This is an odd little book by an odd little man.
Here’s how I think you would make a “Stan Goff,” if you were so-inclined to do so: take Ollie North and drill a peephole into his head – a la Jeff Dahmer – and then insert a straw and suck out most of the inert reptilian spongy stuff. Next, pour in two parts essence of Noam Chomsky and one part Essence of Johnny Rotten and add a pinch of Ilya Prigogine and shake well. Suffice it to say, Stan Goff is as exotic as a blue-footed booby; a career military man who is as politically radical as Jello Biafra – but at once, more professorial and more vulgar.
Full Spectrum Disorder is, on the surface, a sort of travelogue detailing Goff’s various military travails in places like Haiti, Vietnam, Korea, and Somalia, but it is also a scathing critique of U.S. global hegemony and what Goff calls “white supremacist patriarchal capitalism.” On a deeper level it is also a fascinating study of chaos theory, epistemology, and entropy as it pertains to the U.S. Military. This book is multi-layered and not easily pigeon holed. As Goff says himself in the introduction: “I don’t want to write a book that ‘proves’ itself. I want to write a book that shakes up people’s thinking, and if it provokes debates or even attacks, so be it. I don’t even mind being proven wrong, if that’s what happens. If the book were meant to support some overarching conclusion, it would be different, more confined within a genre. It’s not that kind of frog.”
It warms the cockles of this old ticker to see someone who’s endured the full battery of U.S. Army brainwashing indoctrination systems only to turn like a rabid pitbull and latch onto the spindly legs of Power Clowns like Donald Rumsfeld and G.W. Bush (“the spoiled preppy frat-fuck”). And he is almost as vicious with his take on what he terms the “ovine American public” whose heads “have been softened by a diet of info-kibble and Survivor.” Goff writes: “American culture is a sheep culture – long on talk about individualism, but even longer on absolute conformity. Most still believe that individuality is based on which model car you like best – commodity identity...” Lefties and Neocons alike do not escape Goff’s keen critical eye.
Goff certainly succeeded in shaking up my thinking and for that, I thank him. Watching the military equivalent of a ghastly multi-car pile up where human bodies are smeared like lipstick across the road is bound to shake a person up – and there are plenty of body bags in the pages of this book. And while Full Spectrum Disorder is rambling in spots and occasionally trips up civilians like myself with clunky military shibboleths, it is well written and powerfully presented. Maybe this isn’t much coming from me, but this is quite possibly the single most intelligent exegesis on the American politico-militaristic dung pie that I’ve ever had the good fortune to step in.
Full Spectrum Disorder is certainly an impassioned call-to-arms, but it is ultimately a powerful treatise on just how utterly fucking disorderly war and politics – and life – really are – no matter how you try to spin it. This book is, indeed, like its author, “a different kind of frog.” Stan Goff is one military “expert” you’ll never see mouthing off on CNN. –Aphid Peewit (Soft Skull Press, 71 Bond Street, Brooklyn, NY 11217)