chapter  4
25 Pages

Culture wars and the post-Vietnam condition

The Vietnam war, argues Michael Bibby, ‘can be seen as foundational to the emergence of postmodernity’, since: ‘It took the Vietnam War to give rise in the United States to the notion that the Enlightenment project of modernity and humanism could have its own horrors’ (1999: 167, n15; 162). Douglas Kellner agrees, arguing that ‘the Vietnam War was a highly modern war that showed the pretensions and flaws of the project of modernity’. Vietnam, he says, ‘revealed the limitations of the modern paradigm of technocratic domination of nature and other people through the use of science, technology, and cybernetic control systems’ (1999: 200, 216). Similarly, noting Henry Kissinger’s claim that ‘A scientific revolution has, for all practical purposes, removed technical limits from the exercise of power in foreign policy’, Chris Hables Gray sees in Vietnam the failure of ‘the systems analysis war, the electronic war, the computer war, the technological war’ (1999: 183, 185). Although these writers emphasise the failure of hi-tech, ‘scientific’ warfare against a less sophisticated opponent, there must surely be more going on. It is not immediately apparent why a particular defeat for US military technology should have led to a more fundamental questioning of the whole ‘project of modernity and humanism’.