Terrorism: Genocidal or Civilicidal Terror

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Mon, Nov 3 - 9:00 am EST | 3 years ago by
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    Lines of Departure - Genocidal Terrorism

    Just before dawn, 9 April, 1948, a combined force of Israeli Irgun and Lehi troops, with a small number of Palmach, all in all about a company in strength, attacked the generally inoffensive Arab village of Deir Yassin, a couple of miles west northwest of Jerusalem. About the only uncontested matters are that there was an attack, in roughly company strength, on an Arab village that was apparently trying to keep out of the war, and had a non-aggression pact with the neighboring Jewish village. Oh, and that the village is gone now, and the site, and what buildings remain, home to a funny farm, the Kfar Shaul Mental Health Institute.

    Contested matters – and probably all of them matters completely impossible to fully credit or to fully discount – include the degree of inoffensiveness of the village, the population, the number of dead, hence the percentage of dead, the amount of looting that took place, whether or not there really were any rapes, let alone mass rapes, and whether prisoners, armed or purely civilian, were killed – murdered, in cold blood – after the event.1 There seems no doubt that women and children were a substantial proportion of the dead.

    In a real sense, though, the truth doesn’t matter in the slightest. The other Arabs believed the worst, and there was apparently at least enough truth in the worst to make it credible.

    “Arabs throughout the country, induced to believe wild tales of ‘Irgun butchery,’ were seized with limitless panic and started to flee for their lives. This mass flight soon developed into a maddened, uncontrollable stampede. The political and economic significance of this development can hardly be overestimated…”
    ~ Menahem Begin

    They weren’t just fleeing for their lives; as mentioned before, in another column, as individuals Arabs are about as brave as anyone. Instead, they also were fleeing dishonor, the dishonor of not being able to protect their women and girls from rape, to which the Arab press gave major coverage.

    *****

    On 27 May, 1942, a team from Great Britain that had parachuted into the former Czechoslovakia attacked the car of Reinhard Heydrich, the Reichsprotektor of Bohemia and Moravia. On 4 June, Heydrich died. On 10 June, an attack was launched – it might have been called a reprisal but was apparently motivated entirely by revenge – on the Czech town of Lidice. First the men were shot, all those present, though a few more who were not in the town at the time were later rounded up and executed. The women and children were rounded up and sent to concentration camps, where a small number of children were selected for adoption and the rest, to the tune of eighty-two, were gassed.2 The animals of the town were killed. It was burned and the remains blown up.

    Rather than covering it up, the Nazis crowed about it, as they did about the collateral destruction of the village of Ležáky.

    There was almost no resistance to the Nazis, in Czechoslovakia, thereafter.

    *****

    The differences between the two? One group probably couldn’t have foreseen that their action would give results – ethnic self-cleansing – so completely in accord with their desired war aims. The other absolutely intended their example to terrorize and occupied populace into quiescence, and got that, but was mostly interested in simple revenge. Of course, they got that, too.

    Note, there, that this suggests attacker’s intent is not the key aspect of effective terror. Compare that, too, with the previous column in which I noted that the Red Army Faction probably intended specific terror, and probably deluded themselves that they were achieving it, yet probably never even came close. In other words, attacker’s intent is nice and all, but the important thing is the effect on the target, which may or may not meet intent, and the most important thing is the perception of the target, or target population.

    Now note the similarities. Where one might look at smaller terrorist groups as working, or trying to work, from the bottom up, here we have two very top down approaches. We have a reasonably or very well organized group, completely ruthless, efficient, not deterable by anything its victims can call on.

    No, again it matters not a whit if Irgun and Lehi were none of those things; so long as the Arabs believed they were most or all of them.

    And the target; a largish group, a complete village, containing within it a gene pool, a meme pool, a record of history, with which history all members of the village can identify. It could be any village; it could be yours. Moreover, if you’re an Arab in 1948 and you don’t get your family, especially the women, away from the Jews, it will be yours, you think, because Arab arms have proven so incapable of stopping the Jews. And if you’re a Czech, a few years earlier, and you or anyone in your village helps the resistance, Lidice will also be your village, because the Nazis can reach anywhere, to any village, and will do what they say they will do if they reach out for yours.

    And that is how genocidal or civilicidal terror works, by going after an exemplar of everything you care about, not just family, but friends and houses and cemeteries and churches and old memories, your entire connection to the past and to the future…it threatens to erase them all.

    Of course, sometimes it’s more than just a village, sometimes it’s an entire people and civilization. Think here Carthage and Corinth, both in 146 BC.

    *****

    So civilicidal terror is always bad, right?

    Maybe not. In fact, not. Look around. Note the room you’re in. Contemplate the building the room is in, the town or city the building is in, the expansive county, state and country in which the town or city is. Note the revolving planet, a lovely blue, dotted with clouds, holding them all. Now note that said world, country, state, county, city or town, and building, are not irradiated ruins, devoid of life. Consider that your family and friends still live or, at least, if they’ve passed, have probably done so naturally, without having been murdered in a mutual nuclear orgasm cum suicide pact.

    You see, terror is at its best when it is a threat that need rarely or never be acted upon to be credible. Yes, yes, sometimes the occasional punctuation mark must be made of an abused corpse or a town of them, but, on the whole, the threat is more effective than the action.

    That was what we did to each other, us and the Soviets. We threatened each other with civilicide, the complete destruction of everything the other cared about. And, so, sufficiently deterred by that terror, neither of us did it or let anything happen that would cause us to do it.

    *****

    I’m probably going to take a little break on these terror columns, because they’re getting depressing, but I’ll likely get back to them.

    ___________

    1 If the prisoners were massacred, it was not a unique occurrence. One can argue about what happened at Rafah and Khan Yunis, in 1956, though I suspect the worst is about right. One has a harder time discounting Israeli commander Arieh Biro’s admission of tormenting then massacring some 49 Egyptian civilian detainees, in 1956. No, the Israelis were hardly unique in their guilt, they just tended to win more and so were able to perpetrate more. Where the Arabs won, they were as bad or, sometimes, worse. Biro, however, seems to have understudied the SS who guarded him in camp a little more diligently than most.

    2 You can find pictures, school portraits, typically, of many of the children on line. I do not recommend looking for the pictures. The memorial is tough enough to see.

    Don’t miss last week’s column: Specific Terror That Works.

    Tom Kratman is a retired infantry lieutenant colonel, recovering attorney, and science fiction and military fiction writer. His latest novel, The Rods and the Axe, is available from Amazon.com for $9.99 for the Kindle version, or $25 for the hardback. A political refugee and defector from the People’s Republic of Massachusetts, he makes his home in Blacksburg, Virginia. He holds the non-exclusive military and foreign affairs portfolio for EveryJoe. Tom’s books can be ordered through baen.com.

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      • clark myers

        For a digression I’d be interested to read a little more based on your previous remarks on the NTC.

        • Tom Kratman

          One of these days, maybe, Clark.

      • Steven Johnson

        Would genocidal terror work better than fitfully occupying the Middle East to prevent future 9/11s? At first glance, it seems as though it would.

        • Tom Kratman

          It might, but remember what I said: What the terrorist intends is not so important as what the target perceives. Arabs – not all, but most – seem to live in a kind of doublethink world, where they simultaneously know what’s true, believe something false, expect all the worst and all the best, all at the same time. For example, for all the propaganda about driving the Jews into the sea, they never really believed it at some level. They also believed it without reservation at another. They are so sure they would be stomped like narcs at a biker rally that they were unsurprised when it happens, and so convinced it won’t happen that they’re willing to try again. You could call it madness and you wouldn’t be entirely wrong, but it also tends to give them tremendous resilience and the ability to keep coming back for more. So a terrorizing event, Deir Yassan on steroids, might have the effect desired, but it’s equally possible for them to forget it ever happened, even while beating the war drums to avenge it.

        • https://plus.google.com/+JoelCSalomon J. C. Salomon

          Jerry Pournelle suggested something along those lines at http://www.jerrypournelle.com/war/whattodo.html#One, aiming at equivalent terror without the initial genocide:

          “For a start: we know the places where they rejoiced and danced in the streets in celebration of the falling of the towers. Those streets and all their buildings should become monuments: not one stone stands upon another. Level the rubble so that a troop of cavalry could ride across where they stood and not one horse stumble. Then sow salt on those grounds. They will be left as monuments, visible from the air, visible from space: monuments to dead Americans.”

        • Tom Kratman

          Emotionally, that’s tempting. Problems with it are, as mentioned, that they might well not have the intended effect on the target, that and that it’s rarely a good idea to do an enemy a small injury. Making a lidice of Nablus might have stopped the cheering, but probably wouldn’t have deterred anything but cheering in public.

        • https://plus.google.com/+JoelCSalomon J. C. Salomon

          Depends on what the victory conditions are, I suppose. Pournelle seems to have been assuming at, “They will no longer be willing to harbor those who have hurt us.” And the terror of having a neighborhood razed just for cheering the 9/11 attacks, would probably have been more effective than what we’ve actually done these past 13 years.

        • Tom Kratman

          If that was his assumption I’d be surprised, since it doesn’t logically flow. Might be my fault but I don’t see mass murder for cheering do much beyond deterring cheering.

        • https://plus.google.com/+JoelCSalomon J. C. Salomon

          Mass murder? Oh, I see where the misunderstanding comes from: I didn’t quote enough:

          “…monuments to dead Americans.

          “‘But we did not do it! We only—we only rejoiced that you would see what it is like.’

          “‘You chose the wrong friends. Next time make better friends. You may take what you can carry. You have five minutes, then the bulldozers will flatten this area. Get out of here. And of course if anyone is stupid enough to fire on us, the Marines are eager. Aren’t you, Sergeant?’”

          There’s more, which is why I linked rather than quoting the whole thing. But the premise was (in effect) a credible threat of Lidice, close by and visible to all who declared themselves our enemies.

        • Tom Kratman

          Oh, it’s murder. Almost all reprisals involve murder, but the murder becomes legitimate in the context of enforcing the laws of war. Cheering, however, is not against the laws of war.

          In any case, I thought for a while before using the term, even so. Why did I use it? Because _we_, at some point, will decide it’s murder in a sense that matters to us.

          Now if you want to justify obliterating, say, every man, woman, and child in Nablus, you need to go back a step or two. You don’t obliterate them for cheering, but in reprisal against the Islamic world for screwing with us and killing our citizens and legal residents. And for that, Nablus would hardly be enough. Identify, instead, towns, cities, and villages to the tune of 3 million, 1000 for 1, and exterminate those. However, see above. Moreover, aerial bombing will hardly do for that, we’d need to empty the prisons to create Einsatzgruppen. At least, I don’t think you will find any substantial numbers of American soldiers or marines willing to pull a Lidice x 5000.

          And then we will decide it’s illegitimate murder quickly enough, and will take that kind of reprisal off the table perhaps forever, so it probably won’t do a lot of good, if any.

        • https://plus.google.com/+JoelCSalomon J. C. Salomon

          I guess I’m assuming people will actually evacuate the area chosen for the monument, and that you disagree.

        • Tom Kratman

          Letting them evacuate falls into the category of inflicting a small injury.

        • Tom Kratman

          Evacuate or not, if we’re going to terrorize then step one should be to surround the place so they _can’t_ evacuate. If you’re going to terrorize, then _terrorize_, don’t just give their recruiting operation a shot in the arm.

      • Jack Withrow

        Sir, I doubt a Lidice or anything similar would have much effect on Islamic culture now. I seriously doubt even Nuking a major Arab city would have much effect. I believe at this point only wiping a major Arab country off the map would have any lasting effect in the ME. We have tolerated Islamic Terrorism so long now, that the fanatics believe it will always work. And because we have tolerated it, the death toll to stop Islamic Terrorism I believe will be larger than the Holocaust and quite possibly larger than the total death toll in both WW I and II. I wish it were not so, but in a lot of ways we only have ourselves to blame. We did not stop it in an harsh enough manner when we had the chance.

        • Tom Kratman

          If they tried bio or nukes on us it would be bloodier; yes, I agree.

      • landsmand

        Of course, since the start of the current jihadi activity, more Muslims – by at least two orders of magnitude – have died as a direct result of that activity than American or British citizens. Doesn’t sound like a particularly effective use of terrorism as a technique to me.

        • Tom Kratman

          Tends to be random, though, no? And it’s not entirely clear that it doesn’t have the desired effect on the target population.

        • landsmand

          Well…. it does seem to me that the target population for the jihadis is the umma and that we in the West are most definitely second-order opponents. Not to say that we’re not on the list, of course, more that we’re not *that* high on the list – far more relevant to the jihadis of various flavours is the status the Two Holy Mosques and the alarming number of their co-religionists who appear, by their lights, to have fallen into heresy.

        • Tom Kratman

          Not just that; by their lights their religion, culture, and way of life have been under continuous virulent attack by us for over a hundred years.

        • landsmand

          There’s a lot in that. Without even trying, Western culture and technology present a hugely attractive state for the upwards of 50% of the umma who are under 21, worldwide. That does complicate the overall picture, which, if you dig down, is about a huge emergent schism (to add to existing ones) in Islam.

        • Tom Kratman

          There’s an emerging schism, but I’m not sure it isn’t self healing. They want the material aspects, the freedom (for men), the prestige (for men), the power (for men), but if it involves the same things for women they tend to get rather less enthused almost across the board. Women they would prefer to see on their knees or on all fours.

        • landsmand

          And *there’s* the elephant in the room, of course. Half of the human race just neatly subtracted from calculation and, even in liberal Islamic countries, I very much prefer to be male.
          On a point Cincinnatus makes upthread, I’m not sure I’d agree that the ongoing convulsions in the dar-al-Islam present us with an existential threat at this time.

        • Tom Kratman

          I’d suggest that if something is existential in 75 years, it is already existential.

      • http://www.simplesurvival.us/ Cincinnatus

        For genocidal terror to work with Muslims we would have to do something so horrific the West could not countenance it. I can do a lot of things but am not sure if I could stomach picking a Muslim country and scouring it clean (ala Carthage) with the threat of a repeat if terror continues. I suppose I could get to that point but it would take more provocation than the attacks of 9/11 to get me to there.

        The again, therein lies the problem, Muslim terrorists are generally so ineffectual that there outrages are nickel and diming us and never really get to the point where we think they pose an existential threat and they actually do if you think about it. They breed like rabbits and make deserts everywhere they go. I get the distinct impression that Muslims like living in squalor. Ten years later I still cannot get over the conversation I had with an Iraqi who claimed in all sincerity that Americans did not really live in neighborhoods like you see on TV because that was all a Western hoax to make Iraqis and other people fel bad.

        • Tom Kratman

          Sure, we still beat ourselves up regularly for killing about 150k Japanese in lieu of having to kill 10 million or more of them.

        • http://www.simplesurvival.us/ Cincinnatus

          I wouldn’t say we. It is more of a leftist/tranzi thing.

        • Tom Kratman

          They vote, too, and tend to have much control of the meme generators.

        • http://www.simplesurvival.us/ Cincinnatus

          I would argue that their control of meme generation is related to the general control of academia and media by the left. That control is not absolute, nor is it always consistent either. Actually of the two, left control of education is the more dangerous because their they get young minds before they have learned to think and indoctrinate them to stop thinking before they even start. That goes far in explaining the multitude of videos of young people spouting blatant idiocy with complete sincerity. They are parrots and not thinking beings anymore.

        • Tom Kratman

          Not absolute, no. Thank God. But strong, even so.

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