The Order of War

Antonio Negri

First published in the Italian Global Magazine in November, 2002. Translated by Arianna Bove and Thomas Seay

Iran, Iraq, North Korea. Within the new world order, roles and pecking orders are being redefined through conflict with “rogues states”. This is the game in progress between the United States, China, Europe and Russia. The imperial war is underway, developing and expanding with continuity and inner consistency. American initiative, the driving force behind the war, yields little by little to the conditions set by other rulers of the earth. The very role of the United Nations is being transformed into that of Imperial Senate(1). War, as a global basis of legitimacy and as pre-eminent display of imperial rule, is manifesting itself in all its forms, and as it expands, so too does imperial power; The new military doctrine, made public by the American administration on September 20, 2002, completes the strategic design that the Bush group declared when it first acceded to power, well before the collapse of the Twin Towers; the achievement of superior military power by the United States, the consequent denunciation of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (ABM), and the start of the unilateral construction of the Missile Defense System (“Son of Star Wars”). After September 11, 2001, the campaign in Afghanistan, which initiated on a global level the first phase of the war on terrorism, put together conventional and unconventional means of warfare, as well as high and low intensity police actions. Today the new military doctrine couches in terms of common sense and elementary self-defense Empire’s right to intervene against potential enemies before such threats materialize. This is the theory of preventative war.

Preventative war is not only a military doctrine; it is a constituent strategy of Empire. The American administration’s September 20th document explicitly states so: preventative war is a just and necessary means to defend liberty, justice, democracy and economic growth against terrorists and tyrants. It adds that preventative war should be considered immediately relevant concerning three “rogue states”: Iraq, Iran and North Korea. To certain sectors of public opinion as well as to diplomats of some countries it seemed as though the statement about the “Axis of Evil”, along with a succession of angry unilateralist declarations on the part of White House representatives and their watchdogs indicated the suspension or definitive interruption of the nexus between military doctrine and the constituent strategy of Empire. In reality such was not the case. On the contrary, these statements represented items on the agenda [ordine del giorno] around which constituent discussions between the global powers emerged. No sensible person could have ever really thought that Iraq, Iran and North Korea posed substantial problems for a power like the USA, which could claim inordinate military power after its victory against international communism.

Now American military power, which is absolutely asymmetric, must also become intransitive; it must remain an absolute superpower not so much with respect to the three ‘powers of Evil’ but rather in respect to the other world powers: the Axis of evil is a metaphor for the great problems the monarchic power of the United States of America faces in three strategic areas at the end of the cold war. Europe, Russia and China represent the problematic poles of the new global order. Now, Iraq is a further indication of the European problem (and subordinately, of the Japanese one) presented under the guise of energy supplies: without securing them the European economy cannot exist and whoever controls energy supplies has his hands on the whole range of biopolitical functions of power in the old continent. On the other hand, Iran (the area around the Caspian sea) represents the soft underbelly of Russian development. North Korea is in the middle of the China Sea. How is Empire organized in these three fundamental zones? What is its material constitution to become, today, in the presence of an American military superpower? How is the military supremacy of the monarchic power over the new imperial order to be preventatively secured?

It is well known that in Empire the sole exercise of military power-or rather, of the monarchical function- is far from being sufficient to secure centrality and stability for the exercise of global power. Moreover, S11 has shown (and with what dreadful evidence!) that the United States is in no respects an island. The ensuing economic crisis –not only at the level of production but also and especially at the financial and monetary level- has demonstrated that in Empire monarchy cannot survive unless it is in agreement with the global aristocracy. Therefore, the war that’s brewing contains within its core a discussion on the imperial constitution, and particularly, as far as Europe is concerned, the dimensions and roles of the European aristocracies in it. Chirac and Schroder are neither pacifists nor warmongers: they are debating with Bush on the place of European capitalism in the imperial constitution. The major decisions are not being made on the war on terrorism or on the ce conventional war against tyrants, but rather on the forms of hegemony and the relative degrees of power that American and/or European capitalist elites will have in the organization of the new world order. Preventative decisions are not simply to do with war but more with market predominance in the sub regions of the imperial organization.

What should be the multitudes reaction to such a situation? How to oppose this imperial game, which has become totalitarian and warlike, with the force and desire of democracy? How to avoid war or, in any case, fight against it, whilst struggling at the same time for democracy, the real democracy of the multitudes, on a global scale?

Two possible suggestions for now. The first is the choice of field of struggle. There is no possibility of struggling against the constitution of Empire without acting on a global scale. Imperial power extends over the globality of relations between nation-states and regional systems of capitalist power. These subjects take part in – in a way more or less contradictory, but always, eventually coherent and in agreement- the system of capitalist exploitation. Now resistance to imperial war is possible only by going beyond the narrow confines of nation and region; it is possible only on the level of global networks of resistance. Nationalisms, even and especially those advocated by the Left (found frequently amongst ex-colonial countries or ones that are extremely dependent as in Latin America) represent a great danger, giving rise to the illusion that imperial rule based on capitalist exploitation can be influenced or even beaten at the nation-state level. In reality, all forces that act on a global scale will be effective only if they act, in a post-modern manner, transversally and wherever.

For instance, take the way the two major fundamentalist forces -the Zionist and the Islamic- operate: they are networks, certainly present on specific territories, but especially active in public opinion and in the electoral bodies of key major capitalist countries, in the networks of information and finance and so on. These are not the fields we are interested in, we are not fundamentalists…

But once we’ve established that the only adequate field of struggle and organization is the global terrain, we have a second line of action: the anti-capitalist one. Here, social democracy presents itself as the obstacle and mystification to be resisted. However, resistance must accompany exodus, thus, with the view not of participating in the new imperial constitution (either as subjugated peoples or as corporatist masses), but rather to oppose the global constitution of capital and the imperial constitution founded on preventative war with the democracy of the multitude (that is based on the surplus of intellectual and ethical production of the proletariat). But what is the democracy of the multitude? What is the force of the new organized subjectivity? What is the ‘council with computers’ of our new productive generations?

(1) Translators’ note: For a definition of the terms monarchy, aristocracy and democracy as “tripartite divisions of functions and elements” within Imperial government see Hardt and Negri’s discussion of “Polybius and Imperial Government” in “Empire” pp. 314-316 “The Empire we find ourselves faced with today is also-mutatis mutandis-constituted by a functional equilibrium among these three forms of power: the monarchic unity of power and its global monopoly of force; aristocratic articulations through transnational corporations and nation-states; and democratic-representational comitita, presented again in the form of nation-states along with the various kinds of NGO’s, media organizations, and other “popular organisms.”

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