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Official American imperialist monograph cites Alexander

Posted: Fri Aug 08, 2008 11:23 am
by karen
The Office of Net Assessment (ONA) is an obscure but powerful think-tank within the U.S. Pentagon, mandated to offer visionary military ideas. I was happily reading my favourite progressive political blog (Daily Kos) this morning when I happened on an item citing the investigative magazine Mother Jones, which used a Freedom of Information request to get hold of a monograph by the ONA on how the examples of four historical empires might be enlightening with regard to maintaining/extending American "military advantage."

"Though the report is far from revelatory," the MJ article states, "it provides a window into a mindset that unselfconsciously envisions the United States as the successor to some of history's most powerful empires." Colour me surprised, therefore, when I spotted the Alexander mosaic on the front cover of the thing. The other three examples were Rome, Ghengis Khan and Napoleon.

My stance as I read the Alexander section rapidly went from "Oh noooooo" to "Wake me when it's over." I've found it so boring, repetitive and jargon-laden I haven't yet got through the whole thing thoroughly, and so don't have any particularly profound thoughts on it. A number of the Mother Jones commenters have had some fun with the whole piece, however, no doubt to lessen the agony of knowing that this is their tax dollars at work. See under the article here.

One commenter, for instance, points out that all four historical powers cited by the authors were "autocracies, impelled by brutally imperialistic and hegemonic motives, and willing to embrace very cruel methods. I doubt the U.S. is prepared to order, for example, the crucifixion of the entire population of the Sunni Triangle (that'll learn 'em!), or the transportation of the residual population of Pashtun Afghanistan to New Mexico, there to labour as slaves until totally assimilated." I can't help but think that sort of thing is in the wet-dreams of the neocon types who gave us Guantanamo, though.

The Daily Kos commenters, 200-odd of them at this writing, have even more fun.

Those who are interested in how Alexander is used by contemporary people to further their agendas should have a field day with this one. Have at it, Pothosians: the full text as pdf is here.


Posted: Fri Sep 05, 2008 11:34 pm
by Bobg
Interesting. Sounds like publish or perish to me. If the US is being compared to Alexander, Rome, Ghengis Khan and Napoleon - then the US Military must maintain a posture of conquest. I guess one could also say that the World Wars are still being fought. It has changed from battlefield to economics. Depends on one's perspective I assume. The ONA will probably keep their publications on the Pentagon bookstore shelves.

Excellent article!

Posted: Mon Sep 08, 2008 4:49 am
by jan
I just finished reading the entire text of the Macedonians. Enjoyed it immensely, and thanks for bringing this to our attention. Excellent article as I am very much impressed with today's modern weapon that remains unmentioned in the articles. I am also very much impressed with the biblical phrase The Lord is a Man of War! Exodus.

The review by Justin Elliot did not impress me so much as the actual text itself. I learned something very significant in the text! So thanks for posting this here and I will return to read the rest of it asap. Just gotta love MotherJones. :D

Re: Excellent article!

Posted: Mon Sep 08, 2008 8:43 pm
by marcus
jan wrote: Excellent article as I am very much impressed with today's modern weapon that remains unmentioned in the articles.
Eh? :?

For my eyes only

Posted: Tue Sep 09, 2008 4:45 am
by jan
Hi Marcus, You know that they always complained that Alexander is a braggart!

Well, the discussion of the phalanx is a match for a secret weapon that I had envisioned in a novel I wrote years ago while experimenting with authorship, and it struck me that either the author is conveying a message to me ( on the presumption that sometime or other I would read this material) as I have never read what stands out to me so obviously anyplace else.

I appreciated finding Vauban listed in the footnotes under the Napoleon article, and I truly enjoyed the discussion of the Mongolians as that was so through and complete to satisfy my need to know. All in all, I found this to be a very interesting study.

As for implications for the USA, it is a great idea to learn from the past so as to avoid mistakes that brought about the end for each of these great military powers. Rome is the only model tha the USA can truly follow since Rome also had a great succession of leaders as the United States has in its succession of Presidents. In the case of both Alexander and Genghis Khan, the power rested with a single man.

Again, Napoleon is an exception also as France has not had quite the same results from his leadership as that of Genghis Khan or Alexander the Great. Napoleon did not do for France what either of the other two did for their native lands.

So the lesson to the USA is to learn from the past and to prepare for the future, embodying the best from each of these former military powers. In my opinion, I would imagine that General Eisenhower is the most famous American soldier to earn his laurels for his leadership in both war and peace.

I believe that Julius Caesar was the greatest Roman soldier, and with that in mind, it only proves that the Senate can always overrule and bring down even the most powerful military leader when it so chooses.

Lordy! Time to stop this! It is better than eating candy!

Re: For my eyes only

Posted: Tue Sep 09, 2008 12:45 pm
by Paralus
jan wrote:As for implications for the USA, it is a great idea to learn from the past so as to avoid mistakes that brought about the end for each of these great military powers.
Pity its recent leadership is thoroughly - so it would seem - ignorant of Roman history. A reading of Trajan's Parthian campaign might well have taught them something.

Then again, I rather suspect not.

Perhaps, in November, we may see a neo-Hadrian elected?


Posted: Tue Sep 09, 2008 4:58 pm
by jan
Interesting that you would mention Trajan as I had read that that was Louis XIV's favorite...but back to the ranch, about the elections. Because of articles written by Oliver Stone, I rather gathered that the Bush administration was using Alexander as the model for its shock and awe tactics, and this article seemed to have confirmed that for me when I read some of the comments about Alexander's military prowess. The Bush administration appears to have been influenced by Alexander more than any other if I interpret the article for the military and Oliver Stone's statements correctly.

I do not believe that either candidate Barack Obama or John McCain will even contemplate military history as McCain was so low in his class in the military. He just seems to rest on his laurels as a POW and a successor to his family's heritage of serving in the military. I don't think McCain is likely to be re-elected since so many are so quick to concede that his age may make Sarah Pailin the first woman president. I imagine that the combination of black/white males will bring about more votes since the news is saying that the democrats are getting higher and higher registration numbers. Barack Obama is an attorney whose legal experience will offset any military interests.

This election is a mess. Since McCain tries to be a comedian most of the time, using selfdeprecating humor to offset his aged status, the young electorate will probably vote for Barack Obama as a Michael Jackson novelty.

And since he perceives himself as some kiind of Lincoln/Kennedy image, one wonders how long he will be around?

But b ack to the articles, I loved the use of smoke and absence of war cries in the Mongol section. That was very illuminating and worth the read. My horoscope is aquarius/sun with scorpio moon and in Heaven Only Knows horoscope my personal analysis sounds just like the comments about Alexander. I found that most intriguing.

As the horoscope always told me, everything hinges on me personally, and that struck me so much in this article that I wondered if the author had ever read the horoscope reading. Very, very interesting!

Posted: Fri Sep 19, 2008 3:27 am
by Efstathios
I am going to write this in a certain way, which i guess you will understand why.

The states will be lucky if they have mr. O as their leader. At least if he is who he says he is. But the rumors say that he will be going for "vacation", as Alexander did when he was 32. A pity, but some people just don't want a gentleman to be the head. Things are already screwed up, up in the land of the Scythians. The bear is the obstacle, and it must be dealt with. And they are beggining the hunt for the bear. And this hunt, will be more difficult than they imagined, cause this animal is a lot stronger than they thought. And they will be so angry at it that stands in their way, so they are gonna go after it like Alexander gone after Darius like a fierce predator. And then, God help us.

Posted: Mon Oct 20, 2008 6:54 pm
by karen
Jan wrote:everything hinges on me personally
A truer summation of your entire worldview you've never written.

Hi Pothosians -- I haven't even been lurking of late, in part due to another fictional project that has thoroughly seized me and in part due to my helpless addiction to American politics, which of course has intensified lately due to the fact that it's presidential election season.

My read on it right now, for what it's worth, is that Obama is headed for a landslide, the latest event in his favour being the endorsement of Colin Powell, which was not only an endorsement but an indictment of the approach that McCain (who promised, haha, a clean, positive campaign) is now taking. Sarah Palin continues to be a stone around McCain's ankle as she is mercilessly made fun of and the fact that she's unqualified becomes a mainstream view. So I'm fairly confident that it'll be Obama/Biden, so long as their lead is enough to overcome the Republican vote-stealing apparatus.


Posted: Mon Oct 20, 2008 9:37 pm
by Paralus
karen wrote:
Jan wrote:everything hinges on me personally
A truer summation of your entire worldview you've never written.
Still having souvlaki Karen?
karen wrote:So I'm fairly confident that it'll be Obama/Biden, so long as their lead is enough to overcome the Republican vote-stealing apparatus.
It will need to be a significant steal this time. Reasonably conservative polls have the Dem ticket in the positon Obama was in over the dying months of the primary war with Billary. He is within reach of the required college votes without yet having them where as the Rep ticket is facing rather a more uphill struggle to acquire those.

Virginia may well be McCain's Hydaspes. He should redirect his hatred of Obama to the person who skittled his real presidential chances: K Rove

Posted: Tue Nov 04, 2008 1:54 am
by Aengus
Mad as a sack of mice is that 'un.

It is the sun...

Posted: Tue Nov 04, 2008 9:05 am
by jan
Hi Karen, I was merely quoting the horoscope reading as it is for anyone who is born with that least it tipped me off to the fact that MSNBC and MSN are well aware of what I meant when I wrote that statement as I got immediate feedback. I had no idea that a post at Pothos would result in that bit of information...I honestly appreciate your posting this story as it said a lot to me. So thanks again!

Posted: Tue Nov 04, 2008 6:28 pm
by athenas owl
I wonder what Alexander would have thought of this American election.

I doubt he would have approved... :lol:

Though he would have thought highly of Obama's incredible campaign I think.

Posted: Thu Nov 06, 2008 4:16 am
by Efstathios
Athenas owl, we cannot make these kind of assumptions, simply because he was living in another era.

Posted: Thu Nov 06, 2008 12:49 pm
by Paralus
Efstathios wrote:Athenas owl, we cannot make these kind of assumptions, simply because he was living in another era.
Relax Stathi, relax. A whimsical observation I'm sure.

That said, Alexander will have deplored any excercise of "democracy" - particularly in his last years. Any such manifestation by his troops was met with truculence at best and, at Opis, by murder at worst. By the end of the anabasis the national troops of Macedon had become a professional/mercenary force cajoled by Alexander to continue with promises of booty and rewards and had begun to resemble Xenephon's "ten thousand". They increasingly made their views known and, as the campaign wore on, reduced Alexander to meeting with them in "assembly" to get his way rather than, as in the earlier part of the anabasis, simply having his wishes conveyed by the officers. Alexander neatly skewered this at Opis by introducing his 30,000 epigoni. These, the counter phalanx, would supply new hetairoi (including a royal ile), aesthetairoi, pezhetairoi and, to ram the point home, hypaspists (silver shields).

Alexander was not about to be hamstrung by beligerent, demanding troops with a mind to demonstrate their wilfulness.