Deleuze and the IDF
One of the micro-topics I have increasingly become interested in as I study philosophy is the nature in which some philosophical positions or movements are complicit with capitalism (particularly, those that are strictly anti-capitalist themselves). I have mused on this insight elsewhere (here and here and here). Today I came across an interesting point raised by Žižek that discloses a strong parallel between Deleuze and the Israeli Defense Force. Although the extensive passage quoted at length is not capitalistic in nature per se, Žižek relates the self-revolutionizing principle inherent to capitalism here, a logic that requires resistance, the uncommon and the novel in order to perpetually defer its inherent contradiction from reaching a point of crisis.
It was recently made public that, in order to conceptualize the Israeli Defense Force’s urban warfare against thePalestinians, the IDF military academies systematically refer to Deleuze and Guattari, especially to A Thousand Plateaux, using it as ‘operational theory’ – the catchwords used are ‘Formless Rival Entities’, ‘Fractal Manoeuvre’, Velocity vs Rhythms’, ‘The Wahhabi War Machine’, “Postmodern Anarchists’, ‘Nomadic Terrorists’. One of the key distinctions they rely on is the one between ‘smooth’ and ‘striated’ space, which reflect the organizational concepts of the ‘war machine’ and the ‘state apparatus’. The IDF now often uses the term ‘to smooth out space’ when they want to refer to operation in a space as if it had no borders. Palestinian areas are thought as ‘striated’ in the sense that they are enclosed by fences, walls, ditches, road blocks, and so on:
“The attack conducted by units of the IDF on the city of Nablus in April 2002 was described by its commander, Brigadier-General Aviv Kokhavi, as ‘inverse geometry’, which he explained as ‘the reorganization of the urban syntax by a means of a series of micro-tactical actions’. During the battle soldiers moved within the city across hundreds of metres of overground tunnels carved out through a dense and contiguous urban structure. Although several thousand soldiers and Palestinian guerrillas were manoeuvring simultaneously in the city, they were so ‘saturated’ into the urban fabric that very few would have been visible from the air. Furthermore, 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’.”
So what follows from all this? Not, of course, the nonsensical accusation that Deleuze and Guattari were theorists of militaristic colonization – but the conclusion that the conceptual machine articulated by Deleuze and Guattari, far from being simply ‘subversive’, also fits the (military, economic and ideologico-political) operational mode of contemporary capitalism. How, then, are we to revolutionize an order whose very principle is constant self-revolutionizing? [Slavoj Žižek Presents Mao: On Practice and Contradiction, pp. 26-27]
In what follows we are presented with a typical formulation of Žižek’s style, to raise an articulate and profound problem but only to answer it with a cliche quotidian response: in this case, in fewer words, be at peace with the conflict. The quoted remark is certainly disturbing, perhaps even more so for those enamored by Deleuze and his affirmative concept of difference. Although to the credit of Deleuze, I think he is well versed in the natural tendency of capitalism to axiomize – his word – the very forces that oppose it.