War On Terror Requires Proper Haircut

Wednesday, March 31, 2004 - by Michael A. Locke

"The only way we're gonna get through this in one piece is with a sense of discipline, a sense of purpose, and wherever possible, a sensible haircut." - Arnold Rimmer

War is hair. Such was the view of amateur war historian Arnold Rimmer, whose brief comments on the subject were first aired on the BBC-TV program Red Dwarf in 1993.

Mr. Rimmer, now deceased, was speaking in the context of a response to an unprovoked rocket attack on a mining company vehicle, but his views about the history of hairstyles in armed conflict are relevant to the current war on terror.

"Perhaps you'd like to explain to me why it is that every major battle in history has been won by the side with the shortest haircuts," Mr. Rimmer asked.

"Think about it - why did the US Cavalry beat the Indian Nation? Short back and sides versus girly hippie locks."

There were exceptions in the Indian wars, but they tended to prove the rule. General Custer broke with US military custom with his long flowing mane, which was eventually separated from his head by the Indians at Little Big Horn.

During the English Civil War, which lasted from 1642 to 1649, Oliver Cromwell's Roundheads defeated the Cavaliers of the king. The Cavaliers had long hair, fought on horseback and wore fancy clothes. The Roundheads had very short hair (thus the nickname) and wore plain and simple clothes.

Going back farther in time, the introduction of shaving by the Greeks coincided with the military conquests of Alexander the Great.

Barbers from the Greek colonies of Magna Graecia in southern Italy introduced the practice of shaving to the Romans in the third century BC. Until then the Romans were mostly ungroomed.

The short haired, clean shaven Romans then ran roughshod over the unkempt masses of Europe and Asia. The practice of shaving the head clean arose during the reign of Marcus Aurelius.

When Roman hairstyles became lax the empire began to deteriorate. Longer hair became fashionable again under the emperor Hadrian, who grew a beard to hide his disfigured face and wore a wig of curly hair to conceal his baldness.

Roman hairstyles reached their most flamboyant stage under the Flavian emperors Titus, Vespasian and Domitian. By then the writing was on the wall and the decay of the military was ensured.

In 1571 the spread of Islam into Europe was arrested by the crushing defeat of the Ottomans at the battle of Lepanto. The fleet of the Holy League led by the short-haired John of Austria destroyed the Ottoman navy and freed 10,000 Christian galley slaves.

Ottoman commander Uluc Ali Pasha escaped with 40 galleys, although some accounts say his flagship was boarded by the Spaniards, who beheaded the turbaned leader, relieving him of his head, and his hair.

Hair length has played a seminal role in European military history. The Netherlands never solidified its brief rise as a merchant power because nobody was intimidated by the army's Dutch Boy haircuts.

Then there are the French, who haven't won a war, or even a major battle, since the Napoleonic era. Napoleon brought military glory to France but squandered it with typical French hubris.

At first the dapper army of Napoleon scored victory after victory over the shaggy militias of Europe's scattered provinces. Eventually the Franco penchant for preening prevailed over the disciplined military sense of Napoleon. The fancy curls and flowing plumes of the French officers were a needless distraction amid the mud and snow of the Russia invasion.

In the modern era democracies have generally proved superior in conflicts where neither side had a haircut advantage. The resolve and virtue of the Allies in World War II ultimately prevailed over the weirdness and depravity of the Nazis and Japanese.

The notable exception was southeast Asia, where the fussy French gave up and went home early. The Americans fared better, but fell short of victory. Mr. Rimmer attributed the stalemate to haircut parity. "Vietnam? Crew cuts both sides, no score, draw," he said.

The short hair theory has held true during the recent Western retaliations against Islamic extremists. In Afghanistan the U.S. armed forces easily crushed the Taliban, who were hampered by their thick hair and long beards. The unshaven Iraqis also fell back quickly before the well groomed British and American armies.

Yet amid these Middle Eastern conflicts are signs that the long era of the haircut rule is coming to an end. Short haircuts are easily adopted by individual terrorists, who can blend in with the local population.

The leading suspects in the Madrid bombing are thought to be followers of a doctrine known as Takfir wal Hijra, which advocates a sneaking, Trojan horse form of jihad. Takfiris adopt the dress and hairstyles of their host communities, making their presence hard to detect.

With armed conflict shifting from the battlefield to the back street, hairstyles may be less of a deciding factor in the War Against Terror.

But probably not. Having an enemy with a butch nap doesn't negate the psychological boost of having your own sensible coif.

As Arnold Rimmer once said, "Shiny clean boots and a spanking short haircut and you can cope with anything."

(Originally published on the eve of April Fool's Day, 2004)

(Email Michael Locke at malocke@bellsouth.net)


End Modern Slavery

It is estimated that more than 27 million people are enslaved worldwide, in over 165 countries, including the U.S.  That is more than at any time in history.  Many of these victims are women and children, and many of them are right here in our city, in our neighborhoods.  Human sex trafficking is a multi-billion dollar business that preys on some of the most vulnerable ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Marshall’s 3% Folly

The National Health Interview Survey is believed to be the best gauge of health and behaviors in the United States. It is under the umbrella of the nation’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, so first let me share that the figures I am going to present are directly attributed to what is the best source believed to be out there. I didn’t make these numbers up and I had nothing ... (click for more)

Commissioner Boyd Asks County Auditor To Get Detailed Data On Visitors Bureau Spending; Graham Says CVB Should Be Left Alone

County Commission Finance Committee Chairman Tim Boyd said he is asking County Auditor Jenneth Randall to supply him with details about spending at the Chattanooga Visitors Bureau, including actual credit card and travel expense statements. He said he also wanted copies of contracts for office renovations made to the SunTrust Building 18th floor where the CVB has offices and all ... (click for more)

Developer Agrees To Set Aside 5 "Affordable" Units At Bread Factory Lofts After City Board Is Vote Short Of Approving Refinancing

A South Carolina developer who is purchasing the Bread Factory Lofts on the Southside agreed to set aside five units for "affordable housing" in order to get the approval of a city board for the financing of the purchase. Only four members of the Health, Education and Housing Facility Board were present, and Lloyd Longnion said he would not give approval unless the developer ... (click for more)

Ooltewah Softball Ranked No. 33 In MaxPreps Preseason Top 50

Ooltewah’s softball team is ranked No. 33 nationally in the Maxpreps Preseason Top 50 and junior Kayla Boseman is on the website’s preseason All-America team. The Lady Owls finished third in the 2015 TSSAA Class 3A state tournament, but was eliminated by Stewarts Creek 6-2 in the sectional. Ooltewah has a combined record of 81-16 over the past two seasons. Coach Jon Massey ... (click for more)

Silverdale Girls Claim District 5-A Championship

The face and philosophy might have changed, but the expectations for the Silverdale Baptist Academy girls’ basketball team remained the same. Heading into the season with five seniors and a first-year, first-time head coach in Victor Underwood, the Lady Seahawks had their sights set on winning a District 5-A championship. Wednesday night, they achieved that goal with ... (click for more)