War is God

Via Landry, an introduction to the “new generation of unrestricted warfare”.

Colonels Qiao Liang and Wang Xiangsui argued that war was no longer about “using armed forces to compel the enemy to submit to one’s will” in the classic Clausewitzian sense. Rather, they asserted that war had evolved to “using all means, including armed force or non-armed force, military and non-military, and lethal and non-lethal means to compel the enemy to accept one’s interests.” The barrier between soldiers and civilians would fundamentally be erased, because the battle would be everywhere. The number of new battlefields would be “virtually infinite,” and could include environmental warfare, financial warfare, trade warfare, cultural warfare, and legal warfare, to name just a few. They wrote of assassinating financial speculators to safeguard a nation’s financial security, setting up slush funds to influence opponents’ legislatures and governments, and buying controlling shares of stocks to convert an adversary’s major television and newspapers outlets into tools of media warfare. According to the editor’s note, Qiao argued in a subsequent interview that “the first rule of unrestricted warfare is that there are no rules, with nothing forbidden.” That vision clearly transcends any traditional notions of war.

How ‘traditional’ are we talking? “War is the Father of all things, and of all things King” (πόλεμος πάντων μὲν πατήρ ἐστι, πάντων δὲ βασιλεύς) Heraclitus asserts at the dawn of philosophy. There seems little indication of ‘restriction’ there.

Whatever the positive semantic associations accumulated by the word ‘war’, its most rigorous meaning is negative. War is conflict without significant constraint. As a game, it corresponds to the condition of unbounded defection, or trustlessness without limit. This is the Hobbesian understanding implicit in the phrase “war of all against all” (bellum omnium contra omnes), in which “the state of nature” is conceived – again negatively – through a notional subtraction of limitation. Treachery, in its game-theoretic sense, is not a minor theme within war, but a horizon to which war tends – the annihilation of all agreement. Reciprocally-excited mutual betrayal in departure from an implicit ‘common humanity’ is its teleological essence. This is a conclusion explicitly rejected by Carl von Clausewitz is his treatise On War, even as he acknowledges the cybernetic inclination to amplification (or “tendency to a limit”) which drives it in the direction of an absolute. “War is the continuation of politics by other means,” he insists, because it is framed by negotiation (book-ended by a declaration of war, and a peace treaty). According to this conception, it is an interlude of disagreement, which nevertheless remains irreducibly communicative, and fundamentally structured by the decisions of sovereign political agencies. Even as it approaches its pole of ultimate extremity, it never escapes its teleological dependency, as a means (or instrument) of rational statecraft.

The reduction of war to instrumentality is not immune to criticism. Philosophical radicalization, alone, suffices to release war from its determination as ‘the game of princes’. The Clausewitzean formula is notoriously inverted by Michel Foucault into the maxim “politics is war by other means”. If political sovereignty is ultimately conditioned by the capability to prevail upon the battlefield, the norms of war can have no higher tribunal than military accomplishment. No real authority can transcend survival, or survive a sufficiently radical defeat. There is thus a final incoherence to any convinced appeal to the ‘laws of war’. The realistic conception of ‘limited war’ subsumes that of ‘war lawfully pursued’ (with the latter categorized as an elective limitation). Qiao’s words bear emphatic repetition: “the first rule of unrestricted warfare is that there are no rules, with nothing forbidden.” The power to forbid is — first of all — power, which war (alone) distributes.

Between peace and war there is no true symmetry. Peace presupposes pacification, and that is a military outcome. There is no authority — moral or political — that cannot first assert itself under cosmic conditions that are primordially indifferent to normativity. Whatever cannot defend its existence has its case dumped in the trash.

Cormac McCarthy’s Judge Holden provides us with a contemporary restatement of the ancient wisdom:

Suppose two men at cards with nothing to wager save their lives. Who has not heard such a tale? A turn of the card. The whole universe for such a player has labored clanking to his moment which will tell if he is to die at that man’s hand or that man at his. What more certain validation of a man’s worth could there be? This enhancement of the game to its ultimate state admits no argument concerning the notion of fate. The selection of one man over another is a preference absolute and irrevocable and it is a dull man indeed who could reckon so profound a decision without agency or significance either one. In such games as have for their stake the annihilation of the defeated the decisions are quite clear. This man holding this particular arrangement of cards in his hand is thereby removed from existence. This is the nature of war, whose stake is at once the game and the authority and the justification. Seen so, war is the truest form of divination. It is the testing of one’s will and the will of another within that larger will which because it binds them is therefore forced to select. War is the ultimate game because war is at last a forcing of the unity of existence. War is god.

“War is the truest form of divination” it turns out, is the Revelation of the Aeon.

May 9, 2016admin 49 Comments »
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49 Responses to this entry

  • Brett Stevens Says:

    War on Drugs + victory of Allies in WWII by destroying German industrial production + cyberwar screeds = war without a battlefield.

    [Reply]

    admin Reply:

    Abstracted battlefields. (Really, and not merely notionally, abstracted.)

    [Reply]

    Posted on May 9th, 2016 at 2:55 pm Reply | Quote
  • K.L.Anderson Says:

    That bold and impressive statement on war misses the basic and even sacred activation of life, to evolve successfully in survival and reproduction, and eventually evolve, materially, all the way to Godhood. This basic sacred activation, still unacknowledged by science or religion, is the theologically material check on any so called total freedom to make war, at least war that does not have success in evolution as the goal, and ultimately the zenith of success as the goal. War for the sake of war can this way be a losing proposition. War is not God, but war can, materially, lead toward Godhood—when war does not it is not helpful or justified, even if winning remains vital.

    [Reply]

    John Reply:

    I think perhaps a paradoxical statement is required, where god is simultaneously both, the sacred activation (cultivation of life towards godhood), and also war–the ruthless destruction of all that is unworthy.

    [Reply]

    Tek Reply:

    That seems very Hindu somehow.

    [Reply]

    K.L.Anderson Reply:

    War is a crude way to cultivate future evolution, positive eugenic is more advanced.

    [Reply]

    Edenist whackjob Reply:

    Eugenics will never fly, politically. It’s going to happen via gene therapy, methinks.

    admin Reply:

    I don’t expect to see East Asian governments putting many barriers in the way.

    Posted on May 9th, 2016 at 2:58 pm Reply | Quote
  • Michael Goldstein Says:

    > Brown studied the judge. You’re crazy Holden. Crazy at last.
    > The judge smiled.

    [Reply]

    Posted on May 9th, 2016 at 3:10 pm Reply | Quote
  • Oliver Cromwell Says:

    Soft power matters only because the exercise of hard power is becoming increasingly illegal.

    Since laws are enforced by hard power this is not a stable situation.

    [Reply]

    Posted on May 9th, 2016 at 3:45 pm Reply | Quote
  • Mark Warburton Says:

    Oh I’ve been waiting for something on this! Does this mean you’ve been putting more work into Vauung?!

    [Reply]

    Posted on May 9th, 2016 at 4:14 pm Reply | Quote
  • SVErshov Says:

    there is no wars without rules. even if you declare ‘no rules’ war it is already a rule. current wars ruled by trade. that is what russia and china doing in midle east. (sorry, according to western media china even not there) demonstrate power, trade it, if you did not get enough demostrate power again. this soft businessman like position of Putin rising seriouse discontent among high ranking military in russia. once Putin is gone there will be some war. if Trump has any illusions, he will be disillisioned pretty quick.

    [Reply]

    Edenist whackjob Reply:

    I think it’s more accurate to say: there is no war without communication.

    The lack of chemical warfare in WW2 was clearly a result of both sides implicitly telling each other “if you don’t, I won’t”. Both sides realized that, while relatively speaking mutual chemical war might have been a net zero gain/loss (ignoring any asymmetry in capacity), it would have been an absolute loss for both sides. Ie if both sides started using chemical weapons, gains/losses would cancel each other out for both sides, but both sides would be worse off. Classic prisoner’s dilemma.

    By the logic of total war, each side should manically seek to defect all the time. Absolute losses are OK as long as both sides suffer equally, and the initiator gets a small advantage. However, that didn’t happen in this case. So I guess there is an even further category, a total total war, where every form of communication has broken down, and it’s simply a race to the death. Whoever has 1 life left wins.

    [Reply]

    Edenist whackjob Reply:

    Although, I wonder if that’s ever the case, bar 1-move games like mutual assured destruction.

    If there’s more than 1 move, it’s always going to be tempting to start talking to your opponent to get an advantage. Even Skynet sends spies, after all…

    [Reply]

    Posted on May 9th, 2016 at 5:50 pm Reply | Quote
  • Edenist whackjob Says:

    I think there are two types of war: wars for survival, and wars for ego/honor/blowing off steam/proving oneself/etc. In the latter category fall a lot of wars, which do not ever exceed the clausewitzian threshold and gain escape velocity into the space of total-war.

    You might call it K-war vs r-war, I guess.

    [Reply]

    Edenist whackjob Reply:

    You could also make a 2×2:

    Total-war aggressor, limited-war defender: Genghis Khan (exterminationist)
    Total-war aggressor, total-war defender: WW2, Eastern Front (deathmatch)
    Limited-war aggressor, total-war defender: I don’t know, Vietnam? (brutal insurrection)
    Limited-war aggressor, limited-war defender: Fredrick of Prussia, Rommel in North Africa, ritual tribal combat (Clausewar)

    [Reply]

    ||||| Reply:

    Reminds me of “The New Aztecs – Ritual and Restraint in Contemporary Western Military Operations”

    [Reply]

    Edenist whackjob Reply:

    Maybe an apt comparison would be Wal-Mart vs your local flea market. The latter clearly doesn’t exist to maximize capital.

    [Reply]

    ||||| Reply:

    from the foreword:

    “The idea that the military environment is constantly evolving, becoming more and more dangerous
    and technologically sophisticated, is a common one. In the past century, we have seen the emergence of total war, nuclear weapons, and bloody unconventional and asymmetric campaigns. We have used many of
    the offshoots of this evolutionary idea to guide our own setting of defense policy, seeing in the evolution
    a constant escalation, albeit one perhaps marred by occasional yet small oscillations.

    In an earlier monograph, Slowing Military Change, Dr. Zhivan Alach questioned whether or not we are
    indeed in an era of rapidly evolving military technology. In this monograph, he takes an even longer view,
    examining the scope of military history from the ancient to the present day and comparing the characteristics of the various eras within the situation today. He argues that, for the most part, there has been a steady escalation from primitive, indirect, low-casualty conflict to the massive total wars of the 20th century.

    However, from that time the momentum has changed. Instead of a new era of war, Dr. Alach argues that we have returned to something akin to primitive warfare, with ritual and restraint now as important as what might be seen as objective standards of military success. He argues that Western popular culture, the news media, and democracy have all prevented militaries from fighting in an unrestrained manner. Another factor for such restraint has been a decline in the perceived utility of war in the absence of credible threats.

    The monograph raises some interesting questions.

    What are the implications of this return to ritual and restraint? Has the West blinded itself to the realities of
    war? What if some foe emerges that is not restrained by such niceties of civilization? In the setting of strategic policy, all of these questions need to be answered, and the true value of this monograph is in bringing them to light.”

    Which in turn reminds me of the Boltzmann equation.

    Grotesque Body Reply:

    “What if some foe emerges that is not restrained by such niceties of civilization?”

    Europe, ISIS = Eloi, Morlock.

    Posted on May 9th, 2016 at 6:00 pm Reply | Quote
  • Edenist whackjob Says:

    “What are the implications of this return to ritual and restraint? Has the West blinded itself to the realities of war?”

    Maybe the case is that we are simply living in a war-less time. The wars of today would be considered minor affairs in times past. They seem bigger than they are because 1) media and 2) modern military capital allows small police-level incursions to have nation-toppling effects.

    [Reply]

    wu-wei Reply:

    But no matter how you look at it, Europe is currently being “invaded” by the third world on a massive scale. Really, there shouldn’t even be scare quotes there, because that is exactly what is happening.

    Perhaps it could be described as “neo-conquest”: conquest without overt violence, facilitated by the very rulers of those polities being invaded. Is there any possible parallel in history to these recent events? I guess one might point to Rome as an example, but I’m not really sure that it’s quite the same thing.

    As for the currently perceived “lack of violence”… Well, one could certainly imagine that may well be temporary. Like a release valve which has been switched off, the gas accumulates and builds pressure, and when there is enough… Just make sure not to be anywhere near it when it explodes.

    [Reply]

    vitis Reply:

    Given Saudi’s media ownership and financial position they’re already making total war upon the west, not taking Syrian refugees is just a continuation of that policy.

    [Reply]

    Posted on May 9th, 2016 at 7:47 pm Reply | Quote
  • Edenist whackjob Says:

    Imagine a 1910s with no WW1. There is small colonial raids and the like. Only now, Smedley Butler is carrying a lascannon.

    [Reply]

    Posted on May 9th, 2016 at 7:48 pm Reply | Quote
  • Grotesque Body Says:

    Politics is the continuation of war by other memes.

    [Reply]

    Anon Reply:

    Asymmetrical Meme Warfare?

    [Reply]

    wu-wei Reply:

    Shitposting.

    [Reply]

    Grotesque Body Reply:

    I wonder if @admin derives much amusement from the fact that the overarching belief system of the chan shitposting horde, “meme magic” is very similar to his notion of hyperstition.

    wu-wei Reply:

    The preliminary hypothesis: greater experimental diversity of thinking is to be expected when it is conducted in the mode of ‘what might be thought’ — comparatively free of ego-commitment and first-order social games.

    That sounds like a textbook definition of anonymous straight from the mouth of Moot himself.

    Posted on May 9th, 2016 at 9:40 pm Reply | Quote
  • Augustus Pugin Says:

    I assume the XS position is to put Judge Holden in charge of things.

    [Reply]

    Grotesque Body Reply:

    Recognising that he’s already in charge.

    [Reply]

    Kwisatz Haderach Reply:

    Holden isn’t in charge of things, can’t be in charge of things. admin doesn’t make the rules; Holden doesn’t make the rules. They just happen to know what the rules happen to be.

    [Reply]

    Kwisatz Haderach Reply:

    But ok, temporally, Holden would make a great leader.

    [Reply]

    Posted on May 9th, 2016 at 9:59 pm Reply | Quote
  • Don't Drone Me, Bro! Says:

    Whatever the positive semantic associations accumulated by the word ‘war’, its most rigorous meaning is negative. War is conflict without significant constraint. As a game, it corresponds to the condition of unbounded defection, or trustlessness without limit. This is the Hobbesian understanding implicit in the phrase “war of all against all” (bellum omnium contra omnes), in which “the state of nature” is conceived – again negatively – through a notional subtraction of limitation. Treachery, in its game-theoretic sense, is not a minor theme within war, but a horizon to which war tends – the annihilation of all agreement. Reciprocally-excited mutual betrayal in departure from an implicit ‘common humanity’ is its teleological essence. This is a conclusion explicitly rejected by Carl von Clausewitz is his treatise On War, even as he acknowledges the cybernetic inclination to amplification (or “tendency to a limit”) which drives it in the direction of an absolute. “War is the continuation of politics by other means,” he insists, because it is framed by negotiation (book-ended by a declaration of war, and a peace treaty). According to this conception, it is an interlude of disagreement, which nevertheless remains irreducibly communicative, and fundamentally structured by the decisions of sovereign political agencies. Even as it approaches its pole of ultimate extremity, it never escapes its teleological dependency, as a means (or instrument) of rational statecraft.

    On Clausewitz’s defense, politics is war by other means. Treason is always a tactical temptation, not always a sound strategy. (Who would be alive to discourage it outherwise?)

    I have 1 question (I’m an irregular reader): what work is “cybernetic” doing in this paragraph? “Man enslaved to his own [psychological/created] systems”, or something like that?

    A good read as always.

    [Reply]

    Uriel Alexis Reply:

    [haven’t seen this up until now]

    as usual, it means feedback cycles. a “cybernetic inclination to amplification” is a runaway feedback loop – an inverted thermostat, so that the house eventually burns down.

    [Reply]

    Posted on May 9th, 2016 at 11:27 pm Reply | Quote
  • AD Says:

    @

    “I don’t expect to see East Asian governments putting many barriers in the way.”

    Bears that dance, Bears that don’t

    [Reply]

    Posted on May 10th, 2016 at 10:37 am Reply | Quote
  • Xoth Says:

    Cormac MacCarthy is a terrible, terrible writer. The dead prose of an EU directive hiding a confused argument. Gnon also murders by boredom.

    [Reply]

    Xoth Reply:

    I did rather enjoy the Social Matter article though, including the “anti-trillionaire” comment. 4GW superceded by 5GW (Bond villains).

    [Reply]

    Grotesque Body Reply:

    “The dead prose of an EU directive hiding a confused argument.”

    Is this a really bad mixed metaphor, or is McCarthy really in the pay of the European Commission?

    I find the latter kind of intriguing actually.

    [Reply]

    Posted on May 10th, 2016 at 12:21 pm Reply | Quote
  • Xoth Says:

    Only the briefest of EU directives hides merely one confused argument.

    [Reply]

    Posted on May 10th, 2016 at 1:53 pm Reply | Quote
  • vxxc2014 Says:

    Shut up Private and get your over schooled ass downrange. That’s how you learn War.

    Downrange=Combat.

    [Reply]

    Kwisatz Haderach Reply:

    You first, Sarge!

    [Reply]

    vxxc2014 Reply:

    Well yeah.

    I did and expect will again.

    Seriously Clausewitz didn’t learn war from books, he learned it from fighting.

    The present generation of Chinese soldiers seem determined to learn it from think tanks and publishing “ground breaking” theories. <<if this seems dismally familiar it is.

    Break ground with a shovel first.

    [Reply]

    SVErshov Reply:

    Chinies doing quite well in Mali for last 4 years.

    Skilluminati Reply:

    The “Unrestricted Warfare” document is old enough to drive in the United States.

    Posted on May 10th, 2016 at 1:58 pm Reply | Quote
  • michael Says:

    @
    The Bhagavad gitta

    [Reply]

    Posted on May 13th, 2016 at 3:01 pm Reply | Quote
  • The Visible Order – ossipago Says:

    […] and more to do with nightmares.  A contemporary teleological inference would seem to suggest that War is God.  That “Creation” (capital “C”) is destruction.  That we are (in some […]

    Posted on August 30th, 2016 at 12:27 am Reply | Quote
  • Guerra é Deus – Outlandish Says:

    […] Original. […]

    Posted on September 12th, 2016 at 11:22 pm Reply | Quote

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