Nettime mailing list archives

RE: <nettime> unamericana digest [porculus, pocock]
Kermit Snelson on Tue, 18 Feb 2003 03:22:29 +0100 (CET)

[Date Prev] [Date Next] [Thread Prev] [Thread Next] [Date Index] [Thread Index]

RE: <nettime> unamericana digest [porculus, pocock]

Let's not get too excited about the possibilities of aesthetic activism
against "American ugliness."  It would put us in rather awkward company:
namely, the intellectual architects of the war itself.

Most serious antiwar activists are aware of Harvard political scientist
Samuel Huntington and his 1996 book _The Clash of Civilizations_, which
anointed Islamic law as America's official post-Soviet enemy.  However, few
of them realize that this move was strictly tactical.  To identify
Huntington's strategic enemy, one must read his first book, published in
1957.  In this career-opening book he openly names this strategic enemy,
against which he has continued his activist crusade to this very day.

What is this enemy?  Tiresome, monotonous, discordant, motley, garish Main
Street USA.  Literally.  As you will see, these are the very words he uses.
Back in 1957, this aesthetic, anti-American vision succeeded only in getting
Huntington fired from Harvard.  But times have changed.  Nearly fifty years
later, this vision is being backed by the full force and fury of Rumsfeld's
Pentagon in what amounts to the first internal military rebellion against
the culture and Constitution of the United States since the Civil War.  And
this is perfectly logical, because Huntington's book openly draws upon the
intellectual, cultural and military traditions of the Confederacy.

Nobody in the world will or should take my own word for this, so I'm posting
here the concluding passage of Huntington's book.  I hope that more than a
few will decide to go to the library, read the whole thing, and draw their
own conclusions.  If we are to oppose this war effectively, thereby avoiding
deadly traps like anti-Americanism, we need to understand the cause in which
it is really being waged.  That Huntington's statement is authoritative and
current on this subject cannot be doubted.  Not only is he personally one of
the architects of the present war, but his 1957 book is now (according to
Amazon.com) the number two bestseller at the United States Military Academy.

Kermit Snelson

The Worth of the Military Ideal [1]

Just south of the United States Military Academy at West Point is the
village of Highland Falls.  Main Street of Highland Falls is familiar to
everyone:  the First National Bank with venetian blinds, real estate and
insurance offices, yellow homes with frilly victorian porticos, barber
shops, and wooden churches -- the tiresome monotony and the incredible
variety and discordancy of small-town commercialism.  The buildings form no
part of a whole:  they are simply a motley, disconnected collection of
frames coincidentally adjoining each other, lacking common unity or purpose.

On the military reservation the other side of South Gate, however, exists a
different world.  There is ordered serenity.  The parts do not exist on
their own, but accept their subordination to the whole.  Beauty and utility
are merged in gray stone.  Neat lawns surround compact, trim homes, each
identified by the name and rank of its occupant.  The buildings stand in
fixed relation to each other, part of an over-all plan, their character and
station symbolizing their contributions, stone and brick for the senior
officers, wood for the lower ranks.  The post is suffused with the rhythm
and harmony which comes when collective will supplants individual whim.
West Point is a community of structured purpose, one in which the behavior
of men is governed by a code, the product of generations.  There is little
room for presumption and individualism.  The unity of the community incites
no man to be more than he is.  In order is found peace; in discipline,
fulfillment; in community, security.

The spirit of Highland Falls is embodied in Main Street.  The spirit of West
Point is in the great, gray, Gothic Chapel, starting from the hill and
dominating The Plain, calling to mind Henry Adams' remarks at Mont St.
Michel on the unity of the military and the religious spirits.  But the
unity of the Chapel is even greater.  There join together the four great
pillars of society:  Army, Government, College, and Church.  Religion
subordinates man to God for divine purposes; the military life subordinates
man to duty for society's purposes.  In its severity, regularity,
discipline, the military society shares the characteristics of the religious
order.  Modern man may well find his monastery in the Army.

West Point embodies the military ideal at its best; Highland Falls the
American spirit at its most commonplace.  West Point is a gray island in a
many colored sea, a bit of Sparta in the midst of Babylon.  Yet is it
possible to deny that the military values -- loyalty, duty, restraint,
dedication -- are the ones America needs most today?  That the disciplined
order of West Point has more to offer than the garish individualism of Main

Historically, the virtues of West Point have been America's vices, and the
vices of the military, America's virtues.  Yet today America can learn more
from West Point than West Point from America.  Upon the soldiers, the
defenders of order, rests a heavy responsibility.  The greatest service they
can render is to remain true to themselves, to serve with silence and
courage in the military way.  If they abjure the military spirit, they
destroy themselves first and their nation ultimately.  If the civilians
permit the soldiers to adhere to the military standard, the nations
themselves may eventually find redemption and security in making that
standard their own.

[1] Huntington, Samuel P., _The Soldier and the State_, Harvard University
Press, 1957, pp.464-6 (conclusion)

#  distributed via <nettime>: no commercial use without permission
#  <nettime> is a moderated mailing list for net criticism,
#  collaborative text filtering and cultural politics of the nets
#  more info: majordomo {AT} bbs.thing.net and "info nettime-l" in the msg body
#  archive: http://www.nettime.org contact: nettime {AT} bbs.thing.net