Civil wars are first and foremost about local score settling. The trigger isn’t some guy going door to door saying “you know those Yazidis? We’re starting a group to get rid of them, would you like to know why?” Everyone was already itching to kill the Yazidis. The trigger in most civil wars is the sense that the long-repressed vengeance on your nearest and dearest enemies has become possible. This means that much of the killing in civil wars follows the demographics of murder, rather than genocide.
Civil wars are almost never geographic at first. Syria was not divided into “rebel” and “government” territories until after several weeks of fighting. Why? Because the government troops and the people who hated them were evenly dispersed around the country. Once the shooting broke out, some local battles went one way, some went another, and each side eventually had to work out supply lines connecting places where they’d won. Your loyalties aren’t determined by your residency, your residency is determined by which army you’re running away from.
There is no home front in a civil war. Every action by every side degrades the lives of both sides. Think of the worst divorce you’ve ever seen your friends go through, and think of the worst moment in that divorce, and that’s how everybody feels in a civil war all the time.
Civil wars aren’t anybody’s program. Usually the two sides each feel like they are legitimate, and can’t figure out what the other guys are playing at. They think “shit, these guys are clowns, lets just get them out of the way.” Everybody underestimates the consequences of their actions, the time it will take, and the dying that will happen as a result. Nobody in Syria in 2011 was saying “right, lets call a protest, and in three years we’ll be holed up in a burning hotel shooting twelve-year-olds in the head as they pull their mothers’ bodies from a drainage canal!”
No, we aren’t headed for a civil war. For now, the local scores are too stupid to settle — what would a red-state insurgent mob do if the veil were torn, burn coal? Shoot latinos? Give it a decade, maybe, but not now.
— Ran Prieur
I don’t buy the last paragraph. Here are two more quotes:
Congo. Nobody knows much about it, because nobody wants to. It’s been in the news lately, with a new movement called M23 sweeping through eastern Congo, taking the provincial capital of Goma, and then promising to withdraw—the kind of story you read, then drop, because you know it’ll never make any sense to you. The most anyone’ll say is “Durn shame, all those dead people. It’s some tribal thing, right?”
Well, it’s a safe bet that this killing is tribal, because that’s what war is: tribal killing. When we call African killings “tribal,” what we really mean is that we don’t get it, the tribal differences seem ridiculous to us—in other words, they all look alike. But when you’re inside a tribal division, it’s different. If Romney drove through my old neighborhood in Bakersfield, he’d take one look and say “trash,” but when you lived in that neighborhood, there were blocks that were like kryptonite to you and others where you were safe, houses that were like Abode of Evil and others that were Good Country People.
Even when we say a war isn’t tribal, it almost always is. Take the US Civil War, “brother against brother.” Except it wasn’t brother against brother very often. It was two very different tribes, Yankee and Dixie—different religions, different economies, different ethnic groups. Tribal all the way. So yeah, it’s tribal in Congo, but no more than most other wars. That’s not what’s made the killing drag on and on like this. …
[T]he Tutsi and Hutu traded massacres in Rwanda and Burundi until 1994, when what most people think of as “Rwanda” happened: The Hutu, who had built a good genocidal organization in Rwanda, called on their people to kill the Tutsi “cockroaches.” The Hutu weren’t warriors, but they were very obedient, orderly farmers, and the Tutsi were dispersed and disarmed. So the Hutu answered the call and managed to chop and burn 800,000 people to death in a few months. It’s not easy to kill that many people, that fast, with nothing but pangas and fire, but the Hutu went at it like the good little workers they always have been. It’s always that way: the best genocidaires, as the French call ’em, are never the big loud macho tribes, always the polite, educated, orderly ones. The Hutu got the call to kill and rape and steal, and they did. They still don’t know what they did wrong; most of the few Hutu who ever got called to account said they were just doing what the Radio, “Radio Thousand Hills,” told them to do. It’s a myth, by the way, that people have this thing called a “conscience” or that they suffer from stress, etc., after a massacre. Try reading Jean Hatzfeld’s book, Machete Season, and you’ll see the main thing the Hutu genocidaires feel is regret that they have to answer to a court now and then. The whole notion of guilt doesn’t cross their minds.
— War Nerd
The Right-Wing Blob? Why would he be envious of these people? Again, the armchair psychology seems so manifestly inadequate one wonders why the Blob bothers. Accusations of “hatred” are akin to the Right-Wing Blob’s favorite trope about “Bush Derangement Syndrome”: it is just a rhetorical trick to dismiss well-grounded moral outrage about wrongful conduct.
One more example, from the blogosphere’s leading practitioner of condescension from below: Glenn “InstaIgnorance” Reynolds denounces Krugman as a “sad and irrelevant little man.” He does so, as best I can tell, without any sense of the irony of a middling legal scholar at the University of Tennessee who posts on a blog denouncing as “sad,” “irrelevant” and “little” a Nobel Laureate in Economics at Princeton University who writes for The New York Times. And, of course, Krugman is so “irrelevant” that even a throwaway blog post necessitates the Right-Wing Blob, with its thousands of members, to swing into action!
And so it goes. These people are literally devoid of independent thought, they are just bits of slime that ooze off the Blob when the Blob is poked, and in the process, they do violence to the language, stand reality on its head, and contribute to the continuing degradation of the public culture.
— Brian Leiter
What is America? Maybe it’s Southeast Asia, with people taking to the hills to escape the state, and the state strongly disliking the ornery hill tribes; maybe it’s the British Empire, full of peasants who want to preserve themselves but ruled over by a Macaulay-filled great power that doesn’t think the peasants’ culture is worth preserving; or maybe it’s the Middle East, full of religious crusaders who think the backwards Satan-worshipers in the mountains ought to be made to not exist. But one thing is for sure: the tribe that reads Brian Leiter — they’re the “educated, orderly ones”.
I don’t think it’s red-state insurgents that we need to worry about. Secessionists who want to be left alone don’t make good insurgents. Lowland crusaders, on the other hand…