I’m geeking out right now watching BookTV on C-SPAN2. After Words is on and it’s an interview with John Dower, the author of Cultures of War: Pearl Harbor/Hiroshima/9-11/Iraq. His interviewer, Sanho Tree, a scholar from the Institute for Policy Studies, just drew a very interesting point out of the book which Dower endorsed. It should make all those who want victory in a war, any war, think.
The point was that if you dehumanize your enemy you fail to understand him. If you fail to understand him, you won’t know what motivates him, what his values are, how he makes decision. Not knowing those things, you won’t know what buttons you have to push to induce him to give up.
This crystallized in words a thought that I’ve had for a long time but have never been able to adequately articulate. Understanding your enemy as people is not a namby-pamby approach to war. Instead, it’s a really helpful thing to do if you want to grind him into the dust.