Martin Shaw, ‘Genocide in the Global Age’, in Bryan S. Wilson, ed., The Routledge Handbook of Globalisation Studies, London: Routledge, 2009, pp. 312-27.
Archive for December, 2009
OK, so I’ve just completed another round of posting of old material. Honestly, it’s the last. Now all my online reviews since 1999 are searchable in this blog, using the categories ‘reviews’, ‘genocide reviews’ and ‘war reviews’.
There’s some good material in them, but from now on, I promise, it will be new writing.
Tags: Falk, Rosenau
Richard Falk On Humane Governance: Towards a New Global Politics
Cambridge: Polity, 1995, xvi + 288 pp
James N Rosenau and Mary Durfee, Thinking Theory Thoroughly: Coherent Approaches to an Incoherent World
Oxford: Westview, 1995, xiv + 218 pp
from Millennium 1996
Each of these books is a cooperative effort, rather unusual in form, primarily authored by a major critical theorist of global politics. On Humane Governance is the report of the Global Civilization programme of the World Order Models Project, an international enquiry originating in the Gorbachev era. Its ideas are the product of a committee but have been fashioned into a coherent statement by Falk. Thinking Theory Thoroughly is a textbook, cowritten with a teacher and a class of first-year undergraduates at the University of Dayton, based on Rosenau’s Turbulence in World Politics which was published in 1990 at the beginning of the new era.
Both works express, therefore, ideas originating in the late 1980s but refashioned in the mid-1990s. Thinking Theory is a refreshingly direct text, with excellent summaries and comparisons of realism and Rosenau’s own ‘postinternationalism’ or ‘turbulence’ paradigm, tested against the politics of the Antarctic, the condition of the United Nations and crises such as Cuba (1961) and Tiananmen Square. It offers undergraduates good advice on how to approach theory, but most teachers will find it limited because it fails to go beyond ‘turbulence’ as an alternative to realism.
The presentation of Rosenau’s case in simple textbook form makes it clear how much Turbulence was a transitional work, exciting in its time but less adequate even half a decade later when the contours of the new era are becoming clearer. As presented here, postinternationalism is more suggestive of an alternative than anything like a formed position. The notion of a ‘bifurcation of world politics into state- and multi-centric worlds’ seems to allow realism too much continuing purchase, and hardly delineates the interpenetration of state, corporate and civil-society politics in an emerging global society. On this evidence, Rosenau’s position is weak on the globalist concepts which are emerging as the most powerful alternative to traditional state-centric international theory.
If we are looking not just for a critique but for a conceptual and normative alternative, Falk has more to offer. On Humane Governance is informed by one of the most fully formed and morally powerful globalist conceptions available today. For Falk state-centric has given way to capital-driven geopolitics, still ‘from above’, and ‘the probable world of the early twenty-first century will be a variant of geogovernance that is appropriately regarded as “inhumane governance”‘. This report is an analysis of the many forms this is taking and an argument for an alternative ‘humane governance’, primarily but not exclusively or romantically ‘from below’. This will involve the ‘dramatic growth’ of transnational democracy and global civil society.
Falk’s strength is his conceptual and political clarity, which mostly shines through although the book is over-burdened with secondary issues and examples which, presumably, his committee left the author obliged to mention. There are few better expositions of the case that globalization and geogovernance, as such, are neither good or bad and what matters is the forms which these take. The report makes a sustained attack on the dominant military, political, social and economic forms of the new market-based global order, arguing correctly that a great opportunity to move in radically better directions was missed at the beginning of the current decade. Despite this setback, Falk formulates a ‘politics of bounded conviction’ which argues the possibility of a different kind of world future.
As a statement of optimism informed by a sharp recognition of realities it can hardly be bettered. I have however three sorts of reservations, all partly related to the book’s ‘report’ format. One is that in trying to cover everything it sometimes appears superficial and schematic. The second is that it uses language like ‘global apartheid’ and ‘North and South’ which oversimplify realities which Falk recognises to be complex. The third and most serious is that some of the key theoretical ideas are not fully worked out. The most important of these is the relation between state and governance at the world level. Similarly to Rosenau, Falk sees the state and states-system as being ‘gradually displaced’ by non-state forms of governance. He fails to recognise clearly the globalization of state power which represents the pooling as well as the subversion of sovereignty. We have not merely new forms of authority, as suggested by the ‘governance’ concept, but new forms of state in the political-military sense. Like the realists whom they criticise, both of these writers implicitly accept the equation of state with a system of nation-states. They don’t ask whether in a developing global society (the significance of which is demonstrated empirically rather than explored theoretically) new state forms may be coming into existence.
Falk therefore overstates the extent to which the new ‘governance’ is market- rather than state-centred. Humane governance will have to tame the emerging global state – the Western state backed by the legitimation framework of the UN – and recognising this theoretically would sharpen still further the case Falk presents. Nevertheless, On Humane Governance is an extraordinarily wide-ranging and systematic review of current dilemmas and the best current statement of radical globalism, which everyone should read.
Jan Aart Scholte, Globalization: A Critical Introduction
London: Macmillan 2000. ISBN 0-333-66022-6
Draft of a review for Millennium: Journal of International Studies
Do we need another book on globalization? Jan Aart Scholte is modest enough to pose this question, but his text is a plausible riposte. What we get in here is the most accessible textbook yet produced – as theoretically sophisticated as the recent Global Transformations of David Held and his collaborators, but single-authored, lighter on data and designed for undergraduate use. Scholte also writes clearly, so that this book can be recommended to students with confidence that here is a coherent view of globalization that can be tested against other arguments and information.
The kind of globalization theory informs this text acknowledges continuities as well as change, complex causation rather than singular driving forces, negative as well as positive aspects, and the need for radical policy alternatives if the ills associated with neoliberal globalization are to overcome. In terms of Held et al.‘s three-way classification of the debate, this book appears neither global-enthusiast nor global-sceptic, but global-transformationist.
If these are the camps, this reviewer finds himself in the same corner, but there are still serious problems with the account here. The careful way in which Scholte qualifies the simpler views of globalization enables us to perceive deeper weaknesses, once the hyperbole of earlier writers is stripped away. These weaknesses are not, as global-sceptics of many varieties suggest, because of an overestimation of contemporary changes in general. Rather they arise from insufficiently radical definitions of the global and a misidentification of the primary sources of change.
As an introductory text, this book offers a critique of globalization itself rather than of ideas about it. This makes for some difficulties in locating Scholte in the theoretical discourse but it also simplifies the critical task. The author commits himself to one-sentence ‘core theses’ on which more complex arguments are built, but these theses are unsure foundations.
The problems start with definition. Globalization has been widely grasped in spatial (or time-spatial) terms and Scholte presents a strong version of this position. For him globalization is ‘a transformation of social geography marked by the growth of supraterritorial spaces’ – although he simultaneously recognizes that ‘territoriality and supraterritoriality coexist in complex interrelations.’ This mistakes a change in the content of social relations for one of their spatial form, a question of sociology for one of geography. It misses the maximum sense of the global: the recognition of human commonality on a worldwide scale, in the double sense that the world framework is increasingly constitutive of society, and of emergent common values. It is not that supraterritorial spaces are growing more important, but that both territorial and supraterritorial spaces – more fundamentally national-international as well as supranational-transnational relations – are both globalized in this double sense.
If we identify global change in this way, we may also be more hesitant to use ‘globalization’ as a term, with its connotations of mechanical, inevitable process; there was reason for Held et al. to prefer ‘global transformations’. And this leads us to questions of causation and periodization. Scholte argues for ‘multifaceted causal dynamics, with the principal spurs having come from rationalist knowledge, capitalist production, various technological innovations and certain regulatory measures.’ Yet rationalisation, capitalism and technological change are all fundamental phenomena of modernity. These spurs to globality are centuries old, at least, and all that is distinctive about them in the current period is, as Scholte puts it, ‘unprecedented speeds’ and ‘unprecedented extents’.
The joker in this historical pack is political change and state organization. Here Scholte argues both that, as conventional wisdom has it, globalization (arising primarily from rationalisation, capitalism and technology) ‘has prompted important changes to certain aspects of … the state’ and that, at the same time, political change is part of what constitutes globality. To the extent that the latter is proposed, political change is primarily identified, however, with ‘the growth of additional loci of governance besides the state’. (Emphases added.)
This seems, like the majority of both globalization and global-sceptic literatures, to mask the central political dynamics of twentieth-century world change. The big changes in the century were not in the mode of production, markets and technologies, or even in international regulation. In all these senses the situation in 2000 was very much a continuation, albeit with phenomenal growth, of trends established in 1900. The areas of real structural transformation were in politics and state organization. Through wars and revolutions, huge upheavals changed the context in which economy, technology and culture were mobilized. Rival world empires were displaced as pivotal organizations of power by a single Western-global conglomerate. Monarchical, authoritarian and totalitarian rule gave way, increasingly if problematically, to political democracy. In the core at least, virulent nationalisms increasingly gave way to internationalization.
One looks in vain, in Scholte as in most globalization literature, for a real sense that these dynamics were significant, even principal ‘spurs’ to historical change in general and the ‘global’ in particular. War is discussed primarily in terms of how it is affected by, not how it might have caused, global change. Revolution, genocide and the Holocaust are not even in the (very thorough) index. In the end, Scholte’s book is the best available version of the globalization paradigm. But that paradigm is deeply flawed, and not in the way that its traditionalist critics have proposed.
The political meaning of global change
- Peter Dicken. GLOBAL SHIFT: TRANSFORMING THE WORLD ECONOMY. Third edition. New York: Guilford Press, 1998. xvi + 496pp. paper
- Zygmunt Bauman. GLOBALIZATION: THE HUMAN CONSEQUENCES. New York: Columbia University Press, 1998. 138 pp. $24.50 hardcover.
- Wolfgang H. Reinecke. GLOBAL PUBLIC POLICY: GOVERNING WITHOUT GOVERNMENT? Washington DC: Brookings, 1998. $42.95 hardcover.
- Bob Deacon with Michelle Hulse and Paul Stubbs. GLOBAL SOCIAL POLICY: INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATIONS AND THE FUTURE OF WELFARE. London: Sage, 1997. xiii+252pp. paper
At the beginning of the twenty-first century, we are frequently told that we are in the midst of ineluctable processes of ‘globalization’ – resulting primarily from technical changes in means of communication. Even the social-scientific community has for the most part accepted the myth of globalization as a techno-economic phenomenon devoid of conscious political meaning. For some, it is enough to map the patterns which globalization produces – for others, there is a challenge which calls for intellectual, political and policy responses of various orders. In this review I shall first observe the perameters of the debate in these four partly complementary, partly contrasting studies, then demonstrate the limits of the shared historical paradigm which informs the debate, and suggest how we need to enlarge our ‘global’ political imagination.
The reissue of Dickens’ Global Shift is timely, since in this now-established text of economic geography we find the simplest – although in its own terms sophisticated – expression of the paradigm. For Dickens, as the term ‘shift’ suggests, there simply a multi-dimensional movement in the patterns of economic activity, from predominantly national to international, transnational and global levels – all still territorially based – which are complexly described and analysed. States and international organizations appear as economic actors or as frameworks of economic action. The life-problems of individual human beings figure marginally only (in the penultimate chapter) in terms of the consequences of the myriad shifts for their employment and incomes. Global governance is a brief afterthought, in a very short concluding chapter.
In Bauman’s Globalization, as we would expect from this critical philosopher-sociologist, the style and content are worlds apart. For him, the task is to find the meaning of ‘time/space compression’ – the term with which (like Anthony Giddens) he encapsulates the multiple shifts which Dickens describes. In a somewhat disparate series of discursive essays, Bauman sees the problem of globalization as one of new speed and flux, which divides humanity between the haves and have-nots of cyberspace. ‘[R]ather than homogenizing the human condition,’ he avers, ‘the technological annulment of temporal-spatial distances tends to polarize it.’ Elites have ‘chosen’ cybernetic isolation, but the rest of the population are ‘cut off’ and ‘forced to pay the heavy cultural, pyschological and political price of their new isolation.’ New global media are not truly interactive, but privilege a small global elite, while the many use media only to watch the ‘celebrities’ of this elite, celebrating their lifestyle.
In globalized politics, according to Bauman, nothing is left of the older ‘universalizing’ discourse which ‘declared an intention to make similar the life-conditions of everyone and everywhere, and so everybody’s life-chances; perhaps even make them equal.’ Globalization refers ‘primarily to the global effects, notoriously unintended and unanticipated, rather than to global initiatives and undertakings.’ It ‘is not about what we all, or at least the most resourceful and enterprising among us, wish or hope to do. It is about what is happening to us all.’ We live in a ‘man-made wilderness’, not least because of ‘the growing experience of weakness, indeed of impotence, of the habitual, taken-for-granted ordering agencies’ – above all the state, of whose sovereignty all three main supports (military, economic and cultural self-sufficiency) have ‘been broken beyond repair’.
Bauman’s concern is overwhelmingly with the human meaning which Dickens’ essentially technical account of globalization leaves out. He assumes, however, a similar definition of globalization as technologically-driven economic change, and his account is even simpler than Dickens’, to the point of being simplistic. Bauman’s pessimistic cultural critique leaves little room for agency, and this is because he sees both state and public sphere as deeply compromised by globalization. The other authors under consideration, although largely sharing the definition of globalization with Dickens and Bauman, make more serious attempts to define the possibilities of political action to deal with its consequences.
Reinecke, like Dickens, sees globalization as ‘for the most part a corporate-level phenomenon’, and similarly to Bauman argues that both the ‘external’ and ‘internal’ dimensions of sovereignty lose significance in consequence. However Reinecke sees the possibility for states to go beyond both defensive nationalism and competitive interventionism, to develop ‘global public policy’ – although he hastens to add that ‘this does not imply the formation of a global government – an unrealistic and impractical solution’. Reinecke then provides studies of emerging global policy in three areas – financial markets, transnational crime and dual-use (civilian-military) goods. Answering the question of his provocative subtitle, he concludes that ‘for the foreseeable future governments will remain the core constituent elements of global governance’, but together with the ‘active cooperation of non-state actors’. Global public policy – detached from the territorial basis of the nation-state – is necessary, he argues, to prevent governments falling back on defensive or purely competitive strategies due to the collapse of internal sovereignty. Reinecke acknowledges, however, that global public policy-making could exacerbate the ‘democratic deficit’, unless it is accompanied by (unspecified) new democratic forms beyond the nation-state.
Reinecke also acknowledges (in passing) the worsening inequalities of our globalizing world, and the need for transfers to the developing world to offset these. In this sense his global public policy overlaps with the global social policy advocated by Deacon, Hulse and Stubbs. Their book, in part a case for the globalization of social policy – a policy and social-science field which has been less affected than others by globalization debate – is also a case for the socialization of global politics. Although one might think that global social policy, in a sense which seriously addresses the gross worldwide differences of income and wealth, is a utopian idea, Deacon and his co-authors show how social policy of various kinds is actually embedded in many kinds of international organizations’ policy-making and practice. Their book, although rather inelegantly written and constructed, is important for its dual agenda-setting as well as for much detailed analysis, both comparatively between national contexts and concerning international organizations.
Both Reinecke and Deacon offer bases for a riposte to the mechanical presentation of globalizing processes by Dicken and the matching pessimism of Bauman. While Reinecke presents global public policy as a response to economically-defined globalization, Deacon (although not clearly defining the latter) appears to see global politics and social policy as themselves parts of globalizing processes. This raises a critical point: whether the conceptualisations of ‘global’ change as ‘globalization’, and the latter as technologically-led economic and cultural change, are adequate. There are, indeed, grounds for questioning the entire way in which the debate is framed in these books as in the majority of the literature.
Three major issues should be raised. First, like most of the literature, none of these books ask at all about the meaning of ‘global’ in globalization. The term is used to equate to ‘worldwide’, in the sense of the growth and intensification of linkages between actors across the world. Little attempt is made to discover whether it has any meaning beyond this largely technical, spatial or space-time sense. And yet it is surely the case that the importance of ‘global’ understanding is connected to the sense of commonality in human relations. Even its original meaning, the understanding of the world as a sphere, was imbued with a new consciousness of the common environment of humankind, a consciousness which has greatly grown in recent decades. However, the understanding of the global has increasingly carried with it the sense of a common human society which involves more than mere technical linkages. Increasingly, the global is seen to involve a new social condition, ‘globality’.
The global in this sense is not in a relation of opposition to universality, as Bauman (like many radical critics) supposes. On the contrary, the liberal (and before that Christian) universalism of Western civilization, which has existed in tension with a rigidly stratified nation-state system for the last three centuries, was in many ways an anticipation of globality. Universalism appeared as abstract, necessarily in tension with empirical reality, because it was always at least potentially opposed to the increasingly rigid political constitution of a world of nation-states. In the nation, universals had always to be reconciled with – if not subordinated to – particular interests and values. In weakening the absolutism of national-particularist ideas, global change releases the potential of the old universalism and offers new possibilities of grounding universals in common, worldwide social relations. Globalism means, as Deacon shows, that ideas like social justice can now be thought practically in common, worldwide terms, even if many social and political institutions remain formidable obstacles to realising such values.
This failure to define ‘global’, which means in reality that globalizers and global-sceptics alike ascribe it a very narrow meaning, is linked to the second problem of the discourse. The idea of ‘globalization’ represents a very shallow understanding of the great historical changes which global change involves. The deficiency of this historical understanding can be seen in the mechanical quality which (Bauman rightly points out) is generally understood to belong to globalization. It can also be seen in the relegation of agency in general and politics in particular which is involved in both supportive and critical accounts of globalization. Politics is seen as, at worst, epiphenomenal or denied by (Bauman) or, at best, a mode of response to (Reinecke) social and cultural changes which are fundamentally technically and economically driven.
This understanding takes the sets of changes called ‘globalization’ out of the context of the broader historical processes – in which very definitely political (and war-related) changes have been defining moments. Already the ‘end of the Cold War’ has become no more than a distant backdrop to the thrust of global change, in most accounts; and yet this more-or-less simultaneous change of world order and (in large parts of the world) political system not only was, but remains (as Reinecke and Deacon in places show) central to any understanding of how global change is actually playing out.
This neglect of the historicity and political character of present change is rooted in an even more fundamental failure to grasp the past historical roots of globality. The meaning of global culture does not depend on the symbolic dross of contemporary commerce – Coca Cola and MacDonalds. It is rooted, rather, in the fundamental common experiences – of world wars, holocausts, the defeat of fascism. However much these seem to belong, or are even appropriated by, particular national communities, they are actually common possessions of humankind and core experiences of our common, global humanity at the turn of the twenty-first century.
Similarly, it was as a result of war and Cold War, in the 1940s, not commerce in the 1980s or 1990s, that (as Bauman indeed recognises) classical nation-states began to be transformed into components of larger blocs of state power. The result was not the simply weakening of state power, but its transformation. New forms of state are not merely agencies of response to globalization, but the very conditions for and even, to some extent, the creators of globalizing processes.
There is not space here to define these political conditions fully, but let us note: the abolition of war between the central states of the world system, first between the states of western Europe, north America and Japan, second (since 1989) between the West and Russia; the formation of new complexes of transatlantic, European, international and (yes) global state institutions; the rapid extension of democratization, so that formal democracy at least became the norm first for Western states and increasingly (especially after 1989) for states in all other regions; and finally the growing sway of common global norms, of universal values and international legal ideas increasingly appealed to by people worldwide and institutionalized in both international and national legal institutions. These four sets of changes constitute global change in a political sense, and represent a positively revolutionary – albeit very incomplete and highly contested – transformation of the world. Without these changes, many of the changes in markets and communications would not have been possible, and they would be as devoid of, or negative in, their meaning as Bauman seems to think.
The third problem of the globalization discourse comes out of this: the disdain for politics and the lack of understanding of political agency in global change. Whether this is the technicist ideology of some elite globalisers, or its critical reflection which concedes too much (malign) power to this tendency, there is the same remorseless structuralism and complete condescension towards the politically-active people of the world.
Most thoroughly of all, there is the writing out of globalization of the popular movements which actually created much of its political momentum. Once again, a sense of historical perspective is critical. The Berlin Wall did not ‘collapse’; worldwide democratic transformation was not handed down either by newly-enlightened despots or by fresh converts among American policy-makers. For half a century democracy, in many parts of the world, was the struggle of courageous oppositionists and dissidents against not only Soviet totalitarianism but also Western Cold-War authoritarianism and realpolitik. The global-democratic agenda was developed by social movements, campaigning groups and non-governmental organisations as much as by Western states, and pushed by the former against the resistance of the latter.
The democratic transformations of 1989 itself, and of the subsequent decade worldwide, have come from popular movements – on the streets of Soweto, Sueul and Jakarta as well as Berlin, Prague and Bucharest. Certainly, the enmeshing of political change with market reforms – and in many places with ethno-nationalist violence – has meant that the longer-term results of popular movements have been mixed. Yet it is a curious historiography which sees in global change only the death of the old, national state-socialist model of political transformation – and neglects the new, even revolutionary agency of democratic mass movements and civil society.
The pernicious neglect of political agency also affects the treatment of elites. Critics of globalisation decry, as Bauman does here, its supposed effects in hollowing out the political capacity of states. And yet it is difficult to credit this as a general structural effect of globalization: to this extent global-sceptics like Hirst and Thompson are right to suggest that the demise of state capacity has been exaggerated. To the extent that globalization weakens, as Reinecke suggests, the internal sovereignty (perhaps better described as legitimacy) of states, this is surely a challenge to governing elites to reinvent themselves, their missions and their legitimacy. Both Reinecke and Deacon suggest some of the ways they can do this, through developing global public and social policy. But Reinecke is right to see the weak democratic basis of these initiatives as a potential Achilles’ heel. For this reason, the agenda of globalizing democracy, developed consistently by David Held, is surely an essential complement to the policy initiatives proposed in these books.
There is – and to this extent Bauman is correct – a loss of political initiative by Western elites, but it is not in any simple sense a structural consequence of globalization. Rather it is more plausible to see it as a result of the insular complacency of American policy-makers as well as the parochialism, deference and timidity of many non-American elites, and the common loss of framework resulting from the end of the Cold War. The narrow attention to domestic political bases, reinforced by the kind of media surveillance which Bauman describes, are structural factors, but they do not enforce political ineffectuality. We have to explain why European elites can create what are, in some ways, visionary new political institutions within the European Union, while yet manifesting such miserable incompetence in dealing with the post-Yugoslav wars. We have to explain why Bush could get hold of the Iraqi threat, after Kuwait, or Clinton could eventually impose the (albeit flawed) Dayton settlement, while the West’s leaders collectively connived at the United Nations’ acceptance of genocide in Rwanda.
It is in the interactions of elites in the mess of national, European, transatlantic and global institutions, and their erratic responses to both globalist, democratic movements and the threats of nationalist, genocidist violence, that we can identify the framework of global politics today. As Reinecke suggests, the development of global public policy and institutions – we should add democracy – has not matched the market flows or the spurts of corporate interventions across boundaries in the first decade after 1989. In this limited sense, politics is ‘following’ economics. But in a broader historical sense we must see the centrality of the political transformation to globality. These are revolutionary changes, with much momentum from below, which are larger than the technical-economic ‘global shifts’. Globalization, in the latter sense, is both conditional on political change and a condition for it. But the unfinished, contested global revolution is the larger framework for which globalization is at most necessary, not sufficient. In this sense above all, the debate needs to move beyond the terms of the present literature.
Back to The global site
Tags: Mary Kaldor, new wars
The contemporary mode of warfare?
Mary Kaldor’s theory of new wars
Review essay from Review of International Political Economy, 7, 1, 2000, 171-80.
- Mary Kaldor and Basker Vashee, eds, New Wars, London: Pinter, 1997
- Mary Kaldor, Ulrich Albrecht and Geneviève Schméder, eds, The End of Military Fordism, London: Pinter, 1998
- Mary Kaldor, New and Old Wars: Organized Violence in a Global Era, Cambridge: Polity, 1999
These books provide the most comprehensive, illuminating analysis yet of the most widespread contemporary forms of war. They are informed by a political-economic approach – indeed they were presented at the 1998 RIPE-Sussex conference – and establish Mary Kaldor, long one of our most important theorists of war, as the foremost authority on ‘new wars’. Her core argument, outlined first in the introduction to New Wars, is developed considerably in New and Old Wars, the fullest statement and principal basis of this discussion. (Discrepancies arising from the less developed character of the earlier work will not be explored, while the edited books will be referred to chiefly where the contributions of other authors add to Kaldor’s argument.)
At the heart of the latest book, three chapters which stand out as particularly original and reflect Kaldor’s unique qualifications. Chapter 3 is a case study of Bosnia-Herzegovina, in, on and for which Kaldor has worked extensively both as activist and researcher; chapter 4 examines the politics of ‘new wars’, and chapter 5 the ‘globalized war economy’. Although in some quarters Kaldor’s combination of roles is apparently seen as problematic, this work is its clearest possible vindication. Her engagement with cosmopolitan political practice – chiefly in Bosnia but also in other European zones of war – not only enables Kaldor to produce the most incisive, balanced short critique of the Bosnian conflict, but also informs the more general analyses which follow.
Against the grain of widespread assumptions that most wars of the 1990s are merely ‘civil’ wars produced by ‘ethnic conflict’, or that what we are seeing is a simple ‘privatisation’ of violence, Kaldor clearly demonstrates that Bosnia and other conflicts were political conflicts, involving state power as well as various ‘private’ forces, in which ‘identity politics’ is a means by which political elites reproduce their power.
She shows how this is part of a new political economy of war, in which a range of new militaries – the decaying remnants of state armies, paramilitary groups (often financed by governments), self-defence units, mercenaries and international troops – engage in new forms of violence. These include systematic murder of ‘others’, forcible population expulsion known as ethnic ‘cleansing’ (linked ironically to electoral legitimation), and rendering areas uninhabitable – all of which are genocidal. It is estimated that 80 per cent of victims in current wars are civilians; over 80 per cent were military in wars earlier this century.
These forms of violence are reproduced through an ‘extreme form of globalization’ in which production collapses and armed forces are sustained via remittances, diaspora fund-raising, external governmental assistance and the diversion of international humanitarian aid. The global context is crucial to understanding this new political economy of war: globalized arms markets (analysed by Schméder in Military Fordism), transnational ethnicities and internationalized Western-global interventions are all integral to new wars.
Unlike the classic modern war-economy of the total-war nation-state – which was mobilising and production-oriented – the new ‘globalized’ war economy is demobilising and parasitic: ‘The new type of warfare is a predatory social condition.’ It damages the economies of neighbouring regions as well as the zone of warfare itself, spreading refugees, identity-based politics and illegal trade. It creates ‘bad neighbourhoods’ in world economy and society – regional clusters like the Balkans, Caucasus, Horn of Africa, Central Africa, West Africa, Central Asia and of course Middle East.
The new warfare, Kaldor argues, is above all a political rather than a military challenge. It is about the breakdown of legitimacy, and we need a new cosmopolitan politics to reconstruct this in the zones of war. Cosmopolitanism here is a set of principles and a positive political vision, tied to the rule of law. Cosmopolitans are to be found within the local communities at the heart of the violence – particularly in ‘islands of civility’ where identity politics has not taken full hold – as well as in the West. Genuine cosmopolitanism does not mean negotiating truces between warring ethno-nationalists but building up pluralist democratic politics.
Kaldor refocusses the categories through which we think about the international or Western role in zones of war. It is not a question of intervention or non-intervention, humanitarian or otherwise: in the globalized new wars, thinking based on ‘inside’ and ‘outside’ has less meaning. It should be, she argues, a question of cosmopolitan law-enforcement rather than peacekeeping or peace-enforcement, and of reconstruction – understood in terms of political legitimacy as much as economic rebuilding – rather than humanitarian assistance (necessary as that may be).
Kaldor offers us an understanding of some of the most troubling of all contemporary phenomena – the deeply destructive, genocidal forms of violence which accompanied not only the break-ups of Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union but also the fragmentation of many states, especially in Africa, since the end of the Cold War. The understanding is empirically rich – based on a broad comparative approach – analytically satisfying and politically inspiring. It is complemented by the papers in the two edited collections – especially New Wars, in which Alex de Waal on warfare in Africa and Richard Falk on the United Nations and humanitarian intervention make particularly interesting contributions.
The problems of Kaldor’s account come in its articulation with the historical understanding of war in general and changes in war and politics as a whole in the current period. Clearly some will object that new wars are not so new; but even if most features are anticipated in earlier periods, Kaldor is right because the combination in new wars is highly distinctive. Nevertheless it is clear that defining the novelty precisely is important, and Kaldor addresses this in Chapter 2, ‘Old Wars’, in New and Old Wars. Here modern war as a whole is defined as Clausewitzian: tending towards the absolute; based on the trinity of state, army and people; and reaching its culmination in the decisive battle. This war is seen as modern because it reflects the key distinctions of modernity: between public and private, internal and external, economic and political, civil and military, combatant and non-combatant.
Kaldor recognises the historicity of Clausewitz: its articulation of Napoleonic-Wars experiences; its predating of the industrialisation of warfare, modern alliances and the codification of the laws of war. In particular, she recognises that ‘Clausewitz could not possibly have envisaged the awesome combination of mass production, mass politics and mass communications when harnessed to mass production.’ Thus the total wars of the twentieth century went far beyond Clausewitz’s model. In the developments of the Cold War period – nuclear weapons, the permanent state of war without actual fighting (except by proxy), the alliances with their pooling of states’ monopolies of violence, the development of transnational civil society – there was an ‘erosion of the distinctions between public and private, military and civil, internal and external’ as well as of war and peace.
So far so good, although it is all rather brief – because designed to set off the detailed exploration of new war. It doesn’t, however, go far enough: and the limitations of the historical model proposed lead first, to an understatement of the contemporary problem of warfare and second, to a narrowing of the significance of the phenomenon of new wars: in particular the relations to other contemporary forms of war (continuing preparations for inter-state war) are left unclarified.
In a still seminal essay, Kaldor (1982a) proposed the concept of the ‘mode of warfare’. This was a development of Clausewitz’s insights (into the totality of relations between war-preparation, war and battle as the moment of realisation) by analogy with the mode of production (in which the process of production culminates in realisation through exchange). Part of Kaldor’s reasoning in developing the idea of the mode of warfare was to clarify its autonomous logic, and repudiate simple Marxist reductions of warfare to capitalism. In The Baroque Arsenal, Kaldor (1982b) used the difference between the character of realisation in production and warfare to much effect. A looser expression of the same idea was given by Giddens’ (1985) idea of warfare as one of the four key ‘institutional clusters’ of modernity.
The issue here is the relationship between these modes (or clusters). A radical answer was explicit in Edward Thompson’s (1982) proposal that we understand modern civilization as a whole as ‘exterminism’. His polemic – now lost in the still unwritten history of the Second Cold War – made a deadly serious analytical point: that modern industrial societies, East and West, had been permeated by the logic of mass extermination. For Thompson, the danger was that this would culminate in the prospect of a mutual genocide which could end human history if not life on this planet.
It did not, in the 1980s, although the nuclear arms race had indeed become particularly dangerous. This was partly because of the unravelling of the political structures of the Cold War, from below as well as above – the former also anticipated in Thompson’s writing and campaigning. But despite the end of the Cold War, the logic of mass extermination remained: the harnessing not only of industry, but of politics and culture, to the purposes of mass killing. In a critique (Shaw, 1990) I tried to show that, although on the one hand Thompson’s account contained some analytical as well as polemical excesses, on the other it was – ironically given his profession – insufficiently historically underpinned.
If we trace the issue back, it becomes clear that from the mid-nineteenth century, the institutions of warfare fed off industrial capitalist society – creating (by late century) mass armies fed by conscription from increasingly disciplined workforces; militarist politics fed by mass parties and a mass-circulation press; as well as mass-produced weaponry in distinct state-protected military-industrial sectors (MacNeill, 1982). In turn, these processes led to powerful state machines with capacities to mobilise economy and society for war. In Kaldor’s (1982a) terms, the ‘mode of warfare’, having fed off the ‘mode of production’, came in turn to dominate and shape it – in statist war economies and statist politics, both totalitarian and Keynesian-reformist.
Thus total war was not just a type of war (so that we can judge how far particular wars were total – 1939-45 more so than 1914-18, and so on) but a mode of warfare. It involved a particular relation to the mode of production, in which the latter was actually subordinated. The exterminist character of this mode derived directly from this core, structural relation, which developed through the historical experience of the two world wars and the Cold War (Shaw, 1988, 1991). Once economy and society had been incorporated directly into the supply side of war, as a ‘home front’, then military logic (with the aid of aerial technology) transformed them into a part of the battlefield. The logic of the warfare-production relationship made first ‘strategic’ industries and then whole urban populations into targets. By the time of Hamburg, Dresden and Tokyo, not to mention Hiroshima and Nagasaki, war had become genocidal. Here was the (ir)rational historical kernel of Thompson’s concept of exterminism.
Extermination was not, for the Allies, a goal in itself, but an intended and desired consequence of the aim of Germany’s and Japan’s surrenders. It is a fine line, and it is all that separates Allied war policy from Auschwitz, where extermination was an aim in and of itself. The Holocaust has of course become an object of judgement and commemoration – of a violated people and of violated humanity in general – largely outside the understanding of war. Historically, however, it was a product of war: large Jewish populations came into Hitler’s grasp by conquest, and extermination was developed, applied and achieved through not just the methods of modernity (Bauman, 1991) but specifically those of modern war. The Nazi state waged a ‘war against the Jews’ (Davidowicz, 1985). The people were an enemy, as much as the more conventional enemies, the other states.
When the victors of 1945 codified genocide in the 1948 Convention, they identified the peculiar horror of the Nazi extermination policy as the basic model. For them, naturally, the line which separated it from their own mass slaughters of civilians remained sacrosanct – the more so as from the 1950s the now-rival superpowers planned new depths of destruction, with every city a target. And yet the meaning of extermination, and (in a broader sense than the Convention’s) genocide, was now more deeply embedded in the idea of warfare than ever before: so thoroughly, indeed, that one might ask if it could ever really be disentangled?
Much of the subsequent history of military planning, during and since the Cold War, can be seen as an attempt to avoid redundancy, to overcome the self-defeating, mutually genocidal character of the dominant weaponry. Hence, ironically, the development of cruise missiles, designed first to be the more accurate delivery vehicles of a ‘limited nuclear war’ – for ‘tactical’ targetting of military and economic sites – and now become the means of ‘punishing’ the Iraqi regime through ‘clinical’ destruction of its strategic sites.
Kaldor’s new work says little about any of this. She argues that the technologically-driven ‘revolution in military affairs’ is not the ‘real’ revolution in war: ‘Beneath the spectacular displays are real wars, which, even in the case of the 1991 Iraq war in which hundreds and thousands of Kurds and Shiites died, are better explained in terms of my conception of new wars.’ How this is so she does not explain, however, and the Iraqi wars of the 1990s are a disappointing omission from the detailed analysis. It leaves open the question of how the (on the surface) interstate Gulf war – and the larger phenomena of the United States’ and other powers’ continuing preparations for interstate war – can be related to the ‘new wars’ concept.
There is here something of a mismatch between Kaldor’s and some other contributions to Military Fordism, such as Schméder’s documentation of the continuing high levels, despite real reductions, of state military expenditures, and Lovering’s of rapidly transforming European defence industries. Achcar (1998) has pointed out that the US retains an enormous military capacity, and suggests that the only way to make strategic sense of it is to read the scenario of simultaneous wars against Iraq and North Korea as planning for simultaneous conflicts with Russia and China. Clearly, for all the downsizing, warfare for the big states is still about far more than managing new wars.
All this suggests an afterlife, even more surreal than the Cold War itself, for what Kaldor (1990) termed the ‘imaginary war’. The United States and NATO still plan to fight massive interstate wars, even though the circumstances in which these wars could occur are now very difficult to envisage. Similarly, across the globe, state elites of all kinds maintain historically very high levels of military expenditures and dangerous military capacity, although their awareness both of interdependence on the one hand and the limitations of military force on the other are surely growing.
One relation between the kind of war presupposed by these forces and expenditures, and the new wars of which Kaldor writes, is surely to be found in the overwhelming US preference for airpower. No one looking carefully at new wars can fail to be struck by the inappropriateness of aerial bombardment as the principal means of dealing with issues ranging from ethnic cleansing to terrorism and lack of cooperation with UN inspectors. Troops on the ground are universally understood to be a more appropriate primary military response in many situations, and far more compatible with the political and legal measures needed. In Bosnia, indeed, the US eventually succumbed to this logic in enforcing Dayton.
So why does the US reach repeatedly for air strikes, and what is the significance of this policy? (An early example, the US attack on Libya, was examined in Thompson and Kaldor, 1986.) In part they are gesture politics, a way of looking tough – often timed to align with domestic crises – even if they achieve minimal real political results. In part bombing is a relatively cost-free way of attacking even significant state militaries like Serbia’s or Iraq’s, minimising risks to American lives and hence administrations’ political standing. But behind these factors is the whole mode of warfare derived from the Second World War and Cold War, centred on technologically-driven mass slaughter. This lives in on the hardware-centred ‘armament culture’ (Luckham, 1984) of the advanced modern militaries and the political elites who support them.
Although this dominant form of warfare is now not just imaginary but virtual, the itch to realise all those computer-gamed scenarios in real explosions, immolating physical structures and if necessary living beings, is still powerful. Having invested such enormous resources in the most sophisticated technologies of destruction, states like the US and UK are hardly going to admit that the legitimate scope of modern militaries should be limited to a glorified armed form of policing, in support of international civil and legal power.
The key question here is, of course, whether there remains a genocidal content to late-modern airpower. Clearly with computer-aided targetting, advanced airforces can attack cities without causing colossal loss of life. Even according to Iraqi sources, the death toll from the Anglo-American attacks on Iraq in 1998 – in which more firepower was used than during the 1991 attacks – resulted in fewer than 100 deaths: hardly genocidal? Even during the 1991 war, direct Iraqi civilian casualties from coalition bombing were certainly far fewer than military deaths. However, not only did genocidal episodes (the charred Amiriya shelter) lurk within ‘surgical’ bombardment, but the destruction of electricity and sewage supplies certainly produced – as the coalition clearly knew it would, and in that sense intended – far larger losses of civilian lives. In this sense civilian deaths were more than ‘collateral’, and the non-genocidal character of the air bombardment was more apparent than real.
Even in contemporary, technologically-revolutionised uses of airpower, therefore, the exterminist implication lingers on, a limited expression of its still-present larger danger. What separates Bush and Clinton from Saddam Hussein and Milosevic is still the fine line which separated Roosevelt and Truman from Hitler: mass killing as an intended consequence, rather than an end in itself. The difference is that while Western powers are looking for ways of limiting the genocidal effects – or at least appearance – of war, for the main protagonists of new wars genocide is not just one end among several (as it was for Hitler) but the principal business of war.
Saddam and Milosevic are important links in the chain of contemporary warfare which links the Pentagon with the machete-killers of Rwanda and the weekend snipers of Serbia-Montenegro. Although Kaldor’s account emphasises external state support for new warriors, by focussing on Bosnia rather than Croatia in 1991 she underemphasises the role of conventional state military forces, and indeed of Milosevic. Similarly the general absence of Iraq loses from her account the state and leader responsible for initiating the two most important interstate wars of the last twenty years together with the most repeated genocidal wars against civilian populations.
In short, Kaldor restricts the significance of new wars by over-emphasising their separation from continuing inter-state war, and by understating how far genocidal tendencies have come to dominate in contemporary war as a whole. Increasingly states (not only Serbia and Iraq but also Russia in Chechnya, Israel in the West Bank and Lebanon) go to war because of uncertainty in their control over ‘their’ territory, and these wars are directed largely against civilian populations.
With the loss of Cold War narratives, particularly war as revolution, what is left is the logic of war as genocide. Although we need to be critical of the media construction of Saddam as Hitler, the main difference is that he heads a third-tier state with uncertain control over its own territory rather than a military superpower. But precisely for this reason, the threat his regime poses is principally to the people of Iraq and immediately surrounding states, and for this reason his wars have been particularly genocidal.
The reluctance to label recent wars as genocidal, compared to Hitler’s, mistakes the comparison. In the Nazi wars, the campaign against the Jews was secondary to interstate conflict. Most of the German population were not directly involved, if only because most victims of the Holocaust were Jews in conquered eastern Europe, and relatively few Jews remained in Germany itself (they were only one per cent of the population even in 1933, concentrated in larger urban areas: half had fled by 1939).
In Bosnia, however, ethnic ‘cleansing’ was the principal aim of the Serbian (and Croatian) forces. Non-Serbs (and non-Croats) were a large minorities if not majorities in the Serbian- (and Croatian-) controlled areas, and locally-raised militia, police and local authorities – as well as many civilians – were involved directly in genocide. The latter, moreover, was double-edged: directed against ethnic groups and plural urban communities. In Rwanda, large numbers of the Hutu civilian population as well as state, militia and public authorities were mobilised to murder their neighbours. There was an amateurish quality to these genocides compared to the Nazis: but the recognition of Nazism in the Omarska camp, or of the Einsatzgruppen in the mass graves of Srebrenica, was no mistake.
New wars, therefore, are genocidal wars. They carry the logic of exterminism in total war to the point where war is genocide. They emphasise more than ever that in modernity, war is the problem. This conclusion enables us to pose the question of appropriate responses more clearly. Recultivating ‘the warrior’s honour’, for which Ignatieff (1997) has argued, can at best be a partial solution. Cosmopolitan law-enforcement, which Kaldor advocates, is an alternative to war, and the kinds of military forces which it needs are glorified policemen. Reconstructing local legitimacy, and indeed constructing global legitimacy, ultimately requires Western and other major states to repudiate war as a solution, and to dismantle their potentially genocidal military structures which provide a framework of legitimacy for all the new warriors.
Theoretically, the problems which this poses for the social sciences are just as large. If total war was a mode of warfare which dominated the capitalist mode of production in mid-century, its mutation through the Cold War and nuclear arms race (not to mention the ‘revolution in military affairs’) involves changed relations between war, economy and society (I began to analyse these, in Shaw, 1988, 1991). Kaldor introduces the new war-economy as an ‘extreme form of globalization’, but globalization itself is presented as external to war. In the end this is unsatisfactory: globality can be traced to the contradictions of total war, and globalization results not only from the end of the Cold War but from the loosening relationships of the war-machines and the economy (Shaw, 1999). These are the forces which are feeding back into new wars.
Kaldor’s New and Old Wars therefore does more than illuminate a new form of war. She helps us to re-open fundamental questions which political economy and social science may have thought they had left behind in 1989, but which are still central to our understanding of modern society.
Achcar, G. (1998) ‘The Strategic Triad: The United States, Russia and China’, New Left Review, 228, pp. 91-127
Bauman, Z. (1991) Modernity and the Holocaust, Oxford: Blackwell
Davidowicz, L. (1985) The War against the Jews, Harmondsworth: Penguin
Giddens, A. (1985) The Nation-State and Violence, Cambridge: Polity
Ignatieff, M. (1997), The Warrior’s Honour, Oxford: Blackwell
Kaldor, M. (1982a) ‘Warfare and Capitalism’, in E.P. Thompson et al., Exterminism and Cold War, London: Verso, pp. 261-88
Kaldor, M. (1982b) The Baroque Arsenal, London: Deutsch
Kaldor, M. (1990) The Imaginary War, Oxford: Blackwell
Luckham, R. (1984) ‘Of Arms and Culture’, Current Research on Peace and Violence, VII, 1, pp. 1-64
MacNeill, W.H. (1982) The Pursuit of Power, Oxford: Blackwell
Shaw, M. (1988) Dialectics of War: An Essay on the Social Theory of War and Peace, London: Pluto
Shaw, M. (1990) ‘From Total War to Democratic Peace: exterminism and historical pacifism’, in H. Kaye and K. McClelland, eds, E. P. Thompson: Critical Debates, Cambridge: Polity, pp. 233-51
Thompson, E.P. (1982) ‘Notes on Exterminism, the Last Stage of Civilization’, in Thompson et al., Exterminism and Cold War, London: Verso, pp. 1-34
Thompson, E.P. and Kaldor, M., eds. (1986) Mad Dogs: The US Attacks on Libya, Harmondsworth: Penguin
Tags: John Pilger
Paying the Price: The Killing of the Children of Iraq, ITV, 6 March 2000
John Pilger wrote and presented this new 90-minute documentary on Iraqi sanctions, shown on the most popular British channel within mass viewing hours. I was asked by BBC Radio 4’s ‘The Message’ to discuss the programme, with Pilger and others, on 10 March. I therefore looked at the programme carefully; here I comment both on the programme and my brief experience of radio debate with its maker, with whom I have already clashed over Kosovo.
‘Paying the Price’ was an important film because it gave some idea of the shocking conditions of many people in Iraq; it also reminded us of the bombing of Iraq in our name, the ‘hidden war’ as Pilger correctly called it. Most importantly it showed us that sanctions aren’t working, in any conclusive way, to end Saddam Hussein’s power and that there is widespread disquiet among UN officials themselves about their contribution to the poverty and suffering of the Iraqi people.
The problem of the film, however, was that it made a very simple connection between sanctions and suffering. It ‘established’ this case most powerfully through interviews with disaffected UN personnel; but more dubiously by repeated, crude juxtapositions of suffering children and Western politicians. Not surprisingly, in view of how others were ‘framed’ in the making of this film, Foreign Secretary Robin Cook declined to appear on Pilger’s conditions.
What is wrong with making a simple connection? The film almost completely left out the responsibility of the Iraqi regime in this situation, i.e. left out those factors contributing to the suffering that didn’t fit the case Pilger wanted to argue. It left out the fact that the Iraqi government has chosen to continue with sanctions rather than negotiate its way out of the sanctions regime by giving up its military programmes. It left out the fact that the Iraqi regime uses income that could be spent on food, medicines and people’s welfare for arms, soldiers and the lifestyle of the privileged elite.
The film pretended to speak straightforwardly for the victims against the inhumanity of Western ‘politicians’ and ‘bureaucrats’. In fact it gave a politically distorted view of history of crisis, and insinuated Pilger’s own political line. This led to several direct distortions:
- Pilger dismissed the idea that the Saddam Hussein regime remains a military threat, despite the fact that it has already initiated two wars with neighbouring states, Iran and Kuwait, as well as waged war on the Kurdish, Shia and Marsh Arab peoples within Iraq. Although the extent to which Saddam retains the capacity for external war is debatable, the regime clearly retains considerable military potential.
- Pilger gave the impression that the West had created the Saddam regime. Although it is scandalously true that Reagan and Thatcher supported and traded with Saddam before 1990, they didn’t create or control his regime and this doesn’t make it wrong that the West has woken up to its dangers in the last decade.
- Pilger gave the impression that the impoverishment of Iraq is a result only of sanctions. In fact Iraqis were already badly impoverished before sanctions, by Saddam’s war with Iran – the exhaustion of Iraqi state funds due to this war was reason that Saddam invaded Kuwait in 1990, but the people’s standards of living had already drastically declined.
- Pilger gave the impression that the US actually supported Saddam in crushing the Shi’ite rebellion in 1991. However, although it was indeed criminal of the US and the West not to support the rebels, non-intervention was not the same as actually supporting Saddam in crushing those crises. Pilger didn’t mention that the US and UK changed their positions, after Western media campaigned for the Kurdish refugees, and did intervene to create a safe Kurdish area in northern Iraq, nor that this is precisely the origin of the air surveillance of Iraq that he criticizes today.
- The dishonesty of Pilger’s exposition here is quite clear. If the US had extended the Gulf War to overthrow Saddam, or had intervened militarily to support the Shi’ites against Saddam, Pilger would have almost certainly have been the first to condemn it, just as he condemned NATO intervention in Kosova to protect Albanians from Milosevic.
Pilger simply condemns Western governments. He doesn’t offer alternatives. He doesn’t mention that sanctions were actually advocated by the Left as the alternative to war in 1991. He doesn’t address the fact that we do need to find ways to contain Saddam’s threat to the people as well as the governments of the region, and so if we don’t have sanctions, we have to have some policy to contain or remove this threat.
Pilger’s film did strongly reinforce the widely accepted case that sanctions are not achieving much and are contributing to the terrible suffering of the Iraqi people. However because he failed to explain that this is through the way in which they are manipulated by the Iraqi regime’s own policies, as well as because of the way they are implemented by the West, he gave the suffering a simplistic political gloss that actually devalued his case.
We can go so far as to say that Pilger did a disservice to the Iraqi people by associating their plight with a simple one-dimensional case. By leaving out central realities he made it difficult to trust even the most convincing criticisms of sanctions which his contributors made. He talked down to his audience, patronizing the viewer who might have expected that in a long documentary like this some of the complexity of the politics would be explored.
I tried to put this case across on ‘The Message’. I agreed with the presenter that Pilger’s film was an important contribution on an issue that deserved to be exposed. But arguing for a more ‘complex’ analysis simply provoked Pilger to explain that ‘people like Martin Shaw’ didn’t want the responsibility of the British and American governments exposed. He immediately told viewers they should ‘decode’ my arguments as an apologia for official policies. Debating with Pilger did nothing to disabuse me of my conviction that he increasingly crosses the line between committed journalism and propaganda.