Karl Hack’s article in War in History

Professor Karl Hack has published ā€˜Devils that suck the blood of the Malayan Peopleā€™: The Case for Post-Revisionist Analysis of Counter-insurgency Violence’ in War in History. The article addresses the ā€˜revisionistā€™ case that post-war Western counter-insurgency deployed widespread, exemplary violence in order to discipline and intimidate populations. It does this by using the Malayan Emergency of 1948ā€“60 as a case study in extreme counter-insurgency ā€˜violenceā€™, defined as high to lethal levels of physical force against non-combatantsā€™ (civilians, detainees, prisoners, and corpses). It confirms high levels of such violence, from sporadic shooting of civilians to the killing of 24 unarmed workers at Batang Kali. Yet it also demonstrates that there were more varieties of and nuances in extreme force than is sometimes realized, for instance with multiple and very different forms of mass population displacement. It also concentrates more effort on explaining how such violence came about, and shows a marked trend over time towards greatly improved targeting, and towards methods that did not cause direct bodily harm. This case study therefore suggests the need for a ā€˜post-revisionistā€™ form of counter-insurgency analysis: one that can take into account the lifecycles of multiple types of violence, and of violence-limitation, and emphasize explanation for extreme violence over its mere description. Such a post-revisionist analysis need not necessarily imply that there was more, or less, violence than suggested by previous accounts. Instead, it requires a more nuanced and contextualized account, clearly differentiated by technique, place, and period.

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