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February 23, 2009

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Points well scored, by you Mr. Yglesias and yourself, against the bloviating Messrs. Peters and Kagan.

Still, it's kind of easy to poke holes in the chickenhawk chorus. How do we take the insights provided below, and turn them into policy *answers* that U.S. and its allied governments need?

"how enamored the brass may be of COIN doctrine, at the end of the day, the trigger pullers in theater will be forced by the circumstances (understandably) to adopt a mind set that undervalues the lives of the target population."

Does this mean that the lesson is to never operate where an opponent might fight you guerrilla style? OK, but in Afghanistan, that choice to tangle with guerrillas was not just made for fun, it was motivated by the use of that terrain as sanctuary for international terrorists. But, we can judge that the costs of fighting insurgents are too high even if a territory is a terrorist sanctuary. Then, the next useful questions become how exactly to disebgage, and how to protect those who would lose out from an evactuation. An additional question is what other policies you do on the counterterrorism front if you make a policy of avoiding operations in terrorist sanctuaries. Of course police action and intelligence cooperation is desirable, and in most parts of the world, it frankly was always the default option, even under Bush. So the question bounces back to how you respond to terrorist sanctuaries in places where there is no local laew enforcement that can or will respond.

If the answer to the dilemma is that yes, under circumstances, you can use military force to end terrorist sanctuary in a place, but just not the way we are doing it, then how should we go about doing it. Maybe tactics can be improved, let's talk about how. If military actions that kill civilians are unacceptable, this probably also rules out many, if not basically all, operations that may be the only way to prevent the insurgents from killing civilians that they target, and the only way to prevent insurgents from killing members of the intervening force.

The Obama administration needs advice that tells it what it *can* do, not just what outcomes are undesirable. If no military action can meet a test of moral acceptability, well then people should tell them that squarely as well and discuss how to make that restraint publicly acceptable.

Short translation of my initial post -

The frustration for a government being criticized for inflicting civilian casualties in the course of military operations is that the debate is not detailed enough, about what the government would have to do to make its military operations acceptable.

Basically, I think it comes down to this:

1. Recognize the limited usefulness of COIN - it's expensive, time consuming, and not guaranteed to bring about success.

2. Limit the application of COIN to only those situations of the most dire necessity - Iraq obviously fails this test (the invasion part at least, as applying COIN after the fact was the best way to mitigate the considerable damage already done).

3. In terms of terrorist sanctuary, that's the tough one. We need to really balance costs and benefits. Is military intervention the most cost-effective way to disrupt a given sanctuary? That depends on the underlying circumstances - though most of the time the answer is no.

Places like Afghanistan and Pakistan are extremely difficult to control, even with COIN being implemented. Then again, we didn't necessarily need to control Afghanistan to disrupt al-Qaeda's sanctuary there. We might want to look into ways we can do so without a large and enduring military footprint. After all, keeping tens of thousands of troops in a combat setting for upwards of two decades is a hell of a way to deny sanctuary.

Especially considering that transnational terrorists don't require a hell of a lot of infrastructure to set up shop elsewhere. And many have done so within Western democracies such as Spain, England, Germany, France and, of course, the United States.

re: Afghanistan ideas for the new administration:

Perhaps instead of destroying the poppy fields, we could buy the produce from the farmers at market rates to deny that source of income for the insurgents, and at the same time provide the farmers with a living wage that could reduce support for the insurgents.

Afghanistan does not simply provide a haven, but also an income for the insurgency that would be better interrupted using the market rather than heavy handed destruction.

It would seem to fit well within COIN doctrine, provide the Afghan government with a program that is helping the population and potentially establish trust, and reduce the kinetic effects and second order effects of destroying the only source of income available to poor tribesmen.

I like it jrudkis.

Attempting to eradicate the poppy fields is not winning hearts and minds. Yet allowing them to proliferate and produce poppies has its own drawbacks.

"I like it jrudkis."

I can't resist pointing out that I've been advocating buying the poppy crop for many years now.

I like it Gary.

Is this in line with providing little blue pills for selected tribal elders--a relatively low cost means of securing the hearts, minds, and other anatomy of potential allies?

Are Fred Kagan and Robert Kagan the same person? In some way connected?

Brothers.

Both sons of Donald, another neocon. And Fred is married to Kimberly Kagan - yet another neokagancon.


Let's see what you have to support this premise, Eric:

Dehumanization of the enemy has been inextricably linked to war since at least the onset of recorded history - and likely times precedent. It aids in overcoming some of the psychological obstacles that complicate the process of motivating one group of humans to slaughter another without suffering crippling levels of guilt and other complicating qualms.

I'm with those who think the human being died with the invention of the telescope.

And I've seen nothing in the archaeological (or ethnographic) record support a claim that wholesale slaughter preceded that decentering moment.

It would appear that practice is one we inherit largely from that twisted Eurasian peninsula.

you should've started the essay with 'propaganda efforts'. Everything else is great.

redwood,

Are you suggesting that tribal, prehistoric cultures did not view rival tribes and outside groups as sub-human and/or non-human?

It was my understanding that such views of the "other" were quite common and were usefull in rationalizing all sorts of rival behavior.

You can see such attitudes in aboriginal cultures that remain in remote areas such as Papua New Guineau - where accusations of witchcraft are often used as a pretense for inter-tribal warfare and the targeting of individuals.

Such allegations seem like a form of dehumanization to me.

Who listens to these Kaganeunuchs? How do they qualify as "intellectuals"? Only in America, perhaps.
Why not buy the poppies/opium? Buy it up and burn it. Win-win but maybe too simple for tall forehead PhDs.

Basically, I think it comes down to this:

1. Recognize the limited usefulness of COIN - it's expensive, time consuming, and not guaranteed to bring about success.

Yes, its not something to go jumping into. Its more the model for the fights we are in at the moment, rather than for the future.

2. Limit the application of COIN to only those situations of the most dire necessity - Iraq obviously fails this test (the invasion part at least, as applying COIN after the fact was the best way to mitigate the considerable damage already done).

I would add, never use your own forces to do it, if local forces can approximate the result you want.

So this reinforces the idea...don't go looking for place to do COIN.

3. In terms of terrorist sanctuary, that's the tough one. We need to really balance costs and benefits. Is military intervention the most cost-effective way to disrupt a given sanctuary? That depends on the underlying circumstances - though most of the time the answer is no.

Places like Afghanistan and Pakistan are extremely difficult to control, even with COIN being implemented. Then again, we didn't necessarily need to control Afghanistan to disrupt al-Qaeda's sanctuary there. We might want to look into ways we can do so without a large and enduring military footprint.

Absolutely, finding ways other than an enduring military footprint are great. The trick is to find a way to establish or support local army(or armies)that have the power and will to exclude the terrorists. If these become available or can be made available, in place of foreign forces, its obvious folly to stick with the foreign forces.

I guess I see a couple of objectives in Afghanistan but am flexible about achieving them. First is preventing reestablishment of useful sanctuary there. That was one of the purposes of the initial invasion.

Another purpose of the initial invasion was more didactic - you don't provide sanctuary for a terrorist as reckless as Bin Laden and get to stay in power. Other states that sponsored terrorism against U.S. related targets were not overthrown, but when hit with something on a larger scale, the U.S. hit back on a larger scale. So, I guess a second goal is to prevent the reversal of the lesson. This can be fairly flexibly achieved and does not require a "Central Asian Valhalla". But certain outcomes unravel everything, for instance, if Mullah Omar literally comes back to rule a state from Kandahar or Kabul and remains an ally of Al-Qaeda. A negotiation with Taliban in which they break with AQ on the other hand, but we also leave the country, leaves the invasion's initial teaching point intact.

The third goal is leaving the best sustainable situation for the local population. There its a cost-benefit question as well. Your own operations impose costs even while they can also be stopping repression and violence by your eenemies against other parts of the population.

After all, keeping tens of thousands of troops in a combat setting for upwards of two decades is a hell of a way to deny sanctuary.

It is a hell of a way, but if the other
alternatives are not available in the near-term, and if the casualty rates on an annual basis can be kept at the level or Iraq or lower, maybe its the least bad option. Our two most recent counterinsurgency wars, especially Afghanistan, have been less lethal for our forces than most historic counterinsurgencies. Afghanistan is expensive, but combat power could be increased there by a substantial increment without it getting nearly as expensive as even Iraq has been.

Good reasons to quit are if what you're doing is not making a positive difference, or if your enemy can't make the comeback that you fear. I'd prefer we base our decisions on that rather than on whether we are feeling tired as a country or if its costly or because it bothers us that guerrillas persist for a long time.

Especially considering that transnational terrorists don't require a hell of a lot of infrastructure to set up shop elsewhere. And many have done so within Western democracies such as Spain, England, Germany, France and, of course, the United States.

This is a good point. Although probably there is an added political value to the terrorists of having a known and undisturbed sanctuary that adds to its physical value. It depends if the terrorists psychological resources and political support are motivated 100% by revenge feelings, or if they are motivated by a combination of revenge feelings and the feeling that Al-Qaeda is actually a serious political force that can actually be the germ of a state or states. If its all about revenge feelings then the best thing to do is simply avoid or deflect strikes. If AQ gains an operational benefit though from being a somewhat more serious insurgent movement (or its alliances with those movements) then there's a value in denying them places to plant their flag.

I dunno, the argument that is often advanced that having a sanctuary and a central leadership improves the "quality" or "coordination" or spectacularness of AQ attacks compared to what disconnected or copycat cells can pull off. Maybe so, maybe not.

Oy, apologies or the italicized monster. My skills the html tags ain't so hot, so I was not able to successfully set off Eric's comments from my comments.

Fixed. You have to put the "/" before the "i" in the close tag brackets "<" and ">"

A negotiation with Taliban in which they break with AQ on the other hand, but we also leave the country, leaves the invasion's initial teaching point intact.

I think this is the most realistic approach.

the argument that is often advanced that having a sanctuary and a central leadership improves the "quality" or "coordination" or spectacularness of AQ attacks compared to what disconnected or copycat cells can pull off. Maybe so, maybe not.

I think there's some truth to this. At least, the training process is useful - as is the central locale to draw committed fighters and further the indoctrination/radicalization process, and then add to that some training in weapons and explosives.

That's actually one of the big debacles associated with Iraq: we provided that, and then some, in an area that did not have such a nexus before.

redwood,

Are you suggesting that tribal, prehistoric cultures did not view rival tribes and outside groups as sub-human and/or non-human?

It was my understanding that such views of the "other" were quite common and were usefull in rationalizing all sorts of rival behavior.

You can see such attitudes in aboriginal cultures that remain in remote areas such as Papua New Guineau - where accusations of witchcraft are often used as a pretense for inter-tribal warfare and the targeting of individuals.

Such allegations seem like a form of dehumanization to me.

Hi Eric,

well, I should say that for the most part I haven't seen any sources I'm not skeptical of, especially linguistic based ones, i.e. where the conclusions rely on interpretations of language.

And the problem is not always data collection methods. There is so much telling the Anthropologist what she wants to hear--especially in Papua New Guineau-- that anything but collecting stories for the sake of collecting stories and/or indexing the ways your population brews tea is a waste of time.

my hunch is that prior to the Enlightenment categories of existence were not understood among Non-Western populations in a sufficiently similar way as our "intellectuals" did/do, with the caveat that the Enlightenment could have begun with Ulysses lying to the cyclops. : ).

But even from reading Maria Rosa Menocal's stirring Ornament of the World, in which she informs us of the extent to Medieval Spain absorbed Aristotle, I sensed a hesitation in her interpreters to dehumanize the self through the scientific method, which I'd argue creates the conditions for wholesale slaughter.

We just don't know (nor will we ever know) whether those populations were not just making an aesthetic judgment about particular practices of the rivals.

And I think it very important not to represent those populations as though we know something about them (which is why I applauded this thread).

We don't know. And that's the sad part, because we killed most of them.

Am I understanding "redwood" correctly? Is s/he seriously arguing that before the Enlightenment humans never engaged in wholesale slaughter of other humans?

Not in the Old Testament? Not Attilla the Hun or Ghengiz Khan? Not the Aztecs or the Incas or the multiple "conquerors" of the great plains of India? No wholesale slaughter?

The Enlightenment may (or may not) be responsible for many unfortunate developments, but the propensity for people to slaughter others is not one of them.

I find their gripes a bit revealing. Both for the nonsurprising tidbits about the behavior of our occupied populations, and about the attitude that they are merely chess pieces on the neocon chessboard. How dare my pawn, not stay on the square I move him to!

I can't be happy, with buying the Opium. But this is clearly an area where our crossed purposes are creating great damage to our cause. But, being the most morally judgemental people on the planet (or have I missed somewhere even worse), it is just the way we operate. We just can't help it. Even if policymakers know better, the politicians dare not make themselves vulnerable to charges they are on the side of the (illegal) drugs business.

Am I understanding "redwood" correctly? Is s/he seriously arguing that before the Enlightenment humans never engaged in wholesale slaughter of other humans?

Not in the Old Testament? Not Attilla the Hun or Ghengiz Khan? Not the Aztecs or the Incas or the multiple "conquerors" of the great plains of India? No wholesale slaughter?

The Enlightenment may (or may not) be responsible for many unfortunate developments, but the propensity for people to slaughter others is not one of them.

Without getting into a Byzintinian discussion on the meaning of 'wholesale slaughter,' yes, I believe that one very unfortunate byproduct of the Enlightenment is that it brought us wholesale slaughter.

Think Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, the Balkins, and the Congo: those are peculiar but intellectually-informed, utterly-void-of-any-humanity ways of approaching Other populations, ways we don't see elsewhere in the ethnographic or archaeological record.

And how could we? Aristotle invents the categories. The perpetrators essentially used that method of analysis to distinguish themselves from the other population and then concluded that the other category of people were by their very existence, not only a lesser being, but a threat too.

There's no evidence for anything like that before the enlightenment.

Mostly, what I've found is one population pushes another one away from a sacred or material resource, or punishes the Other mercilessly, or carries out some revenge, or, like my ancestors, enjoys a little pillaging and a bit too much rape, I suppose.

But then the aggressor stops when he gets what he wants and sees the weaker population surrender, which ironically is the essence of re[spect], i.e. seeing the other person.

Not so, when the goal is to exterminate the category so that you cannot see any trace of its existence.

dr ngo,
I'm a bit hesitant to suggest this, but one of the things that seems striking to me about some of the examples you gave was that slaughter only came with a refusal to submit and then came the notion of taking them out root and branch (though I'm not so up on the Mayas and the Aztecs) Certainly, the desire of the church to convert balanced out some of those notions of eradication you mention and for the Khanate, freedom of religion was the norm. So the invocation of the Enlightenment is quite insightful when we consider things like the Drownings of Nantes.

"There's no evidence for anything like that before the enlightenment."

The Mongols:

[...] Over the three years (1237-1240) the Mongols destroyed and annihilated all of the major cities of Russia with the exceptions of Novgorod and Pskov.[143]

Pope's envoy to Mongol Khan Giovanni de Plano Carpini, who passed through Kiev in February 1246, wrote:

"They [the Mongols] attacked Russia, where they made great havoc, destroying cities and fortresses and slaughtering men; and they laid siege to Kiev, the capital of Russia; after they had besieged the city for a long time, they took it and put the inhabitants to death. When we were journeying through that land we came across countless skulls and bones of dead men lying about on the ground. Kiev had been a very large and thickly populated town, but now it has been reduced almost to nothing, for there are at the present time scarce two hundred houses there and the inhabitants are kept in complete slavery."[144]
[...] Law and governance

[...]

At the same time, any resistance to Mongol rule was met with massive collective punishment. Cities were destroyed and their inhabitants slaughtered if they defied Mongol orders.

Etc.

One also sees plenty of populations wiped out in biblical accounts.

What Gary said. And for another example, the phrase "Kill them all--God will know his own" goes back to the Albigensian Crusade.

Link

Let's also add the Athenians and the Melians, which is definitely before Aristotle.

none of those example are sufficient, least of all Melians, an event that from the debates we see textbook punishment.

The Mongols will tell you that they too were putting an end to bad behavior, not an inferior ethnicity.

I admit things get fuzzy with the Inquisition and the Crusades, but we may be seeing the influence of the scientific method on those Monks.

next?

we're looking for evidence that the category of person needs to be annihilated because it is both inferior and threatening.

And definitely NOT deferring the analysis to a god. The enlightenment killed Him, remember?

Look, deal with it: yes, people do make (and have probably always made) aesthetic judgments about the value (and the threat) of other people.

But that sort of thinking mutates with the enlightenment, worst of all among Western Europe's warmongers.

imho.

redwood - I'm not getting how the scientific method gives rise to the genocidal way of thinking.

Redwood,

I discussed some differences between ancient and modern genocide in a blog post a while ago, which might interest you. I would certainly accept that motives for genocide have changed from ancient and medieval times, but I don't think the fact of genocide has. And if you want a quick medieval demonstration of dehumanisation, what about the origin of the term 'slave' (from Slav)?

Yeah, the Romans didn't really think they were bringing the lights of civilization to savages or - barbarians as it were - who were less than human.

Redwood, how about Carthage?

Redwood (originally): I'm with those who think the human being died with the invention of the telescope.

And I've seen nothing in the archaeological (or ethnographic) record support a claim that wholesale slaughter preceded that decentering moment.

It would appear that practice is one we inherit largely from that twisted Eurasian peninsula.

Redwood (revised): we're looking for evidence that the category of person needs to be annihilated because it is both inferior and threatening.

And definitely NOT deferring the analysis to a god.


So we've gone from "wholesale slaughter" - on which you are demonstrably wrong - to "wholesale slaughter involving what I regard Enlightenment categories," which, surprise, surprise, occurs only after the Enlightenment. Or not.


It also requires us to assess the motives the slaughterers in all cases, so hundreds more historical cases of massacres are disqualified because we simply don't have the evidence to demonstrate mens rea according to your standards.


Sheesh.


There's not much point in examining "the archaeological (or ethnographic) record" if you are going to ignore history. Or common sense.


I question common sense. So should you.

redwood ipsa loquitur

redwood: "And how could we? Aristotle invents the categories. The perpetrators essentially used that method of analysis to distinguish themselves from the other population and then concluded that the other category of people were by their very existence, not only a lesser being, but a threat too.

There's no evidence for anything like that before the enlightenment."

Just out of curiosity: are you suggesting that Aristotle was part of the Enlightenment?

Also: what do the Categories have to do with genocide? For one thing, it's not as though no one used concepts like substance or relation, let alone place and time, before Aristotle came along. For another, how the development of this list could possibly bring about genocide is, um, mysterious to me.

redwood's original arguments don't hold up: there is dehumanisation in the premodern world (e.g. of the classical slave) and there is also genocide in the premodern world. But you might make a more reasonable argument that dehumanisation becomes more important for those planning genocide once the concept of human rights develops (with the Enlightenment), because one of the first human rights recognised is the right not be arbitrarily killed. If you live in a workd where the right not to be arbitrarily killed applies only to Roman citizens or to Christians or to potential converts to Christianity/Islam etc, then you don't need to prove your proposed victims are non-human, you just need to show they're not in some other legally protected category. You may still feel the urge to dehumanise them anyhow, to make it even more reasonable to kill them, but you don't need to do that in the same way you do once there is a view prevalent that even barbarians/pagans/savages have some rights.

It's not about rights, it's about what we see when look at other people, categories or human beings.

dr ngo : redwood ipsa loquitur

a good example of common sense worth questioning, for a thing is always subject to interpretation.

hilzoy: Also: what do the Categories have to do with genocide? For one thing, it's not as though no one used concepts like substance or relation, let alone place and time, before Aristotle came along. For another, how the development of this list could possibly bring about genocide is, um, mysterious to me.

I shall try.

After three years of studying the ethnographic record against Western philosophy, Rhetoric, I’m just not sure non-Enlightened nations extrapolated from secondary substances the sort of hermetically sealed genres quantifying (and qualifying) people that we in the West experimented with.

Most people --even Aristotle-- have an intuitive understanding that you can’t get much beyond the primary substance without the concepts leaking substance. But Western Europe went nuts trying to nail down concepts. (some of us still do, silly boys.)

So, I guess that in considering the record of these events, war, atrocities, forced migration, I see a distinction among genocide marked by the stench of Reason.

that’s part one.

Part two concerns (a) how those Enlightened warmongers (e.g., Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, the Hutus) thought about the categories into which they placed their Other populations--importantly, as paradoxically both inferior and threatening.

And finally (b) what the enlightened warmongers did about their interpretations, which I would argue renders us a peculiar kind of genocide, namely, wholesale slaughter, an event in which the victim is not seen as a human being but as a category to exterminate, like some kind of diseased species.

But remember, this aside began with me suggesting that for Eric to make his otherwise excellent points he doesn’t need to drag-in indigenous peoples or, for that matter, any population before (or apart from) the Enlightened crowd.

I’m just saying, leave them alone. Those peoples have nothing to do with the twisted actions Blackhawkers took (take?) in Iraq, except perhaps to give liberals like Eric a fuzzy feeling that if they stop the horrors they’re making progress for human history.

They’re not. At best, they’d be putting an end to a peculiar kind of madness.

imho.

secoya/redwood - It seems like you're missing a lot of connections between your dots. The conceptual process of generalization existed long before Aristotle talked about primary and secondary substance, and before Enlightenment people formalized conceptual categories further. To make your point strongly, you'd want to show how the formalization of those categories led to a way of thinking (another group as both inferior and threatening) that wasn't possible without the formalization.

Most people, I think, see "scientific" racists as co-opting scientific findings and methods for their own purposes. In any case, there's definitely evidence that mainstream science doesn't support the sort of thinking you're talking about (taxonomy comes to mind).

Have you read Heidegger's "The Question Concerning Technology"? I think he's doing something like what you'd want.

thank you, David. I think you hear me.

And you’re lot more helpful than a friend who after reading this thread emailed:

There's just so much wrong with pinning this behavior on the "enlightenment", that I hesitate to even wade in and not just for the lack of time, but more because I inevitably will leave out several important flaws in your thinking.

funny guy.

And perhaps I should re-read H.’s Questions. ‘Formalization’ is exactly what I should investigate before carrying on.

"Those peoples have nothing to do with the twisted actions Blackhawkers took (take?) in Iraq,"

Who are "Blackhawkers"?

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