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: Boot 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. Read the entire entry. It’s akin to eating sinfully delicious chocolate. I gained at least three pounds.
Justin covers 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 Max Boot: Yes, 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: In 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 is it.
Although 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:
“Which 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 the population.”
“Which one 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: Let 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.
Kerry’s 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 u2014 force, pride and saving face.” 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.
And please 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: The 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: The 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.” 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.”
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.
February 10, 2007