"Full Spectrum Disorder: The Military in the New American Century" - by Stan Goff. Soft Skull, 2004
Advance praise for "Full Spectrum Disorder": Stan Goff has written a brilliant book with both heart and acerbic wit. For civilian readers, it offers often astounding stories of military practice and thinking. Military readers will recognize their experiences, while seeing them interpreted in a radically new way. No one will go away unchallenged or unchanged.
This is a really amazing, smart, aggressive and even funny book--once you get past the horrible stuff at the beginning. And as I realized after finishing the book, even that horrible stuff is valid in its way, as a proof of the author's strange ideological background.
The author is one of those cranky, scary ex-special forces guys. Lots of these guys write books, mostly unreadable book-length boasts of scalps taken and "ragheads" blown away. Goff is very different. He's not in love with his youthful avocation, when he was "slitting throats for [his] country, and making a damned good living at it," if I may quote Hot Shots Part Deux. In fact, he went all the way over to the other end of the ideological spectrum, becoming a hardcore Mao-quoting Leftist revolutionary.
And that's the problem with the beginning of the book: like a lot of self-indoctrinated Leftists, Goff never had to encounter actual academic leftists until he'd decided on his own that they were in the right. So he's embarrassingly enthusiastic about these people, who are, let's face it, unbearable. I was at Berkeley first-year through Ph.D.; I know. I had a long course of aversion therapy to the kind of people Goff now embraces so eagerly. That's why I had a hard time just getting through his Introduction, and winced anew every time he started a chapter with quotes from Alice Walker or Arundhati Roy. He's a sucker for any brown woman with a good supply of hatred, and doubly so if she's gay. In fact, before getting around to thanking his wife, Goff pays groveling tribute to radical-dyke "comrades too numerous to list." So he lists only twelve of the .lesbian activists "who have been marvelous teachers, comrades and friends."
Yes, I can imagine what friends they were. All too well. And I can visualize with no effort at all--in fact against my will--the chumminess that would've sprouted between this ultra-killer male who's changed sides and these, er, activists. Sort of like Arnold and that androgynous kid on their Harley in T2: "Wow, the Terminator's on our side this time!"
Goff does go on, quoting these pompous asses. I wish he wouldn't, because he's a million times smarter than any of them. But he has that blue-collar awe for apocalyptic jargon as practiced in Gender Studies seminars. That's what I mean about the way this drivel only proves his authenticity; nobody who was merely pretending to be a blue-collar outsider would be naive enough to start chapters with quotes like this:"Whether anyone likes it or not, at the end of the blind alley that is Europe, there is Hitler. At the end of capitalism, which is eager to outlive its day, there is Hitler. At the end of formal humanism and philosophic renunciation, there is Hitler."
Well no, actually. At the end of capitalism, if that's now, there is not Hitler. There is a pile of ashes in a Berlin cellar that used to be Hilter, but there is not Hitler. There is most distinctly not Hitler. You might want there to be Hitler; many people are nostalgic for him, not least academic Leftists who miss the way Adolf's crimes made them look almost bearable by comparison. But alas, Hitler is no more. Like the parrot in the skit, Hitler has popped his clogs, bought the farm, gone to the big bunker in the sky.