The Joy of Killing
by Pachacutec, Fri Nov 12, 2004 at 07:50:03 AM EST
It can be like a narcotic high. It can even feel liberating. The context of battle, unified with brothers in arms, enables men (and women) to channel something basic, elemental and seemingly "pure" from within our natures. We are a violent species.
That's why "news" programs love battle footage. People at home can share in this joy from the safety of their living rooms, by proxy. There is a thrill to the kill.
This, fundamentally, is why we are not trusted on matters of national security. This is really why we lost the election. Kerry thought that summits and pleasant conversations could bring about a less bloody form of victory over those nasty people (who are not like us, since they are so irrational). The majority of Americans, whom we disdain as insufficiently enlightened, understand that human nature is a pretty nasty thing (this is why the Christians obsess so much about evil and sin). They voted by a majority for Bush because they believe he "gets it," that man is not much more than a junkyard dog, and it takes a junkyard dog to win a dogfight. The majority saw Kerry as a well coiffed poodle.
I'm not saying I agree with this point of view over who was best to win the election, but until we come to grips with the kernel of wisdom expressed by the majority - the understanding of human nature and our inability on the Left to fully acknowledge and address it - we will continue to be a minority party. The reformation of the Left - the "reality based community" - must come from a full reckoning with the good and the bad of human nature. Accordingly, we have to take a more realistic view of the world stage, highlighting the threats we face, and devise a foreign policy philosophy and set of priorities that squarely meets those threats.
Because soldiers experience the joy of killing, about which they may have misgivings later on but which they cannot deny, they appreciate that worldviews that avoid or deny the fundamental nature of humans as violent are flawed and dangerous to national security. It is hard for them to understand how to use force strategically - they know that indecision and hesitation cost lives among their squad members in the thick of battle. By the same token, we who tend to think more rationally and strategically tend to be too squeamish to use force directly, effectively and violently when force is needed.
Lincoln only won the Civil War when he fired McClellan (who was loathe to use his massive army) and put the ruthless Grant in charge instead. Grant used superior numbers like a meat grinder to wear the Army of Northern Virginia down, suffering extremely high casualties along the way. Blunt, brutal, but effective. I wonder: could any defenders of liberty on the Left today ever contemplate such a strategy, even if it meant the end of slavery?
We on the Left, literally, have to get "real" with ourselves, if we are in fact to represent the "reality based community." Until we face the dark lust for violence in human nature, and come to terms with how to save civilization by aggressively defending our security, we will continue to be a cultural and political afterthought during time of war.
Only when we establish domestic credibility on this score - through the selection of the right national spokespeople, candidates and rhetoric - can we gain the credibility to say the obvious: that adventures like the current assault on Falluja are pointless and detrimental to our security, since this is not a war of territory that we face across the globe today, but a war of ideology, organization, recruitment and economics.
We have to defeat the terrorists by targeting them and their organizations - people - narrowly, but more importantly, by promoting democracy and economic growth throughout the world. And we must recognize that the nature of this war in a media age is such that we cannot win by creating collateral damage on any meaningful scale, by targeting civilian populations, or by seeking to install democracy at the point of a gun.
That means we have a long way to go as a movement. We have to confront ourselves and the weaknesses of our philosophies: the denial or avoidance of the basest part of our natures as humans.
Then, we have to show the rest of the country that we "get it," and establish that credibility, probably over more than one election cycle.
Only then will we be able to criticize more effectively the foolish application of force in ways that defeat our national interests.
We may be handed opportunities to offer our critique as Iraq becomes Bush's Vietnam over the next four years, but unless we can sketch out an alternate, aggressive and sometimes violent strategy to meet the threats we face, we can never win as a party of "mere" diplomacy during time of war.
The question is, will we pass this test, when opportunity presents itself?
That will be up to you.
Tags: (all tags)