Monthly Archives: December 2012

Hostilities exist. There is no blinking at the fact that that our people, our territory and our interests are in grave danger… Franklin Delano Roosevelt

Dating back to at least five centuries before the birth of Christ the city of Nanking had a rich heritage and was the sight of a thriving commerce and a source of interaction between China and the world. Its very success – along with its strategic location – made it a a target for the Japanese in their effort to build the greater Asian co-prosperity sphere [with the Japanese being prosperous and everyone else being co-opted] and to complete their divine mission of bringing the eight corners of the world under one roof. Their dream of Hakkō ichiu – meaning that imperial rule had been divinely ordained to expand until it united the entire world – and their cult of divinity surrounding their emperor justified the pursuit of conquests by any means. They did not, and apparently according to author Masahiro Yamamoto, still do not consider any of their actions to be atrocities and this book is his attempt to explain how he feels western values can not be used to judge their actions. While we by no means agree with his conclusions this is an important book in order that we may evaluate their previous acts and anticipate their future ones.

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Nanking : anatomy of an atrocity Westport, Conn. : Praeger, 2000 Masahiro Yamamoto Nanking Massacre, Nanjing, Jiangsu Sheng, China, 1937 Hardcover. 1st. ed. and printing. xv, 352 p. : maps; 25 cm.  Includes bibliographical references (p. [307]-343) and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG

The December 1937 incident that has come to be known as the Rape of Nanking is, without doubt, a tragedy that will not soon be forgotten. While acknowledging that a tremendous loss of life occurred, this study challenges the current prevailing notion that the incident was a deliberate, planned effort on the part of the Japanese military and analyzes events to produce an accurate estimate of the scale of the atrocities.

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Drawing on Chinese, Japanese, and English sources, Yamamoto determines that what happened at Nanking were unfortunate atrocities of conventional war with precedents in both Eastern and Western military history. He concludes that post-war events such as the war crimes trials and the impact of the Holocaust in Europe affected public opinion regarding Nanking and led to a dramatic reinterpretation of events.

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The Rape of Nanking consisted of two distinct phases: the mass execution of prisoners of war (as well as conscription age men who appeared to be combatants) and the delinquent acts of individual soldiers. The first phase, which occurred immediately after Nanking’s fall and which claimed most of the atrocity victims, was the result of the Japanese military’s attempt to clear the city of Chinese soldiers thought to be in plain clothes.

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The second phase, which lasted approximately six weeks, was horrible, but resulted in a much smaller number of fatalities. It was characterized by numerous criminal acts, ranging from rape and murder to arson and theft, committed by unrestrained Japanese soldiers. The root cause for both phases was the Japanese military’s bureaucratic inefficiency and command irresponsibility.

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While both Chinese and American contemporary sources initially attributed the incident to these causes, subsequent Japanese atrocities against both military and civilian Allied personnel during World War II and evidence presented at war crimes trials would come to reshape perceptions of the Nanking events as an Asian counterpart to the Nazi Holocaust.

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Need we add that mathematicians themselves are not infallible? Henri Poincare

Perfect rigor : a genius and the mathematical breakthrough of the century Boston : Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2009 Masha Gessen Poincare conjecture, Perelman, Grigori, 1966- Hardcover. 1st. ed. and printing. xi, 242 p. ; 24 cm. Includes bibliographical references and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text.  VG/VG

In 2006, an eccentric Russian mathematician named Grigori Perelman solved one of the world’s greatest intellectual puzzles. The Poincare conjecture is an extremely complex topological problem that had eluded the best minds for over a century. In 1998, the Clay Institute in Boston named it one of seven great unsolved mathematical problems, and promised a million dollars to anyone who could find a solution.

Rejecting the Fields Medal he said, “I’m not interested in money or fame, I don’t want to be on display like an animal in a zoo.” Perelman was awarded the prize and he declined it, saying that he considers his contribution to proving the Poincaré conjecture to be no greater than that of Richard Hamilton, who introduced the theory of Ricci flow with the aim of attacking the geometrization conjecture. Fascinated by his story, journalist Masha Gessen was determined to find out why.

Drawing on interviews with Perelman’s teachers, classmates, coaches, teammates, and colleagues in Russia and the US — and informed by her own background as a mathematician raised in Russia — she set out to uncover the nature of Perelman’s genius. What she found was a mind of unrivalled computational power, one that enabled Perelman to pursue mathematical concepts to their logical, if not always rational, ends.

But she also discovered that this very strength has turned out to be his undoing: such a mind is unable to cope with the messy reality of human affairs. When the jealousies, rivalries, and passions of life intruded on his Platonic ideal, Perelman began to withdraw — first from the world of mathematics and then, increasingly, from the world in general. In telling his story, Masha Gessen has constructed a gripping and tragic tale that sheds rare light on the unique burden of genius all the more surprising since she  wrote about a person she never met – and that is the true meaning of conjecture!
 

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Wherever the Mohammedans have had complete sway, wherever the Christians have been unable to resist them by the sword, Christianity has ultimately disappeared. From the hammer of Charles Martel to the sword of Sobieski, Christianity owed its safety in Europe to the fact that it was able to show that it could and would fight as well as the Mohammedan aggressor… Theodore Roosevelt

At least from the time that  Themistocles depended upon  Leonidas to confront  Xerxes at  Thermopylae – a battle lost due to treason rather than inability – and then had to wait on the victories at  Salamis and  Plataea to save the West from the East there has been a constant tension between the two – and those events occurred 500 years before the birth of Christ! The rise of Rome and the primacy of the Caesars in Egypt that was supplanted by the growth of Christianity which, in its turn, was challenged by Islam are all parts of a centuries long conflict between two ideas.

The idea of the west is the idea of the individual and of the society in service to the individual, becoming collective when needed for the good of the individual – all of this supported by reference to a personal God, who is the source of everything including the authority under which the state operates. The east, at best, has an indistinct notion of their deity often with the state or ruler assuming the function. Rather than being made in the image and likeness of their god, he is made in their image and likeness so there is no reference to external authority, no check to protect their humanity only the naked exercise of absolute power that makes them all subject to every call of the state.

Hitler’s claim that his greatest achievement would be that in order to fight him we would have to become like him.  Indeed using the Devil’s tactics to defeat the Devil proves every time that you can not achieve a good end by evil means. But simply calling duty evil does not make it so. We have duties. We must perform them with vigor and honor if we are to remain free to worship our God and our obligation to know, love and serve Him is our first duty and our greatest hope. Theodore Roosevelt understood this creed – he actually earned his Nobel Peace Prize by applying it in the middle east and the far east – and while Oren presents an interesting anecdotal history we feel the need to preface it with a few other words from President Roosevelt:

Failure to perform duty to others is merely aggravated by failure to perform duty to ourselves. Moreover, it should always be remembered that in these matters the weak cannot be helped by the weak; that the brutal wrongdoer cannot be checked by the coward or by the fat, boastful, soft creature who does not take the trouble to make himself fit to enforce his words by his deeds. Preparedness means forethought, effort, trouble, labor. Therefore soft men, selfish, indolent men, men absorbed in money-getting, and the great mass of well-meaning men who shrink from performing the new duties created by new needs, eagerly welcome a political leader who will comfort them, and relieve their secret sense of shame, by using high-sounding names to describe their shortcomings.


An adroit politician can unquestionably gain many votes in such fashion, if he exalts unpreparedness as a duty, if he praises peace and advocates neutrality, as both in themselves moral –even although the “peace” and “neutrality” may be conditioned on the failure to do our duty either to others or to ourselves. Such a politician, if he excels in the use of high-sounding words, may win votes and gain office by thus pandering to men who wish to hear their selfishness, their short-sightedness or their timidity exalted into virtues. But he is sapping the moral vitality of the people whom he misleads…. Theodore Roosevelt

Power, faith, and fantasy : America in the Middle East, 1776 to the present New York : W.W. Norton & Co., c 2007 Michael B. Oren United States Foreign relations Middle East Hardcover. 1st. ed., later printing. xxii, 778 p., [32] p. of plates : ill., maps, ports. ; 25 cm. Color maps on lining papers. Includes bibliographical references (p. [685]-733) and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No  highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG

Beginning with the Barbary Wars of the eighteenth century and extending to the conflicts of today, the United States has been profoundly involved in the Middle East. America fought its first foreign war there and established its navy to meet a Middle Eastern threat. The region played a seminal role in shaping American identity — from the making of the U.S. Constitution to the writing of “The Star Spangled Banner.” Americans also helped define the Middle East by forging its bor­ders and introducing notions of national identity

The Middle East in turn inspired works by some of America’s preeminent artists, including Edith Wharton, and Mark Twain, and lured prominent leaders, among them Ulysses S. Grant and Theodore Roosevelt. The region also attracted generations of Americans who, impelled by faith, sought to educate, modernize, and proselytize its peoples.

Popularly perceived as a land of exoticism and danger, the Middle East has provided the backdrop for innumerable plays, songs, and movies. The object of controversial policies, it has formed the focus of intense public debate. Decision makers throughout the history of the United States have grappled with dilemmas in the Middle East and struggled to surmount its challenges.

Power, Faith, and Fantasy tells the remarkable story of America’s 230-year relationship with this crucial area. Drawing on a vast range of gov­ernment documents, personal correspondence, and the memoirs of merchants, missionaries, and travelers, the book reconstructs the diverse channels through which the United States has interacted with the Middle East.

The book also examines America’s artistic legacy in the Middle East, exploring the dynamic ways in which popular culture in the United States has portrayed the region and its peoples. By distinguishing the recur­rent themes in America’s Middle East involvement and by tracing their evolution over the course of more than two centuries, the book reveals the con­tinuity that binds this vital narrative in the nation’s history.

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I shot an elephant in my pyjamas this morning… Dr. Livingstone I. Presume

NPG Ax18286; Sir Samuel White Baker by Henry Joseph Whitlock

The Perfect Victorian hero : The Life and Times of Sir Samuel White Baker Edinburgh : Mainstream, 1982  Michael Brander Samuel White Baker Hardcover. 1st. ed. and printing. 184 p., maps on endpages, 24 cm. Includes bibliographical information and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG

Samuel White Baker was an English explorer born in London on the 8th of June 1821.  After two years in Mauritius the desire for travel took him in 1846 to Ceylon, where in the following year he founded an agricultural settlement at Nuwara Eliya, a mountain health-resort. Aided by his brother, he brought emigrants from England, together with choice breeds of cattle, and before long the new settlement was a success. During his residence in Ceylon he published The Rifle and the Hound in Ceylon (1853), and two years later Eight Years’ Wanderings in Ceylon (1855).

NPG x157; Sir Samuel White Baker by Maull & Co

After a journey to Constantinople and the Crimea in 1856, he found an outlet for his restless energy by undertaking the supervision of the construction of a railway across the Dobrudja, connecting the Danube with the Black Sea. After its completion he spent some months in a tour in south-eastern Europe and Asia Minor.  In March 1861 he started upon his first tour of exploration in central Africa. This, in his own words, was undertaken “to discover the sources of the Nile, with the hope of meeting the East African expedition under Captains Speke and Grant somewhere about the Victoria Lake.”

After a year spent on the Sudan-Abyssinian border, during which time he learnt Arabic, explored the Atbara and other Nile tributaries, and proved that the Nile sediment came from Abyssinia, he arrived at Khartum, leaving that city in December 1862 to follow up the course of the White Nile. Two months later at Gondokoro he met Speke and Grant, who, after discovering the source of the Nile, were following the river to Egypt. Their success made him fear that there was nothing left for his own expedition to accomplish; but the two explorers generously gave him information which enabled him, after separating from them, to achieve the discovery of Albert Nyanza, of whose existence credible assurance had already been given to Speke and Grant.

NPG x369; Sir Samuel White Baker by Maull & Co

Baker first sighted the lake on the 14th of March 1864. After some time spent in the exploration, during which Baker demonstrated that the Nile flowed through the Albert Nyanza he started upon his return journey, and reached Khartum in May 1865. In the following October he returned to England and in recognition of the achievements by which Baker had linked his name with the solution of the problem of the Nile sources, the Royal Geographical Society awarded him its gold medal, and a similar distinction was bestowed on him by the Paris Geographical Society. In August 1866 he was knighted. In the same year he published The Albert N’yanza, Great Basin of the Nile, and Explorations of the Nile Sources, and in 1867 The Nile Tributaries of Abyssinia, both books quickly going through several editions.

In 1868 he published a popular story called Cast up by the Sea. In 1869 he attended the prince of Wales, afterwards King Edward VII., in a tour through Egypt. In the same year, at the request of the khedive Ismail, Baker undertook the command of a military expedition to the equatorial regions of the Nile to suppress the slave-trade there. Before starting from Cairo with a force of 1700 Egyptian troops – many of them discharged convicts – he was given the rank of pasha and major-general in the Ottoman army. The khedive appointed him governor-general of the new territory for four years at a salary of 10,000 Pounds a year; and it was not until the expiration of that time that Baker returned to Cairo, leaving his work to be carried on by the new governor, Colonel Charles George Gordon.

NPG x8353; Sir Samuel White Baker by Maull & Co

He had to contend with innumerable difficulties – the blocking of the river by sand, the bitter hostility of officials interested in the slave-trade, the armed opposition of the natives – but he succeeded. He returned to England  in 1874, and in the following year purchased the estate of Sandford Orleigh in South Devon, where he made his home for the rest of his life. He published his narrative of the central African expedition under the title of Ismailia (1874). Cyprus as I saw it in 1879 was the result of a visit to that island. He spent several winters in Egypt, and travelled in India, the Rocky Mountains and Japan in search of big game, publishing in 1890 Wild Beasts and their Ways. He kept up a correspondence strongly opposing the abandonment of the Sudan and subsequently urging its reconquest. Next to these, questions of maritime defence and strategy chiefly attracted him in his later years. He died at Sandford Orleigh on the 30th of December 1893.
NPG x159; Sir Samuel White Baker by Lock & Whitfield, published by  Sampson Low, Marston, Searle and Rivington

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Invincibility lies in the defence; the possibility of victory in the attack… Sun Tzu

The actual submarine lost by the Chinese under mysterious circumstances.

The actual submarine lost by the Chinese under mysterious circumstances.

Not all history is based on fact and not all fiction is based on imagination. After the development and testing of thermonuclear weapons the Pentagon – through a civilian publishing company – paid for a series of “fictional” accounts of the United States after an attack. While we are by no means suggesting that the practice continues,  nor that this work is in any way associated with such a program, the tenor of the work is much the same. Since most of us would not be around to read about an exchange involving nuclear submarines on the doorstep of Beijing we suppose this is a close as we will get – which is close enough for us.

Attack of the Seawolf New York : D.I. Fine, c 1993 Michael DiMercurio Submarines (Ships)  Naval battles  Bo Hai (China) Hardcover. 1st. ed. and printing. 352 p. : ill., maps ; 25 cm. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG  

The Chinese president has urged the faster modernisation of the navy after 70 sailors died in a mysterious submarine accident. The loss of the crew of submarine No. 361 is the worst declared peacetime military disaster in the history of the People’s Republic of China.

Military analysts are puzzling over what caused the deaths on board the Ming-class submarine, which China said suffered “mechanical difficulties” off its north-eastern coast. While the Ming class boats are entirely obsolete by modern standards, they are a relatively inexpensive option for patrol and coastal defence duties.

It remains unclear why none of the crew were able to escape, why the boat was recovered so quickly, and exactly when and where the accident took place. This is the worst communist submarine accident since August 2000, when the Russian nuclear-powered Kursk sank with its 118 crew in the Barents Sea.

The brief statement announcing the accident from China’s official news agency left many questions unanswered, and some experts are speculating that the deaths may have been the result of a gas leak.  The submarine’s batteries may have leaked acid which mixed with seawater, producing toxic chlorine that could have killed the crew. The Chinese submarine did not sink during the accident and it has now been towed to an unnamed port. A fire or a collision is a possibility. If it was a torpedo that blew up, it probably would have sunk it.

The Chinese were reportedly negotiating with Russia to buy eight 636 Kilo-class vessels, equipped with anti-ship missile systems. According to reports, China’s own submarine manufacturing programme is in difficulty, particularly its efforts to develop the Song class guided-missile submarine. Jane’s Defence Weekly says the first Song started sea trials but proved a failure. China’s navy has also reportedly experienced operating problems because of inadequate crew training.

The SEAWOLF was a legendary United States submarine lost in WWII. The ballistic submarine described in this book would look very much like this.

The SEAWOLF was a legendary United States submarine lost in WWII. The ballistic submarine described in this book would look very much like this.

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