Martin van Creveld looks at Amazons: women warriors in the real world

Summary: Martin van Creveld looks at the accounts of women soldiers from the ancient Amazons to modern armies, cutting away the myths to real the facts. It’s a timely analysis, with the US radically revising the role of women in our military.

Peshmerga Women

Peshmerga Women by Jan Sefti. Published under a Creative Commons License.


By Martin van Creveld. From his website, 27 August 2015
Posted with his generous permission

I get feedback on my articles. For that I am grateful; it makes me think. Recently someone took issue with my claim that, in the military, where there are women there are no bullets and where there are bullets there are no women. How about the brave Kurdish women who are fighting Daesh? Don’t they make up 30-35%?

30-35% of what? I asked. After all, women make up nearly 30% of the Israel Defense Force. Nevertheless, in the so-called Second Lebanon War of 2006, 130 male soldiers were killed against just one female. The 66 IDF soldiers who died in operation Protective Edge in 2014 did not include a single woman. So just what do 30-35% mean?

Regarding the fighting Kurdish troops  he answered rather brusquely. In support he sent these sites:

I opened them. They did not mention any figures on the ratio of brave Kurdish fighting females to brave Kurdish fighting males. And the headline? “No Frontline Deployment for Female Kurdish Troops.”

What the article did say was that, in a place called Dobruk, there is or was a colonel who commanded “a 30-woman unit.” Strange, that: since when do colonels command platoons? Isn’t their job to command brigades in which there are normally 27 platoons as well as other units? Never mind.

The purpose of the unit? “To show,” says the colonel, “that we are different from IS, which will never let women fight.” In other words, propaganda. Though whom the propaganda is intended for, the Kurds themselves or their slavering Western admirers, is left unsaid.

That business disposed of, I decided to do a little research. And yes, I did find a Reuters photo report titled, “Kurdish women fighters wage war on Islamic State in Iraq.” It claimed that women made up some 30%. Thirty percent of exactly what? Military personnel (assuming that, in a place like Kurdistan, there is a clear distinction between the military and civilians)? All kinds of support troops? Fighters who actually hold a gun, fire at the enemy, and are fired at in return? The article provides no answers. What it does provide are nice-looking pictures of women posing with Kalashnikov assault rifles. So do a great many similar sites.

The words “photo report” are important. Many years ago, Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels used to tell his public that “pictures do not lie.” That, of course, was itself the greatest lie of all. I do not want to imply that Reuters was lying. Only that doing so with the aid of pictures is, if anything, easier than with words.

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How climate change can help the GOP win in 2016

Summary: Republicans have adopted a purely negative platform for dealing with climate change, a difficult to explain policy that puts them in opposition to most scientists. This post describes an alternative platform, one that is consistent with their principles, easy to explain, appealing to undecided voters, and cuts through the chaff of factional bickering. It’s the kind of policy that helps create coalitions that win elections.

“… a genuine leader is not a searcher for consensus, but a molder of consensus.”
— Martin Luther King’s speech “Remaining Awake Through a Great Revolution“, at the Episcopal National Cathedral in Washington on 31 March 1968.

Republicans Flag


  1. GOP weakness on climate change
  2. An agenda for the 21st century.
  3. Conclusions.
  4. Other posts in this series.
  5. For more information.

(1) The Republicans’ weak stance on climate change

The Republicans have ceded the politics of climate change to the Democrats. The only mention of it in the 2012 Republican platform is trivial…

“Finally, the strategy subordinates our national security interests to environmental, energy, and international health issues, and elevates “climate change” to the level of a “severe threat” equivalent to foreign aggression.”

So far the GOP’s 2016 presidential candidates have little to say about it. I see no policy statements about climate change on the issues pages of campaign websites for Rick Santorum, Jeb Bush, Ben Carson, Mike Huckabee, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, and Rand Paul.

Carly Fiorina says that the solution to climate change is “innovation not regulation”, without many details (her website points to video clip here, and here). She also says — logically — that California should have prepared better for the drought — although her specific recommendations are illogical: more dams and water infrastructure (ineffective and too expensive to cope with multi-year droughts) and massive destruction of California’s ecology (e.g., damage to key species such as the delta smelt — calling it unimportant because it’s a “small fish”).

When questioned, Republican candidates tend to respond with evasions and half-understood techno-babble (even if they understood it, the public would not) — or just deny the problem (see responses at the CNN debate). There is a better way, one consistent with their commitment to a strong defense and a sound infrastructure for America.

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The Fed sees a darkening future – and the key fact about our economy

Summary: Today’s economic forecast by the Fed gives us another dose of bad news, wrongly overshadowed by their decision not to raise interest rates (resulting from it). Ignore economists’ guessing about the next tick up or down in the economy. The key insight is that America can’t grow fast but cannot afford to slow.  {2nd of 2 posts today.}

Fast Snail



  1. A darkening Fed forecast
  2. America in the “coffin corner”
  3. For More Information

(1)  A darkening Fed forecast

The Fed’s forecasts get too little attention, although they play a large role in the setting of Fed monetary policy. Since the crash the Fed has started its out-year forecasts high, and then dropped them at an accelerating rate as they approach the present. The high end of 2015 has fallen 40% vs. a fall of only 4% for 2017. Hope dies slowly.

  • 2015 from 3.0 – 3.8% in Sept 2012 to 2.0% – 2.3% now.
  • 2016 from 2.5 – 3.3% in Sept 2013 to 2.2% – 2.6% now.
  • 2017 from 2.3 – 2.5% in Sept 2014 to 2.0% – 2.4% now.
  • 2018 started at 1.8% – 2.2% (median of 2.0%).

As this graph shows, since the crash GDP has swung between 1% and 3%. When GDP falls below 2% the odds of a recession rise rapidly. This recovery already has had two close calls. The Fed responded to the slowdown that began in Q4 2010 with QE2 (Nov 2010), and to the slowing  that began in Q2 2012 with QE3 (Sept 2012).

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The numbers about immigration that fuel Trump’s campaign

Summary:  Trump serves a common and vital role in US politics, introducing popular issues that the elites of both parties suppress. Such as immigration. Here are some of the numbers that show why many Americans worry about the high rate of immigration (but not our elites, who love the cheap workers and politically passive voters).  {1st of 2 posts today.}

Trump and motto

Photographer: Victor J. Blue/Bloomberg

Cui bono from the recovery?

This graph and the accompanying analysis from the ECRI shows that the employment to population ratio (E/P) for those with less than a high school diploma (orange line) hit bottom in 2011. Since then it has regained almost two-thirds of the losses in the great recession. But the E/P ratio for high school and college graduates (90% of adults; purple line) has not recovered since the recessionary losses. The new jobs have gone to the least educated — and so the lowest-paid — workers.

ECRI: Employment to Population Ratio

Combined with the income gains to the top 10%, we have a recovery that has done little for most Americans. No amount of cheer-leading by Team Obama and Wall Street can change that.

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Russia’s Propaganda Trolls become a power in cyberspace

Summary: Cyberspace is not just a means to steal information and wreck systems, but also a means to touch people’s minds and change how they see the world. The tech is new, but the methods are old. Russia has a long history of playing this game well. Here Emilio Iasiello explains how they have aggressively exploited this new medium.

Soviet propaganda


Russia’s Propaganda Trolls
Make an Impact in Cyberspace

By Emilio Iasiello, 27 August 2015
From DarkMatters: superior attack intelligence

Posted with their gracious permission.


Russia’s propaganda machine in action

Recent reporting reveals that the Russian government may be using online propagandists in order to project a positive Russian image to the global community, while attacking those perceived to be a threat to Russian government interests.

Two individuals that used to work for an organization called the “Internet Research Agency” exposed the propaganda machine whose objective was to influence public opinion, and in some instances, discredit specific targets.

The Internet Research Agency is an organization that employees hundreds of online “trolls” – individuals whose job it is to create online discontent.

Located in four floors of a building in St. Petersburg, these trolls logged twelve-hour days supporting the Russian government while attacking perceived enemies – the United States, political oppositionists, for example – on social networks, blogs, and comment areas for social media sites (“One Professional Russian Troll Tells All“).

These online operators created personas and blogs in order to disseminate propaganda to the wider Internet audience. Techniques ranged from blatant attacking content to leveraging more subtle techniques in attempt to discredit the West. According to one former “troll,” the operations were tightly controlled and closely supervised. Assignments were handed out to the propagandists, each focusing on a theme and a list of key words to be used in online content. (“My life as a pro-Putin propagandist in Russia’s secret ‘troll factory’“.)

Some of the more prevalent topics included the situation in Ukraine, the Syrian conflict, and stories related to U.S. President Barak Obama. For this they received a monthly salary of approximately $750 (“Woman who sued pro-Putin Russian ‘troll factory’ gets one rouble in damages“).

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Americans trust the military most. 29% are ready for a coup. Ready for fascism?

Summary: Americans’ support for key institutions of the public collapses, as we trust only the military and police. We don’t need to ask Nostradamus; we can easily see the possible consequences — if we thought about it. Internet discussions might not be the only thing that ends with fascism (Godwin’s Law), or some other form of tyranny.

Broken trust

First, the bad news

Gallup’s annual Confidence in Institutions poll shows that Americans’ support for the institutions of the Republic and our elected officials have been falling for generations  (their first poll was 1973) — except for police (the second most trusted) and the military (#1). For details see Gallup warns us to prepare for fascism!

A YouGov poll on September 2-3 confirms these findings, with more detail. Ugly details.

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The long slow crash of journalism. How will it affect us?

Summary: The news business will radically change during the next generation, and few seem to see the core problems of overcapacity (both too many companies and too many journalists) and the coming wave of automation. This post takes a brief look at both.

“Reading the morning newspaper is the realist’s morning prayer. One orients one’s attitude toward the world either by God or by what the world is.
— Hegel (1770 – 1831).


The news business is fine!

Ezra Klein, deacon of established opinion, asks “Is the media becoming a wire service?” They wish that were so. Wire services are still a business. Journalism today repeats one of the common stories of our day: a rich industry faces new competition, but prefers to listen to the band play while its ship sinks.

The obvious fact is that there are too many journalists and news corporations given their market (i.e., advertisers and paid subscribers). For most of its history their business consisted of protected markets — by industry and geographic area — each shielded from serious outside competition.  Technology has vaporized those walls.

Today few care (except the old folks) what the local paper says except about local news (which they will not pay for, and whose ever-fewer local advertisers can support only in a bare bones fashion). Reporters at local news agencies can occasionally break stories, getting their 15 minutes of fame. But that’s not a living.

Meanwhile stockbrokers read the Wall Street Journal and Financial Times, liberals read The Guardian, conservatives read Breitbart and watch the pretty journalists on Fox, professionals read the New York Times, nerds read the splendid analytical work of Der Spiegel when it shows up on their Facebook page, and everybody reads hot stories when broken by the British tabloids (they break an amazingly high fraction of hot American stories).

These giants and the other news giants seem likely to grow, absorbing the audiences of the thousands of other news providers.

The consolidation process works slowly. The Boston Globe had its first issue in 1872 and became one of the nation’s top ten papers. In 1993 the New York Times bought its parent corp. for $1.1 billion (with the Globe its major asset). In 2013 John W. Henry bought it as a hobby and status symbol.  The Washington Post was the core holding of the Graham family, one of the social lions of Washington DC. In 2013 Jeff Bezos bought it for $250 million (i.e., small change to him), probably to boost his status and political influence.

Most news companies will not find angel investors, only new owners that accept growth or austerity. For most the eventual choices are consolidation or slow death.

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