TCS Daily

The Puzzle of New War

By Michael Vlahos - August 17, 2006 12:00 AM

What is "New War?" We have many ready monikers: irregular war, asymmetrical war, unconventional war, guerilla war, 4th generation war, anti-terrorism, and counter-insurgency.

All of them miss the mark. They describe what is new as new fighting features: the new tactics and techniques of battle. And there are so many "not" (ir-, a-, un-, anti-, counter-) words! It is as though New War was somehow underhanded and disrespectful -- so deeply not us. Our labels tell us more about ourselves than what we are actually facing.

New War is not really new at all -- what is new is that it is new to us, and our so-far-unsuccessful attempts to deal with it. Unsuccessful, that is, in Somalia, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Lebanon. We have been unsuccessful in part because we cannot even see New War for what it is.

New War is simply one of the three sub-sets of war that all states have faced since, say, the Romans. There is war with states, there is war with unrecognized armed communities, and there is war against lawless elements, which the Romans called bagaudae (bandits) and which we call terrorists. The first is usually well-established and rule-based, while the third is not usually even given the courtesy of being called "war." It is a sort of background tasking, an ongoing gendarmerie effort.

Our New War is the second of these three: war against unrecognized, armed communities.

Yet we might even look back at the Roman experience and see a few reflective shards of ourselves. Rome was after all the world's first successful enterprise in multi-cultural globalization, bringing both the Mediterranean world and its wild periphery into a well-heeled, smooth-functioning international order.

Moreover the Romans, not so unlike us, had both threatening states and myriad non-state threats to deal with. The longstanding state threat was Persia (Iran), which should bring a smile to Americans mired in neighboring Mesopotamia. The non-state actors, however, were constantly threatening and difficult to handle.

They were literally everywhere around the Roman "globe:" Berbers, Arabs, Picts, Massagetae, Goths, Huns, Herulians, Suevi, Alans, Alemanni, Burgundians, Dacians, Sarmatians ... it is a long list.

But no longer than the American non-state list today.

Furthermore, these unrecognized armed communities constantly affronted Roman interests or worse yet, actually threatened Roman order. How did the Romans deal with their non-state actors? What was their track record?

What the Romans always tried to do was simple and straightforward, and well within the accepted standards of Greco-Roman civilization. They would try to negotiate with these groups, but if they became a problem, a Roman army would march off to wipe them out.

The track record for this approach spanned at least five centuries. For example, in 102 BC a big Germanic community entered Italy -- the Ambrones and the Teutones -- and was essentially wiped off the face of the earth by the legions of the Consul Marius. In 405 AD, an equally large nation of Germans under Radagaisus entered Italy and was similarly exterminated by the Magister Militum, Aetius.

This was a no-prisoners approach. If the victory was complete, then presumably thousands would be slaughtered. Those remaining fighters would be taken prisoner, and ritualistically crucified -- also often, in the thousands. Women and children would be profitably sold into slavery.

The community that survived these events would have them literally seared into their collective memory. So Aetius dealt with the Burgundians in 436 AD, bringing savage Hunnic cohorts into Southern France to flay the offending nation. From the horror of that experience, where two-third of their people were slaughtered, comes the Nibelungenlied. Yet forever after, as long as there were Romans, the Burgundians remained good Roman allies. There are plenty of voices today -- just look around the Internet -- who would celebrate this as a model win by the good guys against the terrorists.

But sometimes things did not go as planned for the Romans. The Goths, desperate for sanctuary from savage Huns, were accepted into the Empire almost as despised refugees, treated like indentured guest workers-to-be, a new Roman underclass. But soon they rebelled and actually destroyed the legionary army sent against them: slaying even the emperor himself.

Likewise the Romans barely contained fractious Jewish communities. In 79 AD Jewish insurgents triggered a strategic crisis of empire, which was concluded only by the punitive sack of Jerusalem itself. Yet even here a Roman scorched-earth policy only led, three generations later, to an even greater Jewish revolt: whose outcome was the utter destruction of the Jewish Nation.

We should remember these long-ago events because unrecognized armed communities -- "non-state actors" -- are not easy military propositions. Quite to the contrary, a great nation state that has for generations focused its military efforts against brother nation states is sure to be less prepared for military operations against non-state threats.

Non-state threats -- or unrecognized armed communities -- do war differently. The difference, it turns out, is not necessarily in tactics or technique. Thus Bill Lind, a 4th Generation War seer, will talk about Hezbollah as employing "light infantry" tactics against the Israel Defense Forces. His characterization is absolutely correct.

But this is not the light infantry of a state. The unrecognized armed community is, unlike the uniformed military of a nation state, a community-in-arms. The entire community is at war. Like what the Romans faced, if we want to defeat such a community, we must engage and destroy it utterly.

Our national administration and its military mistakenly seek to engage fighters only. By killing just fighters, they reason, they can destroy the threat. But Hezbollah for example is really 1.4 million totally committed people. The Sunni insurgency in Iraq is 5 million committed people. The Shi'a militias there represent perhaps three times that many.

Surely the Russians know this. They knew the Chechen rebels represented 1.3 million people, so they set about to brutalize and kill several hundred thousand to bring them to heel. It looks now -- like Titus' Romans surveying a burned-out Palestine -- as though Russia's unrelenting torture and killing campaign has worked. Bravo. Russia may not have Chechnya to worry about for maybe a generation. Maybe even more.

Are we Roman enough? Evidently the Israelis are not. They boasted about destroying Hezbollah, and they showed how well they understood the nature of the problem: as they ruthlessly set about to turn all of Hezbollahstan (aka, Lebanon) into rubble. But evidently they lack the Roman Way. They kill a thousand or so Lebanese, and maybe a few hundred actual fighters, and then they stop.

Likewise, America has killed tens of thousands of Iraqis, only a portion of whom were actual fighters, and so have achieved, what? A couple years ago the US Proconsul in Baghdad boasted about bringing Muqtada al-Sadr to justice. Now Sadr is the Shi'a kingmaker. This too was not the Roman Way.

Clausewitz had it right. He said that strategy at its most existential "is the use of the engagement for the purposes of the war."

The unrecognized armed community seeks to use "the engagement" for its desperate purposes: survival, first and foremost, and then if possible, realization: to be free, to be independent.

This makes "the engagement" with unrecognized armed community fundamentally different from any sort of battle with another nation state. Fighting another nation state -- at whatever level -- is all about negotiating relative advantage within the context of an already well-established relationship.

An unrecognized armed community is above all, unrecognized: this is the final and the most oppressive "not" word that we impose on them. Thus this community is also fighting for the formal recognition -- as in legitimacy -- and it is fighting with every fiber of its being. In contrast, to win, the offended nation state must be Roman in its ruthless vision and razor execution: it must destroy the whole of the offending people. Certainly Israel could have destroyed Hezbollah: it should have been easy. Do like the Russians did in Chechnya: kill a couple hundred thousand Shi'a -- or more. Eventually you will "win."

But what if you (Thank God) cannot?

Again the Romans have some instructive alternative examples for us. Remember, even for Romans there were some unrecognized armed communities that they could not be defeated. Indeed, sometimes non-state actors instead defeated entire Roman armies. What exactly did Rome do then?

With the Visigoths, the Romans entered into negotiation. But here negotiation meant much more than "talks." The Romans, however reluctantly, were forced to develop a serious relationship with their enemy. Yet miraculously, soon they ceased being the enemy. They were not yet exactly foederati, or "allied" yet, but they were on the way there. The Romans from time to time even had to fight them, and use strong force to reestablish the terms of relationship.

But they gave the Goths what they most wanted, which was: to be Roman. Once they were really and truly Roman, moreover, they were Rome's most steadfast friends. A Gothic king, Theoderic, even fell in battle alongside Romans in that celebrated place where Attila's Huns were stopped forever.

This is not to say that America, or especially Israel, can repeat anything like this with the armed communities that task them. But the point is that they have not really tried. Both Americans and Israelis talk a big line about not negotiating with "terrorists" -- when they really mean armed communities like Hezbollah and Hamas. But calling such communities "terrorist" is not just trash talk, it is tantamount to a kind of unilateral disarmament. It is like taking half the tools in your kit and throwing them away.

Mind you, this is about approaching resistant, armed communities: that represent actual, emerging societies. As long as your enemy is a real society, a relationship with them is possible. It is with wild-eyed fighter bands that things get dicey. A relationship with Takfiris sworn to seek your death? Unlikely. But in contrast, if fighters truly represent a community cause, as a civic-minded militia, then "relationship" is an entirely different proposition (see, for example, We urgently need to understand the difference between the two, and then, with resistant communities, take on the relationship-proposition.

Moreover the relationship-proposition is an argument for the future. It should not be seen as advocating negotiation as it were, under fire. It is not being proposed as a solution to the current contretemps with Hezbollah. But later, when the fighting ends and tensions have eased, it will be an avenue that should be explored. What about the Iranian connection, you ask? The United States has some rather longstanding relationships with resistant, armed Shi'a communities in Iraq. Their leaders (think, SCIRI, think Abdel Aziz Hakim) are not only the kingmakers of the current government there, but their Iranian connection is deeper and more intimate even that Hezbollah's.

In a place not so far away, with not so different armed Islamist communities, America has been playing the relationship game. Perhaps not so well as we would like, and perhaps, in Iraq, even heading for a poor outcome. Yet perhaps this should tell us that, rather than rhetorically rejecting the relationship-proposition, we should figure out how to pursue it more effectively.

Because relationship, for all its pitfalls, offers the opportunity for seductions far more effective than enforced submission at the point of a gun: especially if you cannot bring yourself to pull the trigger. If we, Americans and Israelis, are unwilling to slaughter millions, then our surest way to defuse the threat they pose is to somehow develop a fruitful relationship with them.

Yet in the twisted worldview of American thinking today the very word "relationship" is a codeword for weakness and cowardly softness: "relationship" itself is seen as tantamount to defeat. "You are either with us or against us" is in contrast a ringing declaration. But it allows no room for relationships in-between.

Yet we must make room. If we are unwilling to exterminate, and yet allow ourselves no other alternative, we are simply yielding to our foes by default: acquiescing to their vision of New War, entering "the engagement" on their terms. Furthermore we perversely ratify them -- backhandedly to be sure -- while denying ourselves the leverage that comes from being a part, or perhaps even the source of, their ratification.

Our strategic opportunity is now in the in-between. It may be all we have left, but it is not inconsiderable. If we cannot exterminate whole communities, then we must persuade their people to come over to us: by going over to them and developing relationships. But we should also be mindful that, as long as they command New War, these will never be relationships on our terms.

Thus, we should reinterpret "success" within a new framework of approaching them on their terms. This means, specifically, coming to terms with the Muslim world's emerging Islamist communities -- in Iraq, Somalia, Egypt, Lebanon, and elsewhere -- if we hope to keep any sort of positive stake in their world. If we do not do this we will, gradually perhaps and yet inevitably, be defeated.

Michael Vlahos is part of the National Security Assessment team of the National Security Analysis Department (NSAD) at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory.



Unrecognized armed communities
I would offer that Dr Vlahos misunderstands the focus of America's quest for world domination. We are unable to muster a Na zi style military campaign to force the world's nations to heel. In fact we are so overstretched just in Iraq and Afghanistan that if we were to attempt even one more military takeover-- say, weak little Syria-- we would gag on the bone in our craw.

No. The nature of our quest has to be the war for hearts and minds. And in this kind of a fight, a high body count can be very counterproductive.

What we see in the aftermath of the Israeli invasion is that in that part of the world where the US wants to exert its influence, the general public sees Hezbollah not as some unrecognized, illegitimate group of thugs but as the citizens' militia for a territory adjacent to a belligerent state. Say what you will about the accuracy of that assessment, but that's what people are thinking.

Also I think it is noteworthy that most people being interviewed refer to this as "America's War". Not "Israel's war" but America's. To me this kind of thing indicates that we are losing the game for hearts and minds.

And this is in Lebanon-- a place where just back two months ago everyone kind of liked Americans. So unless we are able to get the general public behind whatever we are trying to accomplish in their countries, we're going to find it an uphill battle.

Or we can continue with Plan B-- military occupations of hostile territories, for an indefinite duration. And for this we will need a vastly larger army than the one we possess.

Wrong, Mr. Vlahos, we have to fight!
It was by negotiating with Arafat and giving him power that we showed terrorism works. He created a terror-state where children were indoctrinated from an early age into a suicide-cult. That’s why you have a Hamas state!

Rome fell when it stopped killing the barbarians and allowed them to flourish. As you point out, Mr. Vlahos, it stopped killing the Goths, tried to bring them into the Empire, but was eventually destroyed by the barbarians themselves. Let’s also remember that the Roman Empire at that time was Christian as were the Goths. It was downhill after Augustine’s “Just War” theory. We need to re-learn Roman pagan ways.

Civilization has to slaughter the barbarians if it hopes to continue to exist. We’ll have to learn to kill again. We should have gone through the Sunni triangle like Sherman went through Georgia. We should have flattened Fallujah like FDR flattened Dresden. And we once fought another warrior religion (which Islam is) when we defeated the Japanese. You remember how we did that don't you?

The alternative is to live under Islamic oppression like our ancestors did before Western Europe set out to liberate them. It looks like one of us still has a dhimmi mentality, Mr. Vlahos.

Jason Pappas

Be quiet for once, unworthy "judge"
Dr. Vlahos' essay is one of the very best published here on this topic, and his cup runneth over with honesty and reason.

But the Judge is so in love with the image of himself in his own mind (that of the lone voice of reason "crying in the wilderness) that he cannot see what is good.

I think Vlahos would fight
but he is saying that the West has too much lack of the fighting spirit, so why bother with our meek show of arms?

Either crush the enemy entirely, or take a strong-armed but softly-spoken stance of, say, open trade with them, is how I interpret his essay's theme.

I don't read him that way
He claims that Rome “forced to develop a serious relationship with their enemy. Yet miraculously, soon they ceased being the enemy. … Once they were really and truly Roman, moreover, they were Rome's most steadfast friends.”

Actually, the barbarians destroyed Rome in the West but in the East, Constantinople continued for another 1000 years by fighting … often with Chemical weapons like Greek Fire.

Here’s the pipedream:

“Mind you, this is about approaching resistant, armed communities: that represent actual, emerging societies. As long as your enemy is a real society, a relationship with them is possible. … somehow develop a fruitful relationship with them.”

But here’s his false alternative:

“If we are unwilling to exterminate, and yet allow ourselves no other alternative” to negotiate …

First of all, we should stop helping the enemy. We (America and Europe) are the chief source of income for Palestinians for the last 50 years either directly or through the UN. We have a 50 year record of appeasement that goes back to Eisenhower taking the Arab side. Read this:

We’ve helped Muslims over and over again. We’ve help the Egyptians get back the Sinai, Afghanistan fight the USSR, Muslims in the Balkans, Arafat in the West Bank, and Kuwait after Saddam invaded. We’ve been doing what Vlahos has suggested for 50 years and it has failed. Step one: stop the appeasement. Stop helping our enemy.

Fight Yes, Effectiveness isn't Indiscrimate
Reagan, Thatcher and Woytyla defeated the Soviet Union without firing a single shot.

The reason I want to win is so that our descendants don't have to be attached to a philosophy that is inherently brutal and arbitrary. If we simple choose to be brutal and arbitrary, then we've become them.

"America's quest for world domination"???
roy gets more delusional by the day.

Apples and fish.
That's your comparison. Sorry, but that's how I feel.

Do you honestly think that the islamofacists (yea, I said it) could be appeased with what we've seen since 1992?

center of mass
A good rule is to attack the center of mass of your enemy. Truman et al. attacked the Soviet system by attacking their economy, or rather by letting it destroy itself. Now the way, perhaps, to attack terrorism is to attack the structure of the society that supports it. The iraqi/afghani intervention was perhaps intended to do, eventually, just that. That kind of strategy takes time, like the Cold War did.

In the mean time the enemy is, with wholehearted collaboration from the nominal western intelligentsia and most of the media and nearly all of hollywood, attacking our center of mass, our will and its handmaiden, our collective sense of identity. It is going to be a race between which society changes beyond recognition or gives up first, but each time the enemy slaughters a few thousand of our innocents perhaps our will to survive will revive. The enemy may thus enable us to persist. And then maybe not.

The structure of the society that supports terror is ultimately doomed regardless of what we do, by the internet and other measns of contact with other societies.

Even if the US disappeared overnight there would be other influences on islamic fundamentalist (apologies, Dr. Lewis) society which will in a generation change it dramatically, probably so that it will not support terror on so large a scale. It is also possible that the pictures of the women dancing waving ink stained fingers in the air have already decided the issue, but the changes will only become manifest much later.

I think the real issue is whether we will survive to see it happen, in any form that we now would recognize.

A suggestion: We won WWII because and only because the ***** attacked the Soviet Union, and America First became Second Front Now. Unity through external control of a portion of our society? What totalitarian blunder will save us from the western societal death gene and those who are implementing it, this time? Nuclear attack on a US city?

"New," meaning constrained...
If we were to do the Roman Way of warfighting, march out our legions and wipe out the enemy fully, the war on terror would be over already.

But the left, democrats, ACLUeless and UN, the illustrious Useless Nincompoops, won't allow that to happen, even though it is in their best interests as a whole, and that they are afraid to do it themselves. They block our methods of warfighting, not realizing that it is against our ENEMY, not ourselves.

Terrorists Don't attack the world economy
Why haven't the terrorists attacked the world economy?

It would be very easy to disrupt power grids, and do all kinds of subtle mischief costing billions.

Yet they stick to spectacular trasportation attacks.

We were in the middle of an expensive operation to stop the murder of Muslims in Bosnia when we were attacked on 9-1-1. Before that we aided the Muslims in Afganistan to stop the Russians and we got the Taliban. In Gulf War 1 we ran the Sunni led government of Saddam out of Kuwait. Later we Kicked Saddam out of power when he was abusing Shias and Kurds. Now the Shia and Sunni led malitias have turned on us in Iraq. Kuwait and the Kurds are the only group that has paid us back with support. The Saudis let people slip into Iraq to kill our troops.
I really do not feel that negotiating with armed gangs of thugs sponsored by Iran and Syria gets us anywhere. Clinton did that with them in the peace accords and they rejected the sweetest deal ever to be presented to them. They want Israel gone. We just need to make it real clear to them that if anything resembling their rhetoric happens, that the retaliation from us would put Iran and Syria out of business for good. We could negotiate with them how we would put them out of business by either tactical or neuclear means.

Re: Terrorists?
Bravo! Fifty years of appeasement, negotiation, and aid has only embolden them. We’ve tried Mr. Vlahos’ preferred method for 50 years. Now it’s time to move on.

putting them out of business
I suspect that the islamic totalitarians' contempt for us is so deep that they would never believe we would respond with force, even if the force were being applied.

For one thing, there are lots of folks here that keep saying, in effect, "Keep on slaughtering your own women and children for the Western camera crews and ambitious news 'reporters;' persevere as all the people who have defeated the US have persevered, and we will see that you win."

In WWII those folks were mostly silent--some from patriotism, perhaps, and perhaps some by orders from abroad? After 1945 they have been about as noisy as can be, and all, coincidentally of course, with the same theme.

It is so widely known as to need no reference that Stalin called his Western friends "useful fools." It is less widely known that, from the early 1920s, a key Soviet Comintern organizer referred to the International Fronts as "Innocent's Clubs." (Dezinformatsia, by Shultz and Godson, Pergamon-Brassey 1984, p.112.) That sums up the attitude of totalitarians abroad for their supporters here pretty well, I think. I guess I will take their word for it, too. The totalitarians ought to know. Are these "innocent" folks going on their merry way on instructions, even now, or are they just going independently, on the momentum of societal self-hatred and self-loathing?

Beats me, for sure. The problem is, it equates people across several generations simply because of similar behavior, which is suspect. However, if all have perhaps been infected with the same self-destructive meme, maybe they are indeed all of a piece. I am unsure how on earth one would prove it.


I would say
I would offer that according to Dr. Vlahos's theory, the latter gets in the way with the former.
In other words, the willingness of the Americans to win hearts and minds stops them from being the unrestrained destroyers, such as the Romans.
Indeed, the subtext is that Americans have no intentions of world domination. If they did, weak little Syria, for example, would last a few minutes against just a tenth of the unrestrained American warmaking might.

An empire never thinks about an exit strategy.

Pakistan "Backfired Badly"
White House backing new plan to defuse insurrection in Pakistan
by Jonathan S. Landay
McClatchy Newspapers, August 17, 2006

A U.S.-backed plan to defeat Islamist militants in Pakistan's autonomous tribal areas HAS BACKFIRED BADLY, and the Bush administration is working with Pakistan to come up with a new strategy to defuse the insurrection.

...Pakistan deployed 80,000 troops in the areas, which border Afghanistan, at Washington's behest to hunt down bin Laden and his sympathizers and secure Pakistan's side of the border. The Bush administration reportedly has spent nearly $1 billion since 2003 to underwrite the Pakistan army's operations.

But the army's use of artillery and helicopter gunships -- as well as U.S. airstrikes on suspected al-Qaida hideouts -- has KILLED NUMEROUS CIVILIANS AND STOKED POPULAR IRE.

That anger has given rise to a movement for an independent Taliban-style Islamist state. In some parts of the autonomous areas, militants have banned music, set up Islamic courts and executed opponents, including tribal leaders...

...The militants continue harboring al-Qaida fighters and providing recruits and refuge to Taliban rebels fighting in Afghanistan against government, U.S. and NATO forces. Afghan officials accuse Pakistan of doing little to halt cross-border infiltration or to close Taliban bases on its soil, a charge that Islamabad denies.

"I think it's a very shaky situation," Pakistani journalist Ahmed Rashid, the author of the book "Taliban," said in a telephone interview...

What the left has been missing is that we are gradually learning pagan ways
The enormous irony is that the supposedly bloodthirsty conservative right has been struggling to retain the traditions and the restraints of Judeo Christian culture. At the same time the supposedly peace loving libertine left has been working in myriad ways to loose our inner pagan by destroying all vestiges of religious restraint.

Eventually our pagan children or grandchildren will recognize that many currently taboo policy options are perfectly rational from a utilitarian pagan point of view.

Live Free Or Die
In our Constitutionally-protected society, you can't force Christian morality on people who are not Christian.

In our Christian society, you can't force salvation on people who do not voluntarily accept it of their own free will.

Christians are not Romans, but Romans can learn to be Christians.

They're stupid but they did a pretty cost effective job of attacking the world economy on 9/11
Fortunately for us the Islamonuts have a thing about tubular planes and tall erect buildings. Maybe its a freudian thing coming out of their relationships with their mothers.

And they also don't seem to have very good strategic sense in attacking before their patrons get nuclear weapons to give them.

But you can't fault their efficiency in the use of force. The costs to the world economy 9/11 were immense compared to the trivial cost of carrying out the operation (leaving aside the cost to them of dealing with our response which was probably more muscular than they expected).

the author doesn't fully address the challenge of establishing a relationship
When the Romans entered into a 'relationship' with the Visigoths, I am assuming that the Visigoths did not worship death the way that Islamo-***** do.

'As long as your enemy is a real society, a relationship with them is possible.'
I disagree. The death worship among radical Islamists who support Sharia Law, want to reunite the caliphate, support Wahhabism, and believe that Allah is greater whenever a non-believer is killed, does not, to me, represent a 'real society'.

I would like to see a follow up article from Mssr. Vlahos whereby he addresses the issues that Mssr. Cucullu raises in his own TCS article. ( What sort of fruit does Mssr. Vlahos think can come from discussions/relationships/negotiations with mullahs who themselves think that all non-believers are infidels and should either be converted to Islam or killed?

While I hope and pray that the US military is successful in its mission, moderate muslims desperately need to speak out and condemn those who celebrate and worship death.

Who learned from whom?
Actually, Christians, in the 4th century, did learn to be Romans and they embodied all the martial ethos of the Roman Empire in the West for a few centuries and in the East until Constantinople fell in 1453 AD.

When Sherman marched through Georgia, Patton through Europe, no Christian “turn the other cheek” spirit stop them. When Truman unleashed the A-bomb and Conservatives were willing to deploy nukes if the Commies got out of hand, no Christian “love your enemy” spirit stopped them.

We are first and foremost a Greco-Roman culture even if we often wrap our culture in Christian garb. Let’s go back to our Roman roots and learn how to vanquish the enemy with no tears.

if you had reflected on what my post said before commenting you might have noticed. . .
. . . that I made no mention of forcing anyone to be anything. What I did point out is that the right is working to slow the abolition of all restraints while the left is working to ensure that coming generations will have a fully pagan mindset.

To pick one example. I happen to believe that women should have the right to choose not to reproduce if they don't want to. But that doesn't mean it's necessarily a civilizing or restraining thing to carry the logic to infanticide on demand as the left has. There is some reasonableness to the concept that a society which has gone over to the point of justifying millions of abortions as the mere scraping away of inconvenient growths may come to look at other sorts of actions involving the ending of millions of other lives as a mere scraping away of inconvenient growths.

And since you have raised the issue of constitutionality I find it odd that it took judges a couple of hundred years to discover the supposed right of privacy which has turned abortion from a state decided matter into a sacred rite akin to free speech.

Not In His Name
In learning to be Romans, Christians cease being true followers of Christ.

to Caesar the things that are Caesar's.

Sorry man, but
we civilized people have this thing called "separation of church and state".

You can be a subjective Xian and an objective (militarily and politically) Roman.

When you cannot separate these things, then you are becoming one of the Islamonutbundle-like creatures.

Reasonable Pagans
Catholics believe all human life is divinely consecrated -- even criminals, hence their stances against Abortion and Capital Punishment.

But a rational, pluralist society is not constrained by one religious view. Reason dictates that, lacking even a proto-brain, embryos do not deserve the same protections as fetuses. Without even a rudimentary consciousness, embryos are no more alive then a brain-dead body kept alive on life-support.

Nicely put. I bet most Christians would agree.

Great article
Nice work Vlahos. I think this article hits it on the head.

Either we're willing to use tactics like genocide to defeat terrorists or we should be using diplomacy twice as strenuously as military tactics to defeat them (ie. bring peace). There is no other way. And I'm not sure using genocide would work anyway. The world is very small in modern times. The Romans could wipe out a village and distant lands may never even know of it, or care for that matter. Today, news of such an action would be known around the world in days or hours, bringing with it the ire and potential radicalization of other normally moderate people.

It is a distinct failure of our current leaders to not constantly press diplomatic discussions with everyone out there. Hell, our current leaders don't press diplomacy at all until they're forced to. And even then its a person like Condi Rice swooping in to save the day, despite the efforts of idiots like John Bolton who have no idea how to negotiate and make agreements, even though its his job. Why does he have that job anyway?

"Yet in the twisted worldview of American thinking today the very word "relationship" is a codeword for weakness and cowardly softness: "relationship" itself is seen as tantamount to defeat. "You are either with us or against us" is in contrast a ringing declaration. But it allows no room for relationships in-between."

Amen brother.

Separating Government from Church
It is our government -- not our people -- that must be seperated from church.

As a pluralist society, we tolerate Christians who do not choose to accept our nation's egalitarian values. For example, Catholics are free to educate their kids in private that teach "Biblical Truth," the Quakers are free to be Conscientious Objectors of combat, and Mormons are free to engage in religiously-sanctioned bigamist marriages. But the state does require that Catholics pay taxes that support public schools, Quakers pay taxes that fund war, and Mormons pay taxes that fund state regulations against bigamy.

Yet that does not mean each religious group accepts the state being morally justified. Catholics and other true Christians are beholden only to God.

Elective wars
Israel has created its own situation. But for America, involvement in the affairs of others falls into the category of elective wars. And we are best above that fray, tending to our own business.

Before we started our recent wars we generally enjoyed a positive reputation in the eyes of the public in Muslim nations. Egyptians, Lebanese, to a lesser degree Jordanians and Saudis, all looked up to us and wanted to be like us. This respect and sympathy only increased after 9-11.

Tell me what we have gained by going to war with Iraq on the basis of... I'm not sure what. We have lost the moral high ground in the eyes of the world's Muslims and will be a very long time in earning it back.

One's reputation is a valuable asset. And as the Good Sisters so often told us, it is something easily lost and not readily regained. We could start by not taking sides in wars and conquests that don't concern us.

To be fair
Moderate Muslims may be speaking out on a daily basis but that would not get too much press coverage. Everytime the whacky President of Iran says something treatening or stupid, it is all over the press. Just like whacko Hugo Chavez.

Interesting - but I question one aspect which has also appeared in other posts
You wrote "The Romans could wipe out a village and distant lands may never even know of it"

Others have also cited modern communications as a reason we can't behave like the Romans. But communication was pretty good in Roman days, and the Romans also had no compunction about bringing back back captives to sell as slaves, slaughter in the arena or crucify for the edification of passersby along roads. They also had no compunction about honoring generals who returned after taking war to the extent of sowing fields with salt so as to prevent even repopulation of an area. Finally the Romans often carried out actions with special brutality specifically in order to convey lessons to other subject peoples and to reinforce understanding of the standard Roman rule that "no one does me harm with impunity."

One doubts they would have done such things if their actions were governed by the same attitudes as our own.

I suspect an unreconstructed Roman would view todays CNN images in a whole different light than we view them. In this respect the Islamists are much more "Roman" in their outlook than we are.

nobody would ever know of it????
Even in Roman times, you could never catch 100% of a village. There were always people off tending flocks and fields.

Even if you did manage to catch everybody, the idea that nobody from any nearby village would ever again visit the village, if for no other reason, to find out why the messages had stopped, was absurd.

Finally, what's the point of terrorizing a population, if you go to great lengths to make sure that the population doesn't find out about your dastardly deeds?

Bob, you really need to sit down and think before you post.

The slippery slope
There you go again.

Who will decide who is conscious and when? How do you know? What proof do you have?

A rational society, if it values life, would give the benefit of any doubt to life.

Of course, our irrational society, has decided that a purely subjective standard of 'quality of life' is more important than any objective standard of life.

Better to kill everyone off by the age of 21 so they don't have to have their quality of life reduced by age. (Remember Logan's Run?)

A matter of personal opinion
If by Americans you refer to the crowd currently in power, they have neither the ability nor the intention to win any hearts or minds. They're just not the sort to think about that approach. All they want is a convenient war, so they can get re-elected by a fearful people who huddle hopefully behind them for safety.

As I recall, the Romans weren't so hot at destroying alien peoples. In fact they ended up being swamped under successive hordes of Avars, Vandals, Suevi, Goths both Ostro- and Visi-, and assorted barbarian tribes. Fifth century Rome was run by brutes who couldn't even write, but became "Roman" generals nonetheless.

If you feel our failure to aggress against dinky little Syria is proof of our noble intentions, you haven't been following the unfolding chess game as closely as I have. That would not be a good move for the party in power.

Solid Science
"Who will decide who is conscious and when?"

* In regards to the supernatural (soul, spirit, etc.) religion decides.

* In regards to Science, clinical and experimental data decides.

* In regards to Politics, Congress and the Courts decide.

"How do you know? What proof do you have?"

By now it's common knowledge that Consciousness is a manifestation of the brain. Aspects of it can be altered, even shut-down, with the use of various drugs or by illness, trauma and/or damage.

UCSC researchers discover key gene linked to evolution of brain
by Roger Sideman
Santa Cruz Sentinel, August 17, 2006

The researchers have discovered a gene (HAR1F) they believe may have played a role in the evolution of the CEREBRAL CORTEX, the part of the brain that harbors consciousness and "thinking," and may explain the rapid expression of human intelligence. In 5 million years, a relatively small amount of evolutionary time, this part of the brain has developed much faster than the rest of our genetic makeup. The findings, published today in the journal Nature, were co-authored by UCSC's David Haussler, who leads a 50-member team at the university's Center for Biomolecular Science and Engineering.

...Genes in most species hardly change over millions of years. But some time after the human lineage diverged from its last common ancestor, something in between human and chimpanzee, HAR1F began to change rather dramatically. "We found 18 differences between chimps and humans, which is an incredible amount of change to have happened in a few million years," said Katherine Pollard.

...Gene HAR1F didn't exist until 300 million years ago, according to researchers, but it somehow developed in mammals and birds, not fish or animals without backbones. Salama wouldn't speculate whether the research might eventually spark any sort of medical applications, but she noted that defects in brain development that lead to disorders such as schizophrenia could be more easily tracked.

Would you bet your life...
...that science has ALL of the answers?

Betting on the Brain
"...that science has ALL of the answers?"


But I would bet my life that consciousness arises from the processes of the brain.

How accurately can you measure it?
Would you bet your life that someone else can measure that consciousness well enough to know if 'you' were still in there?

Intraoperative awareness.
" "I remember just screaming and screaming, 'This is killing me,' but it was only in my head," Williams recalled. "It was like I was being buried alive."

Williams, who said he drifted in and out of consciousness during the three-hour operation, is a victim of an uncommon, largely unrecognized and often psychologically devastating experience known as anesthesia awareness, or intraoperative awareness. "

Science knows all about consciousness!

A How To:
The Determinination of Death
Eugene F. Diamond, M. D., Professor of Pediatrics. Loyola University
Linacre Quarterly, 1989

Appendix I: A Model Algorithm for Determining Death by Neurological Criteria

Is the patient in deep coma (no eye opening. no spontaneous movement, and no response other than spinal cord reflexes to noxious stimuli) and on a respirator not showing respiratory effort?
Does neurological exam confirm absence of brain stem reflexes including papillary, corneal, oculocephalic (doll’s eyes), oculovestibular (50 ml iced water irrigation into external auditory canal), corneal, gag, and cough reflexes?
No--If not possible to evaluate all reflexes, continue protocol, but at some point do cerebral blood flow study or EEG (helpful mostly if it shows activity) or consider consultation with someone with experience in the determination of death by neurological criteria.

If Yes,

Is patient over 5 years old?
No--If not experienced in the determination of death by neurological criteria in children, consider consultation with a specialist.

If Yes,

Is etiology of coma known (e.g., trauma, stroke, or hypoxia/ ischemla)?
No--Elucidate cause (which may require CT or MRI scan and/or Intracranial arteriography or consultation).

If Yes,

Is patient free of alcohol, barbiturates, other de pressant drugs neuromuscular blockade, uremia, or other severe metabolic abnormalities that may impair neurological function?
No--Wait until documented elimination of drug or correction of metabolic abnormalities or consider cerebral blood flow study or EEG (helpful mostly if it shows activity) or consider consultation.

If Yes,

Does patient have temperature above 90 degrees Fahrenheit (32 degrees Celsius) and systolic blood pressure above 90 mm Hg?
No--Correct hypothermia and raise blood pressure or consider cerebral blood flow study or consultation.

If Yes,

Is patient free of conditions that might impair ventilatory threshold to hypercarbia and hypoxia (e.g., COPD, CHP)?
No-Do cerebral blood flow study or EEG or consider consultation.

If Yes,

Test for apnea (no spontaneous respirations with pCO2 >60 mm Hg).
No--If any respiratory effort, patient is not dead.
No--Inadequate test if arrhythmia or hypotension or other untoward effects before pCO2 >60. Do cerebral blood flow study or EEG or consider consultation.

If Yes,

Confirm that brain function is absent and Irreversible by an~ one of the following.
1. At any time, four- vessel intracranial angiography, if no flow, patient is dead.
2. During initial 6 hours after loss of brain function radionuclide cerebral angiography. If no flow confirm death by clinical examination including apnea test, at 6 hours. (Radionudlide angiography can be used as a confirmatory test after this period as well.)
3. At end of initial 6 hours alter loss of brain stem function, EEG. If electrocerebral silence at least hours after loss of neurological activity, confirm death by clinical examination, including apnea test.
4. At the end of initial l2 hours after loss of brain function, if the cause of coma is clearly established and is other than hypoxia and if clinical examination including apnea test again shows no brain function, the patient is dead. Addition tests are not required.
5. At the end of the initial 24 hours after loss of brain function, if the cause of coma is hypoxia/chemia to the brain and if clinical examination including apnea test again shows no brain activity, and if the rest of the protocol has been satisfied, the patient is dead. Additional tests are not required.

Documentation: Complete documentation in the hospital record is essential and should include the date and time of initial clinical evaluation including apnea test, the results pertinent laboratory tests and confirmatory tests done, and date and time of the final clinical evaluation including apnea test. This can be accomplished either by a written note or using a form.

No Brain, No Consciousness
"Anesthesia Awareness" is a phenomena of a LIVING BRAIN.

Re-Oriented Goals for Kumbayah Discussions with Islamofascists
As I read the last paragraph of redefining our desired outcomes through holding hands, chanting to the forests and beating drums with the leaders of the Islamofascists, the words "Dhimmitude" and "Surrender" loudly clamour in my skull.

Engaging religious fanatics in productive discussions is a very futile effort, especially when they can hide behind their haditha and suras that claim anything is fair game in pursuit of jihad including lying, dissembling while putting a knife in the neck of your child.

Quite frankly, the ROW (rest of world) is in a bind regarding emboldened Islamofascists in light of the obvious weakening of the moral fiber of the United States.

No Ghosts then?
Once the brain is dead the consciousness dies too?

All the people who have seen and recorded images of ghosts and the mediums that talk to spirits are all kooks?

"But what few may realize is Dubois' prime power - making contact with people after death - has been subjected to three years of UA research scientifically designed to determine if she is an authentic "medium" or a fraud.
Although the studies have stirred controversy nationwide and have been slammed by several skeptics, the Harvard-trained UA professor who ran them strongly defends their legitimacy, as does Dubois."

Doctor's thought the patient was NOT conscious

True That Sully
I think you're right SullyA. The point that Romans were simply more animalistic or primitive in their brutality is a much larger point than the idea that Roman communication systems were more primitive than today. But the fact that news can travel the entire world in a matter of hours is a consideration.

I think humans have evolved, our sense of morality is much more refined today compared to times of the Romans. I think we've learned from acts of brutality throughout history and decided we're going to be better than that. Heck, even in just the past 70 years or so the rules we apply to ourselves in war have changed dramatically.

Its interesting, life is so much easier for us humans today compared to Roman times, but life is still not easy.

This is kinda funny, a few years ago I came up with the idea to bring back the Roman colisseums. With sports like UFC, etc. gaining in popularity I thought it was time to bring back gladiator contests, fights to the death. My friends thought I was crazy. Maybe the public isn't ready for it yet.

Romans and moderns
I think the only reason we shrink form using harsh methods today, is because we feel safe. The bombs in market places, the torture videas, and so on - they just don't seem real when you are sitting in a comfy room in America or Europe. When London was bombed in WWII they opted for a disproportionate response. When Indians attacked white settlers in America, Amercians repsonded with "Roman methods" (I would prefer Jacksonain methods). People are basically no different than in ancient times, but cultures change is all.

Vae victus
Never mind Rome. The US succesfully won similar wars against native peoples and defeated a Muslim insurgency in the Phillipines. The methods employed were ugly, but in the end winning is what counts.

IN 17th and 18th century North America the native nations were stronger than the European powers. All factions negotiated and had shifting alliances and so on. When the new USA was in a stronger military postion, she succesfully exploited that. No mystery!

I think the Israelis should have done an ethnic cleansing operation in Lebanon. They should have used most of their army to forcibly remove the entire population South of the Litani River. The Croats did that with the Serbs in their new/old country succesfuly with an assist from the Clinton administration.

Ghosts Busted
"All the people who have seen and recorded images of ghosts and the mediums that talk to spirits are all kooks?"


Well, some may be delusional, others liars, but most simply want to believe in a world of ghosts and spirits -- like well-meaning but ignorant children.

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