Copyright Sociological Research Online, 1999


Mike Drake (1999) 'They Made a Desert and Called it Peace'
Sociological Research Online, vol. 4, no. 2, <>

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Received: 03/06/99      Accepted: 23/06/99      Published: 30/6/99


This paper addresses the social theorisation of war to the current conflict in the Balkans. It takes its terms of analysis from attempts to develop a sociology of war on the basis of the classic theories of Clausewitz and Jomini, from theories of postmodern war, from Baudrillard's commentary on the Gulf War, and from an extended critical application of recent work by Mary Kaldor on the new mode of warfare.
I seek to avoid the blackmail of for-or-against and its loaded ideological positions by undertaking analysis through an exposition of the techniques, rationalities, economies, and social relations of organized violence constituting the current condition of warfare. By working through the complexity of these factors, rather than constructing simple oppositions, the method of critical analysis employed here enables us to explain how and why it is that NATO has failed to engage its primary objectives. The paper is thus able to confront the question not of whether NATO should have intervened in Kosovo, but of whether its campaign did or even could intervene in any real sense.
The events in Kosovo are the contestation of war itself, and NATO's failure to recognise this has also been its failure to instrumentalise its violence in direct engagement with its military objectives, leading to circular self-justification in terms of achieving its own operational preconditions. The essay explores multiple dimensions of this misengagement, showing how the failure of NATO's air campaign to engage with the realities of ethnic cleansing illustrates the virtuality of its strategy and policy. The paper concludes by drawing some implications for contemporary projects of global order.

Civil Society; Cosmopolitanism; Ethnic Cleansing; Instrumentality; Legitimation; Military; Violence; Virtuality; War


This paper addresses the question of how and whether sociology can help us understand the debacle of Kosovo. It does not engage with ideological oppositions, but rather seeks to use approaches at our disposal to ask how we can understand the rationalities and imperatives by which the wars are being conducted and driven to the dual destruction of a society. Through a critical application of attempts to analyse the condition of warfare after the end of the Cold War, it further explores the unfolding situation beyond simple military-political goals of victory or capitulation, to consider the relation between legitimation and violence in new projects for a peaceful world order. To circumvent the information war, references to NATO's air campaign in Kosovo are drawn directly from transcripts of daily press briefings given by their spokesmen, and journalists' questions have not been used as data. This has the advantage for a critical analysis of the campaign that in these briefings, if anywhere, we would expect a maximal estimation of the effectiveness and coherence of the campaign in terms of its military and political objectives.

Virtual War?

One of the recent approaches in the analysis of war has focused on the way that information technology has been adopted by state and transnational military powers, transforming the conditions of instrumental violence. This transformation has been traced back beyond the 'Revolution in Military Affairs' pronounced by strategic theorists, into the advent of information technology and its logistics of perception in the world wars of the twentieth century (Gray 1997; Virilio 1990, 1994), or even collapse human history into an ironic narrative of the evolution of intelligent machines (De Landa 1991). Despite their implicit denial that the social provides a distinct standpoint from which we can critically evaluate the military-technical and the geopolitical, these approaches provided a pertinent critique of the Gulf War as an exercise in spectacular virtuality, in which the delivery of violence became a simulation even for those who operated the killing machines.

The death of the social, of course, has been most explicitly pronounced by Baudrillard, whose sensationally-titled essays nevertheless identified that, in the terms of conventional definitions which refer war to an underlying social reality, The Gulf War Did Not Take Place (Baudrillard 1995). Merrin's succinct defence of Baudrillard pointed out 'that war has entered a definitive crisis' (Merrin 1994) since the collapse of one side of the bipolar world order in which war had become defined by strategic theorists in terms of nuclear capabilities, and hence had become at once virtual (the Cold War) and impossible (mutually assured destruction, the MAD formula underlying nuclear deterrence).

The Gulf War did not fulfil the criteria of instrumental rationality in the modern Clausewitzian definition of war as the continuation of politics by other means, since it was characterised by the absence of politics, Baudrillard argued. With the end of the Cold War, it was no longer political ends that required legitimation, but the status, meaning and future of war itself. The Gulf War re-established the possibility of war and thus enabled a new deterrence in the ever-present (virtual) threat of military action underpinning Western domination in the New World Order, with the panoply of surveillance developed in the Cold War now constituting a virtual global hegemony, beyond geopolitics.

The Gulf War seen on TV was merely a spectacular commodity, made for consumption, a simulation of the virtual war that inexorably followed its meticulous pre-programming. The ritual enactment of this simulacrum problematised any critical standpoint, since acceptance of the war as real, as a real war, Baudrillard argued, conceded a real victory to those who produced and directed it. Engagement in realism simply legitimated the truth-claim of the hyperreal, the spectacle. As Merrin points out against Baudrillard's critics, 'Baudrillard did not deny the existence of the Gulf War or of the Iraqi losses, he simply argued that the invasion did not constitute a war,' (Merrin 1994: 443).

The Iraqis had expected to fight a conventional modern war, an exchange of violence between two sovereign bodies politic, but their conscripts were simply bulldozed in their trenches, buried alive in a logistical exercise. As Merrin puts it,

This is a new phase of Western war: war which is entirely one-sided; war without an enemy, without resistance and without Western casualties. War as a spectacular non-event; as the victory of its own model... (Merrin 1994: 451)

There was no war and there has been no peace. UN action continues to enforce the zone of displacement that Iraq has now become, removed from the world, mounting air strikes even during the present crisis in the Balkans.

Baudrillard's critique of the Gulf War operates at the level of a global semiotics, but others have focused on the tactical dimensions, offering insightful observations into the politico-technical rationality of the campaign and the changing conditions of the subject of violence. Thus, Shapiro contrasts the Clausewitzian subjectivity of sovereign, coherent subjects, individualised but depersonalised, modelled on participation in the duel, for which the enemy provided a test and war a strengthening, with that of the Gulf War, where,

In most senses... the objects of violence... were obscure and remote, both in that they were removed from sight and other human senses and that they emerged as appropriate targets through as tortuous signifying chain. More generally, they were remote in terms of the meanings they had for their attackers and the attackers' legitimating and logistical supporters. (Shapiro 1993: 126).

These analyses of what Virilio (1990) termed the 'logistics of perception' are widespread in critical observations on the Gulf War, but ultimately, Shapiro argues, the Gulf War was not about rationality in the means-ends sense, as Baudrillard supposes, but about the need to maintain a coherent subjectivity. Unable to divest itself of the Clausewitzian/Hegelian dependence on defining itself in contrast to an Other, the Western subject of civility and violence still needs barbarians, 'but their meaning derives from the concern with maintaining selfhood,' (Shapiro 1993: 134).

Sociology of Violence

This distantiation, displacement and virtualisation of violence brings us to the opposite polarity of the civilizing process from that mapped out by Elias in his depiction of the ubiquitous, unlimited, essential violence of embodiment in early medieval Europe at the turn of the first millennium (Elias 1994).The limitations of the historical development framework within which Elias cast his sociology of violence and civility becomes paradoxically clear in precisely the problematic from which he began his enquiries - the reappearance of barbarism in 20th-century Nazism. This limitation has become particularly apparent in attempts to use the insights of his historical sociology to conceptualise the wars of post-1989, following his analysis of the nascent-Nazi Freikorps (Elias 1988), as a 'decivilization' or 'rebarbarization' process (Fletcher 1997). Eliasian neo-Freudianism essentialises violence in the body, for which the evolving complexity of social interdependence provides a source of habituating constraints, disciplines and mechanisms of repression that constitute an always fraught civilization.

In contrast, the Clausewitzian model provides a framework for a sociological approach that traces the source of violence in national formations. This approach purports to be able to overcome the analytical macro/micro division between inter-societal (or inter-nation-state) processes, and the conventional intra-societal focus of sociology. In previous attempts to integrate these two dimensions through mainstream sociological and international relations frameworks, the one always appears as the context of the other, but Roxborough (1994) argues that Clausewitz' model succeeds where these fail because it integrates its factors at a conceptual level. The neo-Clausewitzian framework simply substitutes sociological analysis of the modern political system for Clausewitz' aristocratic or monarchical concept of government as the source of reason in a trinitarian schema, along with the two other elements of emotive national-popular passions and military contingency. War is thus the extension of policy, driven by passion and chance toward absolute violence, but ultimately subject to the reason generated by modern political systems.

Lawrence (1999) has more recently pointed out (after De Landa (1991)), that it was Jomini, not Clausewitz, who laid the basis for the strategic rationality of the Cold War era in which strategic imperatives identified by the expertise of the military profession displaced political ends. The Jominian vision of a military independent of history and politics, free to address its technical problems in its own terms, bears the project of a technological solution to geopolitics, first appreciated by the statesmen and general staffs of 19th-century imperialist powers, who foresaw the possibility of a balance of forces that would preclude politics in favour of strategic geopolitical manoeuvre and the competitive accumulation of military resources. This vision translated into the deterrence theory of the Cold War, for which the nuclear arms race and the virtual threat of war would be sufficient to maintain peace and provide a dynamic to technological development. The Reagan presidency's Star Wars project extended this to the prospect of victory without real war. Today, the Jominian legacy persists in strategic visions of the 'Revolution in Military Affairs', which see warfare as revolutionised by information technology (Kaldor 1999: 2-3).

Both the neo-Clausewitzian sociology of war proposed by Roxborough and the Jominian legacy which Lawrence traces utilise 'militarist' sources to develop potential concepts for immanent critique, in contrast to ideological anti-militarism which requires unconditional opposition to the use of organized violence and would effectively abdicate responsibility in relation to the recent events in Kosovo. Applied to NATO's campaign, they enable us to identify some of its internal contradictions as a split between these two legacies.

On the one hand, there is the representation and enactment, through rhetorical and spectacular air strikes, of an already-present, virtual NATO dominance given in the empiricist techno-political rationality of the military system's application to objectives determined in its own terms and capacities, in the tradition of Jominian doctrine, in which the military decide military objectives. On the other hand, and simultaneously, the NATO campaign made a Clausewitzian application of force to 'the will of the enemy', whether conceived in terms of a singular head of state or as a mass polity. Its rationality also seems to assume that defeat will democratise Serbia, but again this is conflated with the Jominian approach, since this projection begins from a derecognition of Serbian political opposition, only recognising Serbia as a contentious polity when 'public opinion' appeared a response to NATO bombing.

Central to the operations of the campaign and the policy projection of a new world order, is the way that we continue to map a distinction between violence and civility onto the analytical division of state and society. The breakdown of this dual dichotomisation has been explored by Bauman (1995) and Enzensberger (1994), who attempt to map out new spaces for practical ethics in the absence of modern certainties. Their attempts to grapple with the new conditions of violence, however, jump the gun in their assumption of the dissolution of ideologies, political structures, and social processes and relations.

New Conditions of Warfare in the Post Cold War Era

Rather than abandoning such staple terms of analysis, and in direct contrast to technologically determinist studies of the postmodern condition of war such as Gray (1997) and De Landa (1991), Kaldor (1999) has provided a lucid breakthrough in her attempt to conceptualise the new conditions of warfare in the post-Cold War era, referring them to specifiable processes of globalisation, new social relations and emergent structures of order, exclusion and inclusion, and new political divisions and forms of ideology. However, she conflates society with the normative concept of pacific civil society, requiring a global substitute for the state as repository of violence, and maintains the totalising singularity of analysis which carries over from her work on 'modes of warfare', two problems that have significant implications for the viability of her normative framework and are revealed by its application to the present war in the Balkans. Additionally, her analytical reduction of warfare to historically exclusive modes effectively relegitimises the forces of the old warfare against the violence of the new, but events in Kosovo graphically illustrate the inadequacy of reducing warfare to a singular model.

That situation is irreducible to simplistic oppositions and requires analysis in terms of the complex of rationalities involved. Thus, I shall utilise Kaldor's analysis of the new warfare along with the perspectives outlined above, to undertake a critique of the NATO campaign which does not require us to enter into the blackmail of for-or-against, with its loaded dice of ideological positions (Zizek 1999). My argument confronts the question not of whether NATO should have intervened, but of whether its air campaign did or even could intervene in a real sense.

Kaldor's normative framework is most intrusive in her contrast between the goals of the old and new wars. She invokes the commonplace of historical sociology that wars made the state and the state made wars (eg Tilly 1992), to link the old form of war with state formation, from early modern Europe through the wars of 19th-century nationalism to 20th-century national liberation movements. The integrity of war with the state also meant that wars in this period tended to occur along lines of ideological or territorial cleavage, with geopolitical or ideological goals. The value-order of old warfare, she argues, has today been supplanted by a new global political division between cosmopolitan, universalist multicultural values on the one hand, and particularist identity politics on the other, with the latter providing the goals for the new wars, while the former are pacific and emergent out of transnational institutions from above, and civil society from below.

In spatial terms, Kaldor argues that this new ideological divide should not be mapped onto either new social divisions in the global economy or onto geopolitical divisions. However, the fragmentary pattern she sketches is analogous to Lukes' (1995) concept of 'glocal' wild and tame zones (the equivalent of the economically devastated inner city and the gated suburban community respectively), while the social divisions correspond to those explored by Lash and Urry (1994). Her concept of a new ideological divide between cosmopolitan inclusivism and particularist exclusivism is thus undercut by the other dimensions in the same way that Marx showed the liberal fantasy of political equality in civil society under the state to be undermined by other, social (and more implicitly, spatial) divisions (Marx 1975). Kaldor thus neglects the socio-spatial source of the project of cosmopolitan democracy under a transnational substitute for the state, in the professional and informational service class of global capital. Political and economic exclusion cannot be subjected to the strict analytical separation that Kaldor assumes, and such separation in subjective reflexivity is, as Lash and Urry argue, a function of the structural condition of the new dominant class fraction.

However, we can use Kaldor's analysis independently of its normative presentation to develop a sociology of the present conditions of organized violence. Her contrast between different relations to technology in the two modes of warfare provides the insight that new wars make use of elements of technology, rather than being shaped by a technological totality, like the Jominian project. Elements such as light firearms reduce the need for military training and speed mobilization, while communications technology enhances the influence and participation of diaspora communities whose ex-patriate fantasies both redefine the situation and fuel and support conflict. The diasporic dimension additionally tends toward implacable conflict and depersonalization of the Other, since the expatriate is removed from everyday or immediate social relations with those who are to be excluded under the goals of the new particularistic ideology.

Counter-Insurgency and De-Territorialisation

Kaldor's analysis of the operations of the new warfare is most cogent, because its technical focus removes it from her normative ideological framework. She points out that the sources of the new warfare can be found primarily in techniques of counter-insurgency, though the rhetoric is often that of guerilla movements. In early press briefings on Kosovo, NATO SHAPE spokesman Major General Jertz recognised this character of the Serbian campaign several times, thus adding to the relativisation of operational definitions upon which the Serbs have drawn to legitimise their military operations and even to justify the mass displacement of populations as supporters of terrorists. Jertz' characterisation of these operations, however, also illustrates how NATO has critically mistaken the nature of its enemy and the process which the air campaigns were designed to halt. Kaldor describes how counter-insurgency differs radically from conventional warfare in its method of control. Where conventional forces are deployed to gain territorial control (and presumably bring territory under their rule of law), counter-insurgency takes the guerilla-warfare method of extension by political control, but controls by instilling fear and hatred.

This point is crucial to understanding the new warfare, and the sociological significance of such practices can be developed beyond Kaldor's analysis. Guerilla warfare already dispensed with the concept of territorial advance marking the edge of state control, by opening enclaves of liberation, rather than theatres of war, thus de-territorialising the state, developing the capacity to transfer its overt apparatus across a wide geographical range and even to establish clandestine administration in urban areas under enemy surveillance. This de-territorialisation was complemented by the absence, in guerilla movements, of structural divisions between state and society, and civil and military, though the ultimate aim was to substitute its own sovereign state rule over a unified territory.

However, counter-insurgency inverts guerilla practice again, by displacing populations rather than the state. Furthermore, its goal is not so much to instill a unity between state and society, as to reconstitute society in fear and vigilantism against the enemies of the state. Counter-insurgency can also make ruthless instrumental use of ethnic identities in order to facilitate the objectives of a putatively universalist state elite, thus problematising the boundary Kaldor wants to draw between cosmopolitanism and particularism. Counter-insurgency aims to unify through negative identities rather than positive associations, and it is here that the ready cross-over between counter-insurgency and ethnic cleansing appears, since policies developed against ideologically-oriented guerilla-movements already involved the expulsion or extermination of those with different beliefs, who constituted a threat to the community of fear. Kaldor points out that both counter-insurgency and the new wars tend to deploy violence primarily against civilians, rather than enemy military forces, but she uses the concept of 'the military' to invoke a strict abstraction of violence from society. While this may apply to counter-insurgency operations mounted by regular military forces, it is not so in the new warfare, which reconstitutes and mobilises communities-in-arms around ethnic identity, against erstwhile neighbours.

The link with counter-insurgency is useful in identifying sources and patterns of tactical development and in enabling us to understand the significance of military operational definitions and their relativization, but Kaldor's development of the link reinscribes it in terms of the conventional model of a structural military-civil division, and thus tends to focus on its practitioners as though they were somehow divorced from society. This produces the fatal illusion for the prospects of peace that the forces of violence always arrive from outside and impact upon an unequivocally innocent civil society, by reiterating the dichotomy of state-military violence and pacific civil society in situations where those structural distinctions have by definition broken down. By reimporting this aspect of the classical model of warfare into her normative evaluation of the new wars, Kaldor thus renders the task of practical peace-making which could be informed by her analysis all the more intractable when it is confronted with forces of violence embedded in society.

The Failure of NATO's Military Strategy

Crucially, Kaldor does point out the heterogeneity of the forces of violence of the new wars, a factor which NATO strategists are peculiarly unable or unwilling to build into their response in the Balkans. The targeting criteria of the present air campaign recognises only a military system in its own image, selecting only targets that can be legitimated in its model of how war is conducted and can be 'identified' by categories of perception that are almost constitutive of the (post)modern military system itself. It is this critical factor which has rendered the air campaign so impotent in terms of its own military objectives. In the press briefings, NATO admits it is unable to 'identify' paramilitaries and local police in the targeting process upon which its tactics, strategy and even legitimacy are based. NATO is thus forced to continually insist on the operations of a model of ethnic cleansing derived directly from its own virtual exercises, in which the operation is dependent upon a regular army (which can be readily identified) and military-industrial and informational support systems, even though NATO's own account of the history of Serb policy in the region (the regular army was a late arrival, well after the policy of mass terrorisation and expulsions had begun, and was reluctant to undertake counter-insurgency operations) and the reports of many refugees, both suggest a very different procedure, with the primary role being played by local policemen and paramilitaries, in a sporadic and arbitrary, rather than systematic and territorial pattern.

Kaldor's analysis of this new mode of warfare and its organization of violence illustrates the failure of NATO's military strategy, plan and tactics to translate into even its military objectives (to degrade the forces responsible for ethnic cleansing), much less its political aim to actually end the regime of fear in Kosovo. The heterogenous forces of the new wars, according to Kaldor, may comprise units of regular armies, but also paramilitaries, warlords, criminal gangs, police forces, mercenaries, all able to live off the people and resources that they de-territorialise. NATO strategy and tactics, however, fail to comprehend the local partisan police officer who sleeps at home, with rifle and boxes of ammunition in the cellar below, or the weekend paramilitaries of the Bosnian war, mobilized through cafes, sports clubs, and other voluntary associations of (civil) society. Far from dependence on the regular army, Kaldor's evidence shows how such paramilitaries controlled the regular army forces in their area during the Bosnian war. She points out how the new wars have become self-funding, with an economy that tends toward the spread of violence, by extortion, plunder, domestic black market operations, and international involvement in illegal trade networks. Kosovo is a small country, small enough to simply walk from village to village, living by plunder of the dispossessed. Extensive systemic military support is not a necessary condition for ethnic cleansing, only for resistance to another military system.

NATO is utterly unable to comprehend the de-territorialising tactics of ethnic cleansing operations, and (in a peculiar inversion of the Gulf War) reads signs of its own effectiveness in the dispersal of Yugoslav army 'battle groups' and the reversal of 'advance' of police columns, while the realities of ethnic cleansing are localised, and its terror is increased by the apparent randomness that left some Pristina housing estates untouched while others were rigorously 'cleansed'. Again, NATO air strikes prioritised, after the model of its own technopolitical system, the means of command and control. Kaldor, however, points out that the new warfare is characteristically decentralized, often radically so, and tends to make use of relatively discrete elements of new technology, such as landmines and small arms, rather than the total systems which constitute the targets of NATO's campaign.

Air strikes most regularly targeted the Yugoslav air defence system, from Day One without remit, but NATO admitted its planes did not routinely fly below low cloud cover over Kosovo and Serbia (as would be necessary to directly address ethnic cleansing forces) because of their vulnerability to the shoulder-held anti-aircraft missile launchers which are widespread equipment throughout the Yugoslav forces. This fear of loss of pilots (and perhaps equipment) appears at the highest point of development of an historical process of military professionalization that marked the very emergence of a distinction between military and civil society under the state in early modern Europe (Feld 1975).

Two tendencies complement each other to render the safety of pilots paramount. On the one hand, for a military organization that has increased its 'productive' capacities in relation to the numbers employed, the trained pilot represents too great an investment to be risked. This tendency complements the Clausewitzian military-political model built into the modern military's own understanding of its relation to mass polities and political authority, wherein its legitimacy in domestic public opinion can be measured in terms of its success in avoiding casualties. As citizenship becomes increasingly divorced from even the prospect of military service (Shaw 1991), so the embodied investments of military professionalization become a public value, not simply in economic terms, but also and more significantly as depersonalized representatives in the spectacular media arena of war. The military is, for instance, increasingly aware of its need to sell itself in the marketplace of images and its self-representation becomes far more important than public perceptions of the tasks it actually performs. The heroism of combat has thus become primarily a risk assessment and avoidance exercise, with responsibility for the immense value of the equipment and its personnel an integral dimension of task performance, driving research, development and publicity ever further from primary tactical functions. Indeed, for the postmodern theory of war, task performance has become safe delivery of the spectacle in the virtual environment, all the way onto the TV screen.

Imperative risk assessment and avoidance restructures not just the operations of pilots and technology, but strategic thinking itself. The origination, discourse and design of the NATO air campaign provides a prime example of how inflationary risk assessment escalates into virtuality, since despite the acknowledged incapacity to directly engage with its military objectives, the campaign was still measured as successful in terms of air superiority. Rather than the displacement of political ends by military means, in the prior condition of air superiority (even though this does not facilitate effectiveness in terms of primary objectives), instrumental military objectives are displaced by a military precondition of risk avoidance that is itself deferred indefinitely by the factor of enemy tactical weaponry which NATO was already aware of. Without dismissing this cumulative displacement as an effect of gross strategic ineptitude, it can only be seen as a further example of the way that the campaign from its very inception shaded off into virtuality, a shading which is deepened by the information that in addition to the threat of non-systemic weaponry, the planes are also hampered by poor weather and unsuitable terrain. Such vulnerability affirms of Kaldor's earlier critique of the 'baroque technology' of the modern military arsenal, but provides a still more telling illustration (again, if not of crass stupidity) of the campaign's planning in a more favoured virtual environment, planning that produced a virtual war with its own criteria of success in the purely virtual terms of the plan itself, and that is able to disregard actual effects because it mistakes the virtual for the virtuous, virtuality for virtuosity. This is borne out in the identity in NATO's strategic thought of Jominian technopolitics, its Clausewitzian political-military mediation, and a reified notion of legitimacy, an a priori moral right that precludes any need to acknowledge processes of legitimation. These conflations are particularly apparent in the imperatives that drive NATO onward in its operations in the dimension of virtuality even when they are manifestly failing to achieve effects in any real sense.


In the daily litany of the press briefings, NATO legitimised its campaign in terms of the continuing floods of refugees and ongoing Serbian ethnic cleansing operations in Kosovo, while at the same time pronouncing its success in air strikes against the Yugoslav air defence system and the military system's capacity to undertake conventional war operations, as against NATO itself. Clausewitzian and Jominian military rationalities compound each other here, since the manifest failure of the campaign to engage its military-political objectives is also its ongoing strategic legitimation, while its incapacity to realise the operational conditions of tactical air security provide an ongoing self-legitimation for that non-engagement. Its very ineffectiveness in achieving its political aims, military objectives and even the tactical conditions of engagement, however, are transformed into an imperative continuation of the campaign by its conflation of these rationalities; in its obligation to be successful (moral imperative), that it can't afford to lose (strategic imperative), and that too much has been invested to settle for less (an economic imperative). NATO spokesmen are left to fall back upon the assertion that the air campaign is working simply because it is continuing, a collapse into virtuality that is affirmed in the virtual geography of an extended mission, to make the stability of south-east Europe part of the trans-Atlantic agenda.

Precisely the same conflations of the technical, the political, the moral and the virtual constitute the performative contradictions of the normative project which frames Kaldor's objective analysis of the new wars. This problematic encounter of postmodern war with new war opens an enormous vacuum in the cosmopolitan argument for a global regime of human rights, most notably in the prior condition it sets for humanitarian intervention into particularist conflicts: the reconstitution of control of organized violence by a public authority. Kaldor looks to transnational institutions, such as an expanded 'umbrella' NATO, to act as substitute for the state in a role of global law-enforcement, a role necessary to ensure translation into reality of the normative distinction that renders society 'civil'. Kant's notion of 'Perpetual Peace' between self-governing republican civil societies, in which cosmopolitan right is restricted to the condition of universal hospitality (Kant 1957, Caygill 1995) is thus over-extended into a global projection of enlightened absolutism as the condition of a right to security.

Furthermore, the conflation of moral, political and technical imperatives also projects itself onto the objects and subjects of security, with possibly disastrous results. Enzensberger (1994) has sketched the possibility of 'autistic violence', alienated from all codes of exchange or communication, a pure destruction which is no longer even instrumental because it has no sense of self. In the NATO campaign's virtual derecognition of all acts and codes which do not affirm its own criteria, the bombing campaign has ceased to act as a means of communication or an exchange of violence, but appears in this senseless form, and its destruction of the infrastructure of civilization has the real effect of producing the social conditions for such alienated and self-enclosed subjectivity. The projection of its moral order onto the subjects of security, the Albanian Kosovars, holds open the very real possibility of what Michael Ignatieff (1998) has termed 'moral disgust' if the reconstruction of society under the NATO state-substitute does not, in fact, correspond to the virtual order of cosmopolitan thinking and translate into civil society.

The assumption of a restoration to reason which will correspond to these virtual imperative determinations rests upon a priori legitimacy in the abstraction of a purely instrumental violence onto the state-substitute. However, the debacle over Kosovo shows that it is not only Milosevic, Arkan and the other killers of the new wars who undercut this, but the transnational military force of NATO, operating in their virtual techno-political environment, which despite rigorously pursuing political ends through carefully controlled and precisely calibrated military means, nonetheless fails the other criteria of this formula, that of instrumentalizing its violence. However well controlled, however publicly accountable its image-creation, NATO cannot reconstitute legitimacy if it cannot organize its violence coherently, but will have real effects as a force of destabilisation and de-legitimisation.

Critical analysis of the war in the terms used here shows that it cannot do otherwise, because what we see unfolding in Serbian ethnic cleansing and NATO's air campaign is not a contest of cosmopolitanism versus particularism, but the contention of war itself. However, where in Baudrillard's critique, the reassertion of war in virtuality was still instrumental, to underpin Western dominance in the new world order, the conflict in Kosovo is over the nature of war in an objective sense, despite and quite independent of any strategies either derived from or attributable to the protagonists. Far from resulting in the mutual destruction of all contending parties, the conflict is tending toward the delegitimation of all contending forces along with their destruction of the means of society and civilization. As NATO ground forces roll into Kosovo, ethnic cleansing continues under the barrels of their guns.

The concept of extra-constitutional legitimacy assumed by NATO derives from imperial Rome and its forceful imposition of the cosmopolitan pax Romana upon barbarians as the condition of universal security. The last word on Kosovo may tragically echo the formula that Tacitus, a militant advocate of this policy, put into the mouth of a barbarian chieftain to show how little they appreciated what Rome had delivered to them: 'They create a desert and they call it peace,' (Tacitus, quoted in Woolf 1993: 181).


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