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January 11, 2007

Comments

You are being rational about a person who is one of an irrational subset of our population. Josh is one of the People Who Must Not Fail. Nothing matters to him or his fellow ilks except winning. It's the same mentality as the people who argue that we should have stayed in Viet Nam until victory, nevermind that we had already killed a million civilians in support of a dictatorship.
I'm afraid that Bush is a Person Who Must Not Fail. Are we really going to war with Iran? I wish we had a parliamentary government.

"This is to be expected from that corner, of whom no more need be said here."

"I have stated previously that I endorse cruel things in war — to eschew them is folly."

I agree with this statement in theory, though his idea of the practice leaves lots to be desired. I think one of Bush's most key mistakes (and it is hard to narrow them down) was in declaring the war over almost immediately setting up expectations appropriate for post-war conduct instead of in-war conduct. This combined with many half-measures contributed to a disaster.

The British achieved victory over the Boers by taking their women and children away to concentration camps, by laying waste to the countryside, and by dotting the veld with small garrisons in blockhouses at regular intervals.

And that's how South Africa became the 20th C's beacon of light it was so famous for.

he's calmly discussing the logistics of putting all of Iraq into concentration camps.

while i dislike the practice of doing psychological diagnosis from a distance, i can't help but conclude that the guy's fncking crazy.

Not to mention the "success" of the Morice Line* consisted mainly of postponing - for only a little while - French control over Algeria - a couple of years at most - and we see how that brilliant idea turned out for the French!

*An electrified border fence between Tunisia and Algeria: trust Josh T. to dredge up an obscure reference like this!

My question is: will Josh be played by a bald and overweight Marlon Brando in the movie version?

meanwhile, top story on CNN.com right now? Beckham's coming to America.

Seb: shooting people is cruel, especially if it doesn't kill them instantly; I endorse shooting people, when necessary, in war; so there we are. It is, of course, the 'put the population of Iraq in concentration camps' part that I think is, well, crazy. Except that that seems like a pretty tame term for it.

(A detected breach in the wires would, of course, bring a reaction from separate Quick Reaction Forces, which would bomb and/or flood the area to kill the presumed insurgents.

It won't be long till Tac proposes that we use Intrusion Detectors camoflaged as dog turds as was tried in Vietnam. (click on 'turd')

He deleted his archives in order to build his reputation on this sort of thing?

My God.

Bush: He put it far more bluntly when leaders of Congress visited the White House earlier on Wednesday. “I said to Maliki this has to work or you’re out,” the president told the Congressional leaders, according to two officials who were in the room. Pressed on why he thought this strategy would succeed where previous efforts had failed, Mr. Bush shot back: “Because it has to.”

Right-Wing nihilist worship two gods -- Power and the State.

he's calmly discussing the logistics of putting all of Iraq into concentration camps.

QFE.

Josh is not insane, at least not in any dysfunctional sense. He's perfectly in control of his faculties and obviously capable of functioning in polite society. He's simply a monster who has yet to demonstrate that there is any moral line he's unwilling to cross in the service of his ideology.

Creatures like this should be shunned by all civilized people.

“I said to Maliki this has to work or you’re out,”

Can you smell the freedoms?

This is going to get ugly quite quickly.

Isn’t Trevino’s ranting typical of middle-class right-wing nationalists/fascists?

You know, advocate mass death and ‘tough decisions” from the comfort of his living room and shopping malls.

John Cleese was very funny as Trevino in the "Fighting Each Other" segment of Monty Python's "The Meaning Of Life". Zulus not Boers, but who's counting.

Someone's leg was stolen. Must have been a tiger ...well, two guys inside a tiger suit.

The role was later reprised in the much too short-lived series "Fawlty Towers", in which Josh Fawlty insults the guests, his employees, and his wife in his seaside hotel with such beauts as "quaffet old sow", "ya cloth-eared beet", "you could sooner train a monkey", and "intrinsically obscene and ignorant, sport".

I guess the garrison idea is better than tactical nukes; it somehow strikes a more personal note. But I'll only consent to it if I get to carry a riding crop, and slick my moustache as I grumble about the wogs disrupting tea time.

There is another parallel here: The Brits fought the Boers, many of whom were Calvinists. Now it is suggested that George Bush, identified by some as nominally Calvinist in outlook, should use the same tactics against the Sunnis, or the Shi-ites, or the other Calvinists, I forget which.

By the way the passage cited here by Hilzoy was well-written, but I'm a sucker for bad ideas expressed with one dollar words. ;)

On the cruelty issue:

You shouldn't begin a war you can't win. Many people object to the Iraq war on those grounds. I'm not one of those. Once you have decided to begin a war, you should win as quickly as possible. Notice I did NOT say 'end it' as quickly as possible. Bush's decisions and actions were not well calculated to win the war as quickly as possible, he was much more focused on ending it as quickly as possible. He didn't have enough troops. He didn't secure vital services. He called the 'end' too soon.

If you are going to war, you should be brutal, and cruel and quick, because you end up being much less brutal and cruel than you would if you let the war go on indefinitely.

*An electrified border fence between Tunisia and Algeria: trust Josh T. to dredge up an obscure reference like this!

The Morice Line was batted around the Pentagon several years ago in response to suspected Syrian involvement in Iraq. The idea progressed fairly far before reality interfered.

Concentration camps? Can the Final Solution be far behind?

If you are going to war, you should be brutal, and cruel and quick

Well, Sebastian, what exactly do you mean? What wasn't done that should have been done? The devil is in the details, you see.

If you are going to war, you should be brutal, and cruel and quick

Sebastian, I can see the rationale for this approach, but only in situations with defined goals. Brutal, cruel, and quick might work when you're trying to wrest a specific concession out of another country. In other words, I'd accept that approach only under a radically diminished paradigm of the national interest.

Re Tacitus :
What happened to the conservative idea of "unintended consequences"? The immediate and longterm changes to both the battlefield and our nation would be pretty drastic. An entire country on lockdown? The US as an overt oppressor of a foreign people? Yeah, that would work real well.

Re Sebastian:
In theory you are right about a quick war versus a long war. But - wasn't that the goal in Iraq all along? In and out, turn the place over to the Iraqis? The Iraqis didn't quite follow the script, as many had predicted. I think it was impossible to do correctly with the US electorate so fickle when it comes to overseas wars.

The concentration camps are cruel, but it's the idea of sending an additional 300,000 troops to Iraq to cover 216,081 sq km with fences and garrisons and put hundreds of thousands of Iraqis in those camps that's friggin' fruit-loopy.

If Trevino or Bush or this nation had any power to actually do this, it would be monsterous; since none of us do--especially not Josh Trevino--it's just embarassing.

"If you are going to war, you should be brutal, and cruel and quick, because you end up being much less brutal and cruel than you would if you let the war go on indefinitely. "

Meaning that you torture people, or deliberately kill civilians, or don't worry about "collateral damage", or what?

I'm going to assume you mean the third. I still don't agree AT ALL and I still am amazed at the seemingly smart decent people who believe this. There's no "more is better" rule as far as whether brutality accomplishes your ends; in counterinsurgencies it can be directly counterproductive.

And whether brutality works depends on WHAT YOUR ENDS ARE. If your main goal is physical retreat and then unconditional surrender of a country that had started a war of aggression, you might be able to accomplish it by killing masses of that country's civilians--at any rate it won't directly hurt. If you are trying to defeat an insurgency so you annex a country's land into your empire, then you could terrorize people out of supporting the rebels but you risk motivating people to join them--if you are willing to commit genocide against the population you will eventually have empty land to annex though. But if the country's national government has already surrendered or been destroyed, and you are occupying the country trying to establish a stable democracy so you can go home, then turning the country into a concentration camp, indiscriminately killing civilians, torture, etc. will NOT work.

How exactly do we get from making a country into the world's largest concentration camp to democracy blooming in the desert and America withdrawing? How?

The means have to match up with, or at least not directly undermine, the ends.

Sebastian: If you are going to war, you should be brutal, and cruel and quick

Well, the US was brutal and cruel and quick in Iraq - and that didn't save the US from a protracted occupation.

Germany was brutal and cruel and quick when invading/occupying other countries in Europe between 1936-1945: and its problems invading the USSR were not the result of not being brutal, cruel, or quick enough. Are you suggesting that the US should emulate Nazi Germany in war? If not, what precisely are you proposing?

Re Tacitus :
What happened to the conservative idea of "unintended consequences"?

Neo-cons think that only applies to liberals.

The Morice Line. Thanks for the definition.

I thought that was the line Maurice Chevalier wouldn't cross when he sang "Thank Heaven for Little Girls".

More seriously:

"If you are going to war, you should be brutal, and cruel and quick, because you end up being much less brutal and cruel than if you let the war go on indefinitely."

I can agree with this in an abstract sense.

But then I find myself sick to my abstract self when I conclude that leaving Saddam Hussein in power to be brutal, cruel, and quick with the motley sectarian population of Iraq would have been brutal, cruel, realistic (I hate reality), cheaper, and, if not quick, then at least an awful forestalling of the coming war with Iran.

Now, I'm going to corner my abstract self and be brutal, cruel, and quick with him.

Sebastian,

I agree with you to a point.

If the moral, ethical and cognitive foundations of the war were built on weak soil, failure is inevitable. This whole adventure is begining to look like a criminal act. The "easy" way to devert Americans from the fact that Bush could do nothing about 9-11 and the tribes who put it together.

Some criminals will decide the whole “robbing-a-bank-thing” was a stupid venture during the act and just give up accepting the consequences. While others believe “Well we came this far…” and attempt to save face by killing and destroying the lives around them.

Botched L.A bank heist turns into bloody shootout

I'm sure many men who end up engaging in mass death really just didn't want to look weak.

An electrified border fence between Tunisia and Algeria: trust Josh T. to dredge up an obscure reference like this!

The Morice Line, and more generally the Algerian War of Independence, really shouldn't be obscure. I was reading Alistair Horne's A Savage War of Peace when 9/11 happened, and put it down shortly thereafter because it was all too relevant. (I know it at least used to be on one of the Army's recommended reading lists for officers.)

John Thullen:
"By the way the passage cited here by Hilzoy was well-written, but I'm a sucker for bad ideas expressed with one dollar words. ;)"

Heh, John T: nailed it in one: "bad ideas expressed with one-dollar words" - Josh Trevino in a nutshell. Too bad, though: I've been reading his stuff since the early Tacitus days, and while it's still as well-written as ever, he's long since descended
into the Realm Of The Unacceptable as far as his policy prescriptions go.
It all boils down, basically, to "We're going to lose the Great War of Civilizations because we're being too nice to our fanatic and subhuman Enemies" - with the main variation being shifts in who Josh blames for this awful failing (the usual scapegoats). Sad.

"Well, Sebastian, what exactly do you mean? What wasn't done that should have been done? The devil is in the details, you see."

More troops for security immediately after the war so that civilians don't feel the need to hook up with militia or another for protection. Shooting looters on the street. Making it clear to political leaders that if they associate themselves with milita groups or foment revolution, that they will be shot. Not calling an end to the war prematurely--because people (even civilians in the invaded country) have a different idea of what is acceptable in the war part and what is acceptable in the rebuilding part. All of these things done in the first 6 months could have made a big difference. But when you let everything go with half-measures for years, all of that becomes counterproductive.

I have a related musing, but I want to be able to keep the discussions separate, so I'll put it in the comments to the other thread.

It seems to me that a lot of the authoritarian right is complaining that we are doing poorly in Iraq because we don't do the kind of things Saddam was just executed for doing.

Not being brutal is a virtue, but it's one that requires the foresight to avoid situations where brutality is an attractive option.

By the way the passage cited here by Hilzoy was well-written, but I'm a sucker for bad ideas expressed with one dollar words

i got as far as "...thereby yielding a plausible figure for needed soldiery. According to the CIA World Factbook, Iraq’s land area is 432,162 sq km. For the purpose of estimation..." when i started thinking "OMG, he think concentration camps are a viable idea. and now he's... no... he's not going to... he can't... he's going to Do The Math?"

and then he did. and now i know he's insane.

It's not just the barbarity, it's also the sheer stupidity. It couldn't be done without a fuck of a lot more troops than we have or would have without a draft. It's morally and practically unworkable. Just mental masturbation.

Seb: I think that we should absolutely have sent in more troops from the get-go if we had to send any at all, which of course I opposed. I'd have to think about shooting looters on sight, but I'm not opposed in principle, partly because in that particular case it's fairly clear that one is getting the right person. It's not indiscriminate. Killing politicians who hook up with militias is a lot trickier, once you get into questions like: how do we know?

That said, the only justification for this line of thought is consequentialist. And if one is going to justify brutality by its consequences, there are a couple of points that have to be considered. One is Katherine's point: that IF your goal is to win the hearts and minds of the population, or any other goal that presupposes this one, then any brutality without clear limits is very very likely to be counterproductive. Another is the effects on army discipline. As I understand it (and I welcome correction), the army goes to a fair amount of trouble to drill into its soldiers' minds the difference between killing in war and murder. It recognizes that it is asking people to do things that are hard to distinguish from just shooting people up, or letting revenge and anger go haywire, or a number of other very bad things, and that maintaining the distinction between what soldiers are supposed to do and those closely related things that they are NOT supposed to do is both difficult and very, very important.

Since what has the consequences is not the policy one as one intends it but the policy as executed, I'd want to know a lot about whether policies allowing some specific form of "more brutality" were likely to lead to the disintegration of important distinctions, like that between killing your enemy and killing people who for whatever reason piss you off.

As I said, I'm not against shooting looters, though I'd want more details. It would have been clear who was doing genuinely wrong stuff; it might well not have alienated the population, who (iirc) very much wanted order to be kept, at the time; its justification is clear and transparent; it's hard to misconstrue as e.g. an anti-Sunni or anti-Shi'a gesture, since it all depends on who runs down the street in front of you carrying a TV; and it's quite plausible that in this specific case, harshness up front would lead to much better consequences downstream. Also, it would lead to those consequences quickly, and the line of supposition one needs in order to predict this is not tenuous or full of big assumptions (compare the line of supposition needed to predict that we would be welcomed with flowers.)

But those are all pretty exceptional features, imho.

Shorter me: I don't disagree with the basic form of argument (if we're not talking about something like torture or rape or shooting the innocent), but the devil is absolutely in the details.

Also, if I were President, whether I authorized anything like this would depend a lot on my confidence in the judgment and the thoughtfulness of my commanders. Petraeus: yes. Boykin: I don't think so.

I wonder how anyone can regard his prose as "well-written." It's pompous and turgid, and the supercilious, condescending tone is extremely annoying.

(how's that for some one-dollar words!)

This post is somewhat unfair to Trevino. He isn't endorsing a Boer-War strategy in Iraq. He's illustrating that, even if one maximizes the effectiveness of each individual soldier by mimicking the (successful) strategy of the British, Bush's "surge" is still far too low. Although it's clear that Trevino is willing to accept significant cruelty in war (as I am, for the reasons Sebastian rightly notes), it's not clear at all that he'd advocate this particular cruelty for Iraq on either moral or pragmatic grounds.

1. what damon said.

2. He's illustrating that, even if one maximizes the effectiveness of each individual soldier by mimicking the (successful) strategy of the British, Bush's "surge" is still far too low.

there are a million ways to show that Bush's surge isn't going to do what he claims. but Trevino chose to illustrate it by bemoaning the fact that we couldn't put the women and children of Iraq into concentration camps, for lack of manpower. he chose to go with an example of a horrific, terrorist, probable war-crime. yes, we're being unfair for noting that.

I wonder how anyone can regard his prose as "well-written." It's pompous and turgid, and the supercilious, condescending tone is extremely annoying.

Well that's the tone and style of most Western writing up until the 20th Century; however one can still find beautiful vegetation in a cow pasture.

He's just absent-mindedly musing about how best to put most of the Iraqi population into concentration camps? If he didn't want people to react forcibly to this cracking open of the Overton Window, then perhaps he should have hedged his language.

Regarding brutality, and its effectiveness: yes, it works. Hussein, after all, used brutality to forge a fairly politically stable sectarian state in an ethnically and religiously diverse society. As a matter of fact, that was the defense oft used at his trial.

Now, Hussein was at least Iraqi. It's likely that the US would have to be far more brutal than Hussein to achieve the same results. I'm not sure if that was what Tac was pushing for, though.

As I said, I'm not against shooting looters, though I'd want more details.

Presumably if enough troops had been sent in to actually guard facilities, the looting would have been deterred in the first place, making a shooting looters order superfluous.

Another is the effects on army discipline. As I understand it (and I welcome correction), the army goes to a fair amount of trouble to drill into its soldiers' minds the difference between killing in war and murder. It recognizes that it is asking people to do things that are hard to distinguish from just shooting people up, or letting revenge and anger go haywire, or a number of other very bad things, and that maintaining the distinction between what soldiers are supposed to do and those closely related things that they are NOT supposed to do is both difficult and very, very important.

I suspect this is yet another area where Bush's (and his supporters') lack of military background (in the field) is really have an negative impact on his policy. No conception of what military training is like, no idea of how it works in the field, no idea of how it's going to be implemented.

He's just absent-mindedly musing about how best to put most of the Iraqi population into concentration camps? If he didn't want people to react forcibly to this cracking open of the Overton Window, then perhaps he should have hedged his language.

That's why I said that it was "somewhat unfair" to Trevino. There were a million other ways to illustrate his point, and he chose a stupid one.

His point was, literally, to put a large percentage of the Iraqi population into camps.

And the Overton Window aspect is an important point: this is Trevino's job, to insert such ideas into the discussion. He's just the vehicle of transmission, and you can be sure that the concept of concentration camps is being booted around the think-tanks he's associated with.

"I wonder how anyone can regard his prose as "well-written.".

I can feel the ground crumbling beneath my feet here, but anyone who starts out a paragraph with "I have stated previously that I endorse cruel things in war -- to eschew them is folly," is a brilliantly conceived sentence in that it beautifully portrays a guy who has done much more eschewing and endorsing than he has actual cruel things. The "ue" in cruel (does he pronounce it with two syllables?) and the "ew" in eschew compliment each other and simultaneously deflect the other. I mean, can you imagine someone using the word "eschew" with such delicacy and then running out and doing cruel things, while saying to himself, "hey, look at me, accomplishing cruel things, but, at last, no eschewing. Long live cruelty! Death to the eschewers!

Well look, my kid is at the stage of his writing for school in which he has discovered the easy crutch of the thesaurus and the idea that if you don't know what you're talking about, then stirring up a little turgidity is a way out of the responsibility of clarity.

I critique, but I don't want to kill his enthusiasm, so I tell him most of his stuff is well-written (and it is for his age). Plus, he becomes moody, and who needs that?

Thus my attitude toward Trevino's writing, especially since he's so much younger than my 17-year old.

His point was, literally, to put a large percentage of the Iraqi population into camps.

I would wonder why, in order to illustrate his point, he chose the concentration camp route instead of the Briggs Plan instead. The Briggs Plan worked quite well against an insurgency similar to the Iraqi insurgency, in many ways, and was far more humane than the Boer war solution.

Sometimes I think Tac just likes talking tough.

Well, von, goaded by your comment, I went back and read Josh Trevino whole "Uncertain Victory" piece, and upon reflection, I wouldn't say hilzoy's post was "unfair" to Josh's point at all. He puts it quite plainly:

"Consider the Boer-era strategy for victory as it might apply in Iraq."

and then goes on to analyze, quite carefully, the applicability of a concentration-camp strategy to contemporary Iraq. Even though he does conclude that the proposed numbers of additional troops for Iraq would be inadequate to execute a Boer-War-style plan, I read his comments to mean that he would probably approve wholeheartedly of the application of this type of policy in Iraq - which I took to be the subject of hilzoy's scorn. Rightfully so, IMO, and hardly an "unfair" assessment.

I guess that's kind of how I feel about Chateaubriand.

I should have hit preview. That was in response to Thullen.

On the one hand, we have Andrew preparing to go to Iraq and putting a lot of effort into helping the rest of us understand key issues of supply, distribution, and such, and also offering tremendously useful personal insights into questions like where it hurts after using body armor a lot.

On the other hand, we have Josh gassing on (if he's going to write like the 19th century never died, I'm going to criticize him in period terms) abot the mechanics of interning an entire country.

One of these men is a credit to his country and civilization.

I would wonder why, in order to illustrate his point, he chose the concentration camp route instead of the Briggs Plan instead.

indeed, it seems odd for such a great writer to choose this analogy while being blind to the history surrounding words like "concentration camp". yes, this master of prose and prolific quoter of history just spent 1/2 his verbiage on an analogy which was guaranteed to offend the majority of readers. but he didn't intend for anyone to think he thought it was a good idea, even though he uses it as an way to demonstrate how little he thinks of Bush.

he's such a complex little devil.

hmmm...Von, I'm not so sure you're right.

I agree that you could read Josh' post and conclude this example is only offered to emphasize that, "compared with a totally different approach to the one I'm advocating", we're not sending enough new troops to win, but that apples-to-oranges approach isn't what I've come to expect of Tac...

I mean, if it's just that sort of unparallel example, why not compare the number of troops it will take to subdue the Iraqi insurgency to the number it (ultimately in that one final manuever) took to subdue the Japanese? I mean, of course, we'll know Josh is not advocating we nuke Iraq. But compared to that our approach to the Japanese, anyone can see the President would be sending far too many Americans to Iraq.

I think Hilzoy's right to criticize Josh here...even if he really left logic aside and only intended this as an apples-to-oranges comparison, it's offensive.

Of course, as usual, Josh takes advantage of this topic to bash the left again:

What was good about the President’s speech? He remains committed to victory. Whether he will achieve it or not is a separate matter; the mere fact that he seeks it sets him on a moral plane above the mass of the American left that thinks defeat a wholly palatable option.

I'm not sure what the laws of physics are in Josh's universe, but in this one, the moral plane of one who'll send countless more Americans to their deaths with a plan that no chance in hell of succeeding is most definitely lower than that on which folks who can see the man has no plan dare to call him on it.

"I guess that's how I feel about Chateaubriand"

You mean the guy wrapped in bacon and served with a tarragon butter sauce by a snooty waiter ...

.... or the cut of beef wrapped in bacon and served with a tarragon butter sauce by a snooty waiter?

Although it's clear that Trevino is willing to accept significant cruelty in war (as I am, for the reasons Sebastian rightly notes), it's not clear at all that he'd advocate this particular cruelty for Iraq on either moral or pragmatic grounds.

It's not at all clear that he wouldn't, either, and he consciously refused to deny it in this comment thread.

There can be no reason to employ such vagueness in the first instance, and to refuse to clarify, unless the entire purpose is to obfuscate one's unthinkable internal deliberations. This is how Trevino behaves all the time.

Trevino seems to believe that if never clarifies the meaning of his words, no one can hold him to their most logical interpretation. That is manifestly not how the world works.

Well, we all stack up rather poorly to Andrew on the "credit to his country" front.

John Thullen gets at part of what I think of his writing, but also: Trevino seems to value abstract nouns more highly than human beings. Honor, duty, victory, freedom, the West, civilization, righteousness....the main problem with this is that you end up advocating stringing barbed wire across Iraq for the sake of Victory, Civilization, Liberty. But it also has a deadening effect on the writing style.

A nice bit about Tac from that same comment thread: "If 13-year-old goth poets wrote war strategy, that is how they would write it."

hilzoy,

Funny, but probably unfair to goth poets. After all, they tend to talk about their own angst writ large, while Josh has no direct experience with committing war crimes.

Katherine: agreed. But there is this one little problem about valuing many of the particular abstract nouns you mentioned -- Honor, duty, freedom, the West, civilization, righteousness -- more than human beings: it's logically impossible to truly value them -- actual righteousness, actual honor, actual duty -- too much, and as a result end up not valuing human beings. These things involve valuing human beings.

It's like saying that someone values generosity in the abstract over helping concrete individuals: you see what's meant, but describing that person as actually valuing generosity has to be wrong. Someone who just talks a lot about generosity but never actually helps anyone (where that's not because e.g. the world is perfect and no one needs help) is not committed to generosity in any sense, abstract or concrete.

It's partly for the sake of the abstract nouns he takes in vain that I mind Tac so much. Including, fwiw, Christianity.

another commenter on that thread nailed why I think there's too much credit being given Josh on this one by some:

Ah, I see. Trevino emphasizes that he "largely endorses" "terrible things." But how could anyone POSSIBLY think he endorses THESE PARTICULAR terrible things?

To Tacitus, from Tacitus:

"They plunder, they slaughter, and they steal: this they falsely name Empire, and where they make a wasteland, they call it peace."

(Agricola)

I didn't mean actual righteousness or actual freedom, I meant the sound of the word "Righteousness" or the word "Freedom," and the feelings that it evokes.

I didn't mean actual righteousness or actual freedom, I meant the sound of the word "Righteousness" or the word "Freedom," and the feelings that it evokes.

Too true.

Trevino seems to believe that if never clarifies the meaning of his words, no one can hold him to their most logical interpretation. That is manifestly not how the world works.

For someone who talks a lot about courage and responsibility, he sure doesn't seem to have any of either. How much courage does it take to say what he means in a blog, for cryin' out loud, and to take responsibility for a personal opinion?

A fence with lots of wire, well yes but it is the USA which needs to be fenced in, like any place full of dangerous animals.. Just go on completing the one you are now building to keep the Mexicans out, and then one one the north. And when it is finished, the one along the border with Canada, we can supply another layer to top up the wire. People who erupt with murderous notions of treating whole nations like restive farm animals need to be severly restrained. America is a loony bin.

A fence with lots of wire, well yes but it is the USA which needs to be fenced in, like any place full of dangerous animals.. Just go on completing the one you are now building to keep the Mexicans out, and then one one the north. And when it is finished, the one along the border with Canada, we can supply another layer to top up the wire. People who erupt with murderous notions of treating whole nations like restive farm animals need to be severly restrained. America is a loony bin.

I would wonder why, in order to illustrate his point, he chose the concentration camp route instead of the Briggs Plan instead.

A Briggs type plan will be the compromise they acquiesce too, in the name of bipartisanship.

Seems to me he clearly enough denies advocating the Way-of-the-KZ in those comments, but then his post is left unintelligible.

I don't buy this "war must be cruel" bit, unless cruelty is redefined to "doing harm."

I'd always understood cruelty to be the infliction of *unnecessary* suffering.

Of course, we then get into whether the Amritsar massacre (say) was "necessary" or not, but I think few non-Trevinoids have a problem figuring that one out.

So, no, war needn't be cruel. Cruelty is probably a bad thing in war, even. You use the necessary force to get the job done, but even then, there are rules. You don't murder civilians. You don't take hostages. Etc.

"...and as a result end up not valuing human beings. These things involve valuing human beings."

There is certainly a long tradition starting before like Plato in which the "idea of the thing" or ideal or essence is valued more or differently than the instantiation, which includes an idea that people are more than the sum of their particular qualities or attributes or actions. We measure people's actions or non-actions in large part based on intent and motivation, demonstrating that for instance "generosity" is a complex, an abstract idea, not simply an observed concrete behavior.

It helps prevent judging people as if you were an accountant doing an audit.

So, no, war needn't be cruel. Cruelty is probably a bad thing in war, even. You use the necessary force to get the job done, but even then, there are rules. You don't murder civilians. You don't take hostages. Etc.
The ugliest result of the last several years, I think, has been the number of people eager to argue that such principles are simply good ideas, pleasant things that we enjoy when times are good. Like having an extra-expensive cup of coffee every morning.

That kind of talk lets you wax philosophical about how wonderful compassion is, how admirable the high standards of our nation are... Then explain without batting an eye that it's time to tighten one's belt and start shooting suspects in the head to intimidate the others.

Whatever else may be said about him, Josh chooses his words very carefully. When he says the following--

One might look to Algeria, where the Morice Line offers an instructive example of just how a hostile border can and should be sealed; [emphasis mine]

--I take him at the plain meaning of his words, which is that he thinks this is how things should be done. When he says the following--

Make no mistake: those means were cruel. I have stated previously that I endorse cruel things in war — to eschew them is folly. [emphasis mine]

--I take him at the plain meaning of his words, which is that he endorses the methods he was describing.

For Tac to, as he did in that TAPPED thread, attempt to claim that those saying otherwise cannot read, reveals him not only as a monster who espouses monstrous beliefs, but as a dishonest coward who lacks the courage to stand behind them.

Trevino isn't just a fascist. He's a caricature of what American fascism would look like, from the barely-sublimated racism to the overbearing lionization of dusty military "greats" to the contrived attempts at flowery rhetoric. It's disgusting that his sites still get linked to, and defended, by regular posters here. Do we have to wait until someone is actually goosestepping across the Polish border in a brownshirt before you call them a Nazi?

Do we have to wait until someone is actually goosestepping across the Polish border in a brownshirt before you call them a Nazi?

So I'm told.

On the other hand, we have Josh gassing on (if he's going to write like the 19th century never died, I'm going to criticize him in period terms) abot the mechanics of interning an entire country.

Posted by: Bruce Baugh | January 11, 2007 at 02:31 PM

That was funny.

Trevino has an update, I see.

That's a bit of a non-denial denial, isn't it? I know he doesn't propose Nazi-style death camps; the question was what he thought of Boer-War-style concentration camps.

Anderson links to adler at volokh's site, and it seems to me that Tac's musings seem like an appropriate example to consider slippery slopes.

I'd have to think about shooting looters on sight, but I'm not opposed in principle, partly because in that particular case it's fairly clear that one is getting the right person.

Hmmm. Yes. Take care that you don't shoot Jean Valjean, mind.

Or all those post Katrina folks in Walmart.

What's amazing is that the same loonies who constantly condemn "The Left" for not repeating often enough that Saddam was a bad man, etc., see no reason why people would take a post like this one to actually express its plain meaning. Because, you know, somewhere in subparagraph 4 I sort of hinted that maybe I don't believe this! (but MAYBE I DO)

Check out Trevino's update for a classic example of what I'm talking about. See, since liberals want to end the war, they must not believe that there are bad people in Iraq! After all, I haven't heard them say so in the past hour!

"genocide and murder are the last items on any sane wartime agenda"

That reads too much like "genocide is a last (-resort?) item on a sane wartime agenda". I guess (after some gasping) he means this in the sense of "offending you was the last thing on my mind". And of course Katherine is exactly right at 5:55.

Travino reminds me of Gino in A Farewell to Arms (1932)

[Gino] "Have you ever noticed the difference [food] makes in the way you think?"

"Yes," I said. "It can't win a war but it can lose one."

"We won't talk about losing. There is enough talk about losing. What has been done this summer cannot have been done in vain."

I did not say anything. I was always embarrassed by the words sacred, glorious, and sacrifice and the expression in vain. We had heard them, sometimes standing in the rain almost out of earshot, so that only the shouted words came through, and had read them, on proclamations that were slapped up by billposters over other proclamations, now for a long time, and I had seen nothing sacred, and the things that were glorious had no glory and the sacrifices were like the stockyards at Chicago if nothing was done with the meat except to bury it. There were many words that you could not stand to hear and finally only the names of places had dignity. Certain numbers were the same way and certain dates and these with the names of the places were all you could say and have them mean anything. Abstract words such as glory, honor, courage, or hallow were obscene besides the concrete names of villages, the numbers of roads, the names of rives, the numbers of regiments and the dates. Gino was a patriot, so he said things that separated us sometimes, but he was also a fine boy and I understood his being a patriot. He was born one. He left with Peduzzi in the car to go back to Gorizia.

That reads too much like "genocide is a last (-resort?) item on a sane wartime agenda".

Ah, yes. I was just looking up Glenn Reynolds's similar sentiment today.

Were it really to become all-out war of the sort that Osama and his ilk want, the likely result would be genocide — unavoidable, and provoked, perhaps, but genocide nonetheless, akin to what Rome did to Carthage, or to what Americans did to American Indians. That’s what happens when two societies can’t live together, and the weaker one won’t stop fighting — especially when the weaker one targets the civilians and children of the stronger. This is why I think it’s important to pursue a vigorous military strategy now. Because if we don’t, the military strategy we’ll have to follow in five or ten years will be light-years beyond “vigorous.”

Did all these guys have the same social-studies teacher in 10th grade or something?

Late to the party, but Seb said

You shouldn't begin a war you can't win. Many people object to the Iraq war on those grounds. I'm not one of those. Once you have decided to begin a war, you should win as quickly as possible. Notice I did NOT say 'end it' as quickly as possible. Bush's decisions and actions were not well calculated to win the war as quickly as possible, he was much more focused on ending it as quickly as possible. He didn't have enough troops. He didn't secure vital services. He called the 'end' too soon.

If you are going to war, you should be brutal, and cruel and quick, because you end up being much less brutal and cruel than you would if you let the war go on indefinitely.

So, since the things you now deem necessary were not (and based on the oft-cited experience of General Shinseki, could never have been) on offer then, can we take this as a tacit admission that you were wrong to support the war and/or Bush in 2004?

It's perfectly acceptable to say "knowing what I knew then, I was not wrong" because no one could have predicted, etc., etc., etc., but have the decency to own up to being sold a bill of goods, man.

I grow weary of being instructed on why I was wrong to be right and others were right to be wrong, so right in fact that they are the only "serious" voices we need to listen to.

the question was what he thought of Boer-War-style concentration camps

if he thinks nobody is going to call him out for suggesting 'concentration camps' of any kind aren't such a terrible idea, then get snippy that people think of Nazi-style CC's, then he's being disingenuous. actually, i'd say he's just trolling.

And jeepers, Anderson, did you step in it over at Volokh.

(Note, of course there is a qualitative difference between random Hitler comparisons and a specific, and I think colorable and somewhat persuasive, comparison between aspects of the Nazi program and similar aspects of Yoo-ism. I weep for my alma matter to a degree. But that said, at least some who disagree will be intellectual lazy and scream "Godwin" so as to no be forced to defend the indefensible.)

Well it's obvious Tac hasn't been picking up the "Nazi" stuff here at ObWings - he really ought to start reading some quality blogs - but the "trolling" charge, I think, is bolstered by his coda:

"They are not, in fact, sincerely outraged or offended by this illusory call to genocide, murder, indiscriminate killing, etc., so much as they are excited to participate in ephemeral points-scoring against the right. The latter is central to their public self-concept, whereas the former would lead, uncomfortably for them, into inexorable and implacable opposition to the genocide-minded murderers and indiscriminate killers whom we fight in Iraq."

Yep, it's all about "point-scoring" and a built-in reluctance to oppose genocide and murder... which obviously, no "leftist" would ever be against. Right. Like I said, sad.

And jeepers, Anderson, did you step in it over at Volokh.

Just a bit. I was reading Burleigh's Third Reich over Xmas, and am now on the first book in Richard Evans's projected trilogy, so I have Nazis on the brain.

But it's not like the comparison is so bizarre, as the Scott Horton post I eventually linked makes clear.

There's something dangerous in the notion that we can't make arguable comparisons to what the Nazis did -- that just makes it all the easier to *do* what the Nazis did.

I mean, if you're discussing a lawyer's obligation to counsel his gov't against war crimes, what *else* you gonna cite besides the Justice Trial?

--Sorry, OT & of no interest to anyone else; just a bit frustrated with the Volokhians.

You should have guessed the reaction, but yes, it's perfectly legitimate. Under Yoo's theories, which the memo puts forth with the usual shoddy justification and lack of counterarguments, it is unconstitutional for Congress to forbid the President from commanding U.S. troops to commit grave breaches of Geneva if he wants them to. Well, if it's unconstitutional to forbid the President from torturing prisoners, it's presumably unconstitutional to forbid him from gassing them. The President's decision to send people to death camps would equally be a "policy decision."

I went to law school and it's all about analogies and hypotheticals. This one's not much of a reach at all compared to what Adler gives his 1Ls.

I don't like stupid Nazi comparisons, but you know what I like much less? The idea that it's terribly gauche and inappropriate and uncivil to even talk about Nuremberg when a U.S. gov't lawyer has given advice that led to innocent people being beaten to death.

(what Adler probably has given his 1Ls--I've never actually met him or anything, but all law profs do it.)

Anderson,

No, I'm not disagreeing with you at all, but you are simply never going to get away with that comparison on the way to sensible discussion at Volokh, though.

On the merits I agree with you - the unfrozen caveman lawyer shtick doesn't do much for me as far as excusing Very Bad Things, (plus, I somehow feel my degree is worth less than before if Delahunty gets the position.)

A bit late, but the notion that cruel things need to be done may be acceptable when the combatants are delimited, but when we expand out from that, I think it loses justification. The development in the 20th century so that civilians (and civilian morale) are considered part of the industrial strength and support of the warring nation, which then permitted Dresden seems to force a pushing back on the necessity of inflicting cruelty unless a true existential struggle is taking place. Forcing the supporting civilian population to suffer, which has now turned into becoming a terrorist thru being a victim of kidnapping, , as hil pointed out, making the notion of 'support' meaningless, means that the cruelty is applied to anyone who can be defined as them. This is not suggesting that cruelty be eliminated, but to suggest that as a point of argument, it is becoming, or at least should be becoming less and less acceptable. Trying to argue for it represents a failure to understand how the world has changed in the past 60 years.

No, I'm not disagreeing with you at all, but you are simply never going to get away with that comparison on the way to sensible discussion at Volokh, though.

True, though as I said, I don't see how to get to what I'd consider sensible discussion *without* that comparison. Thanks, Pooh & Katherine.

LJ, interesting points on cruelty; I think I agree, tho I'm wondering whether you think Dresden or the Japanese bombings were justified by the "existential struggle" bit.

I confess I'm suspicious of that bit, with all the guff I see about how the GWOT is just such a struggle.

It's dangerous to read anything you're likely to agree with wholeheartedly, but I have nonetheless picked up Max Hastings' Bomber Command, and am already far enough to find this:

The pre-war RAF was geared to the execution of a strategic terror bombing campaign .... Perhaps the central flaw of this concept was that it was already obsolete. It rested on the old assumption of armies as professional bodies, behind which rested the unprotected and undisciplined civilian heart of the nation, divorced from the battle and thus totally unconditioned to take part in it.

As opposed to the "nation in arms." Hastings then goes on to quote a British cabinet member's March 1917 memorandum showing why terror bombing is implausible. The author, ironically enough, is Churchill.

Anyway, if I have a point (long day), it's that I am not inclined to grant "existential struggle" exceptions, which sound too much like Glenn Reynolds' "don't make us commit genocide!" shtick. Not that you had anything so awful in mind of course, but that's where I would fear that exception would end up.

tho I'm wondering whether you think Dresden or the Japanese bombings were justified by the "existential struggle" bit.

Good question. My own take is that they weren't, but it wasn't possible to see that, given the context of the times.

I agree the 'existential struggle' exception is a problem, but I guess reading about the artiste formerly known as Tacitus plants the seeds. I'm now tempted to go on about 'forces arrayed', which is just more hot air, but there is something about having an organized armed force with a command and control structure that makes WWII different. That is another can o' worms, but I would prefer to talk about changing notions of proper behavior, which I think impinges quite a bit on the notion of necessary cruelty.

I am just so relieved he didn't cite the American "pacification" of the Philippines again!

I always wonder why Tacitus and the group he represents are insulted when people say that they are NOT pro-life...

I do wonder why people are suprised at what he says. He is been advocating more violence for years in a 'let god sort out his own' kind of way. Probabely with added 'and that excludes the ones calling him allah'.

As I said, I'm not against shooting looters, though I'd want more details. It would have been clear who was doing genuinely wrong stuff; it might well not have alienated the population, who (iirc) very much wanted order to be kept, at the time; its justification is clear and transparent; it's hard to misconstrue as e.g. an anti-Sunni or anti-Shi'a gesture, since it all depends on who runs down the street in front of you carrying a TV; and it's quite plausible that in this specific case, harshness up front would lead to much better consequences downstream. Also, it would lead to those consequences quickly, and the line of supposition one needs in order to predict this is not tenuous or full of big assumptions (compare the line of supposition needed to predict that we would be welcomed with flowers.)

It is a really bad sign if even the rational democrats start favoring capital punishment for thiefs - and no one seems to have a problem with it.

As I said, I'm not against shooting looters

It is a really bad sign if even the rational democrats start favoring capital punishment for thiefs

Interesting. I think the problem with looting in Baghdad wasn't theft per se, it was the destruction of the bureaucracy & government -- offices ransacked, etc.

I would have to favor shooting the looters as well, though not on sight -- they should have an opportunity to (1) surrender or (2) drop their spoils & hightail it.

I suspect that a few shots in the air, in the right place at the right time, would've made all the difference in Baghdad -- if we'd had the boots on the ground in the 1st place.

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