Just in case you're looking for something to do over the break, here are some additional materials for our first class upon return and our thematic question: 'Was the Gulf War (1991) the first video war?'
and because antidiplomacy has gone down the out-of-print rabbit-hole, I'm attaching the ms. version.
CYBERWAR, VIDEOGAMES, AND THE GULF WAR SYNDROME
'Let us take a limited example, and compare the war machine and the State apparatus in the context of the theory of games.'
Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, Nomadology: The War Machine
This is not a final chapter; it does not conclude. It happens to come at the end of a book and at the beginning of a 'new world order', which is sufficient reason to apply the theoretical claim of this book - that new technostrategic, antidiplomatic forces in international relations require a poststructuralist approach - to the first and surely not the last, late modern war.
Let me stress - in case the 'excess of writing' is not emphatic enough - the word 'approach': not 'analysis', 'theory', 'methodology', or 'model', but an 'approach', which recognizes the impossibility of pure congruence of thought and object, and yet draws the self into the event. Social scientific theory can act as a proxy in war, as did organization and systems theory in Vietnam, to distance the observer from the primary purpose of war, to kill the enemy, in the name of studying the secondary purpose, to vanquish the enemy. A poststructuralist approach closes the distance to death, asking first before any other question, how is my own identity implicated in a study of the killing of others? This is not to take up an a priori pacifist or belligerent position, but to understand fully the forces in a de-territorialized, hyper-mediated, late modern war already at work to fix that position before one has even begun to consider it. During the war, as the level of killing became inversely proportional to the level of knowing the Other, I tried to disturb that position. This chapter is the unfinished result.
'Do we not feel the breath of empty space?'
F. Nietzsche, The Gay Science
B.C. - Before Cyberspace - our leaders read books during world crises. Much has been made of the fact that during the Cuban Missile Crisis John Kennedy was heavily influenced by Barbara Tuchman's Guns of August. In his memoirs of the event, his brother Robert Kennedy claims that the President's decision-making was tempered at critical moments by Tuchman's account of how Europe stumbled into the first world war. In the midst of the Persian Gulf War I wondered what George Bush was reading: after watching George Bush, Saddam Hussein, and even a note-taking journalist watch CNN, I stopped wondering and watching, and started reading and writing again. Since no historian is likely to make note of it, I shall: I read Oswald Spengler's The Decline of the West and wrote this video-essay.
With this war, cyberspace came out of the research labs and into our living rooms. The written word lost out to the video of a video of a bomb that did not need books to be smart; to cruise missiles that read the signs of Baghdad's streets better than most of us read the signs of the war; to a hyperreal Gulfspeak that 'attrited' all critics who clung to the archaic notion that words meant what they said and said what they meant. The result is that the majority of people - not just the President - had neither the time nor the ability to read, write, or even reflect effectively about the war. For six weeks and one hundred hours we were drawn into the most powerful cyberspace yet created, a technically reproduced world-text that seemed to have no author or reader, just enthusiastic participants and passive viewers. This is not to reify or deify some new technological force in our society. But it is to recognize the possibility that we have become so estranged from the empty space left by the decline of American hegemony and the end of the Soviet threat that we eagerly found in cyberspace what we could no longer find in the new global disorder - comfort and security in our own superiority
But do not misread me: this chapter is not a literacy campaign, a neo-luddite attack on new technologies, or an exercise in cyber-bashing. I am merely offering a cautionary tale, of how the technical preparation, execution, and reproduction of the Gulf War created a new virtual - and consensual - reality: the first cyberwar, in the sense of a technological, televisual, and global strategic power that dominated the formulation as well as the representation of U.S. policy in the Gulf. In name only cyberspace had its origins in science fiction: its historical beginnings and technological innovations are clearly military (from NASA's primitive flight simulators of the 1940's to the ultra-modern SIMNET-D facilities in Fort Knox, Kentucky), and now its widest civilian application has been by the media, continuing the Gulf War by the most technical and immediate means. Yet clearly it is science fiction that alerted us to the dangers of cyberspace, and now popular culture that drives the message home.
Indeed, popular journalism seems much more attuned to the phenomenon than academic critics. Consider, for instance, these two assessments of the Gulf War:
'The trouble is that order is a 19th century term that suggests Metternichian arrangements of large, heavy, somewhat static entities. History in the late 20th century seems to belong more to chaos theory and particle physics and fractals - it moves by bizarre accelerations and illogics, by deconstructions and bursts of light.'
'It will not suffice to do extended textual readings of Pentagon briefings or Hussein's speeches. One must also know something about American culture, Iraqi history, etc. The whole deconstructive line of solipsism is obviously worthless or worse in this case. Are we talking about a discourse or are we talking about a war?'
When Time magazine (the first quote) begins to read like a critical theorist, and a critical theorist (the second quote) begins to read like Time, one begins to suspect that not only the Iraqi Republican Guard was out-flanked in the Six Weeks and One Hundred Hours War. Like old generals the anti-war movement fought the last war, while popular journalism and popular culture represented a new war of speed, perception, and spectacle - a 'pop' war ready-made for the video arcade. As the critics of the war hunkered down for a long war and high U.S. body counts, the rest of America climbed aboard the accelerating, solipsistic, deconstructive war machine. In effect, the 'New' Left fought a disastrous war of position, constructing ideologically sound bunkers of facts and history while the 'New' World Order fought a highly successful war of maneuver, enfilading the horrors and ugly truths of war with high-speed visuals and a high-tech aesthetics of destruction.
The modernist school of criticism ignored the new phenomenon of cyberwar and carried on with the important task of building an edifice of facts unobfuscated by false consciousness and disinformation, a la Chomsky ('Just take a look at the logic of the situation as it is evolving in the Gulf...') But efforts to construct a critical and universal counter-memory were handily isolated as anti-American and dismissed as utopian. Just as a foreign implant is set upon by antibodies, the 'radical' lessons of the Vietnam war and the cold war not only suffered pathological rejection but became the perverse justification for a hot, curative war ('By God, we've kicked the Vietnam Syndrome once and for all', said George Bush the morning after).
An alternative, late-modern tactic against total war was to war on totality itself, to delegitimize all sovereign truths based on class, nationalist, or internationalist metanarratives, a la Lyotard ('we have paid a high enough price for the nostalgia of the whole and the one...'). Let me put my po-mo cards on the table: this is the strategy of this chapter, as it was for the presentations that I made at teach-ins and conferences on the war. Contrary to the claims of some of the New Left, I found neither quietism nor conservatism but activism and imaginative criticism coming from deconstructionist, feminist, literary and cultural critics with a bad (late-modern) attitude who organised and participated in anti-war events. To be sure, the attitude comes with a highly advertised side-effect: there is no absolute guarantee that a new pragmatic basis for justice and truth - rather than an infinite regress of language-games and textual free-play - will result from political encounters. But better strategically to play with apt critiques of the powerful new forces unleashed by cyberwar than to hold positions with antiquated tactics and nostalgic unities. As was proven by the accelerated pace of this war, to overcome someday is already a day too late.
All critics of the war, however, were caught (with apologies to the Rolling Stones) between Iraq and a hard place, between the history of a civilization and its sanctioned destruction, between the new Hitler in the bunker and Bush at the helm of the New World Order. From the start patriotic reflexes, journalistic practices, and presidential politics worked to sublate this difference into synthetic moral ends: naked aggression must be stopped, a nation-state's sovereignty restored, and a new regional peace constructed. We must war for peace. Vindication came in the after-math: roughly 100,000 Iraqi military dead minus precisely 268 U.S. dead equals victory. What was left for the critic? Only the less decidable after-image, the still unfinished product of the war between matter and perception that would determine the dominant memory of this conflict.
Here we might learn a lesson from the military: let the target determine the strategy. The most powerful objective of a post-war, anti-war movement must be the instant after-image, the war that was technically reproduced on the screen between the events and us. This site of perceptions was immediately targeted by the State and the war machine to provide what the economy no longer can: the foundation for a resurgent American hegemony. What was it that made the image so irresistible, and the after-image so resistant to criticism? Conversely - and inevitably - what new foundations will be produced by resistance to it?
I believe that these questions of position and maneuver, of theoretical bunkers and critical de-bunking, require a mix of modern and late-modern armaments. This chapter is a cross-border operation, violating the territorial principle of non-intervention that delimits both the theory and the system of international relations. Hence my use of still photographs of moving images, the crude black and white alienation from a living color war, and the play of agonistic video-games, to reveal what scientific procedures of causality cannot: how an immaterial conflict was given such serious substance through a war of simulations. In my targeting of the after-images of war I transgress disciplinary boundaries and regress with multiple representations. But this is, I believe, the only means by which the critical theorist might approximate and expropriate the language, video, and war games of the strategists of a late-modern war.
Where better to begin and end than with the first and last shot of the Six Weeks and One Hundred Hours War: the night bombing of Baghdad and the night liberation of Kuwait City, reproduced by television cameras equipped with night-vision technology and transmitted in real-time by portable satellite link-ups. The grainy, ghostly green images of the beginning and the end of the war stick. They seem more real, more authentic than all the packaged images that were sandwiched in between. Call it the new video verte: a powerful combination of the latest technology, the lowest quality image, the highest representation of reality. It reproduced a twisted Manichean truth: light - a tracer bullet, a secondary explosion, a flaring match - is danger; darkness - by camouflage, stealth, the night - is safety. Correspondents quickly learned that in wartime it was better to dwell and deal in the latter. The motto 'We own the night' (originating in the 7th Infantry Division) became the slogan of the war and the reality of its coverage. When obfuscating military briefers and mandatory 'security reviews' extended the ownership beyond the battlefield, the press and the public, already blind-sided in Grenada and neutered by the pool system in Panama, eagerly seized on the hi-tech prosthetics offered by the military. Words became filler between images produced by gun-cameras using night-vision or infra-red that cut through the darkness to find and destroy targets lit-up by lasers or radiating heat. Perhaps if a few journalists had known what all night-fighters know, that night-vision degrades depth perception, then the appeal of the videographic reproduction of the war might have been diminished. But from the beginning moving images took out fixed words, and photocentrism triumphed over logocentrism. The combination of surgical video strikes and information carpet bombing worked.
To be sure, for every public viewing of the war there was also a private perspective. I for one missed the collective moment of first images. Circling over Chicago's O'Hare airport when the bombs started to fall on Baghdad, I first heard of the war on the radio of a taxi. The first mediation came from the driver, who had not said a word during the trip until he turned around to give me change. In the thickest of Russian accents he said: 'They told me it would be over in three weeks - I was in Afghanistan for three years.'
The discordance of the first word with first images lasted right up to the last day of the war. Fast forward to the end of the Ground War, to the televised victory briefing by 'the chief architect of the ground war', better known as the commander of allied forces in the Persian Gulf, General Norman Schwarzkopf. Working his charts full of red and blue markers like a Jonathan Winters on amphetamines, he presented the keystone to the building that Norm built.
'I think this is probably one of the most important parts of the entire briefing I could talk about. As you know, very early on, we took out the Iraqi Air force. We knew that he had very limited reconnaissance means. And therefore, when we took out his air force, for all intents
and purposes, we took out his ability to see what we were doing down here in Saudi Arabia. Once we had taken out his eyes, we did what could best be described as the Hail Mary play in football.'
Stretching from the first days of the Six Weeks War to the last minutes of the One Hundred Hours War, these two simple statements by two disparate 'mud soldiers' frame the architecture of cyberwar. The construction and destruction of the enemy other would be:
* measured in time not territory
* prosecuted in the field of perception not politics
* authenticated by technical reproduction not material referents
* played out in the method and metaphor of gaming, not
the history and horror of warring.
In short, cyberwars of chrono-strategic simulations for pax Americana II.
'It is precisely when it appears most truthful, most faithful and most in conformity to reality that the image is most diabolical...'
Jean Baudrillard, The Evil Demon of Images
The simulated nature of the war was apparent at the outset, but took on a critical consciousness when ABC correspondent Cokie Roberts asked General
Schwarzkopf, via satellite link-up, to comment on it:
Roberts: 'You see a building in a sight, it looks more like a video game than anything else. Is there any sort of danger that we don't have any sense of the horrors of war - that it's all a game?'
Schwarzkopf: 'You didn't see me treating it like a game. And you didn't see me laughing and joking while it was going on. There are human lives being lost, and at this stage of the game [sic] this is not a time for frivolity on the part of anybody.'
In the space of a single sound-bite Schwarzkopf reveals the inability of the military and the public to maintain the distinction between warring and gaming in the age of video. We were enchanted by the magic of applied technologies, seduced and then numbed by the arcane language of the military briefers, satisfied by the image of every bomb finding its predestined target. The wizards in desert khaki came out from behind the curtain only long enough to prove their claims on TV screens, to have us follow their fingers and the arcs of the bombs to the truth. At some moments - the most powerful moments - the link between sign and signifier went into Moebius-strip contortions, as when we saw what the nose-cone of a smart bomb saw as it rode a laser beam to its target, making its fundamental truth-claim not in a flash of illumination but in the emptiness of a dark screen. William Tecumseh Sherman meets Jean Paul Sartre in a sick syllogism: since war is hell and hell is others, bomb the others into nothingness.
Schwarzkopf's difficulty in separating war from its gaming is understandable. Back in October 1990 Schwarzkopf revealed in an USA Today interview that the U.S. military was ready for war in the Gulf over a year ago, because two years earlier they had learned that Iraq 'had run computer simulations and war games for the invasion of Kuwait'. He did not mention - it is doubtful that he did not know - that the software for the invasion simulations was supplied by an American company. In the same interview Schwarzkopf stated that he programs 'possible conflicts with Iraq on computers almost daily.' Having been previously stationed in Florida as head of the U.S. Central Command - at the time a 'paper' army without troops, tanks, or aircraft of its own - he had already earned a reputation as an adept simulation jockey.
In fact, Schwarzkopf sponsored a highly significant computer-simulated war game which was played in July 1990 under the code-name of Exercise Internal Look '90. According to a Central Command news release issued at the time, 'command and control elements from all branches of the military will be responding to real-world scenarios similar to those they might be expected to confront within the Central Command AOR consisting of the Horn of Africa, the Middle East and Southwest Asia.' When Kuwait was invaded by Iraq, the war game specialist who put Exercise Internal Look together, Lt. General Yeosock, was moved from fighting 'real-world scenarios' in Florida to taking command of all ground troops - except for the special forces under Schwarzkopf - in Saudi Arabia. The war gamers went to cyberwar.
'How much better is this amiable miniature than the Real Thing! Here is a homeopathic remedy for the imaginative strategist. Here is the premeditation, the thrill, the strain of accumulating victory or disaster - and no smashed or sanguinary bodies, no shattered fine buildings, nor devastated countrysides, no petty cruelties, none of that awful universal boredom and embitterment, that tiresome delay or stoppage or embarrassment of every gracious, bold sweet, and charming thing, that we who are old enough to remember a real modern war know to be the reality of belligerence.'
H.G. Wells, Little Wars
What Cokie Roberts and her journalist cohort had only begun to suspect, that the line between war and game was becoming irrevocably blurred, was common knowledge in the realm of popular culture - and down at the mall video arcade. Two films stand out as genre setters. The first is the late 70s, post-Watergate, pre-Challenger film Capricorn One based on the premise that the military and NASA would - and had the technological capability to - simulate a successful Mars landing after the 'real' mission aborts. The second is the Reagan-era film WarGames, a story of a young hacker who taps into an Air Force computer simulation and nearly triggers a nuclear war between the superpowers.
There are as well the ubiquitous video-games. 'Tank', one of the earliest and most popular, was a stripped-down version of an Army training simulation. Its graphics and sound effects now seem neolithic when compared to the simulations available for home computers. To name a few: from Navy simulations there is Harpoon, Das Boot Submarine, Wolf Pack, and Silent Service II; from the Air Force, Secret Weapons of the Luftwaffe, F-19 Stealth Fighter, A-10 Tank Killer, and F-15 Strike Eagle; and for those seeking more serious global simulations, Populous, Balance of Power, SimCity, and Global Dilemma.
Simulations - the continuation of war by means of verisimilitude - have a much longer and much wider history. Prussia used Kriegsspiel ('war play') before their victories over the Austrians at Sadowa in 1866 and the French in 1870; Major William Livermore of the Army Corp of Engineers joined William McCarty Little and Rear Admiral Alfred Thayer Mahan at the Naval War College to set up the United States' first modern system of war gaming in 1889; and Japan made effective use of war games to achieve an unexpected victory over the Russians in 1904. Moreover, there is something of a law of uneven development at work in the field of war gaming. For instance, the Afghanistan resistance combined highly flexible sand box and toy soldier war games with hi-tech weaponry like the Stinger to defeat their far superior enemy, the Soviets - who, one could argue, were fighting the wrong war game. In this same period the U.S. military research labs began to develop simulations for smart ground and air weapons-systems that operated without pilots or drivers, taking us further along the slide into sci-fi war gaming and robotic war-fighting.
'What entered Megavac 6-v as a mere logos would emerge for the TV lenses and mikes to capture in the guise of a pronouncement, one which nobody in his right mind - especially if encapsulated subsurface for fifteen years - would doubt.'
P.K. Dick, The Penultimate Truth
The most powerful dialogue of the cyberwar - if measured by the allocation of image resources - was the war of logos. It speaks for itself, but a genealogy helps us to understand how the media construct their own simulation cyberspace. Just around the time that Schwarzkopf wrapped up Operation Internal Look, the networks began to prepare their own war simulations. Most of them booked time at National Video on 42nd Street in New York City, a cutting edge video graphics lab known for its production of MTV logos.
NBC, cash-poor, went for the see-cubed-eye look, no fancy graphics, of the image of the news set as command and control HQ of America at War. CBS and ABC revealed the limits of simulated imagination when they replayed Time-Newsweek's simultaneous cover story of Bruce Springsteen: both came up with Showdown in the Gulf. ABC had the distinguishing underlay of a radar screen, but soon jettisoned the High Noon theme for a simpler logo, The Gulf War.
But it was ABC's Primetime Live and CNN's Headline News that should be the front runners in next year's Emmy awards in the special category of War Graphics. Primetime went for the Cruise Missile simulation. In successive frames the missile goes through some remarkable ground-hugging, terrain-following maneuvers, and just as it looms large - as the viewer realizes who the target is - The Gulf War logo and Diane Sawyer fade in. CNN, riding a high ratings wave, took the most innovative approach. It used as an underlay the military video of the week, and as the smart-bomb or missile homed in on the logo, War in the Gulf, block-lettered in fascistoid orange and black, rotated in over the destroyed target. Scary enough to hope that hologram TV never arrives.
To be sure, a more significant logomachy was in evidence at the less graphic, more subtextual level of semantics. Before the first shot was fired, language was enlisted in the war effort. Until we had sufficient troops in place 'to deter and defend' the hostages in Iraq were cautiously referred to as 'detainees'. In late fall, after 250,000 more troops had arrived, George Bush shifted linguistic gears and called for the 'unconditional surrender' of Saddam Hussein. When reminded shortly afterwards that this demand exceeded the requirements of the UN resolutions, he replied 'that's just semantics'. By February, with the air war going well and ground exercises for invasion taking place daily, General Colin Powell stripped U.S. strategy toward Iraq of any nuance or ambiguity: 'First we're going to cut it off, and then we're going to kill it.'
But enough has been said about the systematic corruption of language by the military practices. It quickly became a commonplace that truth was the first casualty of war. But this was a slogan in need of a theory, of how truth is produced in the continuation of war by other, simulated means.
'The gratifying aspect of the image is that it constitutes a limit at the edge of the indefinite.'
Maurice Blanchot, The Space of Literature
Writing for the Frankfurter Zeitung in 1926, marveling at the immense popularity of the newly constructed picture palaces in Berlin, Siegfried Kracauer chronicled the emergence of a 'cult of distraction'. It is in these new 'optical fairylands', he wrote, that 'distraction - which is meaningful only as improvisation, as reflection of the uncontrolled anarchy of the world - is festooned with drapes and forced back into a unity that no longer exists.' In Kracauer's view the picture palaces served as a kind of Hegelian asylum from Weimar disorder, ornate spaces where the alienated Berliner could seek reunification through a new, totally imaginary, cinematic (yet organic) Zeitgeist.
Taking his first measure of film production, Walter Benjamin wrote in his 1936 essay, 'The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction', of the corresponding loss of authenticity, aura, and uniqueness in art. Benjamin believed mechanically reproduced art, especially film, to be especially useful to if not generative of Fascism, for the rendering of politics into aesthetics had the advantage of mobilizing the masses for war without endangering traditional property relations. He quotes the Futurist Marinetti to chilling effect: 'War is beautiful because it establishes man's dominion over the subjugated machinery by means of gas masks, terrifying megaphones, flame throwers, and small tanks. War is beautiful because it initiates the dreamt-of metalization of the human body...War is beautiful because it creates new architecture, like that of the big tanks, the geometrical formation flights, the smoke spirals from burning villages, and many others...Poets and artists of Futurism!...remember these principles of an aesthetics of war so that your struggle for a new literature and a new graphic art...may be illumined by them.!'
Surveying the rise of a consumer society, anticipating the failure of conventional, radical, spatial politics in 1968, Guy Debord, editor of the journal Internationale Situationniste, opened his book Society of the Spectacle with a provocative claim: 'In societies where modern conditions of production prevail, all of life presents itself as an immense accumulation of spectacles. Everything that was directly lived has moved away into a representation.' At the root of this new form of representation was the specialization of power, with spectacle coming to speak for all other forms of power, becoming in effect 'the diplomatic representation of hierarchic society to itself, where all other expression is banned.'
After analyzing the political economy of the sign and visiting Disneyland, Jean Baudrillard, the French master of edifying hyperbole, notified the inhabitants of advanced mediacracies that they were no longer distracted by the technical reproduction of reality, or alienated and repressed by their over-consumption of its spectacular representation. Unable to recover the 'original' and seduced by the simulation, they had lost the ability to distinguish between the model and the real: 'Abstraction today is no longer that of the map, the double, the mirror or the concept. Simulation is no longer that of a territory, a referential being or a substance. It is the generation by models of a real without origin or reality: a hyperreal.'
Paul Virilio's project to politicize the violence of speed, reviewed in the last chapter, illuminates the events of the Gulf War. The linking of the logistics of military perception and the use of videos in warfare (navy complained of their low quality) as hand-to-hand combat gave way to long-range conflict, the enemy receded from sight. An urgent need developed to accurately see and verify the destruction of the enemy at a distance. The necessity of collapsing distance, of closing the geographical space between enemies, led to the joint development of modern techniques for war filming and killing. Recounting a Vietnam pilot's story of how he was sent back repeatedly to bomb the same target, just to please the photo interpreters, Virilio remarks: 'People used to die for a coat of arms, an image on a pennant or flag; now they died to improve the sharpness of a film. War has finally become the third dimension of cinema.' In short, Virilio holds that in modern warfare, as the aim of battle shifts from territorial, economic, and material gains to immaterial, perceptual fields, the spectacle of war is displaced by the war of spectacle.
In the Gulf War the truth was not collaterally damaged as some incidental victim of a necessary violence. The truth - in the Nietzschean sense of 'illusions whose illusionary nature has been forgotten' - was constructed out of and authorized by spectacular, videographic, cyberspatial simulations of war.
'I hate to say it, but once we got rolling it was like a training exercise with live people running around. Our training exercises are a lot harder.'
Captain Kelvin Davis (after American troops captured Kuwait City)
We were primed for this war. Simulations had infiltrated into every area of our lives, in the form of news (re)creations, video games, flight simulators, police interrogations, crime reenactments, and, of course, media war games. Six days into the invasion of Kuwait Tom Brokaw on NBC News staged a war game with former U.S. officials standing in for Hussein and Bush. It ended with 'Hussein' threatening to 'send home body bags every day' and Brokaw warning us that 'that before too long we may have the real thing.' In October Ted Koppel on ABC Nightline weighed in with his 'Ides of November' war game. This war game differed from previous ones presented by Koppel (two on terrorism and one on nuclear war): there was not a pasha from Kissinger Associates in sight, and the talking-heads barely had equal time with the video simulations. Constructed and narrated by the authors of the book A Quick and Dirty Guide to War and the wargame Arabian Nightmare, the program featured stock clips of war exercises, computer simulations of bombing runs, many maps, and a day-by-day pull-down menu of escalating events. The post-game commentary (known in the ranks as a 'hot wash-up') was conducted by two military analysts armed with pointers, James Blackwell and Harry Summers, Jr. They ended with a split decision - and a final cautionary note that 'no plan survives contact with the enemy'.
By the first ultimatum in January, the representational boundary between the simulation and the 'real thing' was as attenuated as a fuse wire. War continued by means of simulation in its media representation as well as through its military preparation. Before the ground war the U.S. conducted a series of highly publicized war exercises, the largest being an amphibious Marine landing called 'Imminent Thunder'. In fact, no landing crafts were used because the seas were running too high. Nonetheless, the simulation 'worked'. When the allied troops reached Kuwait City they found in a school house used by the Iraqi military as a headquarters a room-sized model of the city. On a sand tableau there were, to scale, wooden ships, buildings, roads, barbed wire - and all the Iraqi guns pointing toward the sea attack that never came.
For those still retaining some control over their television sets during the war, there were illuminating intertexts to be seen on non-news channels. My local movie channel ran a Eastwood-Norris-Bronson-Stallone series to coincide with the real thing. But it was in switching over to the Fox station that I discovered the hoariness of the simulation theme when an episode on war games appeared on Star Trek - not on The Next Generation with its virtual reality holodeck, but on the toggle-switch and blinking-lights original. Called the 'Ultimate Computer', the episode pits Kirk against the 'M5 Multitronic Unit' in a wargame. After the crew is removed from the ship, Kirk is told by the creator of the computer 'to sit back and let the machine do the work'. As machine proves more adept then man, Kirk goes through several existential crises; that is, until the machine mistakes the game for war and destroys another ship by unfriendly fire. Angered and impassioned, Kirk stops soliloquizing and regains control of the ship by convincing the computer that by killing humans it has violated its primary purpose of protecting them.
It took Captain Kirk to pull the plug on the national security doublespeak of the Gulf War: we kill to live. Ironically, it was Peter Arnett reporting not from Baghdad but from Ben Tre, Vietnam who had recorded an earlier instance of that naked truth: 'it became necessary to destroy the town to save it.'
Science fiction offers other insights that journalism and lagging social science cannot provide. In the movie Aliens, when the Colonial Marines are being buffeted as they enter the atmosphere of the planet where the unknown awaits them, Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) asks the obviously anxious Lieutenant how many combat drops this is for him. He replies 'Thirty-eight', pauses, and then adds - 'Simulated.' He quickly proves incapable of responding to situations that do not follow his simulation training. Both Kirk and Ripley should have been on the bridge of the U.S.S. Vincennes on July 3, 1988 when its radar operator and the tactical information coordinator mistook - after nine months simulation training with computer tapes - an Iranian Airbus for an attacking Iranian F-14 and shot it down.
Even more useful is the intertext of strategic power and popular culture provided by Tom Clancy. Clancy's first bestseller, the Red October has a hyperbolic blurb from former President Reagan. His second novel, Red Storm Rising, a thinly fictionalized mosaic of NATO war games, was authoritatively cited by Vice President Quayle in a foreign policy speech to prove that the U.S needs an anti-satellite capability. In his third, Patriot Games, Clancy magnifies the threat of terrorism to the prove that state counter-terrorism works; a view endorsed by Secretary of Defense Weinberger in a laudatory review of the book for the Wall Street Journal - which was then reprinted in the Pentagon's Current News for the edification of the 7,000-odd Defense and State Department officials who make up its readership. His fourth novel, The Cardinal of the Kremlin, in which Clancy plots the plight of a mole in the Kremlin, affirms the need to reconstruct the impermeable borders of the sovereign state with Star Wars. His fifth novel, Clear and Present Danger, opens with a quote from Pascal, 'Law, without force, is impotent', and closes with the unrepressed message that the U.S. will be impotent it it does not use -prudently of course - its technological edge in night-vision, GBU-15 laser-guided bombs, and satellite surveillance against drug cartels.
Taken together, Clancy's novels anticipate the strategic simulations that filled our screens during the Gulf War. Jammed with technical detail and seductive ordnance, devoid of recognizably human characters, and obliquely linked to historical events, they act as free-floating intertexts for saving the reality principle of the national security state: namely, that the sovereign state's boundaries, like those between fiction and fact, simulation and reality, can once again be made impermeable to any threat posed by this year's model of evil.
There is of course a fundamental and ultimate difference between war and its game: people die in wars. But this distinction also suffered erosion in the Gulf War. If we subtract the number of Allied soldiers (the Iraqi dead never 'figured') killed by 'friendly fire', there were more casualties in the war exercises leading up to 'G-Day' (the beginning of the ground war) than during the war itself.
'This is a war universe. War all the time. That is its nature. There may be other universes based on all sorts of other principles, but ours seems to be based on war and games. All games are basically hostile. Winners and losers. We see them all around us: the winners and the losers. The losers can oftentimes become winners, and the winners can very easily become losers.'
William S. Burroughs, The War Universe
Was this a just war, or just a game? For the winners, both: for the losers, neither. To suggest as I have done in this video-essay that it could be both or neither simultaneously is to challenge the U.S. effort to construct out of this war a new world order based on one truth, one winner, one loser. To offer as I do nothing in its place but a Nietzshean 'breath of empty space' is to risk charges of relativism, or worse, nihilism. But this cyberwar is the result of the U.S. effort to fill and to delimit the new void left by the end of the cold war, the end of the old order, the 'end of history'. While the architecture of the new world order may be built of simulations, its hegemonic effect will be all too real for those nation-states that have little to gain from it.
Of course, the post-war historical possibilities are not so clear-cut, a nihilistic case of either all or nothing being permitted. But 'the end of the cold war' - that is, the end of the Soviet Union as a counter-balance to American hegemony - has re-opened a space - as pointed out by Baudrillard - for both war and peace.'
But Baudrillard does not get it quite right. If anything has been proven by this war, it is that simulations now rule not only in the war without warring of nuclear deterrence, but also in the post-war warring of the present. It was never in question that we would win the military conflict. But we did not win a 'war', in the conventional sense of a destroying a reciprocating enemy. What 'war', then, did the U.S. win? A cyberwar of simulations. First the pre-war simulation, Operation Internal Look 90, which defeated the Made in America Iraqi simulation for the invasion of Kuwait. Second, the war game of AirLand Battle which defeated an Iraqi army that resembled the game's intended enemy, the Warsaw Pact, in hyperreality only. Third, the war of spectacle, which defeated the spectacle of war on the battlefield of videographic reproduction. And fourth, the post-war after-simulation of Vietnam, which defeated an earlier defeat by assimilating Vietnam's history and lessons into the victory of the Gulf War.
Have we, 'by God', kicked the Vietnam Syndrome in Iraq? I am sure that as long as there is a great global gap in power and wealth there will be tenacious under-dogs with a taste for grey flannel - and more swift kicks to follow. But the score is being kept. Almost 25 years ago at the Bertrand Russell War Crimes Tribunal in Stockholm, Jean Paul Sartre rendered a verdict that bears remembering:
'It [the U.S] is guilty, by plotting, misrepresenting, lying and self-deceiving, of becoming more deeply committed every instant, despite the lessons of this unique and intolerable experience, to a course which is leading it to the point of no return. It is guilty, self-confessedly, of knowingly carrying on this cautionary war to make genocide a challenge and a threat to peoples everywhere. We have seen that one of the features of total war was a constant growth in the number and speed of means of transport; since 1914, war can no longer remain localized, it must spread through the world. Today the process is becoming intensified; the links of the One World, this universe upon which the United States wishes to impose its hegemony, are ever closer.'
Perhaps it is time to diagnose a 'Gulf War Syndrome', the construction and destruction of a lesser enemy that makes us all the greater in the 'new world order'. Iraq served its purpose well as the enemy other which redefined our own essential identities: but it was the other enemy, the new threat posed by the de-territorialization of the state and a disintegrating bipolar order that required the violent reconstitution of new monological truths.
The new disorder requires a commensurate de-territorialization of theory. We can no longer reconstitute a single site of meaning or reconstruct some neo-kantian cosmopolitian community; that would require a moment of enlightened universal certainty that has long past. Nor can we depend on or believe in some spiritual, dialectical or revolutionary processes to overcome or transcend the domestic and international divisions, ambiguities, and uncertainties that mark the age of video. Rather, we must find a way to live with and recognize the very necessity of difference, the need to assert heterogeneity before we can even begin to understand our role in the lives of others. This is not yet another utopian scheme to take us out of the 'real' world, but a practical strategy to live with less anxiety, insecurity, and fear in what Mikhail Bakhtin described as 'exotopy', and Michel Foucault as 'heterotopia'. These environments make possible broader realms of freedom where the heteroglossia of language bespeaks a heterodoxia in world politics, where radical otherness in international relations is assumed and asserted in dialogue, not subsumed and expressed in violence.
My strategy, to construct a counter-simulation to the war's after-images, is in the end only one of many beginnings towards one of many heterotopias. Not an endgame, then, but a game with no end, no winners, no losers, no rules but one: play in peace.
See Robert F. Kennedy, Thirteen Days: A Memoir of the Cuban Missile Crisis (New York: W.W. Norton, 1971), pp. 40, 105.
The inspiration for the chapter comes mainly from the powerful (and yes, orientalist) opening to Spengler's chapter on 'Problems of the Arabian Culture'. See Oswald Spengler, The Decline of the West (New York: Viking, 1927), vol. II, chapter seven, pp. 186-9:
'In a rock-stratum are embedded crystals of a mineral. Clefts and cracks occur, water filters in, and the crystals are gradually washed out so that in due course only their hollow mould remains. Then come volcanic outbursts which explode the mountain; molten masses pour in, stiffen, and crystallize out in their turn. But these are not free to do so in their own special forms. They must fill up the spaces that they find available. Thus there arise distorted forms, crystals whose inner structure contradicts their external shape, stones of one kind presenting the appearance of stones of another kind. The mineralogists call this phenomenon Pseudomorphosis.
'By the term "historical pseudomorphosis" I propose to designate those cases in which an older alien Culture lies so massively over the land that a young Culture, born in this land, cannot get its breath and fails not only to achieve pure and specific expression-forms, but even to develop fully its own self-consciousness. All that wells up from the depths of the young soul is cast in the old moulds, young feelings stiffen in senile works, and instead of rearing itself up in its own creative power, it can only hate the distant power with a hate that grows to be monstrous.'
'This is the case of the Arabian Culture.'
This begs the onto-theological question that I deal with in the Introduction (see p. )
See in particular Philip K. Dick, The Simulacra (New York: Ace Books, 1964) and The Penultimate Truth (London: Triad, 1984); and the book in which William Gibson coined the term 'cyberspace', The Neuromancer (New York, Ace Books, 1984)
Lance Morrow, Time, 18 March 1991, p. 21.
Todd Gitlin, 'Theory in Wartime: An Interview with Todd Gitlin', Linguafranca, February 1991, p. 26. Another position of radical critics that I witnessed at various teach-ins and in journals like Z and Lies in Our Times was to attribute the war to a plan by the U.S. and Israel to lure Saddam Hussein into Kuwait and then spring the trap. This was such a perfect conspiracy that these same people were predicting as late as January U.S. casualties in the several thousands, a protracted war, and mass resistance. When this scenario failed to develop they fell back on a conspiracy theory to explain why the war so popular, so swift, and so total - and why their theoretical analysis was so far off.
See P. Virilio, Bunker Archeologie (Paris: Centre Georges Pompidou, 1975), p. 42, on the dangers of 'bunker architecture: 'Le bunker est devenu un mythe, a la fois present et absent, present comme objet de repulsion pour une architecture civile transparente et ouverte, absent dans la mesure ou l'essential de la nouvelle forteress est ailleurs, sous nos pied, desormais invisible.'
See N. Chomsky, On Gulf Policy (Westfield, New Jersey: Open Magazine Series, 1991), p. 1. See also letter received from Chomsky ( ).
See J-F. Lyotard, The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge (Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press, 1984), p. 81-2.
See Henri Bergson, Matter and Memory (New York: Zone Books, 1988), and Walter Benjamin, 'On Some Motifs in Baudelaire', in Illuminations (New York: Schocken, 1969).
New York Times, 28 February 1991, p. A8. I doubt whether we will ever see a 'Norm knows football' advertisement (rest easy Bo), for the only 'Hail Mary' play of the war was Iraq's desperate long bomb SCUD attacks. Charles Hables Gray (from the University of California at Santa Cruz) later pointed out to me that the appropriate football analogy for the Allies strategy was using the air game to set up the ground game, followed by a fake up the middle and power sweep around the left side.
USA Today, 8 October 1990, p. 8.
See J. Der Derian, 'War Games May Prove Deadly', Newsday, 9 December 1990.
See T. Allen, War Games: The Secret World of the Creators, Players, and Policy Makers Rehearsing World War III Today (New York: McGraw Hill, 1987); and P. Perla, The Art of War gaming (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1990)
Since journalists were as reluctant to credit the quote as they were keen to repeat it, it should be noted that Senator Hiram Johnson said in 1917 that '[T]he first casualty when war comes is truth.' Of course, the corruption of language is not always intentional. For instance, General Colin Powell's reference to the U.S. forces as 'Desert Storm Troopers' during a victory speech before a convention of Veterans of Foreign Wars went unreported, probably because it was considered to be an innocent slip (I'll leave it to the psychoanalysts to determine whether it was a Freudian one).
See F. Kracauer, 'Cult of Distraction: On Berlin's Picture Palaces', trans. by T. Y. Levin, in New German Critique, 40 (Winter 1987), p. 95; and Kracauer's Das Ornament der Masse (Frankfurt a.M.: Suhrkamp Verlag, 1963), forthcoming as The Mass Ornament, translated and edited by Levin (Cambridge: Harvard University Press).
See W. Benjamin, 'The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction', Illuminations, ed. H Arendt (New York: Schocken, 1969), pp. 241-2.
See G. Debord, Society of the Spectacle (Detroit: Black and Red, 1983), no. 1, pp. 1 and 23. In a more recent work, Debord persuasively - and somewhat despairingly - argues that the society of the spectacle retains its representational power in current times: see Commentaires sur la Societe du Spectacle (Paris: Editions Gerard Lebovici, 1988).
See J. Baudrillard, Simulations (New York: Semiotext(e), 1983), p. 2. The original French version, Simulacres et Simulation (Paris: Editions Galilee, 1981), has more on the simulacral nature of violence in cinema. See in particular his readings of China Syndrome, Barry Lyndon, Chinatown, and Apocalypse Now, pp. 69-91.
See War and Cinema, p. 85.
See War and Cinema, p. 7.
Paul de Man, The Resistance to Theory (Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press), p. 67.
23Newsweek, 11 March 1991, p. 17.
24See Fatal Strategies, in Jean Baudrillard: Selected Writings, ed. M. Poster (Standford, CA: Standford University Press, 1988), p. 191, quoted in Chapter Seven:
'Like the real, warfare will no longer have any place - except precisely if the nuclear powers are successful in de-escalation and manage to define new spaces for warfare. If military power, at the cost of de-escalating this marvelously practical madness to the second power, reestablishes a setting for warfare, a confined space that is in fact human, then weapons will regain their use value and their exchange value: it will again be possible to exchange warfare.'
25The art of deterrence, prohibiting political war, favors the upsurge, not of conflicts, but of acts of war without war.' See Paul Virilio, Pure War, p. 27.
26See Jean Paul Sartre, 'Vietnam: Imperialism and Genocide', in Between Existentialism and Marxism (New York: Pantheon, 1974), pp. 82-3.