Saturday, February 19, 2005

A Strategy of Juxtaposition

In a previous post, I wrote that I didn't "have time to cover the issues that need covering and at the same time explain to readers the reasoning that underpins my selection and weighting of issues." For example, "readers might wonder why a blog that has spent so much time engaging with the ideas of Tom Barnett in The Pentagon's New Map has of late spent so much time engaging with the ideas of Ward Churchill in On the Justice of Roosting Chickens." The answer, I said, was "of course, obvious."

Well, maybe not so obvious.

Jonathan Dresner wrote a comment on the post in which he essentially deduced that I was thinking in terms of blowback. The term, originally coined by the CIA to refer to the unintended adverse consequence of a covert operation, has in recent years been used in connection with the unintended consequences of American foreign policy. Churchill was just one of many commentators who viewed the September 11 as an instance of blowback. (Most, by the way, managed to express their view with much greater coherence and persuasive power.)

I gather than Jonathan thought I believed that Barnett's national security vision, if implemented, would result in a lot of blowback, and that this accounted for my interest in Churchill's "roosting chickens" essay. That's a reasonable inference. In fact, however, my reasons for engaging with both Barnett and Churchill derive from a completely different source.

If you go back to this blog's first entry, from December 2003, you'll find that it begins by juxtaposing the cover of a history of U.S. Army counterinsurgency operations with a photo of Hondurans living in a trash dump. The early entries juxtaposed postcolonialism and military history and asked what relationship might be found between the two. The eventual logo of the blog, first created in April 2004, juxtaposed portraits of Che Guevara and Robert E. Lee, a relationship explained in Polarities of Power. Juxtaposition is, in short, the basic strategy that informs the blog. It's nothing sophisticated--nothing so systematic, for example, as a dialectic (thesis, antithesis, synthesis). It's just a matter of taking two seemingly disparate things, postulating a relationship between the two, and working from both ends to eventually weave a thread of connection. I have found it a useful tool by which to get beyond the traditional intellectual boundaries of military history, and to begin to create a new, more expansive map of the field. That's pretty much all there is to it.

Not long ago a student in my History 151 class who is also an aspiring web designer took a look at this blog and, seeing that I plainly needed it, came forward to offer her assistance. One of her first assignments has been the creation of a Flash presentation to animate the logo. The presentation is still a work in progress, but it suggests some of what this expanded map involves: an equal emphasis on the hegemonic and counterhegemonic use of force. Check it out. To view the presentation, you will need Macromedia Flash Player, which can be downloaded for free.


christine said...

Mark that is stunning. I am soooo impressed.

Anonymous said...

That was really well done!

Gavin Blair said...

I am also very impressed with that. She did an excellent job.

Anonymous said...

Pretty cool, but aside from the spellig, I think that you need a new first image to illustrate 'resistance'. It looks to me like a riot gun or CS grenade launcher (the British police used old flare pistols in this role), being carried by a paramilitary cop in overall. Whether or not it _is_ this is unimportant for these purposes.

I love the irony in the quotes, too. Guevara's attempt to make the apple fall failed miserably; Lee was a rebel in an evil cause!

By the way, it's excellent site, which explores a number of my pre-occupations, so thanks.

Chris Williams

Anonymous said...

The grammar and spelling in that presentation is simply atrocious!

Anonymous said...

The assumption that the "greater good" is the goal of every revolutionary / guerrilla movement is dubious. Yes, of course they all think they are fighting for some "greater good"... but the actual consequences of successful guerrilla struggles in numerous countries argues otherwise.