Top NASA scientists have predicted that, if current trends continue, by 2013 98% of all non-pornographic internet content will be generated by Eric Martin. At that time, we will read him because nothing else gets past the content filters at work; but now, we read him because we want to. Example:
One of the over-arching problems with the much-hyped implementation of counterinsurgency doctrine (COIN) in recent U.S. war fighting is the disconnect between theory and practice. COIN sounds great on paper: a highly disciplined force, well-versed in local customs and culture, focused more on securing the population than kinetic operations against militants, with rules of engagement and tactics that subject U.S. soldiers to greater risk in pursuit of avoiding civilian casualties. However, in the heat of combat (and under the stress of multiple and prolonged deployments), soldiers are rarely able to live up to COIN’s high standards, which are often unrealistic from the outset (it would take a cadre of PHDs to navigate the intricacies of the Af/Pak cultural mosaic).
In practice, soldiers – whether manning checkpoints or calling in airstrikes – will depart from overly restrictive rules of engagement when their lives are on the line. It’s hard to blame them for this most instinctive of reactions. Beyond those common and understandable deviations, every large fighting force will also attract a certain amount of sadists, loose cannons and trigger-happy cowboys (and others not initially displaying those traits will be so formed by the experience of combat itself). No matter how hard you drill soldiers about the virtues of restraint, some will inevitably commit atrocities. Such is war, and there is nothing we can do to change that.
More here and here. But really, it’s even worse than that. Soldiers who follow the most restrictive rules of engagement to the letter, and maintain a level of restraint and self-control which few of us could ever manage, can still find themselves committing what most of us would, in our day-to-day lives consider pretty atrocious. (“But you see, Your Honor, I made sure that collateral damage would be acceptable before calling in air strikes on the city block in question.” “Case dismissed!”) And these are the sorts of atrocities one drills soldiers to perform as duty. This is what war is. To quote a noted expert on counter-insurgency:
You might as well appeal against the thunder-storm as against these terrible hardships of war. They are inevitable, and the only way the people of Atlanta can hope once more to live in peace and quiet at home, is to stop the war, which can only be done by admitting that it began in error and is perpetuated in pride.
The internet, of course, is where these battles are ultimately fought, and here is where the fog of war is lifted. Drawing on extensive military and legal expertise, YouTube videos are checked for kerning inconsistencies and, by the self-correcting nature of the blogosphere, highly precise and reliable determinations are made about the operational failures which may have occurred, and what line-item edits to the rules of engagement would prevent these tragedies from ever again cluttering our beautiful minds. Scoundrels and wags have suggested that the real-world impact of bitching on the internet is roughly equivalent to the impact of igniting one’s farts. (Indeed, they have even claimed that the parallels are nearly total, excepting that lit farts are generally more illuminating. Wags and scoundrels!) We pay them no mind.
Nevertheless, and with all due respect to the fine and noble work being done to make war humane through blogging, there is another point of view. This is it: if one has chosen to go to war, one has committed oneself to doing every bloody and cruel thing required to bring about the conditions which would make peace tolerable. If you chose war, and commit oneself to doing every bloody and cruel thing required to bring about the conditions which would make peace tolerable save even one, you are, even by the gargoyle standards of war, a monster, because you have freely chosen – through cowardice, malice, or foolishness, it makes no difference – to do this partial list of bloody and cruel things for no material reason at all. You have ensured that the war will continue, indefinitely, atrocity after atrocity, until you realize your monstrous error, swallow your monstrous pride, and force yourself to tolerate peace, and the only way you could be more monstrous is if you wasted one more day avoiding this simple, stubborn truth. If you can’t handle the barbarous parts of war, even if you can handle all the barbarous parts except for three (say), you do not have three problems which need to be worked out. You have one essential and unresolvable problem with War, and every minute of War which has passed is a minute of unredeemable savagery. I wish to God there was a way to avoid this. There is no way to avoid this.