Thursday, July 22, 2010

Francisco Goya and George Orwell on Counterinsurgency

"The history of counter-insurgency warfare isn't exactly a success story," writes Tom Engelhardt, "or our present COINistas wouldn't have taken their doctrine largely from failed counter-insurgency wars in Vietnam and Algeria, among other places" — Disasters of war. "Our generals might have better spent their time studying the first modern war of this sort," he writes, continuing:
    It took place in early 19th century Spain when the Islamic fundamentalists of that moment - Catholic peasants and their priests - managed to stop Napoleon's army (the high-tech force of the moment) in its tracks. Just check out the "Disasters of War" series by Spanish painter Francisco de Goya (1746-1828) if you want to see how grim it was. And it's never gotten much better.
The Disasters of War by Francisco Goya "shows war, for the first time, as utterly lacking in glory," write Belle Waring and Elizabeth Fee. "Despite the ferocity of his critique, Goya retained a passionate empathy for the suffering he witnessed." An example:

Mr. Engelhardt also quotes George Orwell, who from his 1946 Politics and the English Language: "Defenseless villagers are bombarded from the air, the inhabitants driven out into the countryside, the cattle machine-gunned, the huts set afire with incendiary bullets: this is called pacification."

Mr. Engelhardt concludes with a "one-line rewrite of [the army's counter-insurgency manual for a new century's] 472 pages." He says, "It's simple and guaranteed to save trees as well as lives: 'When it comes to counter-insurgency, don't do it.'"

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