Specters of War: Hollywoods Engagement with Military Conflict

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On Dec. Abe immediately increased surveillance over the disputed area and reportedly loosened the rules of engagement so that Japanese vessels could approach much closer to Chinese vessels. On Jan. It did little good. Western military officials and diplomats have told me that they have evidence, including from electronic intercepts, that shows that the movements of Chinese boats and ships were micromanaged by the new task force chaired by Xi.

The world still knew nothing of these dangerous confrontations when Captain Fanell gave his remarkable speech in San Diego the following day, Jan. For even as Japanese leaders and U. Indeed, Gen. Liu Yuan — the same reputedly hawkish princeling general thought to be close to Xi, who had blasted corruption in the military — counseled in an essay published Feb.

Xi, then, has ultimately chosen to defend the Communist Party against internal political threats rather than prepare it to face external military threats. Everything else — the corruption, the risk aversion, the hierarchy — is a symptom of that. Then, too, there is the very real risk that if China or Japan miscalculates over the Senkaku Islands and actually does spark a war, China may lose. Trending Now Sponsored Links by Taboola.

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Thank you for being an FP reader. To get access to this special FP Premium benefit, subscribe by clicking the button below. But has he unleashed forces beyond his control?

Hollywood's Engagement with Military Conflict. Specters of War looks at the way war has been brought to the screen in various genres and at different historical moments throughout the twentieth century. Elisabeth Bronfen asserts that Hollywood has emerged as a place where national narratives are created and circulated so that audiences can engage with fantasies, ideologies, and anxieties that take hold at a given time, only to change with the political climate. Such cultural reflection is particuarly poignant when it deals with America's traumatic history of war.

The nation has no direct access to war as a horrific experience of carnage and human destruction and understand our relation to it through images and narratives that transmit and interpret it for us. Battles and campaigns, the home front and women-who-wait narratives, war correspondents, and court martials are also explored as instruments of cultural memory. Bronfen argues that we are haunted by past wars and by cinematic re-conceptualizations of them and reveals a national iconography of redemptive violence from which we seem unable to escape.

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Shakespeare's Wire

The analysts noted in the section on technology and war below have often based their technological analyses on controlling political assumptions and have reached diverse conclusions. Some urge strict observance of the United Nations Charter prohibitions on force or threats, primary attention in policy making to the stability of the world as a whole as the only road to the security of any nation, and policies of tolerance, accommodation, and peaceful coexistence, which are expected to create conditions favorable to general and complete disarmament and the obsolescence of war.

Members of this school of thought believe, as did the architects of the League of Nations Covenant and the United Nations Charter, that war has become obsolete as an instrument of policy or as a support for diplomacy. Others believe that the coexistence of countries governed by communism and those governed by free democracy is impossible; these writers advocate elimination of governments that support the doctrines that they oppose by the use of propaganda, infiltration, subversion, intervention, the organization of alliances, threats of violence, the building of superior military force, or even war.

They believe that war continues to be the major instrument of national policy, that superior capability in threatening or using it is necessary for the national interest, and that victory is possible and losses can be made tolerable. A third group of analysts appears to accept both of these positions.

They insist that nuclear war would be intolerable; that legal, moral, or rational deterrence cannot be reliable; that such war can be prevented only by mutual nuclear deterrence; that, to this end, nuclear capability must be confined to the present nuclear powers; and that these powers must possess such a supply of nuclear-headed missiles in hardened, mobile, or submarine bases that they will have an invulnerable second-strike capability, thus making a first strike suicidal and therefore incredible.

Most members of this group agree, however, that threats of force, even of nuclear force, are necessary instruments of policy to be used in crises such as that over Berlin or Cuba and that in the national interest states must not only possess such weapons but must make potential enemies believe that they might be used in such crises. They hope to achieve this by such a superior capability in nuclear weapons , such a pinpointing of the nuclear launching sites of the potential enemy by espionage or observation in the air or in outer space, and such a program of civilian fall-out shelters that a first strike would convince the enemy that retaliation on cities with his reduced capacity would not be effective and that he would have to surrender.

This opinion, it has been suggested by the first group, is based on the assumption that threats of nuclear attack can be made incredible and credible at the same time and overlooks the danger that a counter-force strategy may so alarm the potential enemy that, in spite of its probable suicidal effect, he will launch a pre-emptive attack to gain the advantage of a first strike. A fourth group agrees with the first about the need to avoid nuclear war but also agrees with the second about the necessity of armed force as a support for diplomacy and seeks to avoid the dilemma of the third group by making a distinction between nuclear war and conventional war.

This fourth school hopes to assure nuclear deterrence not only by limiting the nuclear club by the test-ban treaty and a treaty preventing nuclear proliferation and by developing an invulnerable second-strike capability in all the nuclear powers but also by making a no-nuclear-first-strike agreement and refraining from civilian defense policies likely to suggest a counterforce first-strike strategy. With this policy they anticipate that the cities of each nuclear power will be a hostage against a first nuclear strike and a guarantee of the no-first-strike agreement.

At the same time this school would increase conventional armed forces and means for their transport, maintain alliances, and develop policies of flexible or graduated deterrence, so that vulnerable frontiers can be defended from conventional attack and governments vulnerable to infiltration or subversion can be protected against guerrillas and infiltrators. This school of thought, however, often approaches the position of the third group by advocating the use of tactical nuclear weapons as a possible step in graduated deterrence, thus breaking down the distinction that in principle they insist upon between nuclear and conventional war.

Economics and war. A majority of capitalistic economists have considered competitive free trade a guarantee of peace, while Marxians have regarded the capitalistic economic system as the major cause of war in modern times. Adam Smith , John Stuart Mill , Richard Cobden , Cordell Hull , and others have argued that free economic competition in the domestic field stimulates production and distributes the product to all, whether capitalists, workers, managers, or entrepreneurs, in proportion to their contribution to the productive process, thus assuring economic justice and domestic tranquillity.

In the international field, such writers have argued that free trade would assure a geographic division of labor, maximizing the production of all states and creating a world economy in which each state is dependent on international trade, thus constituting a hostage against war because war is certain to disrupt the natural and economically advantageous movements of commodities, investments, labor, and management.

Hollywood’s ideological war

Free-enterprise economists have also argued that the rising prosperity of all under their system and the increased influence of the economic mind over the military mind would divert opinion and policy from military preparation and political expansion and would assure both the motives and the means for family planning, thus keeping economic production ahead of population growth. On the other hand, they have argued that governmental intervention in the economy by protective tariffs, quotas, or other measures to promote national industries for which, the country is not well adapted or to develop industries augmenting military capability, retard the rate of economic progress.

Actual governmental operation of the economy, as urged by the socialists, would, they insist, subordinate the economic motive of supplying consumer demands to the political motive of increasing the power of the state. It would tend to create self-contained economies in which political boundaries constituted economic barriers perpetuating or augmenting differential levels of living among the different countries, particularly as the poorer countries, without the knowledge or means of population control, would develop according to the Malthusian law and get continually poorer.

Lenin, in his book Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism, expressed the opinion that such expansionist policies arose more from the greed than from the necessities of the capitalistic entrepreneurs; but whatever the motive, communists argued that capitalistic expansionism led first to imperial war to conquer underdeveloped peoples and then to wars among the capitalist nations themselves arising from rivalry over colonies or commercial privileges.

Turning from these theoretical arguments, scholars like Lewis Richardson have examined the actual causes of war and have found that economic factors have been of relatively little importance. From a statistical analysis of wars between and , Richardson found that economic causes figured directly in less than 29 per cent and have been more important in small than in large wars.

He listed the economic factors that have influenced the outbreak of hostilities in this order: taxation of colonial and minority peoples; economic assistance to an enemy; restriction on movements of capital, trade, and migration; and dissatisfaction of soldiers. On the other hand, claims of investors from capitalist countries in undeveloped countries have usually been settled by diplomacy or arbitration and have not led to hostilities unless linked with existing political or ideological conflicts; and differentials in wealth of nations or classes have been of very little influence Richardson a, pp.

Economic factors have had some indirect influence; they have sometimes been significant in hostilities immediately induced by ideological enthusiasm or political ambition. Population pressure, which produces progressive impoverishment, has had little influence in producing war unless accompanied by increased knowledge of economic differentials and by inciting propaganda.

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McCain Jr. Opposition to the Vietnam War tended to unite groups opposed to U. And yet you are walking. United Nations. As best as can now be estimated, over two million Cambodians died during the s because of the political events of the decade, the vast majority of them during the mere four years of the 'Khmer Rouge' regime. Beginning in November , Taiwan secretly operated a cargo transport detachment to assist the United States and South Vietnam. Download or stream from your Smart TV, computer or portable device.

It appears, however, that the revolutionary urge in the latter countries has been primarily for political independence, racial equality, and the elimination of all forms of colonialism. The demand for economic progress has not often induced hostilities unless linked with a revolutionary ideology.

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States have used force to acquire economic resources not primarily to elevate the level of living of their populations but to acquire raw materials for war manufactures, or to obtain a population from which soldiers may be recruited, or to annex productive areas, thereby rendering the state less dependent on international trade and less vulnerable to blockade. Similarly, states have in the past more often sought international influence than increased economic prosperity and have directed the development of their domestic economies purely to increase their power positions.

The priority of political over economic motives is indicated by the contradictory propaganda of Mussolini before World War n—demanding colonies as an outlet to overpopulation but at the same time stimulating population growth in Italy by giving bounties to large families. Wars—civil, imperial, and international—have been fought by states with tribal, agrarian, feudal, capitalistic, and communistic economies, but there is both historical and statistical evidence that states with a capitalistic economy have been the least belligerent, although because of their superior technology, their wars have been the most destructive Wright [] , p.

A convergence of communist and capitalist economies has also been observed. Civil strife has sometimes induced international war as did the Protestant Reformation and the American, French, and Russian revolutions and military interventions as by the United States in Vietnam ; but ideological and political factors were more important than conflict of economic classes in the causation of such civil strife. On the other hand, international war has often led to revolution and civil strife among participants suffering from its economic ravages, especially if influenced by its political propaganda.

In sum, studies of both the direct and indirect influence of economic factors on the causation of war indicate that they have been much less important than political ambitions, ideological convictions, technological change, legal claims, irrational psychological complexes, ignorance, and unwillingness to maintain conditions of peace in a changing world. Economists who are not committed to dogmatic theory have usually looked upon war as the most uneconomic enterprise in which man can engage. They have found that the economic gains from victory seldom compensate for the costs of war and the losses of trade ibid.

Adam Smith , writing in , thought it would be to the economic advantage of the British people to get rid of their colonies, and more recent economists have generalized this opinion, although recognizing that arms makers, investors, and colonial administrators have sometimes profited from war and imperialism ibid. Knight, et al. War, they suggest, springs from irrational illusions or unreasonable fears rather than from economic calculations, and they point out that the economically minded have increasingly opposed wars and imperialistic adventures as military technology has increased the destructiveness of war ibid.

Few, if any, see any possible economic advantage in a nuclear war.

Through the Crosshairs

Non-Marxian economists, therefore, regarding their discipline as a guide to rational action to achieve economic ends, usually consider war outside their field. Wars have not arisen, as is sometimes said, from the struggle among peoples for the limited resources provided by nature. Even animals of the same species maintain their existence more by cooperation than by lethal struggle. Among men, with their greater capacity to relate means to ends, competition for economic resources, if not influenced by political loyalties and ambitions, ideological commitments, or psychological illusions, has led to cooperation in larger groups and larger areas.

Technology and war. The technology, tactics, and strategy of war have been discussed by both soldiers and historians interested in how to win a war, as for example in the Roman classics of Caesar and Vegetius, the Renaissance and eighteenth-century works of Machiavelli and Vauban, the post-Napoleonic treatises by Clausewitz and Jomini, the nineteenth-century works of Admiral Mahan, and the more recent writings of Marshal Foch , General Bernhardi, and General Taylor Recent contributors to the technological approach have been less concerned with how to win a war than with how to eliminate stalemate or limit war.

These writers believe that deterrence or limitation is technologically possible by the establishment of a stable balance of military power in the nuclear age, but, as suggested in the previous section, their proposals vary according to their appraisals of the political value of war.

A balance of military power has in the past always depended on moderate stability in military technology and on occasional wars to make the threat of war which is the essence of its functioning credible, but since modern weapons systems change rapidly and since one nuclear war might end civilization, these conditions are hardly applicable to the nuclear age and have resulted in the great confusion already noted about the relation between war and international politics, between nuclear and conventional weapons, and between the credibility and incredibility of threats.

Mathematicians have analyzed the variables that make arms races, a characteristic of balance-of-power politics, tend to war or to stability.

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Richardson a, pp. He recognized that his equations would not predict the actual course of an arms race if statesmen paused to think instead of pursuing customary action and reaction patterns. Others, such as Joynt , pp.

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All such studies, seeking prediction from the technological point of view, are criticized by students who believe the problem is not technological but psychological. The assumption that statesmen do not pause to think eliminates the complex of motives, rational and irrational, and the images of the total situation, accurate and distorted, that actually control the decisions of men and governments. To reduce all this to physical entities neglects the essence of the problem.

Law and war. At the opposite extreme from the technologists are the writers who seek to appraise and control war by standards of law, ethics, and religion. Augustine , Isidore of Seville, St. Thomas Aquinas, and Johannes Legnano insisted that a war to be just must have just causes defense against attack, punishment of crime, or reparation for injury , that its motive must be to establish justice, that its consequences must be such as to contribute more to vindicating justice than to committing injustices, and that, in any case, it must be initiated only by proper authority and conducted only by proper means.

Nineteenth-century international jurists also generally took this position as have some recent writers Stone , although many recognize that international war has been outlawed and that hostilities are permissible only in individual or collective self-defense against armed attack or under authorization or permission of the United Nations or other proper international authority Jessup ; Wright ; Brownlie Thus, like the medieval jurists, modern scholars have considered both the conditions justifying resort to war jus ad bellum and the methods by which it may properly be waged jus in bello , but with different conclusions.

This voluminous literature has been examined in histories of international law by such writers as T.