Phylosophy of War
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“War is deception” – Sunzi
“War is the father of all things” -- Heraclitus
“War is god” -- Cormac McCarthy (Blood Meridian)
“You have made your way from the worm to man, and much within you is still worm.” – Nietzsche (Thus Spake Zarathustra)
In a reality at war, things hide. The alternative is to become a target, a casualty, and thus – in the course of events – to cease to be. When war reigns, ontology and occultation converge. The oldest of all alliances binds survival to the shadows.
Absent a sovereign peace, of the kind an all-powerful and benevolent God -- or its political proxy -- could ensure, existence is a jungle of lies. Within such an environment truth, or unconcealment, is a way to get things killed.
To see is to eliminate, actually or virtually, and with virtual elimination comes dominion. This is to return to pacific sovereignty on a darker (but illuminated) path. If no God is found already at work, announced unambiguously through a manifest peace, then a substitute has to be made from the suspension of war -- and that presupposes a war. A God who hides blesses only battlefields, because his stand-in will be a state.
In a war there can be no philosophical innocence (and there has never been philosophical innocence).
Even when epistemology pretends to concern itself with things that we just happen not to know, its objects infect it with dissimulation, camouflage and secrecy, making it complicit in the transmission of the lie. It plays out war games of concealment and exposure, disinformation, distraction, and feint, entangled in the complex skein of signal manipulation and evaluation known to all militaries as ‘intelligence’.
To know, or not to know – these matters are too important to be ignored by the war. It is through such discrimination that the difference between life and death is decided, and distributed. This is how the administrators of war, at their most confidently articulate, speak:
There are known knowns. These are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we know we don’t know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we don’t know we don’t know. Who are we? (‘We’ don’t know ...)
Before beginning over, from the end, there are some things to be said about ends. What modernity finds thinkable in war is owed, above all, to Carl von Clausewitz, and his great synthesis of organized bellicosity with rational statecra,, under the principle that war is politics by other means . Politics supplies the end, and thus the war aim, to which all strategy and tactics is subordinated, in accordance with a rigorous teleological scheme. Military purposes have their final cause in the rational self-interest of the state.
Within the Clausewitzean philosophical system, the military apparatus is essentially technological. The entirety of its social and technical composition is comprehensible as teleological machinery, integrated in accordance with a command-control hierarchy of cascading purposes, connected to a transcendent political will. From the boots and bullets that constitute its simplest pieces of equipment, through tactical drills and maneuvers, to large scale strategic plans and operations, it can always meaningfully be asked: What is this for? Furthermore, this question is necessarily strictly equivalent to asking: How does this serve the ultimate war aim? War in-itself, however, is an emergent phenomenon, arising between states – rather than in subordination to them – and thus eluding the political meaning that corresponds to finalistic intelligibility. A war, as such, is not for anything (not even ‘for oil’), unless it is misleadingly identified with the highest level strategy of one or other antagonist. Within the war no less than two ultimate aims, or political wills, collide, so that -- of necessity -- it can have no unambiguous purpose. Consequently, we cannot ask: Who is the war? Or: What does it want? (that would, or course, be insane.)
Nevertheless, Clausewitzean war has an inherent gradient, which simulates purpose to an arbitrary level of approximation. In accordance with its own nature, to which the antagonistic agents are pressed into compliance, war tends to an extreme. In other words, any restricted form of warfare is conceived as fragile political artifice, stubbornly subverted by a trend to escalation that expresses the nature of war in-itself, and which thus counts – within any specific war -- as the primary axis of real discovery. A crypto-teleology proper to war itself is demonstrated by the inclination of violent, politically-uncircumscribed conflict to escape all limitation.
From the perspective of the state and its serious games – which, as we shall see, can be transferred beyond the state onto trans-political confrontations of an even more radical nature – it is not di cult to understand how escalation (the autonomization of war) takes over. Insofar as the state approaches its historical essence, as a sovereign or ultimate entity, military defeat is a catastrophe that cannot in principle be transcended. From the intrinsic character of the state, it follows that no measure required to avoid defeat can be excessive. The epoch of nuclear confrontation, which – contrary to superficial appearance – has scarcely begun, has facilitated the rigorous formalization of this macro-political incentive to the abandonment of limitation, all the way to Mutually Assured Destruction.
Conceived concretely as a relationship between antagonists, rather than abstractly as a gradient of war in-itself, escalation is a zig-zag of reciprocal incitement, or a cybernetic circuit without negative (dampening) links. The structural predisposition of each party to escalation is carried forwards, or advanced in time, as an efficient virtuality, reinforcing the positive trend with a supplementary motive for pre-emption. The probability that the enemy will at some point escalate becomes a prompt for anticipatory counter-escalation, creating a wave of intensified war effort with reversed time signature. The model war is maximally-accelerated escalation provoked by the future: Time pressure.
Respond now to what the enemy might do, and science fiction has become a component of military strategy (operating as an escalator). Nowhere is this more dramatically evident than in the work of Hugo de Garis, where a reverse cascade of threat anticipation embeds war in-itself within contemporary information technology. First implemented in military cryptography machines, and later distributed across robust networks designed to survive nuclear attack, military imperatives have been hard-coded into computational infrastructure from the start. Advanced technology conducts political teleology by adapting C4 systems (command, control, communications, and computation) to the Clausewitzean conditions of intensified war – whether actual or virtual – characterized by extreme escalation, ‘fog’ and ‘friction’. The emergent abstract factor is resilient intelligence, the most flexible (general-purpose) principle of competitive advantage. The crypto-teleology of war (in-itself) becomes increasingly identified with artificial intelligence production.
As a high-level technical theoretician practically promoting the development of artificial brains, Hugo de Garis is implicitly connected to this lineage, despite his avoidance of formal links to military research programs. This distance from overt defense work – which might have lured a less scrupulous intelligence into fantasies of philosophical innocence – prompted de Garis into a conceptual escalation beyond the Clausewitzean framework. Rather than envisaging technology as the conductor of the state war aim, he began to suspect that it was itself an unsubordinated teleological element, displacing the state as final cause.
Against the limited conception of a war waged through technology, escalated by disciplined science fiction speculations intrinsic to the military apparatus, de Garis turned (through an escalated science fiction) to the model of an unlimited or ‘gigadeath’ war waged over and about (while also still through) technology. The fate of technology would no longer be decided by the wars among states, but would itself become a polarizing cause, determining a trans-political war, with states as teleologically-subordinated components (or large-scale technological parts). The point of contention: Will super-human artificial intellects (or ‘artilects’) be permitted to happen?
The coming Artilect War – “almost inevitable before the end of the 21st century” . – subsumes everything into the axis of escalation, pitting ‘Cosmist’ proponents of technological extrapolation without limit against the ‘Terran’ resistors who oppose it. The retro-chronic dynamics of escalation are driven to an ultimate limit by fundamental game-theoretic dissymmetry. The Terrans cannot possibly escalate too hard, too fast, because the Cosmists are aligned with escalation, and therefore win automatically if the war is prolonged to its intrinsic extreme. The Terrans cannot allow the war to take its time, knowing that anything other than a ‘prematurely’ concluded war is a Cosmist success. Time pressure reaches its maximum, through the condensation of an absolute threat that is intricately entangled with the means required to counter it.
Even in an extreme formulation of the de Garis Artilect War, the Cosmists are still a ‘side’. While aligned exactly with the inherent trend of war in-itself, they supply it with a recognizable ideological subjectivity, preserving a residue of dialectical intelligibility. Artilects are double counted, at the bottom and top of the teleological order – as mere weapons, and as final causes. Simply tracking the tangled circuitry of this model would eventually describe complexities beyond pursuit. What can already be comprehended of the Terran perspective is enough to demonstrate that – for the human resistance – it cannot begin quickly enough. If tomorrow is too late, and yesterday none too soon, it crashes through the present to embed itself deeply within the (apparent) epoch of Clausewitzean war. With no Cosmists to represent the cause of escalation, war’s crypto-teleology – the ultimate enemy – hides itself among the cross-currents of state-political antagonism.
The question then arises: is Stuxnet a soft-weapon fragment from the future war? When its crypto-teleological significance is finally understood, will this be confined to the limited purpose assigned to it by US-Israeli hostility to the Iranian nuclear program? Does Stuxnet serve only to wreck centrifuges? Or does it mark a stage on the way of the worm, whose final purpose is still worm? Are Cosmists even needed to tell this story?
The answer depends upon the limitation of war, which can be represented by the proxy of anti-proliferation. If state-political objectives are able to subordinate – or indefinitely master – the crypto-teleology of escalation, then Stuxnet will have ‘always been’ an instrument of policy, or never significantly more than a weapon. Despite the ‘fog’ of war, the ‘friction’ of unpredictable events, and the tendency to techno-military escalation it demonstrates, there would be no reason to think a more-or-less exhaustive explanation for its existence were not already available in principle, however deeply encrypted. Then we could know, even if (befogged and disinformed) we concretely do not, that it was designed to prevent escalation – in the guise of Iranian nuclear capability – from escaping the politically-circumscribed order of the world.
If, on the contrary, war is going to escape, then nothing we think we know, or can know, about its history will remain unchanged. State-politics will have been the terrain in which it hid, military apparatuses the hosts in which it incubated its components, antagonistic purposes the pretexts through which – radically camouflaged – it advanced. Its surreptitious assembly sequences would be found scattered backwards, lodged, deeply concealed, within the disinformational megastructure of Clausewitzean history.
“War is god” asserts Cormac McCarthy’s Judge Holden. It has its own order of providence and its own laws. It is the ultimate meaning of things.
We are under no compulsion to believe a self-declared fiction, or to listen uncritically to a character within it. We have only to think about the ways things hide, or – less demandingly still – to accept that thoughtlessness loses wars.
Does the war think? We don’t know (but the idea sounds insane).
On War, by General Carl von Clausewitz, translated by Colonel J.J. Graham, http://www.gutenberg.org/)les/1946/1946-h/1946-h.htm
. Hugo de Garis (2005). The Artilect War: Cosmists Vs. Terrans: A Bitter Controversy Concerning Whether Humanity Should Build Godlike Massively Intelligent Machines. Palm Springs, CA: ETC Publications. ISBN 0-88280-154-6.