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The Creative Side of War Part 3: Ancient Greece

What Was Ancient Greek war all about? Greece presents a somewhat different picture from ancient China or Egypt. For its Archaic and Ancient periods (by the second century BCE most of Mainland Greece had become a province of Rome) Greece was divided into warring city-states. Perhaps no better illustration of this exists than the Illiad. One of...
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The Case For and Against Progress

For most of my life as a thinking individual I’ve struggled with two opposing ideas: On the one hand, humans are horrible–taken as a species–both self-serving and self-destructive, weirdly.   And yet they are at the same time extraordinary, overcoming obstacles over and over–from way, way back into prehistory, when we...
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Remember Hiroshima: North Korea, Trump and Nuclear War

Thinking through Trump’s Nuclear “strategy,” and his relationship with North Korea, it would be useful for him to understand some background. Long before North Korea was a household name in America, the Nuclear genie was out of the box. At 05:29:45 on July 16, 1945, in Alamogordo, New Mexico, a new era in human history began....
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The Creative Side of War. Part 2: Ancient Egypt

War is the father of all, king of all. Some it makes gods, some it makes men, some slaves, some free. Heraclitus. The Narmer Palette is carved from a single piece of schist dated to around 3200 BCE. It tells the tale, in picture and hieroglyph, of the military conquest by King Narmer of Lower Egypt. On one side of the Palette a man stands,...
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The Creative Side of War. Part One: China

When an army feeds its horses with grain, and kills its cattle for food, and when the men do not hang the cooking pots over the camp fire, you may know that they are determined to fight to the death. Sun  Tzu, The Art of War. War. Possibly the Alpha and Omega of Human history. But what, as the Motown song asks, is it good for? The answer is,...
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AI Likely to be our undoing?

The Doomsday Invention Last year, a curious nonfiction book became a Times best-seller: a dense meditation on artificial intelligence by the philosopher Nick Bostrom, who holds an appointment at Oxford. Titled “Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies,” it argues that true artificial intelligence, if it is realized, might pose...
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The History of Greek Philosophy in Four Questions

The History of Greek Philosophy in Four Questions Understanding the history of Greek philosophy is understanding Aristotle’s account of it. His work is authoritative in a way that no other history is, and not only because of the quantity of information we get from him. In addition, his philosophical views are often employed in the organization...
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Ten Biggest Milestones in Human History

In my humble opinion, most of history’s really really big deals happened relatively early  in our species’ existence. Bear in mind that we’re talking some 200,000 years since Homo Sapiens first appeared in the fossil record. In this top ten list below, 7 out of 10 big things happened before the eighteenth century. I’m...
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Plague and Human History

Throughout ancient history rapacious diseases have repeatedly devastated populations-in many cases proving that bacteria and viruses are far more of a threat than human violence or malfeasance.  But the human response to pandemics evolved, as we learned, sometimes in small ways, sometimes large, how to protect ourselves better. Even in the...
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Entertaining Historians, Part II: David Landes

Here’s a part of the intro from Part I — You tend to read a lot of history books when you’re writing a world history textbook. Many of these are monographs–specialist books written by and for academics. As such, they can be dry and hard to digest. But some stand out and i’m going to tell you a little about these...
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Islam is a Religion of violence. Islam is a Religion of Peace

This debate goes on and on. Every time there is an atrocity committed by someone calling themselves a Muslim, the “media” talks about how Islam is a violent religion, while “apologists” try to tone down this rhetoric with reason, their main argument being that it doesn’t make sense to brand all Muslims as...
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ISIS, Paris, Refugees and the Future: Questions (& brief answers)

How to think about ISIS in the wake of Paris? This requires reams of reading and writing. But for those with little time, here are some ideas to get thinking about. Should Syrian refugees be allowed into Europe/The US?  For conservatives on both sides of the Atlantic, these attacks have a silver lining. What? Let Syrians in to take our...
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Was Agriculture a Mistake? Podcast

Was Agriculture A Mistake by avcole1 How could agriculture have been a mistake? Is benefits are manifest. Or are they?
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Scrappy! Why We Fight…Podcast

We're exploring how we can continue to engage our readers by publishing podcasts. Have a listen!
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Middle East Primer 1-6

Links to the 6 part Middle East Primer series The Making of the Modern Middle East. Muhammad and Early Islam Women, Islamic? Afghanistan Iraq: Gulf War One and Two Sunnis and Shi’ites
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Middle East Primer # 6: Sunnis and Shiites

Islam, like other religions, has multiple schisms, factions, and parties within it. Just like Christianity, there are divergent views. In the Islamic world the largest of these splits is that between Sunni and Shi’ite. Shi’ites represent 15-20 percent of Muslims worldwide, and these are grouped in certain geographic areas, such as...
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Did Democracy Start in Athens?

In March, 2003, a US-led military coalition toppled Iraq’s government. Within a few weeks the United States found itself running Iraq, a country of some 31 million people. Then president George W. Bush put the war in context of the “2500 year-old story of democracy.” Bush represented the US occupation of Iraq as a continuing effort to...
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Middle East Primer # 5: Iraq. Gulf War One and Two

What, exactly is our beef with Iraq? Like Afghanistan, we have been there for the entirety of my childrens’ school life to date. I remember my twenty-year-old asking me if we would kill children by mistake when we bombed Iraq. When she was seven. What was going on in Iraq before we showed up (US, that is…)? As we described earlier...
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Middle East Primer #4: Afghanistan

What is the Afghan war all about? Why are we (that is to say Americans) still there, even if troops are now leaving? After 9/11, the Bush White House (with Donald Rumsfeld as Defense Secretary) decided to go after the perpetrators of the attacks of that day –al Qaeda–who were then deemed to be residing in Afghanistan. At that time...
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Middle East Primer # 3: Women, Islamic?

Recently, Pakistan Today ran a satirical story about the very real Council on Islamic Ideology.  Said council is a group of bearded nut-jobs who for some reason hold a certain amount of respect in some Pakistani circles, and who lobby for more Islamic influence in government. The story told how the council had ruled that women were...
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