army as a medic and saw action in the Pacific. After the war he resumed his movie/TV career. I remember an episode of the old "This is Your Life " show that laid out his service in WW II.

I remember reading that each enemy causality in those wars was the result of tens of thousands rounds fired.

GJ said...

"This exchange has deteriorated into just being silly nonsense."

Perhaps, but only because you're incapable, apparently, of seeing that your comments are shot through with problems.

"I maintain that a devout pacifist would avoid firing his weapon."

But then you go on to claim that a devout pacifist *would* fire their weapon if the degree of coercion were sufficiently irresistible:

"[I]it depends on the degree of coercion – was the pacifist threatened with torture, or with the murder of members of his family; obviously, submission to such coercion would not vitiate a claim of pacifism. Succumbing to anything less, however, would invalidate an avowal of pacifism."

Why? And what qualifies you to legislate the degree of coercion necessary to vitiate true pacifism?

Incidentally, it hasn't gone unnoticed that you've moved from talking about "true" pacifism to "devout" pacifism.

"Please, do not retort with any more of your feeble rejoinders in a futile effort to prove me wrong."

This isn't your blog.

Another Anonymous said...

You're right, this isn't my blog. So, feel free to retort with more of your feeble rejoinders.

Another Anonymous said...

aaall,

The American public reacted hostilely to the fact that Ayres was a conscientious objector and opposed U.S. participation in WWII. The fact that he served as a medic, and did not carry a weapon, indicates that he did not succumb to pressure or coercion. While he did make a few more movies after the war, he never attained the stardom that he had achieved before the war.

Jehovah Witnesses did not serve in the German army. In fact, they were interned by the Nazis in the concentration camps and were used as barbers, since the Nazis were confident that a Jehovah Witness would not slit their throats.

aaall said...

The initial reaction to Ayres was hostile but faded as his service became known. He wasn't A list after the war but had steady work in films and TV. Definitely not Blacklist level of harm. I always assumed that the TIYL appearance was to make his role in the war more widely known.

I mentioned JWs, etc. because singling out a sub-group of COs in one nation made no sense.

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