These are Fighting Words, Step Up Society

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Contents

  1. Free Speech, Fighting Words and Violence – Living Room Conversations
  2. Fighting Words
  3. A Journal of Ideas
  4. Let's Get Started!
  5. Wonks in Exile
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Free Speech, Fighting Words and Violence – Living Room Conversations

But violence, like war, is a term that derives its meaning from the broader social and linguistic framework in which it is embedded. So too for the term "political," and, for that matter, for pretty much every other word and concept. Most of us think of violence as the use of physical force to damage or injure for the purpose of inflicting suffering or asserting dominance.

But there are many other ways to understand and define violence.

Rod Dreher

Consider various forms of psychological torture or abuse. Or consider cyberattacks that lead to loss of life as an indirect result of extended power outages: Why not view such attacks as a form of violence if they lead predictably to loss of life? Or what about economic sanctions, for that matter: Numerous U. Insofar as these deaths were the predictable consequence of the sanctions regime, why not call the sanctions a form of violence, as many critics including many ordinary Iraqis did?

Theorists have been squabbling over definitions of violence for a long time, struggling to draw clear and coherent distinctions between violence and a host of related concepts, such as force, power, authority, strength, coercion, and dominance.

The same is true of the idea of "the political. But if this is so, then saying "the nature of war never changes" devolves into a meaningless truism. Our concept paper, notes Mewett, argues that "changes in the nature of warfare … This time we said warfare!

Fighting Words

There is something of a feedback cycle in play: Social, political, and technological change impact the way wars are fought, and those wars often influence the way society and politics are organized. This criticism, I think, rests on a misunderstanding of our arguments though we may have made such a misunderstanding possible by breaking up a longer concept paper into shorter excerpts posted on different days.

The state chooses which wars to fight and how to fight them. But the modern, neo-Westphalian state does more than that. It also defines war, from both a legal and institutional perspective. It is the state that creates and defines the role of the military defined, more or less, as "that state institution designated as responsible for the activity called warfare" , for instance, assigning it certain tasks and assigning certain other tasks to non-military entities.

It is also the state that defines the legal contours of war.

A Journal of Ideas

To put this in terms of current issues, the U. Similarly, as a legal matter, the state can decide to treat cyberattacks as acts of war, subject to the laws of war , or it can decide to treat them as crimes, subject to criminal law. In other words: Clausewitzian verities notwithstanding, it is the state — the putative monopolizer of the means of legitimate violence , and the ultimate war-making entity — that literally makes war.

It is the state that chooses to place some things into the institutional and legal basket labeled "war," and place other things into different baskets. This matters. If the state decides — through legislation or executive fiat — that such cyberattacks constitute "war" in a legal and institutional sense, then a teenage al Qaeda hacker would be a "combatant. War, as Clausewitz emphasized, is a social phenomenon; it is inextricably bound up with and defined by choices that are made in the political realm.

Ultimately, by adding more to the war basket, the state may set in motion a cascade of changes that end by transforming the state itself.

Let's Get Started!

I said a moment ago that the state "chooses" what to put in the war basket, but this of course is to anthropomorphize the state. States are made up of people, and the choices of the people who make up the state are influenced and shaped by arguments made in military schoolhouses, Congressional hearings, academic journals, Sunday talk shows, and yes, even blogs and Foreign Policy articles. Arguments about the definition of war are always, in some sense, efforts to shape, constrain, or channel violence and power.

The words we use to define war are always "fighting words. Take my hypothetical teenage al Qaeda hacker — and imagine, if you will, that he is a Clausewitz aficionado.

Wonks in Exile

Informed that the United States considers him a combatant who can be detained or targeted under the laws of war, he declares firmly that this is definitionally inappropriate. My own cyberactivities are aimed at toppling the U. I therefore cannot be a considered a combatant, and I cannot be detained without due process of law.

I most certainly cannot be killed by the U. To this, our anthropomorphized state might respond with an icy shrug: "Tell it to the judge. If you think I got everything dead wrong in this piece or that the Future of War project has it all wrong , you can email me at rosa. She served as a counselor to the U. State Department. Trending Now Sponsored Links by Taboola.

Sign up for free access to 1 article per month and weekly email updates from expert policy analysts. Create a Foreign Policy account to access 1 article per month and free newsletters developed by policy experts. Thank you for being an FP Basic subscriber. Megyn Kelly, a Fox News presenter, grilled Donald Trump, who is running for the Republican nomination for president, about a series of nasty things he had said about women in the past.

Sexism, too, is alive and well. For example, to say that women naturally want nothing more than to have children and nurture them—that they have their own natural, separate sphere from men—is distressingly common. But Mr Erickson has also said that:. When you look at biology—look at the natural world—the roles of a male and a female in society and the other animals, the male typically is the dominant role. The female, it's not antithesis, or it's not competing, it's a complementary role. We as people in a smart society have lost the ability to have complementary relationships The men and women who say this kind of thing would swear up and down that they love women.

Their statements should be confronted. Some men go past stereotyping to contempt. If speakers keep misogyny to its original and more powerful meaning, it will pack a greater punch, hopefully to land all the harder on the misogynists of the world.


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