A theme that runs through much critical analysis of US military activity in Iraq is that Iraq has acted as a ‘testing ground’ for new ways of organizing national security. In this kind of argument, either agent-centred experimentation (see Blackmore 2005: 3-4), or, more commonly, the slow colonization of one sphere of power (the US homeland) with structures and behaviours discovered in another (Iraq) (see Packer 2006; Bratich 2006), have allowed the US national security apparatus to develop and perhaps perfect its methods of coercion and control in Iraq. I take an alternative and ultimately more hopeful view of what it means to say that Iraq is a ‘testing ground’ of US military activity. In this book, I argue that the project of violence – its conditions of possibility, its ordering practices, its affinities, and its passions – are altering and alterable. The need to realize the opportunity presented by this openness is particularly acute when following a methodological ethos committed to interference. Interference begins with a careful identification of practices that are more or less harmful, and implies a commitment to no singular outcome, but rather an ongoing commitment to the alteration of harmful practices (see Mol 2008). If violence is open, then it too can be the subject of such interference. However, there is difficulty in such a project as well as opportunity. To think of violence as forming a ‘testing ground’ requires a way of thinking about violence that goes against centuries of tradition. Violence holds the dubious distinction of being one of the few categories of human experience to be overlooked by critical social scientific inquiry over the past few decades. It has emerged as a strange lacuna around which discussions take place. As Hannah Arendt argues, the silence surrounding violence itself:
shows to what an extent violence and its arbitrariness were taken for granted and therefore neglected; no one questions or examines what is obvious to
all. Those who saw nothing but violence in human affairs, convinced that they were ‘always haphazard and serious, not precise’ (Renan) or that God was forever with the bigger battalions, had nothing more to say about violence or history. Anybody looking for some kind of sense in the records of the past was almost bound to see violence as a marginal phenomenon.