Sunday, March 24, 2019

The Forever War by Joe Haldeman and the Theory Behind Fighting Forever Wars

Joe Haldeman - Forever War


Joe Haldeman's The Forever War is military sci-fi that doesn't operate with the expected thesis of the expected military sci-fi narrative. Haldeman's military sci-fi criticizes political strategies of waging continuous war, pointing out the social evils that accompany a war-based society. Military sci-fi began as a celebration of state militarism, a kind of send-up and affirmation of the military might of a nation. Heinlein used the military sci-fi subgenre to praise the importance of the military, arguing for universal military service in the US. Considering that British sci-fi and American sci-fi was the only science fiction for most of the history of sci-fi, it's clear to see that the winners of the military SF war were the societies capable of policing the world with their militaries.



The Nature of War

Enter Joe Haldeman's The Forever War in 1974. American people's view of and understanding of the Vietnam War had changed--because of a mounting death toll and traumatizing media coverage of the war, it had become highly unpopular. While most of the American population is rather hawkish when it comes to war, viewing war as an opportunity to flex American military muscle, even the war hawks will grow weary of war when the reason for fighting grows muddy. And the reason for fighting in Vietnam was not straightforward. The standard call for war is either for conquest--one group attempting to expand their borders--or resistance to conquest--defending against the ambition of an enemy in a bid to maintain sovereignty. But the Vietnam War wasn't about Vietnamese conquest or the denial of Vietnamese conquest, it was about cutting off one of Russia's main sources of rubber to limit Russia's ability to expand territory and, most importantly, expand their economic strength.


USA - International Bully

Neither did the United States properly understand its real enemy: Russa. Russia was more than happy to exert its influence regionally. They were pressed to develop a nuclear arsenal because of the US as a nuclear threat--bombing Japan with atomic weapons turned the US into a fearful enemy from the perspective of competing world nations. The US proved that all options remained open to them in pursuing their aggressive dominance of the world stage. 


Program Citizens to Conform

By 1974, many Americans had realized that their country was an international bully, fighting for the fight, not fighting for rights, not fighting for people. Wars, especially winning wars, do a lot of good for a nation. The military-industrial complex functions as an economic engine. And the state-of-war hi-jacks the minds of most citizens, who subscribe to unthinking nationalistic support. Propaganda works especially well with people programmed to conform.


Forever War

So, nations are motivated to wage wars that last forever, no matter the consequences. Or, I should say, especially if the consequences are a mere loss of human resources; because, people are expendable. From the perspective of the corporate-government alliance, humans as cannon fodder are born every day. It's actually preferable that soldiers die. It's cheaper to bury a dead human than give him a pension for several decades. Haldeman comments on the US government's willingness to continue making war no matter the cost or situation. If war is fought with nukes, fine. If it's fought guerilla style in forests, fine. If it's fought with claw and tooth, perfect. 

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