Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
September 20, 2013

They Only Understand Force

In the early days of the insurgency, some U.S. commanders appeared oblivious to the possibility that excessive force might produce a backlash. They counted on the iron fist to create an atmosphere conducive to good behavior. The idea was not to distinguish between "good" and "bad" Iraqis, but to induce compliance through intimidation.

"You have to understand the Arab mind," one company commander told the New York Times, displaying all the self-assurance of Douglas MacArthur discoursing on Orientals in 1945. "The only thing they understand is force -- force, pride and saving face." Far from representing the views of a few underlings, such notions penetrated into the upper echelons of the American command. In their book "Cobra II," Michael R. Gordon and Gen. Bernard E. Trainor offer this ugly comment from a senior officer: "The only thing these sand niggers understand is force and I'm about to introduce them to it."

Such crass language, redolent with racist, ethnocentric connotations, speaks volumes. These characterizations, like the use of "gooks" during the Vietnam War, dehumanize the Iraqis and in doing so tacitly permit the otherwise impermissible. Thus, Abu Ghraib and Haditha -- and too many regretted deaths, ...

One would have thought that such language, which Bacevich rightly characterizes as racist and ethnocentric, would not be used in a White House under a black president.

But alas, it is:

But, the officials say, these are the long-delayed fruits of the administration’s selective use of coercion in a part of the world where that is understood.

“The common thread is that you don’t achieve diplomatic progress in the Middle East without significant pressure,” Benjamin J. Rhodes, a deputy national security adviser, said Thursday. “In Syria, it was the serious threat of a military strike; in Iran it was a sanctions regime built up over five years.”

The result of such thought will of course be similar to the result in the War on Iraq where the United States lost and had to leave with its tail between its legs.

Posted by b on September 20, 2013 at 12:11 UTC | Permalink

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The old books that call Muslims Mahamooodians, Soonies, and Sheeahs had much more nuanced view than our enlightened leaders of the early 2000s

Posted by: Crest | Sep 21 2013 15:56 utc | 101

"@93 - it's out there for all to see; 'somebody' interpreted some Air Force commander's comment regarding the "unpreparedness" of the AF for military action against Syria as dissent over the prospect, whereas b interpreted it as a normal lobbying action against financial cuts;"

now see, that's what I mean about you suffering from a severe bout of memory loss (or trollin) - go back and look at the context of the comment and any honest appraisal of the context will show that that is not what he was doing at all. His point was that the existence of such a report in the Israeli press was a sure sign that Israeli had no desire to see syria get attacked by the US Military, and had absolutely nothing to do with demonstrating dissent within the US Military against such an attack.

you can pretend that is what he was doing, if you want to, I cannot stop you deliberately misrepresenting it that way, and it obviously suits the paper-thin point you are trying to make, but it is not at all an honest appraisal of the context in which he posted it,and tbh I'm a little surprised that you are deliberately choosing to blatantly misrepresent the context, but clearly you are determined to carry on with this such ridiculous misrepresentation

Posted by: hmm | Sep 21 2013 16:07 utc | 102


You ain't too bad at the ol' monkey behaviour your self, so a lecture from you on the subject just comes off sounding quite hypocritical, tbh.

You have nothing in the way of a moral high ground to set yourself upon. I'm quite willing to converse with you on any subject you care to, but not when you are setting yourself up as some paragon of virtue, ta very much, like

Posted by: hmm | Sep 21 2013 16:11 utc | 103

32% of the posts in this thread are made by you you defensive little worm.

Far from trying to masturbate a shattered ego like yourself, I'm really mostly just hoping you'll eventually quit being such an asshole so that we can get back to talking about Syria instead of having to discuss your bad behavior of berating people who have been here forever with your little pricks (pun intended).

Really, this is a outlet meant for discussion, to blow off some steam, and talk with people who - for whatever disagreements - see each other as compatriots in some way, if only for sharing the same intererst in politics. So for you to come in since the first moment attacking people and then get all misty when others start attacking you is a fucking joke.

A response to this and two more to correct your misspellings and you'll be at 35 posts in one small thread. You really should be embarrassed.

Posted by: guest77 | Sep 21 2013 16:53 utc | 104

you're just proving my point. thanks

Posted by: hmm | Sep 21 2013 17:14 utc | 105

Guys, please stop the kids fight. It's boring for lurkers like me. ;)

Posted by: Gregg | Sep 21 2013 17:18 utc | 106

@100 - you're right, I didn't remember the context, which was Israel's propensity, not of the Us armed forces, for military action against Syria; so I'll retract my post #88 (concerning the point 'somebody' made)

"deliberately misrepresenting": obviously not, but this admission won't be enough to cure your paranoia

"the paper-thin point you are trying to make": that's basically stated in #30 and restated in post #92; you carefully evaded addressing it up to now

Posted by: claudio | Sep 21 2013 17:27 utc | 107

Ok, claudio, i can accept that this totally-wrong-context quoting is not deliberate, since it does seem out of character for you to do so, and that you merely "mis-remembered" the context.

There's no paranoia here at all, claudio. Twice now you have either mis-attributed a statement to "zomebody", or else got the context wrong. Once can be a very understandable error, but 2 such events in fairly quick succession, seemed to me to be somewhat suspicious, especially since such accidental sloppiness is not usually a characteristic you regularly display.

the paper-thin point you are trying to make": that's basically stated in #30 and restated in post #92; you carefully evaded addressing it up to now"

There you go getting it all wrong again, claudio, since I already said, in the original thread @ #122 that the lobby was not monolithic. And indeed I restated that quite clearly in comment #43 of THIS thread, so I am quite surprised that you are now making such a patently false claim so late into the discussion. It almost looks like you're not really interested in any discussion at all, and are merely throwing in anything you can think of, relevant or not, just to kill some time.

(That is 3 times now you have got it wrong)

So I have evaded nothing,

So far in this thread the majority of the points you claim to want to discuss seem to be a collection of mis(-remembered/-attributed/-stated) or out-context issues that have little to do with anything I have said.

Kind of hard to have a rational discussion with anyone, under those conditions, imho, since most of the time spent attempting to do so seems to be taken up with correcting your mistaken or misattributed or out-of-context quotes, which you keep demanding
I address.

Posted by: hmm | Sep 21 2013 19:34 utc | 108

Actually, Obama has filled his administration with hard-line Zionists whose bread and butter is this kind of thinking.

Posted by: Edward | Sep 21 2013 22:22 utc | 109

"No, claudio, pompous means that you, like your friend bevin, simply sound ridiculously pompous"

HA!!! (Again.)

Actually, hmmm, the term "pompous" is particularly appropriate when used to describe YOUR attitude on this blogsite.

Posted by: PissedOffAmerican | Sep 22 2013 1:01 utc | 110


A donkey need not bray for an hour just to prove its a jackass.

Your usual brief "hee-haw" is more than sufficient.

Posted by: PissedOffAmerican | Sep 22 2013 1:06 utc | 111

#108 sorry hmm, only once; in #37 I explained to JS that I hadn't misquoted; and as far as distinctions go, see again #45; I too am not interested in fathoming further these points; it could be interesting if you had a constructive, rather than polemic approach; but your ego gets in the way; check all your responses to my posts since the thread I cited in #45, if you have doubts about this - and if that's not enough, check your responses to anyone else you dissent with ...

Posted by: claudio | Sep 22 2013 1:27 utc | 112

Yep, back to pompous again. Figured that would be how it would go, with you c.


Posted by: hmm | Sep 22 2013 2:02 utc | 113

5 comments / 13 comments = 38.46%.
All off topic.

Posted by: Hoarsewhisperer | Sep 22 2013 5:21 utc | 114

hmm, it's your "I'm never wrong" attitude that prevents fruitful debate; most of all, your personal crusade against 'somebody' has the effect of wearing blinkers;

after all, even if for different reasons, 'somebody' and you were the two main skeptics of the Us strike against Syria (he explicitely said they where all playing a game of chicken, you said it all amounted to gaining info on Syria's CW, so maybe he was closer to the truth than you were, on this point); I think that after all the smears, he should be credited

and the point of the discussion when we talk of "distinctions" is whether Us foreign policy is heterodirected (substantially dictated by AIPAC) or by domestic lobbies (since you don't like the word "establishment"); the matter is obviously confused by the fact that there is a large overlap of interests and subjects, plus a dominating ideology, propaganda and rhetoric; the post you cite is a confused blurb that concludes nothing, except that "probably" the Lobby is way more powerful than the "establishment"; so would you conclude, as events played out, that you were wrong on this assessment, or that the Us played by Israel script and backed out when Israel obtained from Putin what he wanted?

see, there would be ample space for debate if your were interested; but the overriding aim to chase 'somebody' out of this blog, and your overgrown ego, prevent this

Posted by: claudio | Sep 22 2013 8:54 utc | 115

another factor that complicates the analysis is the fact that the lobbies and politicians are often themselves taking wrong decisions (from the point of view of their interests), blinded by ideology or hubris, or prisoners of their own rhetorics; so often, attempts to interpret or anticipate their actions using rational criteria fail even though the analysis was right (or the other way round!)

Posted by: claudio | Sep 22 2013 9:01 utc | 116

Don't try to discuss with bipolars. It's a loss of time.
Once the attention is focused on them they feel a bit better, but they still need to attack a bunch of windmills to let out the extra energy they got from this.

Posted by: Mina | Sep 22 2013 9:13 utc | 117

Re #116: to say that the human actors under examination cannot be assumed to be rational in the first place, is a cop-out. If that's all you can come up with, you should just keep quiet and let those who have rational hypotheses, even ones you don't like, advance them. Seriously.

Posted by: Rowan Berkeley | Sep 22 2013 9:47 utc | 118

cannot be assumed to be completely rational

seems obvious; we'll just have to agree to disagree :-)
inviting me to keep quiet, and doing so on this basis, is almost a provocation ...

Posted by: claudio | Sep 22 2013 9:51 utc | 119

@RB - you too of the group that wants to decide who can stay and who can't?

Posted by: claudio | Sep 22 2013 9:57 utc | 120

Claudio, Hmm frequently makes perfectly intelligible and useful comments. I also have a dog in this race, if you forget: I advanced a detailed explanatory hypothesis earlier in this thread, and in the previous thread that discussed this. It seems to me that by your constant nagging and goading you are simply provoking Hmm, who would be well advised not to respond to you, and clogging up the process of discussion.

Posted by: Rowan Berkeley | Sep 22 2013 10:03 utc | 121

Ladies & gents

hmmm indeed is irritating by often "firing off short salvos" of posts.
And I myself consider zomebody an #%&@ and simply not worthy to discuss with; usually I just skip his posts (same with anonymouz).

Now, hmmm, from what I read here, sees that differently and often even sides with zomebody. Well, why not? If that is his view, he's free to have and speak it (albeit please not in short salvos). I will not condemn him for sometimes agreeing with zomebody.

I remember having read intelligent posts and interesting views from hmmm and I respect him as a (somewhat a little uncomfortable) member here at MoA.

Let me make a suggestion for peace. I'll draw a line here below and I suggest that we all see this line as a symbolic border - beyond which we all will focus on the matter rather than on certain persons.

------------------------------------------- (sorry, no flowers in ASCII symbol set *g) -----------

Have a nice weekend everyone ;)

Posted by: Mr. Pragma | Sep 22 2013 12:17 utc | 122

you said it all amounted to gaining info on Syria's CW"

Wrong again, claudio. I distinctly remember quite explictly stating that their aim was to create a legal entanglement with which to later create mischief for the Syrians. Which is a very different statement, than the one  you are attempting to attribute to me.

You seem unwlling to even take the time ensure that the major points you seem to want to make are even correctly stated. Until you can learn to quote (or paraphrase) both correctly, and in context, there really is no common ground on which to base any attempt at debate.

It has nothing to do with ego as you petulently claim. Indeed your attempts to claim such, are little more than childishly transparent trolling.

That is the 4th time, in this so-called "debate" , which you claim to be so passionately interested in having, that i have had to correct your mistaken or misattributed or out-of-context quotes or paraphrasals. Your contined refusal to even attempt to ensure that quotes or paraphrasals are correct and in context simply confirm that this is nothing more than trolling.

There really is little point in addressing any of these points upon which you seem to be basing you argument, until are willing to correct those errors.

Posted by: hmm | Sep 22 2013 13:07 utc | 123

It has nothing to do with ego as you petulently claim. Indeed your attempts to claim such, are little more than childishly transparent trolling. Posted by: hmm | Sep 22, 2013 9:07:01 AM | 123
It seems that Mr P's invitation to adulthood has failed to register.

Posted by: Rowan Berkeley | Sep 22 2013 13:16 utc | 124

Re #116: to say that the human actors under examination cannot be assumed to be rational in the first place, is a cop-out

It a useful copout though. It is an attempt to disguise the fact that the person making the claim obviously considers themself to be more rational, and by implication more intelligent, than the target of their accusations of irrationality (or stupidity)

It also helps disguise the fact that they themselves are simply unable to identify rhyme or reason in the actions of our rulers, and therefore, unwilling to publicly admit to their own lack of ability to discern any rationality in our rulers actions. So they just claim "these guys are stupid" because it helps them hide their own lack of perception

People that make these claims of "stupidity" regarding the apparently incomprehensible actions of our rulers are forced to do so by their own unwillingness to simply accept that the words and actions of our rulers are never really intended to be gel together.

They pay far too much attention to mere words, and are then constantly flummoxed when subsequent actions do not line up with stated intentions.

Rather than simply fessup and admit that they got conned again, for the thousandth time, by Ye Olde "Pea-under-shell" word-games played by our rulers, designed specifically to gull people such as them, they simply, and very irrationally, retreat to boilerplate claims of stupidity in our rulers

Posted by: hmm | Sep 22 2013 13:29 utc | 125

No, hmmm

to me it looks like claudio simply summarized the *tangible* part of what you said. The difference you elaborate (and accuse on) is an assumption of intention - which is a dangerous thing unless one one has good and strong indications or, ever better, proof (which naturally is hard to come by often).

I see and understand your feeling misrepresented. I do not see, however, that to be a valid reason to attack someone (and/or to imply evil intentions - there they are again, intentions).

It might have been more fertile to elaborate the intentions and indications therefore rather than to make this a personal thing.

Btw, what's your intention? To tell us about your very negative impression of claudio - or - hopefully - to tell us about your view on Syria and related issues? The latter? Thought so. Stick to that then ;)

Posted by: Mr. Pragma | Sep 22 2013 13:36 utc | 126

He may be "attempting" to do so, but he repeatedly fails to do so correctly. At the very minimum it's sloppy.

Posted by: hmm | Sep 22 2013 13:44 utc | 127

Mr P, i have already been told that inserting "imho'" is unessecary. I simply followed that advice

Posted by: hmm | Sep 22 2013 13:47 utc | 128

@RB #121 - on one hand I would like to fully accept Mr. Pragma's wise invitation, on the other hand your post is worth answering, so I'll come to a compromise simply referring who is interested (probably nobody, by this time) to my post #92, where I recognized some merits of you and hmm, but also restated my purpose

last post from me on this thread, and no desire to have the last word, only a problem of living - and writing - in different time zones (and having a busy Sunday)

Posted by: claudio | Sep 23 2013 0:13 utc | 129

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