Us vs. Them: Cultural Encounters in Warzones through Reading American War Literature
In 1996, Samuel Huntington argued that the end of the Cold War Era marked the end of global instability based on ideological and economic differences and preferences. However, he did not predict any kind of a peaceful future for humankind but maintained that future conflicts will arise from cultural differences. The clashes are inevitable, he claims, as long as one side (usually the West) insists on imposing universalism to other civilizations whose cultural awareness is on the rise. Ever since the Vietnam War, American military tacticians have believed that the knowledge and understanding of the enemy’s culture will lead to victory, and American military academies and schools are dedicating more attention to cultural studies within their general strategy. This paper is based on the reading and analysis of several American fiction and non-fiction novels from the Vietnam and the Iraq Wars. Since all of these works are first-hand accounts of war experience and soldiers’ cultural encounters with their ‘adversaries’, the research is focused on the (im)possibility of soldiers’ true understanding and appreciation of different cultures/civilizations during wartime. It also suggests that knowing the enemy is to no avail if wars are fought with the goal of Westernizing other cultures.
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