Anti-War. As an image it doesn't work anymore. Why? Is it that today’s wars barely deserve to be called war? The US bombing of Afghanistan and Iraq, Israel’s bombng of Palestine – one side only has the armaments to do this type of bombing. That is rather different from the armies engaging each other over the centuries and as late as World War 2: the bigger the army the bigger the open filed where that they needed to fight each other.

Today’s new military asymetries unsettle the meaning itself of war.

Perhaps today’s conflicts are showing us that war is a situated historical event, and that we've moved beyond that situation? We may no longer positioned in a clear way vis a vis war.

I think the last time “anti-war” worked as an image, as a call to action, was when 
massive demonstrations took place all over the world, hoping to prevent the invasion of 
Iraq. Remember, it was the Sunday in February 15th or 13th, in cities all over the world. 
And we called the mobilization anti-war, and it was extra-ordinary. I was in London, and the march brought vas crowds together, from the most astounding mix of politics. It was the idea of anti-war that made this mixity possible. And then the invasion came, and it all suddenly was finished. Anti-war had gone out of history, but with a bang.

Anti-War as anti-word? Does anti-massacre work as word? Or anti-bombing of sitting ducks, where the sitting ducks are the fighters who cannot bring your high-altitude planes down and you can drop bombs on them at your lleisure and cracking jokes all the way.

Is it that war itself is really no longer what it used to be ?

It's not that I like war or that I'm saying 'Oh I long for the good old days, when 
wars were the real thing, when war was clearly war'. I think today’s military asymetries are an invitation to rethink the politics of being anti-war. War has a certain architecture. It's a 
big word with a massive architecture. What is happening today just doesn't look like that. 

What is it that is changing? The first thought is that today’s super-powers (most prominently, the US) only go to war when they have the biggest guns and hence think they have absolute military superiority. If it's going to be a level engagement, where the enemy has a real chance, forget it. (Again, I'm not trying to romanticize the past at all –I am against war, agaisnt the militarizing of conflicts). Washington’s Bush team had a colelctive nervous breakdown When some of the fighters/insurgents/terrorists in Iraq finally got the hand-carried missiles that allowed then to shoot down five US helicopters over a few days at a time when the US military took for granted it had the skies over Iraq to itself. “What! They can shoot us down?” Can we still use the word “war” when you have absolute military superiority and you're just dropping the bombs, and nobody can bring you down? And then, when the enemy can suddenly bring down five of your planes, it’s a crisis. What is it that we are really talking about in the contemporary period when we, or rather, the US speak of war?

What is it then that we're trying to get at when we say that we are anti-war? I think 
we need to change the language. I think war is almost too good a word for what we are 
seeing and what we are against.

What we are seeing is a form of cowardice – actually, several types of cowardice.

First, the initial plan was to bomb from the air to avoid any direct engagement.

But when engagement became necessary, we saw a second type of cowardice. The US leadership stays comfortably in Washington as it sends working class boys and girls to be the groundtroops in a conflict they cannot win. And as it spends billions on hyperarmaments it fails to give even the most elementary protectiosn to the ground troops –for several years the US government (and the UK govt) had not provided enough body armous—the most elementary protection. Nor had it provided minimally armored vehicles: we now know that many deaths and many serious injuries coul dhave been prevented if all trucks had that protection. All of this in a conflict that it is estimated has now cost US$ 900 billion dollars –that is a lot of money even with a devalued dollar.

And a third type of cowardicde. when the US confronted the fact that bombing from high altitutes was not enough, the scramble for bodies to do gound fighting began. In this scramble for live bodies, the US army took in immigrants, and even undocumented immigrants. But at the same time, the Republican dominated US Congress was seeking to criminalize undocumented immigrants. Now being undocumented is a violation of the law, but not a crime. Criminalizing it would have meant that being undocumented is a criminal act, and you go to jail. Immigrants were fine in the ground war, but not good as your neighbors.

We re left with “war” as an act of absolute military superiority –the enemiy as sitting-duck-- and war as an act of cowardice. Absolute military superiority and cowardice are two faces of the same condition. But herein also lies an opening: If the other face of absolute military superiority is cowardice, then we are staring at a vulnerability.

So if war isn't quite war (and why should a word work forever?), then anti-war doesn't work either to 
designate the work that we need to do. The work that we need to do entails making history.

Who makes history? Well, the powerful do make at least some of history -- they have the big guns. Yet, those without power also make history. But it does tend to take them much much longer, so it is often seen as a faceless event, the “forces of history”. And in those long stretches of time -- decades, a century-- there is a lot of suffering. It is not easy to make history under those conditions. However, it does tell us that 
the powerful at some point stop making history –either because they have all they want or because what they have gotten is not sustainable, or because they have been brought down by those “forces of history”. It took Bush 3 weeks to bomb Iraq and enter Baghdad. And then the ground fighting started, and it is still going on after 4 years.

Some of the best civil and political rights we have succeeded in having in our liberal 
democracies were actually won because the excluded fought for those rights. It is also the excluded who founght for the right to have rights. There lmost probably were small groups of the
included who helped in these struggles. But the key issue here for me is the the interaction 
between the fact of having no rights and the fight for rights is one vector into the making of history. It contests the notion that you either have power or you don’t. Power is made, powerlessness is made, and hence both can be remade. It may take a hundred years. Blacks in the united stated had to fight for a hundred years to gain rights. So did women fighting for the right to vote and for the right of equality with men.
The way all of this is usually presented is as if one good day, the US Congress woke up and said, "ah, let's give them some rights." But this is only the formalizing machinery at work, often responding to long-term struggles by the excluded.

But what can we learn from this for our current struggles. We who are antiwar in some foundational sense are the excluded. What are the platforms out there that we need to construct to do the work we need to do?

I want to begin to conclude with a few observations about what I see emerge and hence what are the terrains for acting. I see not so much the end of the national state and simply growing interdependence 9the most common definition of globaliation! ) as a disassembling of the national and the global . The core dynamic is a multiplication of increasingly particularized assemblages of elements –of territory, authority, rights once ensconced in the national. From the centripetality of the national state (its capapcity to agglutinate all major orders around itself) to centrifugality (parts of these orders escaping the centralizing powers of national states). One issue that emerges from this interpretationof what is happening in the world is that war, as in “war between states” is not quite a contemporary option. Rather we are seeing a proliferation of particularized struggles.

What does the emergence and the formation of these new particularized struggles that exit the 
nation-state logic mean for war? The absence of a common front unsettles the meaning of national state wars and hence of anti-war movements. Sure there have continued to be small anti-war demonstrations. But I think we know that it just doesn't work anymore. The work that needs to be done, and there is work to be done, probably needs to open new terrains for politics, for the political. It is work that has to come from many different places, many different ideas. The synthesizing idea of anti-war does not seem to be able to mass mobilize. Anti-War as anti-word?

Saskia Sassen is now the Lynd Professor of Sociology at Columbia University after a decade at the University of Chicago and London School of Economics. Her recent books are Territory, Authority, Rights: From Medieval to Global Assemblages ( Princeton University Press 2006), coming out in German with Suhrkamp in January 2008, and A Sociology of Globalization. (Norton 2007). She has now completed for UNESCO a five-year project on sustainable human settlement for which she set up a network of researchers and activists in over 30 countries.