Deliberate ambiguity

"You have the luxury of not knowing what I know. … You don't want the truth because deep down in places you don't talk about at parties, you want me on that wall, you need me on that wall."

The above is from the famous speech by Jack Nicholson's character in Aaron Sorkin's A Few Good Men. Nicholson's Col. Jessep was a "tough" guy in the sense of "tough" conveyed by the current euphemism for torture: "tough interrogation techniques," which is to say tough in the sense of "brutish, counterproductive and not too bright."

It's worth noting that "the wall" that Nicholson's Col. Jessep was defending was Guantanamo Bay, which means the truth that Jessep can't handle is this: Nobody needed him on that wall. Controlling that tiny slice of Cuba used to stand as the last line of defense between us and … well, between us and not controlling that tiny slice of Cuba. In any case, after decades of military service on "that wall," we were ultimately unable to defend Guantanamo from lawlessness and tyranny because we put it there ourselves.

All of which is to say that The Los Angeles Times was asking the right question yesterday in the editorial, "Do we use torture?" The answer to that question is not something that any American has the luxury of not knowing.

The Times notes that the Bush administration has produced "ambiguity about a subject that cries out for clarity." I think that ambiguity is deliberate. I figure on one end of the spectrum there are X-percent of us who are completely opposed to torture, and on the other end a similar percentage of us who have no qualms about it at all. The rest of that spectrum is a big chunk of people who don't approve of it, but don't want the responsibility of disapproving of it either. They prefer to have, as Col. Jessep put it, "the luxury of not knowing."

President Bush's deliberate ambiguity about torture is partly a matter of legal CYA. The Geneva Conventions are the law of the land — binding, American law — so he can't flout them openly. But this deliberate ambiguity is also a bargain struck with that middle swath of the spectrum. "We don't torture," Bush says, winking broadly and crossing his fingers, and that seems to be good enough for them. Maybe they don't fully believe it, but they want to believe it — or at least they want to live in a world in which they could fully believe it — so they go back to luxuriously not thinking about it.

The somewhat hopeful thing is this: I believe these folks in the middle can be persuaded to come over to our side — that if they can be made to acknowledge what it is they're trying not to know then they will come to oppose the perverse use of torture. I do not think they can be persuaded in the other direction. They may now be acting like the citizens of Sunnydale, desperately denying that the monsters are real, but they would never choose, instead, to become monsters themselves. Take away the deliberate ambiguity and Mitt Romney's despicable "double Guantanamo" nonsense won't produce much applause. (At least, I hope not.)

  • sophia8

    “I stand for 8-10 hours a day – why is standing limited to 4 hours?” – Donald Rumsfeld
    Sigh.
    And Margaret Thatcher used to boast about never needing more than three hours sleep a night. So, equally, why allow prisoners any more than that? Double sigh.

  • Scott

    It seems like the majority of Americans — at least, those of them who vote — support torture and are living in constant anticipation of Jesus’ impending return, and a small minority of more liberal people that Fred is part of, will never have enough power to make any difference.
    That’s why we need elections just for show, then Compassionate Liberal Judges to reinterpret the law to suit Fred’s superior morality. Not just on torture, but on all issues. We need Fred, vanguard of the proletariat, making ALL our political decisions for us.
    ‘Cause otherwise, the cattle being eager to vote for things like torture would make a case for severely limiting the power of the govt they vote for, and we just can’t have that. Govt power must be expansive, but directed by Fred’s compassion and not the will of the torture-favoring people. The cattle just exist to empower the left, not to limit them.
    “All of you just exist to empower ME, not to limit ME, and if you disagree, YOU are self-centered because I am the one who has progressed morally and are thus superior to you” says the liberal.
    The support of 51% of whoever shows up on election day is enough to legitimize the govt implementing any pet project of the left; you can’t declare those same voters unfit when their actions empower the right.

  • twig

    Secondly, sometimes folks don’t want to live healthy, comfortable, fulfilling lives.
    Because they don’t have the means to do so, which pisses them off, which leads to violence. These aren’t frigging space aliens, they’re other people, and when other people fight it’s because – a) no money b) no land c) alcohol-induced stupidity, and c) isn’t really a global conflict kind of a thing.
    When global warming kicks in full, and everyone starts losing things like money and land, you can watch the theory prove itself.
    Pass the beer.

  • Jesurgislac

    Scott: We need Fred, vanguard of the proletariat, making ALL our political decisions for us.
    I think that’s the first time ever that Scott’s said something I can even halfway agree with – though I expect Fred wouldn’t.

  • dendrio

    Scott: That was an impressive Bad Faith “response” to Fred’s post, in which you managed to deploy a solid mix of ad hominem and strawman arguments in four short paragraphs, failing all the while to address the core topic – the (im)morality of torture – in any substantive way. Bravo. You should get a talk show.
    I’m still trying to wrap my mind around the moral alchemy that transformed waterboarding from “War Crime” to “Enhanced Interrogation Technique” in six short years. Thanks to the morally superior totalitarian conservatives (Do as we say (slave morality), not as we do (master morality), we now keep historical company with the fascistic Japanese Empire and the communist Khmer Rouge. Talk about bipartisanship!

  • ericblair

    “I stand for 8-10 hours a day – why is standing limited to 4 hours?” – Donald Rumsfeld
    As a note, the reason Rummy stood for 8-10 hours a day was due to a back problem. If you made him sit against his will for 8-10 hours straight, he might have had something different to say.

  • Jeff

    ScottBot sez: CAN I HAS A TORTURE? and JEESUZ IS WRITING BLOGS STEELING MY PROPERTAH!

  • the opoponax

    “Milgram found (I think) that most subjects would refuse to torture and kill people if someone else in the room objected. And they didn’t just decide to shock people one day, they needed an order.”
    but, see, therein lies the relevance for our current nightmare. all you have to do is create a climate of mass agreement and/or apathy, and then order what you will. The media is working hard at the first one of those criteria. how long before we have our orders?
    “…For example, Sunni and Shiities want to kill each other pretty badly…”
    but look at it this way — the various european powers wanted to kill each other pretty badly for CENTURIES. what put a final end to all that? the Marshall Plan. now the tension between france and britain is a monty python joke, and alsace and lorraine can live in peace. history has shown over and over again that people mainly only want to kill each other when there’s something more than just ideology or national identity/territory at stake. when everyone gets fed, there’s nothing left to fight about. conversely, when people are in misery, slaughtering all those tutsis/shiites/orangemen/anglophones (just got back from quebec) looks like a pretty good plan.

  • Jeff

    Hey, opopo, welcome back!

  • J

    Everyone remembers this line, right? “Son, we live in a world that has walls. And those walls have to be guarded by men with guns.”
    Back in 2003/4/5 when it was cool to be pro-war, I had people literally quote that line to me, with all the seeming of making a great and profound point. That people were relying on a movie for their theory of international relations was bad. That they were relying on the viewpoint of a villain was the real kicker.
    Me, I happen to believe that the thing that will forever keep peace out of reach is the existence of walls and of men with guns. Wherever there is a chance for real human happiness and peaceful coexistence or a systematic and positive change in the way we relate to each other, then those men who build walls and those men with guns who derive their livlihood from standing on it will show up to prevent it.

  • pecunium

    J: I’m one of the men on the walls.
    My better half is a Quaker, she was amazed at how pacifistic we (the national guard) are.
    I’m not non-violent. Strike, and I’ll strike back.
    I don’t think human nature is such that those who are willing to force others to bend to their will are going to just fade away. I think that improving the lot of others will make such people less able to get people to follow them.
    The Swiss have had men willing to stand to the walls, and they are peacful, prosperous and not a threat to their neighbors.
    It can be done.

  • Jesurgislac

    the opoponax: what put a final end to all that?
    The Council of Europe.
    Is it really an American meme that it was the US that made Europeans realize we wanted to make sure nothing like WWI/WWII ever happened again?

  • Drak Pope

    Not really. Your post is the first time I have ever heard that argument. Europeans already knew that they didn’t want another World War after the disaster of WWI. That’s what the whole ‘appeasement’ thing was about. They became certain that World Wars were a bad idea after WWII when their economies were devastated and they lost all of their super-cool Empires. That’s one of the contributing reasons for the success of the Council of Europe. Another reason for that was the Marshall Plan, which helped rebuild their economies, but it was hardly the only or the main cause of it and it’s facetious to pretend otherwise.

  • Jesurgislac

    Drak Pope: Not really. Your post is the first time I have ever heard that argument. Europeans already knew that they didn’t want another World War after the disaster of WWI.
    It was the opoponax’s idea, actually, not mine.

  • Bugmaster

    Of course, people everywhere are a hateful and violent lot. However, some are more violent than others. Here in the US, and even in WW1-era Europe, violence was still an abnormality. Most people were not too eager to die for their country, or to kill for it; they had a special cardre of professionals (called “the Army”), who were trained to do just that, because an average person couldn’t handle it. In many other places in the modern world, though — such as Iraq and Afghanistan — violence is a part of daily life.
    This, combined with centuries-old racial/religious/whatever hatred, ensures that it will take more than a fridge full of beer to turn these civil-war-torn countries into prosperous and safe nation-states. At the very least, it will take several generations worth of beer-fridges, combined with an extensive educational campaign that borders on indocrination.

  • alsafi

    ‘Cos, you know, Europeans weren’t at all used to dealing with day to day violence throughout the Middle Ages, the Reformation (peaceful period, the Reformation–no religious wars going on in Europe then), and definitely not during the 17th through 19th centuries! It’s good to know that the beer-and-indoctrination campaign the Romans waged made all Europe so peaceful, unlike those tribal Arab peoples. [/sarcasm]
    Give me a break. Afghans and Iraqis aren’t made of some sort of non-human dark materials, any more than people in Rwanda, Colombia, or Papua New Guinea are. They are just as human as anyone from Canada, Japan, or Finland, and vice versa. Yes, it will probably take building up the infrastructure (and not turning around and destrying it again) for a few generations–long enough to get people used to peace, plenty, and security. But that’s not fundamentally different to what happened in Europe over time, though Europe certainly benefitted from being able to use the wealth and resources of a bunch of subject states to produce peace, plenty, and security for her people for long enough to get them used to it.

  • Jeff

    Bug: In many other places in the modern world, though — such as Iraq and Afghanistan — violence is a part of daily life.
    Seriously? ‘Cuz this:
    George L. Wilson of Children Need Heroes and Drew Heiss of Street Preach are planning to honor Paul Hill in a series of events called “Paul Hill Days” in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, July 26th – 29th — “to honor him as God’s man and our hero.”
    On July 29, 1994 Paul Hill, who sought to set a good example for Christian
    theocratic revolutionaries, assassinated abortion provider Dr. John Britton and James Barrett one of his escorts, and seriously wounding another, June Barrett, outside an abortion clinic in Pensacola, Florida.
    Kinda proves otherwise.
    Also, what alsafi said.

  • Steve

    Geds, your suggestion reminds me of this old Slacktivist post:
    http://slacktivist.blogspot.com/2003_05_04_archive.html#200257458#200257458
    Scroll down to “The Path Not Taken”.

  • Angelika

    Bugmaster: Here in the US, and even in WW1-era Europe, violence was still an abnormality. Most people were not too eager to die for their country, or to kill for it; they had a special cardre of professionals (called “the Army”), who were trained to do just that, because an average person couldn’t handle it.
    The armies that fought WW1 and WW2 in Europe were not composed out of professional soldiers. The soldiers were drafted, down to 12 year olds at the end of WW2 in Germany.
    In many other places in the modern world, though — such as Iraq and Afghanistan — violence is a part of daily life.
    As it is in the poor city centers in many American metropols.

  • damnedyankee

    As it is in the poor city centers in many American metropols.
    Though there is a marked lack of car bombs here in Philly…

  • J

    I’m one of the men on the walls.
    I don’t care.
    My better half is a Quaker, she was amazed at how pacifistic we (the national guard) are.
    I’m not amazed.
    I’m not non-violent. Strike, and I’ll strike back.
    Except, of course, when you strike first.
    I don’t think human nature is such that those who are willing to force others to bend to their will are going to just fade away.
    Yes. Hence my skepticism about men with guns.

  • Bugmaster

    I shouldn’t have called the European soldiers “professional”; that was a bad choice of words. What I meant was that they received extensive training whose purpose (among other things) was to desensitize them to violence, not that they chose to make the army their career.
    Yes, as I said people are hateful and violent everywhere. Here in America, we have our occasional assassins and suicide bombers (or just plain bombers); there’s also a lot of violence in the “poor city centers”. However, our assassins are in a minority, and are widely despised and feared by the average American (or European); assassinations are subject to criminal investigations, and become a news topic if they’re sufficiently spectacular. And even in our poor city centers, there’s a marked lack of daily car bombs, and even drive-by shootings are still not commonplace. In Iraq, we are at the point now where shootings are simply not newsworthy, unless it’s a major cultural icon that got blown up.
    Yes, Europe experienced its share of violence, but, by the time WW1 rolled around, it was fairly stable on the local level. The kind of daily, pervasive violence that we see in Iraq and Afghanistan, where neighbours are fighting neighbours, is a thing of the past — and I question if it ever was as pervasive as what’s going on there (granted, it’s easier to make a car-bomb than a horse-bomb, so it’s not a fair comparison). And, again, one standing army attacking another is a very different situation from disorganized guerilla warfare between individual citizens in city streets.
    Building up infrastructure is a good idea, but only if the people who are going to be using and maintaining this infrastructure are more interested in having water and power than in killing each other. Otherwise, the infrastructure simply gets blown up again and again. No, Iraqui “insurgents” aren’t made of “evil materials”; they just have a slightly different outlook on life than we do.

  • LL

    People who quote the movie do know that it (and the play it was based on) was written by the anti-Bush Aaron Sorkin, right? What am I saying, of course they don’t. People see something in a movie (or on “24″) and apparently think it’s a documentary. Jeez…
    Scott: I get your point, that if the voters decide on something you (meaning any of us) like and you justify it by saying that a majority voted in favor of it so it must be all right, you can’t very well turn around and say that it sucks despite a majority having voted for it when they vote for something you don’t like. Except we didn’t get to vote for torture. I don’t remember being asked to vote in the national torture referendum. I think “enhanced interrogation” would win by a landslide were it put up for a vote in this country. People ARE cattle. That’s why the power of the government should be limited, so that the idiots can’t screw up too much by getting together and voting for a really stupid idea that affects everybody. This is why I don’t worry too much about the low voter turnout in this country. Imagine how many piss-poor ideas would get implemented if a majority of the 210 million voting age population actually bothered to vote.
    If Fred’s moral superiority bothers you so much, you can always create your own blog and give us all the link. Then you can pay for the bandwidth so that total strangers can tell you what an asshole you are for expressing your opinion. That’s the marketplace of ideas and free enterprise all in one neat package.

  • the opoponax

    @ jesu and drak pope –
    my point wasn’t “see, Amurkkka fixed Europe once and for all!” but that the way to ensure a lasting peace after centuries of habitual warfare and constant religious/ethnic/nationalist tensions between the various peoples of Europe was in building stable economies and social systems that ensured that, y’know, everybody pretty much had a roof over their head and enough food to eat and some basic freedoms, and weren’t desperate enough to take things like “Teh Joos R Stealing R Country”, “The Fate Of The Nation Depends On Annexing Half Of France”, “Let’s Kill Everyone Who Believes In Transubstiation”, etc. too seriously. whether you see it as coming from US foreign aid or from the European powers themselves, the bottom line is the same — when everybody eats, there’s less to fight over.
    from an American standpoint, the Marshall plan is the first example of that which comes to mind. there are many others i’m sure someone more versed than i am in the specifics of European government and public policy could list, the Council of Europe being another, and a concentration on social services in the individual countries (hate the term “welfare state”) is still another.
    the bottom line being that, at the end of the day, when everybody has enough food on the table and maybe a few modern conveniences and extras, suddenly Kill The Sunni! becomes less of an issue.

  • Angelika

    Bugmaster: only if the people who are going to be using and maintaining this infrastructure are more interested in having water and power than in killing each other.
    People are killing each other, because they are interested in having water and power (and land) – and don’t expect to have safe (and sufficient) access to these resources, unless the competition/provider is – at least – weakened/subdued. As an example think of that Western nation with the world highest fossil fuel consumption that recently invaded another country with stunning fossil fuel reserves, killing thousands of the later countries citizens, including children.
    What I meant was that they received extensive training whose purpose (among other things) was to desensitize them to violence, not that they chose to make the army their career.
    They learned how to obey orders, and how to operate the weaponery. The training did not prepare them for the horrors lying ahead. A great many soldiers returned with serious emotional problems.

  • Bugmaster

    People are killing each other, because they are interested in having water and power (and land)That’s part of the reason, of course, but many of them consider that land which has been touched by filthy Sunnis/Shiites/Jews/Kurds/whatever is not land that is fit to live on.
    A great many soldiers returned with serious emotional problems.Yes, but they did return (those who survived), after having fought for a long time. I’m pretty sure that if you give an average, untrained American a gun, and send him off to battle, he won’t be able to pull the trigger (for various reasons).
    I do agree that having abundant food and reliable infrastructure is a good thing, and tends to have a calming effect on people. However, I think that the notion, “let’s give the Iraqis (Afghanis, etc.) some infrastructure, and the violence will cease ! It’s as simple as that !” is very naive. When you’re the only one in town building a power substation, and everyone around you is trying to kill each other (and especially you !), instead — your substation has a very low chance of ever being operational for more than a week. Even if you could wave a magic wand and warp in power substations, water treatment plants, etc. all over the country, they won’t survive for long enough to make a difference — because infrastructure makes a very attractive bombing target.

  • Geds

    However, I think that the notion, “let’s give the Iraqis (Afghanis, etc.) some infrastructure, and the violence will cease ! It’s as simple as that !” is very naive.
    That’s why you have to go with something slightly more nuanced.
    However, saying that building infrastructure and whatnot won’t work so let’s not bother pretty much means that there’s nothing but support for the status quo. And look where the status quo has gotten us so far.
    Just because it’s going to take a generation or two doesn’t mean that it’s not a worthwhile option. It just means we need to change our perspective on how things work.
    Besides, if an American goes in to an Iraqi village and builds a power substation, then a bomber destroys that power substation, who are the people in the village more likely to get pissed off at? The more people realize that violence is counterproductive, the less likely they are to condone it. It’s a long process, but in my opinion it’s worth trying.
    Also, thanks for the link, Steve. That suggestion is slightly more useful than my original recliner and beer theory…

  • Angelika

    Bugmaster: because infrastructure makes a very attractive bombing target.
    As the recent invasion has shown…
    Just to put that clear: I’m not trying to argue that the behavior of the Iraqi suicide bombers and civil war mongers is good, rational or benefitial to anyone who hasn’t placed bets on the highest number of casualties. Everyone would be much better of, if the killings stopped and a proper reconstruction could begin. – And I think we all agree, that stopping the killing won’t be an easy task.
    However, to claim that the cultures of the different Iraqi tribes are necessary less favorable to peace than other cultures, doesn’t have any historical basis. E.g. they weren’t killing each other at random, before the invasion.

  • the opoponax

    “many of them consider that land which has been touched by filthy Sunnis/Shiites/Jews/Kurds/whatever is not land that is fit to live on.”
    cite, please?
    because every fiber of my understanding about such conflicts at the macro level, and every specific example i can come up with at the micro level, contradicts that.
    the Germans were all too happy to spend the money confiscated from Jewish bank accounts and redistribute amongst themselves the paintings, jewelry, antiques, and other valuable things confiscated from Jewish homes. Israeli hardliners seem perfectly ready to settle territory stolen from Palestine, Egypt, or whatever dirty Muslim land is up for grabs this week (Fuck, who do they think was populating their entire freakin’ country before the 1940′s?). Irish Nationalists are fighting to control Northern Ireland and make it part of regular old Eire, not to simply exterminate the British sympathisers and leave their property a wasteland. the Sunnis and Shiites want to get rid of the Kurds in order to take control of resources that lie on their lands, not simply because they spell their ethnicity with a K rather than an S. access to arable land was one of the root causes of the Rwandan massacres. i can’t think of a recent interethnic/religious conflict in recent memory that was about hatred and/or extermination at anything more than face value, or wherein resources, property, etc. held by ‘the other’ was considered taboo after it was wrested from said group.

  • the opoponax

    “I’m pretty sure that if you give an average, untrained American a gun, and send him off to battle, he won’t be able to pull the trigger (for various reasons).”
    clearly you have never heard of the Vietnam War.

  • Bugmaster

    clearly you have never heard of the Vietnam War.I’m not sure. Is that the same Vietnam War that was being fought (on the US side) by soldiers who underwent boot camps in the American army ? Or is it some different war ?

  • Bugmaster

    Well, obviously you’re going to take land, resources, and equipment from the people you’ve exterminated. But, that’s not the same as saying that the only reason for fighting these people is to claim their resources.
    Again, I agree that infrastructure is a good thing. It should be built. However, before the infrastructure can be built and maintained, a lot of other things need to happen, and one of these things is the cessation of violence, because violence destroys infrastructure. People won’t stop car-bombing each other just because they have hot water all of a sudden; it’s much more likely that they’ll attack the water treatment plant that services their enemies (whomever those might be at the time).

  • the opoponax

    “soldiers who underwent boot camps in the American army”
    i’m unsure of what your point is, then. i can’t think of any situation in my entire knowledge of (euro-centric, to be fair) military history where large numbers of soldiers went into battle completely untrained. even the militia-men fighting on the patriot side of the American Revolution were trained in some capacity.
    if your point is that Teh Towelheads are inherently more evil than us because they fight guerilla style rather than being traditionally trained and uniformed military, i would point you towards the writings of Che Guevara, amongst others, as well as toward the fact that even guerilla warriors do, in fact, have to be trained in that particular style of warfare. Guerilla tactics isn’t just “some random brown dudes with guns”, and if you think that’s the case, you know next to nothing about how war is waged.
    “Well, obviously you’re going to take land, resources, and equipment from the people you’ve exterminated. But, that’s not the same as saying that the only reason for fighting these people is to claim their resources.”
    Bugmaster, you just said like two posts ago that in religious and ethnic conflicts such as the ones going on in Iraq today, it’s clearly not a fight for resources or territory because ‘everybody knows’ that any possession of the enemy is tainted and useless. which is completely contrary to everything i know about the entire written history of human conflict, at every level from the Hatfields and McCoys to the Hundred Years War. you can’t then turn around and say “well what i really meant was that it’s not only about territory and resources” — you just said it wasn’t about that, at all. when in fact it’s MOSTLY about that, and only about hatred of the other group on the surface.
    trying to argue that X group fights Y group because they are an inherently hateful and violent group of people (or even that both groups are of inherently hateful and violent stock) is just plain stupid, unless what you’re trying to say is that all human conflict can be reduced to our collective hatefulness and inherent violence as a species. which, even then, is sort of a silly argument to try and make, since there are a great many examples in history that show that, when there’s plenty to go around, there also tends to be peace. we humans only show that famous hatefulness and tendency to violence when it looks like the neighbors (who sure are funny looking, aren’t they?) have something we want.

  • none

    J, do not confuse the people who get the orders with those who give them, much less with those who set policy.
    Further, given that Operation Iraqi Freedom was an action of the United States, and the debates which went on were public (and the military recommended against it, certainly against doing it the way it was done, or does kicking Eric Shinseki to the curb for saying the plan was flawed escape your memory?) the American people, as a whole, get to share the blame/take responsibility. You can’t shove it all off on the Army; because the populace gave assent, at the very least through their reps, whom they didn’t manage to persuade of their opposition.
    The Army didn’t say, “Hey George, we wanna beat up on Iraq next week.”
    Rather he told them to, and the American people let him.
    Yes, I’m a little bitter, and having you tell me that I, because I’m a soldier, must have wanted to do it, well that’s offensive; since I’d just said I didn’t, and I’m not fond of, even by imputation, being called a liar.
    Then you go and say you aren’t surprised that my better half was surprised to find out the Guard is full of folks with a decided desire for peaceful resolutions. Which is it? Are we bloodthirsty warmongers, or Quakerish peaceniks?
    Since you agree that thugs will be with us (hence your skepticism of men with guns), how do you propose to prevent those who are thuggish from imposing their will on others?
    Bugmaster: re the level of background violence. 30 years war. The times after the Crusades, England until the Highwaymen were supressed. Russia in the revolution. The ease with which strife can return is pretty apparent too, look at the former Jugoslavia.
    opponax: Excuse me… 13 weeks of basic training, and then specialised training in infantry operations (or whatever one’s specialty was), that’s how we make professional soldiers today, it’s how we did it during Viet-nam, and it’s how we did it for WW2.
    With the after action interviews of SLA Marshall, the training was improved (though there are some methodological problems with some of the interpretations of his data, which makes me less than completely satisfied with Grossman’s arguments about video games and violence, but I digress), and the rate of trigger pulling went up from WW2, to Korea, to Viet-nam, and to the present.
    Given training, and acculturation, and people will pull the trigger. Given other incentives, they will even manage to do it in a militarily effective way.
    The Armies of the Civil War (US) were far less trained, at the outset, than was the army of Viet-nam. The standards of training, to be honest, weren’t at the time, so that what ought to have been standardised drill, wasn’t.
    But they still managed to kill more (US) soldiers than the Germans did in WW1, or WW2.

  • Jeff

    Let’s Jump On Bug Day! Woot!
    the bottom line being that, at the end of the day, when everybody has enough food on the table and maybe a few modern conveniences and extras, suddenly Kill The Sunni! becomes less of an issue.
    As Baghdad under Hussein shows. There was plenty of “plenty”, and violence was contained (except for what Hussein himself did, with American assistance). (Same for Tito, only not as gencidal. Once the glue holding yugoslavia together was gone, things went bad fast. And most analysts had predicted the ethnic fighting that wuld follow Tito’s death.)

  • the opoponax

    unnamed person at 6:57 — my point to Bugmaster was that you can’t correlate “trained military” with “conscience-less massacring machine”. whether you draw the line between a volunteer military and conscription, X kind of training and Y kind of training, B tactics and C tactics, Y religion and Z religion, D physical phenotype and F physical phenotype, etc. etc. etc.
    Bugmaster seems to be saying, in his invocation of trained militaries vs. ragtag guerilla bands and/or terrorists, that Muslims/Iraqis/whatever are ‘more violent’ because here in the land of whitefolks, we have to be properly trained to pull the trigger, whereas over there in towelheadville, everyone’s just offing each other all the time at the slightest excuse.
    given enough hardship, civilians can be pushed to kill (and they have, east and west, christian and muslim alike). you don’t need 13 weeks of basic training when you’re starving and that funny looking guy who does that weird thing when he prays might have more food.

  • bulbul

    Let’s Jump On Bug Day! Woot!
    Perhaps later. For now this
    i can’t think of any situation in my entire knowledge of (euro-centric, to be fair) military history where large numbers of soldiers went into battle completely untrained
    is the biggest piece of BS on this thread.
    Unless you want to argue about the meaning of the word “completely”, opo, I can give you at least a dozen examples. One major one for now: the Battle of Grunwald (or, as the losing side calls it, Tannenberg). Accounts of the actual numbers vary (go read it for yourself), but rest assured that most of the infantry fighting on the Polish side consisted of peasants who were handed a pike and told to kill anyone in a white cape. Same was probably true of the Teutonic Order’s armies, since such was the general practice in the Middle Ages: only cavalry counted and every nobleman provided a certain number of infantrymen. Sometimes they were professionals (mercenaries or men-at-arms), but often, especially in cases of emergency, these were peasants and artisans from the villages on the nobleman’s lands who received no training at all.
    And please don’t try to wiggle yourself out of this by insisting “I only meant Western Europe”. Same was true of Western Europe until the adoption of gun powder weapons and even some time after that.

  • pecunium

    opponax: Typead ate my ID.
    That’s not how your comment read to me.
    I didn’t read bugmaster that way either. I thought he was making an estimation (which is wrong) of cultural separation.
    Me, I think anarchy can come from anywhere. I also think the level of, generic, military training (to include combat) in Iraq is at least as pervasive as it was/is in the US. They had conscription.
    They fought a long war, which ended less than 20 years ago (and were using people in their mid-teens, so there are people my age, and younger, who were combat vets in a trench war).
    The Army was disbanded and sent back home.
    Given that metric, and the absolute level of chaos to which things have fallen; the Tito-esque playing of factional/ethnic politics by Husseien, well a Jugoslavia situation doesn’t surprise me.
    The history of civil wars (from the Wars of the Roses, to the present) is one of widespread violence, much of it wanton, and of groups deciding they have a mortal grievance against other groups, with whom they seemed to share an identity, just before the conflict broke out.
    I think untrained militia are more likely to be less practised/restrained in the use of force. That’s a function of training, not inclination.
    They’ve not been trained to discriminate between combatants and non-combatants.

  • bulbul

    I take that back, Bugmaster is still the biggest idiot around.
    The kind of daily, pervasive violence that we see in Iraq and Afghanistan, where neighbours are fighting neighbours, is a thing of the past
    Sure, like, say, 1992-1995, Yugoslavia?
    but many of them consider that land which has been touched by filthy Sunnis/Shiites/Jews/Kurds/whatever is not land that is fit to live on.
    Provide evidence of shut the fuck up. I’m fine with both.
    However, I think that the notion, “let’s give the Iraqis (Afghanis, etc.) some infrastructure, and the violence will cease ! It’s as simple as that !” is very naive.
    Absolutely! But that’s the neocon mantra. They’re the ones pushing for more schools to be built, the stock exchange to be opened etc. etc.
    No, Iraqui “insurgents” aren’t made of “evil materials”; they just have a slightly different outlook on life than we do.
    SIGH.
    Buggie, you ready for some piece of genuine wisdom? OK, here we go:
    People do shit because it gets them something. Whether it’s tangible (money) or not (emotional whatever). That’s our outlook on life. Yours, mine, opo’s, Duane’s, Jeff’s, Fred’s, Scott’s, everyone’s.
    Now replace “people” by “Iraqis who fight”, “do shit” by “fight (which includeds blowing up stuff)”, “tangible” by “land, oil” and “intangible” by “power”.
    Get it now?

  • Jeff

    opopo, it’s one thing to paint the Israelis as Teh Eeeeevil Oppressors and the Palestinians as Poor Li’l Victims, but including Egypt in that picture? I doubt very many Egyptians were displaced in the original mandate (same with Jordanians and Syrians). Israel fought in ’67 against a group of nations who weren’t looking for equality — they were attempting to destroy Israel. And the Palestinians were happy to help.
    Israel got Gaza, the West Bank and the Golan Heights as concessions from its beaten enemies. If they had won, Israel would have nothing to cede (and any jews left living would be suffering far more than the Palestinians.)
    I am not, as aunursa is, an Israel-can-do-no-wrong type. I think that there is a lot that can be done on the West bank by both sides (removal of some, if not all, settlements by Israel; seriously investigating and punishing terror cells by the Palestinians).
    I would love for Abbas to say, “I may be a tool of Israel and the US, but I’m the tool that’s going to bring peace and prosperity” and start sincere negotiaions with Israel (asking for the release of a major terrorist isn’t a promising start). I’m hopeful that Israel can work with the West Bank Palestinians, because I don’t see how anything improves if they can’t.
    I don’t think that returning Israel to the Palestinians is a viable option. Too many people’s families survived the death camps only by the voyage to Israel.
    It’s a horrible situation all the way around, and Israel is to blame for a large part of it, but the Palestinains and the Arabs have played their part as well. (This is NOT to say that the Palestinians “deserve” what they suffer, only that any lasting peace requires concessions from them as well as Israel.)

  • 85% Duane

    Ya know, *I took on Jesurgislac, Jeff is talking on AnanusUR and you pulled Bugmaster? Who is handicapping this shit??

  • the opoponax

    well, bulbul, clearly then Bugmaster is wrong that us god-fearin’ european folk won’t pull the trigger (or hurl the pike, or whatever) unless we’re trained and given Really Cool Uniforms, first. as opposed to them violent towelhead folk who’ll blow up anything you set in front of them.
    hm, didn’t know that about infantry, actually. i mean i knew they would obviously have been conscripted, and training couldn’t have been all that sophisticated, but really, just “here’s a pike, kill anyone fitting X description”? no teaching anyone to stand in formation, or telling them what signal to listen for, or how to use the damn pike in the first place? even gang rumbles are more sophisticated. i’m afraid that i am, in fact, going to have to play the semantic argument of “completely untrained”, in this situation, unless it’s really true that the infantry was just handed pikes on an estate and said “yeah, so, um walk 5 miles in this direction and then hopefully you’ll know how to use this to kill some people. good luck, see ya there, if you know what 5 miles even is…”
    my understanding was that bulbul is drawing a line between trained troops and just some dudes standing around with bad attitudes, who, according to him, would only actually kill someone if they were brown.

  • the opoponax

    Jeff, I’ll take Sinai Peninsula for 400.
    if the Israelis hated Teh Evil Muslims so bad that they wouldn’t touch their land with a 10-foot pole (as Bugmaster suggests), they never would have annexed it, and they wouldn’t be so itching to settle it. which goes for the Sinai every bit as much as the chunks of other countries they’ve annexed (fairly or unfairly). which was my only point, not who was right or wrong in the 6 day war.
    i’m by no means suggesting Israel ought to be dismantled. simply that if the Israelis hated the Muslims so much they didn’t want to live on their land (as Bugmaster suggests), Israel wouldn’t exist, because all Israeli territory was held by Muslims less than a century ago. pretending that there was just a huge empty Israel-shaped hole in the earth pre-WW2 is insane, i’m sorry. the fact that people were displaced is kind of beside my original point, but to suggest that nobody was displaced when Israel was created is, um, “creative” is a good euphemism for it, i guess.

  • the opoponax

    “bulbul is drawing a line between trained troops and…”
    shoulda been bugmaster, sorry.
    all you patriarchs look alike to me, sorry.

  • 85% Duane

    Gotta look closer: Bulbul looks Western Slavic, Bug looks Eastern Slavic.

  • bulbul

    Jeff,
    God knows I like you, but please, enough. You seem to be buying the media crap on how Abbas is the good guy who is fighting the eeeeevil Hamas terrorists. In the eyes of the Palestinians, Abbas is a traitor – and, consequently, so is Fatah. Contrary to what aunursa and his likudnik friends might believe, the Palestinians voted Hamas in not because they wanted to drive the Jews into the sea, but because they had had enough of the corrupt Fatah (ever seen the cars their ministers drive?) and hope for a change. Suddenly Abbas the Terrorist became Abbas the Acceptable and the West (including Israel) took his side and started pushing against Hamas, using the embargo which would deny most of the employees of the Administration payments. Then there was the conflict between the security forces (later lead by one Muhammad Dahlan, a collaborator even to Fatah) who should have been loyal to the Administration and the Government, but were in fact controlled by Fatah, and the security forces of Hamas. Guess on who’s side did the West and Israel intervene to destabilize the democratically elected and legitimate government?
    Not to mention the fact that what the media calls the Hamas government is/was in fact a coalition government of Hamas, Fatah and several other parties (like current PM’s Salam Fayyads’ “Third Way”). But you wouldn’t learn that from watching the news where it’s all about the suddenly good Fatah and the always bad Hamas.
    Gaza Palestinians vs. West Bank Palestinians. Please. Does the world really have to be black and white?
    And according to the latest research on the ’67 war, the preemptive attack by Israel was unwarranted. Egypt, for example, wasn’t about to attack. It had its best units tied up in the civil war in Yemen.
    I don’t think that returning Israel to the Palestinians is a viable option.
    No one does. Not even Hamas.
    This is NOT to say that the Palestinians “deserve” what they suffer, only that any lasting peace requires concessions from them as well as Israel.
    Like what? Give up some 20% of the West Bank?
    Seriously, Jeff, farkakteh concessions? Talk about khutzpeh…

  • bulbul

    opo,
    clearly then Bugmaster is wrong
    Any thread, any topic, this is where you put the full stop.
    Bulbul looks Western Slavic, Bug looks Eastern Slavic.
    And, obviously, I’m the more handsome one.

  • the opoponax

    aha… ok, now i’m getting it…

  • bulbul

    no teaching anyone to stand in formation
    Does “either you will stand here as one or those mofo Germans will tear you to pieces” count?
    or telling them what signal to listen for
    Signal? When Teutonic heavy cavalry charges at you, you don’t need no stinkin’ signal.
    or how to use the damn pike in the first place?
    Um, sharp end first? Come on, even Bugmaster could figure that one out!
    even gang rumbles are more sophisticated.
    Well, that’s medieval warfare for ya.

  • 85% Duane

    or how to use the damn pike in the first place?
    Um, sharp end first? Come on, even Bugmaster could figure that one out!
    To be fair, he prolly figured it out from the Groucho thread. Little pitchers have big ears!


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