Monday, March 19, 2007

Why torture is bad - the US Counterinsurgency Field Manual

Some fascinating historical reasons why you don't torture people (as if the current ones weren't good enough), from the military's own Counterinsurgency Manual, written by current Iraq war top dog Gen. David Petraeus. The similarities to what we've heard from the current President and his administration are downright spooky.


During the Algerian war of independence between 1954 and 1962, French leaders decided to permit torture against suspected insurgents. Though they were aware that it was against the law and morality of war, they argued that:

This was a new form of war and these rules did not apply.
The threat the enemy represented, communism, was a great evil that justified extraordinary means.
The application of torture against insurgents was measured and nongratuitous.

This official condoning of torture on the part of French Army leadership had several negative consequences. It empowered the moral legitimacy of the opposition, undermined the French moral legitimacy, and caused internal fragmentation among serving officers that led to an unsuccessful coup attempt in 1962. In the end, failure to comply with moral and legal restrictions against torture severely undermined French efforts and contributed to their loss despite several significant military victories. ... France eventually recognized Algerian independence in July 1963.


During Napoleon's occupation of Spain in 1808, it seems little thought was given to the potential challenges of subduing the Spanish populace. Conditioned by the decisive victories at Austerlitz and Jena, Napoleon believed the conquest of Spain would be little more than a "military promenade." Napoleon's campaign included a rapid conventional military victory but ignored the immediate requirement to provide a stable environment for the populace.

The French failed to analyze the Spanish people, their history, culture, motivations and potential to support or hinder the achievement of French political objectives. ... Napoleon's cultural miscalculation resulted in a protracted occupation struggle that lasted nearly six years and ultimately required approximately three-fifths of the Empire's total armed strength, almost four times the force of 80,000 Napoleon originally designated.

The Spanish resistance drained the resources of the French Empire. It was the beginning of the end for Napoleon.

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