Tag Archives: war

The Greencine Five, Part XII: Purple Butterfly, Happy Together, The Road Home, In the Year of the Pig, King of Chess


Purple Butterfly is a slow-moving spy thriller that takes place in Shanghai immediately before Japan’s invasion of China. Purple Butterfly is really good, but the lack of dialogue and the physical similarity of two characters leave some reviewers confused. The film centers around a Japanese intelligence service’s secret war against the Purple Butterfly Organization in a setting that could easily be transferred to Peshwar, or Bali. The set-up, that a Chinese factory worker is mistaken for a Japanese spy, sounds like a comedy. Instead, an increasingly dark story of betrayal, confusion, and revenge brilliantly defines the murkiness that is the fog of war.


Happy Together is a film by Wong Kar Wai, better known for his atmospheric “Hong Kong” trilogy (Days of Being Wild, In the Mood for Love, and 2046), as well as Chungking Express. Happy Together was released to controversy, as it his first homosexual romance. Those who enjoy atmospheric Chinese-language gay romance films will enjoy Happy Together.


The Road Home is Zhang Ziyi‘s break-out performance, and probably her best. The film is set in Manchuria before the Cultural Revolution, which is rememberd similarly to the 1950s in the United States: stable, prosperous, uniform, culturally conservative, and safe. It is the story of an illiterate farm girl and the teacher she falls in love with. The film’s style is consciously taken from Titanic (the most popular movie in the history of Chinese cinema), and even shares with it the use of flashbacks to tell the main story.


In the Year of the Pig is a pro-Ho Chi Minh documentary about the Vietnam War, produced in 1968. I was shocked at how different the style and tone is from Hearts and Minds, an anti-war movie films in 1974. Year feels like its policy film from the 1950s, where clean-cut men in suits criticize France, discuss why some American policy was reasonable at the time, and argue for the need for a change. If the speakers are indeed Communist-sympathizers, then it is striking just how serious and alluring that movement must have been. Alternatively, Year may the voice of a lost moderate-liberal position on foreign policy that has yet to reemerge.


King of Chess is weird. It looks like someone spliced together documentary footage of the cultural revolution, added a rock anthem soundtrack, and then proceeded to combine two featurettes (one about the rustification campaign, the other about a psychic boy and an evil professor in Taiwan) together. That’s because it is. The production of the intended movie collapsed early on, requiring the filming of another, parallel story to fill out the running time. My friend criticized it as the most boring we watched since The World. It definitely isn’t the best film we’ve watched.

War is about the correlation of forces

Half Sigma adopts the Jacksonian line that war is about destroying enemy states, and that other definitions are dangerously “liberal”

Half Sigma: We are not “losing” a “war” in Iraq
I’m sick and tired of hearing people say that we are “losing” the “war” in Iraq.

If fifty years ago, you told someone that our troops went into a country, took the place over in a few weeks, and now run the place, they would have responded, “wow, you guys won a really big victory!”

But someone has managed to redefine the term “win” so it means that you have to transform a nation into a peaceful Democracy while taking zero casualties and not being allowed to attack and kill enemy guerillas unless you have a clear shot at them without any women, children, or Mosques in the way.

Obviously the political left is responsible for this redefinition, and the political left is so powerful that they managed to sucker a lot of people in the Bush administration into believing this nonsense.

Yes, the Bush administration is thought of as hardcore conservative, but actually Bush has been brainwashed into believing in liberal left-wing hate-America nonsense. He has bought into the idea that you can’t just win a war by taking over a country; he has bought into the nonsense that America is inherently evil and that the only way to cleanse the evilness of a military victory is by subsequently taking a lot of casualties and showing that we are the good guys by bringing peaceful Democracy while, all the time, respecting the most absurd and evil religion on the planet.

As I wrote as a comment:

War is about the correlation of forces — those forces that support your efforts, minus those forces that oppose your efforts. Taking out Saddam’s Iraq succeeded in removing a dangerous enemy from the Middle East, but if Iraq would have degenerated into a state controlled by al Qaeda or a hostile Iran, we would not have improved our correlation of forces in the region.

It was foolish to expect Iraq to develop into a modern liberal democracy without undergoing deeper and harder reforms first. However, the importance of managing Iraq’s government and security for some time was a wise one. We appear to be heading to a type of victory that is familiar to us in these small wars: spoiling our enemies while setting up a government that can keep the peace, cooperative with us militarily, and push the question of liberalization off to the future.

The blogger at half sigma likes his rhetorical flourishes, but he is influential, and I have seen him change his position as new facts come in previously. So: join the discussion at halfsigma.com!

Comment Upgrade: Patriotism and the Iraq War

My good friend Aaron wrote this for a post on 5th Generation War. However, the question is broad enough, and well thought out enough, to demand a thread of its own (emphasis mine)”

“I’m afraid I don’t find patriotism some quality to aspire to. It’s racism minus the pigmentary convenience. If anything, I’d say the Democratic Party is currently beholden to their electorate, who inarguably saw this election as a referendum on the war. I guess I’m curious why Herb and his type think what the Democrats are trying to do (the will of the people) is counter-intuitive to our country’s goals. If terrorism had stopped on the eve Iraq fell, I’d have to eat my words. Alas, it has not.”


Genetics and Warfare in the Age of Non-State Actors?

Yesterday, Mark of ZenPundit linked to a conference announcement for an upcoming (September 2007) get-together by the Combat Studies Instituteof the US Army on “Warfare in the Age of Non-State Actors: Implications for the U.S. Army.” I have to admit, it sounds exciting. The call for papers asks for a 300-word abstract. My thoughts:

Genetics and Warfare in the Age of Non-State Actors

For the past half century, social sciences generally and military studies in particular have belonged to the Standard Social Sciences Model (SSSM) of research. Under the SSSM, all of “human nature” and all variations within human populations are the result of learning, socialization, and outside influence. The SSSM teaches that the keys to understanding an individual actor’s behavior, whether a soldier, a terrorist, or a politician, was his personal environment, group environment, and social environment.

Recently, the SSSM has come under renewed attack by researched who look at genetic factors of behavior. Taking a Environment-Genetic interaction view of human behavior instead of environmental determinism, these scientists have found evidence for human-universal and intergroup-variation resulting from genetic genetic-environmental interactions. An environmental-determinist perspective blinds us to true cause-and-effect, and may lead us to treat symptoms instead of diseases.

These findings have immediate findings for military studies, both from established findings and original research. Classic findings, such as the human-universal “modules” for injustice-detection,injustice-avoidance, and injustice-punishment; inter-population-variations in the Dopamine Receptor D4 (7 Repeat) (“DRD4 7R”) allele associated with hyperactivity; and intra-population variations in predispositions for political beliefs and political obsessions are analyzed. Additionally, recent findings by the authors are presented. “Pentagon’s New Map” theory is presented as an example of SSSM research, and original criticisms which may help harmonize it with genetic factors are presented. Likewise, an ongoing experiment with altruistic super-punishment is presented and its implications for dealing with “suicide bombers” are discussed.
All findings are tied back to the new world of non-state actors and American army intervention.

The SSSM cripples our attempts to understand how non-state actors operate and how to defeat or co-opt them. In the future, research and action must take into account the genetics of the populations it deals with just as much as scientists and practitioners worry about the populations’ environments

Any suggestions? Advice?

Nonkinetic "War" is called "Politics"

Despite his own theory’s internal incoherency and agenda-driven nature, John Robb nonetheless hosted a great discussion on 5GW, or “SecretWar.” In the comments, RyanLuke asked

If 5GW is getting others to do what you want them to do of their own free will (though maybe that is not the best definition?), where is the “war” part?

Purpleslog, a blogfriend who writes at his own site as well as Dreaming 5GW

It is limiting to equate war with just kinetic power and fighting.

War is conflict and competition between global actors to survive, hold, flourish and grow. This can be zero-sum or non-zero sum.

John Robb chimed in

Purpleslog, that’s called politics.

and I agreed with John

5GW is the use of meaningful violence to change one’s free will. That is, the victim believes he reached the decision through his normal processes, but in reality you are selectively killing, destroying, etc, in a way to bring about that decision.

I agree with John Robb that non-kinetic “war” is called politics. Politics and war are qualitatively different from each other. They should not be confused.

I made a mistake similar to Purpleslog’s eighteen months ago. Peaceful politics can be similar to violent war, and there may be a 5GP (5th Generation Politics) that complements 5GW (5th Generation War).

But war and peace are nonetheless distinct activities. They should not be confused.

Liberal Bias and Mental Blindness

“War,” World Book Encyclopedia: Volume 21, 1988, pg 24.

I was browsing through an old encyclopedia in my home today, and found this under “War”

Modern warfare has moved away from the days when soldiers with rifles were the most important part of an army. War has been mechanized until it is in large part a contest in producing machinery. In Thomas Jefferson’s day, it made sense to protect “the right to keep and bear arms,” so that people could overthrow a tyrannical government. Today, the private citizen cannot keep the kinds of weapons that would serve this purpose.

The Uzbekistani rebels would disagree.

More seriously, it’s interesting to see an encylopedia written just 13 years after the fall of Saigon state that warfare must be mechanized to defeat a government. Part of it is just mental blindness, but the tome’s liberal bias compounded it.

To think of it in OODA (Observe-Orient-Decide-Act) terms, the orientations (“war is mechanized,” “for safety people must be disarmed) implicitly guided the observations (“small arms cannot defeat a government”).