Psychiatrist Jonathan Shay, author of Achilles In Vietnam: Combat Trauma and the Undoing of Character, found that dehumanizing the enemy during the Vietnam war caused psychological damage to American troops:
Restoring honor to the enemy is an essential step in recovery from combat PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). While other things are obviously needed as well, the veteranâ€™s self-respect never fully recovers so long as he is unable to see the enemy as worthy. In the words of one of our patients, a war against subhuman vermin â€œhas no honor.â€ This in true even in victory; in defeat, the dishonoring makes life unendurable. (Achilles, pg. 115)
In our attempts to dehumanize our enemy we end up becoming less than human ourselves. It would be a Pyrrhic victory to save civilization and lose our humanity
This is an amazing post- not very long, but it gets to the core of why it is so important to be careful of how we paint enemies, even enemies of what is right, as sub-human villains.
In commenting upon a recent article in TechCentralStation by Dr. Helen Smith (Insta-wife), Joe Carter of evangelical outpost makes the point through applying a theolgoical truth… always the best way to slice through to the right balance on an issue. In response to “warning of the dangers of â€œoverhumanizingâ€ terrorists” is the counterweight of “humans are not inherently good and that our political actions should be developed in light of this understanding”.
As he develops the concept, the right balance is struck in how to wage war against evil without becoming evil ourselves. That is always the danger when we refuse to render proper recognition of human dignity to those who oppose us, or who are given over to destruction and destructiveness.
I’ve often commented on this from a different perspective, more of an intuitive one, which is why “A Christian Perspective on “Humanizing” Terrorists” added important light to something which we find ourselves faced with daily: how to properly respond to evil in other people …some evil enough to want to destory us without provocation or reason.