Triumph of the Monsters
by Arthur Silber
By means of
a surpassingly enjoyable
and informative post, I am reluctantly dragged to the latest
paean to mass
extermination from Max Boot. My reluctance was extreme: I screamed
all the way, while every single fingernail was slowly pulled out
by the roots as I vainly tried to slow my progress. If he knows
of this suffering, Boot's satisfaction must be immense.
Near the beginning
of his post mortem (if only, sez I, at least so far as Boot's
public pronouncements are concerned), Justin writes:
is a neoconservative who writes a regular column for the Los
Angeles Times, which is odd because you would think that after
the predictions of their violence laden theories have spectacularly
failed to hold up in their real world experiments, any self identified
neocon would be driven deep underground by the rest of us, forced
to transmit their insanity through pirate radio waves on old equipment
purchased from the now defunct Sandinista Radio Venceremos.
It only gets better.
entire entry. It's akin to eating sinfully delicious chocolate.
I gained at least three pounds.
all the major points in admirable fashion. I want to amplify on
one aspect of Boot's ravings. I suppose I could offer a Shorter
I truly am this much of a monster. And I still get published!
People continue to listen to me! Joke's on you and on all
those rotten little brown people! Hahahaha!!
This is what I
want to note, toward the beginning of Boot's excretion:
formulating the right strategy, there is no better guide than a
slim 1964 volume, "Counterinsurgency Warfare: Theory and Practice."
Its author was a French officer named David Galula, who saw service
not only in World War II but in postwar China, Greece, Hong Kong
and Algeria. If there is a Clausewitz of counterinsurgency, Galula
threatens the most..." This directly returns us to John Kerry
("we haven't gotten tough enough" in Iraq) and a U.S. military commander
who I doubt is at all unusual:
much has changed in recent decades, most of his admonitions still
apply, which is why so many are echoed in the new Army-Marine
counterinsurgency field manual. U.S. forces have gotten better
at this demanding type of warfare in Iraq, but even now they're
still falling short, often through no fault of their own, in carrying
out many of Galula's key precepts:
side gives the best protection, which one threatens the most,
which one is most likely to win, these are the criteria governing
the population's stand. ... Political, social, economic and
other reforms, however much they ought to be wanted and popular,
are inoperative when offered while the insurgent still controls
me repeat the only fundamental point that matters here: we have
no right to be in Iraq in the first place. Since we have no
right to be there at all, by what damnable "right" are we entitled
to get "tougher" with the Iraqis? Endless violence, instantaneous
death or dismemberment, the inability to live any kind of normal
existence, and the destruction of an entire country are the "gifts"
we have brought to Iraq. And now we're going to get "tougher"?
To call this sickening does not even begin to capture the degree
of immorality and dishonesty involved.
This is the unapologetic
and sickening racism that has been one of the foundational blocks
of our foreign
policy "missions of improvement" for over a century. (See another
essay for further examples: The
American Myth, Continued: Conquest and Murder for God and Civilization.)
When you strip away all the supposedly noble-sounding phrases and
all the ultimately meaningless slogans, almost every member of our
political class and the entire U.S. foreign policy establishment holds
identical beliefs. Their propaganda of "making the world safe for
democracy" and bringing "liberation" to oppressed peoples works with
an American public that is unrelievedly ignorant, stupid and self-satisfied
but it predictably and justifiably fails to convince those
peoples upon whom we have visited destruction, chaos and death.
approach [in his
NYT op-ed article] thus veers perilously and disgustingly
close to the American military commander who said toward the end
of 2003: "You have to understand the Arab mind. ... The only thing
they understand is force — force, pride and saving face."
note that Galula served in Algeria. That tells you all you need
to know. In the event you may have forgotten one key lesson from
Algeria, I refer you to Part
IV of my series, On
Torture. Here's the relevant passage:
second part of [Darius] Rejali's article deals with the Battle
of Algiers, an example often cited to support the use of torture.
However, as Rejali writes, the real lesson lies in the other direction:
See Rejali's article
for many more details. This is the model Boot believes the United
States should follow. If it is true that many of Galula's "admonitions"
are incorporated into the "new Army-Marine counterinsurgency field
manual," it appears we are doing precisely that. As if our crimes
were not already sufficiently staggering and incomprehensible in their
magnitude, I think our leaders may yet implement this monstrous advice
completely and fully, in their desperation for "victory," and in their
determination to avoid "losing face."
real significance of the Battle of Algiers, however, is the startling
justification of torture by a democratic state. Algerian archives
are now open, and many French torturers wrote their autobiographies
in the 1990s. The story they tell will not comfort generals who
tell self-serving stories of torture's success. In fact, the battle
shows the devastating consequences of torture for any democracy
foolish enough to institutionalize it.
Part II of the
article contains the details of the prohibitively high costs of
any government sanction of torture. Moreover, as Rejali also explains,
France won the Battle of Algiers "primarily through force, not by
superior intelligence gathered through torture."
This is the
moment we've reached: many of us, including those who seek to influence
our government's actions and who continue to have an alarming degree
of success, are monsters. They acknowledge it openly (see
Krauthammer for another example), and they maintain becoming
monsters is "necessary" for the success of our "noble" efforts.
That such monsters continue to be regularly published in major U.S.
newspapers is a national degradation that will not be ameliorated
for decades, even if we were to reverse course tomorrow. The views
of people like Boot and Krauthammer are considered a legitimate
part of our "respectable" national discourse.
In the absence
of the kind of massive public protest and civil disobedience I mentioned
at the conclusion
of an essay yesterday, I do not expect this to change. I think
our government has traveled beyond the point of no return.
If one studies
history and the arc that is typical of great civilizations of the
past, I think it is unarguable that the high point of American influence
in the world has already passed. The new powers rise in the East
and, within several decades at the most, they will put the United
States in the shadow. Given what we now stand for, I view that prospect
as a largely positive one. Your children and grandchildren will
not experience anything close to the kinds of lives many of us enjoy
today but, contrary to what the majority of Americans appear
to believe, the quality of our lives is not guaranteed to us in
perpetuity regardless of our actions, and in defiance of the barbarity
that we now unthinkingly accept. It's worse than that: we commit
crimes on a huge scale, and we still maintain that we are
uniquely "exceptional" and virtuous in world history, and that nothing
we do can be fundamentally, unforgivably wrong.
If a critical
number of Americans do not protest in ways that finally cause our
government to take notice and alter its course, it's over. This
is why I repeat once again: now, it's up to the rest of us.
Silber's [send him mail]
blog is Once Upon
a Time, where he writes about political and cultural issues.
He has also written a number of essays based on the work of psychologist
and author Alice Miller, concerning the implications of her work
with regard to world events today. Descriptions of those articles
will be found at a companion blog, The
Sacred Moment. Silber worked as an actor in the New York theater
many years ago. Upon relocating to Los Angeles in the late 1970s,
he worked in the film industry for several years. After pursuing
what ultimately proved to be an unsatisfying business career, he
decided to turn to writing full-time, a profession which he happily
© 2007 Arthur Silber