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Sunday
Oct252009

HEARTS AND MINDS

Modern counter-insurgency theory is proud of not just killing them but of wanting their consent first. Anything from distributing chewing gum to buiding roads to cash payments, is intended to make them grateful enough to come over to "our" side. [The use of the first person plural is wrong, I do not identify with their war in any way].

 This doctrine is unacceptible. By raising the winning of "hearts and minds" as a problem, it acknowledges that the hearts and minds are at present against the occupation. But if that is so, "we" have no business being there at all.

It is also incredibly condescending. Suppose that Iranian troops occupied our country and set out to win "hearts and minds". They would distribute pistacchios, offer free health care, strengthen our bridges, open the universities for free enrollment, shoot a few people, organize Little League Soccer, and offer us many delights they do not have at home, shoot a few more people. Even organize honest elections.

Would we buy it? Would we perhaps accept their largess and then meet at night to organize resistance and put their bribes into a common pool for guerrilla warfare? The Vietnamese called it "living integrated with the enemy." Villagers at the outskirts of Saigon slipped into the city to deman their rights, medicines,whatever goodies were distributed that week, and then go home.

Of course the myth has to be mainained that the people want us there and only fight back because they are terrorized into doing so. In Taliban country it may even be partly true.

I hear the objection, "But doesn't the other side do the same thing? Didn't Raoul Castro organize land reform while still in the mountains? Didn't the Vietnamese organize schools and clinics during the war?"

The difference is that they were carrying out their social and development program even before victory. Their "hearts and minds" program was not PR but a preview.

So do not think that the new counterinsurgency is more humane, more decent conquest. In this context the Peace Corps equivalents are simply unarmed Green Berets.

 

 

 

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