Patrice Riemens on Wed, 17 Oct 2001 21:50:41 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> Paul Virilio on NYC911: A Crash of Strategic Thought?

Bwo John Armitage and the Cyber-Society list. 

A Crash of StrategicThought?

Paul Virilio

An essayist who has written a lot about war, diagnoses a completely novel
form of conflict.

The massive destruction of September 11
has taxed the term "war". Is that an obvious
fact to you?

Absolutely. The great terrorism which is beginning
doesn't have anything to do with the small
terrorism of the 20th century. On September 11,
2001 we entered in historic fashion onto a form
of war at once worldwide and "accidental ".
Clausewitz qualified as "substantial" war as the
continuation of politics by other means. But he
also noticed, regarding Napoleon in Spain, that
"substantial" war could decompose, fall apart,
stop pursuing its political objectives and become
a sort of frenzy impossible to put down. That
latter form was "accidental" war, and civil wars
constitute a known form. But that which has just
begun is without reference. Up to now
"accidental" war was local, not global. We are
involved despite ourselves in a new form of war
that we must learn as like a foreign language.

Must the United States then revise their
strategic choices?

One can say that we have just witnessed two
crashes. That of the net-economy in 2000. And
that of the net-strategy of the Pentagon in 2001.

All the strategies elaborated until now,
information war, aero-orbital war which we saw
in Kosovo or the antimissile shield, all this has just
been swept away by a large-scale terrorist action
which caused twice as many victims as the air
armada which destroyed Pearl Harbor. We are
before a logic which does not have anything to do
with traditional militaro-strategic thought. As an
urbanist, I will underline that terrorism has just
inaugurated an anti-cities strategy. This means
that all towers are today threatened. Instead of
being a place of dominion, as the dungeons of the
past, the tower has become a place of weakness:
vertically, it is henceforth the equivalent of the
outer wall which the artillery blew up.

Can such a war be won?

That's the whole question. It would need a
political invention as great as the threat. But Bush
is not Churchill. And neither is Sharon . For the
moment, it is necessary to defend ourselves, in
particular at the level of cities: it is too early to
consider the offensive. I especially distrust the
reactions which it is going to arouse. My main
fear, is that all this degenerates into a religious
war impossible to master. As was said when I
was young, one must start by turning the tongue in
the mouth seven times. Because the tongue of
war is the tongue of a viper.

Original in French from the Swiss weekly
magazine 'L'Hebdo'."

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