|Cybernetic culture research unit|
Cyberhype-5: The Age of Asymmetry
The landscape of contemporary war is that of a hurricane projecting and dispersing, dissipating and disintegrating through fusion and fission as it goes along.' [P. Virilio]
The geo-strategic weather map is looking increasingly volatile. Pockets of turbulence realign to form planetary frontal systems, and localized pressure threatens exponential escalations of violence. But why do the turbular contours of meteorological cartography fit the state we're in? Old map concepts seem either too rigid or give no illustration of the current dynamics of mutation. If Paul Virilio is correct in describing state history as the 'the ordered creation of chaos through the realization of a theory of war as the geometric basis of all reality ', then it is a fitting time to explore the concept of 'asymmetry' in conflict , in causation and in planetary composition.
Since the Gulf War, the US has been gradually waking up to the drawbacks of its military dominance. In the mid 1990s the US National Defense Panel stated that enemies were 'unlikely to confront us conventionally with mass armor formations, air superiority forces, and deep water navel fleets of their own, all areas of overwhelming US strength today. Instead. . .they will look for ways to match their strengths against our weaknesses.' But in 2000, the US war machine, in an effort of projective geo-strategic weather dreamcasting called Joint Vision 2020, revealed its long term objectives as 'full spectrum dominance'. This, by implication, set up the only feasible military opponent to Empire's orbital cartel (and its monopoly of violence) as a decentralized insurgency network, targeting 'weak spots' and 'pressure points' in order to threaten this 'spectral ubiquity'. For any such 'unspecified enemy', an asymmetric approach requires an appreciation of the opponents vulnerabilities and employs innovative, nontraditional tactics, weapons or technologies applied at all levels of warfare - strategic, operational or tactical. 'It is difficult to move strong things by pushing directly, so you should injure the corners.'[M. Musashi]
Joint Vision 2020 as a tract of military futurology recognized that the 'potential of such asymmetric approaches is perhaps the most serious danger the United States faces in the immediate future. . .the asymmetric methods and objectives of an adversary are often far more important than the relative technological imbalance, and the psychological impact of an attack might far outweigh the actual physical damage inflicted.' It turns out that the US never quite woke up, and its dreams of security have now smeared into a living cinescopic nightmare. What makes an asymmetric conflict in the early 21st century timely is firstly, its embeddedness in a cybernetic environment which, through wild positive feedback spirals in the vortical ecology of fear, amplifies the classical guerilla potential - the war of the flea - of the 'asymmetry of causation' [small causes can have massive effects], and secondly, the 'asymmetry of composition' [one Empire, a multitude of opponents] of a world system in down swing phase transition. As we leave behind the predictable shores of geo-strategic equilibrium and the phase solidity of the Cold War with the certainties of its stabilizing bi-polarization, September 11 functions as rotational pivot around which we may all begin to spin. As the storm clouds gather over this interzone of liquid instability, only one thing is certain. A new order of disorder is emerging.
'Asymmetry of amplitude, asymmetry of rhythm, total change of rhythm.' [H. Michaux]