War of Heroes, War of Machines: Atrocity, Total War and the Epic Imagination
We live in an age of war by machine, of laser-guided bombs and robotic drones and improvised explosive devices. For nearly two centuries war has been predominantly industrial, mechanical, impersonal. Yet our ideas of war - the ethical and aesthetic penumbra that has always surrounded warfare - are rooted in glory. They descend from the epic imagination, centered as it is on the hero testing his power and his life against his nemesis and against fate. In this seminar we will trace the roots of the heroic imagination back to its beginnings in ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt, follow its development and its questioning in classical Greece and Rome and its critique in the bastard epics of the Middle Ages, and examine its deterioration and rejection in the modern age of war by machine. Our lodestar throughout will be the rise of total war and its accompanying ideas of mercy, human rights and group violence bounded by law - and the clash of these ideas with our lingering notion of war as the ultimate realm of heroic deeds. Readings will be drawn from the The Battle of Megiddo, Epic of Gilgamesh and the Atra-Hasis, The Illiad, Aeschylus and Euripides, the Mahabarata, Arrian and Plutarch, The Aeneid, and The Song of Roland, as well as Graves, Remarque, Lindqvist and Filkins.
HR315 — Fall 2010
War of Heroes, War of Machines:
Atrocity, Total War and the Epic Imagination
Tuesday 1:30-3:50pm — RKC 122
Mark Danner has written about international affairs, human rights and foreign wars for two decades, covering Central America, Haiti, the Balkans and Iraq, among other stories. A longtime contributor to the New York Review of Books and former New Yorker staff writer, Danner is the author of The Massacre at El Mozote; The Road to Illegitimacy; Torture and Truth: America, Abu Ghraib and the War on Terror; The Secret Way to War and Stripping Bare the Body: Politics Violence War.
Requirements: This course is a discussion seminar, meeting every Tuesday afternoon to examine the evolution of our ideas about war, heroism and technology. Faithful attendance is critical, as is thorough preparation, which means keeping up with the reading and following closely the coverage of America's wars in the daily press. There will be a final paper and some short written assignments.
Grading: The grade is based on attendance, class participation and the quality of the written work.
Reading: Books assigned for the course will be available at the Bard Bookstore. I strongly recommend purchase of the required text.
Newspapers and Magazines: Since we live in the age of the War of Machines, students are required to keep up faithfully with news coverage of America's wars - in the major daily newspapers, beginning with the New York Times, Washington Post and Los Angeles Times, and also on the broadcast press, particularly CNN and NPR and the BBC. The major newsweeklies, especially The Economist, are also strongly recommended.
1. -----------------, Gilgamesh: A New English Version, translated by Stephen Mitchell (Free Press, 2006 [c. 1500 BC])
2. -----------------, The Iliad, translated by Stanley Lombardo (Hackett, 1997 [c. 750 BC])
3. Simon Weil, War and the Iliad (NYRB Classics, 2005)
4.Virgil, The Aeneid, translated by Sarah Rudin (Yale University Press, 2009 [c. 19BC])
5. Jonathan Shay, Achilles in Vietnam (Simon & Schuster, 1995)
6. -------------, The Mahabharata, translated by C. V. Narasimhan (Columbia, 1997  [c. 400 BCE])
7. Ernst Junger, Storm of Steel (Penguin Classics, 2004)
8. Sven Lindqvist, A History of Bombing (New Press/First Edition, 2003)
9. James Salter, The Hunters: A Novel (Vintage, 1999 )
10. William Manchester, Goodbye, Darkness: A Memoir of the Pacific War (Back Bay, 2002)
11. Christopher R. Browning, Ordinary Men: Reserve Police Battalion 101 and the Final Solution in Poland (Harper, 1993)
12. Michael Herr, Dispatches (Vintage, 1991 )
13. Dave Grossman, On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society (Back Bay, 2009 )
14. Mark Bowden, Black Hawk Down: A Story of Modern War (Grove, 2010 )
15. Jon Krakauer, Where Men Win Glory: The Odyssey of Pat Tillman (Anchor, 2010 )
16. David Finkel, The Good Soldiers (Picador, 2010 )
1. ------------------, The Epic of Gilgamesh, edited by Benjamin R. Foster (Norton, 2001)
2. Aeschylus, The Oresteia, translated by Hugh Lloyd-Jones (University of California Press, 2008)
3. Martin van Creveld, The Transformation of War: The Most Radical Reinterpretation of Armed Conflict Since Clausewitz (Free Press, 1991)
4. Joseph Campbell, The Hero With A Thousand Faces (New World, 2008 )
5. Iliad, Translated by Robery Graves, introduction by the translator
6. Iliad, Translated by Robert Fagles, introduction by Bernard Knox
7. Schein, Seth. Mortal Hero: An Introduction to Homer's 'Iliad'
8. Alexander, Caroline. The War that Killed Achilles: The True Story of Homer's Iliad and the Trojan War
9. Euripides, The Trojan Women
10. Nietzsche, Friedrich, The Birth of Tragedy
11. Richard A. Clarke and Robert Knake, Cyber War: The Next Threat to National Security and What to Do About It (Ecco, 2010)
12. -----------------The Baghava- Gita, Translated by Christopher Isherwood
13. Ernst Junger Fire and Blood
14. Ernst Junger On the Marble Cliff
15. Hannah Arendt, Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil
16. Samantha Powers, A Problem from Hell: America in the Age of Genocide
17. Daniel Goldhagen, Hitler's Willing Executioners
18. Gitta Sereny, Into the Darkness: An Examination of Conscience
19. AC Grayling, Among the Dead Cities
20. David Halberstam, The Best and the Brightest
21. Ford Maddox Ford, The Good Soldier
22. Nir Rosen, Aftermath: Following the Bloodshed of America's Wars in the Muslim World
23. Steve Coll, Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and Bin Laden, from the Soviet Invasion to September 10, 2001
24. Lawrence Wright,
1. The Thin Red Line, Terrance Malick dir.
2. Platoon, Oliver Stone dir.
3. Full Metal Jacket, Stanley Kubrick dir.
4. Apocalypse Now, Francis Ford Coppola dir.
5. Shoah, Claude Lanzmann dir.
6. Hearts and Minds, Peter Davis dir.
Sketch of a Syllabus
August 31 Seminar in a Time of War. Introduction to War and Heroes. The First Story of War.
Tjaneni, The Battle of Megiddo (Halls of Annals, Temple of Amun, 1457 BCE)
September 7: CLASS POSTPONED; MAKEUP CLASS TBA
September 14 The Birth of the Hero
-----------------, Gilgamesh: A New English Version, translated by Stephen Mitchell (Free Press, 2006 [c. 1500 BCE])
- Timeline (dates approximate):
2650: Real King Gilgamesh rules
2450: Gilgamesh deified in lit as fertility god, priest king etc.
2100: Gilgamesh appears as judge in the underworld
1600: Old Babylonian epic, "Surpassing All Other Kings," appears
1200: Standard Babylonian epic, "He Who Saw the Deep," appears
These two editions: not complete, single origin works but a collection of past stories/legends etc. stitched together by poet/author
- Epic of Gilgamesh known today is a post-apocalyptic tale, a destroyed world of sorts that must be restored. Ultimate result, although not intended goal, of heroic quest of Gilgamesh is to gain knowledge that will allow for that restoration to take place
- Like Iliad, a tale of intense connection with a fellow warrior and the need to reconcile with the loss of that companion (and possibly lover). How can that loss be overcome?
- Themes include:
o Division between civilization and savagery
"¢ What is the process of getting from the latter to the former?
"¢ With Enkidu, it is sex with priestess Shamhat that transforms him from animal to man. Why does sex civilize? Is it knowing human intimacy? If so, this explains why Gilgamesh also is tempered and becomes less tryranic when he meets Enkidu. A bond of intimacy (either sexual or deeply platonic) binds them and fills in a certain emptiness that prevented them from behaving in just, honorable, civilized manner. Sex is also an introduction to a particularly human world. The nature of sex between Enkidu and Shamhat only exists between humans and is the first step towards other exclusively human experiences.
"¢ What is it to be a good king? What duties/responsibilities are implicit in that designation?
"¢ Epic of Gilgamesh on its surface a tale of a tyrannical king becoming a good king through knowledge. Gilgamesh's abuse of his powers through his proto-prima nocta decree and his abuse/overworking of males in the city is an opposed to his more benevolent rule following his journey to the edge of the world and back.
"¢ What is friendship?
"¢ What is it to be human and, therefore, mortal
- Epic constructed as a series of tensions/suspense (i.e. destabilization) the resolution (i.e. the stabilization) to which is often the cause of the next tension
o Ex: Destabilization: Gilgamesh's burdensome rule; Stabilization: Creation by the gods of Enkidu, his other half. Second destabilization: How to tame savage Enkidu; second stabilization: use the priestess' Shamhat "love arts."
- Ultimately, Epic of Gilgamesh "das epos der totesfurcht" or Epic of the Fear of Death (Rilke)
o Shifting views of immortality as epic progresses
"¢ Aspirations towards immortality through fame
"¢ Perhaps paradoxical acceptance of mortality required to pursue immortality in this way
"¢ Great deeds and acts necessary to pursue immortality in this way
"¢ Killing of Humbaba is such an act, designed to win glory for Gilgamesh even after his death (either die a heroes death in combat or slay the beast and return a hero)
"¢ The threat is invented, a task the necessity of which was invented for Gilgamesh to prove himself worthy or heroic status, overcoming a challenge commensurate with his greatness
"¢ Collapse of fame as value
"¢ Occurs with Enkidu's death. It is here that the story becomes the epos der totesfurcht. Loss of Gilgamesh' truest companion, his balance in life, is overwhelming and debunks the notion that death is an acceptable fate is one has fame. Fame becomes meaningless when confronted with the brutal realities of death symbolized in both the absence of Enkidu as a living being and by the corruption of his corpse (the acceptance comes when a maggot emerges from Enkidu's nose)
"¢ Pursuit of true immortality
"¢ Gilgamesh travels to the edges of the world to find the secret to being truly immortal
"¢ Realization, true immortality impossible but with knowledge, old heroism ideal no longer the path to being remembered.
"¢ Uruk, Gilgamesh's city, is remade with old knowledge that was lost in the flood under Gilgamesh's care, without tyranny, with appreciation for the beauties of the city not abuse of it. Gilgamesh the tyrant becomes Gilgamesh the king and Gilgamesh the writer, for the poem is his own and, metaphorically but also literally (see prologue), a cornerstone of the great city
September 21 The Hero and the Epic Imagination
-----------------, The Iliad, translated by Stanley Lombardo (Hackett, 1997 [c. 750 BCE])
Simon Weil, War and the Iliad (NYRB Classics, 2005)
1230 (approx) BCE: Trojan War, Mycenean Period
Dark Ages, no written material found
725 (approx) BCE: Homer and the Iliad, Classical Greek
650 BCE: Authorized version of Iliad appears in Athens
- The Iliad composed by a culture looking over an expanse onto one long past. Memory/nostalgia common throughout
- Not just a poem of war but, because it came from an oral tradition, many elements of humor. Intended to entertain as well as enlighten. See for ex. common satirization of gods and kings. Reverence of rulers and the gods not the goal here
- Derived from many sources
o Ancestry and renown, a time when heroes walked with gods, tracing lineage to heros
o Mythology (knowledge of contemporary readers assumed)
"¢ Seven Against Thebes
"¢ Mycanean court poems
"¢ Led and the Swan
"¢ Peleus and Thetis
"¢ "Apple of Discord"/Judgement of Paris
"¢ Labors of Hercules
o What drives him? Vengeance? Bitterness? Grief?
o Fundamental characteristics: restlessness and unhappiness. Combine into fatal characteristic
"¢ Mourned by goddess mother Thetis for his failings
"¢ Born of goddess Thetis, Achilles could have been a god. Prophesied that Thetis' son would be greater than his father. Zeus, before learning of this prophesy, hoped to marry Thetis or at least sleep with her. For fear of being overpowered, Zeus married Thetis off to mortal Peleus. Achilles still great, still half god, but had potential to be far more powerful. Even if he doesn't know this, he carries a burden of restless anger, the need to assert himself, the impossibility of accepting humiliation
"¢ Extremely sensitive about his honor. He traded his life for it, knowing that fighting in the Trojan War would be his doom
o Initial Conflict: Agamemnon, forced to give up his prize girl Chryseis, takes Achilles' girl Briseis as compensation for his loss
"¢ Complete affront to Achilles, assertion of Agamemnon's power and right to rule
"¢ Achilles as threat to Agamemnon. The former a more powerful warrior, half god, arguably more respected, definitely more feared. More, he openly criticizes Agamemnon and his worthiness to rule putting the king's legitimacy at risk. Seizure of Briseis is a formal chastisement to Achilles and a reassertion of Agamemnon's right to rule.
o Power and its relationship to honor and strength. Important to Agamemnon b/c honor/strength matters to his power as ruler. Even more crucial to Achilles who willingly gives his life for it.
o Honor then as currency. Achilles is unjustly put into a deficit with the seizure of Briseis. Such deep deficit can only be recouped by leaving battle until moment of utmost desperation when he can come in and save the Greeks from sure destruction. Selfishness? How does that impact acquisition of honor, if at all?
- Hector vs. Achilles
o Hector: not a pure warrior, not just force. Also a husband and a loving father. The greatest Trojan hero. Motivated by fear of shame (i.e. not fulfilling duty). The implication is he knows war involves others, matters to others, is something that should not be considered purely as an individual. A complete man, perhaps?
o Achilles: a pure warrior, force personified. No family, only concubines. The greatest Greek hero. Motivated by the pursuit of glory (i.e. ambition). Implication is Achilles is a selfish agent, concerned primarily with his own success and fame
o Calls into question what heroism means. If Iliad is a Greek poem, should it be assumed that Achilles the Greek's heroism is preferable and more laudable than Hector the Trojan's? But Trojans are not vilified in the poem. Is Homer attempting to take an even sided approach?
September 28 The Pain of Achilles
-----------------, The Iliad, translated by Stanley Lombardo (Hackett, 1997 [c. 750 BCE])
Jonathan Shay, Achilles in Vietnam (Simon & Schuster, 1995)
- Thematic elements
"¢ What is it?
"¢ Relation to war?
"¢ Relation to death and mortality
o Dichotomy between homecoming (nostos) and glory (kleos)
"¢ Achilles chooses the latter and in so doing necessarily choose death
- Warrior code: Either take glory or give it to another man. Either way violent death/war is essential to the transaction
o Longing for immortality, the warrior accepts that this is impossible in the literal sense and instead chooses to live forever through fame/his deeds/his glory won in life. Facing death/war is therefore about proving worth by demonstrating an ability to confront the greatest of fears, that of death
- At the heart of the action of The Iliad is a crime, Paris' trangresion against Zeus' law of guests in his taking of Helen.
o Violations drive the action forward. See also Pandarus shooting at Menelaus at the moment a truce is about to be solidified through single combat
- Atrocity in war needs to be justified. The pursuit of glory is sufficient
- Part of being a true warrior is a natural, deep-seated bloodlust. Although many wish to be home and at peace during lulls in combat, the moment of combat/violence itself tends to overwhelm the warrior with the possibility of glory. Glory is only worth anything if others see and recognize the glorious deed. The heat of battle when allies and enemies alike can behold it is the prime opportunity for winning glory
- Force: is it outside, an external force acting upon/controlling the warrior or is it something internal, something brought out from within in moments of war? "To be fully human is to kill or be killed in the pursuit of glory"
- What makes a hero a hero? If the gods are often the catalyst of their heroic deeds and the agents of their success, does that make heroes more or less heroic? That is, are their deeds diminished or are they elevated because the gods took a special interest in them? Is it the fact that the hero, unlike the average solider, chooses war above all else (family, luxury, peace)? Heroes, often relations to the gods and powerful kings, go to war to fight and die when they could just as easily rest in luxury. Does their willingness to sacrifice all that for glory make them heroic?
- Middle of poem comprised of scenes called Aristeia: sequence of events whereby one hero after another goes into a killing frenzy of a sort, showing he is the very best at that moment.
o Sequence: arming, turning the tide, wrecking havoc in a group of enemies, wounded by helped by a god, claims heroic enemies armor after slaying him and battling for his corpse
o Ex. Include Diomedes, Ajax, Agamemnon, Odysseus, Patroclus, Hector, Achilles
o Patroclus and Hector are the final two before Achilles' entry and are worked up to as climactic moments
- Fate: what is it? Who sets it? Why can the gods subvert it, uncouth though that might be? Can a god avert fate forever can something that is fated only be delayed?
- Afterlife: Not a factor here, no Elysian Fields mentioned. Death is always a "covering darkness"
- Does the poem glorify martyrdom? Is being a martyr a guarantee of fame after death?
- Achilles' despoiling of Hector's body:
o Subverts rules and rituals set out by warrior society: all oppose it
o This abuse denies Hector the honor that was his due in fighting bravely and being killed by a better, greater warrior. It degrades his death that should have been triumphant. This is profoundly disturbing for it upsets the glory through death transaction upon which all heroes' deeds seem to be based. Despoiling the body is therefore a more violent act than the killing itself, it is a continued violence fueled by rage (Achilles has become a "wolf" or a "lion" incapable of calming his violent rage) and crosses the limits of normal warfare. This is the poem's only recognized atrocity even though many other moments would qualify by today's standards.
o Achilles relents when Priam tearfully implores him to return the body. This moment reminds Achilles of his own aging father who will never see him again, who, like Priam, will have to learn of his son's death in battle, cut down in his prime. Achilles is therefore reminded of his own death, his own mortality, and this realization calms the bloodlust
"¢ What does this mean? A comment on the absolute power of war. Its ultimate corruptibility? How it renders family and honor something fragile and breakable in the quest for glory? Conversely, does it say something about the power of love and friendship, that these things in their true form can only be expressed by exceeding the norms set out by society? Achilles must exceed all bound to fully honor Patroclus, his lost friend and companion.
October 5 Heroism and the Imperial Imagination: Constructing a Story
Virgil, The Aeneid, translated by Sarah Rudin (Yale University Press, 2009 [c. 19 BCE])
- Unlike earlier epics by "Homer" or others, we have here a real author: Virgil
o B. 70 BCE, D 19 BCE
o Wrote three books
o Wished for Aeneid to be burned upon his death since he had not yet finished it and was a methodical perfectionist with his work. Emperor Augustus (who was indirectly responsible for the piece's existence) did not comply and thus it was preserved in full
o Virgil grew up in time of war. First century BCE was one of constant strife in Rome inc. the fall of the republic to Julius Caesar in 49 BCE. Virgil, growing up in the midst of civil war, had his upbringing and young adulthood informed by massive political dislocation, death, and war. This necessitated, perhaps more than ever, one of Virgil's central responsibilities as a court poet of sorts: conferring legitimacy upon the regime and Roman rule
- The Aeneid, like The Odyssey, is a poem of return
o Trojan line extends back to Zeus and his son Dardanus (the Daranians), an Italian people. Aeneis' quest is to bring his people back to their original home.
- The Iliad is a precursor in that it was written long before (about 700 years earlier, in fact) but also in that it provides the jumping off point for The Aeneid with the rescue of Aeneis by the gods in Book 20. In not being killed and in being removed from the center of combat, Aeneis is able to be set on his quest for Italy
- In Both Iliad and Aeneid determinism is a major thematic element. There is clearly room for human action and free will independent of other forces. At the same time the gods and fate (not the Fates it seems) also play a major role in how events play out. Fate sets an ultimate outcome of some kind. The gods know what is fated and even have the ability, in certain situations, to change it. But how much is fated and how much agency the gods have in fate playing out in contrast to the personal agency of man is uncertain. This uncertainty brings into question the idea of personal responsibility. How responsible is one for his own actions? How must one act when confronted with fate? With godly mandates?
- A Poem of Return is the necessary vehicle for what is ultimately a Poem of Legitimacy through Origination
o A National Epic
o Fills in the history of Rome from the fall of Troy to the initial founding of land and peoples but also comments on the present in ways contemporary listeners/readers would immediately recognize. Caesar's legitimacy is proclaimed here for he is a descendent of Aeneis. As such the civil war and the current political climate is not a deviation but part of Rome's glory
o The emphasis is on Trojans and Latins. This is not a story of cultural annihilation but rather creation. Trojans and Latins ultimately do not destroy one another; the victorious Trojans do not dilute Latin culture into a semi-Trojan form. Rather the two meld and form the basis for the Roman people to come.
o As National Epic/Poem of Legitimacy, the narrative engine of sorts is the determination of what it means to be a good Roman in Virgil's time. The exemplary traits of their founders looked to as motivation and instruction in contemporary times, hence Anchises showing Aeneis the future great Roman leaders in Hades
- For above, Aeneis is the model/ideal type of Good Roman
o What makes a Roman a Roman? What gives them the right to rule the world?
"¢ Duty is KEY
"¢ Filial duty
"¢ Respect for family and for country
"¢ Honor/glory for the nation above the self
"¢ For ex. of duty, see Aeneis leaving Dido and her love/the comfort and wealth he has in Carthage to continue his quest to found Rome because it was his duty to do so. He may have wanted to stay, his sense of what was right compelled him to leave. He weighed alternatives and made the right choice, even if that choice wasn't the easiest or most appealing one at the time. An interest in the Greater Good, even if some, including oneself, come to harm in the process
"¢ For ex. of Roman character, see portrayal of Greeks and Romans in Aeneis' description of Troy's fall. The Greeks win with deceit and guile, eschewing military prowess and honorable combat. Trojan Horse is a symbol of Greek duplicity contrasted with the Trojan's inability to see the trick for what it was. This inability is indicative of how, at their core, Trojans (and their descendents, Romans) are upright, decent, honorable, respectable people. That is why many centuries later they would conquer the Greeks completely and the conquest would be justified. The Greeks were never better than the Trojans though they destroyed their city and won the war.
"¢ Also compare with The Iliad. Here, less descriptions of personal one-on-one combat and more group combat; Personal glory is downplaye; The psychology of decision making is more a factor; Even shield of Aeneis vs. shield of Achilles: the latter is about the current world. The former is about the glorious Rome that is to come.
October 12 — Fall Vacation. No class.
October 19 Epic and Anti-War: The Pandavas and the Kauravas
------------, The Mahabharata, translated by C. V. Narasimhan (Columbia, 1965 [c. 400 BCE])
- Like the Iliad, an accretive work: emerged from various places, pulled together by various people into a coherent whole
o Core component: Jaya (Victory) by Vyasa. 8,800 verses. "Vyasa" similar to "Homer"
o Bharatasamhita by Vaishampayana, 24,000 verses
o Mahabharata (Story of Bharata family) by Suta, 100,000 verses
o Emerged, coalesced from 400BCE to 400AD approx.
- Initially appeared in 400BCE, time of great upheaval in India. Cultural and political turmoil
o Emergence of Gautama (Buddha)
- Key societal structure: Vadic/caste system.
o Castes set forth under the Laws of Manu, the first ruler
"¢ Brahmins: highest caste, priests and scholars
"¢ Ksatriya: Rulers and great warrior kings. Main focus of Mahabharata
"¢ Vaisyas: Farmers and merchants
"¢ Sudras: Servents and laborers
"¢ Mixed castes also exist. A Suta is the child of a Brahmin and a Ksatriya, for example
- Hindu pantheon: vast. Top three: Brahma, Shiva,Vishnu. Latter most is directly involved in Mahabharata through Krishna, an avatar of Vishnu
- Story: Two factions led by two cousins fighting for political power/kingdom/land but also, crucially, a story of war between the children of gods
o Kauravas vs. Pandavas. Both sides are Bharata/Kuru of descent. Their fathers are Dhrtarashta and Pandu, sons of Vyasa
o As with Iliad, Aeneid, Gilgamesh the supernatural intervention into the bloodlines of heroes is key
"¢ More on the side of "good," divine", demigod, just etc.
"¢ More oriented, it seems, towards "evil," the demonic. See birth from ball of iron hard flesh and warnings about the destruction they will bring through portents
- Determinism, as in previous epics, a major factor. All are fated for something and there are many attempts to stop the inevitable. What freedom of action do characters really have here?
- Central question of duty vs. destiny
o See castes. One's role is defined by society. Fulfilling the expectations of that role is key. It is one's duty to strive for one's destiny without getting hung up by the results of the actions in the chain that leads to ones destiny. One opens the door to heaven by fulfilling one's destined duty/dharma. One should not be motivated by the material, should not consider consequences or be motivated by the fruits of one's actions. Instead it is the journey not the gains therefrom that matters most. Perform right action based on who you are without thought of consequences: perform your allotted work
"¢ This in turns brings up issues of compassion and cowardice on the battlefield. They can often be conflated. One should not shy from killing in battle, even killing family if that is whom you are opposing. Those who die in battle are fated to do so. By killing them you are the instrument but not the cause. If you are a warrior, it is your just duty to fight and kill. The warrior can therefore not shirk battle and claim compassion as the cause. Somewhat like the options set forth in the Iliad, one either wins earthly glory through victory or access to heaven through death. Neither should be avoided and whichever one you receive was your pointed lot all along. You fight because it is your duty. The slain warrior will go to heaven because he died performing his just duty and so there is no shame in killing or in dying. Thus compassion for fellow warriors does become a form of cowardice, or at the very least misses the larger point about the importance of performing one's allotted mission/role
October 26 Embracing Anti-Heroic War: World War I
Ernst Junger, Storm of Steel (Penguin Classics, 2004)
- Ernst Junger: b. March 29, 1895 d. February 17, 1998
o Wealthy/bourgeois family
o Member of Wandervogel as youth
o Joined French Foreign Legion, served in Algeria
o In WWI: won Iron Cross 1st class, advanced to rank of Captain by age 23, won Pour la Merite
o Self-published first edition of Storm of Steel in 1920. Several subsequent editions and versions followed along with nearly 50 other books/essays etc.
o Captain in WWII, connected with Schauffenberg movement, escaped punishment only because of status as national war hero
- World War I (The Great War) 1914-1918
o Casualties: 37 million
o Combat deaths: 9.7 million
"¢ Battle of the Somme (July 1-November 16, 1916) alone
"¢ British dead: 95,675
"¢ French dead: 50, 756
"¢ German dead: 164, 055
"¢ The above was completely unprecedented. This scale of death and destruction was unknown and literally inconceivable before this war.
"¢ Shaped forever how people thought about war and how people grappled with war through cultural mediums. Along with this book, the many others include "The Sun Also Rises" and "The Wasteland." The scale and overwhelming nature of destruction here forced new forms and kinds of language to come in to being in order to adequately explore what happened. Modernism largely came out, the exploration of a destroyed culture.
"¢ WWI as a debunking of the concept of technology saving the world and brought into question ideas of the supremacy of Western ideology. A profound shock that this event was apparently the culminating moment of the industrial revolution, the most radical use of new technology and for unimaginably horrific ends.
- However, the above not really explored in SoS, a memoire which certainly isn't anti-war. It conveys the absolute horrors of mechanized combat but doesn't explore the implications or come to any inherently negative conclusions about war per se. Quite the opposite in fact:
o Carnage throughout without criticism thereof. Often the opposite in fact, there is often a relish for violence, a glorification of destruction and warfare. Certainly there is a triumphalism associated with war, and a survivalism which elevates the warrior and the act of war to something laudatory not condemnable.
- The NEW as key. Not only a sort of sublime, terrifying reverence for the physical world of war but also a keen interest in the facets of war which were found here for the first time i.e. poison gas, planes, tanks, phosphorus, barbed wire, automatic machine guns, long range cannons, trench combat, nearly unlimited supplies thanks to, for the first time, war between fully industrialized societies, railroads for mass troop movements, telephones for rapid communication. War could be waged on a FAR larger scale and more comprehensively over larger areas simultaneously than ever before.
o Because of new tech, war tactics being developed throughout course of combat. Tactics and approaches changing, adaptivity a constant necessity.
o The above, particularly cannons and poison gas, often renders death "strange and impersonal," something which can come from afar and can claims lives without an enemy in sight. Also creates conditions whereby war is fought in an utterly devastated landscape. Craters, corpses, scorched foliage if any. An alien kind of world where death is everywhere
- An infatuation of sorts with the above and related a deep interest in how war shapes men. There is a concern here with psychology in much deeper ways than seen in epic accounts of war, for ex.
- So prevalent here: The sensory, in particular the auditory, aspects of war. The sounds of death but moreso the sounds of shelling/bombing etc. So overwhelming and far more common in many cases than sight for being shelled more common than fighting in the traditional sense. Sound emphasized throughout.
- Modern war is necessarily an educational process. Initially men cannot understand it. The sounds of combat are meaningless, the tactics and methods of fighting/surviving difficult to perfect. These must be learned over time, assuming one survives long enough to learn them.
- So much of fighting in SoS is really merely surviving. That is, while there are many moments where men are attacking and shooting one another directly, more often men are being shelled. This is undeniably still combat but some wholly new kind where men on both sides must cower and hide from one another's bombs.
- A successful soldier must necessarily be an extremely lucky solider. Skill plays a role but the nature of warfare now demands luck in spades.
- SO how is heroism defined in this new form of war fought largely at a distance with luck as possibly the most important factor in survival and success?
o Epic/classic mentality still intact in some ways: glory, a reveling in combat, fighting until the end, accepting death as inevitable and fighting on despite that (a matter of fact attitude), adherence to duty over the self, going beyond native capabilities to find uncommon strength. In some ways this form of combat is more heroic for continuing to fight against such horrendous odds against survival takes fortitude, adherence to duty, and courage in large amounts
o Luck serves the role of the gods in the classics. It is present, it often dictates who lives and dies, but its presence doesn't denigrate. That is, a man lucky to survive or unlucky enough to die isn't more or less heroic for it. It is the manner in which he fought, how he held himself up to his death that is important.
"¢ As a result, the interior focused on heavily in SoS. The lofy remove of the epics is brought down to earth for a look at the interior human reactions to war.
November 2 Heroism and Ground Combat
William Manchester, Goodbye, Darkness: A Memoir of the Pacific War (Back Bay, 2002)
- William Manchester 1922-2004
- Contrast with Storm of Steel and WWI
o WWII warfare more in line with modern technology. Tactics and modes of warfare are not at all concrete and new methods and approaches are being tested but at this stage technology and tactics are far more aligned. Significant movement and gains become possible with fewer losses relative to the amount of territory captured than in WWI where massive death always accompanied the taking of extremely minimal amounts of territory. Certain battles, especially in the Pacific, during WWII were conducted along those lines, however.
"¢ New technology/tactics included, most notably, far more functional tanks and planes, long range bombers, longer range cannons, aircraft carriers, submarines, the use of advanced knowledge of the environment i.e. tide charts (one of many largely imperfect advances but still useful and even invaluable in many situations), landing ships/advanced and large scale amphibious assaults, communications technology (crucial, see WWI where communication was often impossible) allowing for precise coordination of massive attacks and a far greater adherence to logistics. This book in part an examination of the first time technology and warfare were truly integrated and seamless instead of the former being imposed haphazardly on top of the latter
"¢ As with WWI, the nature of combat as described above was previously inconceivable but so too was the bloodshed. WWII approximately five times bloodier than WWI (around 10 million dead in WWI, around 55million dead in WWII) with far more civilian casualties. Everyone involved therefore found themselves fighting in a way that was previously unimaginable.
"¢ Not only tactically but, for those in the Pacific, locationally. The Pacific Islands were an unimaginable, alien place to nearly all the allied soldiers there. Their zone of war was removed completely from the world as they knew it, as was the method of warfare of the people in that part of the world. Culturally and geographically, the allies were extremely isolated. How did this affect their mind set, encourage or discourage them from fighting and so on?
"¢ Recognizes the horrors of war. Doesn't ignore that it has some positive aspects and is in awe of what men do in war but unlike Junger there is less reveling in combat as such and less of an interest in the heroics of it.
- Narrative structure
o Complex, three points of view to consider
"¢ The writer at the time of writing
"¢ The writer at the time the story takes places (WWII)
"¢ The reader at the time of reading
o A series of reflections: who was Manchester when he fought? Why did he fight? As an older man was fighting worth it? What did his commitment mean then and now?
"¢ Tension: the older Manchester returning to battlefields of his youth sees things he could not have imagined as a young man, often things he wasn't sure were worth fighting for. An anxiety, then: What was the point? Looking at a time when the future seemed bright from a time where the present is not. A common theme throughout all readings so far: today's generations and future generations could not do what Manchester's did. Further tension from that: lamenting a diminishing of sorts but also proud, future generations will not have to make such a sacrifice because his did
o Nightmares: narrative strategy to explore the above tensions, indicate the fractured, striking power of memories, maintains narrative suspense
- How is one a hero in this new kind of war, in this alien place, with all these notions of sacrifice for a bright future?
o Heroism as act of love for your fellow soldier, of recognizing at the times the certainty of death but of being willing to die for your comrades and being assured they would die for you. Soldiers as family. This requires a definite toughness, a willingness to face death, to know you will, if not die, almost certainly be shot and in the meantime endure appalling conditions, and knowing/accepting the need to kill. This mutual suffering/endurance motivates and bonds soldiers together, sustains them throughout the war. Manchester would argue there were cultural factors that encouraged this thought process and behavior, ones he no longer sees today.
November 9 Heroism, Ordinariness and Atrocity
Christopher R. Browning, Ordinary Men: Reserve Police Battalion 101 and the Final Solution in Poland (Harper, 1993)
- Job of the book
o Unlike many holocaust narratives and studies that look at issues and events on a large scale, the story told here is concerned with particularisms. That is, the traditional story of the Nazi/death camp monolith is complicated by the examination of one relatively small unit of policemen who were not necessarily Nazis, or anti-Semites or inherently bad/evil/debased people. This book then is a rigorous and self-consciously narrow examination of what particular people did and why. It also seeks to see how men who really were ordinary, average citizens could be turned into killers and abettors of atrocity
- Seriously problematizes the question of heroism, courage, their connections and potential new meanings
o Who, if any, of the figures that appear in the book could legitimately be described as heroes?
"¢ Could one argue it is those who kill, especially when reluctant to do so, are the heroes? These are men who overcome personal limitations (adversity to killing), set aside personal comfort, master the self and take profound steps in the name of protecting/preserving/bettering their nation — much like Aeneis, for example.
"¢ Or are those who refused to kill heroes? Does it matter why they refused? Or what form their refusal took? Stepping away from killing must have been profoundly difficult. One risks being seen as weak/a coward. Similarly one risks being seen as casting moral judgment upon those who choose to kill. Is stepping away and upholding one's convictions then an act of heroism, or simply an act of courage? Can it be one without being the other? And if one steps away because they don't have an interest in personally killing but they make no effort to stop the killing or speak out against it, is there anything heroic in that or is it merely an act of self interest or self preservation?
"¢ What would "stepping out" take? Again, courage v. heroism
"¢ Nonconformity before large group of peers
"¢ Willingness to be seen as weak, unmanly
"¢ Risking casting moral judgment upon peers and superiors
"¢ Questioning legitimate authority
"¢ The steps to stepping away: two options
"¢ Wherewithal to recognize that what was taking place was wrong, refusing to take part
"¢ OR not wanting to do it for personal reasons. Not ethical per se but because physical revulsion prevented mass murder
"¢ Decision points vary. What does deciding to step away at each point mean regarding hero v. courage argument?
"¢ Stepping away immediately in front of the group
"¢ Sneaking away from the group
"¢ Taking part but shooting high so as not to kill
"¢ Killing some and then stopping
"¢ Use of alcohol or some other kind of mental anesthesia to allow killing
- Who are the "Ordinary Men" of the title?
o Older, mostly civilians with established careers and families. Little to no personal investment in performing well in their police duties, many not Nazi party members or even, necessarily, anti-Semitic.
- These largely middle aged policemen are indignant when the young wife of an officer comes to watch executions/deportations. Why and what does this say about what they were doing?
o Forced to ask: would they want their own families to witness what is happening? This underscores, perhaps, the inherent problem with what they are doing. Their sphere of action is necessarily and deliberately deeply removed from the family sphere of which they were a part. When the two sphere collides thanks to the witnessing presence of a woman and wife, the reaction is anger and shame. Her presence gives the lie to the rationalizations constructed by the men for the murders they commit. As a surrogate presence for their own families, the denial and willed ignorance of the horror of what they are doing is undermined. Since many of their families are also ignorant of what is taking place — a deliberate move to again stave off shame at their actions — the men cannot but be indignant when this separation and ignorance is threatened, even symbolically as in this example. One of their crucial coping mechanisms is seriously disrupted, suggesting a deep personal discomfort with their actions and an acknowledgment of its perverseness.
o Another mechanism exists, however. The way killing is organized and bureaucratized, even at this level, makes it become a mechanical, impulsive, routine action in many ways i.e. it is normalized through systemization. When another element, a human, recognizable form enters the sphere of action this systematized process is disrupted and moral ambiguity necessarily comes to the fore. Their actions begin to profoundly and undeniably clash with social conventions and fact of the intense abnormality of their situation is reiterated.
- Mechanization is nonetheless essential to overcome moral qualms, allay psychological damage.
- With the above, there was an evolution to how the killings were organized. The first massacre was possibly the most horrific. Each German was time and again paired off with a Jew whom he then had to execute. After the utter horror of that, the more general, less hyper-personalized methods of execution and deportation that took place seemed tamer. Killing was less methodical. Either Battalion 101 helped round up Jews for deportation or they killed alongside trained troops. As killing became more common/generalized, group solidarity increased and the men become more comfortable with it, resistance was increasingly suppressed, there was less enticement to step out, use of alcohol decreased, and perverse camaraderie (joking about slaughter whereas before memories were buried with liquor) becomes more of the norm. If there were any acts of heroism before, they decreased now. Same with courage. Ultimately, then, the examination of "ordinary men" were transformed, with few exceptions, into some extra-ordinary.
Make up class #1: The Aeneid
November 16 Heroism, Anti-Heroism and Air Power
Sven Lindqvist, A History of Bombing (New Press/First Edition, 2003 )
James Salter, The Hunters: A Novel (Vintage, 1999 )
Question from both: with aerial warfare becoming the norm, does the War of Heroes cease to exist necessarily, at least in all traditional conceptions of the term?
- First novel by James Salter (b.1925), told in Hemmingway style, the first attempt to really convey flying as a new, realistic form of combat and warfare
o Published 1951, follows basic arc of Salter's life.
- The novel explores ideas of heroism as redemption and self-overcoming as in the epics but luck seems to be an extraordinary factor as in Storm of Steel for ex.
- As a major factor in that: the quest to make a name for oneself and the anxiety that goes along with that drive
- A soldier can develop/build up a reserve of prestige and respect but this is not a constant value. It must be refilled and reaffirmed through continual action and success or it will dry up and that man will become a failure. In this case, failure is as basic as not encountering an enemy. Personal actions are not required in the least in order to become a failure.
- Air combat is so removed from the original nature of combat on the ground, it is an isolating experience rather than a communal one, a solitary, lonely form of combat in which true camaraderie is largely impossible. That is why success is so intensely personal and so much about the individual
- So what makes a success? Luck, risk, and ableness: luck to encounter the enemy, willingness to risk both yourself and others, and the skill required are all prerequisites. Without all three, success is not possible. That is why Cleeve is not successful (he won't risk others for his own gain, in addition to which his eyesight is failing) and Pell is hugely successful. Is Pell's title of hero deserved? Is it a debased form of heroism? Cleeve would certainly think so.
- The "heroism" we see here is a largely manufactured concept, then. It has the systematic purpose of promoting a certain heroic ideal, setting a quantifiable way to achieve a gilded kind of status. This motivates pilots to act, to try as hard as possible to succeed, even to compete, even if it is little more than a mechanism for the production of heroes for the home front.
- By the end, Cleeve has come to a different understanding of heroism, one that is not produced by the military's hero building apparatus
o Heroism is not about "winning" or "loosing," not about getting 5 kills. Instead it is about developing one's own "moral independence," coming up with one's own unique "definition of excellence" and rigorously applying that to one's own life rather than conforming to some arbitrary external system. That is, true heroism can only be attained by operating outside the constructed ideals of heroism foisted upon soldiers in war.
o Ironically, Cleeve can only come to this realization through defeat. If victorious, he would have surely been caught up in the artificial production of heroism and thus become inextricably caught up in it. By not being given the opportunity to be remade as a hero in the eyes of the military apparatus, Cleeve came to the more nuanced and personal realization noted above. That is why crediting his final kill to Hunter is such a profound act of institutional subversion and an absolute rejection of the externally constructed heroic ideal he had once so ardently yearned to adhere to.
History of Bombing
- A chronologically organized history but with several thematic histories woven throughout. The idea is to follow certain themes throughout history and see the web or mesh of other themes that surround it. This is what history really is, not some linear, year-by-year accounting of events.
- Structured by questions of determinism. See the focus on pulp novels, sci-fi etc exploring public fear, expectations, hopes, attitudes and so on (a History of the Imagination). The question becomes: how did we reach our current state of mass nuclear armament. More specifically, and this is why the "Imagination" aspect is crucial, did new weapons inform public attitudes and ideas about weapons and warfare or did public attitudes about weapons and warfare influence the production of new weapons?
o Did the public imagination about weapons and war make genocide possible? Public policy often cannot overcome the national imagination when it comes to ideas of genocide. Popular fictions reflect this reality. Weapons contribute to an excitement with destruction and simultaneously the need for mass murder.
- Ideas about codes of conduct: have they evolved? Different categories exist inc. conventional war and war with barbarians. How do these categories intersect and how do they play out in modern warfare with modern technology?
November 23 Heroes: When It All Stopped Making Sense
Michael Herr, Dispatches (Vintage, 1991 )
- Reporting primarily from 1967-68 with some later reports, most published separately and compiled here in book form
- Significant cultural impact, Herr involved in writing Full Metal Jacket and Apocalypse Now follow publication of dispatches
- Herr (b. 1940, Syracuse, NY): one of the leaders of New Journalism
o Subjective, 1st person, obvious involvement of the writer, fictive style, examination of subjective states (psychology)
- 1967-68: The years things spun out of control for the US.
o Assassination of Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy
o Nixon winning on "law and order"
o Tet Offensive: gave the lie to everything US leaders had been telling Americans about the war. Tet was the embodiment of the Credibility Gap: America was not winning, in fact could not win and the war was certainly not close to being over the offensive proved. American leadership was discredited as a host of corrupt, untrustworthy liars. This had a huge impact on American morale, ideas about the war, and more fundamentally called into question the idea of America as a great, powerful, shining beacon and the savior of the world. An immensely rattling event.
- Vietnam, therefore, became the fruition of the "lousy war" that had been found in Korea. It was un-American and unwinnable
- In many ways, Dispatches is about this corruption and the disbelief, disgust and disillusionment that emerged from this era of scandal, corruption, inflation, and ongoing war (in many ways the event that initiated out current era)
- Explored a clash in the traditional hierarchies
o In the press, contrast between those running the networks, magazines, newspapers at home who wanted to tailor stories to audience wants and expectations and the reporters on the ground who saw what at the time were fundamentally unreportable things. They saw the catastrophe in progress and were often kept from accurately telling that story. Only a select few, Herr among them, were able to report as he saw things.
o The overabundance of reportage skewed towards promoting the official views of the government on the war saturated people's thinking about it and forced a false picture upon them generated by ideals and containing very little to no truth. Traditional approaches of the mainstream media allowed for no other approach. Subversive or radical reporting like that done by Herr was essential to expose the actual reality of events to the public who were otherwise misled.
o The officers and officials in Vietnam versus the grunts had a similar dynamic. The former acted outside the realm of reality, making decisions and describing events in ways that were ludicrous considering the reality faced by soldiers.
- All this, the lying, the false pictures painted by officials and the government, the skewed descriptions of the mainstream media, only enhanced the pain and anguish of the war once exposed. It was a tremendously painful shock to Americans to have the reality exposed to them by Tet and by reporters like Herr: the war had no rationale, no reason to exist, it was useless and built upon false, fabricated foundations. The soldiers knew this and the people at home were increasingly aware of this terrifying truth
- Emphasized and enhanced by the complete lack of cohesion, even insanity of war. See the siege at Khe Sanh: what was it about? Why was it fought? No one knew because there was no answer to give
- As with past texts, ideas of luck, anxiety, fear, fate all at play here. A sense of having no control at all over events pervades the book. What happens next will happen. Fate becomes the dominant force by far.
- Along those lines (having no clue what will happen or when or to whom): the entire conflict was incomprehensible, not just one's own personal experience. Who was in charge? What was the mission? Who was the enemy? Where was the enemy? Where can one fight? Who can one fight? How can one fight? When will one be attack? How will one be attacked? And so on, those questions necessarily a constant, unrelenting force in the soldiers' lives
- No answers come from higher up. Soldiers must come to rely on one another, those close by, many or even most of whom will be killed. Disorientation is permanent.
- Related to that is the importance of luck: a soldier who appears lucky is stuck to by his fellow soldiers. His luck is the only semblance of authority, the only thing fellow soldiers can really rely on or trust in. Official authority no longer has that power.
- All in the war understand the lie of the official version of events, they then become part of a community centered around the awareness of this lie and, in turn, the horrible truth of the utter insanity of the war. Insanity becomes an acceptable, expected state of mind that is communally acknowledged in a state of existence far removed from the image pushed by the government and generals and mainstream press. Again, it is this deceit, this lie, that made the war all the more painful.
November 30 War and the Image: Dragging Heroes in the Dust
Mark Bowden, Black Hawk Down: A Story of Modern War (Grove, 2010 )
- Post Cold War (1989-2001): Unipolar moment
o US on an imperial high, sole power
o Moments of crisis emerged that called into question US prowess and made the limitations of US power more apparent. Somalia was one of those moments.
o GHW Bush loses election to Clinton, as a lame duck sends troops into Somalia to help "feed the hungry"
o Somalia wracked by famine and civil war. US goes in to "make up for inaction in Bosnia" in a sense
o Painted as a grant dramatic campaign complete with a totally unnecessary/staged beach landing by American troops
o Started as purely humanitarian, "mission creep" set in, the job became to capture Mohammed Aidid, a powerful warlord in Mogadishu
o The ultimate failure in Somalia — the shooting down of two helicopters which subsequently led to the death of 18 Rangers/Delta Force — would loom huge in subsequent US policy decisions. An extreme reluctance to get involved was adopted and manifested itself perhaps most strikingly in complete inaction in the Rwandan genocide which the US could have contributed troops to and probably stopped.
- Somalia and the War of Machines
o US technology gives an illusion of universal access and total mobility and thus would seem to act as a major power multiplier which simplifies domination.
o Reality: Asymmetrical warfare does not always end up favoring the physically power or technologically superior. Somalia proved this by cracking the "Righteous Invulnerability" built upon a base of worshipful attitudes towards US power and technological might.
o War with machines/US tech can also be seen in the opposite light: for the US it is a sign of strength and power. For its enemies when engaged in asymmetric warfare it can be a sign of cowardice, a weakness. Men hiding behind machines are not real soldiers because once they lose their technological advantage they are lost. Again, Somalia proved this latter statement to be true in many ways and thus surely validated the former for the enemies of the US
"¢ Is American heroism in this era dependent upon machines and technology? If so, is it more fragile and fallible because technology itself can fail so spectacularly as it did in Mogadishu?
- Preserving American ideals in the face of asymmetric warfare is key, hence the importance of recovering the bodies of fallen soldiers. Although this need to recover the bodies in many ways contributed to the higher body count on both sides, neglecting to recover the bodies may have been more damaging for America in the end. The preservation of unit cohesion built upon certain values and ideals of brotherhood and camaraderie in combat is essential to the success of the American military apparatus. If bodies are neglected because of danger, this cohesion and unity is shown to be weak and thus the apparatus as a whole is weakened.
- On a related note, why was the mutilation of the bodies of American soldiers so profoundly horrifying?
o The brutalization of the bodies of American soldiers gives the lie to the idea of America as an indomitable force. The myth of American power and prowess is decimated in a spectacle meant to debase the symbols and agents of the power and prowess. Pride and, again, sense of "righteous invulnerability" battered by the public parading of dead soldiers. It is also terrifying for there is little context for this outrage. The book makes a point of showing how and why Somalis came to fear and hate the American presence (a combination of real actions by the US and patently false lies spread by warlords and militias) but this was not clear at the time and thus the brutality against the bodies seemingly came out of nowhere and had no context. It was inexplicable and thus wholly awful.
- Like the Tet Offensive, the catastrophe in Mogadishu was representative of a vast sense of betrayal by the American governments, lies about American power, and so on.
o As described in the book: Caring more about your fellow soldiers than yourself, risking your life for their sakes whether they are alive or dead even. In the process a soldier may become unafraid, acclimated, in a zone of sorts. You are fighting for no other reason than that your fellow soldiers need you. This just happens, fear dissipates spontaneously, the drive to protect takes over. Is this true courage or something else?
o Similarly, is this heroism? Do you need to overcome fear or constantly be afraid but still acting to be a hero? If you act unconcerned about the consequences and your own well-being does that make you more or less heroic? If heroism/acting courageously with self-sacrifice is just part of the job, so to speak, is that more or less heroic? The book grapples with these issues but makes no judgments
December 7 Making Heroes: The Saga of Pat Tillman, Everyman
David Finkel, The Good Soldiers (Picador, 2010 )
- Baghadad: The Surge
o 30,000 additional troops
- Books opens on moment when most Americans considered the war had been lost, an idea supported by Baker-Hamilton which sought to devise a way out that would not end in catastrophe
o Closely follows one unit during their tour of duty in Baghdad. Starts at home, moves into the war for the bulk, and then back home, a circular journey that allows painful insight into the physical and psychological toll the war took on the soldiers involved
o Details period of counterinsurgency tactics: soldiers were supposed to be going around neighborhoods, getting involved in the community, winning hearts and minds so to speak. Undermined completely by guerilla tactics making soldiers completely untrustworthy, even hostile to civilians and by insurgents threatening, torturing, killing those who helped the Americans
- Surge sought to rectify this feeling and in many ways it succeeded. War went from a disaster to something much less — not defeat, certainly not victory — than catastrophe
- Key issues of book: what was this war? How was it fought? How did the on the ground reality reflect the ideas and stories of the war in the media and public understanding the states?
- Combat: high density, urban, but unlike Somalia for example this is largely a guerilla war, fought by ambush with IEDs and EFPs
o The nature of combat, the ever present nature of the low tech machinery used by the insurgents, exacerbated feelings of luck and fate so present throughout the course. Paranoia amongst soldiers is unrelenting to the point of debilitation
o Plan of the war from the start was flawed. Meant to last a few months but no planning of how events would proceed following the overthrow of the government meant chaos was left in the wake of the collapse which no one could contain
o Summer 2003: insurgency, a guerilla war designed to beat American machinery and technology with tenacity and low-tech bombs. IEDs are/were the primary weapon of choice
- Tracks shifting attitudes of soldiers as they arrive with ideals and expectations and slowly come to see the realities of war
o Arriving with a genuine desire to help and make a difference, the soldiers slowly transition into anguish, rage, helplessness, feelings of intense futility as nothing appears to be making a difference and the situation seems to always be getting worse
o Kauzlarich used as the embodiment of this in some ways and of the American mission in general. Initially very optimistic, stood for the mission as a whole, believed in its purpose, good intentions, good ideas some of the time but difficulty in effective implementation, always looking for specific ways to accomplish things bit by bit with the hope of net gain over time, offensive not defensive but ultimately unable to be effective, must face ideas falling apart, must maintain a hope for victory when defeat seems far more likely
December 14 In Iraq: Heroes in a Posthumous War
Jon Krakauer, Where Men Win Glory: The Odyssey of Pat Tillman (Anchor, 2010 
- Explores in part hero creation often as a willful deception by the nation at large to fulfill the need for heroes
- Tillman's actions are largely inconceivable — giving up wealth, fame, a dream career to go and fight — and thus are more spectacular and thus more heroic or, more accurately, more conducive to being redescribed as heroic by the nation
- What distinguishes Tillman in the text
o Hugely self motivated and driven as well as self testing: pushes limits of rationality to prove to himself he be exceptional for himself and for something bigger. He doesn't consider death as a possibility when joining or explaining his reasons
"¢ Believes when he sets goals he can and will fulfill them regardless of what others say, allows him to assume he will get through the war unscathed
o At the same time, introspective, journaling and describing football for example as meaningless. Highlights his entering the war was disconnected from ideas of fame, glory, personal heroism and grounded in something more universal, something meaningful in a larger sense, that matters
- Why he enlists
o Although the decisions has huge ramifications on his family most of which are negative he sees the need to do it, both for reasons explored above and for a genuine patriotism. Wrapped up in this is his willingness and desire to push the limits of his body and mind to the extreme as a test of his self and his character. Defying expectations as a prime motivator
o Beneath the surface of this: a continual testing of fate. For him, it seems, the limits of regular existence don't apply but it remains unclear if Tillman acknowledged this to himself
o Egotism and justification
"¢ Tillman undeniably egotistical: he makes decisions that are entirely for himself, even acknowledging the many negative impacts they will have on those he loves. He is so consumed with his need to defy expectations and push himself he will willingly harm others.
"¢ BUT, justifies, perhaps, by acknowledging this in journals/letters and being self deprecating as well as giving up pro football to fight. If he gave up fame and wealth he can make out his actions to be not about him but a larger cause, something essential beyond him
- In the end the book explores how perhaps now more than ever heroism is an almost completely constructed category, one that is made, bought, and sold by the media and one that can sometimes even corrupt others sacrifices and entail lying to the public and the public lying to themselves.