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Empire of DefenseRace and the Cultural Politics of Permanent War$
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Joseph Darda

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780226632896

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: January 2020

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226633084.001.0001

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Antiwar Liberalism against Liberal War

Antiwar Liberalism against Liberal War

(p.60) Chapter Two Antiwar Liberalism against Liberal War
Empire of Defense

Joseph Darda

University of Chicago Press

This chapter investigates the limits of liberal antiwar writing in confronting liberal war. The antiwar story, from Joseph Heller’s Catch-22 (1961) to Oliver Stone’s Platoon (1986), combats wars fought in the name of liberal freedom with tales of men realizing their own freedom through war. The genre reviles the Cold War state but contributes to the racial regime of defense with which the state has policed the boundaries of legitimate being—defending, above all else, the white soldier’s liberal consciousness. It condemns the state but endorses the idea of defense through which it has waged permanent war. This began with Heller’s absurdist World War II novel, which forms a bridge from the anticommunist intellectual culture of the 1950s, when absurdist thought first achieved wide recognition in the United States, to the antiwar movement of the 1960s. The absurdist antiwar narrative endured into the 1980s, when Americans crowded into theaters to see a slew of Vietnam War movies. But it also faced growing criticism from radical artists like independent filmmaker Trinh T. Minh-ha, who recognized that the antiwar story had not slowed the march to war. It was an alibi for that march.

Keywords:   Vietnam War, antiwar liberalism, absurdism, Joseph Heller, Oliver Stone, Stanley Kubrick, Trinh T. Minh-ha

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