On Counterinsurgency: Firepower, Biopower, and the Collateralization of Milliatry Violence
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This dissertation investigates the most recent cycle of North Atlantic expeditionary warfare by addressing the resuscitation of counterinsurgency warfare with a specific focus on the war in Afghanistan from 2006 to 2014. The project interrogates the lasting aesthetic, epistemological, philosophical, and territorial implications of counterinsurgency, which should be understood as part of wider transformations in military affairs in relation to discourses of adaptation, complexity, and systemic design, and to the repertoire of global contingency and stability operations. Afghanistan served as a counterinsurgency laboratory, and the experiments will shape the conduct of future wars, domestic security practices, and the increasingly indistinct boundary between them. Using work from Michel Foucault and liberal war studies, the project undertakes a genealogy of contemporary population-centred counterinsurgency and interrogates how its conduct is constituted by and as a mixture firepower and biopower. Insofar as this mix employs force with different speeds, doses, and intensities, the dissertation argues that counterinsurgency unrestricts and collateralizes violence, which is emblematic of liberal war that kills selectively to secure and make life live in ways amenable to local and global imperatives of liberal rule. Contemporary military counterinsurgents, in conducting operations on the edges of liberal rule's jurisdiction and in recursively influencing the domestic spaces of North Atlantic states, fashion biopoweras custodial power to conduct the conduct of lifeto shape different interventions into the everyday lives of target populations. The 'lesser evil' logic of counterinsurgency is used to frame counterinsurgency as a type of warfare that is comparatively low-intensity and less harmful, and this justification actually lowers the threshold for violence by making increasingly indiscriminate the ways in which its employment damages and envelops populations and communities, thereby allowing counterinsurgents to speculate on the practice of expeditionary warfare and efforts to sustain occupations. Thus, the dissertation argues that counterinsurgency is a communicative process, better understood as mobile military media with an atmospheric-environmental register blending acute and ambient measures that are always-already kinetic. The counterinsurgent gaze enframes a world picture where everything can be a force amplifier and everywhere is a possible theatre of operations.