War

"War, what is it good for? Absolutely Nothing."

"War takes away the easy supply of daily wants, and so proves a rough master, that brings most men's characters to a level with their fortunes..." Thuycidides

"Robbery is perhaps the oldest of labor-saving devices, and war vies with magic in its efforts to get something for nothing." (Mumford)

"Marriage is to the woman what war is to the man." J.P. Vernant.

In foraging societies men go to war to get or keep women. Access to women is the limiting factor on male's reproductive success. The most common spoils of tribal warfare are women. Raiders kill the men, abduct the nubile women, gang-rape them, and allocate them as wives. Leaders may sometimes use rape as a terror tactic to attain other ends, but it is effective precisely because the soldiers are so eager to implement it. In fact, it often backfires by giving the defenders an incalculable incentive to fight on, and probably for that reason, more than out of compassion for enemy women, modern armies have outlawed rape. (Pinker, How the Mind Works, p. 513)

"War is not the opposite of peace."
For Hobbes, the understructure of society is war, the "war of every man against every man." In the Leviathan, he first established that, in practical terms, all men were equals because no one was so superior in strength or intelligence that he could not be overcome by stealth or the conspiracy of others. When two such equals desired what only one could enjoy, one eventually subdued or destroyed the other in pursuit of it. Others followed suit, and, in in the absence of any power to "overawe" these equals, prudent self-preservation forced every individual to try to subdue others and resist their attempts to subdue him. Hobbes thus envisaged the original or natural condition of humanity as being "the war of every man against every man", in which men lived in "continual fear and danger of violent death". In Hobbes most famous phrase, their lives were therfore "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short."

According to Elaine Scarry, the two premises of war are that its central activity is injuring, and that its formal structure is a contest between two sides. The side that out-injures the other will be the winner. 'For WARRE, consisteth not in Battell only, or in the act if fighting, but in a tract of time, wherein the Will to contend by Battel is sufficiently known." (Hobbes, Leviathan Part I, chapt. 13) (As the Romans fighting Hannibal showed, one can lose every battle but the last one and still win the war.)

For Hobbes, humans escaped the permanent state of war only by agreeing to covenants in which they surrendered much of their liberty and accepted rule by a central authority. Since "Covenants without the sword, are but words," the king or the state had to be granted a monopoly over the use of force to punish criminals and defend against external enemies. (see Lawrence H. Keeley, War Before Civilization, pp. 5-6)

In The Civilizing Process, Norbert Elias describes the historical expansion of "survival units" in which the use of force becomes monopolized. (eg by the state in the West) These societies become internally pacified but continue to compete with other societies and take recourse to warfare when tensions become sufficient.
(Gregory Bateson describes the accumation of tension in the anticipation of release as schismogenic behaviour -- a human characteristic leading to war.)

Is there a difference between "primitive" war and "civilized" war? "Perhaps no aspect of prestate societies has been treated with more condescension by civilized observers than the way such groups have conducted their wars." (Keeley, War Before Civilization, p. 41) According to Keeley, "All the supposed tactical deficiencies of prestate societies have been a direct consequence of the weaker authority of leaders, more egalitarian social structure and values, lower level of surplus production, and smaller populations of nonstate societies."... "To argue that the warriors or war making of a village society is ill-disciplined, weakly led, constrained by inadequate logistics, "unprofessional," disorganized, and so on is to state a tautology: these terms describe not how they make war but how they live. " "There is as much simple truth as hyperbole in the declaration that 'Warfare is social organization." (p.47)

Norbert Elias' study of The Civilizing Process documents some of formations of self-restraint that arose in the highly differentiated societies of the West, in which the state came to monopolize physical force. Elias focusses on the transformation of the nobility from a class of knights into a class of courtiers. He describes the "extraordinary freedom" of the warrior in living out his feelings and passions, his "savage joys," his uninhibited satisfaction of pleasure from women, and his unbridled freedom to destroy or torment anything hostile. (pp 448-9) At the same time, the warrior is threatened by the violence and passion of others. Elias' study correlates the changes in the controlling agency forming itself as part of the individual's personality structure (the super-ego, conscience, or whatever we call it) and the controlling agency forming itself in society at large.

For Deleuze and Guattari, the essential enterprise of the state is its conquest of the war = "machine.html#52"> machine. The state must establish its monopoly on the use of force, and in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries the state subjugates the war machine to the work-model of the construction site and factory, and imposes the interrelated concepts of physicoscientific work and socioeconomic labor. "The war machine was perhaps the first thing to be striated. That is where free action in smooth space must have been conquered." (Thousand Plateaus, p.490) (see also nomadic / sedentary.)

According to Michel Serres, all the institutions created by the seventeenth century are there ready to govern nature and the world. They are strategies of domination whereby science itself becomes nothing more than a martial art. "The disourse on method is a science of war." (Michel Serres, Hermès IV, p. 289. quoted in Harari and Bell introduction to Hermes, p. xvii)For Serres, since there is no antistrategic strategy that itself is not itself a strategy, the god of war is always triumphant.

"In Monarchical Europe, before the French Revolution, the regiment was a device for restraining the violence of warriors and harnassing it to the purposes of kings." (Keenan, p.27) The discipline of state military formations is the consequence of unit training (as opposed to individual), hierarchical subordination, and physical compulsion. Yet even as regular clockwork armies were becoming the norm, the war machine persisted in "irregulars" like the Cossacks, who "were soldiers of the tsar and at the same time rebels agains tsarist absolutism." (p.7)

John Keegan's History of Warfare, seems to support Deleuze and Guattari's thesis that the war machine is antithetical to the state. For Keegan, "soldiers are not as other men...for the warrior culture can never be that of civilization itself." (p.xvi) The horse nomads from the steppes are probably the clearest example of the "war machine." Starting with the Scythians, then later the Turks, the Huns, and the Manchu, the nomads -- physically tough, logistically mobile, culturally accustomed to shedding blood, untroubled by religious prohibitions against killing -- learnt that war paid. (Keegan, p. 183) Their warfare had no political object. It was the means by which they won the wealth to remain exactly as they had been since their ancestors first loosed an arrow from the saddle.

In his study of Herodotus, Francois Hartog identifies the invincibility of the Scythians as the result of nomadic inderminacy. According to Herodotus, "No invader who comes against them can ever escape and none can catch them if they do not wish to be caught." Aporia has been decisively reconceived: it is no longer an absence, a lack, a negation; it is a positive strategy--a strategy which imposes a way of life." (from Greenblatt)

Deleuze and Guattari mitigate the identification of the war machine with making war by claiming that the nomadic way of the war machine is primarily a determination to occupy smooth space. But when the city stands in the way of nomadic free movement, war is the result.

What role does warfare play in the history of technology, especially in the West? Is it the motor force of technological development? Is it the "cutting edge" of a more general drive for domination that has motivated technological change? The drive for domination by total control lies at the heart of any military ambition. On the other hand, military strategy has increasingly had to come to grips with the management of chaos.

Clauswitz stressed the unpredictability of war when stated that "Everything is simple in War, but the simplest thing is difficult. These difficulties accumulate and produce a friction which no man can imagine exactly who has not seen War." For Clauswitz, "Friction" is "the only conception which in a general way distinguishes War from War on paper."

Part of successful military strategy involves learning from the opponent's behaviour. For example, when Napoleon defeated the Austrians in Italy, he knew they were incapable of taking advantage of the new methods of war developed by the French Revolution. Predictability spells defeat in war or battle. The mongoose and the cobra, the matador and the bull, are able to time their fatal blows by learning the rhythm of their opponent's attacks. (see discussion in Wiener, Cybernetics)

Warfare seems open to materialist interpretations, since technological inventions have repeatedly transformed warfare and determined its winners and losers. (Eg: chariot archery) for Martin van Creveld, "War is completely permeated by technology and governed by it." (Technology and War, p. 1) Keegan points out that these inventions did not only consist of weapons, but of cultural techniques. For example, pastoral societies (herdsmen) developed skills useful for warfare in the control of the herd and the efficient slaughter of animals. And the transformation of warfare made possible by the breeding of horses was as important as the invention of the war chariot, whose legacy, according to Keegan, "was the warmaking state." (p.169) (see assemblage )

Manuel De Landa argues that the most important model for serial industrial production in the nineteenth century was ammunition and military spare parts, and that the need for absolute similarity and exchangibility came out of the requirements of warfare, not out of developments in the economic sector. Louis Mumford also points out the army's large-scale demand for absolutely standardized goods, such as uniforms, and describes the army as "a body of pure consumers," who produces "illth" (a phrase coined by Ruskin) rather than "wealth." (Technics and Civilization, pp. 92-3)

As technology has come to be seen as inherently dangerous, its unbridled development is seen as potentially leading to war. For Norbert Wiener,"There is nothing more dangerous to contemplate than World War III. It is worth considering whether part of the danger may not be intrinsic in the unguarded use of learning machines"(p. 175). For Wiener, the new and real agencies of learning machines have a "literal-mindedness" whose dangers our prejudices may hide from us. "The mere fact that we have made a machine does not guarantee that we will have the proper information as to whether the danger point has come." Manuel De Landa's study of War in the Age of Intelligent Machines starts with the speculation that one day "robot historians" might study the technological lineages that had lead to generations of killer robots.(cf Terminator)In this point of view, humans would have served only as machines' surrogate reproductive organs until robots acquired their own self-replication abilities. (see intro pp 1-11)

In an aside to his discussion of " social construction," Ian Hacking registers his own protest to the labels of "culture wars," and "science wars." For Hacking, the willingness to describe fierce disagreements in terms of the metaphors of warmakes the very existence of real wars seem more natural, more inevitable, and more a part of the human condition. (While Hacking seems generally unsympathetic to the expression "social construction," he acknowledges that the term is generally invoked against apparent natural inevitability.)