Hoisted from the Archives: Why We Have Good Reason to Hate Chickenhawks

Hoisted from the Archiyes: Why We Hate Chickenhawks: Selections from SFF Author David Drake

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David Drake, a good chunk of whose work is best classified as horror and is really about his experiences as an interrogator in the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment, the "Blackhorse", when it went through the Cambodian market town of Snuol:

I [now] had much more vivid horrors than Lovecraft's nameless ickinesses to write about.... I wrote about troopers doing their jobs the best they could with tanks that broke down, guns that jammed—and no clue about the Big Picture.... I kept the tone unemotional: I didn't tell the reader that something was horrible, because nobody told me.... Those stories... were different. They didn't fit either of the available molds: "Soldiers are spotless heroes," or... "Soldiers are evil monsters"... [...] The... stories were written with a flat affect, describing cruelty and horror with the detachment of a soldier who's shut down his emotional responses completely in a war zone... as soldiers always do, because otherwise they wouldn't be able to survive. Showing soldiers behaving and thinking as they really do in war was... extremely disquieting to the civilians who were editing magazines...


David Drake: Newsletter #82: "I was a conservative kid...

...Dad worked with his hands–he was an electrician–but he was anti-union and identified with the middle class rather than radical labor. Our family had middle-class values, read slick magazines rather than pulps, and voted Republican.... A lot of people raised the way I was think that Something Should Be Done about this or that world problem... Boko Haram’s kidnapping... the Lord’s Resistance Army... the Islamic State.... All of these organizations do horrific things by the standards of any civilized human being, myself included... [and] are demonstrably beyond the capacity of local governments to deal with.... If I hadn’t ridden a tank in SE Asia, I probably would have been on one or all of those bandwagons and on many others over the years.

The thing is, I know what Doing Something means at the sharp end. I’ve helped to burn a village, I’ve watched a gutshot girl die (she’d been transporting rice for the NVA), and I was involved with a variety of other things that make me doubt the value to the ordinary people of Viet Nam and Cambodia of what we did there. Would it be different in Africa or the Middle East? Maybe, but I find wars have a logic of their own for the people in the mud and the dust and the insects. I think it would be good for folks who say, ‘We have to do something!’ to at least talk to some of us who’ve Done Something ourselves. Talk to us–or keep their mouths shut...


hard power can be decisive--but one needs to have a lot of it, and be willing not just to threaten to use it but to actually use it, and not care that one's use of it may lead the abyss to look into you, and turn you into something you did not want to be, and so cause you to lose even as you "win".


And I think: The science fiction/horror/fantasy author David Drake very effectively and rightly, I think, puts it thus in the mouth of one of his characters, the Goddess Athene Danny Pritchard:

Force accomplishes a lot of things. They just aren’t the ones you want here. Bring in the Slammers [Regiment] and we kick ass for as long as you pay us. Six months, a year. And we kick ass even if the other side brings in mercs of their own--which they’ll do--but that’s not a problem, not if you’ve got us. So, there’s what? Three hundred thousand people....

So, you want to kill fifty kay? Fifty thousand people, let’s remember they’re people for the moment.... You see, if we go in quick and dirty, the only way that has a prayer of working is if we get them all. If we get everybody who opposes you, everybody related to them, everybody who called them master--everybody.... They’re not dangerous now, but they will be after the killing starts. Believe me. I’ve seen it often enough. Not all of them, but one in ten, one in a hundred. One in a thousand’s enough when he blasts your car down over the ocean a year from now. You’ll see. It changes people, the killing does. Once it starts, there’s no way to stop it but all the way to the end. If you figure to still live here on Tethys....

What do you think the Slammers do, milady? Work magic? We kill, and we’re good at it, bloody good. You call the Slammers in to solve your problems here and you’ll be able to cover the Port with the corpses. I guarantee it. I’ve done it, milady. In my time...


David Drake: The Complete Hammer's Slammers: "I'm going to do more stories... [that are] a vehicle for a message that I think needs to be more widely known. Veterans who have written or talked to me already understand, but a lot of other people don't: When you send a man out with a gun, you create a policymaker. When his ass is on the line, he will do whatever he needs to do [to try to survive, physically and psychologically]. And if the implications of this bother you, the time to do something about it is before you decide to send him out...


David Drake makes a claim about the secret history of the Cold War:

David Drake: The problem... is that the proxies have policies of their own. Not infrequently, things go wrong for the principal when the proxy decides to implement its separate policies....

In the [late] 1970s the US hired a battalion of troops from Argentina, called them “the Contras” and employed them to fight the socialist government of Nicaragua. The military dictatorship running Argentina at the time was more than happy to support the US effort.

Unfortunately for everybody (except ultimately the Argentine people), General Galtieri and his cronies (some of whom, amazingly, were even stupider and more brutal than he was) decided that their secret help to the US meant that the US would protect them from Britain when they invaded the Falklands and subjected the islands’ English-speaking residents to what passed for government in Argentina. Galtieri was wrong–the tail didn’t wag the dog during the Falklands War–and Argentina ousted the military junta as a result of its humiliation by Britain; but there might not have been a Falklands War if the US had not used Argentina as a military proxy in Nicaragua....

I could mention cases where US proxy involvements have led to even worse results. If the shoe fits, wear it...


#strategy #books #sciencefiction #hoistedfromthearchives #moralresponsibility

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