December 10, 2002

Been pondering the unseemly CIA killing, the one in Yemen where a vehicle containing six suspected terrorists was blown up. Our Dominican priest was upset by it, and said so in a sermon, intimating that this was no different from assassination. The problem is that it is police work, but what if the country in question does not welcome you with open arms and doesn't provide the opportunity of arresting them?

Terrorists play by a different set of rules and we are left either playing by their or...or what? WWII saw the targeting of civilian populations - certainly something way outside the "gentleman" rules of war. And now again with respect to armies doing "police work". I have no answers, but I say this by way of a preface to another transition, as told in Barzun's Dawn to Decadence. In 1525, Charles V defeated Francis I in a great battle at Pavia, in Italy, and by accident Francis was taken prisoner. The fuedal notion was war as a tournament, a contest between two knights. It was expected that a ransom be paid for Francis, so that his honor lay intact:

But Francis, as his behavior soon showed, seems to have had inklings of a more modern, more national conception of war...

Francis, although he had given his word to stay put, decided to escape... He was caught, Charles was shocked, unbelieving. How could a Christian gentleman who had given his word act like a varlet? The transition from princely conduct to raison d'eetat, from knight to head of state, from medieval to modern was painful.
- Barzun

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