War Stories

Narratives are extremely important in any war, but especially in a civil war. In a civil war, or a rebellion, insurgency, justified uprising (depending on your narrative), one side is trying to get a group of people to live with their vision and to accept that they are inherently just. Narratives are similar to and employ propoganda, but they are also more subtle than the screaming headlines of the day (which sometimes comically clash). This war is no different.

In a valuable report, Nasser Arrabyee lays out the six conditions that the goverment is demanding are met to cease hosilities. The last five are pretty standard.

Withdrawal from all districts and removing all check points .Going down from mountains, and stopping blocking the roads and sabotages acts. Handing over all equipments, civil and military, they seized. Handing over the kidnapped people from Sa'ada. Non-interference in the affairs of the local authority.

The first one, though, is the real catch: release the hostages that they took in June- the Germans and the Brit.


I don't know who actually believes that the al-Houthis are the hostage takers. It isn't their MO; I don't know what they would have to gain. But in saying this, Salih is 1) setting up a condition impossible to meet, guaranteeing that they can keep pounding the north in the face of beligerent intransigence, and, more importantly, 2) setting himself up as the protector of Westerners and subtly tying the rebels to crazy beheading Islamic militants. The war has not been good press for the regime, and here it is trying to place its narrative under a more flattering light.

(I've seen in some places the war called "Salih's Darfur. I think this is pretty shameful, actually. Whatever it is- and there is a lot there, which we'll discuss as this conflect goes on- genocide is not the point. We here at Waq al-Waq believe that words mean something, and to simplify an issue into the worst possible thing is to do a disservice- and not only to Yemen, but also to the people of Darfur.)

​There are two kinds of failure – but only one is honorable

Malcolm Gladwell teaches "Get over yourself and get to work" for Big Think Edge.

Big Think Edge
  • Learn to recognize failure and know the big difference between panicking and choking.
  • At Big Think Edge, Malcolm Gladwell teaches how to check your inner critic and get clear on what failure is.
  • Subscribe to Big Think Edge before we launch on March 30 to get 20% off monthly and annual memberships.
Keep reading Show less

Why the ocean you know and love won’t exist in 50 years

Can sensitive coral reefs survive another human generation?

  • Coral reefs may not be able to survive another human decade because of the environmental stress we have placed on them, says author David Wallace-Wells. He posits that without meaningful changes to policies, the trend of them dying out, even in light of recent advances, will continue.
  • The World Wildlife Fund says that 60 percent of all vertebrate mammals have died since just 1970. On top of this, recent studies suggest that insect populations may have fallen by as much as 75 percent over the last few decades.
  • If it were not for our oceans, the planet would probably be already several degrees warmer than it is today due to the emissions we've expelled into the atmosphere.

Vikings unwittingly made their swords stronger by trying to imbue them with spirits

They didn't know it, but the rituals of Iron Age Scandinavians turned their iron into steel.

Culture & Religion
  • Iron Age Scandinavians only had access to poor quality iron, which put them at a tactical disadvantage against their neighbors.
  • To strengthen their swords, smiths used the bones of their dead ancestors and animals, hoping to transfer the spirit into their blades.
  • They couldn't have known that in so doing, they actually were forging a rudimentary form of steel.
Keep reading Show less

Health care: Information tech must catch up to medical marvels

Michael Dowling, Northwell Health's CEO, believes we're entering the age of smart medicine.

Photo: Tom Werner / Getty Images
Sponsored by Northwell Health
  • The United States health care system has much room for improvement, and big tech may be laying the foundation for those improvements.
  • Technological progress in medicine is coming from two fronts: medical technology and information technology.
  • As information technology develops, patients will become active participants in their health care, and value-based care may become a reality.
Keep reading Show less