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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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The Craft of Counterinsurgent Whiteness

The Craft of Counterinsurgent Whiteness

(p.155) Chapter Five The Craft of Counterinsurgent Whiteness
Empire of Defense

Joseph Darda

University of Chicago Press

This chapter identifies a common intellectual lineage between counterinsurgency’s militarization of cultural knowledge in the Iraq War and the emergence of a new generation of white veteran-writers since 2011. The new counterinsurgency weds the humanitarian militarism of the 1990s to the academic humanities, reframing war as a form of cultural exchange. Under the guidance of General David Petraeus and other PhDs, war got a college education, and it got a good liberal arts one at that. The military’s revised counterinsurgency field manual stressed that “the most important cultural form for counterinsurgents to understand is the narrative” because narratives organize a person’s identity, community, and values. Some of the most acclaimed new veteran-writers served in counterinsurgent forces, and their writing reflects the doctrine’s utilitarian understanding of cultural narrative. That these writers are all white men is not a coincidence, because whiteness has continued to be a condition for conducting defense (counterinsurgency), as a means of dictating the uneven distribution of life chances (racialization) in the counterterror era. Even as American culture centers the white soldier, stories of indefinite detention and torture at military prisons, including Guantánamo detainee Mohamedou Ould Slahi’s Guantánamo Diary (2015), unsettle the liberal humanitarian story told by counterinsurgents.

Keywords:   war on terror, counterinsurgency, whiteness, Kevin Powers, Phil Klay, Matt Gallagher, Mohamedou Ould Slahi

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