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"...public opinion deserves to be respected as well as despised" G.W.F. Hegel, 'Philosophy of Right'

war narratives « Previous | |Next »
September 8, 2006

Michael Vlahos in his The Long War: A self-defeating prophecy in Asia Times explores the narrative of war. He says that a war narrative provides an interlocking foundation of "truths" that people easily accept because they appear to be self-evident and undeniable. The current war narrative is one of the "long war", or "long, global war".

Rocco, Checkmate, 2006

Vlahos goes on to say that:

.... the "global war on terrorism" has had three distinct "stories". Or perhaps it would be better to say that the story of this war has been twice transformed. Its initial incarnation as a "war against terrorism" was a simple story of righteous retribution: kill the terrorists in their mountain lairs...The second began with US President George W Bush's declaration of an "axis of evil". This represented a metamorphosis from a "terrorist" enemy to the image of an evil league of enemy powers, and thus the entire significance of the war was elevated....It is the collapse of this enterprise that has birthed yet another story. This third incarnation is a tortured response to the debacle in Iraq, where messianic goals and millenarian promises went south. Thus the "Long War"..... "The United States is a nation engaged in what will be a long war."

So it has been five years since the jihad against Western civilisation was confronted by the long war on global terrorism. This war is now seen as "the unfolding of a global ideological struggle, our time in history", the subetext is a war of civilizations, and we are explicitly fighting "Islamo-fascists" and opposing everyone who supports or even sympathizes with Muslim resistance.

Of course, the other side has their war narrative as well. Here the United States is seen to be great evil and it becomes Islam's enemy, opposition becomes a resistance to US occupation and Iran is seen to be the only nation-state that stands up to US power.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 9:25 PM | | Comments (2)


The essay by Vlahos is superb. Compare it to the toxic sludge in the Weekend Oz and again today -

I did read The Australian on the plane over to Canberra this morning. I should say I turned the pages devoted to the 9/11 anniverary. I couldn't find much in the way of critical reflection about 9/11 or the US response to it. So I just scanned the headlines.

Hugh White in The Age says:

Five years on, the way the West's leaders talk about terrorism is now much more shaped by the need to justify what they have done since September 11, than by any sober judgement about the threat of terrorism itself.That is why Tony Blair thinks he has to say now that we are engaged in a global battle "utterly decisive in whether the values we believe in triumph or fail". That is why President George Bush thinks he has to say, as he did recently, that if the terrorists are not defeated in Iraq, they will have to be fought in America, and compares Osama bin Laden with Hitler.