Thursday, January 30, 2014

Medieval Battle vs. Modern Warfare - A Case Study Part 2

Jus ad Bellum, Jus in Bello:

Perhaps one of the greatest differences between the Medieval warrior and his present day counterpart is to be found in the moral authority that governed their conduct on the battlefield.  Along with being an incredibly limited affair materially, Medieval warfare was even more limited morally.  Contrary to the inaccurate portrayals in modern media as a period of incessant violence, barbaric tactics, and unrestrained savagery, Medieval society had in place stringent restrictions on the causes and conduct of warfare that many Moderns would find bewildering.  These mostly sprang from the single unifying institution of moral authority - the Church.

Many Moderns (usually with an anti-religion agenda to peddle) like to find fault with the Medieval Church for the dominant role it played in its society.  However, this mostly springs from a complete ignorance of what function the Church actually served - in both warfare and the culture as a whole.  After the collapse of the Western Roman Empire, the Catholic Church found itself to be the only surviving institution that carried the torch of civilization amidst the chaos of the barbarian migrations.  Through the monastic orders, missionaries, and mass conversions of entire tribes, a new order of civilization arose - one that looked to Rome no longer for political might, but for moral guidance, intellectual cultivation, and spiritual judgement.  Church doctrine no longer took a subordinate seat to Roman emperors who, though professing Christianity after Constantine, still somewhat clung to the role of pontifex maximus from the days of the pagan Caesars.  Now, emperors, kings, nobles, and commoners all answered to one moral authority in society and rebelling against it not only wrought worldly consequences, but eternal ones as well - a grave prospect in a time when Faith was a far more intimate affair with believers.

However, Christian doctrines concerning warfare did not originate in the Middle Ages, rather, quite sometime before.  Contrary to horrendously misinformed contemporary dialogue concerning Just War doctrine (note: it is not "Just War theory" as so many modern intellectuals like to classify it - theory implies that there is still debate concerning the issue.  Catholic doctrines regarding warfare have been firmly established for quite sometime.), the Church has never, at anytime in Her history, disallowed the everlastingly human phenomenon of warfare.  While unequivocally seen as an evil, it is not per se a moral evil.  Remembering that our world is indeed a Fallen one, the Church recognized early on that there were times that called for the use of force in defense against violence.  Ss. Peter and Paul both uphold the right of the state to "the power of the sword" in their epistles and many of the Early Church Fathers maintained the legitimacy of the profession of arms - even as the very Empire they lived under actively persecuted them.  Scores of converts in those days were soldiers and early Christians were by no means barred from serving in the legions - one legion of Christians, nick-named Legio Fulminata ("the Thundering Legion"), earned the undying respect of Emperor Marcus Aurelius during his campaigns on the Dacian frontier in 174AD with their steadfast bravery and noted performance above their pagan counterparts.  After the Edict of Milan and the end of Christian persecutions, military service was seen as an honorable duty for Christians - one that vitally contributed to the maintenance of a civilization that was rapidly becoming Christianized.  It was one Christian writer, however, that would unequivocally establish Church doctrine on warfare and which the majority of the Medieval ideal would be based upon.

St. Augustine, Bishop of Hippo (354-430AD), was perhaps the greatest intellectual influence on the development of Catholic doctrine until the advent of St. Thomas Aquinas and is honored in the present day as one of the two Great Western Fathers of the Church.  Amongst his voluminous writings, Augustine focused substantial effort in outlining certain key points of social doctrine which he recorded in his most famous work De Civitate Dei (The City of God) in 426AD.  Within the work, he covered a vast array of doctrinal topics in the context of contrasting the "City of God" (the Christian Church amidst the world) against the "City of Man" (the old pagan order of the dying Empire).  One of the topics addressed was the argument concerning warfare and it's role in the City of God.  Augustine begins his discussion with doctrinally defining "peace."  Peace, to Augustine, was not simply the absence of violence - rather, it possessed much deeper meaning:

"The peace of the body then consists in the duly proportioned arrangement of its parts. The peace of the irrational soul is the harmonious repose of the appetites, and that of the rational soul the harmony of knowledge and action. The peace of body and soul is the well-ordered and harmonious life and health of the living creature. Peace between man and God is the well-ordered obedience of faith to eternal law. Peace between man and man is well-ordered concord. Domestic peace is the well-ordered concord between those of the family who rule and those who obey. Civil peace is a similar concord among the citizens. The peace of the celestial city is the perfectly ordered and harmonious enjoyment of God, and of one another in God. The peace of all things is the tranquility of order."

This concept of peace as the tranquility of order (tranquilitas ordinis) would form the basis for all further discussion of warfare and its place in Christian societies.  This way, all evil was seen as a threat to order - the threat of unjust aggression by an outside realm was as much an aberration to the tranquility of a state's social order as sin was an aberration of the soul's order with virtue.  In all things, Augustine maintained, this order needed to be vigilantly upheld.  As an individual was required to wage war against sin within his own soul, so the state was required to wage war against those external threats to its own peace.  Of course, to claim that Augustine essentially wrote states a carte blanche to utilize violence whenever they pleased would be a gross misunderstanding - the goal of Christian warfare forever had to be justice and justice alone.  War waged for unjust purposes was as evil as sin itself.  However, Augustine never fully explored what exactly these criteria for just warfare were.  Those would be developed in the Middle Ages themselves by a Catholic thinker who, in many ways, would vastly supersede the works of the great Augustine.

Before the the time of Aquinas, Christendom drew most of it's moral teaching on warfare from Augustine - compensating for his lack of definable criteria with the addition of the right of Papal judgement on the justice of all conflicts.  In the early Medieval period, the Papacy (along with the rest of the clerical hierarchy) assumed an extremely active role in the conduct of wars within Europe.  Influenced by the Augustinian concept of celestial order, any conflict between fellow Christians was roundly frowned upon by the Church and only permitted with the greatest degree of reluctance.  This intense reluctance produced a military culture that was often so antithetical to the utilitarian notion of warfare in our own time that it still mystifies us to this day.  Realizing that the profession of arms would never surrender its integral role within Medieval society, the Church proceeded with a two-fold objective - attempting to limit its actions to the highest possible degree within Christendom on one hand and direct and encourage its destructive energies towards threats external to the "City of God" on the other.

The extent of the limitations placed on early Medieval warriors were as intense as they were far-reaching.  These restrictions were known at the time as the "Truce of God" and all Christian warriors had to abide by its strict set of rules concerning seasons, conduct, and Magisterial oversight - or risk excommunication.  Blessed Pope Urban II (1088-1099AD), the pope most famous for the proclamation of the First Crusade, expanded the Truce of God to an even greater extent - Church property (church grounds, abbeys, monasteries, even wayside crosses) was an inviolable place of sanctuary for any Christian combatant and no private warfare (meaning warfare between individual knights or nobles - a constant occurrence within the early Medieval warrior class) was forbidden to be carried on for the entirety of Lent, Advent and Christmastide, first-class Feast Days, and lastly the entire time from sunset Wednesday night to sunrise on Monday.  Now, it would be very safe to say that this was not always perfectly obeyed or enforced, but the fact that these regulations were so stringent testifies to the immense societal importance they carried and the power of the Papacy they represented.  Warfare conducted by sovereigns did not escape this intense scrutiny either.  William of Normandy spent nearly six critical months in 1066AD dispatching embassies to Rome to petition his cause for the conquest of England.  Only after his delegations returned in September with the official Papal banner was his invasion fleet permitted to sail for Pevensey.  Numerous popes allowed bishops to accompany armies onto the battlefield as unofficial representatives of Church authority, while under the strict understanding that they not participate in any overt act of combat other than what was necessary for self defense (Canon law forbade clerics from wielding any bladed weapon as the sword was seen as the weapon of the Knightly vocation - fighting bishops often circumvented this restriction by carrying maces).

As the popes did everything they could to restrict war within Christendom, they also sought to direct the Christian warrior towards those very real threats that existed beyond her boundaries.  Europe at the dawn of the First Millennium AD found itself in an extremely precarious situation - Spain was still in the midst of a death-struggle with Moorish invaders that, at one time, had marched as far north as Tours, North African raiders had overran Sicily and Southern Italy, vicious pagan tribes still haunted the dark frozen forests of Prussia and Lithuania, the battered Byzantine shadow of Old Rome in the East continued to suffer defeat after defeat at the hands of the Seljuk Turks, and lastly the very land of Christ's earthly Life had been seized by unbelievers who persecuted His people and desecrated His churches.  As the popes of the time saw it, the City of God was very much under threat.  Spanish efforts during the early Reconquista began to foster the idea of armed struggle in service to God and His people - wars fought not for pride, anger, or greed, but for the defense of the innocent from heathen aggression.  Pope St. Gregory VII (1073-1085AD) would desperately try to promote this ideal of the Christian Knight and his Godly vocation, but success eluded him due to his life-long struggle over Papal authority with the incorrigible German emperors.  It would be his successor, the aforementioned Urban, who would see this concept become a societal reality and ignite the cultural phenomenon still known today as the Knightly Code of Chivalry.  As he called for warriors to march East in defense of the Holy Land at Clermont in 1095AD, Blessed Urban appealed to the sentiment of Christian duty in all warriors present:

"May those men who have been occupied in the wicked struggle of private warfare against their fellow Christians now take up arms against the infidel and help bring this long-delayed campaign to a victorious end ... What more is there to say?  On the one hand, there are people in great distress - on the other, there are those who live in great plenty; over there, are the enemies of God - here are His friends.  Join us without delay!"

This notion of armed struggle in service to the Kingdom of God begun by the First Crusade would leave an indelible mark on the Medieval West and would inspire some of its most well-known societal institutions.  The Code of Chivalry - a topic I will cover in much greater detail in a later post - was a direct product of the Crusading zeal that called for Godly warriors.  This period saw the foundation of entire religious orders whose sole purpose was to serve as poor, landless knights dedicated to nothing other than the defense of God's children through the warrior's vocation.  The Knights Templar, the Knights of the Hospital, the Teutonic Order (in its early years at least) - all became the paragon, the ultimate example of what the Christian Knight was meant to be.  So wrote St. Bernard in 1128AD concerning the newly formed Templar Order:

"We hear that a new kind of chivalry has risen on earth, and that it has risen on the very region of it which the rising Son Himself, present in flesh, once visited from on high; as He then, by the strength of His mighty hand, threw down the princes of darkness, so now He exterminates their followers, those sons of misplaced faith, put to flight-by a band of His mighty ones, bringing about even now His people's redemption and raising again the cup of salvation for us in the house of His servant David. A new kind of chivalry, one ignorant of the ways of the ages, which fights a double fight equally and tirelessly, both against flesh and blood and against the spiritual forces of iniquity in the heavens ...
... When battle is at hand, they arm themselves with faith within and steel without, rather than with gold, so that when armed, rather than prettified, they instill fear in their adversaries rather than incite their greed. They choose to have horses that are strong and quick, rather than showy or well-dressed. They attend to battle rather than display, to victory rather than glory, and concern themselves to inspire fear rather than wonder ... Finally, then, they are both gentler than lambs and fiercer than lions, in such a wonderful and peculiar way that I am very nearly incapable of deciding what I think they should rather be called, monks or knights, unless I should perhaps more appropriately name them both, since they apparently lack neither, neither the monk's gentle disposition nor the knight's fierce strength. What can be said, but that this is the Lord's work and a miracle in our eyes. God has elected such men to Himself and gathered them together from the ends of the earth, from among the mightiest of Israel, His agents for keeping the tomb which is the resting place of the true Solomon, all bearing swords and well taught in the ways of war."

It is nearly impossible for secularized Modernity to grasp the concept of war waged for spiritual goods as their objective and I sadly cannot dwell too long on the Crusading phenomenon due to the immensity of the subject.  One key point to remember is that, in direct contrast to their typical Modern portrayal as campaigns of enrichment thinly disguised as religious warfare, both the risks and expenses incurred by Western crusaders nearly always vastly outweighed any material benefits reaped.  One of the main reasons so many of the noble leaders of the First Crusade remained behind in the Levant was for none other than that most of them had nothing back in Europe to return to.  Even Crusading kings suffered from these risks - Richard Cœur de Lion was forced to terminate his brilliant campaign just short of recapturing Jerusalem and rush back to save his own realm from the machinations of his scheming younger brother and St. Louis IX of France - ever the tragic Crusader king - nearly drove his country to bankruptcy with his devotion to the Holy Cause.  At no time was the acquisition of wealth or plunder ever a primary objective of any Crusade (with the sole exception of the disastrously shameful Fourth Crusade in 1204AD that was ferociously condemned in its own time).  Such evidence would lead the honest observer to admit that the Middle Ages truly did possess a view of war that encompassed higher objectives and purposes than the mere material.

When St. Thomas Aquinas finally began to put pen to paper in the mid 13th Century AD, the Crusading zeal had already begun to gradually wear out.  However, the after effects in Christian society were still very much alive - they simply needed further clarification in an age when literacy and intellectual discourse were becoming more widespread.  This he would masterfully provide in Part II, Question 40 of the Summa Theologica:

"I answer that, In order for a war to be just, three things are necessary. First, the authority of the sovereign by whose command the war is to be waged. For it is not the business of a private individual to declare war, because he can seek for redress of his rights from the tribunal of his superior. Moreover it is not the business of a private individual to summon together the people, which has to be done in wartime. And as the care of the common weal is committed to those who are in authority, it is their business to watch over the common weal of the city, kingdom or province subject to them. And just as it is lawful for them to have recourse to the sword in defending that common weal against internal disturbances, when they punish evil-doers ... Secondly, a just cause is required, namely that those who are attacked, should be attacked because they deserve it on account of some fault ... Thirdly, it is necessary that the belligerents should have a rightful intention, so that they intend the advancement of good, or the avoidance of evil."

This set of moral prerequisites, presented in typical Thomistic categorization, would stress both the importance of both the just cause for which war is initiated (Jus ad Bellum) and the just conduct required of belligerents once war had commenced (Jus in Bello).  Throughout the remaining years of the Medieval period, nearly every conflict would generally conform to these criteria.  Very rarely would they deviate from them, and the few times that did happen, they were always responded to with grave ecclesiastical and social condemnation (the horrific massacre of the Burgundian city of Soissons in 1413AD by the French is one outstanding example).  However, near the end of the Medieval period, such religious sentiments were rapidly fading in favor of the rise of the nation-state and, after the Protestant Reformation, all real societal authority of the Church over the conduct of warfare vanished entirely.  However, the dogmatic definition of Just War laid out by Augustine and Aquinas was never lost and, although there have been some additions made due to the changing nature of warfare in the modern era, the Church continues to officially uphold the very same doctrine to the present day.

Perhaps there is no other subject in this discussion in which the contrast between Medieval and Modern is as wide.  Secularism - essentially, the total divorce of religious considerations from the social and cultural - is one of the defining pillars of the Modern Era in the West.  As was to be expected - when Christianity, ie. the sole unifying philosophy that gave Christendom its very lifeforce, became dogmatically fragmented, there was no longer any unifying principle to unite the West morally or culturally.  What once had been the single moral arbiter that would outweigh any desire or consideration of king, emperor, or noble was drowned out amidst a sea of voices all violently crying out at once that their creed was the true one.  In reaction, the new Western nation-states adopted policies of strict religious and moral neutrality - forcing them to seek out new universal moral codes with which to prevent eachother from casting aside all compunctions in battlefield conduct in favor of sheer utilitarian slaughter.  As the sad tale of modern history would reveal, such efforts would ultimately fail.

Throughout Modernity, nation-states have attempted numerous forms of universal moral compliance regarding warfare.  For the first few centuries, there was at least attempted cultural adherence to the last remnants of Knightly Chivalry, usually coupled with some sort of nationalistic corollary that maintained true superiority was demonstrated by he who conducted himself with greater nobility in battle.  Warfare in the era of Marlborough, Louis XV, and Frederick of Prussia was very much a "gentlemen's match" in which the violence of combat was nominally constrained by societal agreements of fair play.  However, after the French Revolution and the consequent military revolution it spawned in the person of Napoleon, with his extreme bias on the superiority of the eternal strategic offensive, such social niceties were rapidly swept aside by the power of whoever dared first.  It was after emerging from this era that Clausewitz famously wrote how war was simply the "continuation of political intercourse with the intermixing of other (ie. violent) means."  Wearied of the destruction Napoleon had initiated within their own Continent, the Great Powers spent the next century and a half projecting and implementing Clausewitz's ideals on far-flung lands populated by non-Westerners.  These "others" were generally seen to be excluded from the "gentlemen's agreement" upheld for the time being amongst the Great Powers.  However, the toxicity of modern industrial nationalism would eventually tear this constraint down as well, causing the West to erupt into two wars so terrible in scale as to force these powers to attempt some sort of established universal moral authority over the conduct of warfare.  These attempts, the League of Nations after the First World War and the United Nations after the Second, would still completely fail to present any binding authority over nation-states.  Even the document that currently serves as the undisputed source of battlefield ethics in an era marked by civilization-ending military technology, the Geneva Convention of 1949, has only this guarantee to offer for its effective enforcement:

"The High Contracting Parties undertake to respect and to ensure respect for the present Convention in all circumstances."

As just the past few decades have shown, even the majority of the nations who drafted this resolution have, on multiple occasions, deferred adherence to its regulations in favor of immediate military need.  Such is the moral guarantee of a thoroughly secular civilization in time of war and, while there may still be individual combatants and commanders who personally follow the principles of a higher moral authority, their convictions have forever been placed beneath the immediate strategic concerns of the nation-state for which they fight.  It will be that voice that dictates policy, not theirs.  Perhaps the only way for this phenomenon of secularist Modernity to change would be what many have theorized on in a variety of fashions, but essentially a conflict or cataclysm so great and terrible that it wipes out the very civilization that fostered it - or, at least leaves it battered beyond recovery.  With the existence of apocalyptic weaponry in the hands of nations following no greater moral authority than a litigiously-worded "pinkie swear," such a future might be far more real than anyone wishes to admit.

To be continued ...

Monday, January 20, 2014

The War on Pornography - You're Doing It Wrong ...

First off, my apologies for this odd break from my usual subject matter, but, every now and then, I feel the need to write about something relevant to our own times.

Recently, I followed a link from Facebook that a friend had posted.  Advertised as a PSA-style expose of sex-trade human trafficking (something I am moderately familiar with due to the places I've been with the military), it turned out to be a pseudo-advertisement for an American Christian outreach group that specializes in pornography awareness and other sexually-oriented social issues.  “We have to kill sexual exploitation at its root,” the makers of the video repeatedly claim – referring to porn as the source of the sex trade, “The root of the problem is the heart of man.”

Sigh …

From the get go, something in this production did not sit right with me.  Complete with crisp and flashy graphics, a stirring soundtrack, and gritty stock footage – the makers of the film did a good job making a rather unpleasant topic emotionally resonant and attention-grabbing.  I have also seen at least two or three dozen others just like it.  Quotes and parts of this video replayed in my head as I spent over a week meditating on what I had seen and heard there compared to what I have seen, heard and experienced first-hand in real life – and how vastly different the two are.

Now, before I proceed any further with this, allow me to explain what this piece will not be about.  I am not, by any stretch of the most creative imagination out there, attempting to defend, justify, or excuse the societal epidemics (yes – epidemics) of pornography and other sex industries that have ravaged our country and created perhaps one of the most sexually dysfunctional societies on the planet.  The folks at Unearthed Ministries did get one thing very correct about porn – how dangerously fantastic it all is.  The entire premise of porn is fantasy – the actions, the dialogue (if there is any), the portrayal of sex, etc. all of it is as fake as it gets.  Hell, half the time, even the showcased anatomy isn't real.  But, because of its pervasiveness in our society, entire generations of young men and women are growing up with wildly unrealistic expectations and misconceptions about the one aspect of our natures that is supposed to be the most intimately fundamental.  So, if you think I’m going to spend my time and effort in an attempt to justify any of this, I suggest you stop reading now and resolve to never interact with me ever again because you clearly know nothing about me and, therefore, I have no interest in maintaining any kind of a relationship with you.

What I do see wrong with how contemporary Christianity attempts to resolve the porn/sex industry issue revolves primarily around two points: the nature of the sex industry in general and, more importantly, who is to blame for it all.  In regards to the first point, I have heard (as have most males raised in church-going families) the litany of evils of sexual moral offenses and their grievous societal impacts recited ad nauseum from a thousand different voices.  Getting bombarded with all that right at the same time puberty fired up all eight cylinders of my budding sex drive did a wonderful job of damn-near making a neurotic out of me.  As time went on and events in my rather interesting life took me to environments radically different from the one I had come from, I started to realize just how ignorant of these moral evils those well-intentioned voices really were.  I cannot tell you how many times I've heard the tired line recited (including in the Unearthed video) about how “porn is the cause of human trafficking and the sex trade.”  As someone who has spent the past several years in countries that have way less moral compulsions about prostitution than ours does – this is just ridiculously incorrect.  To put it bluntly, when we speak of “the world’s oldest profession,” we don’t mean porn.  In fact, pornography (as we know it today) is a relative newcomer onto the stage of sexual vices compared to occupations that predate it pretty much back to the beginning of fallen human social interaction.  To lay all that at the feet of porn is just sadly uninformed.  That isn't to say it has no adverse societal effect (the FBI has some very compelling evidence on the correlation between individuals who sustain long-term addictions and crimes they tend to later commit), but what I too often encounter within anti-porn activist groups are essentially “virgins talking about sex” (pardon the shameless pun).  If these movements are to ever gain any ground at all, they have to know the nature of the beast they face – how it moves, how it thinks, why it is … unless they too are under the spell of sexual dysfunction found in our society and fear it too much to really learn anything about it.

Directly related to this – and on which I will spend the majority of my focus – is how these contemporary anti-porn/sex industry movements handle the issue of blame.  Who is to blame for the widespread use of porn in America?  Why does this problem exist?  Whose fault is it, anyways?  Go back and watch the video again – what is their answer?  That’s right – men.  Go look at every manifesto and mission statement of damn-near every other anti-porn group out there and you will find the same theme: it’s the fault of men and their “disordered” sexual appetites.  Most of the time, it’s never worded quite that bluntly, but it’s unmistakable to anyone looking at them with any sort of honesty.  There exists in our society, in both religious and secular circles, a pre-programmed criteria when it comes to the sex industry – that of Woman = Victim and Man = User/Degrader/Abuser/UltimateOriginOfFault.  Even in film and media, the typical trope of strippers, porn actresses, and prostitutes is to portray them as the helpless or unawares victims of sinister skeezy men who shamelessly use and abuse them for their own benefit.  Many years ago, I attended a several day-long seminar on Catholic sexual morality that used Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body as its central inspiration.  During the portion on pornography, the speaker encouraged all men to rise up and apologize to the women for the “abuse and crimes” they had caused them through porn usage.  At no point were women required to do the same … for anything.  Testimonials of guilt, written by men, can be read on several porn addiction ministry webpages and publications.  Contrast this to the message of an organization like StripChurch – a Protestant organization exclusively geared for reaching out to women currently in the sex industry (and that also inexplicably has a marketing strategy that opts for names that are both painfully awkward and disastrously confusing) – whose message is entirely about love, support, and – more importantly – protection.

Suffice it to say – this image does not match up to the one that I have personally encountered.  If you've hung in there with me thus far, buckle up or I may lose you here soon.  The circumstances of my life so far have been exotic to say the least.  Both in the service and before that, I have gone to places and found myself exposed to environments and people vastly different from those that I came from.  While I never lost sight of my moral foundation (even if the grip was shaky … one thing you will never hear me claim is to be perfect or above failure), these exposures changed my outlook on many of these moral issues and granted me a perspective that, frankly, I believe is invaluable.  One of the most critical has been the perspective on the sex industry in America and who is truly at fault.  To me, the female monopoly on victim status is as unrealistic as the portrayal of sex in porn itself.  I actually had the opportunity a few years back to converse for quite some time with an actual porn actress (not an A-lister by any means, but rather worked for a local producer) at a social event.  After several rounds of drinks, I asked her point-blank how she could engage in an occupation like that.  “Don’t you ever feel used,” I asked, “doesn't it get degrading?”  Her response floored me and forever changed the way I saw the sex industry and those who participate in it.   “Used?” she replied, almost cracking a smirk, “Honey, it’s the best job ever.  I have something to sell and business is good.”  Correct me if I’m wrong, but this … this doesn't sound like something a victim would say.  As time went on, I kept seeing and hearing more of the above from women that contemporary anti-porn activists were telling me were the ones being disenfranchised by men.  Yes, these strippers and escorts who drove around in sports cars I could probably never afford and who earn, on average, over six figures a year(!) … these were the “victims” that I, along with my fellow men, needed to apologize to.   I was recently at a bar where, among the patrons that night, there were two “off-duty” strippers.  Once again, after several rounds (there’s an old Russian saying that has proven to be perhaps the truest thing I have ever known in my life so far – “drunken words are sober thoughts”) they began gleefully recounting all their “tricks of the trade” and how many guys they had virtually bankrupted while on the job.  It was like a kill tally to them, and, like two fighter pilots back at the airfield club, they showed visceral pleasure in recounting it.  “Boys are just so stupid easy,” one of them finished with.  On the flipside, I have known men that have virtually been ruined physically, financially, and (most importantly) spiritually by the sex industry.  Young servicemen that find themselves in horrific marriages to older strippers using them to gain access to military benefits, men who get conned out of entire paychecks at strip clubs, homewreckers that prey on unsatisfying and vulnerable marriages for financial gain … all this and more have I seen at least two or three instances of in just the past few years.  Is it possible that we men have been victimized as well?  Is it possible that, by means of porn and the sex industry, our natural sexual desires have been twisted and manipulated for the benefit of unscrupulous women?

I am not recounting all this to claim that the sex industry epidemic in America is somehow entirely the fault of women – that would be just as wrong and useless as saying it’s all men’s fault.  But, the inconsistency and lack of information that pervades those movements trying to counter porn and the other epidemics we face cannot be ignored.  Since the beginning of time, interactions between the sexes have essentially been a two-part phenomenon.  We men have always been the more aggressive and assertive of the two – including sexually.  It’s how we were designed … with good reason.  As Camille Paglia (a woman that I am unabashedly madly in love with – the fact that she is 66 years old and a lesbian does not deter me in the slightest) recently wrote, civilization would not have existed had it not been for men aggressively hacking it out of the wilderness, building the cities from the bare rock, and then manning the walls to keep the savage world at bay.  Why then does it seem, in our own times, that all anyone (ie. women) wants to do is change this about men?  Which brings me to the question that is probably in the mind of every woman reading this so far – “what does this have to do with me?”  I’m sure practically none of you have ever even begun to entertain the thought of becoming a porn actress or a stripper – the very idea is hopefully abhorrent and one you would outright condemn.  But, is there still possibly some share of responsibility that belongs at your feet for all this?

Perhaps one of the greatest tragedies produced since the “pornographicization” (yes, I made it up, Spellcheck – deal with it) of our society is how utterly dysfunctional inter-gender relationships have become in recent times.  While the pervasive availability of porn is maybe not the cause of this, it certainly fuels the phenomenon.  Both men and women today are bombarded 24/7 with dozens of confusing, inconsistent, and sometimes outright malicious voices all dictating what to be, who to be, and how to be it.  This has created a social atmosphere that has, thanks to women’s liberation, mostly blamed men for just about everything wrong that we encounter.  Whether you wish to admit it or not, the overall attitude in American society is Male = negative and Female = positive.  The public school systems have virtually outlawed any activities that are overtly male in nature.  You see it in commercials, sitcoms, comedy films – often the smart, independent, preppy woman has everything under control and the male assumes some character ranging from well-meaning oaf to helpless idiot.  More and more, pop-culture tends to demand that women assume leadership of their relationships and men need to be “put in their place.”  This often translates into many of the relationships I have witnessed myself.  I will immediately admit that I am single – do I know all the little niceties of the interpersonal exchange that takes place between men and women within long-term committed relationships?  No – however, contrary to extremely popular misconceptions (especially amongst my more conservative, religious peers) being single does have some incredible advantages, the primary being that I am free and unbiased to make outside observations on other relationships I encounter.  A secondary advantage is being able to express, with complete honesty, what I observe without fear of being banished to the couch.  Frankly, I've seen a disturbing amount of relationships amongst my friends and peers (both secular and religious) that operate from this philosophy of female priority.  Often, she runs most of the affairs and his interests are often categorized as secondary.  I have had private discussions with male friends of mine who complain bitterly that their wives even use this mentality in their sexual lives – it happens on her schedule and on her terms only.  And then women like this find themselves shocked and hurt when they discover years later that their men have been seeking out the fantasies of the virtual bedroom for fulfillment.

If any women reading this are beginning to feel defensive by now, that’s a good thing – it means you’re at least considering your possible role in the epidemic of dysfunction between men and women in our society.  My overall point with this entire piece is to show just how far off the mark contemporary efforts at stemming the tide of pornography and sex industry usage are.  I will probably lose every female friend I have by saying this, but, ladies – these problems will never actually begin to be resolved until women in this country look into the collective mirror and honestly ask themselves, “what responsibility do we bear for this?”  Over the course of several generations, women collectively played a part in crafting a society that has alienated and outright banished genuine masculinity – condemning men to either jettison that which we were always meant to be or live it out through deviant means.  Our natural sexual attraction to you all is not something to be suppressed out of misguided pseudo-feminist “morals” – nor is it something to be teased out in front of us like a carrot on a stick to manipulate us to your own ends.  It was how we were designed to take the initial first steps into a journey that would culminate in “cleaving together and becoming one flesh” with you.  Take it from me, if you really want to give the porn industry a run for its money – make men desire you instead!  It isn't hard, most of us are very easily satisfied, just let us be who we were created to be.  Words really can't describe how much a beautiful woman means to the male soul and it saddens me that we live in a time that does everything it can to convince women and men that it isn't real or that it's "disordered" somehow.  Trust me, porn has nothing on the real thing – compared to a true, loving, honest, balanced, passionate relationship in which genuine masculinity and femininity mutually complement the other, the rest is just an empty husk pathetically trying to emulate that which it never could.  For my part, allow me to apologize to those women who have encountered the men who have genuinely failed – failed to treat you with the honor, dignity, respect, and passion you deserve.  Believe me when I say that we condemn men like this to an even greater degree than you do – it’s the few rotten ones like that who ruin you all for the rest of us.

Take this for what it is – a topic that was on my mind for several days.  Writing is my form of catharsis.  If I offended any women out there, well … I still get to sleep in my own bed tonight.  Now, if you will excuse me – I need to get back to my search for Ms. Paglia’s address and what sort of flowers she prefers.

*Now back to our scheduled programming ...*

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Medieval Battle & Modern Warfare - A Case Study Part 1

Be peaceful, therefore, in your warring, so that you may vanquish those whom you war against and bring them into the prosperity of peace.  -St. Augustine, De Civitate Dei, 426AD

The horror – the horror!” –Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness, 1899AD

On a frigid October morning in 1415, a young English king found himself and his battered army of about 6,000 in a desperate fight for survival against a French army that outnumbered them by almost five to one in a lonely field near the small hamlet of Azincourt-en-Ponthieu.  The details of the now legendary Battle of Agincourt are well known to most in the English-speaking world – how King Henry and his valiant “band of brothers” stubbornly held their ground against wave after wave of French armored charges.  However, in the heat of the melee, a small squad of local cavalry swept down into the unguarded English camp, killing the handful of young pages left there and making off with what loot they could carry.  Although the objective of these raiders was nothing more than simple thievery, King Henry mistook it for a French attack to his rear.  The English king, believing his small force to be in the gravest of all battlefield crises, issued a grim order to his men – that all but the most noble of French prisoners taken so far (a considerable number at that stage) be executed to prevent them from rising up and taking arms again.  Although his knights and nobles refused the order as unchivalrous, Henry’s common troops and archers enthusiastically complied.  After the battle, Henry received no condemnation for his decision – not even from French chroniclers of the time.  It was a desperate call made due to the most desperate of circumstances by a leader renowned for his chivalrous conduct in all other aspects of warfare and rule.
Outright condemnation wouldn’t be leveraged until, curiously, almost 600 years later in 2010 by a panel of American justices, headed by US Supreme Court Justices Samuel Alito and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who assembled for a mock trial sponsored by the Shakespearean Theatre Society in Washington D.C.  According to the final decision (after a closely contested debate), King Harry was declared a war criminal for his execution of French POWs on the grounds of “evolving standards of civilization.”
“Evolving standards of civilization …” curious choice of words for a man who has lived through an era that brought forth some of the most horrific tactics in the history of human warfare.  High altitude strategic bombing of civilian population centers, nuclear weaponry, decades-long military occupations and endless counter-insurgencies that seem to accomplish no real objective other than laying waste to the lands that host them – all these have been practiced by a time whose representatives see themselves fit to condemn a King from 600 years ago, a man who was not just content to order others into the killing fields but joined them there himself, of failing to abide by “evolving standards of civilization.”  Even as this verdict was passed, the Modern world was at that moment conducting itself militarily in a way that would have mystified the average Medieval.  Swarms of unmanned drones strike down upon combatant and innocent alike in the valleys of Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Yemen, non-combatants arbitrarily imprisoned in the heady fog that is counter-insurgency became sterilized with terms like “detainee,” and torture has been rechristened as “enhanced interrogation methods."
Overall, there has been a consistent trend to portray the Medieval Era as one vastly inferior to our own in almost every way – culturally, intellectually, socially, and even morally.  However, any honest investigation into the facts, as with many things, will often dispel contemporary thinking and reveal a vastly different world than what we were told about ... one that might even hold a few lessons for our own times.  With this idea, I intend to present a case study comparison of the ways of war espoused by the Medieval West and those of our own Modern nation-states.

The Nature of War
It is difficult for us, living in the era of industrial and mechanized warfare to even begin to envision the concept of limited warfare.  But that is precisely what war in the Medieval period (and all periods before that) was.  To truly grasp how limited it was, one must look at the societies and the culture from whence it arose.  In the Medieval period, real power came from land – or, rather, the ownership of it.  The close-knit, tribal societies that sprang from the ashes of the Western Roman Empire were essentially agrarian in nature and everything came from the land to whoever physically owned it.  Wealth, power, and the resources necessary to wage war all came to him who held the soil in his hand.  This is in stark contrast to the Modern Era – an era defined by legalistic notions of “national sovereignty” and the “nation-state” - as John France writes:

Landed property was seen in a very absolute sense and its very concrete nature tended to overshadow sovereignty, for power first sprang from possession of land.  To be a king was of necessity to be the first landlord of the realm, a position which merged into that of other landlords and blurred the distinction between the king and others, and that between sovereignty and ownership.

In the early period of the Medieval Era, this notion of landed power over national power was almost taken to an extreme – the 11th Century is often characterized as an age of princes instead of kings.  Across Provence, Lorraine, Anjou, Maine, Gascony, Alsace, Sicily, and Southern Italy, vast territories were ruled with assurance not by the kings and emperors that claimed them, but by the rough-riding nobles and barons – men often mistakenly bestowed with the prefix of “robber” by modern scholars terrified by such non-national warriors – who built the castles and personally raised (and led) the knights and levies from the soil they themselves had fought and killed for.  Throughout the entire period, the assertion of royal power over over their kingdoms and empires was a full-time occupation for the Medieval sovereign - one that some succeeded in and others that dismally failed.  Overall, the idea of landed power was never lost until the collapse of the old agrarian order in the West and the birth of the industrial nation-state.  Hence why the young King Henry chose – against the advice of his war council – to march his ragged army in 1415AD almost 200 miles across French lands to the far port city of Calais instead of return directly to England to refit.  He wished to demonstrate – to France and to all Christendom – that he owned that land and could do as he pleased upon it, even in the face of massive opposition.
However, because the power to wage war was so inextricably tied to the land – it was also extremely limited by it.  Unlike industrialized warfare fueled by national resources and fashioned by the efforts of a socio-political collective, a Medieval commander could only wage war as far as the limitations of the land – his land – would allow him.  Medieval supply and logistics was an incredibly delicate affair and usually consisted of foraging off the land that served as the theatre of operations.  This oftentimes presented the Medieval commander with the conundrum of ravaging the countryside to deprive his enemy of its resources or preserving it that it may produce its fruits for his own realm.  Oftentimes during the Hundred Years War, English commanders in France had to issue draconian guidelines concerning pillage to their own troops in order to minimize sentiments of hostility among the local French inhabitants who would eventually become subjects (and producers) for England.
As such, the social, agricultural, and fiscal expense to raise and maintain armies that were essentially comprised of those who, in peacetime, were preoccupied with pulling and crafting that landed wealth from the soil, was immense for the average Medieval society.  The heavy armored cavalry of the Knightly class alone - long the set-piece of military endeavors of the period - required entrusting vast amounts of land to the men who would comprise it and forever maintaining the intricate and delicate feudal relationships to ensure their loyalty.  And, as was often seen over and again in the Middle Ages, all this was still never a guarantee of their military availability to a sovereign.  Because of this and, contrary to extremely popular misconception, pitched battle in the Medieval Era was usually avoided and never lightly entered into.  The risks, even to victors, could potentially ruin those conducting the war.  The reason names of great battles carried such social gravitas in their times and long afterward was because they were moments of extreme risk that dramatically punctuated vast periods of what we would classify today as “asymmetrical warfare.”  The average Medieval military campaign was primarily a drawn out series of raids and counter-raids across large swaths of territory.  The purpose was ideally two-fold - first, to deprive the enemy of the supply and comfort offered by the land and, second, to hopefully win the allegiance of the native inhabitants through show of force.  Large-scale pitched battle was usually only entered upon when either side could no longer avoid one another.  Then, and only then, would either commander risk their troops and resources in the furious melee of the battlefield.  In siege warfare, these complications simply multiplied due to the stationary nature of a besieging army and only the most thoroughly prepared and well-supplied commander could even hope to successfully invest a fortified city or stronghold - as the Hohenstaufen Emperors often discovered to their dismay and frustration in their attempts to subdue the Italian city-states in the 12th and 13th Centuries.
Finally, one comes to the aspect of distance, or, for the Medieval period, the lack thereof.  During the raid/counter-raid phase of the campaign, great distances were often involved as speed and maneuver was the key to success - tactics that were ideally suited for the bands of mounted knights that usually conducted it.  However, when battle finally was joined, the theatre of military operations dramatically shrank to encompass small fields of just a few miles.  The battle of Hastings in 1066AD - that served as the defining battle of its generation until being supplanted by the titanic campaign of the First Crusade nearly half a century later - involved tens of thousands of warriors clashing together on a patch of hillside in Sussex less than one square mile in size.  War was conducted at the distance provided by the strength of the human arm - as far as an arrow could fly at the farthest and, at the closest, as far as a sword-arm could swing.  A Medieval battle was an incredibly intimate affair, one that was almost ritualistic - indeed, as will be covered later, the moral influence of the Church and the rise of the social phenomenon known as chivalry would indeed create a ritualistic set of rules that all Medieval combatants would be expected to abide by.

Now contrast this to the concept of “total war” that has defined modern war since the Industrial Revolution.  With the rise of the modern nation-state, vast clashes of armies across sweeping fronts and theatres became the norm for Western conflict.  From Clausewitz to von Moltke the Elder, from Jomni to Rommel, from the Somme to The Push through to Baghdad, war between nation-states became an all-encompassing, multi-dimensional struggle that brought forth the most terrifying weaponry and tactics seen by man - weapons that often can strike their targets from hundreds, even thousands of miles away.  A mere 23 miles south of the little plowed field where King Henry fought in 1415AD, another battle was fought five centuries and one year later in the Somme River Valley that would rage for almost half a year and leave over a million men slain on a front over 30 miles long.  Contemporary warfare, involving inter-continental weaponry and intricate air-ground combined arms tactics, is now conducted within "theatres" that encompass entire countries and military operations can be successfully concluded (within limits) without a single infantryman needing to set his boots upon the soil.
These changes also reflect the dramatic differences in resources and equipment brought to bear by Modernity.  What was once produced over generations across wide agricultural regions could now be produced en masse in the factory and the assembly line. So long as the nation-state possessed the means to produce death, death was to be threatened and inflicted upon any and all opponents – no matter how great the scale.  As the 20th Century would show, this scale would escalate to a point at which even self-preservation was potentially placed upon the altar of the never-ending arms-race and nuclear victory.  Though we have since attempted to rationally step back from the horror of mutually assured destruction, weapons that could possibly annihilate all life indiscriminately remain an available strategic option for heads of state to the present day.  In a form of reaction, extra-national factions dissatisfied with the apparent absolute rule by modern nation-states have tried their hand at tactics like terrorism and insurgency – tactics that have accomplished nothing but a blurring of the lines supposedly dividing military and civilian affairs and the creation of a disturbing number of “police powers” monopolized by the nation-state.  According to many currently in the Pentagon, we are entering into an era of “warfare without battle lines” – wars that could encompass every clime, city, neighborhood, home, and individual … essentially, war without any limits whatsoever.  This is a far cry from a time when the most famous clashes of armies occurred for a few hours on fields that could have easily fit within the bounds of an average sports stadium.
Stay tuned for the next installment ...

Sunday, January 12, 2014

New Years Update

Dear Readers,

I hope 2014 is treating you all well so far.  Due to the Christmas Holidays, I haven't had much time for any new writing, but please rest assured that there is new stuff coming.  Right now, I am currently hammering out a new series that will be a case study comparison of battlefield ethics from the Medieval and Modern Eras.  However, this subject matter is fairly ambitious and it's taken me some time to simply organize my thoughts for it.  Stay tuned.

Also, my blog is now linked to Facebook as well.  If you enjoy reading these and would like faster updates on new posts, feel free to visit my new FB Profile page - it's the one with the alternate name of "Knight Errant."  Thanks and have a great New Year - Deus Vult.