During World War II and the Cold War

…we were smart enough to know that the way to fight wars was to divide the population against its leaders.  So we broadcast into enemies countries and presented a picture of the Allies and the West that made subjects of the Nazi and Soviet regimes envy their country’s enemies.  It relied on a belief latent in Christian culture that even your enemy is a moral being capable of reason.  That’s why the Tradition commends “admonishing sinners” as a work of mercy.

But one of the consequences of our de-christianizing culture is the growing conviction that our enemies are, as the saying goes, “animals”.  You can’t reason with animals.  You can only threaten or bribe, carrot and stick.  So moral admonishment like “Keep America Beautiful” degrades to “Litter and it will hurt.”  “Buckle up for Safety” becomes “Click it or Ticket”.  “Friends don’t let friends drive drunk” becomes “Dirve Hammered, Get Nailed”.  People are animals to be stampeded, not moral beings capable of reason or persuasion.

This works in our foreign policy too.  We use violence and torture and indefinite detention against vaguely defined foreign “combatants” when we have no evidence they are guilty of doing anything worse than standing in the wrong place during a police sweep.  We murder civilians with drones.  Because those people are “animals”.

And because have abandoned the Christian belief in moral suasion of enemies, we succeed only in multiplying enemies–then tell ourselves that their enmity only proves they are animals.

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  • Darren

    Mark, you might want to revisit some of your notions about WWII and the respect Christian nations had for each other. PBS has a pretty good one on Netflix, _don’t_ watch it with your kids:

    The Bombing of Germany

    And the Cold War? It would be fair to describe the strategy of both the US and the Soviets as: Support brutal dictatorships, support blood insurrections, and guns, guns, guns for whoever waved the appropriate flag.

    I applaud your opposition to indefinite detention, torture, and killbots, but try growing up every day of your life expecting to be vaporized by an H-bomb for a little perspective.

    • Dr. Eric


      I’m sure that since Mark grew up during the 60s, he was fearful or at least aware of the possibility of being bombed by the Soviets. I grew up during the 80s and I was afraid of “Russia” nuking me for at least two weeks when I was in 3rd grade.

  • http://chicagoboyz.net TMLutas

    How did the Pakistani military get back into control of the Swat valley? Why aren’t I reading anymore about fears of the Taliban using their bases to march out and take Islamabad? There are a number of dogs very conspicuously not barking here, not least of which is what percentage of the stories that the Taliban used to recruit these boys that were actually the truth?

    The drones killed a number of people. What relationship do those deaths have with the recapture of Pakistani territory and the starting of the de-radicalization process of these boys? To ask the question is to open a door on aspects of the situation that are not under consideration in the original article or this meta piece above. Hearts and minds work and kinetic operations have a somewhat complicated relationship. It does nobody any good to make a false assertion of a simple inverse relationship between the two.