Academic journal article Anarchist Studies

Permanent War: Grids, Boomerangs, and Counterinsurgency

Academic journal article Anarchist Studies

Permanent War: Grids, Boomerangs, and Counterinsurgency

Article excerpt

Abstract: Rooted in Michel Foucault's (2003: 15,47) conception of politics - '[P]olitics is a continuation of war by other means' - this paper seeks to support and draw attention to the 'primitive or permanent war' that underlies society in its modern manifestations. This inquiry into permanent warfare is broken down into five sections. The first explores the social construction and evolution of peace as a concept and political lever. The second, goes to the ground, examining the planning of society, its construction and the use of grids as a means to govern and manage populations. The third, considers Hannah Arendt's 'boomerang effects' that cross-pollinate repressive techniques and technologies between home countries and colonies, escalating repression and state control as it corresponds to resistance. The fourth, delves into counterinsurgency practices and techniques that have 'boomeranged' from colonial wars and the wars in the Middle East back to the United States and elsewhere. Finally, this paper concludes by drawing attention to the current intensification of internal colonisation that continues the 'permanent war' against people and populations.

Keywords: grids, politics, war, counterinsurgency

Most importantly, know that your operations will create temporary breathing space, but long-term development and stabilization by civilian agencies will ultimately win the war.

Lieutenant Colonel David Kilcullen, 2006

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On January 21, 1976 in the amphitheatre at the Collège De France, Michel Foucault (2003: 51) conveyed this to his audience:

Why do we have to rediscover war? Well, because this ancient war is a [... ] permanent war. We really do have to become experts on battles, because the war has not ended, because preparations are still being made for the decisive battles, because we have to win the decisive battle. In other words, the enemies who face us still pose a threat to us, and it is not some reconciliation or pacification that will allow us to bring the war to an end.

This perspective is voiced another way in Discipline and Punish when Foucault (1995 [1977]: 168) writes, '[B]ut it must not be forgotten that "politics" has been conceived as a continuation if not exactly and directly of war, at least of the military model as a fundamental means of preventing civil disorder. Politics, as a technique of internal peace and order, sought to implement the mechanism of the perfect army, of the disciplined mass, of the docile, useful troop, of the regiment in camp and in the field, on manoeuvres and on exercises.'

This quote brings to the foreground Foucault's conception of politics. Outlined clearly in 'Society Must Be Defended': Lectures at the College De France 1975-1976, the quotes above elude to Foucault's (2003: 15-6) Clausewitzian inversion: 'Politics is the continuation of war by other means', which in Foucault's first lecture is said to imply three things. First, social relationships were established through war at a specific historical moment. Second, 'the role of political power is perpetually to use a sort of silent war to re-inscribe that relationship of force, and to re-inscribe it in institutions, economic inequalities, language, and even the bodies of individuals.' Third, '[W]e are always writing the history of the same war, even when we are writing the history of peace and its institutions.' Foucault (2003: 16) drives this point home further: '[I]t means that the last battle would put an end to politics, or in other words, that the last battle would at least - and I mean "at last" - suspend the exercise of power as continuous warfare.' In short, the last and final war is the social or 'permanent war' that goes right down into the depths of society.

Using a historical genealogical approach this paper has five sections examining 'permanent war' in relation to State politics. The first section briefly looks at the history of peace as a technique of war. …

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