A Peace to End All Peace

I just finished reading “A Peace to End All Peace: The Fall of the Ottoman Empire and the Creation of the Modern Middle East” by David Fromkin. The title of the book comes from a quote by Field Marshall Earl Wavell:

After the ‘war to end war’ they seem to have been pretty successful in Paris at making a ‘Peace to end Peace.’

The first thing one should know about this book is that it is not about Middle Eastern politics and personalities around the World War I era, as Fromkin makes clear in the introduction.

Middle Eastern personalities, circumstances, and political cultures do not figure a great deal in the narrative that follows, except when I suggest the outlines and dimensions of what European politicians were ignoring when they made their decisions. This is a book about the decision-making process, and in the 1914—22 period, Europeans and Americans were the only ones seated around the table when the decisions were made.

His argument is definitely correct, but this means that it is mostly a tale about British bureaucracy. The biggest weakness of this book is the scarcity of local Middle Eastern points of view.

World War I is always an interesting read since so much of the modern world is based on that era. However, I don’t agree with some people that there was any significant difference between the two sides in the Great War. In many ways, it was an imperial war and this is especially true when you consider the allied intentions in the Middle East.

It also feels strange reading about the prejudices of major figures of the early 20th century. Anti-semitism was obviously not an uncommon thing then (and still isn’t.) What surprised me though was that there were British bureaucrats who thought that the Young Turks were actually a front for a Jewish Freemason conspiracy. I guess some things never change.

One reason for such conspiracy theories was Salonika, which is now known as Thessaloniki and is the second largest city in Greece. It played an important part in the birth of modern Turkey. The three main leaders of the Young Turkey Party, Talaat, Djemal and Enver, all had some connection to the city which become part of Greece in the Balkan war in 1912.

Mehmed Talaat, the founder of the Young Turks and later Grand Vizier, lived and worked in Salonika. Djemal Bey was a staff officer in the Third Army which had its headquarters there. The Young Turks gained power in 1908 when some troops in Salonika including Enver Pasha escaped to the hills and the Sultan sent troops against them. And finally, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey, was born in Salonika in 1881.

While we are on the topic of Jews,

David Ben-Gurion and Itzhak Ben Zvi […] offered to organize a Palestinian Jewish army in 1914 to defend Ottoman Palestine. But, instead of accepting their offer, Djemal deported them and other Zionist leaders in 1915. Ben-Gurion and Ben Zvi went to the United States, where they continued to campaign for the creation of a pro-Ottoman Jewish army. But early in 1918 they rallied to a Jewish army formation that was to fight in Palestine on the British side against the Ottoman Empire. Nothing the wartime Ottoman government had done had given them cause to remain pro-Turk.

Now, there is an interesting topic for soc.history.what-if. I am sure someone has thought of it already.

You have most likely heard of President Wilson’s fourteen points, which he outlined to a joint session of Congress on January 8, 1918. The 12th point deals specifically with the Ottoman empire.

The Turkish portion of the present Ottoman Empire should be assured a secure sovereignty, but the other nationalities which are now under Turkish rule should be assured an undoubted security of life and an absolutely unmolested opportunity of autonomous development, and the Dardanelles should be permanently opened as a free passage to the ships and commerce of all nations under international guarantees.

But did you know that the United States was never at war with the Ottoman empire? United States entered World War I with a declaration of war against Germany in April 1917 after German submarines sank American merchant vessels. War against the German ally, Austria-Hungary, was not declared until the end of 1917. But the US did not declare war against the other Central Powers, Ottoman empire and Bulgaria.

Since the US was not at war with the Ottomans, point 12 seems anomalous. President Wilson was proposing dismemberment of a country with which the US was at peace. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee thought about the additional declarations of war but accepted Wilson’s decision in the end.

“A Peace to End All Peace” also has a very interesting discussion of how the Ottomans entered the Great War.

Overall, it is a good book worth reading and it would have been better it had had focussed more on local Middle Eastern politics and opinion in addition to the shenanigans of the Great Powers.

US States I Have Visited


Shown in Red. That’s 38 states plus DC.

Countries I Have Visited

Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Libya, Malaysia, Netherlands, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Turkey, UK, US
Create your own visited country map

Via Sofia’s Journal.

Which Lord of the Rings Character Are You?

Congratulations! You’re Haldir!

Which Lord of the Rings character and personality problem are you?
brought to you by Quizilla

Via Sister Scorpion.

Facial Expression

Via Gene Expression, I came across an old article in Monitor on Psychology about facial expressions.

Joseph Campos, PhD, of the University of California at Berkeley […] says, “there is profound agreement that the face, along with the voice, body posture and hand gestures, forecast to outside observers what people will do next.”

The point of contention remains in whether the face also says something about a person’s internal state. Some, such as Izard, say, “Absolutely.” Detractors, such as Alan Fridlund, PhD, of the University of California, Santa Barbara, say an adamant “No.” And others, including Campos and Ekman, land somewhere in the middle. The face surely can provide important information about emotion, but it is only one of many tools and should never be used as a “gold standard” of emotion as some researchers, particularly those studying children, have tended to do.

“The face is a component [of emotion],” says Campos. “But to make it the center of study of the human being experiencing an emotion is like saying the only thing you need to study in a car is the transmission. Not that the transmission is unimportant, but it’s only part of an entire system.”

Based on findings that people label photos of prototypical facial expressions with words that represent the same basic emotions—a smile represents joy, a scowl represents anger—Ekman and Izard pioneered the idea that by carefully measuring facial expression, they could evaluate people’s true emotions. In fact, since the 1970s, Ekman and his colleague Wallace Friesen, PhD, have dominated the field of emotion research with their theory that when an emotion occurs, a cascade of electrical impulses, emanating from emotion centers in the brain, trigger specific facial expressions and other physiological changes—such as increased or decreased heart rate or heightened blood pressure.

If the emotion comes on slowly, or is rather weak, the theory states, the impulse might not be strong enough to trigger the expression. This would explain in part why there can sometimes be emotion without expression, they argue. In addition, cultural “display rules”—which determine when and whether people of certain cultures display emotional expressions—can derail this otherwise automatic process, the theory states. Facial expressions evolved in humans as signals to others about how they feel, says Ekman.

“At times it may be uncomfortable or inconvenient for others to know how we feel,” he says. “But in the long run, over the course of evolution, it was useful to us as signalers. So, when you see an angry look on my face, you know that I may be preparing to respond in an angry fashion, which means that I may attack or abruptly withdraw.”

Dr. Ekman is famous for developing FACS, Facial Action Coding System, for quantifying facial expressions. Here is an interview with him in the New York Times.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Central Intelligence Agency and state and local police forces have turned to Dr. Ekman for help learning to read subtle emotional cues from the faces, voices and body language of potential assassins, terrorists and questionable visa applicants.

Around the world, more than 500 people —- including neurologists, psychiatrists and psychologists —- have learned Dr. Ekman’s research tool called FACS, or Facial Action Coding System, for deciphering which of the 43 muscles in the face are working at any given moment, even when an emotion is so fleeting that the person experiencing it may not be conscious of it.

That detailed knowledge of facial expression has earned Dr. Ekman, 69, a supporting role in the movie industry, where he has consulted with animators from Pixar and Industrial Light & Magic to give lifelike expressions to cartoon characters.

While psychologists use FACS to understand people, we computer vision scientists use it so that we can get machines to recognize or synthesize facial expressions.

The basic facial emotional expressions are seven —- “anger, sadness, fear, surprise, disgust, contempt and happiness.”

One of the problems we have is that of collecting image/video data with spontaneous expressions instead of posed ones. The posed expressions are somewhat different than natural ones.

Q. So how do you tell a fake smile from a real one?

A. In a fake smile, only the zygomatic major muscle, which runs from the cheekbone to the corner of the lips, moves. In a real smile, the eyebrows and the skin between the upper eyelid and the eyebrow come down very slightly. The muscle involved is the orbicularis oculi, pars lateralis.

This is a somewhat similar problem to the one Dr. Ekman discusses in his book “Telling Lies: Clues to Deceit in the Marketplace, Politics, and Marriage.”

People have been studying facial expressions for a long time. When we talk of facial expressions, an unexpected name comes up: Charles Darwin. He demonstrated the universality of facial expressions in The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals.

There was a very interesting article (I like the PDF version better) in the New Yorker by Malcolm Gladwell about facial expressions, their relationship to emotions and their use in law enforcement.

Coming back to FACS, Dr.Ekman et al sell a package for the training of people to score the different facial expressions. You can read parts of their FACS manual and Investigators’ Guide online. An older version of different FACS expressions is available here.

But it is not only psychologists that use FACS. Most psychologists manually score the different facial actions using the FACS system. This requires training and is time-consuming as well.

People in the computer vision research community have been working for quite some time on analysis of the human face. The most well-known is face recognition. There has also been a lot of work on automatic facial expression recognition. You can visit the facial analysis links page. There is also a facial expression web page with links to both psychologists and computer scientists.

FACS has been used both for analyzing and synthesizing facial expressions. Some researchers at Linköping University, Sweden defined a 3-D wireframe model, CANDIDE, for the face with facial actions corresponding to those in the FACS system. You can play with a 3-D face mesh by varying the intensity of different facial actions here.

With the advent of MPEG-4, there has been a move from FACS to MPEG-4 in the computer vision community. The MPEG-4 Facial Definition Parameters (FDP) define different feature points on the face while the Facial Animation Parameters (FAP) define the movement of different parts of the face. Note that these definitions do not refer to specific muscles or are directly related to emotions. This standard is actually more convenient for facial animation.

More Qutb

Bill Allison of Ideofact has been the go-to guy for commentary on Sayyid Qutb for quite some time. I should link to him more often, but all his posts are very thought-provoking and I get lazy in pointing them out.

I have an index of his earlier posts on Qutb’s book “Social Justice in Islam” and I strongly suggest that you read all of Ideofact’s posts on the subject.

Now he is posting his thoughts on Syed Qutb’s “Milestones.”

He still has another 8 5 1 0 chapters to go.

CRVO Update

Like I posted before, I got CRVO (Central Retinal Vein Occlusion), or Papillophlebitis as it is sometimes known, in my right eye. I had a followup visit with my retina specialist this week.

I had already noticed that the dark cotton wool spots I was seeing earlier were almost gone. The doctor confirmed that quite a lot of the retinal hemorrhage is gone now. In fact, he was surprised at the speed of recovery and that my central vision was never affected.

Even though my bloodwork was normal, he advised me to see a specialist, a hematologist I hear they are called, to do more tests than the dozen blood tests he has already done. There goes a liter of my blood.

I also have the impression that my doctor has not had much experience retinal vein occlusions in healthy young adults. I think it is fairly rare in that case.