Mohammed bin Salman, son of the Iraq War

By Shibley Telhami

Two things come together this week that highlight the deep connection between today’s Saudi policies and the 2003 Iraq War: Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman visits Washington as the town commemorates the 15th anniversary of that disastrous conflict. The connection may be deeper than many acknowledge.

Much of the discourse in recent weeks has focused on the personality of the Saudi crown prince to explain what seem to be extraordinary changes in Saudi foreign and domestic policies. But the connection between these events and George W. Bush’s war is often missed.

For decades, Saudi foreign policy had two central security features in the Gulf region and domestically: relying on the United States, and maintaining a balance of power between Iraq and Iran to assure that neither could pose a threat to Saudi security and interests in the region. That environment allowed Saudi Arabia to avoid being directly dragged into conflict, using its economic and political assets to influence events as needed. Before the Islamic revolution in Iran, Saudi Arabia had an amicable relationship with the Shah’s Iran, as it balanced a radical Iraq. Following the rise of the Ayatollah Khomeini, Riyadh backed Saddam Hussein’s war against Tehran, fearing expanding influence of revolutionary Islamist Iran. When Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990, the Saudis relied on the United States to reverse Iraq’s invasion. But following that war, the Saudi animosity toward Saddam Hussein didn’t reverse Riyadh’s strong preference for maintaining Iraq as a balancer to Iran. And even though groups like al-Qaida—which had some roots in Saudi Arabia—still posed threats, the broader regional environment assured that most of its bases were far away from the Saudi neighborhood, in Afghanistan.

The 2003 Iraq War had three predictable consequences: It created so much instability that al-Qaida, and later ISIS, could thrive right next door, first in Iraq, later in Syria and Yemen, posing greater threats to the Saudi homeland. Second, the war ended any prospect of Iraq serving as a balancer of Iran, just as Iranian power was on the rise. Third, the extraordinary costs of the failed Iraq War, both in blood and treasure, led to an anti-war sentiment in the United States that undermined Saudi confidence in the U.S. willingness and ability to intervene effectively if and when the Saudis felt this was needed. These events generated significant insecurity within and outside Saudi borders, which was exacerbated by the Arab uprisings that toppled seemingly entrenched rulers, including close Saudi allies.

In other words, the Iraq War—combined with the Arab uprisings—intensified Saudi insecurity at home and in the neighborhood at a time when the anchors of Saudi security policy were significantly undermined by the war, forcing the Saudis into a higher degree of self-reliance than they were accustomed to, or good at. Thus, Riyadh became far more interventionist in foreign policy, even before the rise of King Salman and his son, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman: from attempts to influence politics in Iraq to limit the rising influence of Iran, to heavily investing in Lebanon to counter Hezbollah’s influence, to working clandestinely and aggressively to organize and support opposition to the Bashar Assad regime in Syria. It’s not that Saudi Arabia had not for decades used its economic and political influence to affect regional politics; it is that the degree to which that was true, including taking initiative and using enormous resources, reflected a sense of strategic urgency.

Of course the Yemen war is on a different scale for Saudi Arabia, in terms of the direct involvement of its military, the expenditures, the tragic humanitarian consequences, and the prospect of more instability that could come back to haunt Riyadh. The decision to wage that war may be owned by the crown prince personally, but the urge to assert new rules of regional politics was more broadly shared in Saudi Arabia following that fateful 2003 war.

As the shadow of the Iraq War follows the Saudi crown prince into the White House, the agenda is equally influenced by that war: the Saudis are eager to consolidate relations with the Trump administration and hope that Washington once again is prepared to be more interventionist, this time toward Iran. In a way, Riyadh hopes to reverse some of the troubling consequences of the Iraq War by luring Trump into a confrontation with Iran that could undermine some of Iran’s gains since 2003. Such a course, however, starting with a likely Trump withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal, could set the United States and its allies on a dangerous slippery slope toward another war—one whose consequences could be even more costly than the 2003 disaster.

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Strengthening regional value chains: What’s the role of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement?

By Eyerusalem Siba, Mariama Sow

This week marks the launch of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (CFTA), which sets out to create a single market for goods and services, free movement of people, and expand intra-Africa trade.  In addition to promoting intra-Africa trade, the CFTA has the potential to promote regional value chains. In this post, we explore the lessons learned from highly integrated global trade and production networks.

The challenge of integration

Current interlinkages between African economies are insufficient to accelerate economic growth among regional economic communities including the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), East African Community (EAC), and Southern African Development Community (SADC). Extra-regional trade has historically outpaced intra-regional trade, often by 90 percent. Similarly, Africa lags behind much of the world in intra-regional integration. As seen in Table 1 below, the share of trade with countries within regional economic communities in Africa lies well below that of regional economic communities in Europe or Asia. Nevertheless, there exists variations in relation to trade integration across African countries. At the low end of the spectrum stands the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS), which only sourced 3.6 percent of imports from within. At the high end of the spectrum lies the Southern African Development Community, with 21 percent of exports and 22 percent of imports exchanged within the regional economic community.

Table 1. Global intra-regional trade

Trade group Exports Imports
Intra-group Rest of the world Intra-group Rest of the world
AMU – Arab Maghreb Union 4.1 95.9 2.5 97.5
ASEAN – Association of Southeast Asian Nations 24.2 75.8 22.7 77.3
CEMAC – Economic and Monetary Community of Central Africa 3.1 96.9 4.2 95.8
COMESA – Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa 10.2 89.8 5.3 94.7
EAC – East African Community 20.3 79.7 6.8 93.2
ECCAS -Economic Community of Central African States 1.8 98.2 3.6 96.4
ECOWAS – Economic Community of West African States 10.6 89.4 9.4 90.6
EU28 – European Union 63.6 36.4 59.7 40.3
MERCOSUR – Southern Common Market (South America) 13.1 86.9 15.8 84.2
SADC – Southern African Development Community 20.6 79.4 21.5 78.5
WAEMU – West African Economic and Monetary Union 14.4 85.6 8.2 91.8

Source: UNCTAD, 2016.

Putting regional value creation in a global perspective

In recent years, countries have become increasingly integrated in global value chains (GVCs). Global production networks are made up of two distinct groups of countries: “headquarter economies” in Japan and the West and “factory economies” in Asia and Eastern Europe, where a transnational corporation in the former creates the production networks and the latter provides labor, notably through processing, and intermediate goods to “headquarter economies.”

The European Union is especially prone to GVC integration as it subsumes many relatively small countries, such as Belgium and Luxembourg, which heavily rely on GVCs to source their inputs. Eastern European countries often serve as the “factory” to multinational companies in Western Europe. This is referred to as nearshoring—as opposed to far-shoring, which refers to the outsourcing of production to countries further away, i.e., those in Asia or Africa. Within the EU, there are differences in integration. The European Competitiveness Report finds that the EU12 (Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Estonia, Cyprus, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary, Malta, Poland, Romania, Slovenia, and Slovakia) are more vertically integrated than the EU15 (Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom). The EU12 have historically been the providers of intermediate goods to EU15 countries. Transactions between Western and Eastern European countries are characterized by production sharing agreements, reflecting the traditional U.S. and Mexico model, i.e., come and go transactions.

Nevertheless, according to the 2012 European Competitiveness Report in recent years, far-shoring has gained attractiveness while nearshoring has decreased. This can be attributed to lower wages, increased connectivity, and improved logistics, among other factors. Notably, China is becoming an increasingly attractive host for the production arm of Western European countries’ multinational corporations. China is also near and far-shoring. Some Chinese companies are shifting production toward neighboring Asian countries, whereas China’s far-shoring destinations include Ethiopia and other East African countries.

Winners and losers debate in GVCs

In addition to a divided production chain—where one side provides intermediate goods and labor and the other provides expertise and final goods—the gains from GVCs have been distributed unevenly; 55 percent of the value added generated within GVCs is concentrated in 21 countries (The U.S., Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Australia, Canada, and the 15 pre-2004 members of the EU). As countries become increasingly integrated in global value chain processes, certain countries reap the benefits of increased integration, while others suffer detrimental consequences on jobs  and wages. This paradox often referred to as the winners and losers of GVC debate is different in developed countries compared to developing countries. In developed countries, the issue is around the loss of low-skilled jobs. Though this is often compensated by the burgeoning of new high skilled jobs. In OECD countries, Germany, Korea, and Poland have seized the benefits presented by GVCs by increasing their participation in GVCs and transforming that participation into productivity growth. They have been able to do so by adapting the skillset of their labor force to the demands of GVCs. They also increased their technological specialization in advanced industries. The OECD report attributes the inability of certain countries to reap the benefits from increased GVC integration to insufficient skills. Skills development is thus deemed vital in reducing the need for offshoring and giving workers the skills to face globalization.

European governments have responded to decreased employment with a wave of labor market reforms and investment toward returning estranged workers to the labor force. While some of the buffers put in place by European governments are entirely mollifying—e.g., unemployment insurance—other reforms have been criticized as being protectionist—e.g., subsidies, quotas, and non-tariff barriers. While social safety nets were not implemented to explicitly serve as a remedy to the loss of jobs created by increased global value chain integration, they have been able to mitigate the negative effect of outsourcing on employment.

Africa’s GVC participation and prospects of cross-African integration

As seen in Europe, within a regional trade group there can be stark differences in GVC integration; Africa is no different. The continent’s participation in GVCs is heavily driven by Northern and Southern Africa, making up 78 percent of the continent’s total value chain trade. This is attributed to the presence of natural resources and export specialization in mining activity. However, one key difference is that African countries are structured differently, and the room for cross-African GVCs is limited. While the EU is made of both “headquarter” and “factory” economies, Africa is mainly comprised of “factory” economies. As seen in the Figure 1, in 2016 a large share of Africa’s exports of intermediary electronic, vehicles, and apparel products were shipped to Europe, North America, and East Asia. When involved in GVCs African countries tend to serve as the “factory countries” to Europe, North America, and Asia. The few African countries that serve as a destination of intermediary products for their fellow African countries include South Africa, Namibia, and Botswana. As highlighted earlier, Southern Africa has a higher share of intra-regional trade than other African sub-regions.

Figure 1: GVC exports by partnerFigure 2

Africa’s GVC integration shares another similarity with Europe in that gains from value chain participation vary significantly between countries. While there exist employment growth opportunities through GVCs, it has been difficult for African countries to increase employment through participation in GVCs alone. As seen in certain European countries, GVCs have brought declines in employment in some African countries. For instance, the South African textile industry has deteriorated as the country’s apparel companies have outsourced to countries such as Lesotho, which has comparatively lower wages. Furthermore, social gains from increased GVC participation have been limited by factors like skills deficits, increasing informal employment, and unequal power relationships within value chains.

As member countries prepare an African CFTA implementation roadmap and national strategies, policymakers should consider the following questions: Would the CFTA lead to “headquarter” and “factory” economies? Who would be the likely winners and losers? How would distributional impacts of trade and integration be addressed? And what social safety nets and skills policies need to be in place to manage the winners and losers situation?

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Russian-Based Kaspersky Lab Planning on Swiss Data Center to Address Russian Exploit Concerns

Leading Moscow-based anti-virus software provider Kaspersky Lab is planning to open a data center in Switzerland to address Western government concerns that Russia exploits its anti-virus software to spy on customers, according to a report from Reuters on Wednesday. From the report: "Kaspersky is setting up the center in response to actions in the United States, Britain and Lithuania last year to stop using the company's products… The action is the latest effort by Kaspersky, a global leader in anti-virus software, to parry accusations by the U.S. government and others that the company spies on customers at the behest of Russian intelligence. The U.S. last year ordered civilian government agencies to remove the Kaspersky software from their networks."

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Party Rape: An Excerpt from Hunting Girls

As long as college men continue to see women as sexual prey or trophies, rape will continue to plague college campuses. –Kelly Oliver As part of Women’s History Month, we have dedicated this month to highlighting titles about women’s issue. Today we are posting an excerpt about Party Rape from this week’s featured book, Hunting Girls: Sexual Violence from
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Companies Act and Politicians Duck: The New Way of Doing Business

Businesses can enact profitable and socially beneficial solutions without needing to enact legislation. And their impact can be transformational. –Barie Carmichael This week, one of our featured books is Reset: Business and Society in the New Social Landscape, by James Rubin and Barie Carmichael. In response to the Parkland shootings, some companies have been receiving social pressure to
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UIP at 100: How Design and Marketing has Evolved Over a Century of Publishing

From its estFirst_logoablishment in 1918 until well into the 1940s, the University of Illinois Press printed very few bound books each year. And by very few, we mean around seven. This number didn’t grow much over the years. By 1949 the press output was closer to twenty-two, a three-fold increase, but still not a very large number. A majority of these publications were printed at the campus print shop, though more specialized volumes were contracted out to other publishing companies. The campus Print Shop connected with the University of Illinois Press, however, was kept very busy  printing close to 2,000 jobs a year for various campus units and events.

UIP_logo_smAt this point in the Press’s history, it had neither marketing nor art direction for book publications. There were proofreaders, typesetting machine operators, monotype operators, compositors, and bindery workers. It was in the early 1940s that the Press was motivated to start making changes. A 1941 report to the University of Illinois Board of Trustees argued for expanding the Press’s mandate and capabilities. A research trip later that year led to a host of changes, but it wasn’t until Wilbur Schramm took over in 1947 that UIP really started to look like the Press we know today.

Third LogoThe next two years were pivotal for the look of the Press. First, it instituted peer review procedures. Second, and that same year, UIP printed its first seasonal catalog, changing forever the look it showed to the outside world. Twenty three new books and one journal were in that catalog, which featured an line print of the Illini Union steeple on the cover, but no other images.

The thir4th logod important event took place the following year, in 1949, when Schramm hired Ralph Eckerstrom as UIP’s first art director. Eckerstrom’s design of David Broder’s I Did Not Interview the Dead that put that book in the top fifty books noted by the American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA). That achievement was a first for UIP, but we would better that feat two years later when Life in a Mexican Village by Oscar Lewis and Bibliography in an Age of Science by Louis N. Ridenour would make the list. They were also selected by the Art Director’s Club of Chicago for that group’s annual show, and the Lewis cover would go on to be selected for a merit award.


Marketing was busy with more than just catalogs. The UIP newsletter to faculty, “Book News,” from January 1951 notes that UIP books were going to academic conferences as well. Though the number of books was much smaller than today, the calendar was pretty full. The newsletter notes that UIP books were exhibited at over twenty titles at nineteen conferences.

Over the years, the Press added more art and marketing support. Then, at the beginning of March 1971, the University of Illinois Press was split into UIP and Campus Publications (now called Document Services), a structure that applies today.



Currently, the Editorial, Design, and Production manager is Jennifer Comeau, who has a team of nine people working with her, including art director Dustin Hubbart. Marketing is led by Michael Roux, who works with seven other marketing team members, and one of those is our exhibits manager, Margo Chaney. The University of Illinois Press regularly places books in the Association of University Presses Book, Jacket,  and Journal Show, and we take far more than nineteen books to dozens of professional conferences each year.

Design Marketing graphic

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Addressing international law in action

“In theory, theory and practice are the same. In practice, they are not”– Albert Einstein

The 112th American Society of International Law’s annual meeting (4th-7th April 2018) will focus on the constitutive and often contentious nature of ‘International Law in Practice’. Practice not only reifies the law, but how it is understood, applied, and enforced in practice shapes its meaning and impacts the generation of future international rules.

In preparation for this year’s meeting, we have asked some key authors to share their thoughts on international law in action.

How and by whom is international law made, shaped, and carried out?

In the standard account, the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) epitomizes top-down lawmaking or, more precisely, lawmaking by elites far removed from communities affected by their work. Created by the UN Security Council in 1993, the Tribunal’s path breaking jurisprudence was fashioned by judges in The Hague, none of whom were citizens of former Yugoslav states. Yet this account obscures myriad ways in which survivors and other domestic actors engaged with the Tribunal and defined its legacy. Chronicling the ICTY’s evolving impact in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Serbia, my recent work has sought to illuminate citizens’ contributions and responses to the Tribunal’s work, as well as the central role of national jurists in creating the ICTY’s most tangible legacy—domestic war crimes institutions. This approach also highlights the crucial roles of national, regional, and local political elites, along with external actors like the European Union, in shaping Bosnian and Serbian experiences of Hague justice. Legal innovations associated with the , as well as the nature of its domestic impact, were forged through the dynamic interplay of myriad actors in multiple spaces.

Diane Orentlicher, Professor of International Law, Washington College of Law, American University,  author of Some Kind of Justice: The ICTY’s Impact in Bosnia and Serbia.

What impact do the practices of international institutions have on the generation of international rules?

In setting up a new international organization, the parties are likely to assess whether the practices of existing, similarly-situated international organizations have created international norms to be respected. For the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) in 2016, the charter incorporates common elements of earlier multilateral development bank (MDB) treaties as well as innovations that reflect AIIB goals and evolving MDB experience. MDB practices are also influencing AIIB legal and policy frameworks, such as loan contract provisions with sovereign states, requirements for environmental and social assessment and consultation, accountability mechanisms for project-related complaints, internal and external anti-corruption functions, and staff dispute resolution bodies.

Beyond the legal ramifications, there are pragmatic and strategic reasons for a new MDB to adopt the modern rules of comparators. For a financial institution, credibility is hugely important. An organization that carries forward a base that is workable, known, and generally respected offers reliability to governments, financial markets, and potential recipients—even as particular improvements may call for added scrutiny. The commonality of requirements also facilitates collaboration among new and old institutions and minimizes the procedural burden on client countries and companies.

Natalie Lichtenstein, former Inaugural General Counsel, Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and Assistant General Counsel, World Bank, and author of A Comparative Guide to the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.

Where states did not originally envision that human rights law would be implemented by international institutions, it is now clear that the operationalization of human rights requires a wide range of global governance organizations. The United Nations human rights system has a mandate to implement human rights law, yet it does not have the institutional competence, expertise, or capacity to implement human rights across all fields of global governance. Codifying human rights implementation responsibilities across a wider range of institutions of global governance, the 1993 Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action looked to the entire United Nations in implementing rights, with the UN Secretary-General calling thereafter for the “mainstreaming” of human rights law across all UN policies, programs, and practices. These efforts to mainstream human rights in global governance have required international institutions to translate state legal obligations into organizational policy practices. By advancing human rights under international law as a basis for public health, these international institutions have generated international rules through global health governance. Global health governance has thus become a basis to realize a more just world through public health, with an array of international institutions ensuring the implementation of health-related human rights across the range of economic, social, and cultural fields that underlie public health in a globalizing world.

Benjamin Mason Meier, Associate Professor of Global Health Policy, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and Lawrence O. Gostin, O’Neill Chair in Global Health Law, Georgetown University. Authors of Human Rights in Global Health: Rights-Based Governance for a Globalizing World.

“In theory, theory and practice are the same. In practice, they are not” – Albert Einstein

How has international legal practice changed (and is continuing to change) in response to geopolitical shifts and contemporary challenges?

The 2015 Paris Agreement represents a step-change in international environmental lawmaking and practice. Climate change is one of the greatest challenges humanity has ever faced, and addressing it requires engaging a wide array of state and non-state actors in long-term mitigation and adaptation efforts. The Paris Agreement seeks to meet this challenge without enshrining binding environmental targets, which was the previously dominant, “top-down” approach of international environmental law. While the Paris Agreement is a binding treaty and requires parties to maintain successive “nationally determined contributions,” these contributions are not binding per se. Instead, the Agreement includes a layered oversight mechanism to trigger a regular review of and more ambitious contributions over time. The agreement’s “hybrid” design was a response to the complexity of the climate challenge and the need to bring states into the agreement notwithstanding domestic political constraints and long-standing differences over burden sharing. But it assumes a new significance in the face of current geopolitical dynamics. Rising non-Western powers seek to instantiate a “new world order,” with a renewed focus on state sovereignty. Meanwhile, major Western societies experience growing resistance to what is perceived as overly intrusive international law. The Paris Agreement’s emphasis on nationally determined commitments thus fits well with the tenor of the times.

Daniel Bodansky, Foundation Professor, Sandra Day O’Conner College of Law, and Senior Sustainability Scholar, Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability, Arizona State University, Jutta Brunnée,  Professor of Law and Metcalf Chair in Environmental Law, University of Toronto, and Lavanya Rajamani, Professor, Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi. They are authors of International Climate Change Law, winner of the ASIL 2018 Certificate of Merit for a specialized area of international law.

International law is often perceived as remote and top-down, yet it is clear that it has a major impact on the lives of individuals. It can structure opportunities for employment and movement across borders, regulate the goods we consume, and the even govern the recognition of our subjectivity. Recent political upheavals – from ‘Brexit’ to the election of Donald Trump – are not simple phenomena that can be explained by one factor. But, arguably, both are a rejection of international legal rules and institutions by communities who experience these rules and institutions as unwelcome and unaccountable and perceive their lives as full of international law’s objects, over which they have little control.

We need to open international law up to those beyond the state and a small circle of supporting technical personnel, and to better connect communities and individuals to the processes of international lawmaking. The process of drafting the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) offers an example of how international legal standard setting can meaningfully incorporate a range of actors who have, historically, been rendered powerless in and by international law. More importantly, the results – which include the Declaration, but also the process itself – demonstrate that more open practices can not only succeed but can lead to an international law that has greater relevance and legitimacy to the people whose lives it impacts on most closely.

Jessie Hohmann, Senior Lecturer in Law at Queen Mary, University of London, and  co-editor of  The UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples: A Commentary  and International Law’s Objects.

So that you can prepare for the conference or experience the debate from afar, we have created a collection of free journal articles which focus on ‘International Law in Practice’.

Featured image credit: ‘New Zealand Representatives at the International Court of Justice in the Hague’ by Archives New Zealand from New Zealand. CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

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Digging into the innards: “liver”

Etymological bodybuilding is a never-ceasing process. The important thing is to know when to stop, and I’ll stop soon, but a few more exercises may be worth the trouble. Today’s post is about liver. What little can be said about this word has been said many times, so that an overview is all we’ll need. First, as usual, a prologue or, if you prefer, a posy of the ring. Our classification of body parts and inner organs is to a certain degree arbitrary. The existence of two eyes and two ears is an obvious fact, but, for example, the division of the extremities into two parts is an avoidable complication.  Many languages do not distinguish between leg and foot, finger and toe, arm and hand. And where exactly does the breast end? The situation with our organs is even less clear, because we don’t see what is inside us.

A posy of the ring. Image credit: Gold posy ring found while metal detecting in 2005. Submitted under the Treasure Act and now in the keeping of the British Museum, by Sonofthesands. CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

Last time, I noted that, to establish the origin of words like heart, brain, groin, and their likes, we should try to understand what function our remote ancestors ascribed to those organs. Quite often, confusion is our only reward. A typical example is Greek phrēn (in its forms and derivatives, ē alternates with short e), from which, via Latin and French, English has frenzy and frenetic. The word, which occurred mainly in the plural, meant “midriff; breast; heart; sense; mind”; in translation, “soul” is sometimes called for. The word’s root is obscure, to use the etymologists’ polite jargon. If it has a respectable Indo-European past, the word must have begun with ghw-, and no connection with Engl. brain, from Old Engl. brægen, is possible. Even when the function is clear, we often feel puzzled. Thus, the Greeks, who developed the theory of humors, associated the spleen with the black bile and suffering. Elsewhere, for instance, in the Talmud, the same organ was said to make people laugh. Why so? Like frenzy, spleen reached English by way of Old French, Latin, and Greek. End of the prologue.

What do we and what did our ancestors know about the liver? They probably enjoyed eating the liver of the animals they hunted and associated it with grease. Today’s liver sausage (liverwurst, Leberwurst) needs no advertising. The English word liver has unmistakable cognates everywhere in Germanic, but only there, and this makes historical linguists unhappy. You may remember that at the end of Hemingway’s tale, the Old Man dreamed of lions. Etymologists dream of Indo-European protoforms. In dictionaries and scholarly books, reconstructed forms (that is, such forms as have not been attested but can be assumed to have existed) are supplied with asterisks. (For example, Old Engl. brægen is believed to go back to *bragnam.) So we may say that historical linguists, while breaking through all kind of obstacles, dream of stars (per aspera ad astra). How are those stellar pinnacles to be reached if we start with liver? The Latin for “liver” is jecur (more properly, iecur), a word that bears no resemblance to liver. The Greek word (hēpar) is, unfortunately, familiar to us thanks to its genitive hēpatos, from which hepatitis, literally, “inflammation of the liver,” was coined. The Latin and the Greek words are related (I’ll dispense with the details). The Germanic tie will be discussed below.

Per aspera ad astra. Image credit: Neil Armstrong works at the LM in the only photo taken of him on the moon from the surface via NASA photo as11-40-5886. Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

The Greeks considered the liver, rather than the heart, to be the most vital organ and the seat of passions and emotions. The speakers of Old Germanic also set great store by the liver. This is made clear by the evidence of Old Icelandic. From Old Icel. lifr “liver” the words lifri “brother” and lifra “sister” were formed. Some other equally picturesque Icelandic words for “brother” were blóði (ó is long o, and ð = th in Engl. this), that is, in Mowgli’s language, “we be of one blood” (blóð “blood”); likewise, barmi (from barmr breast: “the offspring of one breast”) and hlýri, from hlýr “cheek” (someone with whom you are cheek by jowl?). Thus, lifri ~ lifra meant: “We be of one liver.” The Germans have the saying welche Laus ist dir über die Leber gelaufen (gekrochen)?–literally, “what louse has run (crawled) over you liver?”, that is, “what made you so angry?” Is it an echo of the old view of the liver?

The Germanic protoform of liver must have sounded approximately as *librō-, and it has been suggested that the ancient root of liver is the same as in many words for “fat” (so in Greek liparós and elsewhere; remember Leberwrust?). Italian fegato “liver” is usually cited in this connection, because fegato goes back to Latin jecur ficatum “fattened liver.” This is fine, but not good for the Indo-European protoform, because the beginning of liparós and hēpar don’t sound alike (l- versus h-). Perhaps liver is not related to words like Greek liparós, but only experienced the influence of some such word, so that l- was added to the name of the liver. In principle, this is not improbable.  Consider the Indo-European words for “tongue.”

Dreaming of lions. Image credit: “Fishing” by sasint. CC0 via Pixabay.

The protoform *tungō, with initial t, goes back, as usual, to non-Germanic d-, but the Latin word is lingua! Clearly, something went wrong in Latin. Lingua may have acquired its l- under the influence of the verb for “lick.” On the other hand, some obscure sound change might be at work. Thus, Engl. tear (from the eye) is a cognate of Old Latin dacruma, with the expected correspondence of t- to d-. Yet the familiar Latin word for “tear” is lacruma ~ lacrima (known to us from lachrymose and “Lacrimosa,” part of Mozart’s Requiem). The enigmatic alternation d ~ l has been much discussed, but with slender success, as they used to say in the 19th century. Also, in the names of body parts and organs, taboo was often in play, so that the words were deliberately distorted, to ward off the influence of evil spirits, which would hear the word but miss its meaning and do no harm.

Sure enough, the tongue licks, but why did l appear in liver? No reason suggests itself. If l- in liver is secondary, we obtain a possible common Indo-European origin of this word. However, it is also possible to reconstruct the meaning of the Indo-European word for liver without sacrificing l.  The same root as in liver is very probably present in the verb leave, whose original meaning seems to have been “to stick, adhere; smear.” See Greek liparós above! Leave may be a good fit even without smearing. A bold hypothesis avers (asserts, suggests) that the liver, the most valuable organ in the opinion of the ancients, was “left” to the gods as a sacrifice.

Where are we at the end of such a tortuous way? Perhaps the Indo-European name of the liver existed and sounded approximately as *liekwer(t). In Greek and Latin, it presumably lost the initial sound (no reasons for the loss are known), while in Germanic it was retained. The word, related to the verb leave, meant “a part left over.” How realistic is this story? Very moderately so. Quite likely, there was no Indo-European word for this organ, and we should satisfy ourselves with a Germanic word, whose true meaning evades us (“greasy?”).

The Goncourts: of one blood, one breast, one cheek, and one liver. Image credit: Photography of Edmond (left) and Jules (right) de Goncourt by Félix Nadar. {{PD-US}} via Wikimedia Commons.

A non-specialist cannot help wondering: Do such exercises deserve the name of scholarship? Yes, up to a point. Historical linguists try to understand the processes that allowed the speakers of old to name the objects around them. The naming happened very long ago, and the light from the past is dim. Speleology requires brave efforts, because caves are deep and usually dirty. If you are afraid of bats and ghosts, stay away.

And does live have anything to do with the story? No, nothing at all. Fast livers are the heroes of an entirely different “post.”

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History in 3 acts: a brief introduction to Ancient Greece [excerpt]

Ancient Greek history is conventionally broken down into three periods: Archaic, Classical, and Hellenistic. However, the language used to describe them highlights an oversight made by generations of historians. By dubbing one period of history as “Classical,” scholars imply that the other two periods are inferior, simplifying the Archaic age as a mere precursor to, and the Hellenistic age as a lesser descendant of the Classical age.

Independent scholar and translator Robin Waterfield argues that each of these three periods should be given equal weight within the study of Ancient Greece. The following extract from Creators, Conquerors, and Citizens introduce the key components of each period.

The Archaic Period (750– 480 BCE)

The two and a half centuries that make up the Archaic period, roughly 750 to 480 BCE, saw the lives of the Greeks change fundamentally. Above all, there was the gradual development of statehood and civilized life, from primitive and hierarchical beginnings to far greater collectivism, equality under the law, and general participation in public life. From a broad perspective, this was an astonishing development. For hundreds, if not thou­sands of years, the chief form of political and social organization in the Near East and Mediterranean had been the hierarchically organized kingdom. Yet the Greeks evolved a different form, which became dominant in the Mediterranean world for several centuries. Politically, it was more egalitar­ian; economically, property belonged to private individuals, not just the king or a temple.

Photograph of the bust of Homer in the British Museum by JW1805. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Within the Archaic period also, the art of writing, lost since the col­lapse of the Mycenaean palaces, was reintroduced. Creative geniuses such as Homer, Hesiod, the lyric poets, and the Presocratic natural scientists showed what could be done with words and ideas. Brilliant experimentation gov­erned the changing styles of vase painting; Greek art was valued all over the Mediterranean. Temple architecture evolved from modest to monumen­tal, and sanctuaries were filled with often strikingly impressive buildings and beautiful artifacts. Coined money spread rapidly. New forms of warfare were developed. The Greeks founded cities and trading posts all over the Mediterranean, impelled by the quest for wealth, or at least for relief from poverty, and supported by the god Apollo’s oracle at Delphi, which became the hub for many networks in the Mediterranean. The institutions, artifacts, and practices that define the better-known Classical period have their roots in the Archaic period.

The Classical Period (479– 323 BCE)

The Classical period is bracketed by two world-changing inva­sions: the Persian invasions of Greece and Alexander the Great’s invasion of Asia— the latter presented as retaliation for the former. Alexander’s invasion brought the Achaemenid Empire to an end and the constant possibility of Persian intervention in Greek affairs. Immediately following the Persian Wars, it still might have been possible for the Greeks to unify in the face of the threat from the East, but that did not happen. An account of Greek his­tory in the fifth and fourth centuries is bound to read at times like a litany of inter-Greek warfare. Orators spouted pan-Hellenic sentiments, but the ideals were not deeply enough rooted to overcome the ancient particu­larism of the Greeks; pan-Hellenism was propaganda rather than practical politics. It is ironic that Athens and Sparta, the two states that were chiefly responsible for repelling the Persians, were also principally to blame for keeping the Greek states disunited and weak, and therefore vulnerable, ulti­mately, to a second invasion by the Macedonians. The mainland Greeks had avoided becoming part of the Persian Empire, but in 338 they fell instead under what would become the Macedonian Empire.

The Hellenistic Period (323– 30 BCE)

The Hellenistic period, and independent Greek or Greco-Macedonian history, ended in the year 30 with the fall to Rome of the final successor kingdom, that of the Ptolemies in Egypt. It is said that when Octavian, the future Roman emperor Augustus, entered the Egyptian capital, Alexandria, he honored the tomb of Alexander the Great with offerings of a golden crown and flowers. When he was asked if he would like to see the tombs of the Ptolemies as well, he refused, saying that “he wanted to see a king, not corpses.” The new ruler of the world was extravagantly honoring the first ruler of the world, but he did have a point. There was a sense in which Alexander had stayed alive, while others died. The Greeks of the Hellenistic period continued to live in Alexander’s shadow. It was his ambitions that had laid the foundations of the new world, and his spirit lingered in its con­stant and frequently brilliant search for new horizons.

Augustus’ contempt had a long history, however. Until recently, it was not uncommon for accounts of ancient history to skip from Alexander’s death to the rise of Rome, ignoring the decades in between as though nothing important happened: men turned into mere corpses, but did not bestride the world the way a true king does. This attitude is misplaced. As a result of Alexander’s conquests, Greeks and Macedonians came to rule and inhabit huge new territories. They were living, in effect, in a new world, and this made the Hellenistic period one of the most thrilling periods of history, as everyone at every level of society, from potentates to peasants, adjusted to their new situations. The period pulsates with fresh energy and with a sense— reminiscent of the excitement of the Archaic period— that anything was possible, that there were further boundaries, cultural as well as geo­graphical, to discover and overcome.

Featured image credit: “The Triumph of Aemilius Paulus” provided by The Metropolitan Museum of Art by Carle Vernet. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

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Video: Mastering Aftermarket Appraisals @ NamesCon

Watch the full session of NamesCon’s Mastering Aftermarket Appraisals session, and learn a number of perspectives from domain industry professional of how to accurately appraise and evaluate domain names to sell or purchase.  

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