« grelexpredictopthread | Main | she is not wise in the ways of the world »

June 18, 2012

TrackBack

TrackBack URL for this entry:
http://www.typepad.com/services/trackback/6a00d834518d3769e2016767a89ab7970b

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference on the rational peasant:

Comments

Phil

I've defended Curtis against Medialens types at some length in the past, arguing that when he runs some "why we in the civilised West ended up betraying our noble civilised values" line he's speaking High Ironic, but this one may be where I get off.

in effect the Europeans became copies of the insurgents - and that could so easily lead them to use some of the same terror tactics as their guerrilla enemy.

The paradox was that while this probably led to less deaths than pointless conventional battles - it also brought torture and murder and a copy of the terrorist mind-set into the heart of the European colonial armies.

Oi, Curtis, no. Counter-insurgency, counter-revolution, counter-terror are more brutal and more unrestrained than what they're ostensibly responding to - always have been, probably always will be, certainly have no reason not to be. Insurgents have nothing to teach secret policemen about "the terrorist mind-set" - the latter already have fewer scruples and better equipment.

Richard J

Oi, Curtis, no. Counter-insurgency, counter-revolution, counter-terror are more brutal and more unrestrained than what they're ostensibly responding to - always have been, probably always will be, certainly have no reason not to be. Insurgents have nothing to teach secret policemen about "the terrorist mind-set" - the latter already have fewer scruples and better equipment.

As a general rough principle, yes [1], but not sure I'd go along with as a general rule, unless you're going to get into rather awkward redefinitions about the status of the Vendée.

[1] Reading, slowly, Spanish Holocaust at the moment, apropos of this. Not even past 1934 yet, and it's already blood-soaked counter-revolutionary violence.


ajay

Counter-insurgency, counter-revolution, counter-terror are more brutal and more unrestrained than what they're ostensibly responding to - always have been, probably always will be, certainly have no reason not to be.

This is pretty questionable. Certainly it wasn't the case in Norn Iron. Nor in Afghanistan, certainly not judging by the casualty rates and who's causing them.

Alex

This sounds like a Curtis I actually want to watch. History through the prism of "Jack" Idema? Awesome.

on the thread, I presume Curtis is thinking of the French. certainly the experience of counterinsurgency in Indochina helped create the torture-obsessed, putsch-minded army of Algeria. And come to think of it, the experience of insurgency against them helped create an Algerian army that's pretty torturous and putsch minded.

CMcM

I'd invite comments from more knowledgeable folk on quite where the Khmer Rouge fit into the bloody insurgency v bloody counter insurgency spectrum.

Chris Williams

ajay, I think it depends on who gets to be called the 'secret police'. The key actors here are usually not people on the government payroll, but local auxillaries of one kind or another. Anti Mau Mau pseudo-gangs led by British army officers, clearly are part of the counter-revolution, and the British state is responsible for their actions. The Shankhill Butchers, almost certainly not. But there's a lot of space on the cline between them.

To an extent, Phil's statement is a truism, because it's difficult to be large-scale fundamentally long-duration nasty unless you have a base to be nasty in, and an income stream to fund the nastiness. Shining Path probably set the C20th marker for how nasty an insurgency can get without getting its hands on the state power multiplier.

ajay

Chris: nope, you can include the Shankill Butchers on the "counter-insurgency" side and the Provos still come out ahead, almost two to one. CAIN is your friend on this one.

In terms of restraint, it's very interesting in particular to compare the "civilians killed by mistake" numbers; the IRA and INLA, in its attempts to kill members of security forces who openly wore uniforms and carried arms, killed 169 civilians by mistake. The security forces, fighting an enemy who deliberately disguised themselves as civilians in every way possible, killed just seven.

Chris Williams

I wasn't suggesting that the loyalist body count was higher than that of pIRA - merely using them as an existence example of a group at the uttermost fringes of pseudo-ganggery.

You sure about seven? ISTR from Urban that this was around the number killed during the 2 specific shoot-to-kill periods he identifies: were there none outside those periods?

Phil

I'd be more interested in comparing figures for non-coms intentionally and knowingly killed on both sides; I'd be genuinely amazed if the Nationalist side came out ahead on that one.

My gut feeling - which perhaps resists elevation to the status of Iron Law of History - related to a comparison between what can loosely be called Red Terror (indiscriminate violence accompanying an attempt to destroy an old regime, seize power and/or establish a "liberated area") and White Terror (indiscriminate violence accompanying and following the re-assertion of the old regime, defeat of insurgents and/or re-taking of "liberated area"). It worked like that in Central America in the 80s (and South America earlier), and it certainly worked like that in 1919. I've always thought of both Phoenix and the OAS as examples of the same thing happening elsewhere. I certainly think it makes more sense than suggesting that those well-intentioned legionnaires got corrupted by tangling with guerrillas.

I may be reading too much into this example, though. "Despite our good intentions" is such a recurrent framing device for Curtis, it may be that that's all it is; perhaps it's always meant to be understood in High Ironic.

ajay

You sure about seven? ISTR from Urban that this was around the number killed during the 2 specific shoot-to-kill periods he identifies: were there none outside those periods?

CAIN gives seven for "Killed by special undercover units because mistaken for Republican paramilitary forces". There aren't any other categories of civilians who were killed by security forces because they were mistakenly taken for combatants.

I'd be more interested in comparing figures for non-coms intentionally and knowingly killed on both sides; I'd be genuinely amazed if the Nationalist side came out ahead on that one.

"Both" sides?

Chris Williams

ajay, does your seven include people who were accidentally shot (ie unlucky couple in car caught in SAS/IRA ambush that one time?) without being knowingly identified as anyone at all? I can't find my copy of _Big Boys Rules_, which would give me the data that I need to cross-reference it with CAIN.

Richard J

ajay, does your seven include people who were accidentally shot (ie unlucky couple in car caught in SAS/IRA ambush that one time?) without being knowingly identified as anyone at all?

I can, TBH, think of one big excluded data point (hint: Paras, long-running enquiry, etc.), but don't think it's likely to shift the balance over.

Phil

"Both" sides?

At least for the purposes of this argument, I'm not accusing the British Army of deliberately or recklessly killing non-combatants known to be such. Which I think keeps the sides count down to 2.

ajay

Chris: I don't know; I'm only drawing from CAIN here.

I presume you mean the two men who were killed because they drove into the Loughgall ambush? They may fall into the category of "Shot while in immediate vicinity of gun battle with Republican paramilitary forces" which is another 13. I didn't include that because it sounds like it might also include a fair few stray bullets.

jamie

Re CMcm @5

I don't think the KR fit into the insurgency/counterinsurgency argument, unless you're proposing a Lon Nol model of allowing half your country to be bombed flat while carrying round Richard Nixon's autograph as a talisman.

Cian

Weren't the security services, or RUC, effectively running one of the loyalist groups? Or at the very least letting them do their stuff. In which case what does that to do the numbers?

The security services have more tools at their disposal. Hard for the IRA to inter people.

CMcM

I don't think the KR fit into the insurgency/counterinsurgency argument

OK, fair enough.

I therefore repeat my question substituting Phil's own revised terms of Red Terror and White Terror.

ajay: I suspect Richard might be gently pointing towards the events of Bloody Sunday.

ajay

CMcM: yes, I got that.


But I think that sticking to White Terror-ish examples is a bit selective. There are various occasions where the government retakes a liberated area and doesn't embark on massive indiscriminate slaughter. The aftermath of the Easter Rising in Ireland, for example.

Alex

Hard for the IRA to inter people.

The IRA interred quite a few people and IIRC only said where they were very recently. They also interrogated quite a few people, which I think you may have meant.

ajay

I think he may have meant "intern". What they used to do instead was force them to leave Northern Ireland on pain of being tortured or killed.

Phil

I don't think the Khmer Rouge were typical of anything. They're quite strongly reminiscent of Pavelic's regime in Croatia - even down to the low-tech executions - but that itself was an outlier, to say the least.

Cian

You try spelling accurately using a phone in one hand, while holding a baby. Not easy I tell yoyu.

I think he may have meant "intern". What they used to do instead was force them to leave Northern Ireland on pain of being tortured or killed.

You're making it into a moral argument, which is beside the point. There are 'humane' options available to one side that simply are not available to the other side. The imbalance in power is not simply military, but also includes legal and human rights apparatus.

Igor Belanov

"There are various occasions where the government retakes a liberated area and doesn't embark on massive indiscriminate slaughter. The aftermath of the Easter Rising in Ireland, for example."

They did shoot a severely wounded James Connolly in Kilmainham Gaol as well as more than just a handful of the ringleaders. The actions of the British after the rising did much to whip up the feelings of a population that had done relatively little to back up or support the insurrection.

Moving forward a few years you get the Black and Tans, who got a name for terrorising if not slaughtering the civilian population.

Phil

There are 'humane' options available to one side that simply are not available to the other side.

Which is why the 'RA made such a lousy substitute for a functioning police force, when they were doing their thing against druggies and hoods (with massive local support, it has to be said).

So another way of putting Edwards's Not Exactly A Law As Such would be that the spectrum of force used by insurgents is a subset of that used by counter-insurgents, which exceeds it at both ends. Or something.

Nobody's addressing the point I started with, which was Curtis's weird image of the counter-insurgents being corrupted by the methods of the people they were fighting. I just don't think - and this really is my main point - that the professionals of violence have anything to learn from hopeful amateurs.

dsquared

Certainly it wasn't the case in Norn Iron.

think this depends very much on seeing NI as a separate conflict that began in 1972 rather than as the latest (and hopefully last) stage of a much longer insurgency across the whole of Ireland.

skidmarx

When they were doing their thing against druggies
When being now.

Maybe on your other point , if we replace "corrupted" with hardened", and accept that although counter-insurgents might not have any good reason to feel any moral superiority, many may have concluded from seeing the effect of enemy action (very often more visible than those of the stronger power) that war is hell and rules are for pussies, and we can all go home happy.

@CMcM - KR is one of the two examples Chomsky cites of successful humanitarian interventions, the other being India in Bangladesh, I think.

Phil

Buggeration - for some reason I thought they'd packed that in. Wonder what it would take for them to stop it?

Not sure that "hardened" is much better than "corrupted". War always already is hell; I think it would take extraordinarily perverse or insane insurgent tactics to out-violent (or out-weird) the collective memory of professional counter-insurgents. Then there's the whole question of proportionality - if you're a rebel group targeting (say) landlords, you want to terrorise landlords but get at least some of the peasants on your side; if you're the army suppressing a rebellion, you want to terrorise everyone.

Phil

rather than as the latest (and hopefully last) stage of a much longer insurgency across the whole of Ireland

This aspect becomes very, very clear if you start looking into emergency legislation and playing "Where did they get that from?" Lots of stuff now in permanent all-UK legislation originated in the temporary [sic] Emergency Powers (Northern Ireland) Act. Where were those measures before then? Ah - they were in the previous temporary Emergency Powers (Northern Ireland) Act. And before that? Before that there was the Restoration of Order in Ireland Act 1920 (note the date), and before that... If you carry on for long enough, you end up with An Act for the Suppression of the Rebellion which still unhappily exists within this Kingdom (1799). (I like that "still".)

Chris Williams

I think the trail goes cold in the 1870s, but yes, there was a definite tendency to get out the old Act and file off the serial numbers. For more on this, check out an OU PhD thesis by Michael Hassett which I supervised a few years ago.

ajay

They did shoot a severely wounded James Connolly in Kilmainham Gaol as well as more than just a handful of the ringleaders.

Trying and executing people who were actually involved is pretty much the exact opposite of massive indiscriminate violence, Igor.

Buggeration - for some reason I thought they'd packed that in. Wonder what it would take for them to stop it?

I think they'd probably have to stop making money off it, Phil.

rather than as the latest (and hopefully last) stage of a much longer insurgency across the whole of Ireland

I think you have to draw the line somewhere. I mean, no doubt hundreds of Oxford history undergraduates have written essays arguing that the war between England and France lasted from 1066 to 1815, with brief interludes of peace (or that Russia and Britain have been in a state of imperial cold war since 1802, with only brief interruptions when we were both fighting Napoleon, the Kaiser or Hitler), but it's maybe not the most useful way of looking at it. And when you have a gap of almost half a century during which troops aren't actually engaged, then I think that sets the counter back to zero.

Chris Williams

Cutting to the chase, Curtis is wrong: the British way of dealing with insurgencies wasn't the product of the 1960s, or even the 1950s, but can be traced right back, through Ireland, to India. Owing to some of the founding myths of the Republic being dependent on not looking too closely at certain events, there's still quite a bit to find out about the Irish War of Independence -> Civil War, such as "Where did that Irish Army come from?". My colleague Barry Sheehan is on the case.

Marc Mulholland

It's worth noting that the largest single category of victim in the Troubles were Catholic civilian (non-paramilitary) victims of loyalists. The relationship of HM forces to loyalists remains opaque, though darker with every revelation. At a minimum, they were never targetted as relentlessly as were the Provos, and there was clearly a good deal of collusion. The UDA, of course, remained legal until 1992.

Here's excerpts from a recently unearthed gov. document from 1972:

"If the Army did not now attack the IRA the probability was that the UDA would."

"the government's intention [is] to carry on the war with the IRA with the utmost vigour".

The document also states that "the Army should not be inhibited in its campaign by the threat of court proceedings and should therefore be suitably indemnified".

In practice, soldiers were barely ever prosecuted, still less found guilty of anything.

dsquared

The use of brutality from ethnic militias as a technique of counter-revolution, unlike the MRI scanner or jet engine, is a British invention that we did manage to bring to market and export around the world.

Igor Belanov

"Trying and executing people who were actually involved is pretty much the exact opposite of massive indiscriminate violence, Igor."

But tying a severely wounded man to a chair for him to face his firing squad seems like an act of vengeance that was deliberately intended to sow the prospect of terror amongst the population.

If we're talking 'massive indiscriminate violence' then there's no point discussing Ireland because it didn't exist on that scale even there.

Jakob

dsquared: dunno, I think that might be something that the Romans did for us...

Richard J

What I was about to say - look at where the auxiliaries to crush the Jewish Revolt came from...

Jakob

Also (getting on a professional hobby-horse) given the status of Rolls Royce, it's hard to argue that Britain did badly out of the jet engine; in fact, only the US and France are comparable in international markets (though I don't know what's in the pipeline from the BRIC indigenous industries.)

(Which isn't to suggest that UK science and technology/industrial policy in general hasn't been a mess for the past, oh, 50 years or so.)

ajay

It's worth noting that the largest single category of victim in the Troubles were Catholic civilian (non-paramilitary) victims of loyalists.

No: 780 Catholic civilians killed by loyalist militias, over 1000 security force personnel killed by republican militias.

If we're talking 'massive indiscriminate violence' then there's no point discussing Ireland because it didn't exist on that scale even there.

Which was exactly the point I was trying to make.

Marc Mulholland

I was thinking in terms of stats as broken down by perpetrator / victim, and disaggregating the security forces (Army, RUC, UDR, etc). Catholic civilians killed by loyalists come out at the top; British Army (Regular) killed by Provos comes next (438). But by the same logic, I should have disaggregated loyalists between UVF, UDA, etc, I suppose.

Does your 780 Catholic victims of loyalists come from Michael McKeown's book (he was counting all loyalist victims I think)? The more authoriative 'Lost Lives' by McKittrick et al says 1050 total victims of loyalists. Not all, though great majority, were catholic, of course.

More generally, "the largest single category of victims has been Catholic civilians (32.5 per cent), who just shade members of the security forces (31.2 per cent)" Of course, not a few Catholic civvies killed by Provos, INLA, etc (IRA killed 198 catholic civvies).

http://cain.ulst.ac.uk/issues/violence/bodbol.htm

Yep, no really mass violence in Ireland since the 1790s, unless one includes the quasi-violence of the Famine, I suppose.

Alex

Lost Lives - a candidate for the reading list, I think. An exhaustive catalogue of everyone who died in the troubles.

ajay

Does your 780 Catholic victims of loyalists come from Michael McKeown's book (he was counting all loyalist victims I think)? The more authoriative 'Lost Lives' by McKittrick et al says 1050 total victims of loyalists

No, it's from CAIN. And the discrepancy is probably because the source you link to only goes up to 1988.

Marc Mulholland

'Lost Lives' is 1999. It's very good - the most authoriative source.

Guano

"I hoped that, when he started off with Idema, Curtis was going to tell us a tale of the last ten years constructed through the careers of its varied chancers, fantasists and availability entrepreneurs. But that would be a multi-volume effort."

Indeed! Idema isn't the only self-styled "terrorism expert" that has managed to get some fantasies into the media.

Guano

Phil.

"Nobody's addressing the point I started with, which was Curtis's weird image of the counter-insurgents being corrupted by the methods of the people they were fighting. I just don't think - and this really is my main point - that the professionals of violence have anything to learn from hopeful amateurs."

Yes, I agree with you. At one stage Curtis says

"But what this also meant was that in effect the Europeans became copies of the insurgents - and that could so easily lead them to use some of the same terror tactics as their guerrilla enemy.

The paradox was that while this probably led to less deaths than pointless conventional battles -it also brought torture and murder and a copy of the terrorist mind-set into the heart of the European colonial armies."

Up to that point he has not assumed that the guerilla army was using terror tactics. The
strategy of "moving among the people like fish in water" is supposed to avoid terror. Counter-insurgeny involves bringing people with military mindsets into close contact with civilian populations, which is a recipe for disaster.


Barry Freed

"Nobody's addressing the point I started with, which was Curtis's weird image of the counter-insurgents being corrupted by the methods of the people they were fighting. I just don't think - and this really is my main point - that the professionals of violence have anything to learn from hopeful amateurs."

Reminds me of: Horror and moral terror are your friends. If they are not then they are enemies to be feared... and the little pile of arms and all the rest of Col. Kurtz's crazy monologue.

ajay

Up to that point he has not assumed that the guerilla army was using terror tactics. The
strategy of "moving among the people like fish in water" is supposed to avoid terror.

I don't see that at all. Fish-in-water guerrillas use terror tactics. They just use them against the enemy - the authorities or the sections of the population perceived as supporting them - rather than against the sections of the population they're moving among.
I mean, c'mon, we're not supposed to believe that the NLF avoided terror tactics? That quote Barry gave is taken from a real life account.

Phil

The one from Apocalypse Now?

Anyway, it all depends what you mean by 'terror' (doesn't it always). Are you trying to win converts or just to terrify into submission? Are you trying to build a new power base (which calls for selective assassination) or maintain the existing one (which doesn't)? Are you, in the case of Vietnam, planning on hanging around in the country when this thing is over?

It seems to me that one side is better equipped to use terror tactics than the other in terms of means, motive (for and against) and opportunity. All Curtis is saying (if he's saying what he seems to be saying) is that COIN people would never have had the idea of using terror tactics if they hadn't tangled with those unscrupulous insurgents, which... well, really.

Alex

If you're planning to hang around, isn't it incumbent on you to eliminate any rival power structure? The NLF/VC/Viet Minh were keen on delivering someone's corpse with a message detailing their conviction by the people's court, but the guy was still dead.

Phil

I'm not saying the NLF were Alias Smith and Jones here; it's a question of degrees of terror. See above re: selective assassination, emphasis on 'selective'. As far as I can tell Phoenix was about as selective as the round-ups that landed people in Guantanamo and Bagram, and I'm not convinced that this was a bug - POSIWID and all that.

ajay

The one from Apocalypse Now?

Yes, IIRC the screenwriter took it from an account by an actual SF officer.

The comments to this entry are closed.

friends blogs

blobs

Blog powered by Typepad

my former home