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The Gulf War Did Not Take Place

3.61  ·  Rating details ·  492 ratings  ·  39 reviews
In a provocative analysis written during the unfolding drama of 1992, Baudrillard draws on his concepts of simulation and the hyperreal to argue that the Gulf War did not take place but was a carefully scripted media event--a "virtual" war.

Patton's introduction argues that Baudrillard, more than any other critic of the Gulf War, correctly identified the stakes involved in
Paperback, 96 pages
Published October 22nd 1995 by Indiana University Press (first published September 23rd 1991)
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Apr 11, 2010 rated it really liked it
Three essays: "The Gulf War Will Not Take Place," "The Gulf War Is Not Taking Place," "The Gulf War Did Not Take Place." Baudrillard argues that the First Gulf War was a media construction - not that it did not take place, exactly, but that it did not exist for us at all except through the media, which packaged it to us falsely, depicting it as a "war." What happened was a travesty, simple imperialist brutality, masquerading as a war - that is what he's saying. Baudrillard's argument is coldly i ...more
Mayim de Vries
Mar 19, 2019 rated it liked it
If only for the many semantic games with the concept of war, this politically outdated and sociologically anachronistic essay was fun to read.
Sid Nuncius
Oct 08, 2015 rated it it was ok
I thought this book was largely (but not quite entirely) provocative nonsense. There is some decent sociological analysis in it, but there is also a very large amount of utter drivel.

In spite of the title, Baudrillard accepts that military events took place in the Gulf and that people suffered and died during them, but he maintains that what took place was not a war, and the version of events we saw on TV and in other media was not what really happened. Plainly, the title is intended to attract
vi macdonald
May 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
Since it never began, this war is therefor interminable.

I was struck by this line in particular because in 2020, the year of Covid-19 and what could well be the final US election, this is perhaps the first time in my entire living memory I haven't been bombarded with updates about US military interventions in Western Asia. With the omnipresent 24 hours news cycle fixing its gaze exclusively upon the election and the pandemic, I'm reminded of a thought I had when the pandemic first began to domin
Jun 13, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Thought provoking examination about what war is designed to accomplish in the post-Cold War world. Those who have no patience for letting an argument develop might have a knee jerk reaction against this book, so let me give you a reason why you ought to keep an open mind. What Baudrillard means when he says that "the Gulf War did not take place" isn't to imply that people didn't die, acts of courage did not happen or that the war didn't do any good. What he means is that whatever objective the w ...more
Aug 29, 2012 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
a precarious argument from the onset. kept imagining baudrillard smugly grinning and patting himself on the back as he wrote psuedo-meaningful sentences such as 'hard war and soft war go boating' - got annoyed. ...more
Jan 31, 2018 added it
I understood all these words separately but together not so much
Michael Palkowski
Sep 22, 2013 rated it it was ok
What is vitally important to understand regarding Baudrillard's thesis was that it wasn't a literal denial of the war. Instead the media presented images of the war which told a very specific narrative of the events unfolding, it simulated a reality which didn't take place on the battlefield and censored the images of the actual reality which was unfolding which was the bloodshed, despair and suffering. This basically presented a clear instantiated example of hyper-reality for the events unfoldi ...more
Apr 05, 2013 rated it liked it
Definitely interesting. Baudrillard made a couple of solid points in an un-solid manner; it seemed that the author of the introduction explained Baudrillard's points better than himself. ...more
Justin Gerhardstein
I don't know whether this piece by crazy French theorist Jean Baudrillard (Died recently)is faulty in its logic or if I am just not capable of comprehending what the hell he is trying to say. He wrote 3 lengthy articles for a French publication and a few years later they were translated by a University of Wisconsin proffessor and compiled into a 100 page book. Obviously, the title assumes something that is just not so, meaning, the gulf war DID take place. When a Kuwaiti friend of mine saw the b ...more
Joe Mecham
Apr 20, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I may just be easy to please, as I haven't read much philosophy, but Baudrillard just does not leave me disappointed. His almost poetic writing style is the perfect form of delivery for this type of novel, as it is articulate and clear, yet ironic and suspenseful.

My favorite quote:
"Saddam the hysteric. Interminable shit kicker. The hysteric cannot be crushed: he is reborn from his symptoms as though from his ashes. Confronted by a hysteric, the other becomes paranoid, he deploys a massive appar
Aug 03, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A really really great book that went sailing straight over the head of many American critics who wondered how someone could deny that a war had taken place.

Baudrillards' thesis runs something like; a war did not take place in that, firstly there are usually two sides in a war, capabale of having one. Secondly the war that did take place was completely removed from the standard notion of a war. A war as a media event, a spectacle created to support a sense of a palpable enemy and a just cause.

Aug 05, 2007 rated it it was amazing
The title refers to the U.S. invasion of Iraq under Bush I.

War as videogame distraction from the suffering it inflicts. Combat as a media event.

Please note, the title is not "Nobody Suffered in Iraq" or "What You Experienced in Iraq Didn't Happen". There is good reason for that.

Oddly enough I recently came across a not-too-bad, positive review of this book in the National Review. Go figure.
Apr 03, 2008 added it
Shelves: philosophy
Baudrillard’s discussion of the (first) Persian Gulf War and how, in its planning and presentation, the war was not really “real.” His writing is rather poetic, perhaps at the expense of clarity, and I think I read the book from about 12 to 2 AM, which probably didn’t help my comprehension. Still, some provocative ideas.
Sep 09, 2007 rated it did not like it
The Emperor has no clothes. If you boil off the seemingly non-sensical claims (like, y'know, the title) the book's alleged insights are, while not wrong, deeply and utterly banal. ...more
Oct 16, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Baudrillard is a genius. A postmodern prophet.
Ben Flanagan
Mar 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
Can't wait for the movie. ...more
Not a bad trio of essays, though they do tend a bit towards repetition by the time you reach the third. In these, Baudrillard looks at the medium of television as the key interlocutor of the Gulf War; the screens by which the war reached American homes and the analysis that became the foundation of our knowledge about the upcoming/ongoing/previous conflict.

Paul Patton's introduction is a very good primer, as well. He summarizes Baundrillard's thesis as "In the past, war has always involved an a
Dec 15, 2019 rated it it was ok
Never have I read anything nearly as interesting written in such an unintelligible manner. The ideas Baudrillard presents are interesting, but not only is the similes and analogies odd (such as the UN awaking in a glass coffin and giving birth to the New World Order), but the structure of the essays make it incredibly difficult to follow. He also descends into mindless drivel from time to time, only managing to jumble everything else up.

There are some interesting points here, but these essays d
Hatchet Mouth
Mar 31, 2020 rated it it was ok
I think I would have respected this author's efforts more if he'd just been as audacious as the title he went with in the actual essay,work,whatever you want to call it. Instead, it's this overanalytical false equivalency, that because the media played out the familiar notes of war and said war on ground level didn't look the same, it was all propaganda. If you have to try this hard to ply abstract conclusions into hard data, then you probably never had a case to begin with. This is what overint ...more
Aaron Schuschu
Amidst a Salman Rushdie reference and constant references to Ceacescu’s Romania, Baudrillard claims that both the West and Saddam faked each other out in the Gulf War and perverted the media to their own ends. Believable, but cliche for leftist literature of the period.
Michael Winters
Oct 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
Baudrillard’s description of America’s first “electronic war” and its utopian implications is fascinatingly prophetic!
Apr 26, 2019 rated it it was ok
Not sure if the issue is in translation or the Frenchman himself, but this is not Baudrillard at his most sense-making. The introduction is more valuable than anything.
Michael Solomentsev
i think i am too stupid to understand. think i might have gotten something out of it, but a lot went over my head.
Mercy Karanja
May 24, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Great insight on what was happening on the grounds between the different countries and their people in the Arab Gulf including the role of the USA.
Dec 31, 2020 rated it really liked it
Love u Jean you freaky bastard
Mar 09, 2021 rated it it was ok
The principal thrust of this volume could have been stated in a paragraph, elucidated in a page. Liz Truss should have picked on him rather than Foucault. Low-hanging fruit and all that.
Jan 04, 2021 added it
Brilliant, prescient of this current digital-detritus hellscape in which information croons like missile nadir decoy-venom. Baudrillard - cutting, sarcastic, cynical, comprehensive in a loose way (for tautness does not exist, after all). Smedley Butler stranded in a land of vague spectacle; DeLillo's Most Photographed Barn; Hypernormalization's central thesis about the world being too difficult and complex to manage. War is surgical, deterministic; blank-screen ramblings within this impermanent ...more
Dec 13, 2012 rated it did not like it
Neat concept, bad execution. I liked reading about the topic of this book and philosophical ideas behind it better than reading the actual book. Which is a real shame.

These are essays originally published to be stand alone in magazines, so they read really awkwardly.

Overall not a very pleasant experience to read.
Apr 28, 2009 rated it it was ok
Ugh! I'm sure I was supposed to get more out of this than I did, but really... ...more
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Jean Baudrillard was a French sociologist, philosopher, cultural theorist, political commentator, and photographer. His work is frequently associated with postmodernism and post-structuralism.

Jean Baudrillard was also a Professor of Philosophy of Culture and Media Criticism at the European Graduate School in Saas-Fee, Switzerland, where he taught an Intensive Summer Seminar.

Jean Baudrillard's phil

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“The idea of a clean war, like that of a clean bomb or an intelligent missile, this whole war conceived as a technological extrapolation of the brain is a sure sign of madness. It is like those characters in Hieronymus Bosch with a glass bell or a soap bubble around their head as a sign of their mental debility. A war enclosed in a glass coffin, like Snow White, purged of
any carnal contamination or warrior's passion. A clean war which ends up in an oil slick.”
“Just as the waste of time nourishes the hell of leisure, so technological wastes nourish the hell of war. Wastes which incarnate the secret violence of this society, uncoerced and non-degradable defecation.” 0 likes
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