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Imperial Sovereignty in the Automated Battlefield: Interview with Aijaz Ahmad


Aijaz Ahmad: Since the Vietnam War the United States has been developing what they then called the “automated battlefield.”  Now, after about 40 years, we are now seeing some very, very advanced expressions of that, where the entire battlefield is being automated, to use the whole spectrum of technologies that they have . . . drone wars . . . cyber wars. . . . 

As for sovereignty, the United States has a position that the United States has issues of its own sovereignty in the national spaces of other countries.  Their Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said as much in Delhi with respect to the FATA [Federally Administered Tribal Areas] in Pakistan: that this is an issue of “our sovereignty.”  They have a sovereign right to attack, with their cyber weapons and so on. . . . 

What you actually have is . . . a very new kind of development of the idea of imperial sovereignty, in which only the United States — which is an exceptional power, which has exceptional responsibilities to defend the free world, which is now the entire world — is now exempted from very many kinds of constraints that it requires from other countries. . . . 

The sovereign is he who decides upon the exception.  The ultimate test of sovereignty is to decide when the law does not apply.  This is something that was formulated by a great jurist, first for the Weimar Republic and then for the Nazis. . . . 

A part of it is actually reconstructing the basis of a colonial order without acquiring colonies. . . .

This is also happening in another way.  The nation state, I think, is being dissolved in a very particular way.  A new type of state is coming into being, not only in the backward capitalist countries but also in the advanced ones.  The nation state is being dissolved and being replaced by a market state.  The claim of the nation state was that it represented the people of that nation state to the rest of the world and secondly that it acted for the wellbeing of the people of the country. . . .  Now what you have is that the only task left for the state is to represent the market forces, that is to say finance capital, to its inhabitants and make them obey the orders of the market, regardless of their wellbeing. . . .


Aijaz Ahmad is a Marxist critic in India.  Prabir Purkayastha is a member of the Delhi Science Forum.  Video by NewsClick (released on 27-28 June 2012).  The text above is an edited partial transcript of the interview.




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