Telling (War) History

In Austin’s Blog 7 post he poses the following questions about the nature of war:

As I discussed, the materials that came out of the Civil War highly effected the way we discuss and view the war. So when looking at other wars (or historical events) what objects do we associate with these wars? What can these objects tell us about the history of the war? How would effect the study of a war if there were no material studies?

I think  it is an interesting point he brings up about the connection between wars, history, and material culture.  Wars are one of the most studied parts of history and every war effects the objects of the cultures involved.

World War 2 is a perfect example of how a war or a historical event had a huge affect on everyday objects. There were constant shortages of things such as food, fabric, and labor.  Also, many inventions came about as a direct result of World War 2 like radar, superglue, and the first computer.


The ENIAC, one of the world’s earliest computers. Photo from thekirbster on Flicker.

Moreover, according to this HowStuffWorks article, war in general, while costly in terms of resources and lives lost, leads to booms in technology.  An interesting example of this is the internet. Apparently, the US government wanted a way for computers to share information covertly (to prevent the threat of future wars) so in the 1960s they created ARPANET which would eventually turn into the civilian user friendly internet as we know it today

It is also interesting to think about how maybe the recent and current US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have affected objects in American culture and what these objects will say about the times we live in.

Being as we are not fighting any wars inside of our borders one would think that our objects have not been affected. However, according to this Scientific American article there have been a significant amount of technologies that came from the US’s most recent wars, specifically after 911, some of which include cyber-warfare, missile guided systems, and drones. 

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A drone, photo from wikimedia.

Drones are one of the most controversial objects to come out of the recent US wars. Although the technology for drones had been available in the 90s  (and really has been in the work since the first World War), the US government used them for the first time in 2002 to kill someone they thought was Osama Bin Laden. However, it was later discovered that the victim turned out to be an innocent villager looking for leftover metal from the US military.

I think it is interesting that we as a society can be participating in so many wars but not consider ourselves war-like. In America, you can be blissfully of the wars we are in. This ties into the ethical issues of using drones, as they can be used to kill someone in a way that doesn’t feel like killing someone. It dehumanizes the act of execution and makes it, well, easier, which I suppose is the point of weapon technology. However, as we saw with the first use of drones as a weapons, the people that control them can and do make mistakes. This is terrifying and I think we as a culture need to think about how the technology from recent wars changes how empathize with other people, especially considering the growing number of military objects being produced by the United States. Overall, a lot of this technology could come to define the era we live in. Maybe in the future the 2010s will be know as the decade of the drone. And if it is, I hope it is because future history tellers will be more wary of the emotionless destruction that war objects enable.

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