ayjay + war   10

Did the end of the Great War come too soon?
“If peace comes now, it will be a British peace,” Jan Smuts, the future South African premier, told the Imperial War Cabinet on 24 October 1918, “given to the world by the same Empire that settled the Napoleonic wars a century ago.”

But, he warned, if the war continued into 1919 “the peace which will then be imposed on an utterly exhausted Europe will be an American peace” and the United States would have “taken our place as the first military, diplomatic and financial power of the world”.

This fear of an American-imposed peace if the war continued into another campaigning season was one reason why British and French leaders were willing to accept an armistice. They hoped to gain by diplomacy at the peace conference what they had been unable to win on the battlefield.
history  war  from instapaper
10 days ago by ayjay
What Gershom Scholem and Hannah Arendt Can Teach Us About Evil Today - Los Angeles Review of Books
The first letter Scholem wrote Arendt after reading her book — the initial broadside in an exchange that was ultimately made public — began with a number of concessions to Arendt’s position on the Jewish role in facilitating the operation of the Holocaust. Having spent the past 50 years occupying himself with Jewish history, Scholem declares, he is well aware of the abysses in this narrative: “a demonic decay in the midst of life, insecurity in the face of this world […] and a weakness that is perpetually confounded and mingled with debasement and with lust for power.” It’s invariable, he asserts, that in times of catastrophe these tendencies come to the fore. The question that the young were asking in Israel of how all those millions could have allowed themselves to be killed was valid, he allowed. Arendt was right to want people to reflect on such matters. What he cannot countenance is the idea that such a harrowing dilemma could be resolved with a snappy formula. What is unbearable to him, Scholem writes, is the “malicious tone” Arendt has adopted to discuss matters of such profundity. It is Arendt’s “light-hearted style,” the note of “English flippancy” she has favored over that of pity for Eichmann’s victims — just as she has preferred snarkily caricaturing Eichmann himself to seriously analyzing his character — that repulses Scholem.
history  ethics  evil  politics  war 
june 2017 by ayjay
The War of the Worlds (1898)
The War of the Worlds is as much metaphorical fiction as rational extrapolation, and that the many touches of carefully observed verisimilitude in the novel reinforce rather than contradict this metaphoricity. Big guns are explosive. Big guns are the technology of big war, and war, bigger even than the one Lieutenant-Colonel Chesney foretold, was the coming thing. We can, in other words, take seriously the ‘war’ in Wells’ title, here. It’s yet another way in which he was surprisingly prescient, treating war not as warriors meeting on a battlefield but as massed tides of refugees. As civilians terrorised and massacred, living under bombardment and gas-attack. The final chapter of the novel’s first book (16: ‘the Exodus from London’) is not only one of the first but also one of the most powerful representations in fiction of the way war would come to figure in the 20th-century: huge crowds of non-belligerents flooding away from the fighting in fear of their lives. War in The War of the Worlds is no longer a horizontal interaction between two armies. It now has a terrible vertical vector—something the 20th-century world would come to know only too bitterly, from shells and bombs to V2s, cruise missiles and drones plummeting down from on-high. When the narrator says ‘suddenly, like a thing falling upon me from without, came fear [Wells, War, 24] he is describing the Martians s externalisations of a state of mind. Indeed that, in a crucial sense, is what The War of the Worlds is about.
SF  modernism  war 
march 2017 by ayjay
The Hell General Sherman Made
McDonough is content to soft-pedal the whole business, writing that however we categorize things, “Sherman’s intentions were clear: destroy anything of military value to the Confederacy, while subjecting Southern civilians to the inevitable depredations inflicted by a large army tramping through their country and living off the land.”

But those depredations weren’t inevitable until Sherman made them that way, and the definition of “military value” was from the onset stretched so far as to lose any meaning. Whole towns were put to the torch, despite pleas not to dispossess their women, children, elderly, and infirm. Whole populations were uprooted and put on forced marches. Assaults, rapes, and murders, absent from the general’s recollections, were liberally reported by Southerners; reading accounts less accommodating than McDonough’s leads to the inescapable conclusion that war was “all hell” largely because William Tecumseh Sherman made it that way. In Sherman’s March was born No Gun Ri, My Lai, and a dozen other massacres perpetrated on a helpless and innocent civilian population by U.S. forces allowed to conduct “war with the lid off.”

Sherman succeeded—naturally, since he had no opposition—in scorching Georgia, despoiling the Carolinas, and presenting the captured city of Savannah to President Lincoln as a Christmas present in 1864. By that point, the war was in the mopping-up stages, and when it was over, Sherman was given command of the Military Division of the Missouri, tasked with keeping the railroad expansions of the West free from marauding parties of Indians. He wrote: “We must act with vindictive earnestness against the Sioux … even to their extermination, men, women, and children.” In a phrase that should give every modern-day reader a hard chill, he referred to this extermination of the Plains Indians as “the final solution of the Indian problem.”
history  war 
december 2016 by ayjay
Is civilization good for us? Sebastian Junger on the dangers of social fragmentation
We're primates, we're social animals, and we're wired for that close, communal connection. When you take people who've experienced the pleasure of that, and you pick them up and put them back down in the great American suburb, they're going to feel like something is missing because there is something missing. If you look at the rates of mental illness, suicide, depression, schizophrenia, in the modern American environment, they're sky high and climbing.

The suicide rate keeps going up, which is odd for a society that's this wealthy and well off. It's not that the suicide is increasing among the very poor. It's actually increasing among the affluent. That, to me, says there's something literally deadly about social isolation, the kind of individualism that typifies our modern society.
psychology  war  sociology  from instapaper
september 2016 by ayjay
The End of Just War: Why Christian Realism Requires Nonviolence
Yet it is by no means clear if just war reflection can be yoked consistently to Niebuhrian realism. Augustine's and Luther's "realism" presupposed there was another city that at least could call into question state powers. For Niebuhr, realism names the development of states and an international nation-state system that cannot be challenged. Niebuhrian realism assumes that war is a permanent reality for the relation between states because no overriding authority exists that might make war analogous to the police function of the state. Therefore each political society has the right to wage war because it is assumed to do so is part of its divinely ordained work of preservation.

"Realism," therefore, names the reality that at the end of the day, in the world of international relations, the nations with the largest army get to determine what counts for "justice." To use Augustine or Luther to justify this understanding of "realism" is in effect to turn a description into a recommendation. [...]

Baer and Capizzi argue that a more adequate understanding of just war will combine a realist understanding of international politics with a commitment to international order by emphasizing the importance of just intention. This means that a war can be undertaken only if peace - understood as a concept for a more "embracing and stable order" - be the reason a state gives for going to war. The requirement that the intention for going to war be so understood is an expression of love for the enemy just to the extent that the lasting order be one that encompasses the interests of the enemy.

My first reaction to this suggestion is: And people say that pacifists are unrealistic?

[...]

Pacifists are realists. Indeed, we have no reason to deny that the "realism" associated with Augustine, Luther and Niebuhr has much to teach us about how the world works. But that is why we do not trust those who would have us make sacrifices in the name of preserving a world at war. We believe a sacrifice has been made that has brought an end to the sacrifice of war.

Augustine and Luther thought Christians might go to war because they assumed a church existed that provided an alternative to the sacrificial system war always threatens to become. When Christians no longer believe that Christ's sacrifice is sufficient for the salvation of the world, we will find other forms of sacrificial behaviours that are as compelling as they are idolatrous. In the process, Christians confuse the sacrifice of war with the sacrifice of Christ.

If a people does not exist that continually makes Christ present in the world, war will always threaten to become a sacrificial system. War is a counter church. War is the most determinative moral experience many people have.

That is why Christian realism requires the disavowal of war. Christians do not disavow war because it is often so horrible, but because war, in spite of its horror - or perhaps because it is so horrible - can be so morally compelling. That is why the church does not have an alternative to war. The church is the alternative to war. When Christians lose that reality - that is, the reality of the church as an alternative to the world's reality - we abandon the world to the unreality of war.
war  pacifism  theology 
april 2016 by ayjay
The Anomaly of Barbarism | Lapham’s Quarterly
The rise of ISIS is intensely unsettling to the liberal West, and not just because of the capacity the jihadist group has demonstrated to launch a mass-casualty terrorist attack in a major European city. The group’s advance confounds the predominant Western view of the world. For the current generation of liberal thinkers, modern history is a story of the march of civilization. There have been moments of regression, some of them atrocious, but these are only relapses into the barbarism of the past, interrupting a course of development that is essentially benign. For anyone who thinks in this way, ISIS can only be a mysterious and disastrous anomaly.

For those baffled by ISIS, however, it cannot be only ISIS that is mysterious. So too must be much of modern history. ISIS has brought with it many atrocious assaults on civilized values: the sexual enslavement of women and children; the murder of gay men; the targeted killing of writers, cartoonists, and Jews; indiscriminate slaughter at a rock concert; and what amounted to the attempted genocide of the Yezidi. All of these acts of barbarism have modern precedents, many of them in the past century. The use of sexual violence as a military strategy featured in ethnic cleansing in Bosnia in the 1990s; during Bangladesh’s war of independence in 1971; in Nepal, Colombia, Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and many other conflict zones. The destruction of buildings and artworks, which ISIS has perpetrated at the ancient site of Palmyra among other places, has several twentieth-century precedents. Vladimir Lenin’s Bolsheviks razed churches and synagogues in Russia. Mao Zedong demolished large parts of China’s architectural inheritance and most of Tibet’s, while the Pol Pot regime wrecked pagodas and temples and aimed to destroy the country’s cities. In these secular acts of iconoclasm, the goal was to abolish the past and create a new society from “year zero”—an idea that goes back to “year one” of the calendar introduced in France in 1793 to signal the new era inaugurated by the French Revolution. Systematically destroying not only pre-Islamic relics but also long-established Islamic sites, the aim of ISIS is not essentially different. ...

While much remains unknown, there is nothing mysterious in the rise of ISIS. It is baffling only for those who believe—despite everything that occurred in the twentieth century—that modernization and civilization are advancing hand in hand. In fact, now as in the past some of the most modern movements are among the most barbaric. But to admit this would mean surrendering the ruling political faith, a decayed form of liberalism without which Western leaders and opinion formers would be disoriented and lost. To accept that liberal societies may not be “on the right side of history” would leave their lives drained of significance, while a stoical response—which is ready to fight while being doubtful of ultimate victory—seems to be beyond their powers. With mounting bewilderment and desperation, they cling to the faith that the normal course of history has somehow been temporarily derailed.
history  politics  violence  war 
april 2016 by ayjay
Writing a Blank Check on War
In this regard, Republicans are especially egregious offenders. On matters where President Obama is clearly acting in accordance with the Constitution—for example, in nominating someone to fill a vacancy on the Supreme Court—they spare no effort to thwart him, concocting bizarre arguments nowhere found in the Constitution to justify their obstructionism. Yet when this same president cites the 2001 AUMF as the basis for initiating hostilities hither and yon, something that is on the face of it not legal but ludicrous, they passively assent.

Indeed, when Obama in 2015 went so far as to ask Congress to pass a new AUMF addressing the specific threat posed by the Islamic State—that is, essentially rubberstamping the war he had already launched on his own in Syria and Iraq—the Republican leadership took no action. Looking forward to the day when Obama departs office, Senator Mitch McConnell with his trademark hypocrisy worried aloud that a new AUMF might constrain his successor. The next president will “have to clean up this mess, created by all of this passivity over the last eight years,” the majority leader remarked. In that regard, “an authorization to use military force that ties the president’s hands behind his back is not something I would want to do.” The proper role of Congress was to get out of the way and give this commander-in-chief carte blanche so that the next one would enjoy comparably unlimited prerogatives.
war  politics  from instapaper
april 2016 by ayjay
'An End to Every War': The Politics of the Eucharist and the Work of Peace | William Cavanaugh
According to Augustine, real unity can only be the product of participation in God's life - human unity is not for its own sake, but for restoring unity with God. Unity among people in the earthly city is only the product of communal self-love. We see today in liberal secular social orders how, in the absence of anything else to unite us, the nation itself can become the object of devotion, and people kill - and try to avoid dying - for the flag.

For Augustine, this is simply idolatry. True sacrifice can never be the immolation of a victim, making the other poor dumb bastard die for his country. True sacrifice is nothing other than the unity of people with one another through the participation in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Christ's sacrifice reverses the idea that one must achieve domination over the enemy to achieve unity. Christ instead takes on the role of victim, absorbs the violence of the world instead of deals it out, and thereby offers a world in which reconciliation rather than violence can hold sway.

This is why the Eucharist is the antidote to war for Augustine. In the Eucharist, the whole economy of scarcity and competition that leads to war is done away with. Augustine makes clear that God does not need to be appeased as the Roman gods do. God is abundance, not lack, so participation in God's life in the body of Christ does away with competition over scarce goods among people. True sacrifice is unity, and true unity is the participation of the human community in God's life. As Augustine writes:
"the true sacrifices are acts of compassion, whether towards ourselves or towards our neighbours, when they are directed towards God; and acts of compassion are intended to free us from misery and thus to bring us to happiness - which is only attained by the good of which it has been said, 'As for me, my true good is to cling to God'. This being so, it immediately follows that the whole redeemed community ... is offered to God as a universal sacrifice."

This occurs most especially in the Eucharist. Augustine goes on to say:
"This is the sacrifice of Christians, who are 'many, making up one body in Christ'. This is the sacrifice which the Church continually celebrates in the sacrament of the altar ... where it is shown to the Church that she herself is offered in the offering which she presents to God."
theology  Christianity  war 
january 2016 by ayjay
Eyal Weizman: Walking Through Walls | eipcp.net
If moving through walls is pitched by the military as its “humane” answer to the wanton destruction of traditional urban warfare, and as an “elegant” alternative to Jenin-style urban destruction, this is because the damage it causes is often concealed within the interiors of homes. The unexpected penetration of war into the private domain of the home has been experienced by civilians in Palestine, just like in Iraq, as the most profound form of trauma and humiliation. Since Palestinian guerrilla fighters were themselves maneuvering through walls and pre-planned openings, most fighting took place in private homes. Some buildings became like layered cakes, with Israeli soldiers both above and below a floor where Palestinians were trapped.

Urban warfare increasingly depends on technologies developed for the purpose of “un-walling of the wall,” to borrow a term from Gordon Matta-Clark. As a complement to military tactics that involve physically breaking and walking through walls, new methods have been devised to allow soldiers not only to see but also shoot and kill through solid walls. The Israeli company Camero developed a hand-held imaging device that combines thermal imaging with ultra-wideband radar, which much like a contemporary maternity-ward ultra-sound system has the ability to produce three-dimensional renderings of biological life concealed behind barriers.[4] Weapons using the NATO standard 5.56mm round are complemented with some using the 7.62mm one, which is capable of penetrating brick, wood, and adobe without much deflection of the bullet-head. Instruments of “literal transparency” are the main components in the search to produce a ghostlike (or computer-game like) military fantasy-world of boundless fluidity, in which the space of the city becomes as navigable as an ocean. By striving to see what is hidden behind walls and to move and propel ammunition through them, the military seems to have elevated contemporary technologies – using the justification of (almost contemporary) theories – to the level of metaphysics, seeking to move beyond the here and now of physical reality, collapsing time and space.
city  war  from instapaper
april 2013 by ayjay

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