Chapter One

Slim begins his book by recounting the harrowing experience of the Mandingo massacre in Bakedu, Liberia by the National Patriotic Front of Liberia in which NPFL soldiers shot to death a majority of the men, women, and children. He describes a specific instance of the massacre in which an unknown soldier of the NPFL spared multiple of the Mandingo men, women, and children to introduce the concept of limited warfare (Slim 10). I thought that Slim’s presentation of the history of the idea of limited warfare was an auto-recognition of human depravity and arose out of a desire to curb this internal depravity that surfaces under the extreme conditions of war that uncontrolled, could mean significant detriment to the human race.

Some of the definitions of “civilians” present in the book from peoples such as St. Augustine and Hugo Grotius I disagreed with. One observation that I noted was as I read the thoughts of Alberico Gentili, as he asserted that “women who play the part of men during war are men and not women”. This stuck out to me because of the mentality that women lack the base instinct of killing so they must be men because females are unable to handle the act of killing someone. To me, this is so patronizing, as though the concept of a “threatening group” being one that is intimately connected to men (by “intimately” I mean both sexually and just in daily life) is so scary a theory has to be devised in order to deny a perceived direct threat to their power.

Towards the end of the chapter, Slim discusses a particular idea of idealization, or the capacity of a person, namely a killer, to identify with their victim, in this particular case, a civilian. Slim conjectured that if more soldiers could idealize with civilians as people that maintain more of emotional significance to the combatant that fewer civilians would be subjected to atrocities and the idea of limited warfare would be achieved. I agree with that statement, but I am curious as to ways in which this idea of idealization could be conveyed to combatants in such a way that they would feel inclined to practice this technique. I guess I am going to read as I read further along in the book.

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