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Outsourcing Death, Sacrifice and Remembrance: The Socio-Political Effects of Remote Warfare

This is an excerpt from Remote Warfare: Interdisciplinary Perspectives. Get your free obtain from E-International Relations.

Late fashionable warfare is more and more characterised by ‘the technical ability and ethical imperative to threaten and, if necessary, actualise violence from a distance – with no or minimal casualties’ (Der Derian 2009, xxi). The time period distant warfare has been coined to seize this course of the place states and societies of the Global North are progressively distancing the consequences of struggle. New applied sciences, similar to drones, and actors, similar to non-public army and safety corporations (PMSCs) and particular forces, are a basic function in enabling such sorts of warfare, and their significance has attracted growing consideration (Chamayou 2015). In this chapter, we deal with what Der Derian has known as the ‘ethical imperative.’ This crucial, we argue, underpins the dedication in direction of varieties of distant warfare and actively shapes the route and focus of the strategies it employs. In order to consider distant warfare, it’s essential to recognise the normative dedication that underpins this fashion of struggle. This is a dedication which emerges clearly from the definition of distant warfare as a sequence of strategies and approaches, such because the use of proxies, particular operations forces, PMSCs and drones, to ‘counter threats at a distance’ (Watts and Biegon 2017). The chapter focuses on the moral crucial sustaining the method of distancing by trying on the normative dedication embedded inside varieties of distant warfare. We achieve this by exploring distant warfare’s socio-political results on intervening states, which to this point has generated solely restricted consideration from students.

Recent literature on distant warfare, or variously termed ‘liquid warfare’ (Demmers and Gould 2018), ‘surrogate warfare’ (Krieg and Rickli 2018) and ‘vicarious warfare’ (Waldman 2018), has primarily centered on the very areas and occasions wherein distant varieties of warfare are enacted. In this, the literature has moved its focus away from an evaluation of distant warfare’s authorized and technical features (see Rae 2014; Boyle 2015), and in direction of the socio-political results this kind of warfare has on the on a regular basis social realities of folks dwelling inside the areas the place distant warfare takes place.

Studies have proven distant warfare’s influence on the lived realities inside theatres (Calhoun 2018), demonstrated how drone strikes undermine the legitimacy of states and governments on the receiving finish of these interventions (Boyle 2013), uncovered how PMSCs blur the excellence between civilians and combatants, extending the area of the battlefield and blurring its borders (Kinsey 2006), and highlighted how intervening states are more and more privileging long-distance air strikes and the coaching of native forces over long run state-building processes with detrimental results for native safety (Kaldor 2012, 151–184; Knowles  and Watson 2018). By exposing how distant warfare contributes to turning struggle into the everlasting socio-political situation for folks dwelling inside the neighborhood of these interventions, this literature presents a strong critique of this technique of engagement. Indeed, distant warfare’s socio-political impact of turning struggle right into a everlasting situation for underprivileged areas and occasions makes distant warfare every thing however distant. War moderately turns into perpetually current in area and time as expressions similar to ‘everywhere war’ (Gregory 2011) and ‘forever war’ (Filkins 2008) seize.

Remote warfare’s socio-political results on the states and societies from which it originates, nevertheless, have to this point acquired solely restricted consideration. This chapter turns to this ignored side by analysing the socio-political results the seeming absence of struggle has on the societies of the intervener. Our argument unfolds in three steps.

First, by focussing on the etymology of the time period ‘remote’, we expose that distant not solely entails a bodily distancing but additionally encapsulates a selected normative dedication to temporalise the states wherein distant interventions happen, framing them as morally backwards and thus paving the bottom for army intervention. Second, we present that distant warfare challenges the standard methods wherein societies within the Global North have sustained their tasks of nation-building via the manufacturing of a collective id primarily based on/in sacrifice (Kahn 2013; Taussig-Rubbo 2009). Third, we analyse the apply of army outsourcing as a instrument of distant warfare. Specifically, we present how the outsourcing of loss of life to personal proxies exposes the methods wherein neo-liberal states are renegotiating the very that means of what it means to sacrifice for the collective id that the nation has traditionally claimed to precise.

The Space and Time of Remote Warfare

As argued above, distant warfare accommodates the moral crucial to distance struggle. Indeed, the very act of distancing is hidden in plain sight inside the very time period itself: distant warfare. The etymology of ‘remote’ permits us to make clear distant warfare’s normative dimension by exposing that distant encapsulates each spatial in addition to temporal distancing. Etymology is a great tool on this regard because it uncovers the entire vary of numerous meanings {that a} time period can carry, thereby contributing ‘to the understanding of the performativity of language in making the world in which “we” live in.’ (Riemann 2014, 3).

Remote, deriving etymologically from the Latin adjective ‘remotus’ for ‘distant in place, afar, set aside, removed’ reveals how the time period expresses the spatial logics sustaining distant warfare (Castiglioni and Mariotti 1996, 1097). As such, distant in area signifies the dedication for distancing struggle from ‘over-here’, whereas concurrently sustaining the likelihood of combating it ‘over there.’ Perpetuated by 9/11, parts of this spatial logic discovered expression within the Bush Doctrine’s notion of pre-emption primarily based on the proposition that, ‘we will fight them over there, so we do not have to face them in the USA’ (Bush 2007). This strategy of combating wars at a distance continued underneath the Obama administration’s extension of the US drone programme and has additional intensified since Trump took workplace (Rosenthal and Schulman 2018). Besides its spatial logic, the that means of ‘distance’ entailed inside the time period distant warfare additionally accommodates a temporal high quality. New applied sciences, for instance, not solely allow interveners to recede ‘further in time and space from the target of military operations’ (Ohlin 2017, 2) but additionally ‘bring “there” here in near-real time’ (Der Derian 2009, xxxi). However, the use of digital applied sciences to conduct army operations from afar with close to verisimilitude, will not be the only temporal side of distant warfare.

Remote in time, we argue, can be linked to imaginaries of underdevelopment, civilisational requirements and concepts of backwardness which might be usually related to the locations wherein distant warfare takes place. This temporal connotation is deeply embedded into the very time period distant, although up to date English privileges the phrase’s spatial dimension. Remote’s etymology is once more indicative, because the Latin remotus refers to ‘distance in time’, but additionally ‘different, adverse, alien’ (Zalli 1830, 492–493). Even in English, each the temporal in addition to the side of distinction, have been included in its that means till the nineteenth century. Samuel Johnson’s (1828, 286) A dictionary of the English Language exemplifies this, because it defines distant as ‘1. Distant in time, not immediate, 2. Distant in Place … 4. Foreign … 6. Alien; not agreeing.’ What we discover inside distant warfare, due to this fact, is what Barry Hindess (2007) has characterised because the ‘temporalisation of difference’, via which sure contemporaries and the areas they inhabit are assigned to an anterior time. Moreover, topics inside these ‘backward’ areas are portrayed as morally bankrupt and essentially completely different compared to their contemporaries (Ibid., 325–326).

The time period ‘remote’ thus hides in plain sight the methods wherein topics and areas the place distant interventions happen are constructed as backward and distant in time via the method of temporalisation. And it’s exactly this temporalisation which makes these topics and areas ‘targetable.’ This is most seen in relation to discourses on fragile and failing states, which type the backdrop for many distant interventions (Fernández and Estevez 2017, 149; Watts and Biegon 2017; Waldmann 2017). Debates on these areas deploy a range of metaphors and traits to find fragile states on a temporal scale wherein these are variously outlined as ‘medieval’ (Forrest 1994), belonging to a Hobbesian state of nature that precedes the social contract (Kaplan 1994) or just ‘pre-modern’ (Cooper 2003). Such representations ‘inferiorise difference by interpreting it as backwardness’ and delegitimises these areas ‘through a comparison – explicit or implicit – with temporally more advanced identities’ (Moreno 2015, 72). Furthermore, these ‘discursive practices, based on a Eurocentric account, construct the “failed state” as deviant’ thereby creating ‘favourable conditions for interventionist practices’ (Moreno 2015, 1).

Rita Abrahamsen (2005) noticed the open-ended nature of these interventionist practices within the discursive change on fragile states that appeared after 9/11. Where beforehand ‘development’ and ‘humanitarianism’ have been key phrases of reference in debates on fragile states, these have been progressively changed with an insistence on classes of danger, concern and risk, which might be in want of being regularly contained to safeguard temporally superior areas (Ibid.). The spatial and temporal logics of distant warfare, due to this fact, comprise the normative dedication of eradicating struggle from some privileged areas and occasions even on the prices of turning struggle right into a everlasting social situation for underprivileged areas and occasions. In doing so, distant warfare establishes a radical duality between areas and occasions wherein struggle is persistently current, and areas and occasions from which it’s eliminated. Put in another way, from the angle of societies within the Global North, the consequences of ‘being at war’ are rendered invisible and its prices are largely positioned on the societies which have grow to be the item of distant varieties of intervention.

Yet, the normative dedication of eradicating struggle from ‘Western’ societies is neither uncontested nor with out penalties. First, as a result of this try is persistently resisted. Terrorist assaults performed within the ‘West’, for instance, have usually been framed as retaliatory actions to Western army interventions, together with these underneath the label of distant warfare. For occasion, on a number of events Islamic State justified assaults inside Western societies as direct responses to what’s occurring within the theatres of distant warfare (Greenwald 2016). Second, distant warfare doesn’t depart societies from which it originates untouched. Critical scholarship has been instrumental in exposing the profound political and authorized results that distant warfare has on liberal democracies, similar to the shortage of democratic accountability within the enactment of these wars (Baggiarini 2015; Chamayou 2015) and the growing use of emergency/distinctive laws (Neal 2010, 2015). Critical terrorism research uncovered the deep socio-political results of distant warfare in Western states by elevating consciousness of the militarisation of home safety and the use of strategies that journey from COIN ‘abroad’ to counterterrorism at ‘home’ (Owens 2015; Dunlap 2016; Sabir 2017).

The methods wherein Muslim communities in Western societies are more and more the goal of safety practices, similar to surveillance, stigmatisation and policing, is a working example, (Awan 2011) suggesting that for some sections of the inhabitants within the ‘West’ distant warfare’s results are something however distant. The causes above spotlight the significance of contemplating how the normative dedication of conducting distant warfare produces concrete socio-political results inside the societies from which struggle is supposedly eliminated. In the remaining half of this chapter, we flip our consideration to how distant warfare impacts a key element of the development of fashionable statehood: the citizenship/sacrifice hyperlink (Hutchinson 2017).

Sacred Soldier Bodies and the Citizenship/Sacrifice Link

Max Weber (2009, 78) famously outlined the state as a ‘community that successfully claims the monopoly of the legitimate use of violence within a given territory.’ A sole deal with the bodily/materials features in Weber’s definition, nevertheless, overlooks his engagement with the emotional foundations of political authority/neighborhood. In Religious Rejections of the World and Their Directions, Weber (2009, 335) highlights the necessary emotional foundations of the legitimation of drive, arguing that ‘the location of death within a series of meaningful and consecrated events ultimately lies at the base of all endeavours to support the autonomous dignity of the polity resting on force.’ Sacrificial authority, due to this fact, underlies the state’s political authority and energy (Marvin 2014). Bargu (2014, 124) calls this emotional basis of Weber’s monopoly of violence, the monopsony of sacrifice. Monopsony derives from the traditional Greek monos (single) and opsonia (buy). As such, ‘[b]uilding on Weber, we can say that the modern state is not only the sole provider of legitimate force; it is also the sole receiver of political self-sacrifice’ (Bargu 2014, 124).

Nationalism hyperlinks particular person sacrifice to the state, implying ‘a transfer of authority and meaning from God to originating peoples and their cultures’ (Hutchinson 2017, 9). In struggle, this assumes an particularly robust that means, ‘when cults of the national dead are potent, extolling that those who die will live forever in the memory of the nation’ (Ibid.). Military remembrance rituals specific this hyperlink by producing, within the phrases of Hutchinson (Ibid., 3–4), ‘a sense of in-group commonality.’ The 12 months 2018, for instance, noticed nations across the globe commemorate the centenary of the top of the First World War (1914–1918).

At the centre of these commemorative occasions lay the remembrance of those who died, with a selected deal with army fatalities. London, for instance, displayed components of the large paintings of 888,246 poppies that flooded the Tower of London in 2014, wherein every poppy represented a fallen member of the British armed forces.[1] Such occasions type an integral half inside the building of nationwide narratives, as a result of it’s the remembrance of those that handed that creates a way of unity and nationwide belonging (Marvin and Ingle 1996), which in flip forges a relational id between citizen and state.

In the phrases of Jens Bartelson (1995, 189), ‘the modern subject and the modern state are linked inside knowledge, and the concepts of nation and community are used to express their unity.’ Nationalism, as David Campbell (1992, 11) has argued, due to this fact must be understood as one of the numerous methods via which the fashionable state pursues its legitimacy. Roxanne Doty (1996) argues equally, asserting that state sovereignty is endorsed by, and finds expression in, nationwide id.

Military remembrance rituals thus have a constitutive operate within the manufacturing and copy of sovereign claims and the creation of nationwide identities. Specifically, commemorative rituals contribute to the state’s ontological safety. Ontological safety differs from bodily safety by being ‘not of the body but of the self, the subjective sense of who one is’ (Mitzen 2006, 344). In this, ontological safety is crucial for the physique politic as its ‘capacity for agency’ derives from it (Ibid.). Commemorative rituals are due to this fact essential in establishing claims to political id and authority, as they assemble the constitutive hyperlink between self-sacrifice and a way of collective id. Thus, troopers play a outstanding position within the state’s building of political authority, as the concept of the nation, and with it the fashionable conception of citizenship, is intrinsically linked to the concept of soldiering as a prerequisite for citizen rights (Janowitz 1976; Millar 2015; Kier and Krebs 2010).

The concept that army service represents a prerequisite for citizenship emerged from French Revolutionary thought (Janowitz 1976; Heuser 2010; Osman 2015). In this timeframe we should additionally situate the emergence of the soldier’s loss of life perceived as a sacrifice (Denton-Borhaug 2011; Riemann 2014; Baggiarini 2014; Baggiarini 2015). With regards to the French Revolution, Durkheim noticed {that a} neighborhood’s aptitude

for setting itself up as god or for creating gods was by no means extra obvious than through the first years of the French Revolution. At this time […] underneath the affect of the overall enthusiasm, issues purely laical by nature have been reworked by public opinion into sacred issues: these have been the Fatherland, Liberty, Reason.

(Durkheim 2009, 116)

This sacredness in due flip was then conferred to the actor, who swore an oath to guard these sacred abstractions. This actor was the citizen, who, solely by changing into a soldier enrolled within the nationwide armed forces, might defend the neighborhood that assured his citizenship. It is, nevertheless, not the act of defending this abstraction, however moderately dying in its defence, which supplies the nation and consequentially state sovereignty with a veneer of legitimacy and political authority. Paul Kahn (2010, 205) expresses this vividly: ‘We maintain the nation by sacrificing the sons.’ National id, citizenship and sacrifice are thus intrinsically linked (Baggiarini 2015), and, as such, sacrifice performs a key operate within the structure of political authority. The historic hyperlink between citizenship and sacrifice, nevertheless, is more and more challenged by outsourcing practices (Riemann, 2014; Baggiarini, 2015).

Military outsourcing and the absence of loss of life

One of the central parts of distant warfare includes shifting the burden of danger and duty onto others thereby more and more externalising the burdens of struggle (Krieg 2016). This is in no way to say that such practices are with out historic precedents. Barkawi (2010) cautions us to bear in mind of the worldwide context of state-force-territory relations that maintain the nation-state centric monopoly on violence. Subaltern brokers like colonial troopers, for instance, weren’t solely used to combat in European wars, but additionally used to police the huge European colonial empires (Barkawi 2010). However, distant warfare intensifies these long-term tendencies, as ‘Western’ societies are more and more shifting the burdens of struggle onto exterior actors, whereas concurrently eradicating the expertise of battle from their very own nationals.

While colonial forces have been used to enhance ‘Western’ forces in each World Wars, ‘Western’ forces have been nonetheless engaged in combating and dying. Today’s wars, similar to those who fall underneath the distant warfare label, present, nevertheless, a reducing dedication of ‘Western’ societies to just accept casualties and consequentially struggle. To seize this variation, a number of students within the final 20 years have argued that Western societies have entered a ‘post-heroic age’ (Lutwack 1995; Coker 2002). Although this notion drew in depth criticism (Frisk 2017), societies of the Global North are more and more contracting out safety duties to an assortment of proxy actors past the common armed forces to defend their very own societies from the consequences of struggle, whereas persevering with to have interaction militarily overseas (Bruneau 2013; Mumford 2013). PMSCs fulfil a key operate on this regard by enabling states to combat struggle remotely in a vogue that obfuscates the very presence of struggle (Schooner and Swan 2012). Media reporting on contractor fatalities exemplifies this level.

While each common army fatality is extensively coated within the press, contractor deaths obtain restricted consideration. The Washington Post’s website ‘Faces of the Fallen’ is a working example (Washington Post n.d.). This website, ‘not only identifies deceased soldiers, but humanizes each loss with a photograph, biographical information, and a description of each service member’s remaining motion’ (Schooner and Swan 2010, 16). But details about contractor fatalities seems to be of no explicit curiosity to societies that rent their companies, because the ‘faces’ of fallen contractors are omitted from this website. A news story that hit the American media in late summer season 2004 confirms this. It said that US casualties had handed the 1000 killed in motion mark, placing an awesome deal of strain on the Bush administration. What this story missed, nevertheless, was the blunt actuality that such figures had lengthy been handed, if contractor deaths would have been included (Singer 2004, 10). With regards to the theatres in Iraq and Afghanistan, Schooner and Swan noticed in 2010 that ‘contractor deaths now represent over 25 percent of all US fatalities’ in these conflicts (Schooner and Swan 2010, 16). But it’s greater than attainable that contractor fatalities are far larger, since there is no such thing as a indication that non-US deaths have been tracked with any reliability. Schooner and Swan (2012, 3) as such conclude that, ‘[o]n the modern battlefield, contractor personnel are dying at rates similar to – and at times in excess of – soldiers.’

Nevertheless, contractor casualties go unnoticed. As Avant and Sigelman (2010, 256) word: ‘There is no running count of contractor deaths on the network news or on the DOD website. Photos of PMSC personnel who have died in Iraq are not part of the “honour roll” flashed across the screen at the end of the PBS News Hour.’ Some of the consequences the non-recognition of contractor deaths produces, have already been identified. As contractor casualties usually escape public consideration, they defend policymakers from adverse press (Avant and Sigelman, 2010, 243–249; Schooner 2008, 78–91), whereas concurrently reducing ‘the political and financial costs of intervention by desensitizing home populations’ (Porch 2014, 700) to cut back attainable public opposition and circumvent public oversight (Knowles and Watson 2017).

The externalisation of the burdens of struggle to personal contractors, we argue, not solely supplies potential financial savings to the state in hiding the true prices of struggle, but additionally poses a really actual problem to the state’s political authority, as the following part reveals.

Private army corps and the relocation of sacrifice

Having elaborated on the significance of sacrifice within the building of sovereign claims and how states are more and more outsourcing sacrifice, we now flip to the consequences that the growing reliance on seemingly non-sacrificial actors in pursuit of distant varieties of warfare has on the political authority of states. Three results stand out on this regard.

First, by eradicating loss of life from the equation of struggle, distant warfare weakens the connection between citizenship, sacrifice and nationwide id. As the above evaluation has proven, via the commemoration of explicit soldier our bodies, the state is ready to specific the unity of explicit residents dwelling inside the shared territorial confines of the state. The soldier’s useless physique is due to this fact a strong instrument that expresses the unity of man and state articulated in phrases of nationwide id grounded in sacrifice. Reliance on non-sacrificial actors threatens to sever this unity as their profane deaths don’t generate the required collective practices of commemoration, which ‘secure the unity of the “imagined (national) community”, and its associated narratives and rituals, in the face of sometimes acute social divisions’ (Ashplant 2000, 263).  

Second, by rendering loss of life invisible via the growing apply of outsourcing sacrifice, not solely is the very nationwide id of residents threatened but additionally the very establishment of the state itself, as sacrifice lies on the coronary heart of the polity resting on drive. In the phrases of Carolyn Marvin and David Ingle (1996, 4); ‘Without the memory of blood sacrifice, the nation state cannot exist, or at least, not for long.’ Or, put in another way by Paul Kahn (2011, 153), ‘without sacrifice, no sovereign.’ The potential financial savings for states conducting distant warfare through outsourcing practices, expressed in blood and treasure, due to this fact, bear important ignored prices in relation to the development of political authority.

Third, and most importantly, although distant warfare more and more omits deaths from public consideration, sacrifice and consequentially sovereignty, will not be disappearing however moderately relocated. At first sight, contractors may very well be framed as conforming to Agamben’s articulation of homo sacer, as actors who may be killed however not sacrificed (Nikolopoulou, Agamben and Heller-Roazen 2007). However, though contractor deaths lack the state sanctioned element of sacrifice, it will be deceptive to conceptualise these actors as homo sacer. Instead of an absence of sacralisation, we moderately discover a relocation and rearticulating of sacrifice. Taussig-Rubbo (2012) recognized preliminary factors of this rearticulation in his evaluation of the army medal system wherein medals, just like the US Purple Heart, operate as a public honour that recognises sacrifice.

Initially, the award of these had been solely restricted to members of the armed forces, however a privatised financial system of commemoration is starting to emerge. In 2008, for instance, Blackwater launched the Worldwide Defense of Liberty Medal which recognised the sacrifices of killed or wounded contractors, and the US authorities made contractors eligible for public honour as civilians (Taussig-Rubbo 2009). However, the ‘deaths may be called “sacrifices” and recognised as deaths in the name of the nation, but the ceremonies where those awards are given are often private events and exclude the media’ (Taussig-Rubbo 2012, 316). As such, each state and non-public sector recognition ‘share an awkwardness in being neither public nor private events’ (Taussig-Rubbo 2009, 124). The ‘awkwardness’ of this newly rising privatised and state sanctioned medal system, we argue, has the operate of re-designing the state and inscribing the logic of the market inside it. Blackwater’s skill, for instance, to insist in a courtroom case in 2007 that it was each, a non-public company in addition to half of the sovereign physique is a working example (Taussig-Rubbo 2009, 134–135). Remote warfare thereby strikes the positioning of sovereignty moderately than undermining it. It is that this commemorative side which distinguishes PMCs from different non-human means geared toward making struggle distant, similar to, as an illustration, drones.

Baggiarini (2015, 130) has famous that the use of drones constitutes a ‘logical extension’ to the rationality of army privatisation within the quest for a ‘bloodless’ struggle on the aspect of the ‘West.’ She makes the legitimate level that the privatisation of struggle and drones reply to the identical quest of eradicating the consequences of struggle from the societies and the political our bodies from which they originate, severing sacrifice from the physique politic. Yet the socio-political results of army privatisation and the use of drones are moderately completely different; merely put, whereas drones can not die, non-public contractors can. Instead of an eradication of loss of life we moderately discover a relocation of loss of life. Underplaying this basic distinction dangers ignoring the distinct socio-political results that the displacement of loss of life has on state sovereignty. While within the case of drone strikes the sacrificial element is eliminated, privatisation relocates it from the state to the market.


This chapter started by participating with the normative dedication hidden in plain sight inside the time period ‘remote warfare.’ Remote warfare’s normative dedication is the try and take away struggle from sure privileged areas and occasions, even on the value of sustaining a perpetual and limitless situation of struggle elsewhere. While definitions similar to ‘everywhere war’ and ‘forever war’ are efficient in exposing how distant warfare contributes to extending struggle in time and area, these terminologies danger overlooking the centrality of the normative dedication to take away struggle from privileged areas and occasions. We demonstrated this normative dedication via an evaluation of the very etymology of the phrase distant, which suggests the dedication to each spatial and temporal distancing. Remote Warfare, thus, works as an expression of a radical duality, wherein struggle should be faraway from the area and time of the self, whereas relocating it into the area and time of the ‘Other.’

After exposing this normative dedication, we additionally argued that the try of eradicating struggle has necessary socio-political results on the states and societies which wage struggle remotely. We explored these results by analysing how the growing use of non-public army and safety contractors is an try and outsource loss of life and render it invisible. We argue that this course of undermines the hyperlink between the state and its residents expressed via the imaginary type of the nation-state, wherein the distinctive and commemorated sacrifice of the soldier fulfils a central constitutive position for claims to state sovereignty. But this differs from the use of unmanned drones as a result of the outsourcing of loss of life to personal contractors doesn’t remove sacrifice, it solely displaces it. This on-going course of of the displacement of loss of life from state to market deserves additional investigation.


[1] For photos and an outline of this set up go to:


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