21 Jul 2010

Imagine You Were Someone in Afghanistan…

Foreign Policy 17 Comments

…and you saw this news story. (HT2 LRC) In addition to hating Americans for their bicameral legislature, wouldn’t this kind of thing really get your juices flowing?

(Make sure you watch the whole thing. The last part is the best.)

17 Responses to “Imagine You Were Someone in Afghanistan…”

  1. JimS says:

    Why would you object to this? Bottom line, this is what he does, this is what we pay him for. Did you want a kinder gentler pit bull? Even kids know this. The number one question a child will ask a service member is “How many have you killed?” They know, why do we pretend.

    Armed conflict is coercion. Fail to pay your taxes or even a speeding ticket and you may get the same treatment, you will be coerced into compliance. Some armed people will come and force you, perhaps kill you if you resist and don’t comply.

    In a way, Mattis’s statement is more honest. When we changed the Dept of War to the Dept of Defense, we were on a slilppery slope. We began neutralizing, containing, nation buiding and all sorts of other nonsense, until we now consider changing the Dept of Defense to the Dept of Peace. What nonsense. Bottom line, we, or our military, at our request, kills people to force them to behave or not behave in a certain manner. We should be happy for Mattis’s honesty, it should open up a debate about whether we want to behave this way. He shouldn’t be chastised for what he said as it was the truth. No matter what you may think of him, he is a most effective Marine. If you need someone to kill for you, he is probably one of your best choices.

    Your quarrel with Mattis, as I see it, is that you do not want anyone to kill for you, which is fine, but it is also a different subject. I would say we would not need him so much if we hadn’t spent the last century meddling in other people’s affairs. I would also say along the lines of Bastiat, where goods and services freely cross borders, armed forces do not.


    Thanks for your kind e-mail on pacifism. It was most helpful. I would really like to hear your thought about how a violent American Revolution could have been avoided (can’t quite wrap my mind around it). I know you are busy, but I do read all you send and post.

  2. Edward says:

    General Mattis is probably the single best warrior alive today. He acknowledges and calls the military what it is, killers. No Marine who has served in combat would despute this.

    There are two major qualities that distinguish Mattis from most of the military establishment. 1. He urges peaceful, calm, and diplomatic relations up to the very end. He argued against the battle of Fallujah. 2. Once the decision to use violence is made, he pulls no punches and leads the mostly teenaged warriors into battle, not from a command post, but carrying a rifle at the front of the fight.

    How different would our country look today is every politician and military commander urged peaceful resolutions at every turn, and any time we went to war they would lead from the front. Do you think we would have gone to war in Iraq if every member of Congress would have been required to carrying a rifle at the front of the initial assault?

  3. Andy says:

    I think this gets me even more…

    “After this Mattis was told to watch his words in public.”

    Lets not scare the sheep too much with the sadistic character of our staff.

  4. J Cortez says:

    As much as I loathe this man and his work, he said what I believe to be honest words. I believe there is no shortage of military people that think, “It’s fun to kill.”

    When there is a job description that includes killing, people that are drawn to that type of thing tend to fill the ranks.

    Sadly, the majority of people would consider my words heretical.

    • JimS says:

      Of course it takes a certain type. It takes a certain type to drive the honey dipper as well. Remember, Mattis was in command of Marine ground forces in Iraq. He used First Recon as a feigning element to draw attention away from the true objective. In doing such things, you essentially hang those troops out, maybe sacrifice them. I believe he chose First Recon, though it was not the mission they trained for, because if anyone could take care of themselves in such a situation, they could. They were nearly sacrificial. Such is the business of war. He could not tell them, he could not warn them, because they would not have behaved appropriately and would have tipped Mattis’s hand.

      Now consider a man who could sacrifice his own for the mission, and mission is ALWAYS paramount in the service, he certainly has no compunciton about killing anyone else. Remember, McCain’s father didn’t hesitate when ordering the bombing of Hanoi, though he knew well he might kill his son. To say these men are dedicated is to understate. It is important that we understand such people before we employ them and then act horrified by their actions.

      Also understand that Mattis probably does not “loathe” his enemy. He no doubt, has a deep and abiding respect, if not an admiration for them. He would not be effective against them if he did not feel this way. He knows his opponent well. Also, Mattis is extremely intelligent and very creative, though many believe such qualities do not exist in militaries.

      You may hate the sin, and you may hate war and killing, as you well should, but be cautious about hating the sinner, there is much to learn from them. This has long been the fault of opposition movements, with the exceptions as such notables as King or Ghandi.

      Thanks for your comments.


      I may sound like a wierdo, and I probably am, but I try to see everything from both sides. I kind find admirable things in many strange things. I do respect you and your thoughts. I certainly do not intend to offend, if I have.

      • J Cortez says:

        Statements like “such is the business of war” doesn’t address the issue of whether these wars should have even been fought. And really, you’re just praising Mattis and people like him for being unthinking, murdering automatons. “It’s ok, kill a bunch of people, so long as the objective is won.”

        In regards to McCain’s father. The possible murder of his son is just a cherry on top of a gigantic cake of horrid, unethical, and evil death. That was also an unjustified, unethical, horrible, and evil war. To try and justify or praise any actions in that war makes even less sense than trying to justify or praise any action in the current wars.

        Who or what Mattis loathes is irrelevant. Is killing people while hating them somehow any worse than just killing people? The man is speaking about killing people with pleasure. “Shooting people is fun.” To me, this is pure sociopathy, requiring extended hospital care.

        What Bob Murphy said about the United State being Rome, he’s wrong. The US is much worse in terms of hostility, firepower, and body count.

        • JimS says:

          Sure it’s dispicable and disgusting, that’s the whole point.

          I use a statement like “such is the business of war” to make a point. Generally speaking, if you do not like what a business does, you do not patronize it. We employ guys like Mattis. I think what he says is direct and truthful. I think more should speak like him. Politicians candy coat war, this guy doesn’t. There is much that is dispicable in war, but these guys are hardly unthinking. In fact, I think if more leaders thought and spoke this way we would be less likely to engage in war.

          Let me put it another way, Mattis believes in what he is doing. Dietrich Bonhoeffer believed in what he was doing. If Bonhoeffer, in fighting the Nazis, which he did because he believed it was a sin NOT to combat evil, that God commanded we fight evil, said he enjoyed doing God’s work, would that be wrong? IN his mind, no matter what we may believe, killing Hitler, or attempting to was good and shouldn’t he glory in God’s work?

          My other point is unless you understand how people who do things you do not like work then you will never be able to counter their efforts. Certainly most cops know more about crime and how to commit it than many criminals do.

          Thanks again,

          • Matt Flipago says:

            Well he isn’t candy coating war, he’s saying the war to him taste like candy.

            “My other point is unless you understand how people who do things you do not like work then you will never be able to counter their efforts.”

            That is also Bob’s point, the US doesn’t seem to understand how the terrorist do things, or why. They have a limited scope and do things based on the idea we are invading them and killing civilians. They also view civilians as part of the government (Such is the conclusion if a democratic government if run by the people, and phrases like “We are the Government”) and thus civlians casualties are not different.

            Nobody here seems to be saying he is a despicable blood thirsty sociopaths, who causes mass slaughter of the the innocent and will burn in hell along the ranks of Cain and Hitler and Stalin, but we are saying that this is how those in Afghanistan will view it.

  5. bobmurphy says:

    JimS and Edward,

    If you go back and look at my post carefully, I wasn’t sputtering over Mattis. I am simply saying, holy cow, if you are a regular Joe (regular Kunar?) in Afghanistan, and you see that the guy put in charge of regional security says in public that it’s good fun to shoot your neighbors…?!

    I am trying to get you guys (and others) to see that we are the Roman Empire. It’s not that we are pure evil, it’s that the Roman citizens back in the day could have truthfully said, “What’s the big deal? We’re bringing roads and laws to these savages.”

    In that clip, I was bothered more by Gates than Mattis. Do you agree? The very idea–“He hasn’t said he enjoys shooting people since that time, so that’s why I put him in charge.”

    I respect Mattis the same way I respect Javert in Les Miserables. It doesn’t mean they’ve chosen wisely.

    • JimS says:


      Actually, our enemy, if you wish to consider them that, or opposition in Afganistan or Iraq do speak directly as Mattis has. They tell us directly they intend to mess us up. I sort of appreciate that. They are at least straight in that matter.

      If you are an occupied nation you are a bit niave if you think US troops in your country do not feel this way. I do very strongly believe that US troops do not wish to kill civilians. I personally know that they pride themselves on minimizing this. Furthermore, it is extremely bad for morale engaging in such activities. To kill a perceived enemy is a boost to morale, usually, particularly if they are a worthy adversary. Sounds strange, I know, but when you drill for years to engage in this, you have a different mindset, a mindset which is necessary for success. I believe most troops come to realize that the people they meet in these countries are not very unlike us.

      Certainly elements in Afghanistan enjoy killing. There are many ways to execute someone other than stoning or hacking their head off. I believe they do so because they derive a pleasure from it.

      I understand what Gates says. There are things you say in public and things you say among the boys. I’m certain there is a level of conversation that Bob Murphy has engaged in with the guys at some point that he wouldn’t use around his family. We are all that way to some extent.

      I cannot begin to express what a motivator Mattis is for the troops. He posses a charisma and demeanor that makes service personel want to follow him. This guy is the real deal. This is not an act. Also realize Mattis argued against going into Iraq and Fallujah in particular, but when he did he did so in a big way.

      I’ll give you two more quotes from Mattis: “I come in peace. I didn’t bring artillery. But I’m pleading with you, with tears in my eyes: If you **** with me, I’ll kill you all”
      “You are part of the world’s most feared and trusted force. Engage your brain before you engage your weapon.”
      “Be polite, be professional, but have a plan to kill everybody you meet.”
      (Yeah. I know that is three, but I’m a heavy tipper.)
      His brain is engaged and he does all he can to avoid conflict, but when action is called for, he is very enthusiastic. I can understand not lilking him or what he represents, but he IS darn good at what he does.

      Thanks again,

    • Edward says:

      Hi Bob,

      I am not saying that it was a good thing to say, regardless of the context. But you and Tom Woods go out of your way to accuse the mass media of being Zombies and refusing to have a real discussion on issues, yet, aren’t you doing the exact same thing here?

      General Mattis, probably the single greatest combat general alive today says something politically incorrect 5 years ago and you point to this as a reason he should not be in charge of Cent Comm? Should a military incompentent who talks pretty be put in charge instead?

      I understand and agree we are acting as an empire. I have spoken out against this in my own area of Silicon Valley on numerous occasions. But until we are all living in an anarchist utopia, and as long as we have a government and military, I want the best man possible for the job. He is the best. I am glad Gates is trying to down play the political correct nonesense and advocate the best man for the job.

      • bobmurphy says:

        Edward, I am at a bit of a loss to debate you (or JimS) on practical terms; it would be like you lecturing me guys on what it’s like to get a doctorate in economics. 🙂

        But part of the irony in all this–as the Al-Jazeera story noted–is that our official purpose “over there” isn’t to Kill Bad Guys, it’s to Win Hearts & Minds. And so yeah, it is a disqualification if you’ve been on record saying it’s fun to kill people, especially when you make it clear that you have contempt for the culture of the people you are trying to nation-build in.

        I think you and JimS are caught in a weird situation. You are trying to say, “If all the politicians were straight shooters, and just told the American people that our job is to kill people who mess with us, and we aren’t helping foreigners at all when we occupy their cities just like the Romans did, then things would go a lot more smoothly.” That’s true, but then the American people never would have supported the invasions in the first place. If George Bush had said, “We might still be in Iraq 10 years after the invasion, and we will have lost x Americans by that point,” there is no way people would have applauded the invasion.

        I really don’t think I was being a zombie. I didn’t post, “Murderer! War criminal! Where’s my swooning couch?!” All I was focusing on is the poor people whose country is being occupied (and subjected to drones that blow people up). It makes me shudder when I think of how the average person in the Middle East might think of the US. We are like the imperial forces of Star Wars (since that’s actually more relevant to me than the Romans).

        • JimS says:

          I imagine getting a PHD in economics is llike fighting alone in a foreign land, ill equipped, ill supplied, and against overwhelming odds, particularly in Austrian economics, and especially without someone like Mattis on your disertation comittee.

          Well, I think many do view us as imperial forces, and this probably isn’t too far off base. I think anyone that buys into the hearts an minds may be a bit delusional. As von Mises points out in Human Action, we act in our own self interests. Of course we try to make those interests appear the same as those of countries we occupy, it is a bit of a used car salesman model. Were the Taliban or Al Quida merely tormenting folks over there, we wouldn’t really care.

          From a military point of view, it is far easier and less deadly for all to accept surrendering opposition than to shoot all prisoners. Shoot prisoners and no one surrenders making the job is a lot tougher. So, there is a little bit of the hearts and minds in that approach.

          Strategically, an advantage was lost when we didn’t continue with our support of the Nothern Alliance following our initial actions in Afghanistan, which also was a bit of hearts and minds, but that is water under the bridge now. What this administration seeks is to conduct this campaign according to outdated methods, but that isn’t your point, or really your concern.

          Would this statement by a foreign military leader get my dander up? Depends on who said it. Were it someone as threatening as we can be, yes. However, I might also understand it for bravado knowing what really wins wars. What do I think of Gates’ response? Quite unbelievable considering this administration, highly entertaining, but I am easily amused.

          I firmly believe Bastiat’s adage that trade over borders limits troops over the border. You win hearts and minds with affluency that comes via free markets and trade. I sincerely doubt that is what is occuring in Afghanistan.

          • bobmurphy says:

            Incidentally, I’m actually surprised that this guy is apparently such a great warrior, according to you guys (and you would know better than me). For example, it’s not like I think Ben Bernanke is a great economist and I’m so glad he’s the one in charge of the Fed.

            But then again, maybe I would have liked him had I known his work as an academic. In the same way, maybe you guys will say 5 years from now, “Mattis WAS awesome, before he got promoted. Then his hands were tied with politics, and he lost Afghanistan.”

        • Edward says:

          10 years from now: After years of Depression and mass inflation, Dr. Bob Murphy is nominated to become head of the Federal Reserve. His radical and daring plan is to put our country on a 100% gold/silver coin standard, outlaw fractional reserve banking, then abloshing the Federal Reserve. He is hailed by many as the greatest living economist. But wait!!!
          A video surfaces of something he said five years previous. After successfully bringing California back from an economic abyss by putting in place massive and bold free market reforms, reporters have been questioning him for weeks. When being pestered for the 100th time about the effects on the poor, Bob finally responds, “I don’t really care about the poor, they can starve for all I care; unemployment and welfare are bad for the economy and I want them abolished all across the country.”

          There is an element of truth in the statement, although most people just don’t get it and think you are a heartless and cold basterd. You reflect that it wasn’t the best thing to say to reporters. Many say that in the depths of a Depression, an economist who doesn’t care about the poor is unfit to be in a posision of leadership.

  6. JimS says:

    I’ve been thinking, dangerous though it may be. How would we feel if the clip was of a police officer saying, “Arresting people is a hoot. It’s good fun to lock someone up for an indefinate period of time. I just love tasing folks and arresting them.”

    This drive’s Bob’s point home a little more for me, not that I am at any particular risk to be arrested, though one never knows.


  7. JimS says:

    To Matt and Bob:

    I do not believe Mattis or anyone else want scivilian casualties, that is to say, they want to minimize them because they are counter productive. Mattis is not a “blood thirsty sociopath who causes mass slaughter.” Anything he does is at the directive of our government. In fact, in nearly every case, when considering the planning of any offensive, Mattis has spoken against it, but when ordered to carry it out, succeeded. When he conducts his operations he is most aggressive, that is probably why he succeeds. I know for a fact Mattis understands the hows and whys of terrorism quite well. I do not think the real so-called terrorists are very threatened by Mattis’s rhetoric. It would be upsetting to a civilian most anywhere.

    I’d agree with Bob on Bernanke, I think he is ineffective. For the sake of argument, though, lets say that he was such an economic wizard that when instructed by the administration to do something counter to what he thought was right and was still able to successfully pull it off, you’d have to respect him in someway, though you might not agree with it.