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26 June 2011


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"Alien populations are "hiding" their universal human characteristics behind outmoded customs and folkways that can relatively easily be changed to ways consistent with our own and acceptable to us"

Didn't the Conquistadors believe that? Didn't the British in India believe that? Didn't the Crusaders kind of believe that? Didn't the Moorish invaders of Europe believe that? When we weren't just exterminating them, didn't the Americans in the West believe that of the "Indians"?

There are exceptions. African slaves were considered to be non-human and laws were passed that they should not be taught to read. On the other hand, Jefferson had a more enlightened view, but one not completely devoid of self-interest. The "good" news is that reality has a way of intervening. At the end of the Civil War, 50% of the African population of Petersburg were freed men.

COIN is a currency as old as humanity. Like gold it has maintained its appeal. It would be terrific to believe that Obama has abandoned it. Reason enough to re-elect him. Why? Because, in addition to being nonsense, COIN costs a lot.

Patrick Lang


your history is a little weak. The Crusaders made no real effor t oconvert and europeanize Muslims in their territories. they brought in Europeans who married "Syrian" Christians and lived i nvillages with them and they occupied the cities. In the countryside the Muslims paid their raxes and they were let alone as "cash cows." It is altogethr untrue that African slaves were thought to be non-human by many in the american South. they were thought to be human bu inferior in culture. There were many free Blacks in the Confederate States. some of them owned slaves. pl

David Habakkuk


After 1857 the British in India emphatically did not believe that. If they misread things -- and some did, some did not -- it was quite precisely in assuming that deep rooted cultural characteristics meant that Western-style democracy could never take root in Asia.

But to think that did not necessarily entail contempt for non-Europeans.

It is curious that neoconservatives sometimes profess to admire Kipling, but have no sense at all of the deep ambivalences in his portrayals of the relations between the British in India and the peoples they ruled. It might have helped them avoid some rather consequential mistakes, had they read Kipling with attention.

Just possibly, they might have grasped that the British in Kim are commonly portrayed as being upright and honourable, but really rather dim -- and in particular, very easily fooled by people who tell them what they want to hear.

But then, the late Edward Said also read Kipling with a mind like a flat iron.


When I first read the COIN stuff it struck me that it is probably a very useful as a crime fighting model when police faces very serious problems, like neighbourhoods with something like massive gang violence. I felt and still feel that it is best applied on your own turf, in which you have a genuine and compelling stake, and where you want to stay.

The US may just withdraw from Iraq because they are sick of it. The US did not withdraw, to use an old cliché, from South Central L.A. because of the Bloods and the Crips in their heyday.

But beware on cops fighting a counterinsurgency "war" against criminals. Even if methods and general approaches used in crime fighting match ones used in counterinsurgency, the name "war on whatever" should not ever be used since it may obscure to practitioners that at home even the bad guys are citizens (with the inevitable and very desirable consequences).

A reading of Robert Pape also suggests that you don't want to have too great an ethno-religious difference. US troops in an Islamic land are at an inherent disadvantage in that regard. That set of problems also is unlikely to be encountered on the home turf.


My history is extremely weak, and I wish it weren't.

By saying the Crusaders "kind of" believed, I was attempting to nuance the fact that they probably didn't want to build nations down there.

About slavery, by calling attention to Petersburg, where the war effectively ended, I was attempting to point out that the institution of slavery was not monolithic. Jefferson clearly believed that his children by Sally Hemmings, though half African, were human.

But in the context of COIN, slavery is a red herring and I admit it.

FB Ali

I have not thought much about CT, but the experience of its use in Afghanistan, Pakistan and other places raises questions about its efficacy.

Yes, it does target and kill enemies, but it also kills many who are innocent bystanders (it is not only the drone attacks that cause 'collateral damage', the JSOC's targetted operations do so as well). The resentment and backlash that this provokes must be set against the gain in the killing of the enemy target.

In both Afghanistan and Pakistan it would appear to be an open question whether the benefits outweigh the harm. The killings have not appreciably affected enemy operations while undoubtedly turning whole swaths of the population against the US.

This may not matter to the military, but it certainly affects the overall success of the country's policies in that country or region, unless that policy is permanent enmity and war.


CT is, inevitably, extra-judicial police work.

Whitey Bulger's arrest was just police work. But he was a terrorist by any definition of the word.

Bin Laden's execution was CT. It was extra-judicial.

But, to repeat, the two men were essentially identical in MO.

Apparently, our extra-judicial killings in CT kill a lot of bystanders. And I guess the question is whether we should extend the constitutional protections Americans enjoy to people living outside our borders.

But COIN? Perhaps China can afford COIN.

William R. Cumming

When did the military stop reading Claueswitz (sic) and that war is an extension of politics?


"But then, the late Edward Said also read Kipling with a mind like a flat iron."
--David Habbakuk

You don't really expect a Palestinian to "read" Kipling with sympathy, do you? White Man's Burden is as much a nonsense as "Israel's painful concessions." It was very generous for Mr. Balfour to give away Palestinian land in order to curry favor with Jews in the United States, wasn't it?

The singular point is this: Orientalism is the belief that the poor, non-white, non-Anglo-Saxon are mere primitives when they resist the policies of the West. The British are not missed in the Middle East. Just as they are not missed in India.


I see this from a different perspective. Mr Ignantius serves as a megaphone for some. It is a relatively simple exchange....he trumpets the views of his champions....if he selects the right 'champions' he can advance his professional career. COIN, anti-COIN, it is all the same. If it advanced his professional position he would switch on a dime.

I don't mean this to sound as cynical as it does. This is simply the way the press, the big money press, works these days. Perhaps has always worked...I don't know.

I don't take Mr Ignatius's policy pronouncements in a serious vein. His readers, and employers, are like endorphin receptors that he knows relatively well. He knows what they want. He know how to give it to them. He is good at that. He is good at self promotion. He is simply not a person I take in a serious manner. I mean, take his views on COIN or anything else about policy. Now, if he speaks about how to advance yourself in DC...or how to get books published. Or who is hot, or who is an up and comer, or who is on a downward career path....I would pay great attention to him. And would give him much respect.

But on policy? My guess is he has not had an original idea since Nixon went to China. And, in fact, my sense is few in DC have had original ideas when it comes to national security issues. They, the so call national security policy elite, are always behind the curve of events. And indeed, I differentiate the between the bright ones and the dim ones by noting who finally runs to the front of the parade first. After having to tried to stop said parade for so long. I think Iganatius has a lot of skill in recognizing who is going to run to the head of the parade first. And then acting as a megaphone for that person/faction. And that is a real skill...I must admit.



Isn't it interesting how our U.S. MSM and the presses avoid calling NEOCON Mideast Policy for what it truely is -- on behalf of the interests of Israel. NEOCON Mideast Policy =Israel, Israel=NEOCON Mideast Policy.

Now the 64 dollar question, when will or better yet 'how' do we 'unhinge' NEOCON Mideast Policy from its hold on our State Department? Hillary's latest declarations regarding Gaza flotillas is nothing short of her spouting NEOCON Mideast Policy. And then there is the nitwit former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton all over the Congress about how we (U.S.) need to attack Iran. Don't forget all the 'ovations' that our Congress gave the nutjob Bibi when he addressed them recently. I believe the Congress gave Bibi 21 'standing ovations'.

We also IMO need 'balanced' CT, in which 'balanced' means going after the Israeli governmental terrorist types too.


Colonel Lang,

"The killings have not appreciably affected enemy operations while undoubtedly turning whole swaths of the population against the US."

If only the esteemed F.B. Ali's comment were the extent of the damage. Unfortunately it is much worse. The mindset and the practices that failed us and disgraced us abroad are now "blowing back" to us at home. Militarized local cops,TSA gropers, USDA wanna-be SWAT teams,warrantless surveillance,WDC locked down normally like Pyongyang,etc etc. A whole generation has grown up thinking this is normal. OSB once famously said that "We will make you live like we do". It worked. He won.

USMC 65-72
FBI 72-96
Systems Engineer 96-2011

David Habakkuk


If you would care to read what I read, the point I was making was that the strand in Kipling which was responsible for his call to Americans to ‘Take up the White Man’s Burden’ – the strand which so appeals to neoconservatives – is very far from the whole truth about him. As often happens with great writers, his underlying attitudes can be much more ambivalent than appears at first sight.

A fact which I wanted to bring out, which is I think relevant to arguments about counter-insurgency and related matters, is that, not uncommonly, Kipling portrays the British as rather dim – in particular, as lacking imagination – and as easily duped.

Consider, for example, the description of the encounter between Kim and the ethnographer-spook Colonel Creighton, after the bazaar letter writer has told him that the horse dealers call Creighton the ‘father of fools’. The description of what happens when Creighton talks to Kim in English is not quite what you would expect, from the popular image of Kipling:

“Kim pretended at first to understand perhaps one word in three of this talk. Then the Colonel, seeing his mistake, turned to fluent and picturesque Urdu and Kim was contented. No man could be a fool who knew the language so intimately, who moved so gently and silently, and whose eyes were so different from the dull fat eyes of other Sahibs.”

So Kim – the character Kipling created out of the impressions of a child brought up by Indian servants, before he was sent back to England to board with a Calvinist woman he hated – sees Sahibs as having ‘dull fat eyes’. There is a clear suggestion that it is his involvement in Indian culture which allows Creighton to escape the normal fate of his kind – and escape being a fool.

As to Said, I had particularly in mind the suggestion, in his account of Kim in ‘Culture and Imperialism’, that Kipling firmly places the Tibetan Abbot, turned wandering lama, whose chela the boy becomes ‘within the protective orbit of British rule in India.’

This, Said says, ‘is symbolized’ when ‘the elderly British museum curator gives the Abbot his spectacles, thus adding to the man’s spiritual prestige and authority, consolidating the justness and legitimacy of Britain’s benevolent sway.’

Omitted are the extraordinary gifts which the lama makes in return – and total lack of anything whatsoever in the words Kipling actually wrote indicating that the glasses convey ‘spiritual prestige and authority’ on the lama in the eyes of any character in the novel.

Likewise, nowhere in the words I wrote was there any expectation that a Palestinian should read Kipling with ‘sympathy’. I do think that literary critics, like the rest of us, should refrain from making claims not supported by evidence.

Among these I would include your apparent conviction that I am an apologist for British policy in the Middle East, past and present – which, as will become apparent if you care to look at what I have written on this blog, is rather close to the precise reverse of the truth.


arbogast, nonsense.

Bulger was a mobster and a murderer with specific targets. But he had no beef with this or any nation.

BL killed thousands of faceless, nameless (to him) Americans.

There is nothing "essentially identical" about them.


David: Thank you for your response. I do not believe that I stated--or implied--that you were an apologist for British policy in the ME. Far from it.

You and I were merely disagreeing about Edward Said. The posture of the well-intentioned dunce is a stock character in Orientalism. The assumption that the dunce is well-intentioned is the privilege of the dominant power.

dan bradburd

It is not just the well intentioned dunce. Kipling knew intentions were not always best. This is clear from his lines in the Naulahka.
"Now it is not good for the Christian's health to hustle the Aryan
For the Christian riles, and the Aryan smiles and he weareth the
Christian down;
And the end of the fight is a tombstone white with the name of
the late deceased,
And the epitaph drear: "A Fool lies here who tried to hustle the

It is also clear from stories like Tod's Amendment that the great blunder of the well intentioned is that they assume they understand what they do not, even as they assume that the locals do not understand what they do.



Very true, and very sad for our Republic.

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