Tag Archives: raf

Short Review of “United Red Army,” directed by Koji Wakamatsu

I thought about it over the night — it was hard to get to sleep last night — and I can say that United Red Army is the most disturbing film I have ever seen.

United Red Army is the story of birth, life, and death of the URA, formed by an alliance between the Japanese Red Army Faction (RAF) and the Japanese Revolutionary Leftist Faction (RLF).

I started watching United Red Army knowing only about the events which concern the middle part of the film, and those only in outline. I recommend going into the film with as little knowledge as possible. The craziness of the United Red Army is underscored by not knowing what happens next.

Think of a cult or revolutionary terrorist organization. The URA is more dysfunctional. The horror of United Red Army does not come from the civilians or police they kill (Though there are a few). The horror of the United Red Army is how they treat their own members.

It is amazing that except for one moment of comic relief (“There is no such thing as a counterrevolutionary cookie!”) there is no sense of the absurd in the film. The insanity storyline is much closer to a comedy or satire than something that could have actually happened. Imagine The Office with Trotskyite-Maoist rhetoric.

Except United Red Army is not a comedy. The United Red Army actually was.

Buy from Amazon. Rent from Greencine. Stream from Netflix.

In search of a darwinian ratchet: the ANC, the PLO, and the RAF

Evolution is the change in frequency of variations over time. The evolution of species by means of natural selection was first described by Charles Darwin.

With this in mind, Fabius Maximus’s tak of a “Darwinian ratchet” makes no sense:

the success of Israel’s counter-insurgency strikes against Hamas and Hezbollah have resulted in a “Darwinian ratchet”.

Israel’s security services cull the ranks of the insurgency. This eliminates the slow and stupid, clearing space for the “best” to rise in authority. “Best” in the sense of those most able to survive, recruit, and train new ranks of insurgents. The more severe Israel’s efforts at exterminating the insurrection, the more ruthless the survivors.

Back to evolution. In terms of nature, evolution has no purpose, goal, or direction. Pace to the Nazis and the Stalinists, to the Social Darwinists and the Creationists, evolution is not directed toward rewarding the strong, the social, the smart, or the sinful. Evolution is merely the change in the frequency of variations of some aspect of things.

Evolution happens in the context of an environment. If the environment rewards those with high general intelligence with more offspring than those less gifted, one might see general intelligence vary upward in the next generation (perhaps at the cost of something else, such as short term memory). If the environment rewards those who are cautious and nervous, then presumably frequencies of neuroticisms might change.

Fabius appears to have a different notion of evolution. A “ratchet,” of course, is a tool that turns only one way. A “Darwinian ratchet” implies that evolution is determined to maximize some quality or trait, so that each new generation possesses more of it than the one preceding. One assumes that Fabius is looking to evolution to maximize, again and again, effective violence against Western societies..

But of course, evolution does not work this way, because the environment is not static. Even if the outside world remains the same, the population subjected to evolutionary forces will change, and as the population is part of the evolutionary landscape, the environment thus changes.

Fabius is concerned that Western violence against enemies of the West will ratchet up the fitness of our enemies, giving us more and more effective enemies. But of course, all that happens is that our activities alter their fitness landscape, leading to different proportions of different types of them. Take three examples of anti-Western forces subjected to continuous Western assault

  • The African National Congress

    The ANC began as a cookie-cutter Communist terrorist organization located in South Africa, aiming to bring down an economically productive yet antidemocratic ruling class. The South African government fought back, imprisoning the ANCs leaders, turning natural ANC allies against it, and generally engaging in Systems Administration duties. Fabius’s “Darwinian ratchet” would lead us to expect that the ANC became more and more virulent, but what actually happened was that the removal of ANC members capable of conducting guerrilla campaigns morphed the ANC into a peaceful democratic movement. The fall of Apartheid and the ANC victory brought something completely unlike what the ANC founders envisioned, and ushered in a new South African regime roughly as compatible with Western goals as the Afrikaner state that preceded it.

  • The Palestine Liberation Organization
  • “At first, we were refugees. Harmless. Now, we become fighters. Freedom fighters.” So Yasser Arafat rallied his troops, aiming to liberate the Palestinian people from Jewish and Hashemite occupation in Israel and Jordan. Once again, the West responded, offering hostility and partnership to the PLO in a bewildering series of deadly assaults. Again, the concept of a “darwinian ratchet” would lead us to believe that the PLO is now on the verge of achieving its objectives. But by the late 1990s the PLO had evolved into a corrupt rentier syndicate, completely unable to wage war on either of its historic enemies. When it tried in the Second Intifada it lost what freedom of maneuvered it had. The PLO is now protected by its old enemies from a reform movement (Hamas), in a divide-and-conquer strategy that makes true Palestinian statehood farther away than ever.

  • The Red Army Faction (Japan)

    But what if an enemy population adjusts to an increasingly hostile fitness landscape not by becoming soft and effective (the ANC), or soft and impotent (the PLO), but harsh and deadly? What if those reformists and crooks can be kept out, and the true believers are able to maintain power? Surely a “darwinian ratchet” will kick in then.

The radical wing of the RAF tried such a strategy, killing off the less radical half in a blood bath designed to weed out the disloyal. How it ends is predictable.

This is not to say that our enemies can’t win. Of course they can. But pseudo-scientific talk of darwinian ratchets and other mechanisms that guarantee us ten-foot-tall enemies do not help matters. They do not clarify the strategic environment or accurately capture reality. They are tools for myopic, conceited schools of analysis which imagines that we are so important that our enemies very thought and desire is for our harm (rather than their benefit).

Also in the blogsophere: A.E. defends his take, while Sean ponders a law of evolution.