Deleuzian war

In a 2006 article, Israeli writer Eyal Weizman describes the Israeli military’s use of contemporary theory to revise military tactics. Weizman says that “the reading lists of contemporary military institutions include works from around 1968 (with a special emphasis on the writings of Gilles Deleuze, Félix Guattari and Guy Debord), as well as more contemporary writings on urbanism, psychology, cybernetics, post-colonial and post-Structuralist theory. If, as some writers claim, the space for criticality has withered away in late 20th-century capitalist culture, it seems now to have found a place to flourish in the military.”

Deleuzian war is war without regard for old-fashioned modern institutions like walls and property boundaries. In a 2002 battle in Nablus, both Israeli and Palestinian soldiers worked invisibly through the city: “they used none of the city’s streets, roads, alleys or courtyards, or any of the external doors, internal stairwells and windows, but moved horizontally through walls and vertically through holes blasted in ceilings and floors. This form of movement, described by the military as ‘infestation’, seeks to redefine inside as outside, and domestic interiors as thoroughfares. The IDF’s strategy of ‘walking through walls’ involves a conception of the city as not just the site but also the very medium of warfare – a flexible, almost liquid medium that is forever contingent and in flux.”

One of the Israeli commanders that he interviewed was self-conscious about his application of theory to military tactics:

“this space that you look at, this room that you look at, is nothing but your interpretation of it. [ . . . ] The question is how do you interpret the alley? [ . . . ] We interpreted the alley as a place forbidden to walk through and the door as a place forbidden to pass through, and the window as a place forbidden to look through, because a weapon awaits us in the alley, and a booby trap awaits us behind the doors. This is because the enemy interprets space in a traditional, classical manner, and I do not want to obey this interpretation and fall into his traps. [ . . . ] I want to surprise him! This is the essence of war. I need to win [ . . . ] This is why that we opted for the methodology of moving through walls . . . . Like a worm that eats its way forward, emerging at points and then disappearing. [ . . . ] I said to my troops, ‘Friends! [ . . . ] If until now you were used to move along roads and sidewalks, forget it! From now on we all walk through walls!’”

Another officer told him: “several of the concepts in A Thousand Plateaux became instrumental for us [ . . . ] allowing us to explain contemporary situations in a way that we could not have otherwise. It problematized our own paradigms. Most important was the distinction they have pointed out between the concepts of ‘smooth’ and ‘striated’ space [which accordingly reflect] the organizational concepts of the ‘war machine’ and the ‘state apparatus.’ In the IDF we now often use the term ‘to smooth out space’ when we want to refer to operation in a space as if it had no borders. [ . . . ] Palestinian areas could indeed be thought of as ‘striated’ in the sense that they are enclosed by fences, walls, ditches, roads blocks and so on.”

Walking through walls means literally that: They move through an urban battleground without following existing streets or finding refuge in public places. Instead, they blast through the wall of a private home, carry out their operations from the house, and then move on. Smoothing space means blasting through the obstacles that keep it “striated.”

I wonder how the Rabbis assess Deleuzian war, what with Deuteronomy 20. It seems as if that chapter’s prohibition against making war against the fruit trees could be extended to homes.

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