Why did the West rise above the rest? Over the last two decades, academics and pundits have tried to answer this question. Most begin their search for the birth of the modern world somewhere over the last few centuries: the discovery of the Americas, the invention of the steam engine, perhaps the outbreak of the French Revolution.
Yet the research of two pathbreaking economists suggests that these answers are misplaced. In separate works, they argue that the invention of capitalism and liberalism in Western Europe should be traced to one surprising source: the medieval Catholic Church.
The research program of Jonathan Schultz, an economist currently attached to the Culture, Cognition, and Coevolution research group at Harvard, is built on a simple observation: Western Europeans—and their cultural descendants in places like North America and Australia—think differently from people raised in other cultures. This is not a unique observation. Over the last two decades, psychologists have asked questions like “Do you think most people can be trusted?” and “Is it important to think up ideas and be creative, to do things one’s own way?” They’ve complimented these questionnaires with games cleverly designed to test how willing subjects are to trust strangers, punish rule breakers, break rules themselves, and treat friends and family impartially.
Schultz and his team drew on 20 of these cross-cultural experiments (including several “natural” experiments, such as the likelihood that a diplomat at the U.N. from a given country would call on diplomatic immunity to get out of a parking ticket) to sketch a psychological profile of the Western mind. They found that on average, Westerners are more individualistic, more trusting of strangers and public institutions, more likely to donate anonymously, less concerned with the opinions and judgments of their peers, less likely to cheat or bend rules (especially for the sake of friends and relatives), and far less tolerant of nepotism than those from other parts of the world.googletag.pubads().definePassback('/339474670/ADN_Native/TAC_Native', [[300, 250], 'fluid']).display();
This will come as little surprise to anyone who has lived both in and outside the West. It also won’t shock psychologists, who have even invented an acronym to label this unique psychological type: “W.E.I.R.D.”—Western, Educated, Industrial, Rich, and Developed. But in contrast to past research, which tended to emphasize the gap between Europe and the rest of the globe, Schultz and his team have focused their attention on differences within Europe itself. They have found that WEIRDness is not uniform across Europe. Some European populations are far WEIRDer than others. What explains this variation in WEIRD psychology? Schultz provides a simple answer: the date at which a region first fell under the influence of the Catholic Church. To predict how civic-minded, individualist, and trusting a population is today, you need only check whether a Catholic bishopric had been established there by the 7th century AD.
Family structure is the link that connects Catholicism to social trust. Most of us are not inclined to think deeply about this. If you are an American, the fact that your kids will leave their childhood home when they grow up to establish their own households is utterly banal. The expectation that your son will only be married to one wife at a time, or that your daughter will not consider marrying her cousin, is so obvious that it is rarely articulated. Yet these commonsense assumptions are not human universals. Most traditional cultures expected their sons and daughters to continue living on their parents’ estate after marriage. In imperial China, for example, it was common practice for all of a family’s sons, as well as its wives, children, and concubines, to live together with their father and mother in one giant community until both parents had passed away (daughters were sent to live with the in-laws). Likewise, cultures that accept polygamous marriage are far more common than those that prohibit it. From the Western point of view, even odder is a marriage practice common to many cultures—like most in the modern Middle East—where parents eagerly arrange marriages between their nephews and daughters.
Marriage practices like these are not just cultural trivia. Schultz’s research advances the claim that these differences have decided the fate of entire civilizations. Those who marry within their families, marry more than one wife, and live together in large communities of extended kin learn from an early age that they are embedded in powerful networks of extended relations. Varied terms are used to describe these networks: among the Romans, they were known as gen; among the Scottish, clans; among the Norse, lines; in Arabia, tribes; in China, lineages; in Sicily, cosca. These kin-groups are the central organizing unit of their societies. A clansman in need turns first to kinsmen for succor and relief. A clansman wronged turns first to kinsmen for revenge. To live in a clan is to equate the family honor with personal interest. These societies put the family before the man and the community behind the clan. Healthy civic life is hard to sustain in such a restricted social world. There simply is no sense of shared civic identity that can supersede the claims of private family interests. In this respect, ancient Rome and modern Warizstan have more in common than either does with the modern West.
For this, Westerners have the Catholic Church to thank. In the early days of Europe’s darkest age, the Church waged a tireless war against the clans of Western Europe. The first step was broadening the doctrinal definition of incest to include marriage to almost all kin relations. Starting with the Synod of Agde in 517 AD, more than 15 synods on the subject were held in France, Spain, and Northern Italy over two centuries.
In kingdoms where the Church was strong, kings were eager to incorporate the new Catholic understanding of marriage and incest into their laws. By the end of the seventh century, legislation against incestuous marriages was written into the Merovingian, Visigothic, and Lombard legal codes. No one, however, was as active a promoter of the new understanding as Charlemagne. He decreed that all prospective spouses must undergo interviews by local bishops or priests before they were allowed to marry. These churchmen would investigate the family relations of both parties; if they were found to violate Church statutes, Charlemagne’s decrees empowered authorities to end the marriage. The power of the clans was being destroyed one marriage at a time. What followed was one of the greatest social transformations in European history: Western Europeans stopped thinking of themselves as kinsmen and started thinking of themselves as neighbors.
Why were leaders like Charlemagne so eager to encode Catholic social teaching into law? This question is the starting point of the research of economist Jared Rubin, whose work traces the origin of modern economic growth to the history of medieval and early modern Europe. In his recent book Rulers, Religion, and Riches: Why the West Got Rich and the Middle East Did Not, Rubin argues that the Catholic Church’s unique position in medieval European society determined the unique trajectory of Europe’s modern economy. In the days of Charlemagne, European kingdoms had the least developed economies of Eurasia. Governments were weak and agents of the crown were few. To maintain power, political leaders needed the support of the Catholic clergy. Laws like those banning plural and cousin marriages were the price of their support.
The kings of Western Europe were not unique in their use of religious authority. The rulers of Byzantium and the Middle East also relied on religious leaders as sources of political legitimacy. What separates the Catholic experience from its Orthodox and Islamic counterparts was the increasingly weak influence Catholic leaders had on secular leaders as the Middle Ages came to a close. The waning authority of the Church had powerful economic effects. In Byzantium, the Arab kingdoms, and the Ottoman Empire, religious leaders retained more than enough political power to frustrate financial and technological innovations that threatened to violate religious doctrines or subvert their cultural authority. The hierarchy of the Catholic Church, in contrast, had little choice but to adapt themselves to unwelcome changes. Rubin’s case studies include the invention of modern banking and the printing press. In both cases, religious leaders across Europe and the Middle East opposed the spread of these new technologies. Only in Western Europe were the protests of the churchmen ignored. The foundations of modern trade were laid on the unique relationship between the Catholic Church and Catholic states.
Rubin traces the origins of Catholic political weakness back to the Church’s first centuries. Unlike Islam, born in conquest and endowed from its origins with political power, Christianity began as the religion of a persecuted minority. The notion that different things might be rendered unto God and unto Caesar made no sense to the jurists of the early Caliphates. This ancient Christian distinction between secular and sectarian was buttressed by the curious institutional history of the Latin West. In contrast to the Arab and Turkic kingdoms, which had no formal religious hierarchy capable of spanning the many Sunni lands, or Byzantium, whose strong Orthodox hierarchy was married to an equally vigorous state bureaucracy, the Catholic Church had a stronger institutional foundation than any kingdom in medieval Europe. This state of affairs led European kingdoms to cling to the Church for support. But if the divisions of feudal Europe brought the princes to the Church’s altars, Rubin shows how these same divisions would eventually lead them into open conflict with the Church itself.
“For Christians it is not possible to have a Church and not have an emperor,” wrote the patriarch of Constantinople in 1393, “for the empire and the church have a great unity and a commonalty, and it is impossible to separate them.” This crude equation of an individual kingdom with all of Christendom was not possible in the Latin West. The Western kingdoms were too fractious for this, the papacy’s claims too catholic. Byzantine emperors and Eastern patriarchs were not without conflict, but they shared a sense of common self-interest. An emperor might worry that the Orthodox hierarchy might favor a popular general or royal relative over him; he did not worry that they would favor an enemy kingdom over his own. Catholic kings had no such assurance. The result was that, as their power increased over the centuries, the kings of the Latin West grew less and less comfortable with their dependence on the papacy.
What followed from this is well known: the Investiture Crisis, the Avignon Papacy, Charles VIII’s march on Rome, and eventually the Protestant Reformation. For Rubin, these events have more than just religious significance. By refusing the blessing of the churchmen, the kings of Europe had to turn elsewhere for support. They turned to a new European social group: the merchants. This nascent business class was happy to legitimize Western monarchs; in return, Western monarchs were happy to promote laws and institutions that favored cross-border trade and finance. The late medieval eclipse of the Church by the market, Rubin concludes, set the scene for Western Europe’s capitalist revolution. Only the political threat posed by a cross-national religious hierarchy could have prompted medieval leaders into the arms of the merchant class. Thus it was only in Western Europe that the development of modern markets began.
Though the methods used by Rubin and Schultz differ (in his papers, Rubin employs game theory and calculus to model the calculations of popes and princes; Schultz and his co-authors rely on statistical methods to correlate modern outcomes with Europe’s medieval heritage) when placed together, their work presents a compelling account of the origins of modernity. Capitalism and liberalism are the twin pillars upon which the modern world was built. And both of them were built, unconsciously, by the priests and popes of the medieval Catholic Church.
Tanner Greer is a writer and analyst formerly based out of Beijing. His research focuses on the relationship between traditional Asian history and modern Asian politics.
In Whit Stillman’s splendid third film The Last Days of Disco, Alice turns distraught when her friends Charlotte and Holly head off late at night with their new boyfriends. “I thought we were here as a group,” she protests, perhaps feeling isolated after she was insulted earlier in the evening by a young man who a few days before had captured her virginity. After they leave, Alice complains to Des, the disco functionary, “All week Charlotte’s been talking about the tremendous importance of group social life, opposing all this ferocious pairing off.”
To which Des turns philosophical. “Well,” he says, “group social life has its place, but at a certain point other biological factors come into play. Our bodies weren’t really designed for group social life. A certain amount of pairing off was always part of the original plan.”
That exchange came to mind the other day when I read in The Wall Street Journal that radio stations across the country have been banning from their playlists Frank Loesser’s famous song “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” an instant hit and perennial Christmas favorite since it captured an Academy Award as best original song in 1949’s Neptune’s Daughter. It seems that some of the #MeToo people think it evokes “date rape and coercion,” as the Journal puts it.
But does it? Nearly everyone knows the song. It’s cute and clever and definitely a period piece. Loessing wrote it as a little ditty for him and his wife to sing at parties—hardly evoking, at least at the time, anything sinister or troubling. It’s about a guy—in the 1940s, remember—who’s trying to seduce a woman after what appears to have been a lovely but sexually incomplete evening. She says she has to go home (to her parents) because it’s late and people will talk if she stays the night, and she must, after all, do what’s right. But wait, he says, it’s snowing and cold, and the night is forbidding while inside the fire is roaring. Besides, he thrills when she touches his hand, her hair looks swell and her eyes are like starlight.googletag.pubads().definePassback('/339474670/ADN_Native/TAC_Native', [[300, 250], 'fluid']).display();
The song doesn’t tell us how the little drama plays out. All we know is that the couple was navigating that delicate territory that Disco Des identified as “always part of the original plan.” He’s using cajolery, a bit of pleading, and plenty of flattery—pretty much all the tools that respectable men of the time employed in that endless negotiation between the sexes. She isn’t insulted by any of it, and clearly she wants to stay, but she’s held in check by the conventional morality of the day. As a female friend characterized to me her apparent struggle, “I want to but I don’t want to, or rather I want to but I don’t want to want to, and I have to always think about what other people will think. But I want to. So what should I do?”
Ah, that was the dilemma for women in those days. But she had one powerful weapon of her own as she struggled with that delicate question. The default position for women back then was “no.” This was established by society and enforced by cranky maiden aunts and other meddlesome moralists. In fact, our female protagonist in the song even notes that her own maiden aunt’s “mind is so vicious,” to which her would-be seducer replies, “Your lips look so delicious.”
Perhaps the #MeToo folks can’t appreciate “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” because they don’t appreciate the significance and value in that old default stance. Much has been written about the “hook-up culture” of men and women, and even boys and girls, these days. Camille Paglia recently lamented the diminution on college campuses of women’s standing in the gavotte of sex and men’s appreciation of that standing in previous times. Nearly gone now, she says, is “a man, behaving in a courtly, polite and respectful manner, [who] pursues a woman and gives her the time and the grace and the space to make a decision of consent or not…. Today, alas, too many young women feel they have to provide quick sex or they’ll lose social status. If a guy can’t get sex from them, he’ll get it from somebody else.”
Just seven years after Frank Loesser’s song got an Oscar, the pioneering ad writer Shirley Polykoff produced an advertising slogan that was considered provocative, even risqué, at the time. It was a television commercial for Clairol hair coloring. As an attractive woman walks with grace and style across the screen, a voiceover intones: “Does she…or doesn’t she? Only her hairdresser knows for sure.” Like the song, this is entirely a period piece, a relic of a different cultural era. Today, it doesn’t work at all. In fact, what a stupid question! Of course she does (well, we don’t know about her hair).
But in Polykoff’s day it was the woman’s question to answer, which surrounded her with intrigue and mystery. If men were interested, they had to find out largely through “courtly, polite and respectful” means, as Paglia puts it in lamenting the passing of such behavior.
Amy Wax, the University of Pennsylvania law professor and provocative social commentator, has written that the hook up culture has given rise, for women, to a surge of what she calls “sex without desire.” She asks: “What is the relevance of this supposed surge in undesired sex to the rise in allegations of sexual assault on campus?” She notes that Georgetown law professor Robin West, who also has written extensively on the subject, believes there’s a link. In this view, the hook up culture has created what Wax characterizes as “a rough, competitive marketplace in which women are impelled to rush headlong into superficial, short-lived physical intimacies as the condition for social popularity and the company of the opposite sex.” That may be a culture ready-made for regret and recrimination, though Wax is careful not to try to answer the question of whether there is a link between all this and the rise in allegations of sexual misconduct.
But “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” harkens back to that earlier time, as does Polykoff’s famous question. In the song, our young woman definitely holds the trump card and can make up her own mind. Of course, in doing so she has to contend with all kinds of social pressures that don’t exist today, and her decision couldn’t be separated, as such decisions are now, from matters of morality. But this particular negotiation is carried on in a context of sweetness and mutual regard. We don’t know the outcome, but we can hope. And we do know that, at the end of the line, there wasn’t likely to be any sex without desire, though the prospect of desire without sex remained a distinct possibility.
Robert W. Merry, longtime Washington journalist and publishing executive, is the author most recently of President McKinley: Architect of the American Century.
There’s a sadness in the shuttering of any print publication, and The Weekly Standard is no exception. If its website is dismantled as the owners have suggested is likely, it will be a loss to the reading public and even to the world’s ability to understand itself. Any right-of-center reader would have found much to admire in the Standard, both in its early days and now. Christopher Caldwell, who has written for the magazine since its inception, has developed into America’s most important analyst of contemporary Europe. Andrew Ferguson always writes with wit and style. Several Heather Mac Donald essays have fiercely told the truth on the delicate subjects of race, policing, and political correctness on campus.
The term “bobo”—David Brooks’ coinage for the new sociological category of bourgeois bohemian—first surfaced in a Weekly Standard essay, and eventually became an American contribution to both the French language and the French description of their own society. The Standard’s polemics could be both civil and well-informed: one could read an attack of Pat Buchanan (when Buchanan’s presidential run was threatening the Republican establishment) and actually learn something about the lineage and successes of protectionist economics. There were occasional gems of the insider gossipy sort: who could resist the guilty pleasure of forwarding along Joseph Epstein’s recollection of meeting the 25-year-old Leon Wieseltier?
But all this, the work of gifted writers in high demand by many conservative outlets, is not the reason The Weekly Standard is an historically important publication. Nor is the fact that its most prominent figure, Bill Kristol, its founder, longtime editor, and, until it shut down, the editor at large, was an opponent of Donald Trump from the beginning. Nor that the magazine has maintained its Never Trump stance in the face of a more general GOP accommodation of the president. As the numerous television appearances by Kristol and other conservative opponents of Trump on liberal networks attest, Never Trumpism is not without its career enhancing benefits. In fact, the Standard’s opposition to Trump earned it a strange new respect among liberals. In a nearly hagiographic New York Times obituary, we are told the Standard was “a publication that was proudly heterodox from the start, eager to buck the prevailing values of conservative dogma and forge its own provocative point of view.”
Invariably left unsaid or minimized in such accounts (the Times devoted a full eight words to the subject) is the role the Standard played in fomenting the Iraq war, the sole policy question where the magazine’s role was unambiguous and decisive. Given the centrality of foreign policy to Kristol’s concerns, it is probably not too much to say that for the Standard, the main purpose of publishing the writers referenced above was to provide an attractive gift wrapping for neoconservative foreign policy advocacy.googletag.pubads().definePassback('/339474670/ADN_Native/TAC_Native', [[300, 250], 'fluid']).display();
It was far from obvious how the United States would respond after the terror attacks of 9/11. Pretty much everyone but pacifists agreed there would be a military campaign against the Taliban, which had provided a base for Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan, and a campaign to destroy al-Qaeda, which had been conducting major terrorism operations in Africa and the Mideast. But Iraq was not on the radar for most. There were no serious connections between Saddam Hussein’s essentially secular dictatorship and a group bent on restoring a caliphate based on fundamentalist Islam. But Iraq had been on a neoconservative target list for years, with the neocons lamenting that George H.W. Bush had not pursued regime change and occupied Baghdad at the end of the first Gulf war. The United States had put in place heavy sanctions on Iraq, and there was a nominal congressional mandate for pursuing regime change by aiding dissident groups (the Iraq Liberation Act of 1998). But as neoconservatives themselves acknowledged in the 1990s, the idea of invading with American troops was a distant reach.
9/11 provided an opportunity to change that. As a glossy weekly publication, with hundreds of issues hand-delivered every week to important Beltway figures, the Standard occupied a critical node in Beltway opinion formation. Neoconservative think tank types could publish a piece there, and then go on Fox News (another Rupert Murdoch property) to reach non-magazine readers. And unlike most in the American government, Kristol knew exactly what he wanted America to do after 9/11: overthrow Saddam Hussein.
Since the mid-1990s, Kristol had been heading a small foreign policy think tank and lobbying group, the Project for the New American Century, dedicated to espousing a more hawkish foreign policy. Nine days after the attack, a PNAC letter laid out the new post-9/11 line. It conceded that the first priority was to dismantle the bin Laden network in Afghanistan (which would not require an invasion, it said) but overthrowing Saddam Hussein was the next priority. In a not-so-veiled warning to President George W. Bush, PNAC intoned, “Failure to undertake such an effort will constitute an early and decisive surrender in the war on terror.” The magazine’s first issue after 9/11 reaffirmed that line. The Standard’s war aims were laid out by two PNAC staffers, Gary Schmitt and Tom Donnelly, in a piece illustrated by a caricature not of Osama bin Laden but of Saddam Hussein. The approach they urged for the actual 9/11 hijackers was astonishingly mild: “While it is probably not necessary to go to war with Afghanistan, a broad approach will be required.” Taliban failure to help us root out bin Laden would be met with “aid to its Afghan opposition.” It would have been hard to find any member of Congress with a more dovish view.
Diverting the nation’s anger from bin Laden and towards Saddam Hussein was the priority. Wrote Schmitt and Donnelly, the “larger campaign must also go after Saddam Hussein. He might well be implicated in this weeks’s attacks or he might not. But…he is our enemy. Elimination of Saddam is the key to restoring our regional dominance.”
The magazine pounded this message relentlessly for months. Saddam was paired at the hip with Osama bin Laden in virtually every issue. “Who cares if Saddam Hussein was involved in the 9/11 attacks?” asked Max Boot. He, for one, did not, as he urged the American government to establish a regency on Baghdad to go with the one on Kabul. Reuel Mark Gerecht echoed PNAC, arguing that the war on terror would be a failure unless we removed Saddam. Stephen Hayes (later to become editor of the magazine) funneled intelligence scraps generated by a neoconservative nest in the Pentagon led by Douglas Feith to claim a relationship between Saddam and bin Laden that the CIA did not believe to be credible.
In a recent Twitter thread, Justin Logan linked to the some of the warmongering covers the Standard produced in the months after 9/11. They evoke the spirit of the publication, but can’t really do justice to the editors’ sheer skill at normalizing the idea that attacking a dictator with no connection to al-Qaeda was the only non-defeatist option. Seen in these terms, the Standard was a monumental success. It achieved its aims on a discrete policy issue more emphatically than any publication in living memory.
No less a student of the American political establishment than The New York Times’ Thomas Friedman speculated to a reporter from Haaretz that the Iraq war would not have happened without the machinations of two dozen people inside the Beltway:
It’s the war the neoconservatives marketed. They had an idea to sell when September 11 happened and they sold it. Oh boy, did they sell it. This is not the war the masses demanded. It is war of an elite. I could give you the names of 25 people, all of whom are at this moment within a five block radius of this office, who if you had exiled them to a desert island a year and a half ago, the Iraq war would not have happened.
Could this group have succeeded without Bill Kristol’s Weekly Standard serving as its public relations quarterback? Perhaps, but trying to imagine it led by the New York-based monthly Commentary or the American Enterprise Institute, without a glossy weekly and well-oiled entrée into Fox News studios, is difficult. As it was, the neoconservatives prevailed over the more cautious establishment figures within the administration like Colin Powell and Condi Rice and outside by George H.W. Bush veterans James Baker and Brent Scowcroft by a relatively narrow margin. War in Iraq was not inevitable; it was the culmination of concentrated political and ideological effort.
If the Iraq war was sold to the American establishment by a small elite, the price was borne by many. Estimates of the fiscal costs run from $1 trillion to as much as $3 trillion, (if you credit Nobel prize recipient Joseph Stiglitz’s calculations, which include the long-term care costs for American soldiers with lifelong and life shattering injuries). The human costs to the soldiers and their families was substantial. Throughout the Mideast, the number of people killed, wounded, or turned into refugees by the invasion was staggering. The American “regional dominance” touted by the Standard proved entirely fanciful.
Having more or less destroyed Iraq as a functioning country, the neoconservatives have now set their sights on Iran, their next candidate for regime change. In its final issue, the Standard touted the presidential ambitions of Nikki Haley. Few who follow politics are unaware that her preeminent qualification in the Standard‘s eyes is that she is a willing and attractive salesperson for hostility to Iran.
This essay began by acknowledging that something is lost when a sophisticated opinion voice falls silent. Yet the fact that those beating the drums for the next “regime change” war in the Mideast will have to do it without the glossy package of The Weekly Standard is not a bad thing.
Scott McConnell is a founding editor of The American Conservative and the author of Ex-Neocon: Dispatches From the Post-9/11 Ideological Wars.
(JERUSALEM POST) — WASHINGTON – The US Navy has acknowledged that its longstanding operations in Haifa may change once a Chinese firm takes over the civilian port in 2021, prompting Israel’s national security cabinet to revisit the arrangement, The Jerusalem Post has learned.
Haifa, the nation’s largest port city, regularly hosts joint US-Israeli naval drills and visits from American vessels. But a 2015 agreement between Israel’s Transportation Ministry and Shanghai International Port Group (SIPG) – a company in which the Chinese government has a majority stake – has raised intelligence and security concerns that are only now prompting an interagency review.
That agreement granted SIPG control over the port for 25 years. The Chinese company has committed $2 billion to the project and, according to state-run media, plans to transform the port’s bay terminal into the largest harbor in the country.
Security,What would you pick?
The Glock 21 is about as far from the 1911 as one can get in the field of handguns. An Austrian pistol with a polymer frame and modern internal design, the Glock 21 is simply a scaled up version of the original Glock 17 handgun introduced in 1982. Glocks were—and still are—derided as “Tupperware guns” wherein the use of plastics was in some way a fatal design flaw.
The .45 Automatic Colt Pistol round, or .45 ACP as it is commonly known, is fairly controversial. Invented in 1905 by prolific firearms designer John Moses Browning, the .45 ACP was the standard caliber of the Colt M1911 pistol, and remains so to this day. A heavy, subsonic bullet, a typical .45 ACP weighs twice as much as the 9mm Luger round and delivers a third more energy.
(This first appeared several months ago.)
Today, advances in bullet technology means a 9mm round can deliver as much energy as the .45 ACP. Despite this, the .45 ACP is far from dead, as it has also benefited from increased performance. Today there are more choices of .45 ACP pistols than ever before, as almost all gun manufacturers offer their most modern semi automatic handguns in the big caliber. Here are five of the best .45 ACP pistols today.
Wilson Combat Tactical Carry
Wilson Combat was started in 1977 by founder Bill Wilson, a watchmaker by training. For those that know the platform, that’s an appropriate background for a company building custom 1911 handguns. The 1911’s early twentieth-century pedigree involves the precise fitment of many small interlocking parts to produce a reliable, accurate pistol.
Recommended: The Story of the F-52 Fighter.Read full article
Security, AsiaThe last time the People's Liberation Army fought a major conflict was in 1979, when "a seasoned Vietnamese military demolished a bungled Chinese invasion".
The Chinese military has almost no combat experience, analyst Timothy Heath wrote for the California think-tank RAND. But that inexperience might not matter very much, Heath explained.
“Today, China's military has an increasingly impressive high-tech arsenal, but its ability to use these weapons and equipment remains unclear. There are reasons to be skeptical.”
The last time the People's Liberation Army fought a major conflict was in 1979, when "a seasoned Vietnamese military demolished a bungled Chinese invasion," according to Heath.
At the time, the Vietnamese military was still fresh from its defeat of U.S. and allied forces in the early 1970s. The Chinese Communist Party, by contrast, had gutted its own armed forces through politically-motivated purges.
"The deleterious consequences are evident in the PLA's reversion to discredited, but low-skill, tactics like the human-wave assault, as well as in the inability of infantrymen to navigate or read maps and the inaccuracy of artillerymen due to unfamiliarity with procedures for measuring distances and calculating firing distances," Heath wrote.
"The ghost of that defeat still hovers over the PLA," he continued. "In China, authorities have largely chosen to ignore an embarrassing conflict that fits awkwardly with Beijing's narrative of a peaceful rise, but the official silence has left many PLA veterans disillusioned about their participation in the war."
"The few combat veterans who remain in service will all retire within the next few years, which means the military will soon have no personnel with firsthand combat experience."
But that doesn't mean Beijing can't "win" a major war. Although it's debatable whether any party truly would "win" in such a conflict, given the potentially profound loss of life and the economic, ecological and political chaos that surely would result from the war.
"Win" in this case can only mean: one side achieves its own immediate strategic goals while preventing its opponent from doing the same. Heath looked to history to explain the role combat experience plays in a war's outcome.Read full article
Security, Global GovernanceThis will be a meaningful framework for better migration management that will improve international security and human rights.
In Marrakech this month more than 180 countries will affirm the United Nations Global Compact for Safe, Orderly, and Regular Migration. What began with great optimism as an open, transparent, and inclusive process that would include all of the world’s states has been clouded by global political controversy over the compact and a series of last-minute withdrawals. At a time of misinformation over the compact, it is important to clarify what it is and is not, and why it matters. The Global Compact for Migration will not infringe on state sovereignty. If implemented properly, then it will be a meaningful framework for better migration management that will improve international security and human rights.Read full article
economy, AsiaWashington's advantage might not last.
President Trump’s and President Xi’s recent truce agreement to freeze the U.S.-China trade war for ninety days, while buying time for further negotiations, leaves major sticking points between both countries unresolved. Despite complications arising from the December 1 arrest of Chinese tech company Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou by Canada at the request of U.S. authorities—a situation that threatens to damage U.S.-China trade talks—President Trump for the time being enjoys certain advantages in the standoff.
There is evidence that Chinese policymakers want to resolve the trade war quickly due to the threat that the prolonged dispute poses to China’s already-slowing economy. China’s economy has been slowing in 2018 with GDP growing at 6.5 percent in the third quarter, missing economists’ forecasts of 6.6% and amounting to the weakest quarterly growth since the global financial crisis of 2009.Read full article
Security, EuropeThe 1898 Treaty of Paris that ended the Spanish-American war changed U.S. foreign policy and the course of history.
In 2019, countries around the world will commemorate the centenary of the Paris Peace Conference that produced the Treaty of Versailles. That agreement ended World War One, a brutal, unnecessary, and immensely consequential war, but neither the treaty nor the war drastically altered American foreign policy. America continued to invade its neighbors, repeatedly deploy troops to China, and oversee Pacific colonies.
Twenty years before the 1919 Paris Peace Conference, signed 120 years ago today, there was another peace negotiation in Paris that did markedly change American foreign policy: the 1898 Treaty of Paris that ended the Spanish-American War.
America continues to feel the effects of the 1898 accord. It kicked off a century-long series of heavy-handed interventions in Central America. It normalized the promotion of democracy and humanitarianism through war. And it changed America’s relationship with the Pacific Ocean, thereafter seen as a vulnerability rather than as a source of security.
Yet this history has been forgotten by the American public. Between the top six newspapers by circulation, the 1898 Treaty of Paris has been mentioned just once in the last year.
In 1898, President William McKinley attacked Spanish territories to stabilize the Caribbean, to protect American property, and to support Cuban independence from the Spanish, who employed horrific tactics like re-concentration camps, rife with disease and starvation.Read full article
Hal Brands, Toshi Yoshihara
Politics, EurasiaBoth Russia and China are governed by opaque, highly centralized and increasingly personalized governments that are well suited to the darker arts of statecraft. Political warfare, for such regimes, is second nature.
POLITICAL WARFARE is back, and the United States is losing. As great-power competition has intensified in recent years, China and Russia have undertaken multi-pronged offensives to undermine American influence and erode the U.S.-led international order. These offensives have included defense buildups, geoeconomic initiatives, paramilitary coercion and even (in Russia’s case) outright military aggression. They have also featured determined political warfare campaigns.
Political warfare is the use of non-military means to manipulate and undermine the political system of a competitor. Political warfare with Russian and Chinese characteristics involves the use of myriad tactics—cyberattacks, disinformation, electoral meddling and others—to disrupt and destabilize the political systems of America and its allies, thereby rendering these countries less geopolitically effective. Authoritarian powers are “using information tools in an attempt to undermine the legitimacy of democracies,” warns the 2017 National Security Strategy, to “shake our shared commitment to our values, undermine our system of government, [and] divide our Nation.” As the turmoil sowed by Vladimir Putin’s intervention in the U.S. presidential election of 2016 shows, these campaigns are having an impact.
It is unsurprising, then, that the U.S. national security community has so far focused mostly on diagnosing the problem of authoritarian political warfare and considering how to defend the country from these attacks. Yet if defensive measures are indispensable, they are also insufficient. For the United States to hold its own in today’s great power competitions, it must think and act offensively in the realm of political warfare: it must do to its rivals what they are seeking to do to it. Taking the offensive is vital to exploiting the principal vulnerability of those rivals—their corrupt, illegitimate, authoritarian political systems—and ensuring that America is not unilaterally disarming in a critical area of competition. And although Washington has lately fallen out of the habit of waging political warfare, that practice is hardly alien to its diplomatic tradition. America has decades of experience employing political warfare against an authoritarian challenger, experience that can inform a renewed offensive today.Read full article
Paul R. Pillar
Security, Middle EastThe simple notion that any enemy of my enemy is my friend is overriding sober calculation of how Saudi Arabia’s conduct does or does not support U.S. interests.
LONG BEFORE “transactional” became a cliché applied to policies of Donald Trump, the term accurately described the U.S.-Saudi relationship. The partnership brought together the world’s most important democracy and a family-run autocracy that was medieval in its mores and allied internally with intolerant religious fundamentalists. Shared values have always been absent, and shared objectives and perspectives have been tenuous.
Oil has lubricated the relationship, of course. Oil was on leaders’ minds when the relationship began—on a U.S. warship anchored in the Great Bitter Lake along the Suez Canal, where Franklin Roosevelt, returning in February 1945 from the Yalta conference, met with Ibn Saud, founder of the Saudi kingdom. Ever since, opposition to some adversary also has underpinned the relationship. With World War II still under way, U.S. military planners were thinking about access to the Arabian Peninsula for moving resources from the Atlantic theater to the Pacific once Nazi Germany was defeated. Later during the Cold War, minimizing Soviet inroads in the Middle East was a major ingredient in American thinking about the relationship with Saudi Arabia. Despite how little the Saudis had in common with the West, aversion to godless communism was an even bigger part of their sentiments.
Despite the divergence in values and the transactional nature of the U.S.-Saudi bargain, however, the emotive as well as the strategic have been part of the relationship from the beginning. Franklin Roosevelt and Ibn Saud hit it off well despite the huge difference in their backgrounds. After the Saudi king, who walked with difficulty because of old wounds to his legs, admired the mobility that Roosevelt’s wheelchair provided, the president bestowed upon him the much-appreciated gift of one of the two wheelchairs he had brought on the trip.
Over the ensuing decades, American sentiment about Saudi Arabia has strayed from hard-nosed strategic calculations in ways that go beyond personal rapport between leaders. The sheer passage of time has ingrained the habit of thinking of Saudi Arabia as a friend and ally, notwithstanding the absence of a mutual security treaty. Shared opposition to hated adversaries, whether they be godless Soviets or too-godly Iranians, has reinforced the habit.Read full article