Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Winning the War: How Conflicts are Defined and Redefined Four Dimensionally

Winning in any modern conflict is little different strategically than winning in any ancient conflict. The choice of the battlefield is frequently the decisive factor. However, in modern warfare, which, as Baudrillard points out so frequently, is hardly warfare at all, the choice of latitude, longitude, and altitude (or in political terms: issues, positions, and gravitas) is hardly as important as the selection of the time frame. I do not mean this in the classical sense of selecting the appropriate moment for action, the perfect time to strike a killing blow. I am referring to the modern trend in winning conflicts by only referencing a certain discreet section of time. This confinement of realitiy was once reserved for history books and chosen in order to allow the human mind to categorize data. However, in recent years it has become common to shift referential points to redefine conflicts.

To deal with a concrete military example, in Iraq there is a trend to narrow the referential points both temporally and spatially to include only those areas of space and time in which "The Surge" was employed as the only areas of import. The disaster of Iraq is already, by any reasonable standard, a failure. Clausewitz would likely deficate himself at the mere thought of referencing any of our Iraqi endeavor as a victory. He might have a second go-round if he were told of this "Surge" and its innovative tactic of deploying a large number of troops to quell low-intensity fighting. The very idea that "The Surge" (perhaps a name more fitting for an energy drink than a military strategy) is innovative is belied by a mere glance at the military advice provided by former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, General Shinseki, who, as those astute enough to remember that the Iraq war began before "The Surge" will know, posited that a similar troop level (per number of civilians, not overall) would be neccessary to achieve any kind of actual victory in Iraq. He was forced to retire before the actual invasion. The referentials of both the war and the concept of deploying a sizable force have been shifted by the sorceres of PR to ensure that they are viewed as creatures of the very recent past. "The Surge" has been further truncated by giving it the simulated lifespan of a mayfly. It, apparently, is completed and a success. That it may need to continue indefinitely in order to continue suppressing any violent conflict is never discussed. That it is a common tactic, used by any imperial power seeking domination over an area unwilling to readily submit to foreign control (direct or indirect) is never mentioned. It is "The Surge," the all-powerful, eternally successful, throughly innovative strategy of General Petraeus, a trademarked, branded sacred cow of militaristic prowess. Absurd. It's logic is as simple and eternally damning as that of a child taking the field with plastic army men. Locate the places where the enemy is attacking my men, and send more men until it stops. The unfortunate problem is that this scenario never ends. Ask the Vietnamese, the Russians, the Celtic Britons, and any other insurgency that ever succeeded.

This same shifting of references is consistently employed in the political arena as well (even presuming that the war and its referentials are not wholly creatures of the political realm). Senator McCain has consistently reinvented himself and somehow altered the reference points of his own career to span nearly forty years while skipping some of the most notable moment. The Senator is clearly setting a temporal agenda worthy of a Greek god by including in his own personal timeline his time in a Vietnamese prison camp and his "maverick" leadership on campaign finance reform while skipping over his membership in the illustrious Keating Five.

Of course, Obama is guilty of the same skillful manipulation of the time frame. He has repeatedly insisted on the relevance of his stance on the invasion of Iraq prior to its occurance. However, to suggest that the then State Senator for Illinois was in a situation where his opposition was either relevant or rooted in a situational similarity to his colleagues in the Senate is absurd. Its effectiveness is rooted in Obama's ability to conquer so much of the public spectacle. His ubiquity makes his presence seem to extend into the past and future, as though he were conquering time itself. His token opposition as a charismatic lawmaker unknown outside of his home state has grown with his media image into a full-blown simulacrum of not merely a vote, but leadership against a war that should have never happened.

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