Monday, November 12, 2007

The World of Myth

Ralph Peters ennumerates what he thinks are the "12 Myths of 21st Century War".

  • 1. War doesn’t change anything.
  • 2. Victory is impossible today.
  • 3. Insurgencies can never be defeated.
  • 4. There’s no military solution; only negotiations can solve our problems.
  • 5. When we fight back, we only provoke our enemies.
  • 6. Killing terrorists only turns them into martyrs.
  • 7. If we fight as fiercely as our enemies, we’re no better than them.
  • 8. The United States is more hated today than ever before.
  • 9. Our invasion of Iraq created our terrorist problems.
  • 10. If we just leave, the Iraqis will patch up their differences on their own.
  • 11. It’s all Israel’s fault. Or the popular Washington corollary: “The Saudis are our friends.”
  • 12. The Middle East’s problems are all America’s fault.


These ideas exist in varying degrees of sophistication and are available in versions ranging from the unthinking rant to the respectable academic paper. Their power lies in that they contain some degree of plausibility or truth. But they are not the whole truth. And like those who would argue religious or philosophical questions the rebuttals are also available in degrees of sophistication.

But the "12 myths" are more than random collection of beliefs. Together they constitute a system of thought which consistently describe a foreign policy. What the objects of this foreign policy are I leave the reader to think about. Consider the following 12 duals, which I will argue are ideologically consistent with the "myths" expressed above, though they seem to contradict individual assertions.

  1. War is capable of achieving liberation from the clutches of America.
  2. Victory over America is not only possible, but inevitable.
  3. Insurgencies against insurgencies can always be defeated.
  4. Terrorists can simply state their demands and we have no alternative to accede.
  5. Fighting America should never provoke it.
  6. Killing Americans does not turn them into martyrs.
  7. A suicide vest is a "poor man's F-16".
  8. Al-Qaeda, despite its outrages, is loved in the Islamic World
  9. September 11 happened before America invaded Iraq.
  10. We abandoned the Kurds and the Shi'ites to Saddam. It is our fault.
  11. The Holocaust is Europe's fault.
  12. America must remain engaged in the Middle East and support the regime there. This is the "adult" approach to fighting terrorism.

The key to understanding why it is possible to form statements which contradict individual myths yet remain consistent within the ideological universe is this: the only essential myth it is necessary to accept is the guilt and worthlessness of Western civilization. The particulars are irrelevant.

21 Comments:

Blogger Foobarista said...

You've got John Lennon peacenik doctrine meets Che Guevara fetishism. Pretty much all of the twelve has elements of one, the other, or both. Toss in a bit of anti-Semitism, you've got 'em all covered.

11/12/2007 08:53:00 PM  
Blogger Bill said...

#6- the correct answer is killing terrorists turns them into inanimate objects .
#1- war actually changes things such as living terrorists into dead terrorists.
#7- actually if we fight as fiercely as our enemies they will no longer be around to compare our behavior to.
#2-this would be true if we were all a bunch of boot licking weasels, but we aren't.
#8- this is true if you're surveying the readership of Daily Kos or the roster of the Democratic party.
#3- maybe so but they can sure be annihilated.

11/12/2007 09:33:00 PM  
Blogger Chip Ahoy said...

You think too much. You and your thinky thoughts. Countered then by your counter thinkery thoughts. Truth is, these aren't myths, they're expressed feelings. Now it's taken a good deal of effort thinking up ways to express these feelings so don't go making things difficult by conflating thoughts used to generate expressions of feelings with theoretic logical thinky thoughts like these.

11/12/2007 09:49:00 PM  
Blogger Bill said...

Chip,
Come again?

11/12/2007 09:58:00 PM  
Blogger Grimmy said...

I used to fall for the #3 myth. Not any more though. I've been set straight and proper.

11/12/2007 10:30:00 PM  
Blogger Mad Fiddler said...

You are seeing the cumulative results of several cultural phenomena:

a) the abysmal deterioration of education under the watchful and presumably purposeful administrations of Post-WWII socialist leftist or so-called Progressive governments

b) DRUGS

c) I fergit.

11/12/2007 11:33:00 PM  
Blogger What is "Occupation" said...

desert rat should read and learn this....

11/13/2007 04:11:00 AM  
Blogger Jim in Virginia said...

Yard sign "War is not the Answer" has been up in the neighborhood for the past few years.
It is if you ask the right question.
What should be done about Hitler killing six million Jews and several million other Europeans?
How should we respond to incidents like the rape of Nanking?

11/13/2007 04:39:00 AM  
Blogger Triton'sPolarTiger said...

Whenever I read (or hear) that old mantra "War is not (is never) the answer," I am forever unable to take seriously anything else the writer (speaker) posits. War is in many cases the ONLY answer to a terrible problem (think Hitler, or perhaps some future Islamic bomb), and to assert otherwise forever brands the individual making the assertion as an unserious individual unworthy of further attention.

11/13/2007 05:32:00 AM  
Blogger RememberSekhmet said...

If your choice is truly between war and peace, peace is always the better option. But more often than not, the choice is really between war now or war later. In such a situation, you choose the war you can win.

11/13/2007 06:27:00 AM  
Blogger RWE said...

Well, you can say what you want about the Left, but you have to amazed about their ability to handle massive amounts of Cognitive Dissonance!

Just saw a vehicle with a poster stuck on the back window (right side, where it restricts the driver's vision) that said some Hispanic-looking guy was wanted for vehicular manslaughter.

And below that was an "Obama 08" bumper sticker.

There ya go....

11/13/2007 07:40:00 AM  
Blogger ErnieG said...

Imagine a world of peace, with no war.

Europe without a single living Jew.

Slavery, not only in the United States, but also in North Africa, with millions of Europeans and Americans held in bondage.

Peace with Japan, with a treaty having been signed on the deck of the Yamato, anchored in San Francisco Harbor.

But there'll always be an England. Parliament opens with the singing of Deutschland, Deutschland über alles.

11/13/2007 08:19:00 AM  
Blogger ErnieG said...

After reading my post, it pains me to think that there are people who would be happy to live in such a world.

11/13/2007 08:23:00 AM  
Blogger Tamquam Leo Rugiens said...

War is unquestionably a great evil, and no sane individual would willingly choose it over a reasonable alternative. There are two problems, however.
First, some individuals are not sane, such as Hitler, Stalin, Hussein, etc. When such people capture the instruments of state controlled violence and turn them to their ends, those against whom those instruments have been turned have very few alternatives; basically, "Shall we surrender and succumb or shall we fight to preserve our existence?"

Secondly, situations arise in which competition over resources pits peoples against one another. Examples would be the American settles vs. the Native Americans, the Germanic tribes vs. Rome, etc. Throughout human history, probably even before, most wars have resulted from the latter cause.

It might be thought that the "War on Terror" ought not be called a war at all, as no state sponsors are any longer directly involved on Islamic side, nor is there a competition for scarce resources as the West is perfectly happy to welcome Muslims and share the wealth with them. In the former case it would follow that the American Revolutionary War was not a war as there was no recognized state on the American side, and that Islam's swift conquests following it's inception was not a war because it was not based on competition for scarce resources.

The fact is, however, that the ideology of Radical Militant Islam, though not centered in any single supreme leader, has arrogated to itself the right to defeat and destroy any and all other systems of belief by means of violence. It is a "not state" desirous of becoming a state, the Ummah (sp.). In this conflict America and the West is offered two absolutely unacceptable alternatives: submit or die. These are the ONLY two choices being offered by those who initiated and carry the conflict forward. As long as the West continues to reject these demands we will continue to have war thrust upon us.

The "I'm against war" partisans have no rational answer to this. What they propose is an illusion of peace, a hollow peace behind whose trappings a baneful determination erodes our foundations and awaits the day when it can cast aside the irenic facade and stand astride it's fallen foe. Diplomacy and negotiation are all very well, and certainly have their place in scheme of things, but no amount of diplomacy and negotiation can ever succeed in altering those whose insanity cannot be altered. Which sad truth Chamberlain discovered to not only his cost, but that of millions.

11/13/2007 09:27:00 AM  
Blogger Cannoneer No. 4 said...

See Dr. Sanity's take:

THE PARTICULARS ARE RELEVANT

Having granted the philosophical premises of postmodernism (truth and morality are relative; reality is unknowable; and life's a bitch and then you die--without purpose, meaning, or sense) ; then the complementary premises of a pre-primitive terrorist suddenly are quite simple to grasp.

11/13/2007 09:30:00 AM  
Blogger eggplant said...

Jim in Virginia said:

"What should be done about Hitler killing six million Jews and several million other Europeans?"

An interesting bit of WW-II trivia: The main barrier the Nazis encountered in terms of mass murder was not in actually killing people but in disposing of the bodies. Cyanide gas in gas chambers is a very efficient way to kill lots of people. Unfortunately there were all these thousands of corpses piled up that had to be cremated. Conventional cremation ovens were unreliable because partially burnt body fat accumulated in the chimneys causing chimney fires. Cremating the bodies in open pits was also unacceptable due to the huge smoke columns that were clearly visible for miles and the bodies being only partially burnt. Then some genius came up with a new type of cremation oven that was vastly more efficient for burning large numbers of bodies. The Nazis were just about to install this new technology in KZ-Birkenau (Auschwitz) when the clock ran out and the Soviets took the place over. These new ovens would have doubled the killing capacity of Auschwitz.

Now here's a puzzle: The Nazis had already killed most of the Jews in Europe. I wonder which group of people were scheduled for this added capacity at Auschwitz?

11/13/2007 09:40:00 AM  
Blogger desert rat said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

11/13/2007 11:25:00 AM  
Blogger desert rat said...

I have read it, wi"o".
Wars not well fought and never ended, change nothing. If anything it leads to strengthening the enemies resolve.
The Palistinians are the perfect example of that. Becoming more radicalized with every non-decisive victory that the Israeli have had.

Victory is impossible if it's not defined. The definition of US victory in Iraq, becoming "success" instead of a strong central government and the diminished power of the Tribes. Seems that that particular objective has been consigned to the ash heap of history.

Insurgencies can be defeated, have been in Malaysia, was in Vietnam.
Was subverted in Iraq, which may or may not lead to their defeat.

Military half-measures will not lead to solutions, Darfur being the prime example, currently.

#5 is just funny

#6 Some of them do become martyrs, the leaders, Che comes to mind. Zapata, as well.

#7 is absurd, but we don't fight as fiercely, until push comes to shove. Fallujah 1 exxemplifies that.

#8 does not make any difference, even if true.

#9 is a falsehood, pure and simple

#10 is unimportant, Iraq is a soveriegn State, whether it's well run and peaceful of little import.
They could patch things up, or not, Could be there'd be a flurry of funerals, until a strongman or the Army took over.

Israel has little to do with Iraq or Pakistan, though it is a propaganda drum that the mussulmen can beat, incessently

#12 is absurd.

But almost all myths have a basis of fact or the perception of fact.
Which must be countered with effective rhetoric, based upon realities

The Holocaust was Europe's fault, the Germans being Europeans, the European Allies not stopping the Germans, early on. When they first violated the Versailles treaty.

Not much of a myth there.

11/13/2007 11:28:00 AM  
Blogger Peter Grynch said...

Modern History is a quest for stability and stasis. All wars must be ended in a cease-fire which restores the status quo ante. There are no victors allowed because victory would give meaning to the concept of war.

The United States has supported and continues to support despots that offer stability because the alternative is seen as worse. When we drove Saddam out of Kuwait we didn't "finish the job" because we feared the instability that would ensue.

Wars fought to a "tie" actually exhibit many of the characteristics listed. They are both horrible, and horribly futile. Israel desires stability, Palastinians desire genocidal victory. I'd have to bet on the Palastinians unless the Israelis come to their senses.

A recent Nobel Prize winner makes millions by claiming we have it in our abilities to control the weather with such precision that our climate will never change. People who fear change embrace his teachings like a new religion. The future is an unknoweable scary place. Why work to make it better when you can work to keep it from changing?

11/14/2007 12:38:00 PM  
Blogger Wadeusaf said...

This may be a rehash, but I say it my own way here.
There are certain ironic contradictions in the myths set out by Peters.
(1.) War doesn’t change anything, but (7) If we fight as fiercely as our enemies, we’re no better than them. So war changes us.
2. Victory is impossible today, yet (3) Insurgencies can never be defeated. Therefore victory only by insurgencies is possible.
4. There’s no military solution; only negotiations can solve our problems, because
(5) When we fight back, we only provoke our enemies. (9.) Our invasion of Iraq created our terrorist problems and 6. Killing terrorists only turns them into martyrs..., yet we are not allowed to be provoked and attacks on US are considered normal behavior.
. 8. The United States is more hated today than ever before, and (11) It’s all Israel’s fault.
(12) The Middle East’s problems are all America’s fault because (11) “The Saudis are our friends.”
Therefore...,(10). If we just leave, the Iraqis will patch up their differences on their own, despite the Saudi and Israeli culpability.
Your myths which are all synthesized in the first one, “Victory over America is not only possible, but inevitable” is attributable to Marxist doctrine, which, it seems, has already been disproved.

11/14/2007 08:17:00 PM  
Blogger TGGP said...

People are still reading Ralph Peters?

Some posts on my blog some of you might find interesting:
Greg Cochran on military spending
What was so bad about Charles Lindbergh?

11/18/2007 02:48:00 PM  

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