The Biopolitics of Asymmetry: Interrogating the Humanity of Drone Warfare

In response to a speech given by Obama in 2013 on his administration’s counterterrorism policy, popularly referred to as his “drone speech,” General William Nash commented that Obama “has begun the transition from a perpetual war to a more normalized security framework.” I address this normalization of the categorization and control of life within a global threatscape. Much of the debate at policy level, in academia, and on the flickering screens of media outlets surrounding the contemporary fixture of the counterterror arsenal, the drone, focuses upon the legal and ethical implications. Administration officials continually stress the need for “transparency” and the president’s wish that the United States hold itself to “the highest possible standards” in the conduct of a just, humanitarian war—reminding us this is indeed a war, against an organization and its affiliates.

Continue reading →

Asymmetry and the Reimagining of Political Theology

If the phrase “asymmetrical warfare” is taken to connote scenarios where “one side is possessed of overwhelming power with respect to its adversary,” together with manifold embodiments “of asymmetry in media representations, ideology, religion, sub- and supra-national actors, the environment and even psychology,” then there would appear little doubt that today’s world is pervaded by such conflict. Necessarily, the unique historical conditions of the present, globalizing era—with its fragmenting as well as revanchist states, and its dizzying technological accelerations—are evoked by “new wars” that embroil a proliferation of non-state actors, along with states who believe that they should rightly monopolize (or be immune from, as the case may be) such asymmetrical modalities as nuclear arsenals, mercenary forces, drones, cyberattacks, and propaganda innovations.

Continue reading →

What Is Asymmetry in Asymmetrical Warfare?

The definition of asymmetry in asymmetrical warfare could, it seems, contribute to illuminating the link between war and politics, or war and peace. For Clausewitz, “War is a simple continuation of politics by other means.” Now, we could ask: what is the politics of asymmetrical warfare? Still following Clausewitz, war is “a wide-scale duel” and, as a duel or fight, war “takes two distinct forms: attack and defense.” Additionally, for Clausewitz, politics would be a form of “wide-scale commerce” between states. In his book Drone Theory, the French philosopher Grégoire Chamayou defines asymmetrical warfare as cynegetic (in other words, a form of hunt). He uses as an illustration the name of a recent model of unmanned vehicle: “the Predator,” le prédateur. But how can asymmetrical warfare be considered as war if the fight dynamic is absent? And if asymmetrical warfare is a manhunt, how could politics as commerce be possible?

Continue reading →

Lawfare and the End of History

This paper focuses on the modern practice of using law, both national and international, to achieve policy goals and political ends that usually are the result of tactical military action. Lawfare, as this practice is referred to, is now a crucial tactic in the modern era of international relations, where war is largely carried out in a far from traditional manner. Lawfare, then, is a unique form of irregular warfare that can be employed by nations against one another and against insurgents in asymmetrical conflicts at home and abroad. This new reliance on irregular and asymmetrical warfare generally and lawfare specifically is reflective of Hegel’s view of the end of history, particularly as articulated by Alexandre Kojève. Basically, that as individuals gain equal recognition, the mode of satisfying desire will necessarily take the form of law and bureaucracy.

Continue reading →

Terrorism, Modernity, and the Politics of the Tactical

During his 2004 presidential campaign, John Kerry stated, “We have to get back to the place we were, where terrorists are not the focus of our lives, but they’re a nuisance.” Though this statement was widely lampooned on right-leaning American media outlets, it is worth examining: swimming pools, and choking on one’s food, are more deadly, all things being equal, than terrorism. Yet terrorism produces a “conceptual helplessness,” in which, “We seem to be left with no good choices. To call what happened on September 11 evil appeared to join forces with those whose simple, demonic conceptions of evil often deliberately obscure more insidious forms of it. Not to call the murders evil appeared to relativize them, to engage in forms of calculation that make them understandable—and risked a first step toward making them justifiable.”

Continue reading →

David Pan on Upcoming Telos-Paul Piccone Institute Research Projects and Conferences

Speaking at the 2017 Telos Conference in New York, David Pan, Executive Director of the Telos-Paul Piccone Institute, discussed some of the Institute’s upcoming research projects and conferences, which will explore the topics of asymmetrical warfare and constitutional theory.

Continue reading →