14 comments on “The individuation of warfare?

  1. Pingback: Image wars | geographical imaginations

  2. I wonder about the danger of reducing the “target” to the individual for the same reason you note with respect to the way that “targets” mask the military producers and infrastructures behind their construction. This is perhaps a simple point – that a single, individual death has all kinds of “ripple effects”, all kinds of trauma that traverse an emotional landscape that never makes it to the disposition matrix. Here, I think, Butler is right to say that the “outside” of the war frame haunts the inside, even enabling it. But there might be more to it than “counting” the outside to individuated warfare. There is, I think, a de-temporalizing of the “everywhere war”, so that what is past and what is future are both kept on the “outside”. This would mean that the omnipotent “present” of the battlespace has a distinct regulatory function through a freezing, or fixing of time to the “now”. Some initial thoughts.

    • Sorry to have taken so long to respond, Ian: the start of term was unusually busy. The general point applies to all targeting, no? Sam Weber is very good on this. So when the IDF in Gaza or the US military in Iraq claim that they “only” bombed a power station, and deliberately chose to do so at 2 a.m. when only a small night staff would be in the building in order to minimise casualties, they are being deliberately disingenuous. They know very well that with a power station out of action water can’t be pumped, sewage can’t be treated, food can’t be refrigerated, hospitals can’t operate – so that the effects of the strike ripple out from the initial point of impact in both space and time (how many people get sick or even die later?). So the target is deliberately chosen to maximise those ripple effects which surely aren’t kept on the outside (except rhetorically). I suppose you could say that, in the case of targeted killing, the ripple effects that most matter to those carrying them out involve the ‘degradation’ of the terrorist or insurgent network in which the target is supposed to be involved, but they obviously also – and not accidentally – cause immense damage to the personal and social fabric of which s/he was a part: the extended family, the local community and beyond. The question of the ‘now’ is more complicated, though, since the incorporation of an event-ontology within later modern war institutes a new temporality within the battlespace. What’s past may well be kept on the outside (though not, I think, within the span of, say, a ‘pattern of life analysis’) but the future is internalised through the logics of emergence and pre-emption. I discussed this in a preliminary way in “Seeing Red”, and Caroline Croser has all sorts of interesting things to say about it, but it needs more reflection, so thanks for the prod!

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