Mar 7, 2011

utilizing force in the postmodern world

The March / April LD resolution asks us to consider the use of PMFs to pursue U.S. military objectives abroad. How does the changing face of war impact this debate?

Traditional war, Rupert Smith argues in The Utility of Force, is obsolete. In its place arise two distinct and yet related phenomena: the extended police action and state-building project known as the War on Terror, and perpetual peacekeeping and conflict management. These phenomena, which Smith calls "War amongst the people," demand new strategies, in which the ends are obscure or distant. As Smith writes,
The ends for which we fight are changing from the hard objectives that decide a political outcome to those of establishing conditions in which the outcome may be decided.... We fight so as to preserve the force rather than risking all to gain the objective.

This idea of force-preservation is central to every development in the postmodern military landscape.

1. The military must evolve.
As Defense Secretary, following in the footsteps of Donald Rumsfeld, Robert Gates has pushed the U.S. military toward greater flexibility and mobility. Fred Kaplan summarizes:
The Army needs to shift from a garrison peacetime force that's preparing for a possible head-on armored clash against a foe of comparable strength to a mobile force that's fighting actual "asymmetric" wars against rogue states and insurgents. The Air Force needs to pull back from its traditional obsession with high-tech air-to-air combat and focus more on joint operations—surveillance, precise air strikes, cargo transport, and rapid rescue—that help the troops on the ground. The Navy needs to focus less on aircraft carriers and more on vessels that can maneuver in coastal waters.
Now that Gates' tenure is ending, it'll be interesting to see whether this momentum keeps building. Necessity would seem to demand it.

2. So long, Social Contract.
In the absence of industrial war, and with Gates' quick-strike model of military supremacy, notions of a draft are no longer with us. The U.S. military is a professional force, and with that, it's only natural that Americans let the professionals handle it. To put it in other words, when security is the project, we're happy to subcontract.

3. Objectives subject to change.
A year ago, would anyone have predicted that the U.S. would consider military involvement in a Libyan civil war? Of course not. Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, and North Korea would have been the "obvious" concerns, with a rising China and perpetually dysfunctional Russia seen as long-term threats. The situation on the ground changes far too rapidly in a postmodern world.

4. Speed is power, and power corrupts.
Eric Wilson's "Speed / pure war / power crime," found in Crime, Law, and Social Change, 2009, is an interesting read for anyone considering a critical perspective. Following Paul Virilio's analysis in Pure War, Wilson argues that the increasing speed of conflict isn't a side effect, but a desired outcome of the postmodern corporation.
Speed reduces transparency by means of an 'optical disappearance,' which so hinders detection that the crime is effectively re-constituted a 'non-event;' that is, invisible....

By favouring the high-velocity corporations that respond with near-instantaneity to fast moving 'market forces,' 'private' structures displace traditional public institutions that are temporally encumbered by low-velocity traditional political deliberation and public accountability; nowhere is this more transparent than with the military procurement process. Pure War is identical with the systemic criminogenic environment, or 'corruption,' the covert privatization of government functions,' that is the conflation of the domestic political economy with speed. Power Crime is an emergent property of the political hegemony of speed. The question now becomes whether pure war can, in itself, affect a fundamental reconfiguration of national and trans-national juridical space.
Corruption doesn't just threaten the function of the State; when the virtual supersedes the actual, the State vanishes.


Anonymous said...

can you put a post on neg based arguments?

Jay said...

Hello Mr.A

Is it possible for you to put quick definitions and resolutional analysis that is lay-friendly. Because I find it difficult for the aff to explain the resolution to a lay judge in 30 sec ,because I need my other time to explain a bunch of good aff arguments which takes up time.


Jim Anderson said...

Anonymous, I haven't had much time for "long form" writing this week, but I'll consider it.

Jay, what part of the explanation, in particular, are you having trouble with? I think it's important to use functional definitions--give examples--to help lay judges understand what a PMF is, for instance, by describing what they actually do. But that can also be folded into your contentions, especially those based on efficacy.

Anonymous said...

Hi Mr Anderson,

I was reading up on the topic and found a website that said that an average US soldier only makes 1,000
dollars more than an usher in a US movie theater (about $15,480 a year). Meanwhile, our government pays PMF's something between $500 and $1500 for the personnel they provide in Iraq. Is there anyway that an argument could somehow pertain to this? I was thinking maybe this: We spend too much on PMF's for them to not be able to guarentee success.
I don't know... just brainstorming here.

Jim Anderson said...

Anonymous, $500 to $1500 per week? A link would help provide context.

If PMFs earn a lot more than U.S. troops, it creates all kinds of problems:

1. Financially, it may not be as cost-effective as some hope.

2. It could reduce the morale of U.S. troops.

3. It makes contracting into a "growth industry," incentivizing conflict.

I'm sure there are other problems, too.

Rainey said...