The Destructive Effects of the Vietnam War Essay

4155 Words 17 Pages
The Destructive Effects of the Vietnam War

The destructive effects of the US war in Vietnam encompass not only a body count, but also the festering intellectual wound of a war that could not be satisfactorily explained away. The battles of Vietnam, in particular, seemed an affront to conventional understandings of ‘American culture’, military power, the limits of technology, the very possibility to control, and the causes of wartime atrocity. This deeply unsettling part of the Vietnam experiences the US endured revolve, at least to a degree, around the division between the inside and outside. The inside going into the war, from the US perspective, was an ‘American culture’ with ‘American values’, entailing an entire worldview with
…show more content…
Vietnam was war as pest control, the sweeping extinction of human beings as vermin. THE DEER HUNTER is the first film to look at Vietnam not politically, but as the manifestation of an endemic murderousness. (Kroll)

This sense of “some deep pathology in the life force” definitively locates the problem inside the United States. By analogy with disease inhabiting the supposedly closed system of the body as container, the “deep pathology” lurks at the innermost core of what it is to be American - a problem far beneath the skin. Thus, the violence and “the horror” of Vietnam is a result of a perverse and psychopathic ethic of violence; The Deer Hunter’s main character murders Vietnamese women and children like so many deer during the hunt. For Apocalypse Now, however, this paradigm offers limited explanatory power. Both Kilgore and Kurtz could here be viewed as of one kind. Where Kilgore is destructive for trying to impose his “inside” world on the outside with the invasion as beach party, death card as business card, and helicopter strike as best done over Wagner and a cup of coffee in a Harvard mug (when Kilgore shoots a vehicle speeding down the pier), Kurtz merely plays at a deeper level of the violent ethics of American society - the killing instinct. This supposed ‘instinct’ is, in this analysis, encoded by the ritual violence pervading US life. Similarly, when rival PBRs sail so close by, this model would make the fire they

Related Documents