Author's Note: I do my best thinking by pen. For this week's challenge, I found myself attempting to untangle some thoughts for a reading list I have had on my mind as of late. Though I include a decent idea or two, as well as an interesting historical tidbit, I believe the Reader will arrive at a similar conclusion as I did upon finalizing this writing piece: I still have some untangling to do.
The trajectory has been set for some time, but now we are able to witness the strengths and weaknesses of differing ideologies in near-real time. By ideologies, I, of course, mean stories. It is tempting to maintain these conflicts are distant and unrelated to our daily lives. However, a glance at our current discourse will beg a differing conclusion. We continue to weaponize these stories - histories and cultures - in our narratives, and this weaponisation grows on the prior ignorances of the next "region of import".
I want to prepare for such attacks on discourse, such attacks on our thoughts on the reasoning, inevitability, and purpose of armed conflicts. As a humble reader and observer to history, I know few ways of preparation outside just that: Reading; and so Read I shall.
The Global Security landscape is rife with strife and change is on the horizon, and not all of it will be of the good variety. In our 5GW media ecosystem (or cage), the importance of continuous learning cannot be understated. Today's information superhighway allows near limitless access to near limitless information in which I inundate myself daily. However, amongst all the rabbit holes one desperately tries to fill in, I wish to guide my readings with at least half an eye on upcoming strife.
I aim to invalidate neither the battles of yesterday nor the battles of today. Fads of performative support and activism irk me as much as the next historian. But, as I believe some of the frontlines of the novel warfare the 20s will witness happen on social media, the front page of the papers, or even in our own minds, I would like to sharpen some skills in anticipation.
Thus, this "Before the Battles Begin" Reading List is an exercise in guided reading - for myself more than anyone else.
I believe all reading is a study of life first, followed by a study of the topic at hand. Regarding armed conflict, this may go double, as understanding the very history and reality of peoples' under attack or under orders to attack requires one to not only grapple with their own life (that is, their ethics, morals, beliefs) but that of others, often in an alien context. Identifying some blind spots for future flash points that may enter the collective discussion someday soon will merely be one stepping stone in confronting modernity to the best of my ability. I think - nay, I know - there are always more stories to hear. I also know, however, I will benefit greatly from hearing a few more from places that are soon to have many more stories told about them. A "getting ahead" of the media's parasitic inclinations, if one may be so crude.
The initial sketch I wrote in a sleepy scribble is as follows:
- January - February: Taiwan - this conflict-to-be is not unheard of, but, as I will allude to shortly, there is much I have yet to add to my general understandings of the region.
- March - April: Guyana - Venezuela's referendum to forward territorial claims upon Guyana's Essequibo region is only days away, on the 3rd of December.
- May - June: Eritrea - the limitations of the Pretoria Accords are being quickly reached. See this story for more, don't bother going to page 2, I do not know why they needed a whole page to put the author's name.
One small fact I learned recently spurred this idea of my blind spots. Despite living in this Low Land Kingdom for a number of years, I was utterly unfamiliar with the Gouvernement Formosa (臺灣荷蘭統治時期). From 1624 - 1668, the Dutch ruled the island of Taiwan. I only overheard this at a sort of gathering of military nerds, and one comment from a China specialist got me thinking down this path: "in some regards, if the Dutch just stayed and fought, Taiwan, China, and therefore the World, would look a whole lot different now". A silly comment made for a silly context, I do not think anyone would believe this thesis to hold water academically, but it did get me thinking - there are many unknown unknowns when it comes to this little island.
I was able to grab the ear of this specialist and asked for a preferred entrance point to getting a stronger grip on the history of this important little island: Forbidden Nation: A History of Taiwan by Jonathan Manthorpe (2005) was their answer. This was the kernel that got me thinking of seeking out such texts.
I have still yet to identify books for the other conflicts. I am certain I will get distracted along the way. There will be news developments, article deep dives, and other simple musings that distract me from a strict step forward - such is the weight of this Era of Distractions. But, starting January 2024, I will have somewhat of a goal to strive for, and, if this idea ever grows beyond just this silly reflection piece - I would like to add presentations, questions, video supplements, &c. - maybe even a few fellow Readers to join me.
The future is here and gone, dear Reader. Read all you can and remember there is a lesson to be learned in everything. In everything.
Bountiful researches to you and yours, and happy December.