Monday, April 12, 2004

Reading List

On the nightstand this week is Washington's Crossing by David Hackett Fischer. It seems I'm on a military history kick right now; two of the last three books on the nightstand have been military history. I'm enjoying it immensely. I think anyone with an interest in the war in Iraq (pro or con) should read more military history.

This particular book documents the Revolutionary War. It's interesting how you can see the evolution of the American fighting spirit and the ethnic and cultural traditions that fed (and still feed) it.

One thing that strikes me as different between the Revolutionary War and the war on terror is that in the Revolutionary War we were up against an enemy that was largely humane. They had a standard for fighting, parts of which would later be incorporated into the Geneva Convention, which informed their actions. Although there were instances of torture and other "misbehaviors", the British actively tried not to harm civilians and non-combatants. In the war on terror, however, our enemies have no such scruples. And I think this is a key point that many of the anti-war-on-terror appeaser-people ignore. The British could be negotiated with because they had secondary objectives (not harming innocents) that could be common ground for negotiations. The terrorists, on the other hand, do not have any objectives, primary or secondary, that we would accept. The British were bound by their culture to keep their word once given. The terrorists are not; in fact, they are bound by their culture to break their word, since they are not obligated to keep promises made to infidels. The terrorists are not like other enemies that we've fought in the past, so the techniques of negotiation that worked in the past will not work against this enemy.