Killing without Hatred? the Social Construction of the Consent to Kill in Modern Warfare

Thursday, July 17, 2014: 11:15 AM
Room: Booth 50
Oral Presentation
Mathias DELORI , Institut d'Etudes Politiques, University of Bordeaux, France, Pessac, France
Killing other people is not something trivial. Therefore, the military organizations spend a great deal of energy in order to prepare the soldiers to this prospect. As J. Butler recently put it, they do so by constructing “frames of war”, i. e. meaning structures that regulate the military “economy of compassion”. This paper aims at identifying the frames of war at work in the new Western way of war. The literature on this issue suggests that the Western modern frames of war are subject to two contradictory dynamic. On the one hand, modern warfare seems to be deeply engaged in the path of rationalization of violence and reification of the enemy. On the other hand, a discourse is (re)emerging which frames the Western wars as “humanitarian”. The paper tries to understand whether and how the latter affects the former. It does so by focusing on a particular case study: the frames of the French soldiers who participated to the war in Libya in 2011. The research relies on forty semi-structured interviews with military leaders and fighter plane pilots. The analysis reveals a dominant frame which shows great sympathy for some and total indifference for others. The paper argues, in other words, that the discourse on the humanitarian war displaces rather than enlarges the economy of compassion.