27 Nov 2005

Networks versus the State

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Wretchard proposes a provocative way of looking at current events:

The fundamental issue… is whether nation-states are in some sense being replaced by distributed networks of people…

That Islam traditionally had no fixed hierarchy helped it adapt more readily to networked war. For the Jihadi the requirements of public policy and international law not only proved no hindrance, in a fundamental sense they did not apply: things like the Geneva Convention were the impedimenta of nation-states. Holy warriors were accountable only to Allah, which in practice meant they answered to no one but themselves. This circumstance exculpated the Jihadists from a multitude of sins in the eyes of a Western media capable of recognizing only state actors. Attacks against hospitals, schools, churches; and the use of children as combatants excited no opprobrium because these were understood to be acts of individuals; unfortunate to be sure, but ultimately insubstantial. Only states could commit war crimes, so that Jihadi atrocities, even on the scale of September 11, were only the subject of police action…

The key challenge is whether America, in the sense of a shared idea, can be expansive enough to permit subordinate threads which can truly “take on a life of their own”, and so become agile enough to engage the Jihadis at the lowest level.


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