War, War Never Changes: Pt. 2
by Beauchamp Art
In the second part of this discussion on War, I will be setting out some areas of discussion, revolving around ‘Post-War’ and current conflict issues, discussed in brief here, with further examples in the third and final section of these texts. Post-war may be considered the post-media continuation of war as a multi-media subject; exemplifying the problems of multi-faceted media objects, although here the emphasis is on the political environment in which war is exhibited, rather than a media analysis.
The post-WWII era could be described as the start of the Post-War era, and the start of a new age of waging war; cold war, state terrorism, unending conflicts. The war that never ends, like the post-Fordist system it has emerged from, where the work never stops, there is only continual production, continual total war. Conflicts have no definite beginning and no legitimate end.
For example, President George Bush Jr.’s ‘Mission Accomplished’ speech regarding victory claims in the Middle east in 2003 could be seen as a false conclusion as conflict in the region continues, with Western forces role varying over the last ten years. Much as Bush Sr.’s declaration of the end of the first Gulf War merely was the start of another interim period for America’s input, which may retrospectively be seen as more of a pause than a stop to the ongoing involvement of Wester nations in the continuing geopolitical turmoil of the Middle East. With many of the territorial disputes coming about directly as a consequence of the dividing up of land and drawing of new borders by the British after WWII, in order to secure trade routes to desirable, mineral rich regions.
Moreover, a ceasefire cannot be declared in Ukraine involving Russian forces because Russia is not official at war (and even when peace is declared, it is not adhered to), much as the US, UK and NATO forces occupy the lingering battlegrounds of the Gulf are there not as soldiers, but as ‘peacekeepers’, envoys for the anti-war. If “war is peace” [Orwell, 1949: 27], then the constant state of conflicts between nations that are cannot be declared part of a total war, because even total wars have to end. Whereas ‘states of emergency’, of ‘imminent threat’ or ‘civil unrest’, do not. A caravan of militants can continue to roll on, as long as they are no disruptive to the powers that be, the peacekeepers. The agents of the status quo that quell the revolving reel of revolutions instigate stagnation, letting one undesirable regime blur into the next.
Private military firms and urban militias are the new mercenaries buying favour with bloodshed are directed by the highest bidder, acting with impunity, abstaining direct responsibility for rouge actions from the offending party. Such as the incident with the private security company “Blackwater (recently renamed Xe), which rocketed to fame [in 2007] when four company security guards, escorting a convoy of US state department vehicles en route to a meeting in western Baghdad, opened fire in Nisour Square in Baghdad killing 17 Iraqi civilians.” These sorts of incidents are not totally uncommon, but have resulted in minimal repercussions or reciprocity from the international community as they become part of the norm, the acceptable losses.
Collateral damage is now an expected and acceptable aspect of the Post-War era. Atrocities directly inflicted on civilians is still widely regarded as unacceptable (a war crime), but should the some people die to take out on high value target in a air strike or drone attack, then all is well; they are acceptable losses (on a level which even veterans of the Somme would find unpalatable, especially with non-combatants). Collateral is now an easier accident, with sword and spear a solider could not mistakenly slaughter half the population of a city (such actions may have been undertaken with intent, but never as happenstance, and such excuse could have existed). Battles are still fought between soldiers, or peacekeepers and militants (though air-strikes are preferable to for those that can afford them) but it is now more actively waged against a civilian population, and through ideological warfare, pitting ‘freedom and democracy’ against ‘oppression and terror’.
Peace is no longer even a viable option or considered possibility. Yet the populous is impressed into the delusion that “peace is the norm, if an unattainable one” [Sontag, 2003: 66] One can only try to prevent genocide. The steaks have been raised to the nth degree, but the essence of conflict remains the same. “Throughout history, [w]ar has been the norm and peace the exception.” [Sontag, 2003: 66] Although the ratio of purposeful to senseless deaths in the name of war has shifted dramatically towards the destruction of those passively engaged through their proximity. To put it plainly; the blast radius has expanded.
So casually now war crimes are commutable by all sides, with or without admitting intent. War cannot end. Not simple because of the financial or political gains or the myths of undefeatable enemies, of one’s one invincibility, or the threat of total annihilation, but also because it is useful. It allows atrocities to be part of the everyday, for the shock to be banal, and for it there always to be a worse situation elsewhere; to do unpopular (thus undemocratic) things in the name of national security, protecting sovereignty, and impossible serenity.
With the technological developments of war maximising the killing capacity for the next conflict, with surplus developments being sold back to the civilian populous (such as DVDs, originally developed as military hardware) allow the general populous can never be allowed to think that they are comparable to the military (in all nations), they must be secondary in might, and therefore are more easily controlled. Should this illusion break down, then civil disobedience begins (Concord could not be allowed to fly because it lets the average citizen travel as fast as jet fighters, making the pubic feel like supermen and making military commanders jittery).
The people of great nations may wish to elevate the pain of others, and aid those suffering, but their government imposes their decision as to what is right for the nation over its people. The leaders who make such unwanted decisions are held up by the media as bold, strong, and therefore having affected their right to rule (such as Napoleon, Churchill, or even Obama and Putin equally) rather than this being considered undemocratic, hypocritical, and authoritarian. They use the excuses of difficult time to make difficult decision, in other words, ones that are counter to the will of the masses, and the overlooked minorities, in the name of a fall collective ideology that simultaneous praises individualism (rather ‘personalisation’ in the guise of individuality; a capitalist appropriation of the term) with the impossibly presented aim of peace and prosperity.
Nevertheless, the problem of propaganda is such a large subject in itself, a more extensive examination will not take place here (rather, in Pt. 3) in order to not do poor justice to its importance. Democracy is unquestionably seen as a force for good in the West, yet its nations are frequently those that would overrule the will of the people first, hence a more genuine description of the majority of such political systems would be an Oligarchy. Frequently, this may be an autocratic or totalitarian system, presented as social libertarianism, (liberty for businesses, not the populous) with a small group of powerful individuals enacting a self-interested conservative doctrine, disingenuously doing so in the name of The People.
Democracy cannot be considered democratic unless it considers all people equally, not just the majority, or those with pre-existing power. (The UK would describe this as the lack of social mobility, and the stubbornness of the old Upper Class; even above what the French describe as the Bourgeoisie, power coming from titles and assigned positions in a neo-Royalist nation. In the USA, a Republic with a single ‘Commander in Chief’ and President, then the general populous is referred to meaninglessly as the ‘Middle Class’, so the European Class system is overlooked but still present, though the social hierarchies are primarily considered in terms of capital and financial power. Although ‘social mobility’ is equally unlikely as in the UK, given the colossal wealth gap between the poorest and wealthiest.)
Such utilitarianism is the glorified bane of the Post-War age. It is this ideology that accepts collateral damage both in conflict and social affairs. It is this mechanical introspections that means the ends will always be seen to justify the means, an this is why war is not allowed to end, because the imperfect, popularised utilitarian model means that collateral is always acceptable. Because irregardless of the human cost, war can always be useful, the must always be available, and so cannot be seen to end, but must always be presented as almost at an end, so whatever will be done, thy will be done.
- Chatterjee, Pratap (2010) Iraq war logs: military privatisation run amok. The Guardian [Online] – http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/cifamerica/2010/oct/23/iraq-war-logs-us-military – Accessed 14.9.14
- Orwell, George. 1949) Nineteen Eighty-Four. 1984 Edition. Penguin Books Ltd. Middlesex, Great Britain.
- Sontag, Susan. (2003) Regarding The Pain Of Others. 1st Edition. Hamish Hamilton; Penguin Books. London, Great Britain.