U.S. Officials Warn Special Ops Forces Being Stretched to Possible Breaking Point

U.S. Officials Warn Special Ops Forces Being Stretched to Possible Breaking Point

Jeff Seldin - VOA News

Add U.S. lawmakers to the ranks of those worried the country's special operations forces are being stretched to a possible breaking point.

Pentagon officials raised the issue months ago, telling lawmakers in May the continuous, heavy reliance on the most elite U.S. forces was threatening to erode their capabilities.

Since then, such concerns have only grown, highlighted by a series of high-profile incidents, including a probe into whether two members of the Navy's SEAL team may have been involved in the death of an Army Green Beret member in Mali this past June, and the death of four special operation soldiers in an ambush in Niger last month.

"I do worry about overuse of SOF [special operations forces]," House Armed Services Committee Chairman Republican Mac Thornberry said Wednesday at a conference in Washington.

"They are increasingly an organization of choice because SOF is very effective," he said.

Force of Choice

There currently are about 70,000 active duty, reserve and civilian personnel serving under U.S. Special Operations Command. According to Congressional testimony, approximately 8,000 forces are currently deployed to more than 80 countries.

Some of the more high-profile missions include critical roles as part of the effort to defeat the Islamic State (IS) terror group in both Iraq and Syria, as well as assistance to Afghan forces fighting both the Taliban and IS.

Efforts to stem the influence of terror groups in Africa, including the mission in Niger, as well as efforts to reassure U.S. allies in Europe and Southeast Asia, have only increased the need for special operations forces.

"The operational tempo is so incredible," Senate Armed Services Committee ranking member Democrat Jack Reed said at a policy forum on U.S. special operations forces.

"The idea that you would have within six years, multiple deployments, some people every six months to deploy, that in and of itself causes lots of consequences," he said.

Operational Tempo

Some lawmakers fear that even as U.S. special operations forces perform well while they are deployed, the high operational tempo is taking a toll once they return home — with personnel sometimes suffering from physical and emotional scars that cannot be easily identified.

"These men and women are some of the most hardcore, determined people that we have in our armed forces," said Republican Senator Joni Ernst, a combat veteran who served in Iraq.

"It is very hard for them to step forward and say, 'Hey, I need to go see the doc. Hey, I need to visit with the counselor,'" she said. "We have to provide more support for those who are engaging in this high op tempo environment."

Some of the country's elite forces are starting to get more help.

Ernst said some Navy SEAL teams now have psychologists assigned to their units. Other units are doing more to monitor and detect changes in behavior following deployments.

But she and others worry existing programs are not working well enough, and they say more needs to be done.

"We spend so much time and effort talking about the stuff we're going buy for the military. I'm not sure over the years we have spent enough time on our most valuable assets, which is our people," according to Thornberry, who chairs the House Armed Services Committee.

Still, there are nagging concerns the current special operations force may be nearing its limit.

"What they're capable of is unbelievable, but for how long?" said Representative Adam Smith, the ranking member of House Armed Services Committee. "How many missions can you send them on? How many times can they do this? I think that's what we don't know."

Growing Demands

In the meantime, lawmakers expect Washington's reliance on special operations forces is only going to grow, in part due to an expanding set of global hot spots and also because of a U.S. foreign policy approach that seems to be minimizing the use of diplomacy.

Senator Reed pointed to the U.S. operation in Niger, where four U.S. soldiers were killed, as an example.

"Part of that operation was sort of civic engagement — those special operators were talking to the head person in the village," he said. "Typically, with adequate security, that's a State Department function."

According to Ernst, "We should run the gamut before we are engaging our military and we can't do that if we don't have the personnel outside of DoD [the Department of Defense] that are shaping that battlefield for us, shaping that discussion.

"They have to be properly funded. It's critical to our national security," she said. "They help our [special forces] operators significantly."

Another option, according to both Reed and Ernst, is to expand the number of U.S. special operations forces, which they say may be necessary even with a bulked-up diplomatic corps.

"We have to increase numbers and resources," Reed said, warning, "We cannot sacrifice quality for quantity."

Your rating: None


About the actual article, not the distracting discussion below. There are many angles to this issue. Clearly the force is stressed, but most of us who are in or were in like being deployed. Garrison time was/is a nightmare, where warriors are stuck in the inane conventional army life style where the focus is on political correctness, haircuts, organized runs, and other such nonsense. Too much of that, our SOF warriors will leave in droves. Perhaps one way to alleviate stress, is to reduce the about of stupid requirements on the force when they're in garrison (I can only speak for Army SOF, I don't know how this impacts Navy, Marine, or Air Force SOF).

We can't reverse bad decisions from the past, but the desire to see most of the force married, which started in the 90s, has had both positive and detrimental effects. Clearly a high OPTEMPO stresses families, which in turn stresses the soldier. Some families are more resilient than others based on a wide range of factors, but regardless they all feel the impact of dad being away for extended periods. SOF family support programs certainly help, but they can't fill the missing dad gap.

The problem will only get worse with the Army now lowering its recruiting standards. What Country Team or partner nation will want to invite potential trouble makers into their backyards, which is what will happen to the conventional army if they can't maintain standards. The SOF preference will remain, even if it isn't necessarily a SOF mission.
expand, what options are available to reduce the stress on the force? Some were addressed in the article, such as assigning psychologists to the units, but my experience before retiring is that the surge of young psychologists in the Army's ranks were creating more harm by defaulting to issuing medication to deal with mental problems. In the short and long term, they frequently made the problems worse.

Maybe one answer is getting rid of the up or out bureaucracy in SOF. Let people take a break in the school house or staff, and then return to an operational team. That will mean making the rank structure more flexible and more senior in some cases. A lot of O4s, E9s, W4s still are capable and eager to get back into the fight. Another option, one SOCOM is pursuing is reducing the size of staffs in the forward deployed JTFs. They have grown to an unsustainable level over the years, and the folks manning these billets are frequently pulled from jobs where they're supposed to be enjoying some down time with their families.
We should also be very hesitant about expanding the ranks of SOF. Despite claims to the contrary, quality will suffer. Assuming the demand for SOF will continue, and perhaps increase, and the force can't substantially

Bill M:

If Clausewitz has informed us that: ""The first, the supreme, the most far-reaching act of judgment that the statesman and commander have to make is to establish...the kind of war on which they are embarking; neither mistaking it for, nor trying to turn it into, something that is alien to its nature."

And, re: this "kind of war" determination, addressed by Clausewitz here, if both the current Commander-in-Chief of our Armed Forces -- and indeed elements within the U.S. Army Special Operations Command itself no less (misidentified by me below as the U.S. Army Special Forces Command, ouch, apologies) -- if indeed BOTH of these such critical entities have associated themselves with the "Clash of Civilizations" thesis (in the case of the U.S. Army Special Operations Command, and re: their document that I provide at my initial comment below, as relates mostly to our conflict with Russia);

Given these such matters, then how can we NOT:

a. First address this -- apparently new -- "kind of war that we are embarked upon" determination (to wit: the Clash of Civilizations). And, only then,

b. Consider same in relation to such things as "Special Operations Forces Being Stretched to Possible Breaking Point?"

Thus, to suggest that the effort that you and I have made below, this should not be seen as "distracting" but, rather, as both good and proper work and, indeed, a necessary preliminary "first step" to engaging in these and other such discussions. Yes?

(This, especially considering the fact that this [the Clash of Civilizations] seems to be a very new and exceedingly different "kind of war we are embarked upon" determination -- one that was not held by previous American presidents/previous U.S. Commanders-in-Chief?)

Bill C., what exactly is new? This is the same argument you have made in response to every article for the past few years. It isn't new and it isn't germane to the subject of most articles you respond to.

Bill M:

What appears to be new here is the formal adoption of the Clash of Civilizations worldview and the acceptance of this as the strategic context of our time and of our operations.

Note: If this matter were not "germane," as you say, then would you not agree that the authors of our U.S. Army Special Forces Command item, linked below, would not have spent so much time addressing it? And, indeed, spent so much time noting the historical and religious aspects of this "clash" (in this case, as applies to Russia, but will also apply to the Islamic World. Yes?) Something that, I believe you and I would agree, the Obama Administration, and the other post-Cold War presidents, would never, ever do. (These other post-Cold War presidents would not come within a million miles of such "religious," etc., conflict discussions.) From the U.S. Army Special Forces Command item linked in my comment below:


Incisive observers might have remembered that Ukraine was the seam between Western and Slavic Orthodox civilizations, and that the Russian nation traces its history to the Kievan Rus’ Empire. The division between the Latin Church and Orthodoxy was exemplified by the 1472 marriage of the Grand Prince of Moscow Ivan III to Sophia Paleologue, claimant to the throne of the Byzantine Empire, at the recommendation of Pope Paul II in an unsuccessful attempt to join the two civilizations. Still, through this union, Russian autocrats believed themselves to be the true inheritors of civilization, with Moscow the “third Rome,” following Constantinople. Ivan III began to refer to himself as Tsar, the Russian derivation of Caesar. Vladimir Putin’s interest and intervention in Ukraine emanated from these deep roots and, more recently, from the dramatic experiences of the Soviet Union as it teetered toward its demise.


So: I suggest that this apparent adoption of the Clash of Civilization as our worldview and strategic context -- this has mind-boggling implications; this, given that, for example, we can now, and thereby, easily point to, address and attack the other's history, religion, culture, etc.; i.e., the very foundations of civilizations -- and thus of our conflicts -- much as Huntington indicates here:


First, the differences in civilizations are not only real; they are basic. Civilizations are differentiated from each other by history, language, culture, tradition and, most importantly, by religion.


https://www.jstor.org/stable/20045621?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents (See Page 25.)

Bottom Line Question -- Based on the Above:

Does not this 180 degree turn, this mind-boggling "sea change" in our worldview and in our perception of the strategic context (to wit: the Clash of Civilizations) -- and the exceptionally important implications thereof (we can now, for example, discuss, address and attack "the other's" religion, etc.; this, as a valid foundation and/or "root cause" of our differences and, thus, of our conflicts);

Does not this dramatic turn:

a. Warrant our consideration now and today? And this,

b. Before we move on to address such things as our "Special Operations Forces Being Stretched to Possible Breaking Point?" (For example: By this Clash of Civilizations?)

Bill M: Does this additional information, these clarifications and these added quoted items possibly help make my case? This, for our necessary consideration of this dynamic "sea change" re: our worldview and understanding of the strategic context; this, before we go on address the specific matters which, seemingly, are dependent upon and/or related thereto -- such as, those addressed in this thread?

Frankly, I think you're imagining things. You have this schema in your mind, and you see it everywhere. It causes you to dismiss the real underlying reasons for these clashes. Sometimes is as simple as securing our people and our interests. Huntington wrote his book over 20 years ago, and he was looking in the rear view mirror when he wrote it. There is certainly some relevance to his arguments, but the clash he talks about is neither new or as extensive as he suggested.

Arguably the Germans during WWII engaged in a clash of civilizations against what they viewed as lesser peoples. However, ideology and competition for political power still drives most conflicts. Opponents attempt to mobilize populations based on identity, but culture in my view goes deeper than identity. The jihadists attempting to impose their ideological interpretation of Islam upon others will accept anyone that claims to be a Muslim and a psychopath. Unlike your argument, they are not waging a defensive war against the West, they are waging an offensive war. They are also waging an offensive war against Muslims and Muslim majority governments that opted to modernize, not because they were forced to modernize by the West.

We have seen civilization clashes in the Balkans, China against Tibet, numerous countries against the Jewish people, etc. This isn't new, but it certainly doesn't describe the bulk of warfare we see today. The U.S. promotes it values, it normally doesn't impose them. Admittedly the Bush regime naively attempted to do in both Iraq and Afghanistan, and apparently you can't move past that. Those wars were aberrations in that sense, not the norm. They certainly don't represent what we're doing in other areas of the world.

Before Special Forces went global, they were regionally aligned, expected to under the cultures of their regions, so they could integrate and pursue our ends by working within that culture's norms. They were not formed to transform cultures. They were formed to defend and advance U.S. interests, first by being experts in UW, and later JFK leveraged them as leading force to support friendly governments oppose communist insurgencies. Since then they have supported a wide range of military operations ranging from peace enforcement, counter narcotics, engagement, counterterrorism, and high end combat operations.

Furthermore, Russia didn't invade Crimea due to culture, that was smoke and mirrors. They invaded for the pragmatic of reasons of having access to a strategic sea port, securing their energy pipelines, and to send the West and the world a message that Russia was back on the global stage. While the initial invasion was a great success, strategically it backfired, NATO is strengthening, the U.S. is posturing more forces in Europe, so in short Russia achieved little. Very little here can honestly be described as clash of civilizations, and nothing here is a 180 degree turn from what we have been doing since the end of WWII.

Bill M. Above you said:

"Frankly, I think you're imagining things."

If so, then there seems to be many others -- in additional to the current President of the United States and the authors of the U.S. Army Special Forces Command article that I link below -- that are like me:






(This being just a sampling -- there are numerous others.)

(Herein you will note that -- although, as you point out, "Huntington wrote his book over 20 years ago and was looking in the rear view mirror when he wrote it" -- Huntington's "Clash of Civilizations," President Trump's considered embrace of same and the elements of the U.S. Army Special Forces Command's suggestion of the relevance of this worldview, etc. -- all of this is occurring now/today.)

Again, the great significant, importance and novelty of this new position, I believe; this seems to be in the fact that, via this such concept (which seems to "shit-can" the "global community"/ "Islam cannot be the problem" concepts that proceeded it, for example, under Presidents Bush Jr. and Obama) is that:

a. We can now formally suggest that religion -- for example Islam and/or Orthodoxy (as the very basis of civilizations according to Huntington) -- may now be considered as a/the "root cause" of our conflicts.

Likewise, and accordingly, this Clash of Civilizations (given the enormous "worldwide" scale of such a conflict); this might now be seen:

b. As a much more understandable and viable basis for discussing such things as our special operations forces being stretched to the possible breaking point? (The "cooperative" nature of the so-called "global community" not being able to, as well, deal with, addresses and/or explain such things?)

Bottom Line Thought -- Based on the Above

Bill: Obviously, I am just an observer of these matters. It would seem that your real argument -- for example as to the relevance of the Clash of Civilizations worldview today -- this would seem to be more with the current President of the United States -- with the authors of the linked article from the U.S. Army Special Forces Command I have provided below -- and with the authors of the linked articles that I provide above. Yes?

(Bill: Another potentially important and related matter: If, indeed, we have formally adopted the Clash of Civilizations as our worldview and as the strategic basis for our operations, then how might this -- positively and/or negatively -- effect Special Forces ability to work, as you say, "under the cultures of various regions ... integrate and pursue our ends by working within these culture's norms?")

Bill C.

Your mind is completely closed, and you spill your bias into every response. You seem to think doing a simple doing a simple Google search for clash of civilizations validates your arguments. It may actually help if you read the articles at the links you post, and the author's intent before you list them as references.

To your points.

a. Clash of civilizations does little to describe to our tensions with Russia, North Korea, China, or even Iran, since most of the Iranian citizens are relatively moderate. Their leadership leverages backwards looking rhetoric in an attempt to mobilize their population. In reality, it has failed, and like other 4th rate countries, they rely on coercion over their citizens to maintain power, not a civilization identity. When civilizations clash they clash, but this describes little of what we're dealing with on the world stage today. Furthermore, as I stated previously none of this is new, so the paradigm shift you suggest resides only in your imagination. If your national leadership actually viewed the world that way, they would put us at grave risk, because they would miss the real threats.

b. For the most part the world does cooperate on key issues, but as Kissinger pointed out the world order is under attack by rising powers who seek to change that order. This isn't a clash of civilizations, it is a clash of states vying for more power, whether its regional hegemony, or global power.

In response to your articles:

Politico Magazine: Team Trump's Message. As the author points out, this is simply political rhetoric leveraged to generate support for team Trump. The author interviews experts on the topic, who strongly disagree with it. Our main allies in the so called war on terror are Muslims, so exactly where is the clash of civilizations? There are a few million jihadists who want to impose their backwards views on the world, to include the majority of the Muslim world that rejects their views. More accurately, they're best described as a-holes that need to be exterminated, but we're not seeking to exterminate Islam.

The Washington Post article rejects Trump's rhetoric, and when Trump is challenged directly he clarifies he doesn't mean we're at war with Islam, but as he points out it is hard to discern who with us and who is against us. I agree with that assertion, it is hard. Politicians and militia leaders seek issues they can leverage with simple rhetoric to mobilize support. It seldom describes reality.

The key paragraph in the Huffington article follows:

Quote As a large study of Daesh personnel published by the Center to Combat Terrorism at West Point last month showed, political motivations appear to be far more prominent than religious ones in motivating terror recruits. The study also found that the vast majority of recruits lacked religious education and had minimal religious knowledge. One of the conclusions of the study was that recruiters target those who lack religious literacy as they are unable to scrutinize the Jihadi doctrine presented to them. End Quote

I think the point about lack of religious study as children is key. They don't understand it, so the young folks are easily swayed by radical propaganda, otherwise known as crap. Not surprising, look at how vulnerable our young college kids are to the propaganda spewed by their professors. The students seem incapable of critical thinking in many cases, yet higher education is supposed to facilitate and encourage this. It does the opposite. A long way of saying people are vulnerable to being swayed by propaganda, and sadly the current education system doesn't offer a defense against this.

I agree we're at war with Islamists, and they are a threat to our security and culture. We're not at war with Islam, so it isn't black and white as you suggest. Nor does this view fully describe our national security challenges. We're also in competition short of war with Russia and China, and may end up in war with Iran and North Korea any day now. We also have a growing threat from organized crime, increasingly transnational gangs, anarchists using cyber, etc. In short, we have a lot of security challenges that cannot simply be summed up as a clash of civilizations. This view explains little, and offers less in the way of strategy. You have repeatedly failed to demonstrate otherwise.

Bill M: Above you said:

" ... You seem to think doing a simple doing a simple Google search for clash of civilizations validates your arguments. It may actually help if you read the articles at the links you post, and the author's intent before you list them as references."

Bill: First, you should know that I did not make a simple Google search for "the Clash of Civilizations." (After all, such a simple Google search would have rendered only a number of articles on [a] S.P. Huntington and [b] his "Clash" thesis -- of which we are all probably already familiar.)

Rather, what I did, in fact, do was to make a simple Google search for "Trump and the Clash of Civilizations." (This, after all, seemed to me to be most important and most relevant to our discussion here.)

Thus, it is from this perspective, to wit: the perspective of how our sitting president, our current Commander-in-Chief, has associated himself with -- and/or been associated by others with -- Huntington's "Clash" thesis; it is from this perspective, I suggest, that we might best look at both (a) the titles of the articles I have provided above and (b) the information provided in these such articles. Here are a couple of examples:

a. First, from the Politico article entitled (interesting enough): "Team Trump’s Message: The Clash of Civilizations Is Back:"

"But the incoming president, Trump, appears open to the clash-of-civilizations idea — one that fits neatly with his view of an America that rejects 'globalism,' tightens up its borders against immigrants, and bans most new Muslims from coming in until they can be 'vetted.'"

b. Next, from the Washington Post article entitled: "Trump’s Dangerous Thirst for a Clash of Civilizations:"

“A little learning is a dangerous thing,” wrote the poet Alexander Pope. Three centuries later, Pope’s aphorism perfectly — and dangerously — describes President Trump’s understanding of history as a zero-sum clash of civilizations in which 'the West' can triumph by imposing its will.

The speech Trump delivered Thursday in Warsaw’s Krasinski Square might have been appropriate when Britannia ruled the waves and Europe’s great powers held dominion over 'lesser' peoples around the globe. It had nothing useful to say about today’s interconnected world in which goods, people and ideas have contempt for borders."

(Note: I already provided us with an excerpt of this referenced speech by President Trump in Warsaw -- this, in my initial comment below.)

c. Next, from the Huffington Post article entitled: "Trump And The Clash Of Civilizations: This Dangerous Fantasy May Become Policy"

"The anti-Muslim rhetoric of Donald Trump and the people that he seeks counsel from has raised a very dangerous specter. Namely, that the idea of a civilizational clash between Islam and the West may become the framework for both the foreign and domestic policies of the government of the United States."

d. Finally, from the National Interest article entitled: "Trump's Team Should Ditch the 'Clash of Civilizations' "

"But the links to Huntington’s ideas go deeper than mere acceptance of his clash-of-civilizations thesis. After all, Huntington posited not only conflict between civilizational groupings, but also the idea that post–Cold War Western dominance was likely to lead to conflict between the West and “the Rest.” This idea has been explicitly endorsed by Trump’s designee for National Security Advisor, Michael Flynn, whose views are likely to shape policy in the new administration. In his recently published book, Flynn and his coauthor posit the existence of an anti-Western alliance, which ties together terrorist groups like Al Qaeda, Hezbollah and ISIS with states including China, Russia, Syria, Iran and Venezuela."

We could go on, but I think this will suffice.

Bottom Line Thought -- Based on the Above:

Bill M.: First, let me apologize from having thrown you so far off track (as I note above, I did not do a simple Google search for the "Clash of Civilizations;" rather, the search I did was for "Trump and the Clash of Civilizations" -- this, for the important reasons I outline at the top of this comment above.)

Next, let me suggest -- and I believe you will agree with me here -- that it does not matter so much where you, I and/or the authors of the articles I provide above agree with Huntington's "Clash" thesis. Rather, what would seem to matter most -- I believe you will agree -- is whether our current President and CinC, and such high level and important agencies as the U.S. Army Special Forces Command; whether THESE such entities have embraced this such "Clash" idea. Yes?

So now, based on these clarifying matters, what now are you thoughts on the fact that both our Commander-in-Chief -- and elements within the U.S. Army Special Operations Command -- both seem to be on the same page;

This, re: adopting Huntington's "Clash of Civilizations" as their -- apparently shared -- (a) worldview and (b) strategic basis for current operations?

(Given this apparent such -- common -- high level acceptance of the "Clash" thesis, could this now, indeed, be considered as a valid basis for discussing, and/or explaining, such things as "Special Ops Forces Being Stretched to the Possible Breaking Point?")

We seem to need a new starting point for these and other discussions, so let me offer one that both the U.S. Army Special Forces Command -- and indeed President Trump -- seem to be embracing; this being, the Clash of Civilizations thesis of S.P. Huntington.

First, from the U.S. Army Special Forces Command:


Samuel Huntington’s Clash of Civilizations examined the nature and course of conflicts among nations. His main thesis was that the wars of princes and ideologies were in the past and that new conflict would be between civilizations. Huntington named eight such civilizations including Western, Islamic, Confucian, and Japanese civilizations. With the book’s publication in 1993, readers could view the Iran-Iraq war, Operation Desert Storm, and the ongoing conflict in Israel and easily envision Huntington’s description of the conflict between Western and Islamic civilizations. What was less obvious was the growing rift between the successor state to the Soviet Union—the rump state now called the Russian Federation—and the West. Moscow was emerging as the leader, champion, and oftentimes tyrant of the Slavic Orthodox civilization. ...


http://www.jhuapl.edu/ourwork/nsa/papers/ARIS_LittleGreenMen.pdf (See Page 6 of Part I.)

Next, from President Trump:


Those heroes remind us that the West was saved with the blood of patriots; that each generation must rise up and play their part in its defense -- (applause) -- and that every foot of ground, and every last inch of civilization, is worth defending with your life.

Our own fight for the West does not begin on the battlefield -- it begins with our minds, our wills, and our souls. Today, the ties that unite our civilization are no less vital, and demand no less defense, than that bare shred of land on which the hope of Poland once totally rested. Our freedom, our civilization, and our survival depend on these bonds of history, culture, and memory.

And today as ever, Poland is in our heart, and its people are in that fight. (Applause.) Just as Poland could not be broken, I declare today for the world to hear that the West will never, ever be broken. Our values will prevail. Our people will thrive. And our civilization will triumph. (Applause.)


https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2017/07/06/remarks-president... (Look to the paragraphs at the very bottom -- at the conclusion -- of this speech.)

Bottom Line Question -- Based on the Above:

Thus, is it through this new lens (everyone seeming to be on the same page here, with both U.S. Army Special Forces Command, and indeed President Trump, seeming to [a] abandon the End of History thesis and [b] embrace the Clash of Civilizations concepts?);

Thus is it through this such exact new lens that we might best now both see, and indeed understand, such things as "Special Operations Forces Being Stretched to Possible Breaking Point?"

Herein, our such forces being our civilization's current answer to:

a. Our need to advance our civilization -- and especially our values -- throughout the entire Rest of the World? (And to, thereby, "triumph?") And/or to:

b. Prevent other civilizations from advancing their civilizations -- and their different/alternative values -- throughout the entire Rest of the World? (And to, thereby in this alternative way, "triumph")

(Maybe need to first answer this question -- to wit: "What is the role of our special operations forces in the Clash of Civilizations" -- before we move on to a further discussion of this, and/or other, matters???)