View Full Version : Do we care about the lives of non-Americans?

Bill Moore
06-30-2018, 06:54 PM

Are lives around the globe just as valuable as American lives?

U.S. Army strategist and military historian Danny Sjursen says Americans don't value all lives the same. They continually fight people who don't look like them, making it easier to not care as much about their lives. If the U.S. military is to be truly engaged around the world, it may need to learn how to value all lives equally. NOTE: The views expressed in this video are those of the guest speaking in an unofficial capacity and do not reflect the official policy or position of the Command and General Staff College, Department of the Army, Department of Defense, or the US government.

A short 4 minute video from an Army strategist on whether America cares about non-American lives. Mostly directed at the U.S. population writ large. I think his points are valid, and our foreign policy would be more effective if our nation emphasized more with those beyond our borders. I suspect there are deeply embedded psychological inclinations that cause to default to putting people into simple categories, and 90% of those categories we don't consider as human as our own. I somehow suspect this is universal trait, not simply an American one.

07-01-2018, 10:24 AM

A good catch, though I did wonder at his knowledge when he referred to Pashto people; when that is the language of the Pashtuns or Pathans.

I do wonder what the impact is of these factors: information or reporting, via the media, providing little real knowledge allied to the accessibility of outsiders and those brave enough in situ to report beyond their borders - no imagery, nowt happening; despair at how a good chunk of the world is and frustration there is little that can be achieved e.g. DRC; and the potency or impotence of expatriate communities within countries such as ours.

So do we (UK) care? Yes, in different ways to how we are perceived. Charitable donations is one (10.3b in 2017), especially when disaster strikes - though not like the Band Aid phenomena when Ethiopia was starving. UK foreign aid is now massive; 14 billion in 2017 and is set in law as 0.7 Gross National Income. Not that UK aid is not flawed.

Bill Moore
07-01-2018, 07:48 PM
Somewhat related:


Joseph Stalin is reputed to have said that the death of one person is a tragedy; the death of one million is a statistic. And Mother Teresa once said, "If I look at the mass I will never act." When Stalin and Mother Teresa agree on a point, I sit up and pay attention. It turns out that the human tendency to turn away from mass suffering is well documented. Deborah Small and Paul Slovic have termed this phenomenon the collapse of compassion. It's not simply that as the number of victims goes up, people's sympathy levels off. No, when the numbers go up, the amount of sympathy people feel goes perversely down. And with it goes the willingness to donate money or time to help.

To David's point, the West donates money to NGOs to assist those less fortunate in their own countries and around the world, and most advanced Western countries have their version of USAID that provides assistance to those less fortunate (often tied to advancing national interests). However, to the Major's point due we care about the deaths of innocent victims in the wars we're waging the question, I think that is a different question than our willingness to provide aid to the less fortunate around the world. It just so happens that our current wars are against non-Caucasians, but in my view that is an unfair accusation. First off our countries have diverse populations, and second we had no problems killing tens of thousands of German civilians during WWII. Something about the war on terror seems different though, and I can't quite put my finger on it.

07-01-2018, 08:03 PM
Bill wrote:
Something about the war on terror seems different though, and I can't quite put my finger on it.

Could it be fear? Fear for the USA on 9/11 - for the public and most institutions - of a successful attack by an enemy unknown to them. An enemy then thought to be capable / considering further attacks.

Nation-states rarely react well to a threat that appears to upset the assumptions made about public security threats, i.e. a minimal risk to the population and normal society operation. Public, not national security. Even more so for the USA which via geography and power - to name two - that has kept such intrusions at a distance.

AQ was a largely unknown enemy after 9/11 and the USA, plus many others reacted often desperately to gain more information. Using methods it normally would avoid. We did exactly the same in the early year of 'The Troubles'.

What is the quickest and easiest political response to such an attack, with due allowance made for that simple motive revenge? "Find 'em and kill 'em".