May 21, 2004

The Veneer of Civilization

Dale Franks at QandO posted a difficult lesson for Americans and people of Western civilization, one that we have forgotten but that history proves time and again:

Scott Higham and Joe Stephens of the Washington Post continue the rollout of allegations from Abu Ghraib. And it just keeps getting worse and worse. The Post has also obtained more pictures from Abu Ghraib, which they present along with the article. Seeing, the pictures, they remind me of nothing so much as something you'd hear about going on in the gulag or the konzentrationslager.

We like to think that, because we are Americans, we don't do stuff like this. That we are better than that. That's something the Nazis or the commies would do, probably because they are, in some way, morally deficient in a way that Americans are not.

That is a bright and shining lie.

The awful truth is that, when people are left to their own devices, and have the power of life and death over others, they will become as cruel as they are allowed to be.

Dale writes brilliantly on the need for military discipline in order to prevent such barbarity from arising during wartime, and why the failure to maintain discipline is the most likely explanation for the sadistic abuses at Abu Ghraib. Be sure to read all of Dale's thoughtful post, and remember this when people talk about the mindless drilling and anal-retentive commanders in the military. Discipline exists for a reason, and it's not just because practice makes perfect.


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