Critical Military Studies Issues in 2018

British Snipers on the Island of Ubbea near Khakio: 10th Infantry Brigade © IWM (Art.IWM ART LD 5040)

British Snipers on the Island of Ubbea near Khakio: 10th Infantry Brigade © IWM (Art.IWM ART LD 5040)

Volume four, issue one

In this issue Aaron Ettinger explores the abandonment of the military draft in the United States and the ideological forces that brought about its end in 1973. He argues that the system of raising military labour is deeply embedded in the prevailing political economy of a society, demonstrating how the final transition to the AVF not only signalled a change in military policy but was also symptomatic of a shift in the broader American political economy from post-war welfare statism to neoliberalism. Still with a focus on the US, Nicole Nguyen explores the exponential expansion of educational opportunities related to the global war on terror, from the hundreds of degree-granting college programmes in national security to online modules for children, and guidelines for teachers to identify students who may embrace extremist ideologies. She shows how these shifts meet the demands of a war increasingly fought in the spaces of everyday life with US schools serving as a key staging ground for the global war on terror. Veronica Kitchen's focus is on popular romance fiction. She argues that the structure of the romance genre – which requires the hero and heroine to fall and love and be happy at the end of the novel – reinforces particular kinds of politics, showing how it is possible that whilst these fictional accounts can have the beneficial effect of providing more nuanced portrayals of possible intimate lives of soldiers, they can also close off critiques of politics and help to order a resilient, war-ready society. In keeping with popular culture as a site of analysis, Julien Pomarède explores the normalization of violence through images of the ‘war on terror’ in US popular culture through soldiers’ battlefield experience. Focusing on the American Sniper legend, he examines the conditions that make the collective normalization of a soldier considered ‘the most lethal sniper in the US military history’ possible, showing how military violence relies on political discourses that claim to tell the ‘real story’ of soldiers on front lines and how, at the same time, war appears in popular culture as an agonistic struggle for life where killing is simply the condition for survival. Matthew Hurley's contribution to the issue focuses our attention on military personnel's roles in engaging with and implementing NATO’s interpretation of the Women, Peace and Security agenda. Based on an analysis of two military men actively and consciously ‘doing’ this gender work, Hurley argues that positive, incremental shifts within militarized masculinities should not be dismissed, and yet, at the same time, the process is contested, contradictory, and incomplete. He highlights how perceived gender transgressions are policed and controlled via trivialization and feminization, and how conceptualizations of masculinist protectio and credibility can reinforce pre-existing gender relations, rather than challenge or change them. Finally, in our Encounters section, Christopher W. Webb offers up a vivid and at times, beautiful, picture of grief, trauma and military service. Weaving personal narrative accounts into the wider fabric of military rituals, his piece invites us to reflect on how war comes to be made and remade as a special  kind of experience that offers a special kind of truth, that gives those who have 'been there' a special kind of authority. 

volume four, issue Two

Special Issue: Spaces at the intersections of militarism and humanitarianism

In this issue guest edited by Killian McCormack & Emily Gilbert, authors examine the various ways that militaries engage with humanitarianism and how humanitarianism is militarized. Jan Bachmann's piece deftly contributes to discussions on militarization as a social practice through a study of the involvement of military actors in the delivery of humanitarian assistance and aid in Kenya and Uganda, demonstrating how the careful study of mundane military practices can add nuance to how we understand the concept of militarization in the military-humanitarian realm. Jennifer Greenburg's contribution utilises original ethnographic fieldwork of US military training top explore how military instructors train troops to manage civilians by drawing on the colonial history of ‘small wars’. Through a focus on US military humanitarian knowledge production around Haiti, she skillfully argues that the US military's humanitarian response became a particular theatre for rehearsing counterinsurgency tactics. Kevin A Gould then directs our attention to the Kennedy-era and US counterinsurgency in Latin America, suggesting it had much in common with the more contemporary approach of the United States and its allies in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere, and expertly showing  the implications of histories and legacies for analysing contemporary imbrications of humanitarianism and militarism. Killian McCormack's contribution expertly shows how the civilian sphere is central to US efforts to territorialize insecure, ‘ungoverned’ spaces to extend US global geopolitical influence and the US-led global neoliberal market, prompting us to ask important questions about militarization. Glenda Garelli & Martina Tazzioli turn our attention towards EU Naval Force and NATO operations of migration government in the Mediterranean. Drawing on archival research on both missions and interviews with officials of Operation Sophia, they argue that these operations stage a move to the offensive in the military-humanitarian government of migration by enlisting warfare against the logistics of migrant journeys, and provide rich empirical insights into the humanitarian-militarist nexus. In the final article of the issue, Francis Massé, Elizabeth Lunstrum & Devin Holterman explore the increase in militarized responses to commercial poaching across parts of Africa. By showing how national armies, increasingly paramilitarized rangers, military tactics, and even sophisticated military technology are being used to address the problem of poaching, they provide a compelling account of why CMS needs to pay greater attention to 'green militarization'. Rounding off this special issue are two provocative Encounters pieces. Connie Yang's piece takes us to the heart of a 'Best of the West Bank' through a photo essay that prompts us to consider how the tour conjures the West Bank as something other than a territory under military occupation, characterises Palestinians are people 'just-like-you-and-me', and positions tourists outside the occupation with the ultimate effect of naturalizing and legitimating the territorial violence of the occupation. Finally, artist Julian Samuel's evocative artwork 'Naval Battle, Strait of Hormuz, 2028' provides a contemplatative and apt close to this important special issue.   

Operation Haven - Royal Marines and the Humanitarian Relief Effort for Kurdish Refugees on the Iraq/Turkish Border, 1991 © Crown copyright. IWM (GLF 1256)

Operation Haven - Royal Marines and the Humanitarian Relief Effort for Kurdish Refugees on the Iraq/Turkish Border, 1991
© Crown copyright. IWM (GLF 1256)

Badge Formation, International Security Assistance Force Afghanistan, 1st Pattern   © IWM (INS 7836).

Badge Formation, International Security Assistance Force Afghanistan, 1st Pattern © IWM (INS 7836).

volume FOUr, issue three 

In this issue Marion Näser-Lather explores how soldiers perceive situations of war. Taking a phenomenological approach, she considers how German soldiers deployed to Afghanistan between 2005 and 2013 experienced being on patrol or in combat as something that confronted them with new and challenging sensations and that leaves its marks on their configurations of perception. Drawing on interviews, discourse analysis and participant observation she offers up a rich account of a ‘sensate regime of war’ at work and its implications including intercultural misunderstandings and the hindering of an adequate assessment of situations that puts lives at risk.

Colleen Bell’s article examines the public profiles of various US defence intellectuals who have been at the centre of the re-emergence of counterinsurgency strategy in US-led wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. She traces the recent forays of war ‘experts’ into the glossy world of celebrity infotainment – media designed to both inform and entertain – to argue that the fanfare that has sprouted up around these experts is an expression of the interconnections between war and public relations that US wars has always relied on for their legitimacy. In exploring how wars are packaged and sold to domestic publics and how the presence of defence experts in popular media is an outgrowth of counterinsurgency techniques wherein the distinction between domestic and foreign publics is blurred, she provides key insights into the interconnections between the power of celebrity and the powers of war.

Ben Wadham, Donna Bridges, Anuradha Mundkur & James Connor shift the focus to Australia and what the changing disposition of its Defence Forces towards women can tell us about current ways of framing and articulating key ideas on gender, sexuality, and equality. They closely scrutinize the implications for the ADF’s stated purpose of creating a gender- inclusive workplace, finding that the driving functional imperative of military effectiveness limits and shapes the extent to which the ADF can become a genuinely gender-inclusive workplace.

Our Encounters piece for this issue by M.L. Jones provides a probing review of Pink Mist, a play by Owen Sheers that draws on interviews with over 300 returning British military personnel from the recent war in Afghanistan (2001–2014) to create a fictionalized account of the experiences of three young Bristolian men, Arthur, Hads, and Taff, as they leave their childhood homes to enlist in the British Army. Sheers uses poetry to weave together the conflict and domestic experiences of these young men and their loved ones. As Jones argues, Sheers does not attempt to glamourize life in the British Army, nor to directly apportion blame for the human cost of war but what his play does do is highlight that the only constant in war is that there will be a human cost to it, whether physical, psychological, or for those left behind.