Monday, June 24, 2002

Humanizing Monsters?

Well, over at USS Clueless there's a nice little piece about logic on the left in response to an article. I enjoyed the piece, but a quote from Demosthenes' treatise caught my eye. It's a sticking point that has bugged me ever since I dated a Psych major from Cal State. She used to disparage any de-humanizing of America's enemies during wartime. Our tastes in movies may have crossed paths (Like Water for Chocolate and Casablanca) but they often remained on opposite sides of the continent (Flying Leathernecks and that Ya Ya Sisterhood movie). My penchant for heroic man movies meant that words like "Nip, Hynie, and Wop" were going to show up in war movies made 'back in da day.' As such we had a few discussions on the subject of de-humanizing the enemy.

The phrase that caught my eye was, "The Hutus, the Germans, the Iraqis, the Italians, heck, even the Mongols were human beings as well, and any strategy used to defeat them needs to recognize that simple fact."
Unfortunately that is historically untrue. Nobody cared that the Mongols were human when fighting them. They were portrayed, in both literature and art, as demons and devils. Would thinking of them loving their children have helped anyone kill them and push them back? The Germans were "The Hun in the Sun" waaaaay back when.
There is a second problem I have with humanizing the enemy. Given a choice between America and her citizens and anyone else (especially our enemies, and to a lesser extent the enemies of our allies) I choose America and her citizens. Now, as heinous as it sounds I don't want a single American soldier killed because they hesitated to kill "that father of three who loves his children and simply has values that call for the downfall of the 'Free World', though those values are as valid as those held by members of the 'Free World.'" I would much rather he killed a "Jerry, Nip, Raghead, Pinko, Gook," without hesitation than die because he spent to much time dwelling on the humanity of his enemy.
This is not the same as thinking your enemy is an idiot, or purposefully underestimating his ability (this may be what Demosthenes actually meant). This is making it easier to do a distasteful, wicked, and horrible thing that may be necessary because sometimes the alternative is unthinkably worse.

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