The Gulf War Will Not Take Place by Jean Baudrillard (1991)

“We should have been suspicious about the disappearance of the declaration of war, the disappearance of the symbolic passage to the act, which already presaged the disappearance of the end of hostilities, then of the distinction between winners and losers (the winner readily becomes the hostage of the loser: the Stockholm syndrome), then of operations themselves.  Since it never began, this war is therefore interminable.”  -Jean Baudrillard

“The most widespread belief is in a logical procession from virtual to actual, according to which no available weapon will not one day be used and such a concentration of force cannot but lead to conflict.  However, this is an Aristotelian logic which is no longer our own.”  -Jean Baudrillard

I’m not sure I can do this essay justice.  It’s not that I don’t understand it, it’s just hard to pare it down.  It’s already short enough as it is.

If I had to boil it down, it would be this:  What is war right now?  What does it mean?  If we can’t have WWIII and the Cold War has also passed, what exactly is left?  The pragmatist would argue that we’ll always be able to kill each other and that humans have never actually stopped warring since Cain and Abel.  Instead, try and see it from a point of defining war (or redefining war as we know it).  Take a look at the first Gulf War and try and see what it actually meant for war itself.

This book is a literary inheritor of Giraudoux’s The Troajan War Will Not Take Place.  I won’t say Baudrillard nailed it but he did a decent job of raising questions and considering implications.  Since Bush Sr.’s war was the stepmother of Bush Jr.’s, it is actually very important to analyze how the 1st world countries have flexibly changed war from WWI to WWII into the Cold War into the Vietnams, Koreas, Falklands, Bosnias and then the transitional 1st Gulf War which then yields the current war on terror (the interminable war).

I say find it and read it.  It first came out around the time Kryptos did so it does sort of fill in some contextual background, although the philosophical kind.  Where were we at, at that point in history, when Kryptos was installed?  How did we get there? What came after?  That’s the point of reading these things.

“In summary, one finds in Baudrillard’s works a profusion of scientific terms, used with total disregard for their meaning and, above all, in a context where they are manifestly irrelevant.  Whether or not one interprets them as metaphors, it is hard to see what role they could play, except to give an appearance of profundity to trite observations about sociology or history.  Moreover, the scientific terminology is mixed up with a non-scientific vocabulary that is employed with equal sloppiness.  When all is said and done, one wonders what would be left of Baudrillard’s thought if the verbal veneer covering it were stripped away.”  -Christopher Norris, (1992, Uncritical Theory: Postmodernism, Intellectuals and the Gulf War)