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The New Transparency of War and Lethality of Hatred 591

Hugh Pickens writes "Robert Wright says that if you had asked him a few days ago — before news broke that American soldiers had urinated on Taliban corpses — if such a thing were possible, he would have said 'probably.' After all if you send 'young people into combat, people whose job is to kill the enemy and who watch as their friends are killed and maimed by the enemy, ... the chances are that signs of disrespect for the enemy will surface — and that every once in a while those signs will assume grotesque form.' War, presumably, has always been like this, but something has changed that amounts to a powerful new argument against starting wars in the first place. First, there's the new transparency of war as battlefield details get recorded, and everyone has the tools to broadcast these details, so 'it's just a matter of time before some outrageous image goes viral — pictures from Abu Ghraib, video from Afghanistan,' that will make you and your soldiers more hated by the enemy than ever. The second big change is that hatred is now a more dangerous thing. 'New information technologies make it easier for people who share a hatred to organize around it,' writes Wright. 'And once hateful groups are organized, they stand a better chance than a few decades ago of getting their hands on massively lethal technologies.' It used to be that national security consisted of making sure all foreign governments either liked you or feared you; now it requires that as few people as possible hate you. 'I think we should reflect on that before we start another war.'"
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The New Transparency of War and Lethality of Hatred

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 14, 2012 @01:41PM (#38698650)

    ...when I was studying history in college, I read some WW2 memiors about the fighting on the island of Peleliu, and some parts very disturbing. The only difference between then and now is that then, they didn't film it and post it to YouTube.

    'Humans who learn history learn that humans learn nothing from history'

  • Icing on the cake (Score:2, Interesting)

    by gmuslera ( 3436 ) * on Saturday January 14, 2012 @01:45PM (#38698700) Homepage Journal
    So is the right of US to not only invade the country, put their own government, kill a lot of people, send their childrens to guantanamo, but also to shit over the dead bodies of the ones that tried to resist and even joke over it? Put it in the other direction, what if US get successfully invaded, the government replaced, the resistence obliterated, people sent to be tortured in concentration camps and the invaders shit over the corpse of your fathers/friends/whatever, would you be a little outraged? Would be their right to do so? At least the disclosing is not as bad as what was done in Irak.
  • Re:Bogus premise (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Omnifarious ( 11933 ) * <(gro.suoirafinmo) (ta) (hsals-cire)> on Saturday January 14, 2012 @01:47PM (#38698720) Homepage Journal

    It works if they do not hate you. If they hate you, it doesn't actually work. No matter how feared a dictator is, as soon as a significant percentage of people know that they find him intolerable, and know that a significant number of others share their belief, that dictator has huge problems. All the fear in the world will just make them more determined.

    Machiavelli wrote in an environment where there were many competing factions of approximately equal power, none of whom were significantly different from any of the others.

  • Re:Bogus premise (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Dunbal ( 464142 ) * on Saturday January 14, 2012 @01:56PM (#38698810)
    You don't. You put a bullet in their brains. Hitler knew this. Stalin knew this. All great tyrants of the past, and all the little tyrants today (local drug dealers, political bosses etc) know this. But no, shoot a few people and suddenly the word "genocide" is screamed out, because our "civilized" culture is perfectly willing to make people suffer a long drawn out death out of sight through economic sanctions and incarceration, rather than a quick death via purges. So this is the price we pay - a nagging problem that just won't go away because the worst that can happen to these people is an all expenses paid room and board vacation in Cuba.
  • Re:Bogus premise (Score:5, Interesting)

    by dargaud ( 518470 ) <> on Saturday January 14, 2012 @02:29PM (#38699156) Homepage

    History is full of examples. Rome comes to mind.

    Bad example. Rome was actually VERY tolerant. All a conquered country had to do was pay taxes and accept some god equivalency: Jupiter=Zeus=Taranis=... Only two fought the religious equivalency principle: the Jews, which got splattered all over Europe for their efforts, and the Christians which managed to undermine the Roman State enough to finally conquer it from within. And then eliminate all the others. Politics at its finest. Yeah, it always make me laugh (kinda) when I hear that Christianity is 'tolerant'.

  • by MightyMartian ( 840721 ) on Saturday January 14, 2012 @02:50PM (#38699356) Journal

    The family of my best friend as a teenager came from Germany in the immediate post-war years. I remember one time, quite out of the blue, his grandfather (who had been a young man during the war) came up to and told us "If you ever hear a German tell you that we did not know what the Nazis were doing, he is lying." (these were his exact words). He went on to tell us how families would disappear, many Jewish but also others as well, and that while no one could be quite sure where they were taken, everyone knew that it was to their dooms.

    It still stands as one of the most profoundly disturbing experiences of my life, to have this old man so brutally and honestly reveal a truth to me in such a fashion, to brush away all the standard excuses that German's of the wartime generation invoked to get out of any sense of responsibility for what had happened. To this day I actually have no idea why the old man came up to my friend and I, but he permanently altered my view of humanity, and how easy it is to rationalize any action, and even in many cases inaction. Europeans from Paris to Danzig stood by and let their countrymen be marched off to their deaths, and while there were heroes here and there (just as there were collaborators), all in all they just stood there.

  • by brokeninside ( 34168 ) on Saturday January 14, 2012 @03:05PM (#38699470)

    In the first century BC, Mithradates and his allies killed every single Roman citizen in Anatolia within a month's time. Historical estimates offer that somewhere between 80,000 and 150,000 Romans were killed across the Aegaen islands and Anatolia. This happened in a world without the Internet, without mass media, without high tech weapons, without gunpowder.

    Mithradates and his lieutenants were able to spread hatred of Rome entirely through word of mouth. They were able to coordinate their slaughter without the Internet. They were able to kills tens, if not hundreds of thousands, in practically the blink of an eye.

    It doesn't seem to me that much has changed with regards human capacity to spread hatred.

  • theoretically, you want to be able to say that the cause you are fighting for is morally superior to the cause the enemy is fighting for

    i said "theoretically"

    but pissing on enemy troops tends to put a dent in the concept of moral superiority, no matter how absurd that concept is in the arena of war in the first place

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 14, 2012 @03:25PM (#38699638)

    Oh Enlightened One:

        Do you really feel that creating a utopian society that consists of "Social Security and Medicare for all" is what will stop angry teenagers from pulling Columbine on a biological warfare scale? I don't think that 17 year olds give a flip about entitlement programs, per se, and care much more about bullying and social issues that face teenagers, so this is just static.
        For those who are geopolitically motivated, this theory of "if everyone had the same basic stuff nobody would be pissed off anymore" is a failed experiment called Communism. You can look to Europe where everyone has free healthcare and basic rights and see how well that's working out. It's a wonderful thought, that probably won't create the desired utopia and probably has very little to do with why people might be inclined to violence around the world.
        As for the notion that simmers below the surface of many liberal elitist postings that if somehow the USA just stopped meddling in world affairs the rest of the world would stop menacing and grow more peaceful and harmonious... That is so naive it's hard to even want to debate the point. I firmly believe that most people are generally well intentioned and good natured. It's the ones that are evil that we need to worry about, and there are plenty of them all around the world. They will and they do rise to positions of power where they can and will spread tyrrany, bloodshed, and misery with our without our intervention. We can debate the merits of individual conflicts or our nature as Superpower where we feel we need to confront these ills directly, but it does not change the fact that there are a large number of very bad folks running governments that left unchecked will grow far more powerful and do far worse things worldwide.
        The notion that we can contain those problems to a region by leaving the Middle East for example is just naive. Iran has tentacles into South America, and those forces can freely flow right up into the States through the nonexistant southern border we are so afraid to police. I think very well intentioned people like yourself(I do believe you mean well) have ideas which have very bad consequences. I love this part of your thinking:

    "The Foresight Institute also has some good thinking on this in the past, in terms of empowering everyone to deal with emerging threats. It's like the playing fields has totally changed, but the USA still is still preparing to win at Major League baseball when everyone else is now playing pickup games of soccer everywhere."

        Right - empowering everyone. Like who, exactly? China and Russia? They directly oppose any effort to reel in other dictators or bad actors on the world stage, especially if they think the USA might have to go it alone at our expense. China and Russia have never met another dictator they didn't like. Europe? Europe comes through here and there with half-hearted sanctions and nasty letters, but doesn't really ever back a verbal threat with the credible threat of action. The bad guys of the world today really feel little risk in terms of repercussions for acting out, and this is why so many are acting out. Empowering everyone is more or less what the UN tried to do, and that organization doesn't fix anything they get their corrupt hands into. Maybe I'm missing your point and there is something of a different approach here, but I think when much of the world would rather let us take the damage for them, we're on our own whether we like it or not.

        It definitely seems from reading a lot of comments from otherwise clearly bright people that the naivety is running strong. I prefer to see the world as it is and work with that than dream of the world that isn't and pretend it will be that way if we all hold hands and sing.


  • by Paul Fernhout ( 109597 ) on Saturday January 14, 2012 @07:16PM (#38701552) Homepage

    I also mention three other aspects that are important too besides a basic income (a gift economy, improved subsistence, and improved planning). More on all that by me:
    "Five Interwoven Economies: Subsistence, Gift, Exchange, Planned, and Theft " []

    If you look at the hard data yourself, you will see that US governments (federal, state, local) together spend about US$600 per month per capita on welfare, unemployment, and schooling. If that money was given directly to every citizen, a family of four would be getting US$2400 per month (tax free) which for many would be enough to live on and homeschool in an area of the country with a low cost of housing (especially as both parents could still do additional work or subsistence gardening activities and would have time to be frugal and would have less stress leading to recreational shopping therapy). []

    With more involved parenting, and more neighbors with free time for being involved in their communities, most neighborhoods will be much better place to grow up in, and there will be less juvenile delinquency and fewer kids wanting to act out by hurting others. See also: []

    The graph you point to, indicating rising government over the next few decades up to about one-half the GDP, is pretty meaningless in the sense that it must depend on a lot of unstated assumptions all subject to political action. Also, some things like health spending may drop greatly as people understand health better; see the links I assembled here: []

    Besides, what is wrong with redistributing one half the GDP as a basic income (and health insurance)? That would amount to about US$2000 per month as a right of citizenship right now (more if the economy grew more), and to make up for the effective enclosure of the land and of the copyright commons and for pollution suffered from industry and so on. I think that could make a lot of sense, and so do many others: [] []

    The remaining half of the GDP would be about as big as the total US GDP around 1995, which seemed big enough to motivate anyone who needed motivating by money back then. :-)

    Alaska has something called a Permanent Fund that is somewhat like that (Sarah Palin helped grow it): []

    Also, right now the US governments spend more per capita for medical care than other countries require to give all their citizens generally better health care outcomes than in the USA.

    So, the numbers easily work out. It is the ideology that is the problem. See:
    "The Mythology of Wealth" []
    "Justifications for elites and social hierarchy goes all the way back to the pharaohs. ..."

    The fact is, our current socioeconomic system is falling apart (see other links I've posted in this thread) -- and one consequence of that is increased domestic violence and increased warfare. I have collected more details here: []

    So, the status quo is failing, and increasingly at risk from WMDs from alienated people. We ne

  • by s_p_oneil ( 795792 ) on Sunday January 15, 2012 @12:17AM (#38703378) Homepage

    "Are you seriously suggesting that the US Marine Corps doesn't represent the US?"

    First of all, while a lot of fine men and women join the US Marine Corps, a lot of grade A assholes who just want to learn to "kick some ass" join it as well. I was in junior ROTC in high school and met quite a few guys like that. I even went to Parris Island with some of them. Are you seriously suggesting that the very worst examples of the US Marine Corps represent the rest of them?

    The post you're so quick to disparage made a very good point. You can't take the worst individuals of a fine organization and claim they represent everyone in that organization. And you can't have an organization that large without its fair share of jackoffs (whether they're from Detroit or anywhere else).

The absence of labels [in ECL] is probably a good thing. -- T. Cheatham