Staff | March 22, 2004
War is pursued by Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guatarri to considerable depth in “A Thousand Plateaus”. As such, their interests bring them into dialogue with a community of philosophers who have dealt with the relation between the state and war. Aside from Nietzsche, whose Genealogy of Morals placed war at the foundation of the state and development of the internal consciousness of man, D/G are responding to the ideas surrounding the work of Paul Virillio, Michel Serres, and Michel Foucault – all of whom devoted considerable effort to understanding war. Virillio, Serres, and Foucault respond directly to both Karl von Clausewitz and Fascism in their work and D/G take up Fascism in Plateau 9 and Clausewitz, among others, in 12.
While 9 presents the problem of Fascism through an image composed of segments, 12 uses fluidity, smooth space, and speed to separate the war machine from war. If 9 was primarily concerned with reterritorialization then 12 is concerned with deterritorialization epitomized by smooth space. “Smooth space is a field without conduits or channels. A field, a heterogeneous smooth space, is wedded to a very particular type of multiplicity: nonmetric, acentered, rhizomatic multiplicities that occupy space without 'counting' it and can 'be explored only by legwork'.” (371) The thought images we create of an idea have importance in how that idea is expressed. Obsessions with straight lines and segments were expressed in the Roman construction of society's cities and culture and ultimately resulted in the segmentation of Fascism. Understanding war's relation with the State, on the other hand, necessitates an image composed not of solids but of flows. Hence their use of multidimensional spatial metaphors. They term this method of inquiry, one in which abstract images are studied along with their expression, noology, “which is distinct from ideology, [noology] is precisely the study of images of thought, and their historicity.” (376). The question of “what is war” is then expanded to include: from what does the producer of war, the “war machine”, spring from and what else does the “war machine” produce?
Nietzsche's thesis that the State was created at the moment a noble race appeared as if by fate and occupied a nomadic people is complicated by D/G. Although the State expresses war, this is not the only thing created by the “war machine” nor is it the first. Instead, war is associated with deterritorialization and is therefore nomadic in origin. The State thrives on rigidity, and must find a way to channel the flows of war to strengthen its control. The formation of a military is the origin of the State's use of war, but not of war: “What we call a military institution, or army, is not all the war machine in itself, but the form under which it is appropriated by the State.” (418) In their mind war, the force which dissolves, deterritorializes, the rigidity of the State was at first outside of the State and in competition against the State. The State's response was to use the force behind war, the conceptual machine of war, in a totally different way against the nomadic by appropriating the war machine, “that is, constitute one for itself, in conformity with its size, its domination, and its aims?”. To appropriate is to change, and the State's contribution was a war turned into an Idea in Karl von Clausewitz – a fascist total war, in Virillio's sense, that can only occur when “the war machine takes war as its object, and that war becomes subordinated to the aims of the State.” (418)
Although war originated with the nomads, it is a byproduct and not the principle aim of the deterritorializing flows of the nomadic pole. At base, the war machine creates deterritorialization which finds expression not just as war but as creativity and innovation. This is where D/G see the possibility of overcoming the “highly discouraging” situation of a growing war machine under State control. “The very conditions that make the State or World war machine possible [...] continually recreate unexpected possibilities for counterattack, unforeseen initiatives determining revolutionary, popular, minority, mutant machines.” (422) The ultimate point here for D/G is that the war machine can be expressed by any group. Although the State may appropriate the war machine for total destruction, it is within our ability to appropriate the war machine for innovative creation.