Permanent war: grids, boomerangs, and counterinsurgency.

Author:Dunlap, Alexander

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

'Total Policing.'--Underground Advertisement by the London Metropolitan Police, 2013

On January 21, 1976 in the amphitheatre at the College 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. The second, looks directly at the foundations of society with the establishment and hegemony of the grid, laying the foundation for modern science, and the logic of what Thorsten Veblen (Veblen, 1996: 313) calls 'the machine process'. The third, examines the State's colonial technique that Hannah Arendt calls the 'boomerang effect' that is a process of developing repressive capabilities that circulate and evolve between different countries, regions, and contexts. The fourth section briefly examines the development and application of counterinsurgency warfare on populations by military and police apparatuses. Finally, 'permanent war' is argued to be the war of progress led by States (private/ public sectors) and their raison d'Etat (reason of State) establishing the organisation of progress that captures and degrades human life, raising questions concerning internal colonisation and what that means for subject populations.


In Bunker Archaeology Paul Virilio (2012:23) asked a simple, yet fundamental question: 'By the way, who invented peace?' The fixed meaning and common sense assigned to peace often guards the term from any self-reflection and critical inquiry into its everyday uses. The self-explanatory tranquillity associated with peace, creates a misleading and surreptitious effect that hides the regimented order and disables people from understanding the 'negative peace' or structural violence that composes state structures and organisation (Galtung, 1969; Galtung and Hoivik, 1971; Bourgois, 2001). The following seeks to journey on an abridged etymology of peace, displaying its tyrannical and often forgotten capacity, which has surreptitiously subordinated the genuine qualities and meanings of the concept.

In the article, 'The History of Peace: Concept and Organizations from the Late Middle Ages to the 1870s', Istavan Kende (1989:234) teaches us that peace was originally used in the Middle Ages to describe when war was taking place elsewhere, later developing into two principle approaches. First, the French Lawyer Pierre Dubois who thought 'peace could be achieved by the unification of all the Christian empires' in the hope of eliminating wars between all Christians; and second, Alighieri Dante, who saw peace as unified secular monarchy with the separation of church and state. Both approaches negotiated and fused to create what could be called the 'monarch's peace' alluding to the sovereign's ability to articulate and define the content of the concept. This began the centralisation and monopoly of peace as a concept.

Peace was explored by many theoreticians with different adherences for different reasons during different periods. However, the important characteristic for this paper that holds true overtime is the sovereign's power to decide peace. Yet, most important, was the social investment that peace encouraged. In the hands of Renaissance princes, emperors and monarchs, the idea of peace serving society was slowly transformed into the idea of 'life in peace' (Kende, 1989: 236). Peace came to mean the 'improvement of life', a way to realise social justice, freedom, and personal development (Kende, 1989:236). This notion of peace not only implied that the conditions of war subsided, but also that 'development' could take place, bringing people closer together with roads, canals, and new forms of organisation. Kende (1989:237) writes, '... ideas of peace and development not only compose a united system but practically become synonymous concepts'. Peace was bound and grew together with development, ending the religious wars, and encouraging commerce. With the Treaty of Westphalia and the end of Empire, the idea took hold that peace is 'much more profitable, more useful than war' (Kende, 1989: 237).

This begins the rise of the nation-state, political economy and as Foucault (2007:257-67) outlines, concepts of raison d'Etat (reason of state) and more interestingly, of coup d'Etat. Raison d'Etat is the reason or necessity for the state's salvation and preservation, where its existence is above the law and 'is not violent precisely because it readily avails itself of laws as its framework and form'. Coup d'Etat in accordance with raison d'Etat, is the violent imposition of the necessity for state preservation, which today has a different meaning similar to martial law or a state of siege. Both are above the law as state 'necessity' dictates. Commenting on this historical development, Foucault (2007: 266) writes, 'state, raison d'Etat, necessity, and risky coups d'Etat will form the new tragic horizon of politics and history'.

Raison d'Etat and Coup d'Etat are important concepts to recognise because in the seventeenth century they constituted the sovereign's peace. Reciting Palazzo's (Italy) definition of raison d'Etat Foucault (2007: 288) writes, '... raison d'Etat is the rule that makes possible the acquisition of this peace, rest, and perfection of things; the acquisition, preservation, and development of this peace'. Peace inextricably attached to development becomes fortified under the nation-state's self-perpetuating logic of raison d'Etat and coup d'Etat, which is dictated by 'an artificial, particular, political justice (...) concerning the necessity of the State' (Foucault, 2007:263). Politics becomes concerned with the necessity of organisational preservation using laws as its instruments, which solidifies the state's 'legitimate' monopoly of violence securing a positive-feedback for coercion and domination (Foucault, 2007; Weber, 2008). Necati Polat (2010:333-4) points out two important metaphors in opposition to ideas of civil and international peace during the seventeenth century. Leibniz's image of the cemetery and Rousseau's dungeon, both established a 'tranquillity' akin to the sovereign's civil peace, displaying the tyrannical and restraining nature of such a concept. Updating this idea of sovereignty as it manifests in the modern state, Polat (2010:323) in this tradition writes, '[d]isciplinarian by definition, civil peace that forms, or secures, state authority is then inevitably violent'.

Peace as a concept, if not invented by empire, was appropriated by it. With peace came development and the concept of progress that gave meaning and 'necessity' to raison d'Etat. As the two developed side by side, what Teodor Shanin (1997: 68) says for progress can also be said for peace, '... those who first adopted the notion of progress presented their own understanding as the highest achievement of progress to date, and consequently projected the shape of the coming future to the rest of mankind ...'. This surreptitious disposition of progress and peace must not be underestimated in the present, especially in view of the biological 'improvement' of plants and social 'development' of people. Polat (2010:339) could not have summarised Foucault's position on war and the tyranny of peace any better when he wrote '... peace is a continuation of war by other means ... because it refuses to acknowledge conflict.' Said another way, the more peace hides war by supposing its elimination under a concept of peace, the more...

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