The Duck of Minerva

The Duck Quacks at Twilight

“Invisible” Wars?

July 26, 2012

World Politics Review has a feature section in this issue on the “invisibility” of contemporary US wars, fought through covert ops, drone strikes and cyber attack rather than on conventional battlespaces. The issue is a thought-provoking read: Thomas Barnett aims a verbal fusillade at Obama’s “one-night-stand” foreign policy; scalding expositions on the illegality and perverse side effects of drone strikes come from Michael Cohen and Micah Zenko, respectively; and Steven Metz confirms the new “invisibility” of US military strategy.


Naturally, my contribution unpacks the whole notion of “invisible” war, putting it into its socio-political context:

Much digital ink has been spilled over how cyber and unmanned technologies are changing the nature of war, allowing it to be fought more secretly, more subversively and with greater discretion. But the single biggest shift in the sociology of war in the past quarter-century has been not in the way it is fought, but in the relationship between its grim realities and the perceptions of those on the home front. Indeed, it is precisely the increasing visibility of ordinary warfare due to communications technology that is driving U.S. efforts to redefine the rules of engagement. And ironically, this is resulting in an unraveling of old normative understandings about how to achieve human security.

Check out the whole set of essays here.

+ posts

Charli Carpenter is a Professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. She is the author of 'Innocent Women and Children': Gender, Norms and the Protection of Civilians (Ashgate, 2006), Forgetting Children Born of War: Setting the Human Rights
Agenda in Bosnia and Beyond (Columbia, 2010), and ‘Lost’ Causes: Agenda-Setting in Global Issue Networks and the Shaping of Human Security (Cornell, 2014). Her main research interests include national security ethics, the protection of civilians, the laws of war, global agenda-setting, gender and political violence, humanitarian affairs, the role of information technology in human security, and the gap between intentions and outcomes among advocates of human security.