Mencius Moldbug Channeling Elihu Root

Monday, April 26th, 2010

The Center for a New American Security describes itself as developing strong, pragmatic and principled national security and defense policies.

Mencius Moldbug finds that such “principled” policies work against their own principles:

Yet somehow, we have the strictest ROE since Gandhi invaded Heaven, and civilians keep getting their guts all over the road. Accidentally, of course. But have you ever heard of risk homeostasis? The more American troops behave like Gandhi invading Heaven, the less worried your average Pashtoon is about being mistaken for a Taliban. You’ll note that they drive pretty recklessly, too.

What’s needed is not to incinerate the civilians, but to conquer them. The art of conquering Pashtoons, or other warlike tribes, is no big secret. Make every Pashtoon responsible to a sheik, who is responsible to the Viceroy. If the Pashtoon causes trouble, his sheik hangs him. If his sheik doesn’t hang him, the Viceroy hangs both Pashtoon and sheik. Or at least, fires the sheik and replaces him with his cousin.

Can General McChrystal fire his traditional leaders? Or his non-traditional leaders? Or, God forbid, hang them? See, that’s your first problem. Fix that problem, then get back to me. Or tell me, with a straight face, there’s no one in Kabul who needs hanging.

A little suspension will not put any great strain on your execution machinery, either. Eldon Gorst in Egypt used to muse that if he could hang one Egyptian a year, chosen at his sole personal discretion, all disturbances would end for all time forever. Alas, the mysterious art of colonial government was moving in the exact opposite direction. With what result, we now see!

Bet you don’t even know who Eldon Gorst was. See, there’s your problem. Arrogant ignorance, plain and simple. Americans are dying because of it. They will continue to die.

Our troops have all the technical devices anyone could ever need to conquer a country. At their feet lies the most pissant country ever conquered, inhabited by the most backward peasants in the known universe. But we can’t do it. We are institutionally incapable of knowing how to do it. Google Books has scanned the entire Second British Empire, all written in English and accessible at a click. No one goes near it.

Today, in 2010, it would be far easier for USG to put a man on the moon, than nail up a gallows in Kabul. And we couldn’t put a man on the moon, either! Alas, it will be a long time before civilization returns to the Korengal. All I can say is one thing: when it comes back, it will come back with a rope and something tall.

There’s much more.


  1. Mala Lex says:

    MM’s a smart cookie. I like his formulation of DOD vs State as worldwide proxy war.

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