Monday, August 26, 2013

The Archer's Tale - Part 1: The Origins of the Warbow

Englande were but a fling,
But for the crooked stick and the gray goose wing.”
-Old English adage

 The Anglo-Welsh warbow – along with the men who wielded it – will forever be remembered as one of those legendary contributions to the history of warfare that not only dominated its own era, but also significantly shaped the future as well.  Personally, I find the 667th anniversary of the Battle of Crécy – the warbow’s explosive debut onto the stage of European warfare – to be the most appropriate date to start my series on this incredible weapon and the men who masterfully employed it time and again on the field of battle.  Near the end, I also wish to explore how the warbow and the tactical revolution its use inspired permanently changed the nature of Western warfare and, ultimately, Western society.

15th Century depiction of the English victory at Crecy, 26 August 1346AD - note the English warbows on the right.
The origins of the warbow – as with any weapon of war prior to Western industrialization – are often shrouded in apocryphal clues that can be difficult to distinguish from fact or myth.  Warfare was a much more intimately personal affair in pre-modern times, and weapons were often manufactured by hand by either the wielder himself or by a craftsman under the wielder’s personal direction.  Evidence of the existence of the bow and arrow as tools for killing animals and fellow men stretches back into the farthest possible reaches of human history – stone arrowheads are often found and dated to eras far beyond when modern science claims humans were capable of effective tool creation.  One can only conclude that human ingenuity quickly surmised the lethal value of a small wooden projectile propelled by a piece of twine strung between the ends of a crooked stick, establishing an affinity for ranged weaponry in the human character – one that would eventually lead all the way to the ballistic missile of today.

Although bows were commonplace on the battlefield since the dawn of recorded human history, the Anglo-Welsh warbow was a unique variation of this prolific weapon system.  Most bows prior to the warbow were a type often known as the simple “self bow” – a plain rounded stave about 3-5 feet in length that shot broadhead arrows between 18 to 24 inches long.  While these bows could be extremely effective in the hands of experienced hunters or warriors, they generally were utilized as harassment weapons ie. weapons used in the preliminary stages of a battle in a purely supporting role to help break up ranks in an opposing force before the main effort of melee combat ensued.  Do not be mistaken, the self bow was highly regarded by Western warrior cultures and the value of skilled archers was prized by warlords during the era following the fall of the Western Roman Empire.  Viking chieftains often brought expert archers along in their raiding parties and archery contests were included amongst various other tests of martial prowess.  Even during the early Medieval period when heavy cavalry became the set-piece on the field, there was still a place for the archer.  Duke William of Normandy owed much of his victory at Hastings in 1066AD to the peasant archers that helped break up Harold’s Saxon shieldwall with their fire.  However, these were bows of very limited range and power and could not ever rise to the task of serving as the main effort against the armor and shields of an opposing force.

Norman archers depicted supporting William's charging knights at Hastings commemorated on the Bayeux Tapestry
Another predecessor of the warbow was the “composite bow” often found in the East.  Due to the lack of the sort of hardwood trees ideal for the crafting of self staves in Central Asia and the Middle East, the bow underwent a significant technical transformation.  Constructed using layers of wood, horn, and bone laminates fastened together with animal glue and twine lashings, the composite bow was then bent in a double curved – or “recurved” – shape and laid in the ground to set.  This “recurved” design allowed the composite bow to possess greater power in a much smaller frame, providing an ideally compact weapon for the primarily mounted raiding cultures found on the steppes of Central Asia.  The occasional westward incursions of these steppe peoples would introduce the composite bow to the eastern Mediterranean and the Levant, where it would be permanently adopted there and become a staple of Eastern weaponry.  However, even this bow still did not possess the power needed to overcome armored opposition by itself – the Turkish foes of the First Crusade often referred to their Frankish opponents as “the men of steel,” noting how ineffectual their arrow fire was against the heavy armor of Western knights.

So, where exactly then did the great warbow of Crécy, Agincourt, and Towton come from?  Although bow staves have been found in bogs and burial mounds in Scandinavia that bear some resemblance to the great warbows of the Hundred Years War, the first actual recorded sightings come from the misty mountains and valleys of Wales.  The Welsh people, originating from the remnants of the Romano-Britons who survived the collapse of the Western Roman Empire and the repeated Anglo-Saxon and Scandinavian invaders that followed, took refuge in the remote and elevated terrain that mostly constitutes the region now known as Wales (derived from the Anglo-Saxon word for “stranger” – the native Welsh word for their homeland is far different: Cymru – pronounced “cum-rhi”).  Adapting to their environment of formidable mountains and narrow passes, the Welsh developed and perfected a style of warfare we would recognize today as guerilla tactics – small bands would harass and ambush invaders, inflict as many casualties as possible, then disappear before coming into significant contact.  Columns of heavily armored infantry and horsemen were at a tremendous disadvantage in the inhospitable terrain of Wales and the Welsh people successfully maintained their independence in this fashion against incursions by the Saxons, Vikings, Danes, and even the Norman kings of England.  Norman accounts from William I to Henry II often speak of Welsh archers and their ability to cut down even heavily armored Norman knights, no small feat compared to the other bows that existed at the time.  One account in particular seems to settle the question of the origin of the weapon that would later revolutionize English Medieval warfare.

Crude sketch of a Welsh archer circa 1200AD - the one foot is thought to be bare for better grip while shooting.
Giraldus Cambrensis (“Gerald of Wales”) was a Norman-Welsh half-breed born in the war-ravaged Welsh Marches during the reign of Henry II (1154-1189AD).  At an early age, he joined himself to the Church and became one of the foremost clerics in the region, personally accompanying the Archbishop of Canterbury in 1188AD to assist in preaching the Third Crusade throughout Wales.  During this journey, he recorded in vivid detail many of the curiosities he observed on this journey, including two particular confrontations between native Welsh archers and their Anglo-Norman foes.  The first occurred at the siege of Abergavenny Castle:
“Two soldiers ran over a bridge to take refuge in one of the castle towers.  Welsh archers, shooting from behind them, drove their arrows into the oak door of the tower with such force that the arrowheads penetrated the wood of the door which was nearly a hand thick; and the arrows were preserved in that door as a memento.”
A “hand” in Anglo-Norman England was a common unit of measurement generally corresponding to the width across an average adult palm – around four inches.  For arrows to completely penetrate solid oak over four inches thick requires a bow of immense power possessing at least 100lbs of draw weight.  The next account recorded an armed confrontation between some Norman knights belonging to a William de Braose and the ill fate they suffered at the hands of these Welsh archers and their incredible weapons:
“One of his men, in a fight against the Welsh, was wounded by an arrow that penetrated his thigh, the casing armor on both sides, the part of the saddle known as the “alva,” and mortally wounded the horse.  Another soldier was pinned to his saddle by an arrow through his hip and the covering armor; and when he turned his horse around, he got another arrow in his other hip; that fixed him in his saddle on both sides.”
To give the reader some perspective, allow me to elaborate.  The “casing armor” that Gerald refers to would have been the standard maille made of tiny interlocking rings of hardened steel and worn by all knights of the period.  It was this type of armor that put to shame the Turkish composite bows during the First Crusade.  For an arrow to penetrate not just one side, but both sides – to include the thick cotton gambeson all knights wore underneath their armor and the flesh of the thigh itself – and then to continue to penetrate a thick wooden saddle frame and strike deep enough into the horse’s flesh so as to mortally wound it denotes a bow of unmatched ballistic velocity.  Gerald confirms later in his chronicle that these bows were “simple wooden staves of wild elm” and there was no presence of bone or horn at all.  For a bow to possess the draw weight required for such penetration, it would have to be considerably longer and stouter than the average contemporary bow stave – at least six and half to seven feet long.  It would seem that, thanks to the incredibly detailed musings of a Welsh monk, we have found the predecessor (the early prototype, if you will) of the famed warbow.

Despite the Welsh bow’s incredible performance against Anglo-Norman incursions into its homeland, it still did not acquire much of a reputation outside of the Marches for quite some time.  Wales would continue to be an independent kingdom in constant conflict with the Anglo-Norman monarchy in London for another hundred years – keeping the men fighting for her and the weapons in their service closely confined to one geographical region.  Also, the Norman leadership in England still adhered mostly to the feudal styles of warfare prevalent on the Continent and spent the majority of their military efforts maintaining their possessions in Normandy, Aquitaine, and Gascony through the use of heavily armored knightly cavalry supported by levied infantry.  For ranged weaponry, the crossbow reigned supreme on the Continent – a weapon with unimpressive range, but considerable power and requiring minimal skill to use (making it ideal for quickly raising cheap levies).  The Welsh bow would not gain the notoriety it deserved until the advent of an English king who ironically was responsible for the final subjugation of the homeland it had defended for so long.

Statue of Edward I of England - looking every bit the warrior and leader he was in life.
When Edward I, known by his sobriquet of “Longshanks” due to his pronounced height, assumed the throne, England was in dire straits.  Due to the ineptitude of his luckless grandfather, John I, virtually all of the continental possessions of the Angevin Empire had been lost to France.  At home, the realm itself was in turmoil.  English barons, frustrated by years of feckless leadership, high taxation, and failures abroad, had revolted against the throne repeatedly and, though none of the revolts actually threatened the Plantagenent dynasty, they did force both John I and Henry III to give away significant royal rights in favor of Magna Carta and the newly created Parliament.  In the meantime, Welsh kings still ferociously asserted their independence in the Marches and the border was constantly under threat from England’s insufferable neighbor to the north, Scotland.  Edward I – freshly returned from crusading in North Africa and the Levant where he won renown and respect throughout all of Christendom for his brave and capable leadership – would rise to the challenge with a vigor and determination that would rescue the Realm and make him one of England’s greatest leaders.  Wales would be subjugated once and for all in a long but brilliant campaign of castle-building that would put more castles per square mile in Wales than in any other region in the world.  At the end, the last Welsh king, Llywelyn ap Gruffydd, alone and cut off from all support in his own country, would die fighting in the snow surrounded by English swords in the winter of 1282AD.  Edward I would bestow the title of “Prince of Wales” to his infant son and heir – a royal tradition that would continue to the present day.  Edward also became intimately familiar with the unique weapon wielded by his Welsh foes and, no doubt, witnessed its incredible power in action.  Whatever he saw, he remembered it.

With Wales tamed and England reunited under his capable rule, Edward turned his attention to the north.  Scotland had long been a troublesome neighbor, but the succession crisis that pitted the rebellious Bruce family against the English-dependent Balliols threatened to demolish the fragile peace between the two realms.  The situation came to a head when an English army under John de Warenne was soundly defeated in 1297AD at Stirling Bridge by the famed Scottish outlaw, Sir William Wallace.  Edward gathered one of the largest armies in his career and headed north.  Among the men raised for his campaign were Welsh archers and their impressive “longbows.”  After the typical several months of maneuvering, Edward finally cornered Wallace at Falkirk.  The Scots deployed in their traditional formations of pikemen, called schiltrons, developed to cope with their disadvantage against the Anglo-Norman heavy cavalry.  Edward knew that deploying his cavalry against the thick hedges of pikes would be a repeat of Stirling, so he deployed the Welsh archers first.  The immobile schiltrons were helpless against the relentless arrow fire.  As casualties mounted, the Scottish formations disintegrated and Edward’s cavalry were sent in to finish the job.  Organized Scottish resistance fell apart after Falkirk and Edward returned to England with Scotland under his heel.  Edward never forgot the impact of the Welsh bow at Falkirk and used every opportunity to introduce the unique skill set to his own countrymen.  Soon, there were communities of English archers training with the longbow in Nottinghamshire (often thought to have served as the inspiration for the “Robin Hoode” mythos) and Derbyshire.  Edward invested much of the last years of his life to the promotion of the Welsh weapon into English society – and for good reason.  With England’s French possessions gone, only the wealthiest of English nobles had access to the sort of horse breeds needed by heavily armored knights.  English armies were becoming increasingly dismounted and would need a new weapon to retake the initiative on the field.  Also, because of the political and social reforms instituted by Magna Carta, the English military system was now remarkably different from the continental feudal systems that had existed prior.  Before, the nobility responded to the king’s call for troops and raised an appropriate number of levies (willing or not), armed them, and sent them to the king for him to use at his pleasure.  The new system was more volunteer in nature and the majority of fighting men in England were free landowners.  Several laws were instituted by Parliament at the King’s behest that mandated certain armaments and training regimens for all subjects – essentially, a nation-in-arms state was created in which English armies would be comprised of self-trained free-men volunteers.  The warbow would fit perfectly into this new system.  Edward Longshanks would die before seeing his reforms bear fruit and it appeared that his feckless son would entirely forget the keys to his father’s success and nearly undo his incredible gains.  But, finally, the true potential of the warbow would be realized under Edward’s grandson, another Edward – the third of that name – who would utilize this weapon as the key set-piece in perhaps the largest war of the Medieval world and preside over one of the most militarily successful eras in English history.

Stay tuned …

Works Referenced:
Giraldus Cambrensis, Itinerarium Kambriae, 1191.
Robert Hardy, Longbow - 5th Edition, Haynes Publishing, 2012.
David Nicolle, The Normans, Osprey Publishing, 1987.
Hugh D. H. Soar, The Crooked Stick and Secrets of the English Warbow, Westholme Publishing, 2009 and 2010 respectively.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

The World This Week - 24 AUG

Mubarak Released From Prison:

In an unexpected development, the Egyptian High Court released deposed strongman Hosni Mubarak from prison after being sentenced by the short-lived Morsi regime last year.  Undoubtedly, this move was primarily motivated by the Egyptian interim government's desperation to restore order after the military swiftly removed Morsi from power and ruthlessly crushed his Muslim Brotherhood supporters.  Mubarak is the natural choice for a return to stability - he unilaterally ruled his country since the assassination of Anwar Sadat and still commands enormous respect in both the military leadership and in the Egyptian populace as a whole.  However, should he return to power, there will most likely be a noticeable change in his relationship with the US - a country that once was his strongest supporter, but recently betrayed him in favor of the now-disastrous "Arab Spring."  It is highly unlikely that he will forget this betrayal and the US will undoubtedly reap a sour reward for our treatment of this former ally.

*BREAKING* US Warships Bound For Syria:

Although the details are scant about the nature of this naval mission, there is no doubt the US is seriously considering a significant escalation of force in the Syrian crisis.  So far, the only available information suggests that the ships en route to the eastern Mediterranean are armed with ballistic missile capabilities, hinting to long range missile attacks should hostilities commence - similar to the support we delivered to the Libyan rebels in 2011.  This is most likely meant to increase pressure on the Assad regime to allow UN weapons inspectors into regions suspected of being targeted in chemical attacks - events that seem to be the subject of intense controversy as to who actually committed the crimes and are often covered by confusing and contradictory news reports.  Moscow, possibly in an attempt to save their ally in the Levant, recently called for Assad to cooperate with the UN inspectors.  However, there has yet to be a clear response from the Syrian government on this issue.  Sadly, the entire event seems to be following the exact same playbook as every other US intervention in the Middle East and I fear it is only a matter of time before yet another once-stable Arab regime descends into chaos courtesy of Washington.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

The World This Week - 17 AUG

Ex Border Patrol Agent Alludes To Massive Govt Complicity With Mexican Cartels:

US involvement in the so-called "War On Drugs" has been one long saga of ineptitude and outright corruption of the worst kind.  Instead of acknowledging the painfully obvious threats to national security and sovereignty that the current situation on our southern border presents, Washington continually insists on twisting the issue into an immigration/labor/law enforcement platform.  Myriads of pseudo-law enforcement agencies (with Federal executive authority) have been created and billions of tax dollars have been spent to resolve the border issue, and yet, the cartels are more powerful than ever, cartel violence is at disturbingly record highs in the border regions, drug bosses rake in Fortune 500-level annual profits, and - in the greatest display of irony - the flow of narcotics into America has only steadily increased.  To make matters worse, US territorial sovereignty is routinely violated by heavily armed paramilitary cartel forces and even rogue Mexican Army units - something we once went to war over.  However, most of this doesn't even make into the morning news in the US.  One has to admit that the silence is extremely suspect.  The allegations made by this former Border Patrol agent are logically of little surprise, but profoundly disturbing in their implications.  Since the War on Drugs began, there has always been spotty evidence that the US Govt's role may have been far more duplicitous than what was presented.  With the ever-increasing success of the Mexican cartels and a death toll several times greater than US combat deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan combined, Washington's apparent disinterest in this grave matter of national security is looking extremely suspect.  Whatever the truth is behind these allegations, Capitol Hill owes us an answer - now.

US Mishandling of Egypt Crisis Forcing Cairo To Find Friends Elsewhere:

The Egyptian Crisis taking place as we speak will probably go down as the most important geopolitical event in the Middle East of 2013 - and we are botching it horribly.  Since the days of Sadat, Egypt was one of our most key partners in the region - even receiving the most US foreign aid second only to Israel.  Economically and politically stable, decidedly secular, and harshly opposed to Islamic fundamentalism, the Mubarak regime was a key strategic partner that was committed to maintaining a peaceful status quo in the Levant and in the Middle East as a whole.  All that went down the drain during the State Department-sponsored "Arab Spring" movement of the past year.  Predictably, the fringe radicals of the Muslim Brotherhood seized power (much to the dismay of the vast majority of Egyptians) and even appeared to receive tacit US support.  Finally, the army leadership refused to continue to play along and, in a bold move, forced Morsi and his fellow radicals out of power with the apparent goal of restoring Egypt to its former secular stability.  However, the damage was done last year and radical elements have streamed into Egyptian cities, setting the stage for the bloody clashes we are witnessing today.  All of this could have easily been avoided had the US never gotten involved with the Arab Spring in the first place.  Now, multiple Islamic countries that were once stable and secure have been devoured by the power vacuum created by the meddling of our current Administration.  One almost wonders if that was indeed the intent.  Whatever Washington's motives, our duplicitous involvement and current lack of stance is driving the Egyptian leadership to desperately seek new friends - and there are several only too willing to oblige.  The most obvious is Moscow.  Should the interim Egyptian leadership solidify a Russian partnership, it would be perhaps the greatest US geopolitical defeat of the decade.  Russia will then return to a situation reminiscent of the Nasser years and would have a new front from which to project influence into the Middle East along with their longtime Syrian allies.  A Moscow-Cairo partnership could possibly see the granting of permanent Russian military presence (to include an additional naval port in the Mediterranean with proximity to the vital Suez Canal) and a much larger, less contested base of operations for expanding their proxy war with us over control of the greater Middle East.  In short, our mishandling of Egyptian relations will carry grave repercussions for US foreign policy, repercussions Washington seems to be oblivious to.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The Show-Trial & the Death of American Due Process

"In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence."
-Amendment VI of the US Constitution

"I'm slapping every white person I see ... if george zimmerman gets acquitted niggas got to riot!"
-Actual tweet during Zimmerman trial

"I think he knows what Rome is - Rome is the mob."
-Derek Jacobi, Gladiator (2000AD)

On a February night in 2012, a relatively minor incident took place - an incident that may or may not have had a criminal character.  Although that night tragically resulted in a human death, there was objectively nothing about this event that made it stand out from the thousands of other gun-related deaths that occurred that night or any nights that followed.  The circumstances of the victim's death were suspect and, justly, the shooter was detained and a trial was prepared in accordance with the Constitutional guarantee of due process - a guarantee that has served as one of the most integral foundations of our Republic.  However, here the story took a saddening turn.  The suspect in question was a local Hispanic with the misfortune of possessing a white surname and complexion.  The victim was a black youth whose past life had been anything but clean.  For reasons still unknown, this trial would be selected to serve as the arena for over a year's worth of mass media-fueled hype, conjecture, race-baiting, and pure entertainment for the masses.  The Zimmerman trial became a show-trial.

The attention and publicity this trial acquired over the next year bordered on the absurd – coming in from celebrities, sports figures, and even the President and the Department of Justice.  The mainstream media, ever the High Priests of the Cult of Democracy, spent the entire trial entertaining every conceivable opinion from supposed commentators that had no actual stake in the trial whatsoever.  The non-stop public voyeurism fomented a ferocious tidal wave of polarizing opinions and rhetoric - the expression of which often turned vile, petulant, and downright tasteless.  Instead of being justly tried by a jury of his peers within the bounds of due process, George Zimmerman was condemned in the kangaroo court of mob opinion and race politics.  His appropriate acquittal was accompanied by the threat of nationwide riots and Zimmerman himself was forced to go into hiding for the sake of his own safety - all because outside entities couldn't help cashing in on an unfortunate event for the sake of some good ole fashioned race-baiting and controversy-peddling.

The Zimmerman show trial is by no means the only instance of this.  Ever since the O. J. Simpson saga, show-trials and “court dramas” have become a staple of contemporary American entertainment.  On what basis the media selects the trials they put on public display I am not completely aware of, but, they always seem to be connected to some relevant social agenda.  Race politics, gender politics, sexual controversies – whatever the actual circumstances, American show-trials always get highjacked to push some preselected agenda dear to the cultural engineers that run our society (and oftentimes totally unrelated to the actual charges).  To make matters worse, the media consistently fosters controversy and polarization amongst their audiences, appealing to the ingrained democratic sensibilities of the masses and feeding off the often-negative passions they stir up.  The real question is: how is any of this an appropriate part of the due process of law?  The hard answer is that it isn’t … at all.

The phrase “due process of law” is perhaps one of the most integral (and ancient) principles of the American Constitutional tradition.  The subject of three of the original ten Amendments to the US Constitution, the term originated in the English Common Law system codified in Magna Carta in 1215AD (and the several others that followed the Runnymeade charter).  Essentially, due process of law was meant to ensure that the sole influence in a criminal prosecution was justice – not passion, opinion, or mob sentiment.  A jury would be summoned from amongst the accused’s social peers, legal representation would be provided for the defense and prosecution, and a judge would provide the oversight of objective authority over the entire proceeding.  Arguments would be heard, the jury would consider the facts and provide a decision, and the judge would execute the sentence.  Although our Constitutional guarantee to due process includes the provision that all proceedings would be public (to avoid any secret proceedings and the injustices that might accompany those), trials were never intended to become spectacles for the public’s entertainment.  This is precisely what has happened in our time and it is destroying due process as a result.  Contemporary society has become obsessed with virtually involving the masses in situations that they, in reality, have no right to be.  Reality television is perhaps the most concentrated result of this voyeuristic fantasy – providing the masses with a remote means of being intimately involved in the “private” lives of “celebrities” (I’m using that word loosely here).  However, show-trials and court dramas carry an even more disturbing element along with the entitled voyeurism – the undue influence of public pressure on the proceedings of a prosecution.  When jurors go home and see every public figure from Snoop Dog (“Lion?”… I don’t know or care at all) to the President of the United States expressing extremely biased opinions, listen to inordinately impassioned and controversy-fueled commentary aired on every media outlet, and even become aware of threats of violence towards a particular potential decision, it is pretty safe to assume that their decision-making abilities are going to be unduly influenced – unless they live in a social vacuum.  Thanks be to God, the Zimmerman jury appeared to make a sound verdict according to the law, but the inappropriate external influence has wrecked extensive damage to both the individuals actually involved in the case and, in a wider sense, to the sanctity of due process in America.

Thanks to the sense of self-entitlement engendered amongst individual Americans by popular culture, the concept of the sanctity of law is now losing ground in favor of personal impassioned opinion.  Since moral principle was long ago cast aside in favor of personal subjectivity, the law remained as the only objective standard that all people would adhere to for the sake of public order.  Predictably, without the backing of objective moral truth behind it, law itself is now eroding away under the false deification of the individual enabled by contemporary society.  I say “false” because, in the greatest demonstration of Progressivist hypocrisy, modern societal elites don’t actually desire the liberation of each individual, but they realize that their success hangs on maintaining the perception of each individual’s supremacy (of course, however, this only applies to individuals who are compatible with the current social agenda).  They achieve this manipulation by enshrining a culture of instant gratification, rampant consumerism, and undeserved self-entitlement.  Through the use social media, the masses are tricked into believing that their individual wishes and opinions are worthy of public attention and redress – whether they have any actual right or not is irrelevant.  What the societal elites don’t seem to have realized is that this rampant self-absorption will eventually collapse the foundational principles to which we owe the very existence of civilization.  By instituting the Cult of Democracy as the official state religion of the land, they have sown the seeds of their own destruction (and that of society as a whole) by unleashing the passions and whims of the mob against the pillars of Morality, Law, and Truth.

I would end this by first and foremost advocating a permanent ban on any media coverage of any trial.  Contrary to the attitude of media entitlement one finds today, there is no part of a prosecution that they have any right to other than the verdict.  The phenomena of blow-by-blow coverage and endless speculation/commentary are incompatible with due process and constitute a grave undue influence on the proceedings.  The freedom of the press is not absolute, especially when they have repeatedly demonstrated that they are not in the business of objective reporting, but rather in the business of crafting (ie. manipulating) opinion.  Finally – and I realize this is a completely useless suggestion at this time – but the Cult of Democracy in this country needs to be torn down.  The tyranny of a mob is the worst kind – it is also the easiest for a select few to twist to their own designs.  Democracies always end by devouring themselves and the unbridled exaltation of the individual sows the seeds of their own destruction.  Hence why our Republic was never meant to be a democracy; sadly that intent passed away long ago.  I fear that the tide is still in favor of the masses and show-trials will become an ever-increasing phenomenon at the expense of our guarantees to due process and justice itself.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Update and Brief Hiatus

Dear Readers,

Due to an very busy schedule this weekend (to include duty on Sat), I will need to take a brief respite from my writing.  Do not worry, I already have several upcoming pieces in the queue - to include a lament for the death of due process of law and a treatise on maneuver warfare in the Middle Ages.  As for the weekly international update, keep your eye on the deteriorating relations between Russia and the US, instigated by Moscow's granting of asylum to NSA whistleblower, Edward Snowden.  Although the Snowden situation isn't of major consequence on its own, it is serving as a catalyst that is exacerbating deeper issues of contention between the two countries.  Other than that, take care and I'll be back soon.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

The World This Week - 03 AUG

Russia Moves To Strengthen Cuban Relations:

The post-Cold War period has frankly not been kind to US influence in Latin America - and it's primarily our own fault.  What used to be our traditional "backyard" was forgotten and cast aside by a Capitol Hill more infatuated with power/oil-politics in the Middle East.  Washington's only real interest in our neighbors to the south is the so-called "Drug War" and immigration - both of which are fraught with haphazard mismanagement and outright corruption and are really just excuses to expand Federal power domestically.  In the meantime, a power vacuum appeared in the Americas - a vacuum our international competitors were only too happy to fill and exploit.  With Chinese, Russian, and even Iranian support, Leftist anti-American regimes are sprouting up all over the region, effectively muscling out US influence.  Lucrative business deals, resource rights, and tech transfers have been conducted without any American participation at all.  Militarily, these regimes are reaching out to traditional enemies, as recent Russian naval exercises in the Caribbean Sea aptly displayed in which Russian strategic assets operated the closest to US soil since 1962.  And yet, reports such as these seem to only generate yawns from Capitol Hill.  Only occasionally does the State Department seem to take any serious interest in the Latin South and, generally, their disparate efforts only seem to increase the animosity felt towards the US even more.  Should we continue to lose influence in Latin America, the US will find itself severely outmaneuvered on the world stage with an entire hemisphere of hostility, instability, and rival foreign influence just beyond our southern border.

China Reveals PLA Plan To Wage "People's War" In Cyberspace:

Although it was rumored long before amongst intelligence circles that the PLA (People's Liberation Army) had some sort of plan like this in place, this is the first time Beijing has openly admitted it.  The "People's War" term came from the old Maoist days to describe the last ditch defense strategy to be employed should China face a conflict in which it's existence was at stake.  The plan called for every capable Chinese man, woman, and child to pick up arms and become a literal "resistance state."  The losses inflicted on any invader would be so colossal that any operation on the Chinese landmass would be deemed militarily impossible.  Essentially, the PLA has transferred this idea of mass-scale irregular warfare into the realm of cyberwarfare - a method of war that the Chinese have already demonstrated significant capabilities in.  In this scenario, Chinese civilian cyberwar teams could be called up and employed from countless locations within China and abroad to attack the network infrastructure and databases of a particular country ... as in the US.  Such a strategy would overwhelm any countermeasures we have in place (something they've already proven themselves capable of multiple times) and make a response impossible.  Something to keep in mind with the growing Chinese threat is that their rapid advancement in military technology and strategic capability has been achieved with the sole goal of confronting and neutralizing US capabilities.  They have no other objective and have tailored their strategies to overcoming the world's most powerful military by striking its vulnerable (but essential) command and control systems - what the Chinese call the "assassin's mace."  The naysayers in America who continue to defend China's recent rise as a peaceful entry into the current global order need to take a very hard look at Beijing's strategic objectives.

Insider Attacks On US Forces In Afghanistan Spiking:

Perhaps one of the saddest chapters in the long and tragic saga of the US military action in Afghanistan - the continued (and often fatal) attacks on coalition troops from Afghans supposedly on the allied side.  I won't dwell long on this subject, as it is still very personal for me and you all already can gather where I stand on this conflict.  However, I hope it prompts the readers here to find out the truth about the Afghan war, a war that has done nothing for our country except slowly destroy the young men who went and fought it - many of whom returned physically and spiritually broken, if they returned at all.  Now, as we supposedly exit the theater in 2014, we will not only be getting shot at by by the Taliban we were sent to destroy and who are still firmly entrenched there, but the very Afghans we worked alongside with will be treacherously adding to the fire.