English 122NW: Narratives of War

UC Santa Barbara, Winter 2012


On this page I will post key administrative items, quotations, and concepts from lectures. As you will see, these will not be comprehensive and will in no way substitute for attendance.

March 12: War games

Lecture in three parts: 4G warfare; simulation; war games

Video: clips from Jihad TV | Joint Fire Effects System | Virtual Patient for Military Social Work | Tactical Questioning Character | War Games trailer

Edward Castronova: “The lesson is that the army must fight where the war is, and the war will go where the people are. In 1814, everybody was on foot. In 1914, they were on trains. In 1940, they were in cars. In 2040, they will be in avatars.”

Hannah Arendt, On Violence: “The logical flaw in these hypothetical constructions of future events – with or without its implied alternatives, according to the level of sophistication – turns immediately, usually after a few paragraphs, into a ‘fact,’ which then gives birth to a whole string of similar non-facts, with the result that the purely speculative character of the whole enterprise is forgotten”

Keith Alexander, U.S. Chief of Cyber Command: “What concerns me the most is destructive attacks that are coming, and we’re concerned that those are the next things that we will see”

The 9/11 Commission Report: “Khallad adds that the training involved using flight simulator computer games, viewing movies that featured hijackings, and reading flight schedules to determine which flights would be in the air at the same time in different parts of the world.  They used the game software to increase their familiarity with aircraft models and functions, and to highlight gaps in cabin security.”

Are video games or films better at depicting war?” (The Observer; September 2010)

William S. Lind, “Guerrilla War 101”: “Air power works against you, not for you. It kills lots of people who weren’t your enemy, recruiting their relatives, friends and fellow tribesmen to become your enemies. In this kind of war, bombers are as useful as 42 cm. siege mortars.”

March 7: Shooting the wars in Iraq & Afghanistan

Play list: Jessica Yellin, CNN interview (May 2008) | Iraq: The Hidden Story (May 2006) | The Death Squads (December 2006) | Jon Snow’s Hidden Iraq (March 2008) | Hometown Baghdad (“Brains on Campus“) | Alive in Baghdad

DVDs: clips from The War Tapes | Restrepo | Occupation Dreamland | Gunner Palace | Jarhead

Simon Hattenstone, The Guardian (March 2008): “Have there been fewer pictures from this war than previous wars? “Oh, of course. Of course.” How come, when everyone is out there making their own home movies? “They never make their way into the mainstream media because the mainstream media is a big corporation now, and they’ve got stockholders, and they don’t like to put unpleasant pictures up on the air because you can’t sell advertising and you’re showing a depressing view of the war.” In Vietnam, he says, at least sufficient images found their way home to enable people to make an informed decision on the war. But that was the lesson the US government learned from Vietnam – if you’re going to fight an unpopular war, make sure photographs of scorched girls running for their lives don’t reach the public.”

March 5: Netwar: swarms & networks

President Bush’s National Security Strategy (September 2002): “Defending our Nation against its enemies is the first and fundamental commitment of the Federal Government. Today, that task has changed dramatically. Enemies in the past needed great armies and great industrial capabilities to endanger America. Now, shadowy networks of individuals can bring great chaos and suffering to our shores for less than it costs to purchase a single tank. Terrorists are organized to penetrate open societies and to turn the power of modern technologies against us. ”
“we must be prepared to defeat our enemies’ plans, using the best intelligence and proceeding with deliberation. History will judge harshly those who saw this coming danger but failed to act. In the new world we have entered, the only path to safety is the path of action. “

RAND paper on asymmetrical warfare: “In its ideal and most extreme form, asymmetric warfare causes a cascading effect that is out of proportion to the effort invested.  Asymmetric approaches, therefore, often seek a major psychological impact to produce shock and confusion and thereby affect the opponent’s will, initiative, and freedom of action.  This condition, whether it is called disruption or disorganization, in turn creates conditions whereby an inferior force can gain conventional advantage over a superior force.”

Zbigniew Brzezinski, The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy and Its Geostrategic Imperatives (1998:  “To put it in a terminology that harkens back to a more brutal age of ancient empires, the three grand imperatives of imperial geostrategy are to prevent collusion and maintain security dependency among the vassals, to keep tributaries pliant and protected, and to keep the barbarians from coming together.”
“America’s primary interest is to help ensure that no single power comes to control this geopolitical space and that the global community has unhindered financial and economic access to it” (148)
“That puts a premium on maneuver and manipulation in order to prevent the emergence of a hostile coalition that could eventually seek to challenge America’s primacy” (198)

PNAC letter to President Clinton (1998): “We urge you to articulate this aim, and to turn your Administration’s attention to implementing a strategy for removing Saddam’s regime from power. This will require a full complement of diplomatic, political and military efforts. Although we are fully aware of the dangers and difficulties in implementing this policy, we believe the dangers of failing to do so are far greater. We believe the U.S. has the authority under existing UN resolutions to take the necessary steps, including military steps, to protect our vital interests in the Gulf. In any case, American policy cannot continue to be crippled by a misguided insistence on unanimity in the UN Security Council.”

Larry Wilkerson (Powell’s Chief of Staff), New America Foundation speech (October 2005): “We had a discussion in policy planning about actually mounting an operation to take the oilfields in the Middle East, internationalize them, put them under some sort of U.N. trusteeship and administer the revenues and the oil accordingly. That’s how serious we thought about it.”

Brzezinski, The Smart Way Out of a Foolish War,” Washington Post (March 30, 2008):  “Terminating the war in Iraq is the necessary first step to calming the Middle East, but other measures will be needed. It is in the U.S. interest to engage Iran in serious negotiations — on both regional security and the nuclear challenge it poses. But such negotiations are unlikely as long as Washington’s price of participation is unreciprocated concessions from Tehran. Threats to use force on Iran are also counterproductive because they tend to fuse Iranian nationalism with religious fanaticism.”

Manuel Castells, The Rise of the Network Society (1996):  “The corporation itself has changed its organizational model, to adapt to the conditions of unpredictability ushered in by rapid economic and technological change. The main shift can be characterized as the shift from vertical bureaucracies to the horizontal corporation. The horizontal corporation seems to be characterized by seven main trends: … a flat hierarchy; team management….” (164)

February 29: The war on terror: homo sacer

Lecture in three parts: detainees (home sacer); friend & enemy; just war

Video: Torturing Democracy [clip 1 and clip 2]

Hannah Arendt, On Totalitarianism (1951): “We became aware of the existence of a right to have rights…and a right to belong to some kind of organized community, only when millions of people emerged who had lost and could not regain these rights” (295-6)

Dept of Justice Office of Legal Counsel Memo (John Yoo; March 14, 2003)

Jonathan Alter, Newsweek (November 5, 2001): “We can’t legalise torture; it’s contrary to American values. But even as we continue to speak out against human-rights abuses around the world, we need to keep an open mind about certain measures to fight terrorism, like court-sanctioned psychological interrogation. And we’ll have to think about transferring some suspects to our less squeamish allies, even if that’s hypcritical. Nobody said this was going to be pretty.”

Vice President Cheney, Meet the Press (September 16, 2001): “We also have to work, though, sort of the dark side … A lot of what needs to be done will have to be done quietly, without any discussion, using sources and methods that are available to our intelligence agencies … it’s going to be vital for us to use any means at our disposal …”

Levin/McCain Senate Report (December 2008): “The abuse of detainees in U.S. custody cannot simply be attributed to the actions of ‘a few bad apples’ acting on their own. The fact is that senior officials in the United States government solicited information on how to use aggressive techniques, redefined the law to create the appearance of their legality, and authorized their use against detainees” (xii); “Exemplifying the disturbing nature and substance of the training, the SERE instructors explained “Biderman’s Principles” – which were based on coercive methods used by the Chinese Communist dictatorship to elicit false confessions from U.S. POWs during the Korean War –  and left with GTMO personnel a chart of those coercive techniques” (xx)

Documentaries to consider: The Road to Guantánamo (2006); Ghosts of Abu Ghraib (2007); Taxi to the Dark Side (2007); Standard Operating Procedure (2008); Torturing Democracy (2008)

Joe Sacco, “Complacency Kills” (February 2005)

Carl Schmitt, The Concept of the Political: “If such physical destruction of human life is not motivated by an existential threat to one’s own way of life, then it cannot be justified…The justification of war does not reside in its being fought for ideals or norms of justice, but in its being fought against a real enemy” (48-9); “War follows from enmity. It is the most extreme consequence of enmity.” (33)

President Bush, radio address announcing the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom (March 22, 2003): “American and coalition forces have begun a concerted campaign against the regime of Saddam Hussein. In this war, our coalition is broad, more than 40 countries from across the globe. Our cause is just, the security of the nations we serve and the peace of the world. And our mission is clear, to disarm Iraq of weapons of mass destruction, to end Saddam Hussein’s support for terrorism, and to free the Iraqi people.”

February 27: Optical surveillance

Lecture in three parts: De Landa; Panopticon; Machine vision/vision machine

Killer Robots Must Learn Warrior Code“: “There is a common misconception that robots will do only what we have programmed them to do,” Patrick Lin, the chief compiler of the report, said. “Unfortunately, such a belief is sorely outdated, harking back to a time when . . . programs could be written and understood by a single person.” The reality, Dr Lin said, was that modern programs included millions of lines of code and were written by teams of programmers, none of whom knew the entire program: accordingly, no individual could accurately predict how the various portions of large programs would interact without extensive testing in the field – an option that may either be unavailable or deliberately sidestepped by the designers of fighting robots.

Black Widow Micro UAV

February 22: War machines

Video from lecture: Clips from “Wired for War” (36:00-38:00) and Singer on ripple effects (06:00-08:00)

Robot: from English translation of 1920 play “R.U.R.” (“Rossum’s Universal Robots”), by Karel Capek; from Czech robotnik “slave,” etc.

De Landa: “The current generation of predatory machines now in production will probably be used as remotely controlled vehicles capable of some on-board, intelligent problem-solving. In other words robotic weapons will probably remain complex prosthetic extensions of the human soldier for a while.” (171)
De Landa: “Since the will to endow weapons systems with autonomous capabilities has been institutionalized in the military, the idea that those weapon systems could one day acquire self-reproducing capability is not science fiction anymore.” (137)

Unmanned Aircraft Systems Roadmap, 2005-2030

Overview of “Unmanned Effects: Taking the Human out of the Loop

February 15: Captivity narratives, cont.

Lecture in two parts: car bombs & captivity narratives; gender, torture & violence (the spectacular execution of Marie-Rose)

Hostages: Benjamin Weir (Presbyterian minister), kidnapped in Beirut, May 1984; Father Martin Jenco (Catholic priest), kidnapped in Beirut, January 8, 1985; Terry Anderson, chief Middle East correspondent for the Associated Press, kidnapped in Beirut, March 16, 1985; Thomas Sutherland (Dean of Agriculture, American University of Beirut), June 9, 1985; Terry Waite (Church of England envoy, hostage negotiator), January 1987; Charles Glass (US television correspondent), June 1987

Books by Lebanese hostages: Terry Anderson, Den of Lions: Memoirs of Seven Years (1993); Benjamin Weir, Hostage Bound, Hostage Free (1987); David Jacobsen, My Life as a Hostage: The Nightmare in Beirut (1993); Terry Waite, Taken on Trust: An Autobiography (1993); Martin Jenco, Bound to Forgive: The Pilgrimage to Reconciliation of a Beirut Hostage (1995)

Trailer for Blind Flight (Brian Keenan’s story of his experience as a hostage in Lebanon)

Background: “Terror Aboard Flight 847” (Time)

Video discussed: Sampan massacre scene from Apocalypse Now

J.M. Coetzee, Waiting for the Barbarians: “They were interested only in demonstrating to me what what it meant to live in a body, as a body, a body which can entertain notions of justice only as long as it is whole and well, which very soon forgets them when its head is gripped and a pipe is pushed down its gullet and pints of salt water are poured into it till it coughs and retches and flails and voids itself.”

Images from Judith Paltin’s lecture forthcoming

February 13: Captivity narratives

Lecture in three parts: events inside & outside the text; towards a rhetoric of war narratives; tribalism

Video: I Remember Lebanon (Zeina Aboul Hosn; 2006)

February 8: Neighbors & enemies

Lecture in three parts: intervention; spectacle; ‘getting on with things’

Video: Srebrenica: The Video of a Wartime Atrocity | clip from No Man’s Land (film on reserve in Kerr Hall)

Quotes from lecture by Lindsay Thomas
– “For me, one advantage of comic journalism is that I can depict the past, which is hard to do if you?re a photographer or filmmaker. History can make you realize that the present is just one layer of a story. What seems to be the immediate and vital story now will one day be another layer in this geology of bummers.” (Joe Sacco, “The Art of War: An Interview with Joe Sacco,” Mother Jones, July/Augst 2005)
– Comic journalism is “one of the slowest art forms or media there is. You know, there’s fast food and there’s the slow food movement; I guess this is slow journalism.” (Joe Sacco, “Joe Sacco,” A.V. Club, June 10, 2011)

February 6: Neighbors & enemies

Lecture in three parts: form; community; neighbors

Graphic storytelling or sequential art: William Hogarth, Marriage a-la-Mode (1743) | Augustus Leopold Egg, Past and Present (1858) | William Blake Archive | Will Eisner, A Contract with God (1978)

Henry James, from the preface to The Ambassadors: “There is the story of one’s hero, and then, thanks to the intimate connexion of things, the story of one’s story itself.”

Étienne Balibar, We, the People of Europe?: “on the one hand, the Balkans are a part of Europe, and on the other, they are not.”

Video: two clips from Pretty Village, Pretty Flame

References on community and the neighbor: Giorgio Agamben, The Coming Community; Jean-Luc Nancy, The Inoperative Community; Jacques Derrida, The Politics of Friendship and Of Hospitality; Emmanuel Levinas, Totality and Infinity: An Essay on Exteriority; Kenneth Reinhard, Eric Santner, and Slavoj Žižek, The Neighbor: Three Inquiries in Political Theology

February 1: Trauma and memory, cont.

Lecture in two parts: spectatorship & complicity; ‘in the shit’

Michael Herr, Dispatches (1977): “Patrol went up the mountain. One man came back. He died before he could tell us what happened.”

Quotes from lecture by Jonathan Forbes
– Sigmund Freud, New Introductory Lectures on Psycho-Analysis (1933): “It is indeed the case that large portions of the ego and super-ego can remain unconscious and are normally unconscious. That is to say, the individual knows nothing of their contents and it requires an expenditure of effort to make them conscious. It is a fact that ego and conscious, repressed and unconscious do not coincide.”
– Sandra Bloom, “Bridging the Black Hole of Trauma”: “It is becoming increasingly clear that the traumatized person loses access to language, that is not that the words are present and then ‘repressed,’ but rather that the traumatic experience has never been verbally processed. Instead, the traumatic experience is ‘articulated’ in an entirely different language–the language of the nonverbal, of the enacted.”
– Cathy Caruth, Unclaimed Experience: “We can begin to recognize the possibility of a history that is no longer straightforwardly referential […]. Through the notion of trauma, I argue, we can understand that the rethinking of reference is aimed not at eliminating history but at resituating it in our understanding.” and “[H]istory, like trauma, is never simply one’s own, […] history is precisely the way we are implicated in each other’s traumas.”

January 30: Trauma and memory

Lecture in three parts: history; form; a ‘true war story’ [we did not get to section 3 so this will start lecture on Wednesday]

Video: excerpt from Vietnam: A Television History; first few minutes from Hearts and Minds

Sigmund Freud, “Moses and Monotheism” (1939): “It may happen that a man who has experienced some frightful accident – a railway collision, for instance – leaves the scene of the event apparently uninjured. In the course of the next few weeks, however, he develops a number of severe psychical and motor symptoms which can only be traced to his shock, the concussion or whatever else it was. He now has a ‘traumatic neurosis.’”

January 25: Documents of barbarism: shock & the limits of sympathy

Lecture in three parts: real/representation; framing; media war (or, war of images)

Photographs: James Nachtwey | Ashley Gilbertson | Stefan Zaklin | Chris Hondros | Zoriah Miller

Michael Herr, Dispatches: “It took the war to teach it, that you were as responsible for everything you saw as you were for everything you did. The problem was that you didn’t always know what you were seeing until later, maybe years later, that a lot of it never made it in at all, it just stayed stored there in your eyes.”

Video: Heather Burnett, Witness: AnAesthetic [archived video] | War Feels Like War (first 1:30 mins)

January 23: War photographs: shock & the limits of sympathy

Lecture in three parts: overview of Susan Sontag’s text; regarding; sympathy

Photographs from Ron Haviv, Balkan War Journal | Jeff Wall, Dead Troops Talk (A Vision After an Ambush of a Red Army Patrol Near Moqor, Afghanistan, Winter 1986) | Robert Capa, Death of a Loyalist Soldier | Alexander Gardner, Confederate dead | Tyler Hicks, Taliban Execution

// Midterm paper topics distributed

January 18: War neuroses, continued

Lecture in four parts: toward a taxonomy of war narratives as genre or mode; WWI poets; sacrifice; ‘looking at the results’

Walter Benjamin, “The Storyteller”: “Was it not noticeable at the end of the war that men returned from the battlefield grown silent – not richer, but poorer in communicable experience?”

Film clip shown in class: the last few minutes of Behind the Lines (film version of Regeneration; on reserve in Kerr Hall)
Photographs shown in class from Ernst Friedrich, War against War (Friedrich’s anti-war museum)

January 11: War neuroses

Lecture in three parts: history & historical context; form & structure of the novel; trauma

Freud, “Psycho-analysis and the War Neuroses” (1919): “The conflict is between the soldier’s old peaceful ego and his new warlike one, and it becomes acute as soon as the peace-ego realizes what danger it runs of losing its life owing to the rashness of its newly formed, parasitic double. It would be equally true to say that the old ego is protecting itself from a mortal danger by taking flight into a traumatic neurosis or to say that it is defending itself against the new ego which it sees is threatening its life.”

Freud, Beyond the Pleasure Principle (1919): “The patient cannot remember the whole of what is repressed in him, and what he cannot remember may be precisely the essential part of it. Thus he acquires no sense of conviction of the correctness of the construction that has been communicated to him. He is obliged to repeat the repressed material as a contemporary experience instead of, as the physician would prefer to see, remembering it as something belonging to the past.”

– 1905 Henry HEAD et al. in Brain XXVIII. 106 The position of the point stimulated cannot be recognised and each stimulus causes a widespread radiating sensation… To this form of sensibility we propose to give the name ‘protopathic’
– 1905 Henry HEAD et al. in Brain XXVIII. 107 To this form of sensibility we propose to give the name ‘epicritic’, since it is peculiarly associated with the localisation and discrimination of cutaneous stimuli.

January 9: Introduction

  1. Introductions & waiting list. If you are enrolled, make sure to attend your section this week to avoid being dropped from the class. We will do our best to accommodate graduating seniors and 4th year students.
  2. Honors section: Wednesdays 2-2:50 p.m.; SH 2714
  3. LCI students: meet me after lecture on Wednesday
  4. Books in bookstore and on reserve in Davidson; some reading online in pdf format and noted as such on the syllabus
  5. Online syllabus: study materials, policies
  6. Assignments: two papers, final exam (take-home essays; in-class passage IDs)
  7. Film screenings: Monday nights, 7:00-10:00, LSB 1001 (films also available after the screenings in Kerr Hall learning lab)

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