Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Competitive savagery, terrorism, and failure

Since the torture scandal broke, we have now seen within the space of two days an American civilian being beheaded and a Hamas member waving a bag of body parts to a furious mob in Gaza. You could despair. If there is a war on terrorism, by the way, it is a war fought in terms of propaganda. Some would say "soft power" in Joseph Nye's words - much the same thing as Hans Morgenthau's notion of national power being subdivided into military, economic and persuasive power. Because we are the status quo, we are the ones who have to persuade by our example. The enemy doesn't want to be seen as good or legitimate - they want to show the maximum degree of horror. It's the essence of terrorism, and it is the source of their myth. The heroic myth of revenge and resistance is the heart of terrorist propaganda, both externally (recruiting) and internally (validation). It's truly astonishing the degree to which the reckless wielding of the military arm has been allowed to poison the other two. What is happening is that we are getting into a savagery contest, one that cannot do us any good.

See what I mean?
"The Web site showing the video also carries a photograph of a naked Iraqi prisoner at Abu Ghraib cowering before a growling police dog."

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