Operation Desert Peace
Is the Iraq war an historical mission?
By Wolfgang Sutzl
[This article originally published in the "Standard" (Vienna), February 3, 2003 and in the cyber journal Telepolis, February 5, 2003 is translated from the German on the World Wide Web, http://www.telepolis.de/deutsch/inhalt/mein/14124/1.html.]
History is instrumentalized as in the Iraq appeal of the states of the "new Europe". In the course of the formation of a new world order, a permanent paradoxical statement seems established in which the difference between "war" and "peace" becomes invalid.
On first view, the appeal (1) of eight European heads of state urging "unity and cohesion" against Iraq appears as a heterogeneous group of states, Nato's model students with hastening obedience. [The Axis of the New Europe constitutes itself (2)] The Bush administration gained a diplomatic coup, according to the first commentaries, and a formidable victory on the battlefield of the Info-war.
However the appeal is a revealing example how a spin is produced beyond moral and legal criteria that renders superfluous questions about the legitimacy of a military intervention by subordinating them to meta-historical connections and thus shriveling them to a non-essential triviality.
Insistence on legitimate process then appears as deafness toward the call of world history. If one follows the appeal's diction, the attack on Iraq is an historical mission making all hesitating and questioning impermissible. Thunder rolls through the alines of the appeal: democracy, freedom, human rights and the rule of law are "threatened as never before". The "transatlantic bond" as a guarantor of these achievements was "never more important than today".
Questions become superfluous
In summarizing the 20th century, the historical missions of liberation against Nazi tyranny and communism were emphasized in the appeal. As a result, preserving unity and cohesion is commanded "more than ever in the modern world". "Single-minded determination" is required for preserving "world peace" even through war.
With so much historical thrust, no one needs to ask any more about the presuppositions that actually justify a military intervention. In this situation, no room exists any more for lack of cohesion and unity. Questioning, in contrast to commanding, is annulled or suspended in the legitimation process.
The level of this process characterizes a state described by the philosopher Giorgio Agamben as a "state of emergency" in which all sovereignty passes over to the police. Not by chanced the emphasis was again and again on police operations in the new interventionism, official acts of the superpower.
In the course of the formation of a new world order, this state of emergency seems to establish itself as a permanent paradoxical condition in which the difference between "war" and "peace" becomes invalid since both terms merge in the technical spectacle of "security": a kind of cold peace based on the constant possibility of war. To be consistent, the appeal emphasized "peace and security" while arguing for the necessity of war.
Primacy of Technology
"The" war is stressed, not a "possible" war against Iraq. However "the war" has already begun and takes place in peace. "Your war kills", writes Bertolt Brecht, "what your peace left behind."
The appeal's argument for peace as security is an implicit argument for war. War is postulated as an instrument of peace. This is possible when the moral criterion of justice passes into the technical criterion of precision in the state of emergency and the democratic criterion of open debate is replaced by the tactical criteria of speed and cunning.
The justification of war already occurs within the police-military logic of the state of emergency and can quickly and smoothly be brought into position like a gun. The military idea of unity is set over the democratic idea of discussion.
The present is more than the result of past wars (more exactly: victories) that are not accessible to human questioning any more. With every war, violence becomes more self-evident, more difficult to see and identify and harder to distinguish from what normally happens.
With every new war, arguing for peace without being held as mad or irresponsible becomes more problematic. People will be destroyed. Those foundations will be devastated that make possible conceiving or making politics as something other than security.
Perhaps the name "Desert Peace" will be offered for a possible intervention after "Desert Shield" and "Desert Storm".