Carl Schmitt rules. Following years of obscurity and infamy due to some of his ideas and political leanings, the jurist and political philosopher Carl Schmitt is now being discussed everywhere. The voluminous original works and commentaries on him in English, French, German and Spanish makes it is clear that Schmitt has certainly caught the attention of political scientists, legal scholars, international relations scholars, political geographers, and strategic thinkers. He has attracted attention on the right, the left and the center. He is both excoriated and lauded. This is in stark contrast to the situation a few years ago when he was known only his native Germany and in France where he was popular with the new right including philosophers like Julien Freund – an admirer and interpreter — Alain de Benoist. This talk has several goals. First, it provides an introduction for the English-speaking Strategic Studies community to the works of Carl Schmitt that deal with war and international relations, particularly irregular war, on which Schmitt was a very innovative thinker. The relationship between war and the discipline of international relations is intricate and close. However, the impact of irregular war on the international system is not as solidly addressed. Second, it was written to help deepen our understanding of irregular war and contemporary terrorism by using the ideas and concepts of this German jurist and political philosopher whose career spanned most of the 20th century. Third, a critical assessment of Carl Schmitt’s ideas of irregular war and international relations will be undertaken. Schmitt’s theory of irregular war is incomplete, as he himself readily admitted. My purpose in addressing the lacunae in the theory is intended to strengthen it and to highlight its continued relevance. Finally, I will assess the application of Schmitt in the contemporary world, particularly as it relates to the kind of warfare taking place against the phenomenon of transnational de-territorialized warfare being waged by Al Qaeda and its adherents, and the corrosive impact that this kind of warfare has had on the domestic politics of Western societies.
The RSIS Luncheon Seminar series is open only to RSIS staff and PhD candidates.