Thursday, September 28, 2006

Six out of ten...

There was a lot of graffiti on the wall over the urinals in the Officers Club at the big Army base at Cam Ranh Bay in Vietnam. They tried washing it away and when that failed they tried to paint it over. Eventually, they gave up, covered the wall with a blackboard, and even provided the chalk.

The South Vietnamese flag was yellow, with a couple of horizontal red stripes, prompting some anonymous relief-seeking beer drinker to chalk up this:

“The women can’t f**k. The men won’t fight. The flag speaks for itself : what ain’t yellow is red.”

There comes a point in any occupation where the civilian population divides into two camps: The apathetic and the antagonistic.

The apathetic try to live as normally as possible. They will not support either the occupation or the insurgency the occupation is there to quell.

The antagonistic are the insurgents. They hide in the open among the apathetic – the reds in the yellow back in Vietnam.

The symbiosis between the apathetic and antagonistic presents the occupier with a riddle that is impossible to solve. You have to kill them to save them, which is never an especially effective way to win their hearts and minds.

The National Intelligence Estimate, (parts of which the Bush Administration declassified and released the other day), reflects this enigma. So, too, does this here.

Nearly six out of ten Iraqis surveyed approve of attacks on American troops. The ratio of apathetic to antagonistic would seem to favor them.

It comes down to this: Are we willing to kill them in order to save them? If so, how many? And how many Americans are we willing to sacrifice in the process?

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