Sunday, January 15, 2012

Balls, Hearts and Minds


"Cuius testiculos habes, Habes cardia et cerebellum"
If you have their balls, you have their hearts and minds. 

“If you’ve got them by the balls, their hearts and minds will follow.”

(Variations:  some versions replace the word “If” at the beginning of the quote to “Once” or “When”).
The above quotation, widely quoted during the Vietnam War, has an uncertain origin.

The political concept of “hearts and minds” is that protecting and helping civilians will assist in bringing the population onside and bring about a local or national change of allegiance. 
Some comments: 

The phrase comes from the Biblical quotation 

“And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Jesus Christ.”

The Epistle of St Paul to the Philippians, c. 62 A.D.

In 1818 Revolutionary war patriot and later American President John Adams wrote in  letter to a friend:

“The Revolution was in the minds and hearts of the people; a change in their religious sentiments of their duties and obligations...This radical change in the principles, opinions, sentiments, and affections of the people, was the real American Revolution.”
-  John Adams,  Letter to Hezekiah Niles, February 13, 1818

In 1906, Theodore Roosevelt was asked by an aide, Lt. Douglas MacArthur, to what he attributed his popularity. Roosevelt said:

"To put into words what is in their hearts and minds but not in their mouths."

President Lyndon Baines Johnson adopted the phrase “hearts and minds” (sometimes transposed as “minds and hearts” in the sense of the Adams’ quote to refer to his policy of using assistance and development programs to win popular support as well as control by force.

“We must be ready to fight in Vietnam, but the ultimate victory will depend upon the hearts and the minds of the people who actually live out there.”

- U.S. President Lyndon Baines Johnson ,  “Hearts and Minds” speech, May 4, 1965

Johnson’s phrase and the philosophy behind it was not universally accepted.  For some, the heats and minds policy was considered a “soft” approach, that control was needed first and that popular support could be addressed afterwards.  Win the war and then focus on winning the peace.  This was typified by the Green Berets' variation on hearts and minds:

“If you've got them by the balls, their hearts and minds will follow.”
-  U.S. Green Berets slogan during the Vietnam War


An alternative origin, and the first time that the phrase appeared in print, was offered by Jack Anderson in a column in 1967.  According to Anderson, the President visited Navy fliers on an official visit.  After he left, Navy crews painted on some fighter-bombers:

"Grab 'em by the throat.  The hearts and minds will follow."

Anderson changed the word “balls” to “throat” to meet the publication requirements of the time.

Thereafter, during the years of the Vietnam War, the quotation was variously attributed to John Wayne, to Charles Colson (Special Counsel to the President) and President Richard M Nixon.

The war in Iraq included a new hearts and minds campaign, it being considered that psychological operations, referred to as Psyops, were crucial in dealing with a war on terrorism. 

Unfortunately, mistakes and controversial policy decisions resulted in failure to win Iraqi hearts and minds.

In June 2004 the US Subcommittee on National Security, Emerging Threats and International Relations, had hearings to look into "corrective actions that might be undertaken to regain the confidence and cooperation of the Iraqi people, improve public diplomacy messages, and help chart the course for future efforts in Iraq.”

According to Christopher Shays, Chairman of the Subcommittee:

“The United States and its Coalition partners are attempting to win the hearts and minds of the people in Iraq while providing military security and support to economic and political reform programs. But some assumptions made about Iraq proved faulty, and some policy decisions were controversial and created more doubt than confidence in U.S. capabilities and intentions.”

Columnist and author Jonathan Schell in the November 30, 2009 edition of The Nation, commenting on the war in Afghanistan
“[General] Petraeus’s counterinsurgency manual, with all its talk of winning hearts and minds, is pure Vietnam. To most Americans, Vietnam taught one big lesson: ‘Don’t do it again!’ To today’s military, Vietnam has taught a host of little lessons, adding up to ‘Do it better!’”

Editor Rick Holmes in The MetroWest Daily News , Editorial 15 November 2009:

“The Karzai regime [in Afghanistan] is corrupt and ineffective. Americans would like to think we are fighting against the Islamic extremism embraced by the Taliban, but the Taliban is winning hearts and minds because they are standing up to what increasingly looks like an occupying force.”


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