Uncle Screwtape explains how to build support for the Af-Pak War

Summary:  This is a follow-up to yesterday’s post by Professor Finel about two new reports questioning the purposes and conduct of the Af-Pak War.  Here we consider a shorter explanation:  Uncle Screwtape has given them sound advice, which they’ve taken to heart.

“You don’t know the horrible aspects of war. I’ve been through two wars and I know. I’ve seen cities and homes in ashes. I’ve seen thousands of men lying on the ground, their dead faces looking up at the skies. I tell you, war is Hell!”
— William Tecumseh Sherman (General, US Army), speech to the graduating class of the Michigan Military Academy on 19 June 1879

The war’s advocates have for several years given us little more than parodies of serious geopolitical reasoning (at the end are links to articles discussing these in detail):

  • Following a Taliban victory, the few hundred al Qaeda “members” in the region might again plan to attack us from Hamburg (training in Miami).
  • They might defeat Pakistan’s large army (a respectable 2nd world force), taking control of its nukes.
  • We must save the women of the Middle East, starting with Afghanistan (making up for what we did to Iraq’s women).
  • We’ll win soon (although foreign forces almost never have defeated local insurgents since WWII).

Those who followed the internet debate last summer about the war (centered on Exum’s blog at CNAS) already knew these things.  More importantly, the debate’s result — a total rout of the war’s advocates — had no visible impact.  Subsequently they repeated the same demolished arguments as if they were shiny new.

What can explain this strange behavior by the war’s advocates, most of whom are experts in every sense of the term?  C. S. Lewis provides us with secret correspondence that gives a possible answer:  Uncle Screwtape has given them sound advice, which they’ve taken to heart.

My dear Wormwood {a junior fellow at the Center for American Something or Other},

It sounds as if you supposed that argument was the way to keep him out of the Enemy’s clutches. That might have been so if he had lived a few centuries earlier.  At that time the humans still knew pretty well when a thing was proved and when it was not; and if it was proved they really believed it.  They still connected thinking with doing and were prepared to alter their way of life as the result of a chair of reasoning.

But what with the weekly press and other such weapons, we have largely altered that.  Your man has been accustomed, ever since he was a boy, to having a dozen incompatible philosophies dancing about together inside his head.  He doesn’t think of doctrines as primarily “true” or “false”, but as “academic” or “practical”, “outworn” or “contemporary,” “conventional” or “ruthless.”  Jargon, not argument is your best ally in keeping him from truth.

The trouble about argument is that it moves the whole struggle onto the Enemy’s own ground.  He can argue too; whereas in really practical propaganda of the kind I am suggesting he has been shown for centuries to be greatly the inferior of Our Father Below.  By the very act of arguing, you awake the patient’s reason; and once it is awake, who can foresee the result.

Do remember you are there to fuddle him.  From the way some of you young fiends talk, anyone would suppose it was our job to teach!

Your affectionate uncle,

For more information

About the track record of foreign armies over insurgents:

About the proposed crusade to help women:

Myths about why we’re fighting in Af-Pak:

About the Af-Pak War:

  1. Why are we are fighting in Afghanistan?, 9 April 2008 — A debate with Joshua Foust
  2. Quote of the day: Our Afghanistan War explained in 22 words, 26 August 2009
  3. Update about the state of the Af-Pak war; my forecast was wrong, 1 March 2010
  4. France gives us tips for the Afghanistan War, from their successful role in the American Revolution, 11 March 2010
  5. A clear view of our Afghanistan War strategy (unfortunately, it’s mad), 16 April 2010
  6. A powerful story from Afghanistan, an illustration of our un-strategy at work, 18 April 2010
  7. Excerpts from the April 2010 DoD report on the Afghanistan War, 3 May 2010
  8. Exum looks at Af-Pak campaign of the Long War, revealing more about ourselves than the foe, 7 June 2010
  9. Today’s news about the Ak-Pak War, about al Qaeda’s strength, 1 July 2010

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