File spoon-archives/lyotard.archive/lyotard_2001/lyotard.0109, message 80

Date: Wed, 19 Sep 2001 22:25:34 -0500
Subject: Re: A view from Afghanistan


Thanks for this informative piece about the terror a conventional war
with ground troops might bring.  Part of the problem here is that this
is not a conventional war, if it can even be described as a war. 

How does one wage war on an international network of moles and sleepers
organized into decentralized and autonomous cells? How does such a war
end? Does it become a forever war? A return to Hobbes with the US as
Neo-Leviathan? - globalism as nasty, short and brutish. 

N&H have discussed distinct phases of American history. It now appears
we may be entering a new phase they did not discuss. A post-gulf phase
of internalized terror.

Here's an article that I found interesting from this kind of globalist

Collateral Damage

By Robert Wright

This is war. On that everyone seems to agree-or, at least, they agreed
for a while. In the immediate aftermath of Sept. 11, not just
politicians but many pundits joined President Bush in declaring "war" on
terrorism. But now, with 
the aid of some critical distance, a few observers have started asking
whether that word doesn't obscure more than it illuminates. 

After all, a conventional war-a conflict between states or groups of
states-is pretty straightforward. There is a clear-cut objective
(control the other guy's territory) and a clear-cut methodology (kill
the other guy's soldiers-who, conveniently, are often dressed in
distinctively colored uniforms). Once you've obtained the objective, you
can relax: Your enemy surrenders, and the game is over.

That none of this is true of a "war" on terrorism has started sinking
into the national consciousness. ("What Would 'Victory' Mean?" asked a
headline in yesterday's New York Times.) But I think the most
dangerously misleading thing about the "war" metaphor still hasn't
dawned on many people. We by and large haven't reckoned with the
possible new meaning of the phrase "American casualties."

Suppose that, as part of our metaphorical war against terrorism, we
declare an actual, literal war on Afghanistan. The average American will
realize that, this being war, the enemy will fight back, and American
soldiers will come home in body bags. But the average American might not
realize that the enemy could also fight back by parking truck bombs in
American cities-that Americans who are already home may wind up in body

A recent ABC News/Washington Post poll illustrates this blind spot. How
many Americans favor responding to the terrorist attack by taking
military action? 93 percent. And what if this means war? 86 percent. And
what if it means civilian casualties abroad? 77 percent. And what if it
means large numbers of U.S. troops getting killed? 69 percent. And what
if it means large numbers of American civilians getting killed?

That's the question the pollsters didn't ask. They're still thinking
about "war" in the conventional sense of the word.

Admittedly, President Bush has stressed that this is a new kind of war.
Still, he has singled out our men and women in uniform as the ones who
must gird themselves for combat. So when he stresses that this war could
go on for years and involve great national sacrifice, pretty much
everyone imagines the "greatest generation" kind of national sacrifice:
Troops go off to die, and the rest of us plant victory gardens-and
arrive at airports three hours before scheduled departure. Almost no one
is imagining America turning into Israel, a place where every loud noise
scares you to death. But it could well happen if our "war" on terrorism
sufficiently inflames Islamic radicals.

I can hear the replies to this column now: Don't you understand? They're
already killing American civilians. That's why we have to stop them!

Yes, we do have to try to stop them, and this may well mean taking
military action. But note that this whole line of rhetoric-they're
already killing us, and we must stop them-is itself a warped byproduct
of war-think. It uncritically assumes the binary nature of conventional
war. In a conventional war, once the killing begins, the enemy is fully
committed to your destruction, so there's no need to worry about further
antagonizing him. And completely stopping the enemy-winning the war,
once and for all-is plausible. Neither of these things is true today.

Radical Islamic hatred of the United States is a variable that can go up
or down. The commitment of the "enemy" to killing us isn't now anywhere
near its theoretical maximum, and it may never reach zero. So one of our
main jobs, for years and probably for decades, is to manage that
variable. As we proceed on the various fronts we must now proceed
on-including the military front-we have to keep radical Islamic hatred
as low as possible.

It may sound like we've reached the reductio ad absurdum of my argument.
I seem to be talking about fighting a war while trying to avoid
antagonizing the enemy! But I submit that this is the weird new reality
we face. And if the language we're using to describe that reality makes
it seem inconceivable, then it's time to find some new language.


Driftline Main Page


Display software: ArchTracker © Malgosia Askanas, 2000-2005