What's in a War? (Politics as War, War as Politics)

TitleWhat's in a War? (Politics as War, War as Politics)
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2008
AuthorsBalibar, E
JournalRatio Juris

Abstract. {}This paper combines reflections on the current "state of war" in the Middle East with an epistemological discussion of the meaning and implications of the category "war" itself, in order to dissipate the confusions arising from the idea of a "War on Terror." The first part illustrates the insufficiency of the ideal type involved in dichotomies which are implicit in the naming and classifications of wars. They point nevertheless to a deeper problem which concerns the antinomic character of a collective institution of violence. The second part discusses the extent to which, in spite of the historical transformations in the means and political objectives of wars, the contemporary confrontation still obeys the rules of warfare described by Clausewitz, particularly with respect to temporality ("friction"). The third part discusses "non-clausewitzian" aspects of the "new wars" defined by Martin Van Creveld and Mary Kaldor, while suggesting that they have left aside the most salient contradiction illustrated by the US interventions, which results from the combination of a claim to universal sovereignty and a reduction of war to generalized police operations.