From the press release: From the moment he is handed a possibility of making the first alien contact, Saunders Maxwell decides he will do it, even if doing so takes him through hell and back.
Link here. This is a review of new book called Armies of Sand: The Past, Present, and Future of Arab Military Effectiveness by Kenneth M. Pollack.
Essentially, Arabian armies in the past century have routinely done terribly on the battlefield, and Pollack traces that failure to the culture of Arabia rooted in Islam.
Pollack shows that the “…most important problems that Arab militaries have experienced in battle since 1945 derive from behavioral patterns associated with Arab culture….It is striking how much the Arab armies and air forces have performed in keeping with those patterns of culturally regular behavior identified by anthropologists, sociologists, cultural psychologists, and other experts on Arab society.”
Pollack, for example, observes that military politicization evinces that a “highly valued trait of Arab society is group solidarity and loyalty.” If a leader “comes to power of any kind in the Arab world, it is expected that he will bring his relatives, clansmen, tribesmen, and coreligionists/co-ethnicists in with him and give them plum positions.” This “happens across the Arab world in every organization imaginable.”
In other words, the clan rules, no matter what, from the top down. Individual skill is given low priority, and in fact superior talent and intelligence can be seen as harmful if it threatens the cohesion of the group.
The problem is that such authoritarian systems, no matter how weak and faulty, can gain power, and squelch freedom and achievement. It was this kind of thinking that brought on the Dark Ages in Europe. Though not quite the same, during the medieval era the feudal system honored group thinking far above individual creativity, and in fact saw such achievement as a threat. The result was a thousand years of decline.
Unfortunately, we in the west are increasing accepting a variation of this thinking. Like the Dark Ages, it is increasingly considered bad to stand out as a free-thinking individual. If a twitter mob attacks, you damn well better kowtow, or face personal destruction. Society will not respect your individual rights.
Every July, to celebrate the anniversary of the start of Behind the Black in 2010, I hold a month-long fund-raising campaign to make it possible for me to continue my work here for another year.
This year's fund-raising drive however is more significant in that it is also the 10th anniversary of this website's founding. It is hard to believe, but I have been doing this for a full decade, during which I have written more than 22,000 posts, of which more than 1,000 were essays and almost 2,600 were evening pauses.
This year's fund drive is also more important because of the growing intolerance of free speech and dissent in American culture. Increasingly people who don't like what they read are blatantly acting to blackball sites like mine. I have tried to insulate myself from this tyrannical effort by not depending on Google advertising or cross-posts Facebook or Twitter. Though this prevents them from having a hold on me, it also acts to limit my exposure.
Therefore, I hope you will please consider donating to Behind the Black, by giving either a one-time contribution or a regular subscription, as outlined in the tip jar below. Your support will allow me to continue covering science and culture as I have for the past twenty years, independent and free from any outside influence.
Regular readers can support Behind The Black with a contribution via paypal:
If Paypal doesn't work for you, you can support Behind The Black directly by sending your donation by check, payable to Robert Zimmerman, to
Behind The Black
c/o Robert Zimmerman
Cortaro, AZ 85652