Agonistic Politics and The ‘War on Terror’

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Transcript Agonistic Politics and The ‘War on Terror’

Agonistic Politics and
The ‘War on Terror’
Christa Davis Acampora
IAS Fellow
Hunter and The Graduate Center
City University of New York
"this crusade, this war on terrorism,
is going to take awhile"
—George W. Bush, September 16, 2001
Theories of Being Human and the
Political Agonism
Ways of Being Opposed
The Structure of Opposition of ‘The
Axis of Evil’
Enmity, Sovereignty, and War
The Disappearance of the Enemy
A Warrior’s Story
Theories of Being Human and the Political
Political Agonism
Challenges for Modern Democracies
• Legitimation
• Recognition of genuine difference
and disagreement
• Creating Community
Ways of Being Opposed
Ways of Being Opposed
• Good/Bad
• Good/Evil
The Structure of Opposition and
The Axis of Evil
“We are not deceived by their pretenses to piety. We
have seen their kind before. They are the heirs of all
the murderous ideologies of the 20th century. By
sacrificing human life to serve their radical visions—by
abandoning every value except the will to power—they
follow in the path of fascism, and Nazism, and
totalitarianism. And they will follow that path all the
way, to where it ends: in history's unmarked grave of
discarded lies”
—George W. Bush, September 20, 2001
PNAC web site
PNAC Founders
PNAC Participants
“At present the United States faces
no global rival. America’s grand
strategy should aim to preserve and
extend this advantageous position as
far into the future as possible.”
—Project for the New American Century,
“Rebuilding America’s Defenses”
The Mission for “Pax Americana”:
“to preserve an international security
environment conducive to American interests
and ideals” … “the task is to secure and expand
the ‘zones of democratic peace;’ to deter the
rise of a new great-power competitor; defend
key regions of Europe, East Asia, and the
Middle East; and to preserve American
preeminence through the coming transformation
of war made possible by new technologies.”
—Project for the New American Century,
“Rebuilding America’s Defenses”
“As the world’s sole superpower [it is]
the final guarantor of security,
democratic freedoms and individual
political rights”
—Project for the New American Century,
“Rebuilding America’s Defenses”
Enmity, Sovereignty, and War
“The distinction of friend and enemy denotes
the utmost degree of intensity of a union or
separation, of an association or dissociation.”
—Carl Schmitt,The Concept of the Political
Sovereignty refers to the location of decisive
power, ultimate authority; thus only sovereign
groups or entities can organize politically in
friend-enemy relations, because only such
sovereign entities have the power to make
judgements and take actions that distinguish
others as friends or enemies.
“By virtue of this power over the physical life of
men, the political community transcends all
other associations or societies.”
—Carl Schmitt,The Concept of the Political
“Humanity as such cannot wage war because it
has no enemy … The concept of humanity
excludes the concept of the enemy, because
the enemy does not cease to be a human
—Carl Schmitt,The Concept of the Political
“To confiscate the word humanity, to invoke and
monopolize such a term probably has certain
incalculable effects, such as denying the enemy
the quality of being human and declaring him to
be an outlaw of humanity; and a war can
thereby be driven to the most extreme
—Carl Schmitt,The Concept of the Political
The Disappearance of the Enemy
“the worst confusion arises when concepts such
as justice and freedom are used to legitimize
one’s own political associations and to
disqualify or demoralize the enemy...”
… such as ideas as the basis for war are
“sinister or crazy”
—Carl Schmitt,The Concept of the Political
A Warrior’s Story
Colonel Ted Westhusing, West Point
Petraeus, Boston Globe
Joseph Fil, Stars and Stripes
“the offices of the soldier, sailor, airman, or marine …
arise from the creation of conventional social offices” to
protect the citizenry. But “our status as human beings …
is ontologically prior to any social position one may
occupy [and this] generates moral principles to which we
claim we ought to adhere”
—Westhusing, “Killing Al Qaeda the Right Way”
“if the office of soldier arises from the moral obligation to
protect innocents, it is contradictory for the soldier to
intentionally harm innocents in order to protect some
other innocents.”
The “ethical divide that now exists between the
Coalition’s war effort, which disdains the intentional
targeting of innocents, and the terrorists, who do not
hesitate to slaughter directly thousands of innocents …
the war on terror requires for its success that we
separate ourselves ethically from those whom we fight.”
“peace and counter terrorism operations require an
explicit acknowledgement of both the commanders’
moral responsibility for force protection and the military
members’ moral justification to defend themselves fully”
—Westhusing, “Taking Terrorism and ROE Seriously”
Westhusing’s worldview was “surprisingly limited. He
could not shift his mid-set from the military notion of
completing a mission irrespective of cost, nor could he
change his belief that doing the right thing because it was
the right thing to do should be the sole motivator for
—Army Psychologist
“It shows how one man’s life and the fervent beliefs
that defined it, were crushed by the corruption and
deceit that he saw around him.”
—Robert Bryce, The Texas Observer
Army Field Manual COIN Draft
• “The More You Protect Your Force, the Less
Secure You Are”
• “The Best Weapons for COIN Do Not Shoot”
• “Sometimes Doing Nothing Is the Best
• “Most Important Decisions Are Not Made By