Personal and academic blog. Explores the borderlands between rhetoric, politics and intelligence.


Coercing to persuade

The ever-well-read Wired "Danger Room" blog writes a little post on how artillery has been used to pave the way for talks with local sheiks in the Diyala province of Iraq. This is an aspect of persuasion that has always interested me. At times you need to use violence (a definite no-no in all rhetorical thinking, ancient and modern) as a pretext for being able to persuade and having a constructive debate.

I'm not studied enough on Clausewitz but this aspect of warfare is either an affirmation or a qualification of his famous (and over-used) dictum: War is the continuation of politics.

In the modernist interpretation (where I think we should place C. himself), this meant that war took over when politics had exhausted it's role. In the post-modern interpretation, it means that war is just politics by other means. And this last interpretation is very much in tune with the thoughts about warfare in the fourth generation warfare, new wars, etc. As the classical concept of states warring each other for power crumbles to something much more messy and sub-statey, this mixture of warfare and persuasion will take on prominence. Not that it is a new genre. In a way you could see the proxy wars of the Cold War era as an aspect of same persuasion: "Look how much destruction we can rain down on you, when you attack me. Care to have a chat about our mutual future?"

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