Naturally, the real officers who make policy for real soldiers fighting an all too real war do understand it perfectly well.
Perhaps all the blogs in the world covered this on the couple of days I had the flu, and if so, I apologize for the waste. Anyway, the current (February 2007) issue of Harper's has an excerpt from the new edition of the Counterinsurgency Field Manual, prepared by the United States Army and Marine Corps and released in December, after 20 years in which the previous edition held. (The new issue is not up on the site yet, oddly enough; but the text would be firewalled anyway if it were.)
LIMITS ON INTERROGATIONIf you are of high moral standards, you will be offended by the mix of moralizing with pragmatic war-winning policy. Be my guest. Please excuse me from joining in. But they do understand No exceptional circumstances.
During the Algerian War of Independence, French leaders decided to permit torture against suspected insurgents. Though they were aware that it was against the law and morality of war, they argued that this was a new form of war and these rules did not apply. Illegal and immoral activities made the counterinsurgents extremely vulnerable to enemy propaganda inside Algeria among the Muslim population as well as in the United Nations and the French media. Torture is never a morally permissible option, even in situations where lives depend on gaining information. No exceptional curcumstances permit its use. In the end, failure to comply with moral and legal restrictions against torture severely undermined French efforts and, despite a number of significant military victories, contributed to France's defeat.
By the way, now that Lewis Lapham has retired, the Notebook apparently is written by a rotating group of editors; so far it has not suffered. This month, Barbara Ehrenreich, no less, writing agains Hope and positive thinking. The passage that almost covered my nice new issue with stains of spluttered tea:
Cancer? See it positively, as a "growth opportunity," and hopefully not just for the tumor.The rest of it is up to that standard. And don't miss the sidebar "Paper Jam" on page 22, which it would be too hard to explain.