Friday, March 22, 2024

Apocalypse Now: The World Is a Battlefield


Apocalypse Now: The World Is a Battlefield

Peter Schultz


                  I finally understand why Mark Twain, in his novel The Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, has Merlin the Magician outlast the Yankee. In brief, it is because Merlin has a better understanding of the human condition than the Yankee, who, like George Bush,, sees the world as a battlefield best dealt with via armaments.


                  Seeing the world as a battlefield was Bush’s fundamental mistake. If it were true, then power, especially great power like that possessed by the United States, would be sufficient. But time after time, such power isn’t sufficient for successfully waging the War on Terror.


                  “’I don’t think Brennan’s up to dealing with Saleh in terms of craftiness and wiles,’ Lang [said].” Because he viewed the world as a battlefield, Brennan lacked the craftiness and wiles needed to successfully deal with Saleh, the president of Yemen. Of course, Brennan was hardly alone in this regard. If you think power is sufficient, then you won’t think that craftiness and wiles are crucial in dealing with allies or enemies. When you meet obstacles, you will send in more troops, launch more drones, torture more people, assassinate more people. And, yet you will still be outsmarted.


                  Less powerful people are more likely to rely on craftiness and wiles because, out of necessity, they appreciate the world isn’t best navigated as if it were a battlefield.


                  The Connecticut Yankee’s successes were due to craftiness and wiles, for example, when he pretended that he possessed magical powers by predicting a solar eclipse, thereby not only saving his life but also acquiring significant power. But it must be noted that the Yankee’s success depended on his good fortune that the eclipse was to happen when he needed it to. His power depended on fortune or chance.


                  This helps explain the appeal of covert operations, which may be made to resemble “magic.” In Tim O’Brien’s novel, In the Lake of the Woods, “the Sorcerer” realized he could make villages disappear by speaking a few words into his radio: “Poof, and in a cloud of white phosphorus, the village disappeared.” But the Sorcerer couldn’t make villages appear or re-appear. His “magic” was merely destructive, which is confirmed later when he makes his wife disappear. The “magic” of nation-building or of “relationship building” is non-existent or unavailable to the Sorcerer. He is the destroyer of worlds.


                  For Twain and O’Brien, modern “magic” is then ultimately destructive. It relies on armaments, on weapons, which is why Twain made the Connecticut Yankee an arms manufacturer in the United States. Combine that kind of “magic” with the conviction that the world is a battlefield, and the result will be destruction and death on an apocalyptic scale, like the wasteland created at the end of The Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court. Armaments, military power, whether nuclear or not, whether overt or covert, cannot create villages or nations. Such “magic” is merely destructive. And it is time perhaps to re-watch Coppola’s classic movie Apocalypse Now.

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