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Category Archives: History

Gee, can I be a Guardian pundit?

A US former special ops officer argues that ISIS is just using tactics (via) that al-Qaeda had previously used, which work against Arab forces, but not Western ones: AQI/ISIL quickly learned to never use these tactics on the Americans. They regretted it in 2005 when they carried out a complex multi-prong attack on Abu Ghuraib prison – it […]

On not seeing the Middle East

Two now well-established anti-Israel lines of rhetoric are that the Jewish State is “Nazi-like” (Zionism=Nazism) and the Jewish State is “an apartheid state“. What these lines of rhetoric have in common is that they attack Israel invoking comparisons which resonate in the West and Western political rhetoric, invoking comparisons which have no specific connection to […]

ISIS, ibn Khaldun and patterns in history

One of the benefits of reading Ira Lapidus’s A History of Islamic Societies (which I review here and here) is understanding how much Islamic history shows recurring patterns. For example, how conflict between modernisers (we should learn from others), traditionalists (we should practice the religion as it is handed down to us) and reformists (we need to recover the purity of original Islam) is a […]

Unhelpful dichotomies

I recently finished The Creation of Inequality: How Our Prehistoric Ancestors Set the Stage for Monarchy, Slavery, and Empire by Kent Flannery & Joyce Marcus, a very accessible rendering for the lay audience of a huge amount of anthropological and archaeological data about the development of state societies. At the end of Chapter Twenty-Two (“Graft and Imperialism”), there is […]

Equalising consumption => lowering vulnerability

A comment on a previous post expresses a common set of views among conservatives: Darwin has the final word on sillyness. If same sex marriage was a useful thing in society, then the vast range of human societies would show us a successful society with same sex marriage as normal. This confuses natural selection with social selection, […]

Marriage is about …

A common argument against same-sex marriage is that marriage is “about” children. Or that the purpose of marriage is the raising of children. Or some similar claim. Conservative philosopher Keith Burgess-Jackson rebuts a certain class of arguments against the claim that marriage is “about” children here. But the claim he defends–that marriage is about children–strips marriage […]

Modernity struggles: how priests and clerics are unreliable moral guides

Priests and clerics tend to be unreliable moral guides, because their interests are served by complexity and differentiation. Which is not to deny that, for example, Christianity has been a major factor in the distinctive achievement of Western civilisation. The ambivalent civilisation The late Kenneth Minogue argued that (via) the Enlightenment saw a shift among Western intellectuals from belief that […]

Short observations 2

Smartphones slow down the restaurant experience (via). Time constraint means scarcity will always be with us. (That is scarcity in the trade-offs-have-to-be-made sense. Hunger and famine need not always be with us.) *** I find the notion that people without a state cannot have money risible. They may not have their own coins, but coins are merely branded […]

Regime matters

A recurring error in Western analysis is to not take ideology (particularly religious ideology) or regime structure seriously in analysing the behaviour of other states. Historian A J P Taylor’s famous statement that: In international affairs, there was nothing wrong with Hitler except that he was German. is a manifestation of this. But so is the […]

Migration, history and countries as club goods

This is based on comments I made here and here. Thin conceptions There is a line of argument which holds that if free trade in goods and services is good for economies, if free trade in capital is good for economies, then surely free trade in labour would also be good for economies. So, just as one should […]