|Poster from UP Dept of Anthropology|
Commentary of an Academic
(Copyright @ 2014 by Chester B Cabalza. All Rights Reserved).
I thought that the invited speaker, Dr Stefano Felician Beccari, a young civilian military geostrategist from the Military Centre for Strategic Studies, Italian Defence General Staff College, would focus his talk only on war and unconventional warfare. I was hoping about the anthropological significance of the forum when the talk should be dwelling on the discourses of the anthropology of war. But I stand corrected when his presentation did enough justice on what was I expecting of him as he successfully refuted his premises and stories impliedly related to anthropology and war in a jam-packed hall.
By leveling off key concepts, three terms should be distinguished. Firstly, War Anthropology talks about the deliberate application of the discipline for fighting a war, using academic and professional credentials, expertise, institutions, and personnel directly to serve the war. Secondly, Wartime Anthropology deals with cover term for all anthropology in time of war ranging from military service to the use of anthropology as a cover for war activities like spying or espionage. Lastly, Anthropology of War or Warfare looks at the ethnography and study of battles, the life and death of combatants and non-combatants in warzone and wartime society. It also looks at the study of societies in the phase of preparation and aftermath of wars.
Dr Beccari outlined six epochs or periods in his presentation that focused about people. It should be noted that war is a man-made disaster that is innate to human nature, thus their behaviors may affect customs, traditions, and technologies of people and societies to engage in war as part of insatiable desire to secure territories and for survival. His six periods are divided into the following stages: (1) World War I (WWI) – war of the people; (2) 1918-1939 – people’s interlude; (3) World War II (WW2) – people at war; (4) Cold War – war without people; (5) 9/11 – war amongst the people; and, (6) 2014 – war at home. From the presentation, he narrated stories about Europe’s hundred years of war, which is the meat of his discussion, translated as reflections after a troubled century from 1914 to 2014.
Before WWI, he deemed that Europe experienced ‘bellepoch’ or the beautiful era, and flashed an old map showing that in 1914 there were only fewer states but many royal families in the Old World. However, two main blocks destroyed peace and order in Europe with the introduction of new military technologies and presence of multiple ambitions or rivalries from expanding states. The Franco-Prussian War occurred due to the increasing role of public opinion across Europe as people became highly educated and nationalistic. The role of the mass media also propagated that resulted to the mass mobilization of the armed forces in the troubled continent.
In his mind, he even remembered an Italian poster depicting Austrians as evil with horns devouring Italian kids. He said that every citizen can feel the war, can live the war in the frontline, and can hear the war’s effects. There were about 630 thousand casualties in Italy alone during that war.
In the second epoch, he thought WWI planted poisonous seeds in Europe. Although, there was a 20-year of “peace” or interlude, the succeeding years opened the Pandora’s Box on the shadow of totalitarianism with the introduction of Nazism and communism; and authoritarian regimes under the guise of fascism that was starting to spread across Europe. The militarization of society created a ‘public enemy’ with the aim of ultimately and physically annihilating the nemesis. Spain became the frontline of battlefields while Germany tried to counter the balance of power in Europe.
The Second World War described as people at war by Beccari. It reached the apex of “industrial war”. The doctrines were indoctrinated; it was the epoch of “command of the air” or blitzkrieg, coordinating land and air forces, or simply the synchronization of the armed forces. WWII was not a matter of choice for rulers anymore, but people were at war, even far from the battlefields. He said that even children started to be armed. The implementation of the “Final Solution’ against the Jews had sparked experiments on social engineering that caused the ‘holocaust’.
Many civilians died. In Russia, every youngster has a memory about WWII because a member of the family may have died during the war. There was strong resistance against invaders. Factories were established in the “home front”. Air power was extremely efficient to inflict mass casualties in Poland, Britain, Russia, Germany, and Japan. The end of the war marked the beginning of the nuclear war.
He said that the Cold War was described as a cooperative mood between new superpowers. It was Walter Lippmann who coined the ‘Cold War’. There was lack of confidence of the Allies and in the ‘Far East Asia,’ as Korea was divided horizontally. There was a new form of confrontation. Instances of insurgencies, decolonization, and conflicts occurred in Korea, Vietnam, and Afghanistan. A new kind of ‘soft’ war was developed courtesy of the ghost of the nuclear war in WW2. The ‘hearts and minds’ and ‘proxy’ turned to be the ideological and political confrontations; and information gathering, espionage, and intelligence strengthened.
In his analysis, the horrific September 11 or 9/11 processed the ‘peace-crisis-war-resolution-peace’ epoch of the troubled century, according to him. Terrorism became the new frontline of asymmetrical warfare between freedom fighters versus non-fighters.
In 2014, Beccarri predicts, as a year called ‘war at home’. There’s a new wave of global terrorism, a war that is coming home, courtesy of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) or some would call, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. They are the new radicalized generation of fighters. In this case, there’s a new trend of insecurity stemming from traditional to non-traditional.