The Corner

Snakes

I realize that this is a rhetorical analogy and you aren’t really commenting on reptile behavior, but as someone who studies reptiles in the field—I would like to correct the misperception that venomous snakes will kill you if you don’t kill them first. Most snakes are reluctant to bite and do so only as last resort…and in fact, one is most likely to be bitten when they attempt to handle, harass or kill a snake. Unlike Iraqi militants, venomous snakes are best left alone. Fortunately reptiles lack the intelligence (and the desire) to organize attacks on humans. My apologies for what to you may appear off topic, but the misconception that snakes have malicious intent is a pet peeve of mine.

I take his point and wish to apologize to all reptiles and those who study them. I should not have compared the Fallujah insurgents to snakes. To paraphrase the old joke about lawyers, these killers will do things that no self-respecting venomous snake would ever do.

Mackubin Thomas Owens is senior national security fellow of the Foreign Policy Research Institute (FPRI) in Philadelphia, editing its journal Orbis from 2008 to 2020. A Marine Corps infantry veteran of the Vietnam War, he was a professor of national-security affairs at the U.S. Naval War College from 1987 to 2015. He is the author of US Civil–Military Relations after 9/11: Renegotiating the Civil-Military Bargain.

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