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Thread: The Ju Ju of War

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    Default The Ju Ju of War

    So what really happens when those who believe the Divine is on their side and is absent from the side of thier opponents? If we don't carry with us accoutriments and rhetoric of divine favor and will onto the field of battle, does the enemy automatically have the psychological edge? If we face an enemy who regards us as Godless in all respects, are they more, or less, willing to negotiate and compromise, or does it drive them to intensifying their violence? I think the tendency is to minimize this dynamic in our opponents and explain it away but in some ways I think it is like driving a tank into a swamp expecting and planning on mobility.

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    If we don't carry with us accoutriments and rhetoric of divine favor and will onto the field of battle, does the enemy automatically have the psychological edge?
    No. Good training, discipline, and unit cohesion matter more than amorphous religious faith. I'll take a squad of Godless, whoring, cursing Marines over the most motivated pack of jihadis any day of the week.

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    Council Member Tom OC's Avatar
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    Default The Role of Religious Ritual

    Interesting twist toward magic this thread took. Maybe it was my mention of Skorupski, but in any event, I will go out on a limb and say that in war, it is important for forces to carry with them some symbolism of divine favor. Otherwise, the opponent has an advantage. I dunno how Prof. Tyrrell will respond to this. He seems pretty smart, but as for this prof., I would argue that accoutriments and rhetoric of divine favor go a long way. Again, a Durkheimian sociology of religion approach might be helpful. I often remind my students that on page 14 of Durkheim's book on religion, he says "no social institution can rest on a lie" and if a thing persists, it must be for some reason, so if you can understand the part of it (the kernel) that isn't a lie, you will truly understand the reason. I find this works for many things strange and inexplicable, or at least it makes my students think I'm smart. Skorupski, Douglas, and the like make a lot out of purity/impurity rituals of course, and the connection with order/disorder is obvious as is the sacred/profane juxtaposition found throughout almost all sociology since Durkheim. Attitude change under this conception occurs during the metamorphesis in passing from the sacred to the profane. Hence, the key to religious ritual success is bringing the other-worldly down to earth, and I would argue that interpretation or content doesn't matter because what matters is the enactment of the ritual or the sense of bonding which occurs among a group when something significant (something cosmos changing) has happened. All for one, one for all. Now, one could bring in criminology here about bond theory, but more relevant is the Durkheimian idea of a normative moral bond which consists simply in the feeling that something significant happened which had a community effect and made people feel obligated to respect it. Call it magic, or whatever, but it would work. Love is supposed to work like this, as do rites of passage and some entertainment blockbusters. Wish I could tease out some specific applications.

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    Default Spiritual and Practical Dilemmas- the Line and the Circle

    Godless, cursing, whoring Marines don't necessarily make for good COIN ambassadors and implementers nor does marching into battle with a man bleeding and nailed to a cross inspire much respect in enemies and I am not trying to disparage Christianity here. It's sort of like taking the family to some foreign land for a visit, deciding to spend a day on the beach, arriving and finding that the locals all go to the beach naked - it just ain't easy under such circumstances to establish repoire and interaction. Technology certainly can't bridge the gap and fill the vacum and being respectful of another's spirituality in no way communicates that the other's beliefs are understood. Better training, unit cohesion, discipline, technology and logistics give us the edge but local support of an insurgency can check that advantage and a common denominator in that equasion is shared spirituality. It is an equalizer IMO. From a schematic view, the line dominates as it penetrates the circle and as it exits but it remains contained by 358 degrees of the circle at all times. Our linear orientation, from their perspective, is that of those with no Divine assistance penetrating those with Divine assistance, penetrating, not meeting.

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    Hi Tom,

    Quote Originally Posted by Tom OC View Post
    Interesting twist toward magic this thread took. Maybe it was my mention of Skorupski, but in any event, I will go out on a limb and say that in war, it is important for forces to carry with them some symbolism of divine favor. Otherwise, the opponent has an advantage. I dunno how Prof. Tyrrell will respond to this. He seems pretty smart, but as for this prof., I would argue that accoutriments and rhetoric of divine favor go a long way.
    Actually, I would agree with you, but with some caveats. First off, there is the danger of making AQs charges "real" - i.e. that the Coalition is really nothing more than the Crusades come again. Second, most Western societies are secular, rather than religious (Austria is an exception, but it really isn't a major player right now). This is exacerbated in the case of the US where you have an official separation of Church and State and I'm not sure how many thousands of officially recognized religions (it was over 5,000 in 1986 and I haven't seen a number since then). What religion would provide the symbol system? While most Americans are loosely Christian, in a very broad sense, there is no overarching "orthodoxy" that could cement even core symbols (viz. Mormons and Unitarians as examples of "non-orthodox" Christians). Furthermore, I would suggest that any overt use of Christian symbolism to achieve such a purpose would be unconstitutional. So, there's a bit of a problem .

    The main way of resolving it is to attempt to use some form of "secular religion" - which is exactly what President Bush tried to do, at least at the level of unifying rhetoric. I'd say the jury is still out on that one, but the close ties made between the rhetoric and the form of "victory" have, IMO, been a major problem (i.e. a republican form of government structure). It's too bad, because if he had stuck with the primary philosophy and left the form to be self determined, I think it would have worked better.

    Back to motivating symbols of divine favour...

    So, you have an interesting situation where there can be no official religion but you need a "religion" (in the Durkheimian sense) to act as a motivational force. Well, one option is to leave it at the individual group level, which is pretty much what has been done from what I can see, while the group uses the civil religion rhetoric. On the whole, I think that's the best balance achievable.

    Quote Originally Posted by Tom OC View Post
    Again, a Durkheimian sociology of religion approach might be helpful. I often remind my students that on page 14 of Durkheim's book on religion, he says "no social institution can rest on a lie" and if a thing persists, it must be for some reason, so if you can understand the part of it (the kernel) that isn't a lie, you will truly understand the reason.
    I've got my own quibbles with Durkheim's interpretation of religion. For one thing, his data sources for Elementary Forms of Religious Experience were truly terrible. To give a modern analogy, it is as if he had analyzed the war in Iraq relying solely on MSM reports. Second, since he was aiming most of his work as a foil to Marx, he was much more concerned with examining the sources of social order than he was with producing a general theory of society. Third, his entire reliance of concepts such as the conscience collectif is rather bizarre and, I would suggest, more in keeping with Von Humbolt's concept of volksgeist.

    Still and all, I think that Durkheim got it about 80% correct; at least for the special case of a culture being roughly equal with a society. And this, IMO, is the greatest flaw I see in the application of his arguments to the present day: his argument that religion is society worshiping itself is only valid when you have a fairly mono-religious society (and a mono-cultural one to boot). You certainly can extend the arguments, as Mary Douglas (especially Purity and Danger and How Institutions Think) has in a number of works, but it means that you have to develop the theoretical model well beyond the special case covered by the original.

    Quote Originally Posted by Tom OC View Post
    Attitude change under this conception occurs during the metamorphesis in passing from the sacred to the profane. Hence, the key to religious ritual success is bringing the other-worldly down to earth, and I would argue that interpretation or content doesn't matter because what matters is the enactment of the ritual or the sense of bonding which occurs among a group when something significant (something cosmos changing) has happened. All for one, one for all.
    How very Durkheimian of you . Well, in a strict Durkheimian sense, even if we expand it to include Mary Douglas' extended form, you are quite correct. I will disagree with you about whether or not interpretation matters - the only time it doesn't is when you have an orthodox interpretation that is shared by the vast majority of the populace. As an example of why it matters, how do you think an Asatruar group would view references to orthodox Christian statements such as "we are not worthy..."? Having know a bunch of them, I suspect they would laugh themselves silly, as would most Wiccans (and in case you didn't know it, there are a fair number of both in the US forces).

    Let's flip that around and ask ow many orthodox Christians wold react well, especially, say, Southern Baptists and pentecostal evangelicals, to the idea of raising a cone of power to send out a hunter-killer daemon against UBL? I'm pretty sure that the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan wold appreciate it (they're convinced he is a djinn), but I doubt that most Christians would approve.

    Quote Originally Posted by Tom OC View Post
    Now, one could bring in criminology here about bond theory, but more relevant is the Durkheimian idea of a normative moral bond which consists simply in the feeling that something significant happened which had a community effect and made people feel obligated to respect it. Call it magic, or whatever, but it would work. Love is supposed to work like this, as do rites of passage and some entertainment blockbusters. Wish I could tease out some specific applications.
    Check out Robert Bellah and Phillip E. Hammond, Varieties of Civil Religion for some specific case examples. I'd also recommend Peter Berger's The Sacred Canopy as a good one to get a handle on this issue outside of the Durkheimian special case. The trick is to come up with a symbol system hat is "non-religious" in the limited sense, but acts as if it were religious in the broader (Geertzian) sense.

    Marc
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    Marc, you're absolutely right about Durkheim being too volkgeist oriented, but I've often found the civil religion folks are likewise fuzzy, although I have to admit I hadn't read Hammond's take on it (thanks for the link) but you can probably guess what I think of Berger. When General Boykin got in trouble for his remarks that the enemy was satan and our God was bigger than his, I thought he was on to something, and frankly, I hoped for much more reaction. I also think that GWOT has a distinct religious dimension that we need to own up to. Watering it down in a secular direction with rule of law/education projects (as the civil religionists would have it) would diffuse and minimize the impact that a true religious ritual would have. Someone please point me to where we might have had this kind of discussion before, if any. We're kinda getting off the topic of social contagion, and I'd welcome a discussion about the global ecumenical movement's role (perhaps a new thread?)

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    Default Your wish...

    Hi Tom,

    Quote Originally Posted by Tom OC View Post
    Marc, you're absolutely right about Durkheim being too volkgeist oriented, but I've often found the civil religion folks are likewise fuzzy, although I have to admit I hadn't read Hammond's take on it (thanks for the link) but you can probably guess what I think of Berger.
    LOLOL - I can probably guess . Honestly, I find them somewhat fuzzy as well, but I think that they are, in their own structural functionalist way, getting at a "truth" that stands behind Durkheim.

    Quote Originally Posted by Tom OC View Post
    When General Boykin got in trouble for his remarks that the enemy was satan and our God was bigger than his, I thought he was on to something, and frankly, I hoped for much more reaction.
    I remember that. I also remember thinking that he was nuts - an emotional reaction rather than a thought out one .

    Quote Originally Posted by Tom OC View Post
    I also think that GWOT has a distinct religious dimension that we need to own up to. Watering it down in a secular direction with rule of law/education projects (as the civil religionists would have it) would diffuse and minimize the impact that a true religious ritual would have.
    I think it does as well, but I also believe that, baring a state religion, it cannot be fought on religious lines. Furthermore, while I do view the entire GWOT as essentially "religious", I do not view it as one religion vs. another but, rather, as one worldview of religion vs. another. To be specific about it, I view the GWOT as a war against thought control and dogmatism in all of its forms, religious or civil.

    Does this reduce its impact? Yeah, it does. But I think that there is something to be said about a conflict that unites many religions, and this has/had the potential to do that. I have too many friends from various religions who are involved in it to view it as a simplistic my God is bigger than your God argument. IMO, any deity that needs to start wars to prove their mojo is just a fake (BTW, check out the Gospel of Norea for a good example).

    Maybe I've read too many Gnostic texts, but I view this as a war between those who would tell people what to think and those who would see people freed from that. This isn't, BTW, a simplistic us vs. them argument; IMO it is a philosophical fight where the proponents of mental slavery are on both of the official "sides" as are their opponents.

    Anyway, it's late and I've been up too long - I think I may be blithering again .

    Marc
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tom OC View Post
    it is important for forces to carry with them some symbolism of divine favor.
    The corollary is that religious tolerance is important in establishing peace. Which is why "reducing sectarian killing" doesn't automatically lead to peace.

    Religious tolerance is also probably very important in establishing democracy too, but that's only relevant is we ever decide to get back in the democracy spreading business.
    Last edited by Rank amateur; 09-20-2007 at 05:13 PM.

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    Religion in war is pervasive, and depending upon the spectrum of a conflict has the potential to escalate into a war of religion. We've been discussing the symbolic things that fighters carry with them, but there are some very tangible things as well; e.g., troops praying, services being held, missionaries visiting the field, charitable aid relief being delivered, etc., etc. Holidays tend to be as important as anniversaries in this war on terror. I wonder if it wouldn't be good strategy to just open up the religious aspects a bit more. I'm sure it could be done in a tolerant way.

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    Hi Tom,

    Quote Originally Posted by Tom OC View Post
    Religion in war is pervasive, and depending upon the spectrum of a conflict has the potential to escalate into a war of religion. We've been discussing the symbolic things that fighters carry with them, but there are some very tangible things as well; e.g., troops praying, services being held, missionaries visiting the field, charitable aid relief being delivered, etc., etc. Holidays tend to be as important as anniversaries in this war on terror. I wonder if it wouldn't be good strategy to just open up the religious aspects a bit more. I'm sure it could be done in a tolerant way.
    There's still that assumption of a common religion that would, IMO, cause a problem. I've been involved in some ecumenical work (spent a year on the Ottawa Inter-Faith Council), and the while the communications can work, hey can be very tricky. Personally, I would ban missionaries in the field completely; I think they are an irritant to the locals and an IO disaster waiting to happen. The rest, I would have no problem with if there was no attempt to require it and if everyone was able to do so within their own belief system. Given that DVA only allowed pentacles on Wiccan burial stones as of April 23rd this year, I'm not exactly sanguine about "tolerance".
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    Default Wiccans and things

    We have a somewhat significant presence of Wiccans here at Ft. Campbell. My previous experience with them has been that they are just lapsed Christians or someone who stopped going to church and/or always had some kind of nativist/paganist philosophy amenable to the love of nature (or something). However, what I've observed locally is relatively good-looking Wiccan women working in the local coffee shops and retail stores proselytizing the soldiers who patronize the stores. Then, one soon starts to see Wiccan decals and things on the vehicles the soldiers drive to the stores. I must say I find the process interesting to watch. I would say that in an average week's time, about two or three soldiers get converted. Now, I don't know enough about it to say if it's threatening or not. I've tried reading up and learning about it, but get all confused with the likes of Norse mythology and my hands full studying other, more threatening phenomena, but I'd love to hear your perspective on it, Marc. Perhaps they have some ju-ju that is of some value.

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    There are no athiests in foxholes. Many people rely on the Divine to survive. It doesn't matter that the enemy may be doing the same practice of praying and so forth when death is near. It doesn't matter that one side may be using the Divine as a rally cry. A lot of Axis and Allied Forces did a lot of praying in Normandy fighting in the French bocage but neither side was contesting each side's religious beliefs even though each side were murdering POWs for whatever reasons. As for Allah Akbar. That only goes so far. It is one thing to be brave before Allah and another thing when Allah's soldiers with AK47s run for their lives after keeping a Marine patrol pinned down until the Marines run low on ammo, had enough, and fix bayonets.
    "But suppose everybody on our side felt that way?"
    "Then I'd certainly be a damned fool to feel any other way. Wouldn't I?"


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    Quote Originally Posted by tequila View Post
    No. Good training, discipline, and unit cohesion matter more than amorphous religious faith. I'll take a squad of Godless, whoring, cursing Marines over the most motivated pack of jihadis any day of the week.
    Unfair comparison. It's like saying "Sure, I'll take the Yankees over the Kane County Cougars A team."

    I think perhaps Goesh's question would be better asked, "all other things being equal, what kind of factor would religious faith or determination be on the battlefield?"

    Matt
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    Hi Tom,

    Quote Originally Posted by Tom OC View Post
    We have a somewhat significant presence of Wiccans here at Ft. Campbell. My previous experience with them has been that they are just lapsed Christians or someone who stopped going to church and/or always had some kind of nativist/paganist philosophy amenable to the love of nature (or something).
    That's not that surprising given the prevalence of Christianity in NA societies . Most of my own data, back from my MA, indicates that there are a lot of ex-Jews involved in the neo-pagan movement - disproportionate to the demographics.

    Quote Originally Posted by Tom OC View Post
    However, what I've observed locally is relatively good-looking Wiccan women working in the local coffee shops and retail stores proselytizing the soldiers who patronize the stores. Then, one soon starts to see Wiccan decals and things on the vehicles the soldiers drive to the stores. I must say I find the process interesting to watch. I would say that in an average week's time, about two or three soldiers get converted.
    Proselytizing? Hmm, weird - that's usually not kosher in the Craft. Then again, I've seen similar things as well.

    Quote Originally Posted by Tom OC View Post
    Now, I don't know enough about it to say if it's threatening or not. I've tried reading up and learning about it, but get all confused with the likes of Norse mythology and my hands full studying other, more threatening phenomena, but I'd love to hear your perspective on it, Marc. Perhaps they have some ju-ju that is of some value.
    Norse mythology? That sounds more like Asatruar than Wicca in any of its forms. Actually, that wouldn't surprise me since I've know a couple of Asatruar who have been in the US forces since the 1980's (I've also known Craft people in the forces since the 1980's as well).

    Personally, I think that a number of the neo-pagan movement have a lot of ju-ju to offer to he current fight. How they could help would require a major discussion . The simplest version is that if you can get people who know how to use what is generally called "magic" you can use them to operate against other people who believe in magic.
    Last edited by Steve Blair; 09-24-2007 at 03:48 PM. Reason: fixed quote
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    Quote Originally Posted by Culpeper View Post
    There are no athiests in foxholes. Many people rely on the Divine to survive. It doesn't matter that the enemy may be doing the same practice of praying and so forth when death is near. It doesn't matter that one side may be using the Divine as a rally cry. A lot of Axis and Allied Forces did a lot of praying in Normandy fighting in the French bocage but neither side was contesting each side's religious beliefs even though each side were murdering POWs for whatever reasons. As for Allah Akbar. That only goes so far. It is one thing to be brave before Allah and another thing when Allah's soldiers with AK47s run for their lives after keeping a Marine patrol pinned down until the Marines run low on ammo, had enough, and fix bayonets.
    In general I agree with you that religious faith on the battlefield is generally either a nonfactor or a tactical detriment.

    That being said I know a decorated combat veteran of the Korean War who is a determined atheist - though he was on the Chinese side and still a fierce Marxist. Other forms of ideology can substitute for religious faith.

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    Moderator Steve Blair's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tequila View Post
    In general I agree with you that religious faith on the battlefield is generally either a nonfactor or a tactical detriment.

    That being said I know a decorated combat veteran of the Korean War who is a determined atheist - though he was on the Chinese side and still a fierce Marxist. Other forms of ideology can substitute for religious faith.
    The key factor is faith...but it clearly can't be tied to ONLY religion (which is your well-put point, tequila). Faith in the cause is important, be it Marxist, Hoist, Maoist, God, Allah, Rah, or whatever. Faith in your buddies, your unit, is also an important factor.
    "On the plains and mountains of the American West, the United States Army had once learned everything there was to learn about hit-and-run tactics and guerrilla warfare."
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    Quote Originally Posted by Steve Blair View Post
    The key factor is faith...but it clearly can't be tied to ONLY religion (which is your well-put point, tequila). Faith in the cause is important, be it Marxist, Hoist, Maoist, God, Allah, Rah, or whatever. Faith in your buddies, your unit, is also an important factor.
    I would say faith in unit/unit cohesion comes first. Even this most dedicated Marxist confessed with unabashed pride that he was involved in the "fragging" of a political officer who was in the habit of ordering one too many frontal assaults while hanging to the rear in most un-democratic fashion (his words --- one of his more fascinating relevations of the Chinese "volunteer" corps in Korea 1950-1951 was that frontline soldiers often voted on tactical approaches at company level and below, depending on unit).

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    Quote Originally Posted by tequila View Post
    one of his more fascinating relevations of the Chinese "volunteer" corps in Korea 1950-1951 was that frontline soldiers often voted on tactical approaches at company level and below, depending on unit).
    On the above idea, here's an interesting quotation from Evelyn Wood's 1897 Achievements of Cavalry, pp 7-8. He is referencing the French Army in the 1790s.
    . . . Citizen David, who accompanied General Pichegru in the 1794 campaign,
    tells the following story :* "
    A soldier, serving in the brigade commanded by
    Colonel Valetau, was placed in arrest for having left
    his garrison, without permission, to make some
    political speeches. The soldier wrote to General
    Souham, who commanded the district, demanding
    that Valetau should be dismissed as an aristocrat, and
    suggested himself as the colonel's successor. General
    iiron and his Staff made every effort
    to arrest the panic, but the soldiers ran over his body,
    Souham answered the soldier to the effect that' the
    complaint savoured rather of passion and revenge
    than of true patriotism.' The soldier then addressed
    the Administrators at Lille, but getting no satisfaction,
    denounced Colonel Valetau to the ' Committee
    of Public Safety ' in Paris, and an order was promptly
    sent to dismiss the colonel from his command "!!
    Now, under such circumstances, even the best
    officers could not have effected much with trained
    troops. . . .
    *Pichegru Campaign," by Citizen David, published in 1796.

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    Council Member tequila's Avatar
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    Now the PVA didn't get to pick their officers, but they did often select NCOs by vote, usually when previous NCOs died. As noted, officers in these units could also be selected out by rifle.

    Both the French Revolutionaries in the 1790s and the Chinese Communists from 1945-1951 experienced great success with these type of armies.

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    Default Secular faith

    The more I think about it, the more I'm sold on this civil religion thing. Christianity (which I'm assuming is prevalent), or Wicca (what have you), can be something running private and independently of whatever other related sensibilities a warfighter carries with them. Ritual expressions of patriotism can be religious in this sense, but I'm worried about the effects of cognitive dissonance. I've often thought that the jihadists have an advantage over us because the socio-political expressions of their religious mantle are more consonant; i.e., their God is more warrior-like. I would imagine transmutations of that sort take place among Christian warfighters, but don't know for sure. I would say there's a drive towards ju-ju (there, I used the word), a need for something magical, if you will, something that connects or integrates all the reasons together and seems cosmic at the time. Such "flashes" of insight could very well be the social cement that Rousseau and Durkheim were trying to get at. Perhaps there is some sense in keeping one's religion private.

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