Wednesday, November 19, 2008

New movie explores transcendent warfare

By Steve Hammons

This week, Smoke House Pictures is in Roswell, New Mexico, filming the action-comedy "The Men Who Stare at Goats."

How will the film end up portraying early U.S. military and intelligence efforts exploring and implementing what is now sometimes referred to as "transcendent warfare?"

George Clooney may have something to say about it.

He stars in the movie along with Ewan McGregor, Kevin Spacey and Jeff Bridges. Grant Heslov is director. Heslov and Clooney formed Smoke House Pictures in 2006 and they are also producers of the film. Peter Straughan wrote the script, based on the book of the same name by UK journalist Jon Ronson.

Ronson’s 2004 non-fiction book included both ridicule and dark warnings about some of the unconventional activities of the U.S. military and intelligence community.

However, did Ronson miss important aspects of these early attempts to utilize new discoveries and ancient knowledge about human consciousness?


Ronson’s book explored innovative programs within the U.S. Army, beginning in the 1970s, that included elements of the human potential movement, discoveries about extrasensory perception, ancient martial arts techniques, non-lethal weapons, advances in the understanding of the human mind and other unique areas of study.

Efforts on several fronts within the U.S. military and intelligence communities included activities aimed at learning more about these developments and training U.S. personnel in possible understanding and applications.

Ronson was probably accurate to point out that some of these activities may have been questionable, unethical or unrealistic. He may also be correct that some of this knowledge was used for the "dark side" of U.S. military and intelligence activities.

Yet, many of the programs investigating these phenomena and possibilities did lead to significant results that, decades later, seem to be bearing fruit in ways we may not fully comprehend.

This body of knowledge can be termed transcendent warfare.

For example, there now may be a general acceptance that humans do possess a sixth sense that can be called intuition, gut instincts, street smarts, extrasensory perception (ESP), or even the formal name for an intelligence-gathering technique called remote viewing or the scientific term anomalous cognition.

Work begun in the 1970s in what was later called Project STAR GATE produced highly significant data and findings about the potential of human consciousness to recognize and use these kinds of natural abilities that we all probably possess.


At this particular time in American history and in the state of world affairs, a hopeful view that positive change can occur is evident. Renewed attempts by good people to make this world a better place are on the minds of many.

The invasion and occupation of Iraq, the "enhanced interrogations" that Ronson notes in his book and the ethics (or lack of them) in these kinds of activities are legitimate causes for concern. 

We might want to remember that knowledge gained about the potential of human consciousness can be used in different kinds of ways, depending on the people involved.

Ronson’s book, and most likely the movie too, examine the moral integrity and mental health of those within our government, military and intelligence community who wield the power of both conventional and unconventional weapons and tactics.

Before we throw the baby out with the bathwater, it could be helpful to remember that much has been learned about discoveries in human consciousness from some of these efforts. In addition, this knowledge has spread from the military and intelligence community to the public arena. This dissemination of information may be a positive development.

Now, in today’s world, we may want to expand the capabilities and expertise of our military and intelligence communities in areas such as humanitarian efforts, peace operations and war prevention.
 Lessons learned in past decades and emerging now about transcendent warfare developments can be very helpful in accomplishing these goals. 

Will the new movie based on Ronson’s book take all of these sometimes complex factors into consideration? Let’s hope so.