The reduction of war to instrumentality is not immune to criticism. Philosophical radicalization, alone, suffices to release war from its determination as ‘the game of princes’. The Clausewitzean formula is notoriously inverted by Michel Foucault into the maxim “politics is war by other means”. If political sovereignty is ultimately conditioned by the capability to prevail upon the battlefield, the norms of war can have no higher tribunal than military accomplishment. No real authority can transcend survival, or survive a sufficiently radical defeat. There is thus a final incoherence to any convinced appeal to the ‘laws of war’. The realistic conception of ‘limited war’ subsumes that of ‘war lawfully pursued’ (with the latter categorized as an elective limitation). Qiao’s words bear emphatic repetition: “the first rule of unrestricted warfare is that there are no rules, with nothing forbidden.” The power to forbid is — first of all — power, which war (alone) distributes.
Between peace and war there is no true symmetry. Peace presupposes pacification, and that is a military outcome. There is no authority — moral or political — that cannot first assert itself under cosmic conditions that are primordially indifferent to normativity. Whatever cannot defend its existence has its case dumped in the trash.