Saturday, March 12, 2011

Of Hearts and Minds and Scrota

Back in Viet Nam there was a saying that went, “When you've got'em by the balls, their hearts and minds will follow.” This was in reference to a policy instituted by the U.S. Government, called – oddly enough – the “hearts and minds” policy, in which it was allegedly believed that the hearts and minds of Vietnamese peasants could be obtained through the projection of large sums of money in their general direction, and by insincere promises of protection from Communist reprisals against said turncoat peasants. I understand the term has recently been revived in the government's current Afghanistan adventure.

This government policy was, of course, utterly, absolutely, obviously, and in every other way wrong-headed. The military's rhetorical response was probably more factually accurate, but its implementation rested on an incorrect premise, which was that they did in fact have the peasants by the balls.

There is no serious evidence anywhere that the average peasant was any happier being under a Communist thumb than under any other. What many American soldiers never grasped was that the peasants regarded the American military as just another thumb to be under. They had a lot of experience with being oppressed: The Chinese, the French, [oops, mustn't forget the Japanese - ed] the Germans, the French again, and finally the Communists and/or the Americans. Had any of these people been asked what they actually wanted from the invaders, the answer probably would have boiled down to “go away.” But as far as I know, nobody ever asked. Even conscripted American privates used to get really outraged by this, though they certainly had reason to know better if they'd only given it some thought.

Over the centuries VN peasants, like their Afghani counterparts, had worked out a simple approach to this matter of conflicting – er – loyalties. At the appearance of overwhelming force they would utter glad cries at their liberation from whatever they were being liberated from today. They would swear undying loyalty and fealty to the thugs du jour, wait for them to wander off and spread the benefits of civilization somewhere else, and then cut their liberators' throats in the dark of night and steal their shit. I understand feudal Japan was a lot like that, too. After a while, no matter who the invaders might be, it became a matter of considerable speculation just who had whom by the balls. But hearts and minds generally remained right where they had originally been.

There's a lesson in there somewhere for American peasants, if only they would give it some thought.


CorbinKale said...

Some of us hold that lesson very dear.

We are all around them and across every supply line. We look like them, speak their language, wear their uniforms and have trained in their tactics. We are inside their wire and in the office next door. We are everywhere.

Anonymous said...

We are indeed.

Anonymous said...

I'll third (III) that sentiment.

Stay Safe,