Virilio on Kosovo

Doug Henwood dhenwood at
Wed Oct 18 14:01:35 PDT 2000

[Not yet up at the ctheory site <>, but sent to email subscribers. Here's an extract; I'll forward the whole thing to anyone who wants it. Am I wrong in finding this silly?]

*John Armitage*: Let's talk about your theoretical efforts to

understand and interpret the Kosovo war in _Strategie de la

deception_. Is the campaign in the air the only important element

that other theorists should pay attention to?

*Paul Virilio*: Let me emphasise the following points about the

Kosovo War. First, while the United States (US) can view the war as a

success, Europe must see it as a failure for it and, in particular,

for the institutions of the European Union (EU). For the US, the

Kosovo War was a success because it encouraged the development of the

Pentagon's 'Revolution in Military Affairs' (RMA). The war provided a

test site for experimentation, and paved the way for emergence of

what I call in _Strategie de la deception_ 'the second deterrence'.

It is, therefore, my firm belief that the US is currently seeking to

revert to the position it held after the triggering of atomic bombs

at Hiroshima and Nagasaki in the 1940s, when the US was the sole

nuclear power. And here I repeat what I suggest in my book. The first

deterrence, nuclear deterrence, is presently being superseded by the

second deterrence: a type of deterrence based on what I call 'the

information bomb' associated with the new weaponry of information and

communications technologies. Thus, in the very near future, and I

stress this important point, ~it will no longer be war that is the

continuation of politics by other means, it will be what I have

dubbed 'the integral accident'~ that is the continuation of politics

by other means. The automation of warfare has, then, come a long way

since the Persian Gulf War of 1991. Needless to say, none of these

developments will help the plight of the refugees in Kosovo or stop

the actions of the militias operating there. However, the automation

of warfare will allow for the continuation not only of war in the air

but also of the further development of the Pentagon's RMA in the form

of 'Global Information Dominance' (GID) and 'Global Air Power' (GAP).

It is for these reasons that, in my new book, I focus for example on

the use of the 'graphite bomb' to shut off the Serbian electricity

supply as well as the cutting off of the service provision to Serbia

of the EuTelSat television satellite by the EU. And, let me remind

you that the latter action was carried out against the explicit

wishes of the UN. To my mind, therefore, the integral accident, the

automation of warfare, and the RMA are all part of the shift towards

the second deterrence and the explosion of the information bomb. For

me, these developments are revolutionary because, today, the age of

the locally situated bomb such as the atomic bomb has passed. The

atomic bomb provoked a ~specific~ accident. But the information bomb

gives rise to the integral and ~globally constituted accident~. The

globally constituted accident can be compared to what people who work

at the stock exchange call 'systemic risk'. And, of course, we have

already seen some instances of systemic risk in recent times in the

Asian financial crisis. But what sparked off the Asian financial

crisis? Automated trading programmes! Here, then, we meet again the

problems I noted in earlier works with regard to interactivity.

Moreover, it is clear that the era of the information bomb, the era

of aerial warfare, the era of the RMA and global surveillance is also

the era of ~the integral accident~. 'Cyberwar' has nothing to do with

the destruction brought about by bombs and grenades and so on. It is

specifically linked to the information systems of life itself. It is

in this sense that, as I have said many times before, interactivity

is the equivalent of radioactivity. For interactivity effects a kind

of disintegration, a kind of ~rupture~. For me, the Asian financial

crisis of 1998 and the war in Kosovo in 1999 are the prelude to the

integral accident.

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