HUMINT: War’s Objects
HUMINT: When at war, it’s best to objectify your enemy. A few wars ago, an American might’ve expected their government to dehumanize their enemies for them. Not anymore America. Your government isn’t willing to objectify your enemies any longer. The reasons for the shift are many, but that’s not the point of this piece. The point of this piece is to acknowledge the shift and introduce a, “do it yourself” attitude to objectifying your nation’s enemies during war. But be careful, if you screw up the objectification process, you’ll probably end up making a symbol out of your enemy and if that happens, the symbol will undoubtedly be used against you.
HISTORICAL ANALOGY: Let’s get started. The easiest way to objectify your enemy is to grab a dusty American history book. Flip its pages back to a few wars ago when American leadership identified their enemies by name and had no qualms about defeating them. After reading a paragraph or two, the similarities between your enemies, your parent’s enemies and grand parent’s enemies will surface almost immediately. If that sounds too easy, it really isn’t. Don’t be surprised. You’ve inherited more from your family than you think. It’s no coincidence the kinds of people who would’ve killed your ancestors are similar to the people who would like to kill you. Rhetorical excuses to commit acts of violence against a free people are remarkably similar. But be careful, no historical analogy is precise. Flaw mongers may find a difference or two and use those differences to exalt your enemy to hero status. It’s common sense [to people that hate you] that if you’re not 100% correct, the opposite of what you believe must be true.
TRANSFER DISGUST: A harder method to objectify your enemy is one that requires creativity. Ask yourself “what filthy animal does your war time foe most closely resemble?” The idea here is to transfer the disgust of one animalistic object to create an enemy object. This is much harder than it sounds. America has a vocal contingent of animal lovers who strive to liberate all species of life through domestic bliss. Most animal lovers are going to fight you on this project. Be prepared. Adding bad behavior to the scenario might give you a pass. For example, an oversized hairless monkey that stinks might be gross enough to do the trick. If you’re a cartoonist, add some fangs, demon horns, blood shot eyes and greenish skin. But be careful, if your final sketch looks like Shrek, your kids will fall in love with your enemy.
EXPOSE LIES: An even harder method to objectify your enemy is one that requires analysis. Ask yourself “where does my enemy get their confidence to attack my country and countrymen?” If you’re willing to try this technique, prepare to get dirty. Your enemy’s thought process is a swampy mess to wade through. Most of the reasons why your enemy is your enemy in the first place developed through mental gymnastics alien to you. The idea here is to exploit every difference. When your enemy angrily exclaims something’s black, it’s probably white, or at least gray. Realize that they’re looking at America and hating it from the outside. They probably don’t even know the first thing about you. They live where they can lie about you without evidence or consequence. But be careful; don’t feed into your enemy’s hateful rhetoric. No one is more aware than your enemy that free people have a healthy skepticism of their own elected leadership.
SYMBOL DESTRUCTION: And lastly, you can help your enemy objectify themselves by destroying their symbols of hate. This is the hardest technique of all to sustain. By contrast; historical analogy, transferring disgust, exposing lies and symbol destruction, the latter is the most dangerous and most expensive. In every situation where your enemy makes a move, consider reacting opposite to what they expect. Depending on how distorted a view of you your enemy maintains – you may react opposite to what they expect naturally. But be careful; don’t become predictable.
CONCLUSION: If true justice is to be found through war, it will only reveal itself after victory. America, you’re at war.
HUMINT: In terms of economics, a dollar is a unitized reference for value. Think about it; we trade value everyday in the marketplace; not widgets, services or currency but value. If you’re like me however, you seldom stop to think about the fact that a product’s price is just a reference of its actual value. In a truly free market, Adam Smith philosophically asserts “price is set by what consumers are willing to pay”. Beyond supply and demand, we can see value being traded in the market place when, for example, a customer chooses one tomato over a less appealing tomato. In a typical grocery, the price of a bad tomato is the same as a good tomato – but conscious consumers know the inherent value of each.
If you’ve experienced a value revelation like, for example, Milton Friedman or Thomas Freidman, you’re probably very excited about value. It’s actually a very simple observation to make. If you’re willing to peel the thin veneer off of any free market – you’ll bear witness to value (contained in products and services) flowing into and out of any market place. The net result is usually more value, not less. The more constraints on a market, the more likely value will diminish. Inversely, the fewer constraints on a market, the more likely value will increase.
FLUX: The time rate of flow. For example, volume per hour is the flux of a fluid
If that’s too vague an explanation to formulate good policy, consider the following model. The independent efforts of craftsmen from every corner of the world, if allowed to operate freely, behave harmoniously to create value. Feedback from the marketplace dictates what they produce and how much to produce. The value they create locally migrates internationally to the people who recognize it. A market place is just a vehicle through which value flows. It’s the symphony of free markets that is responsible for improvements in quality of life around the world. Individuals can’t take direct credit for the success of markets but they can take credit for allowing them to operate freely, and protecting their freedom.
Adam Smith’s recognition that value is constantly created by individuals in society and subsequently flows through free markets was a philosophical leap in mankind’s understanding of itself. Thomas Friedman does an outstanding job of organizing and articulating his observations on the subject. He even delves into the implications of technological value flowing into communities who will undoubtedly use it nefariously and profess their will to do so. But why would they use it nefariously? Are they operating under a different set of rules, than you are I? Yes, their rules are very different than our own. One answer; human nature occasionally contradicts Adam Smith theories.
What if Adam Smith’s theories were entirely accurate about the flow of value? But there’s more to life than value. What if there are other social flows transiting between the peoples of the world besides value? I believe there are more flows but are significantly less understood than value. We know mankind acknowledges what it has named. In other words, what mankind hasn’t named does not exist, perceptually at least. Value exists and is easily traded between society’s members only because we’ve agreed to name it and quantify it with currency.
For the sake of argument, let’s assert the evil twin of value is grievance. Like value, grievance similarly stumbles its way around from group to group. Like value, grievance has markets, producers and consumers. Unlike value, it’s never been independently unitized and referenced – at least the way value has been. By observation, value and grievance are related but not substitutive. For example, financial reparations for slavery in the United States could never erase the legitimate grievances created by one race of mankind enslaving another.
Like value, the legitimacy of any grievance is perceived differently by its owners, producers and consumers. International discrepancies of grievance perception are almost always the result of divergent cultural experience. Producers of grievance may not even be aware of the grievance they’re creating. Consumers may not even be aware of the grievances they are consuming. The similarities to value are stark. In the same way, a craftsman may not realize the full market value of their product. So who does? A salesman certainly knows the value of his products. Like value, marketing can either increase or decrease perceptions of grievance. Assuming, however, a legitimate grievance exists, it cannot be erased by marketing or attempts to substitute it with unitized value.
If there is a market flow of grievance, and I believe there is, who are its salesmen? Politicians and statesmen of course! To a lesser extent: dissidents, rebels and terrorists. Each franchise participates in the grievance market. Democracy allows for a less hindered flow of grievance whereas dictatorships, fascists, theocrats all impede the flow of grievance. Recall the concept of market flux introduced earlier. Every form of government participates in the grievance trade just as every form of government participates in the value trade.
And hence society often does create unofficial unitized quantities of grievance… Grievance adorns our self expressions. It can be unitized but is far from uniformly expressed. The currencies of peacefully expressed grievance are: art, ballots, opeds, [now] blogs, to name a few. The currencies of violently expressed grievance are: guns, bullets, bombs, tanks, to name a few. In the transition between the two, society may not be able to distinguish between the unique purposes of each. In other words, the habit of violent expressions will initially find all manner of self expression complimentary to violence.
Without a doubt – democracy more closely resembles a free market for grievance trade than any other form of government. To my mind, that’s why so many citizens believe a linkage exists between peaceful coexistence and democracy. The legitimacy of that belief has yet to be demonstrated but endures for a reason. This is not to say grievances could be eliminated from society through democratic institutions. There is nothing utopian about the grievance trade. Indeed the opposite is true. Rather, remaining grievances are all the more obvious and painful when expressed peacefully by responsible citizens. Should it surprise anyone that the most ardent advocates of free market trade in value are also elected members of successful democracies?
If there is a market in grievance maybe the study of it could reveal some percentage of what we now know about the economics of value, and that would be valuable.
REPORTERS PRODUCE STORIES: The international press is a permanent force in modern warfare. Journalists and their crews crawl over the battle space looking for the latest “story”. Lest we forget, stories are a commodity. Each story’s singular purpose is to attract and keep the attention of an audience sufficiently long enough for the audience to watch commercial content. Never forget, advertisements are priority one. No citizen should assume the responsibility of the press is to inform the public. It isn’t. Only on rare occasions does the press inform American citizens. As a citizen, you are solely responsible for your own perceptions of any war. If your countrymen don’t understand war, shifting blame to the press for their ignorance is a deadly sin. Blame is sloth of the worst kind
GET USED TO IT: The press will permanently produce stories that distort an audience’s perception of events occurring in the battle space. Even if an accurate snapshot of events could be created with superior journalistic integrity, it would take an experienced audience to interpret it. No school of journalism adequately prepares a journalist to enter a Zen like trance of universal understanding. Only the arrogance of battle hardened journalists makes an audience believe they have their finger on the war’s pulse. Carrying with them a confidence only repeated exposure to life threatening situations can conjure; they can make their stories convincing, but not necessarily accurate or relevant.
DEMAND RELEVANT STORIES: When a journalist writes a scathing piece critical of a democratically elected official, they’re hitting an easy target while shaking the pillars of support for their own journalistic freedoms. When a journalist humanizes the enemies of the citizens that read their work, they’re protecting themselves and preparing for their next interview. Of course, these kinds of stories compel an audience’s attention. However, these stories are irrelevant to victory.
ASK: HOW DO WE WIN? In the pursuit of future victory, the Bush administration’s past mistakes are as irrelevant as Britney Spears’ emotional break down, Anna Nicole Smith’s celebrity death and Paris Hilton’s jail term. Demand stories that can help us all win at war. If you [as a consumer] can’t handle the bland metrics of success on the battlefield, there’s much more flavor on either side of your war plate. As a consumer of press products, you should demand to know why the despotic regime of Iran has a failing economy. Demand to know why Venezuela’s Chavez cannot endure dissent – and feels in necessary to pull the plug on the only privately operated television network in. Demand to know why Syria’s Assad supports terrorism in
MISSING HISTORICAL CONTEXT: When the press fails to deliver on your legitimate demands, [and they will] you’ll be forced to go out and find your own historical context. In the history of our world at war, you’ll learn how permanent the behavior of the press has been, is now and will remain. Mankind, since the inception of language, has loudly articulated frightening stories of battle field conflict. In wars, it seems the sky always falls. The most hysterical journalistic versions of war are oft proved inaccurate. Interestingly, the physical location of a journalist makes little difference. They can be in the zone or a million miles away form it. The fact is it’s a journalist’s mental position on war that guides their narrative of battle field events. As a result of natural human bias historical context is abandoned. Why? Historical context reduces the perceived drama of events on the ground. Without drama, a journalist cannot compel an audience to stay tuned for commercials
CONCLUSION: Be selective with the information the permanent press provides. It isn’t there to inform you. Rather, their stories are only there to grab and keep your attention. Use their stories to build a mosaic of the battle space. Accept the inaccuracies of the press as an invitation for your own investigation. These days, citizens have more tools than ever before to enlighten themselves. If you demand relevant stories, will your protests make much of a difference? I think they will… Journalists need freedom more than most occupations. It’s in their interest to help their democracies win wars against fascists, terrorists and other despots.