Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Shockingly, virulent racism turned out to have limited utility

It had worked so well for the US Army in the past...

For those who don't recall, in the run-up to the war in Iraq, Bernard Trainor quotes one general as saying "The only thing these sand niggers understand is force and I'm about to introduce them to it."

So there was a real charm offensive, you might say. It turned out, though, that the Iraqis had some introductions of their own to make - "US Army, meet IED. Army, did you know that IED just graduated from Fallujah technical college? We're all very proud." Of course, it was a pretty big party, and the Army met so many people that night, it was hard to remember who was who until the bodies started coming in.

So three years later, the US Army has gotten around to re-writing its strategies in Iraq. Tomdispatch had this reaction, which caught my eye.
The new counterinsurgency strategy acknowledges that the very idea of overwhelming demonstrations of force producing respectful obedience has backfired, producing instead an explosion of rebellion. And now that a significant majority of Iraqis are determined to expel the Americans, promises of more humane treatment next time will not get the genie of the insurgency back in the bottle.
It's funny - in a gallows-humor sort of way - because the statement that "these [insert racial epithet here] only understand force, so we're gonna [insert exclamation of sadistic impulse here]" is probably as old as humanity itself. Go back far enough, and you could probably find instances of cro-magnon man saying crazy stuff like "these Neanderthals only understand force, so we're gonna rape their cattle and steal their women..." (Apologies to Mel Brooks.)

Of course, it's never, ever been true. Indeed, it's only ever been an incredibly stupid belief to hold - ever know anyone to respond to abuse with love and obedience? Instead, it's been an excuse for the warmonger and the torturer to unleash their "skills" on the world for millenia.

1 comment:

Noumenon said...

Indeed, it's only ever been an incredibly stupid belief to hold - ever know anyone to respond to abuse with love and obedience?

I think you'll change your tune once you see Jonathan Schwarz's exhaustively compiled list of people who do, in fact, only understand force.