The psychological war

March 9, 2011

Within cities, lie walls over walls over walls. Each encasing and holding up families, businesses, structures of social hierarchy and order. The very order of the city relies on the fantasy of a wall as stable, solid and fixed (Weizman, p75). As Weizman’s “Lethal Theory” suggests, the way in which the Israeli army through their tactics have used this very innate notion that we all hold in their military exploits, the destruction that urban warfare brings along with it has now been raised to new heights. He expounds on the basis of walls as protectors of the private realm, a realm separate and respected as detached from the very nature of war which traditionally happens on the streets or in the public realm. As the tactics of the Israeli Defence Forces now bring this private realm to become part of the battlefield – or rather the primary battlefield – the order that has been determined and understood by society is disrupted psychologically.

One might argue that this very act or shift in the way the urban landscape is understood and dealt with as part of a military campaign brings about a more severe effect on society as compared to a traditional approach within the public realm. Weizman (p62) describes war as a linear movement, or at least that’s how society understands it. By bringing the progression of the military through houses and breaking down domestic walls, it is not just the enemy that is taken off guard but the collateral residents as well. This unexpected penetration of war into the private domain of the home has been experienced by civilians in Palestine, just like in Iraq, as the most profound form of trauma and humiliation (Weizman, p58).

Reasons why psychological warfare is said to be much more detrimental than typical physical urban warfare is because of the long term effects of it, as well as the range of different social groups that it affects. In trauma, that is, the outside has gone inside without and medication (Caruth 1993). Trauma therefore seems to be the deadlier effect of urban warfare because of the nature of it being that experience that remains unresolved within and individual, a haunting reminder of that which had occurred. As Weizman (2006) describes, seeing military personal burst through a living area within a suburban house, shouting orders and carrying equipment foreign to daily routine, then being locked up in a room for a long duration of time, as extremely haunting to one’s experience. Most of these people are barely harmed and rarely are there any casualties – or so it seems – but this unnatural experience of being brought out from your privately conceived space into the progression of war brings out a sociological resistance, rendering one traumatised.


Joel Lee

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