Tuesday, May 13, 2008
Friend/enemy distinction posted by Richard SeymourFor example, let’s take, again, Iraq. This is my supreme example. They went there to do what? (a) To defundamentalize the country, to introduce their—some kind of a secular democracy, which would then serve as a model for the others; (b) to contain Iran. Now, three, four years later, what’s the result? (a) Almost two million, all the educated, secular, middle classes, majority of them left the country. The country is more religiously fundamentalist than ever. (b) We know that among the Shia political elite, the orientation is fundamentally pro-Iranian. So isn’t this a nice paradox that the ultimate result in Iraq of the US intervention is the exact opposite?
This is also my basic view about the entire Middle East Arab-Israeli conflict, that it’s a wrong conflict. There shouldn’t have been that kind of a conflict. Now, of course, we have to deal with it. But this, I think, is the true triumph of the enemy, not that the bad guys win, but that the very conflict you are dealing with is a wrong conflict. If I’m told, “You have to choose Jews or Arabs,” sorry, no, I refuse to choose. I only—the only thing I can do is honestly to criticize both sides.
And so on. It would be useful to know who this "enemy" is that lured the US army into the wrong conflict with Iraq, and forced Zionist armies to ethnically cleanse the greater part of historical Palestine before subjecting the rest to conquest and colonization. I gather that this figure is quite important in Zizek's understanding of the Middle East. This "enemy" doesn't have too many obvious attributes, but we can say for sure he/she/it has been around for a while (at least since 1948 and perhaps since the first Aliya or even before then, who knows?), is capable of Mephistophelean manipulation of great powers at long range, and is somehow connected to the Orient (the 'bad' Orient, the 'Semitic' Orient, the one that failed to exhibit precocious signs of civilization).
It would also be useful to know who this "we" is? And who might be the friends of "we"? Perhaps this "we" is surreptitiously produced after the fact of the "enemy", whose contours remain as yet mysterious. On the other hand, part of what characterises this "we" might be the capitalist mode of production which, strange to relate, is apparently threatened with destruction by torture and gated communities and slums (as in previous Zizekiana, liberalism, capitalism and democracy are almost synonyms). Suppose "we" is a liberal capitalist, faced with crises brought on by "our" system, trying to stop it from going too far ere "we" perish, but lured into fatal misconduct by an enemy who perhaps doesn't share those, er, values. Are we approaching an answer yet? Reductively, "we" could be a Eurocentric cultural theorist for whom facts are relatively unimportant (Lenin did not refer to imperialism as the "last" stage of capitalism, Parisian rioters did not burn down "their own mosques", "state socialist" countries do not in fact have the "worst" ecological record, etc), and who has some fantasies to traverse?