Category Archives: History

Learning from the past

Martin van Creveld: A history of the turmoil in the Holy Land (you can’t understand the action without it)

Summary: Today Martin van Creveld gives a timeline of modern history for the “Holy Land” , putting present events in a larger context. While the struggle with jihadists has overshadowed that between Irsrael and Palestine, it remains a front line in the dispute between the West and East. We ignore it at our peril.

Protester with knife at Gaza

A masked Palestinian at a protest near the fence between Gaza & Israel (photo: REUTERS).

Turmoil in the Holy Land

By Martin van Creveld
From his website, 22 October 2015
Posted with his generous permission

The Holy Land is in a turmoil. Certainly not for the first time, and almost certainly not for the last. For those of you who have forgotten, here is a brief timetable of the Palestinian-Jewish/Israeli conflict over the last century or so.

1860 –              Palestine, divided into three separate districts that also include parts of what today are neighboring countries, is governed by “the Unspeakable Turk.” Perhaps 80 percent of the population is Arab, mainly Sunni. But there are also some Christians—around 15 percent—and Jews. Christians and Jews are treated as Dimnis, second-rate people with fewer rights than Muslims.

1860 –              Following the Crimean War the Porte comes under pressure by the Western Powers. The latter demand, and obtain, concessions for their own citizens who live in Palestine as well a native Christians and Jews. As a result of the “Capitulations,”, as they are known, these minorities start drawing ahead.

1881 –              Jewish immigrants, mainly from Russia, start arriving and establish some new settlements. Right from the beginning, these settlements come under attack by local Bedouin who have always lived by plundering the peasantry. Thus the immediate background to the clashes is not political but socio-economic.

1897                The First Zionist Congress is held in Basel.

1904-1914       The so-called “Second Wave” of Jewish immigrants starts arriving. Zionist activists buy land, often from absentee landowners who live as far away as Beirut. The local fellaheen, seeing the land on which they have lived for centuries sold from under their feet, try to resist.

1914                Turkey join World War I on the side of the Central Powers.

1917                The Balfour Declaration, in which His Britannic Majesty’s Government recognizes the Jews right to a “National Home” in Palestine, is issued. As a result, the conflict, while still mixed up with economic, social, and religious issues, becomes political par excellence. Two peoples—“Arabs” (not Palestinians, a name that only gained wide currency during the 1960s) and Jews claim ownership over the same land. As they still do.

1918                The end of World War I leaves Palestine, along with Jordan and Iraq, firmly in British hands.

1920-21           The first Palestinian Arab Uprising, directed against the Balfour Declaration as well as the Jewish settlement.

1922                Winston Churchill, in his capacity a Colonial Secretary, arrives. He and his staff draw the borders between Palestine and the neighboring countries.

1929                Another Palestinian Uprising, triggered by a conflict over the Wailing Wall, breaks out. It is directed against both the British and the Jews. It is suppressed, but not before two Jewish communities, the ancient one at Hebron and the new one at Motza, right across the road from where I live, are wiped out.

1936-39           “The Arab Revolt” (note that people still speak of Arabs, not Palestinians). It, too, is directed against both the British and the Hews. It, too, is suppressed. But not before London makes important concessions. Those include 1. An end to Jewish land-purchases. 2. Limits on Jewish immigration, which from this point on is to bring in no more than 15,000 people per year for five years. 3. A promise of “evolution towards independence” within ten years.

1947-48           On 1 December 1947, a day after the UN decides to partition the country, the Jews and Arabs of Palestine go to war. By the middle of June, by which time the remaining British have withdrawn and the State of Israel has been official proclaimed, the Arabs have been substantially defeated. Armed intervention by the neighboring Arab states, aimed at assisting their brothers, also fails to achieve its purpose. By the time the war ends in January 1949 some 600,000 Palestinian Arabs, about half of the Arab population west of the Jordan, have been turned into refugees. The State of Israel is an established fact. However, it does not include either the Gaza Strip, which comes under Egyptian military rule, or the West Bank, which is annexed by Jordan.

1967                The June 1967 Six Days War brings the Gaza Strip, with an estimated 500,000 people, and the West Bank, with an estimated 1,500,000, under Israeli rule. With the west Bank comes East Jerusalem which from this point on becomes the focus of the conflict. Since then the population of these two territories combined has grown to an estimated 4,000,000.

1977                The Right Wing Herut (later Likud) Party comes to power in Israel. The number of Jewish settlers in the West Bank, which until then was very small, starts skyrocketing.

1979                The Camp David Agreement between Israel and Egypt proposes a negotiated settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict within five years. In practice, though, nothing happens.

1987                In December the first Palestinian uprising, or Intifada, breaks out. At first it takes the form of demonstrations and mass riots. Later there are stabbings, shootings, and some bombs.

1993                Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Palestinian Liberation Front (PLO) leader Yasser Arafat sign the Oslo Agreements. Parts of the West Bank come under Palestinian rule; parts, under mixed rule; and parts remain strictly under Israeli control. The Agreements also provide for a five-year transitional period during which the parties will try to end the conflict.

2000                No progress has been made towards finding a solution. Triggered by a visit by former Israeli Minister of Defense Ariel Sharon to the Temple Mount, the second Intifada breaks out. Its hallmark is suicide bombings. By 2004 it is more or less suppressed with enormous damage to the West Bank City of Jenin in particular.

2005-6             The Israeli Government, under Ariel Sharon, withdraws its forces from the Gaza Strip. The latter comes under a Palestinian Faction known a Hamas. Hamas chases the PLO out of Gaza and vows to continue “resisting” Israel, which is “besieging” the Strip by exercising strict control over the movement of people and goods. In response, Hamas fires mortar rounds and rockets, later missiles, into Israeli territory.

2006-14           Repeatedly, Israel launches military operations in an attempt to put an end to Hamas’ attacks. Repeatedly, it fails. Still, Operation Protective Edge, which was launched in July 2014 and wrought vast destruction in Gaza, does seem to have taught Hamas a lesson of sorts. Since then the border, though not quite peaceful, has been relatively calm.

2015                The third Intifada, whose hallmark so far has been knifings carried out by individuals, breaks out.

The outlook

Eight times during the last century — 1920-21, 1929, 1936-39, 1947-48,1987-93, 2000-2005, 2008-14 (Gaza), and 2016 — did the Palestinian Arabs try to match whatever armed forces they had against those the British Empire/the Jewish Community in/Palestine/Israel. To no avail, since Israel, its Jewish population having grown almost a hundredfold during the same period.

With one of the world’s more powerful armed forces, it still continues to “besiege” the Gaza Strip and occupy the West Bank. This is an Ur-clash between two peoples that claim the same land. Even should the present disturbances come an end, a political solution of any kind is not in sight.

What should be done

Speaking as an Israeli now, given that real peace is out of reach for a long, long time to come, there seem to be two courses. The first would be for my country to complete the wall it has built around the West Bank in such a way as to get rid as of many Palestinians, specifically including most of those who live in East Jerusalem, as possible. That done, it should tell the settlers it is withdrawing and take as many of them as possible along. If, after that, the Palestinians in the West Bank still cause trouble, then Israel should deal with them as it dealt with Gaza in 2014. This has long been my own position; however, unless pressure is applied form outside it is very unlikely to happen.

The second would be to hope for the collapse of the Hashemite Kingdom and its occupation by Daesh or some similar organization. That would create an opportunity to repeat the events of 1948 and throw the Palestinians of the West Bank across the River Jordan. This is the “solution” a great many Israelis secretly favor. And the longer the present uprising lasts, the larger their number will grow.

What will it be?


About the Author

Martin van Creveld

Martin van Creveld is Professor Emeritus of History at Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and one of the world’s most renowned experts on military history and strategy.

The central role of Professor van Creveld in the development of theory about modern war is difficult to exaggerate. He has provided both the broad historical context — looking both forward and back in time — much of the analytical work, and a large share of the real work in publishing both academic and general interest books. He does not use the term 4GW, preferring to speak of “non-trinitarian” warfare — but his work is foundational for 4GW just the same.

Professor van Creveld has written 20 books, about almost every significant aspect of war. He has written about the history of war, such as The Age of Airpower. He has written about the tools of war: Technology and War: From 2000 B.C. to the Present.

Some of his books discuss the methods of war: Supplying War: Logistics from Wallenstein to Patton, Training of Officers: From Military Professionalism to Irrelevance, and Air Power and Maneuver Warfare.

He has written two books about Israel: Defending Israel: A Controversial Plan Toward Peace and The Sword And The Olive: A Critical History Of The Israeli Defense Force.

Perhaps most important are his books examine the evolution of war, such as Nuclear Proliferation and the Future of Conflict, The Transformation of War: The Most Radical Reinterpretation of Armed Conflict Since Clausewitz (IMO the best work to date about modern war), The Changing Face of War: Combat from the Marne to Iraq, and (my favorite) The Culture of War.

He’s written controversial books, such as Fighting Power: German and U.S. Army Performance, 1939-1945 (German soldiers were better than our!) and Men, Women & War: Do Women Belong in the Front Line?.

He’s written one of the most influential books of our generation about war, his magnum opus — the dense but mind-opening The Rise and Decline of the State – the ur-text describing the political order of the 21st century.

For links to his articles see The Essential 4GW reading list: Martin van Creveld.

For More Information

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50 years ago the Battle at Ia Drang began our war in Vietnam. What have we learned since then?

Summary: Fifty years ago today American troops fought their first major battle in Vietnam. The lessons both sides learned from the battle set the course of the war. History shows whose analysis proved more accurate. We have concluded the first phase of our post-9/11 wars, proving that we’ve forgotten the lessons of Vietnam. As the next phase begins we have the opportunity to do better. But only if we begin to learn from our experiences.  {2nd of 2 posts today.}

Soldier at Ia Drang. Major Crandall's UH-1D in the background.

Soldiers at Ia Drang. Major Crandall’s UH-1D in the background. US Army photo.

On this day in 1965 the 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile) flew to the Ia Drang Valley of Vietnam, initiating the first major battle between the North Vietnamese and American armies. This marked our transition from advisers to direct combatants.

Fifty years later we again have lessons from battles fought by our military in a distant land. Again all sides devise plans for the future. Lest we forgot, Ia Drang holds profound lessons for us today.

The quotes in this post come from one of the great works about the Vietnam War: We Were Soldiers Once…and Young: Ia Drang – The Battle That Changed the War in Vietnam, by Harold G. Moore (Lt. General, US Army, retired) and journalist Joseph L. Galloway. I strongly recommend reading it.  For more information about the battle, see the Wikipedia entry.

What happened at Ia Drang?

Ia Drang tested the new concept of air assault, in which helicopters inserted troops to a distant battlefield, then supplied and extracted them. During that four day “test” 234 American men died, “more Americans than were killed in any regiment, North or South, at the Battle of Gettysburg, and far more than were killed in combat in the entire Persian Gulf War.” Both sides drew optimistic conclusions from the result.

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A Chinese general sees a ruthless America striving to contain his nation’s growth

Summary: This series of posts provides excerpts from a recent speech by Qiao Liang, a Major General in the People’s Liberation Army. These give a glimpse into the thinking of China’s elites, unlike the US-centric perspective provided by our news media. In part 3 he gives his big picture view of the decade’s global geopolitics. As in part 2, he sees the US as a ruthless hegemon in decline — fighting to maintain its control over the world by containing its greatest rival: China. There’s enough truth in this to worry everybody; these struggles often end badly.

Globe and China Flag

Speech by Qiao Liang (乔良): part three
Major General in the People’s Liberation Army

Given at a study forum of the Chinese Communist Party, April 2015
Reported and translated by Chinascope
Reposted with their generous permission

C. Now, It Is Time to Harvest China

It was as precise as the tide; the U.S. dollar was strong for six years. Then, in 2002, it started getting weak. Following the same pattern, it stayed weak for ten years. In 2012, the Americans started to prepare to make it strong. They used the same approach: create a regional crisis for other people.

Therefore, we saw that several events happened in relation to China: the Cheonan sinking event {2010}, the dispute over the Senkaku Islands (Diaoyu Islands in Chinese), and the dispute over Scarborough Shoal (the Huangyan Island in Chinese). {The latter two are long-standing disputes.} All these happened during this period. The conflict between China and the Philippians over Huangyan Island and the conflict between China and Japan over the Diaoyu Islands, might not appear to have much to do with the U.S. dollar index, but was it really that case? Why did it happen exactly in the tenth year of the U.S. dollar being weak?

Unfortunately, the U.S. played with too much fire [in its own mortgage market] earlier and got itself into a financial crisis in 2008. This delayed the timing of the U.S. dollar’s hike a bit.

If we acknowledge that there is a U.S. dollar index cycle and the Americans use this cycle to harvest from other countries, then we can conclude that it was time for the Americans to harvest China. Why? Because China had obtained the largest amount of investment from the world. The size of China’s economy was no longer the size of a single county; it was even bigger than the whole of Latin America and about the same size as East Asia’s economy.

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A Chinese general judges America’s leadership of the world economy

Summary: This series of posts provides excerpts from a recent speech by Qiao Liang, a Major General in the People’s Liberation Army. They give a glimpse into the thinking of China’s elites, unlike the US-centric perspective provided by our news media. Here the General looks at America’s leadership of the world economy, and its effects on emerging nations. He judges us harshly.

Globe and China Flag

Speech by Qiao Liang (乔良): part 2
Major General in the People’s Liberation Army

Given at a study forum of the Chinese Communist Party, April 2015
Reported and translated by Chinascope
Reposted with their generous permission.

B. The Relationship between the U.S. Dollar Index Cycle and the Global Economy

This financial economy (using money to make money) is much easier than the real (industry-based) economy. Why will it bother with manufacturing industries that have only low value-adding capabilities? Since August 15, 1971, the U.S. has gradually stopped its real economy and moved into a virtual economy. It has become an “empty” economy state. Today’s U.S. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) has reached US$18 trillion, but only $5 trillion is from the real economy.

… Many people think that imperialism stopped after the U.K. became weak. Actually, the U.S. has conducted a hidden imperialism through the U.S. dollar and has made other countries its financial colony.

… A lot of U.S. dollars went to Latin America … {creating} the economic boom in Latin America in the 1970s. The U.S. dollar index started climbing in 1979. Dollars flew back to the U.S. and other regions received fewer dollars. Latin America’s economy boomed due to an ample supply of dollar investment, but this suddenly stopped as its investments dried up.

… The Latin American economy dropped to the bottom. … Some {Americans} took the money they just made and went back to Latin America to buy the good assets whose prices had just fallen to the ground. The U.S. harvested handsomely from Latin America’s economy.

If this had happened only once, it could be argued as a small probability event. As it has occurred repeatedly, it indicates an intended pattern.

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The American Empire, as seen by a Major General of the PLA

Summary: This series of posts provides excerpts from a recent speech by Qiao Liang, a Major General in the People’s Liberation Army. These give a glimpse into the thinking of China’s elites, unlike the US-centric perspective provided by our news media. Like any good speech, it grows more interesting as it unfolds. In part one the general describes the foundation of America’s Empire. A brief analysis follows the text.

Globe and China Flag

Speech by Qiao Liang (乔良): part one
Major General in the People’s Liberation Army

Given at a study forum of the Chinese Communist Party, April 2015
Reported and translated by Chinascope
Reposted with their generous permission.

A. The First Financial Empire in History

… On August 15, 1971, when the U.S. dollar stopped being pegged to gold, the dollar ship threw away its anchor, which was gold.

Let’s take a step back. In July 1944, to help the U.S. to take over the currency hegemony from the British Empire, President Roosevelt pushed for three world systems: the political system – the United Nations; the trade system – the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), which later became the World Trade Organization (WTO); and the currency financial system – the Bretton Woods system.

The Americans’ desire was to establish the U.S. dollar’s hegemony over the world via the Bretton Woods system. However, from 1944 to 1971, the dollar didn’t gain that power. What blocked the dollar? It was gold.

When the Bretton Woods system was set up, the U.S. promised the world that the U.S. dollar would be pegged to gold while every other country’s currency could peg to the dollar. One ounce of gold was fixed at US$35. With this promise, the U.S. couldn’t do anything according to its own will. In other words, the Americans couldn’t print an unlimited number of dollars. Whenever it printed a dollar bill, it had to add one additional ounce of gold into its treasury as a reserve.

The U.S. made that promise to the world because it held 80% of the world’s gold reserve at that time. The Americans thought that, with that much gold in hand, it was enough to support the U.S. dollar’s credibility.

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On Labor Day remember those who worked and bled to create the middle class

Summary: We take the growth of a prosperous middle class as the just due of Americans. In fact generations of union activism played the largest role in creating it, it existed for only a few generations, and now dies. On this Labor Day let’s revisit the lost history of the union movement, and consider lessons we can learn from it.

“To remember the loneliness, the fear and the insecurity of men who once had to walk alone in huge factories, beside huge machines. To realize that labor unions have meant new dignity and pride to millions of our countrymen. To be able to see what larger pay checks mean, not to a man as an employee, but as a husband and as a father. To know these things is to understand what American labor means.”

— Adlai Stevenson’s speech to the American Federation of Labor in NYC on 22 Sept. 1952.

Union: bargain or beg


  1. The rise and Fall of America’s Middle Class.
  2. Throwing away what as gained over 150 years.
  3. For More Information.
  4. A note from our past.


(1) Rise & Fall of America’s Middle Class

Since 1990 wages are falling as a share of Gross Domestic Income (GDI); profits are rising. The reasons are complex, the result has by now become unmistakable: a shift of our national income from return on labor to return on capital. Since the nation’s wealth is so highly concentrated, the result is rising inequality of income.

Wages as a share of Gross Domestic Income: down and falling. The actual picture for workers is far worse than this, since these “wages” includes the vast sums paid to senior corporate managers — sums beyond anything seen until 1980s.

FRED: wages' share of gross domestic income

Profits as a share of Gross Domestic Income: the long drop reversed, like so many things, during the 1980s. Since then it’s been a holiday for plutocrats.

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William Lind: a voice from the past explains our broken army

Summary: We applaud the heroism and sacrifices of our troops, but remain blind to the incapacity of our army. Here William Lind explains our military’s core problem and how to fix it. Only our intervention will make this possible (excerpt through crushing defeat, as happened to Prussia).

“The spirit of the army is the spirit of its officers.”
— Attributed to Prussian General Ernst von Rüchel (1754-1823).

Samuel Pepys by John Hayls (1666).

Samuel Pepys by John Hayls (1666). The National Gallery.


A Voice From the Past

By William S. Lind

From traditionalRIGHT
25 August 2015

Here with their generous permission


Last year, friends gave me a splendid Christmas present in the form of all ten volumes of The Diary of Samuel Pepys covering the years 1660-1670. (As if that were insufficient, they accompanied it with a richly decorated chamber pot for the Imperial Library). Pepys, a civilian, was primarily responsible for developing the first modern naval administration, which turned a collection of ships into the Royal Navy.

The diary’s entry for July 4, 1663, touches on a broader matter. After visiting a general muster of the King’s Guards, Pepys wrote,

Where a goodly sight to see so many fine horse and officers, and the King, Duke (of York) and others come by a-horseback . . . (I) did stand to see the horse and foot march by and discharge their guns, to show a French Marquesse (for whom this muster was caused) the goodness of our firemen; which endeed was very good . . . yet methought all these gay men are not soldiers that must do the King’s business, it being such as these that lost the old King (Charles I) all he had and were beat by the most ordinary fellows that could be.

Pepys’ theme, the defeat of parade-ground armies by “most ordinary fellows”, is an old one. It appears to be unknown to our own military, or, more likely, they know it but cannot conceive it applies to them.

But it does. With all their vastly expensive equipment, they can put on a wonderful show, shows such as Gulf War I and the initial phase of Gulf War II. But once they no longer face another king’s Royal Guards and come up against those ordinary fellows, they lose. The U.S. Marines, who put on a show all the time, and a very convincing one, are now 0-4 against guys in bathrobes and flip-flops armed with rusty AKs. Pepys’ age-old theme repeats itself.

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