Following the recent escalation and justification of US drone strikes in the name of national security, Eval Weizman reminds us how the demand for calculation paves the way for a continued justification of violence. The following excerpt from his book charts the philosophical underpinnings of Western military and humanitarian intervention from the late twentieth century to the present.
Drone pilots at work, via Wikimedia Commons
If, as a friend recently suggested, we ought to construct a monument to our present political culture as an homage to the principle of the ‘lesser evil’, it should be made in the form of the digits 6-6-5 built of concrete blocks, and installed like the Hollywood sign on hillsides or other high points overlooking city centers. This number, one less than the number of the beast — that of the devil and of total evil — might capture the essence of our humanitarian present obsessed with the calculations and calibrations that seek to moderate, ever so slightly, the evils that it has largely caused itself.
Syrian revolutionaries, in the wake of Geneva’s partial “cessation of hostilities", have begun to peacefully protest in the streets of Aleppo, Damascus, Dera'a, and Homs. Chanting “the Syrian people are one!,” they rally to demand freedom, democracy, and an end to the deadly civil war. Despite the death toll reaching nearly half a million, the Syrian population has shown that it will not defer to the murderous campaigns of Bashar Al-Assad, the terrorism of jihadist groups such as Jabhat Al-Nusra and ISIL, nor the imperial strategies of divide-and-rule by foreign superpowers such as the US and Russia. This sudden wave of people power harks back to the broad regime-defying spirit that animated the Arab Uprisings in 2011. Tragically, autocratic forces continue to hold political and economic power, not only in Syria but also in Egypt, Israel, Turkey, and the monarchy of Saudi Arabia (which, with US support, has spearheaded a deadly assault on the population Yemen). As events unfold, we present a reading list of key titles that – through investigative journalism, graphic storytelling, and critical analysis – shed light on what’s at stake for in the conflicts that plague the Middle East.
(A Syrian Kurdish boy sits atop a destroyed tank in Kobane three months after ISIS fighters were driven out by Kurdish forces. Photo: Yasin Akgul/AFP/Getty Images)
As tensions escalate once again in occupied West Bank and Jerusalem in what is now being described by some as the Third Intifada, we share this extract from John Berger's Hold Everything Dear: Dispatches on Survival and Resistance about the devastating, deadly effects of the Israeli occupation. Earlier this week, Berger sent a letter to the Palestinian resistance in support of the upsurge.