Monday, May 12, 2008

What is to be Done, Theoretically?

Theory? Is it a good idea or a bad one? We face a current of conflict with Islam and our own reactionary Left, and to my mind it means war in the physical sense. It means to me a matter of preparing and planning and organizing for the war that is here and now and that builds daily in our lives. War, the kind in which people are killed and things are wrecked, and civilizations die and the life of Man is transformed, for the worse, for the better, or maybe just wrecked for no good reason at all. Still, war is here and worsening. I see it, I engage in it. War, and it needs a theory to make it work for us in our own minds so we might reify our victory in the world. We require, as those engaged in war and warfare, an idea of why we are at war and a clear, written presentation of our goals that we might share and build alliances with our programme.

We can be trapped by our own devices as thinkers, stuck in our own delusions of final answers to questions that have no answers, fooling ourselves into believing that ours are the answers for all times and all people everywhere. This can be both utopian and apocalyptic thinking. If we theorize and attempt to clarify our approaches to the nature of things we might well find that we've precluded other paradigms by doing so, blocking creative attempts that don't reside within our perimeters of analysis. To do this as people involved in politics or science is a sure mistake, one that leads to totalitarian thinking, of 'Our way or the highway.' I'm not convinced, of course, that such is certain. Yes, writing has its pitfalls, but they are not written in stone, and those who write are not Moses, so the problem of being followed is unlikely to arise for most of us. Writing is an attempt toward, even when it's written in stone as eschatology. Personally, I shrug. The future, though unknowable and unguessable is still not exactly something we can, as thinkers, pretend has no bearing on our lives in the current. The flying fickle finger of Fate writes, and having writ, moves on: nor all thy piety nor wit shall lure it back to cancel half a line nor all thy tears wash out a word of it. So concludes Omar Khayyam. He wrote, and Rowan and Martin wrote, and life goes on, no one paying particular attention to the finer details of any of it. And Moses. They wrote, and Fate writes, and Life continues its petty pace from day to day.... Leaving open the future unknowable is to leave open the future whether we attempt to usher in the Millenium or we don't, things of Nature not following our wishes anyway, History never slowing down simply due to a barricade of paper in the way, Clio's light feet never really touching the pages of even our greatest. All is Vanity.

To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.
Macbeth Act 5, scene 5, 19–28

But I write of war in our day, not of Nothing. Below is a conversational account of Fourth Generation War. Nothing changes. Whether we theorize or we don't life will continue right on past us. Sooner if we're dead wrong about the few things we might try to anticipate if we anticipate wrong. I don't see any problem with the following attempt at clarifying and theorizing on the ways of war. I do see it as an attempt to redefine the wheel. It's a worthwhile essay regardless if only to bring about the chance to write about war as filibuster, which I will do briefly at the conclusion of this piece immediately below.

Understanding Fourth Generation War

by William S. Lind

Rather than commenting on the specifics of the war with Iraq, I thought it might be a good time to lay out a framework for understanding that and other conflicts. The framework is the Four Generations of Modern War.

I developed the framework of the first three generations ("generation" is shorthand for dialectically qualitative shift) in the 1980s, when I was laboring to introduce maneuver warfare to the Marine Corps. Marines kept asking, "What will the Fourth Generation be like?", and I began to think about that. The result was the article I co-authored for the Marine Corps Gazette in 1989, "The Changing Face of War: Into the Fourth Generation." Our troops found copies of it in the caves at Tora Bora, the al-Qaeda hideout in Afghanistan.

The Four Generations began with the Peace of Westphalia in 1648, the treaty that ended the Thirty Years' War. With the Treaty of Westphalia, the state established a monopoly on war. Previously, many different entities had fought wars – families, tribes, religions, cities, business enterprises – using many different means, not just armies and navies (two of those means, bribery and assassination, are again in vogue). Now, state militaries find it difficult to imagine war in any way other than fighting state armed forces similar to themselves.

The First Generation of Modern War runs roughly from 1648 to 1860. This was war of line and column tactics, where battles were formal and the battlefield was orderly. The relevance of the First Generation springs from the fact that the battlefield of order created a military culture of order. Most of the things that distinguish "military" from "civilian" - uniforms, saluting, careful gradations or rank – were products of the First Generation and are intended to reinforce the culture of order.

The problem is that, around the middle of the 19th century, the battlefield of order began to break down. Mass armies, soldiers who actually wanted to fight (an 18th century's soldier's main objective was to desert), rifled muskets, then breech loaders and machine guns, made the old line and column tactics first obsolete, then suicidal.

The problem ever since has been a growing contradiction between the military culture and the increasing disorderliness of the battlefield. The culture of order that was once consistent with the environment in which it operated has become more and more at odds with it.

Second Generation warfare was one answer to this contradiction. Developed by the French Army during and after World War I, it sought a solution in mass firepower, most of which was indirect artillery fire. The goal was attrition, and the doctrine was summed up by the French as, "The artillery conquers, the infantry occupies." Centrally-controlled firepower was carefully synchronized, using detailed, specific plans and orders, for the infantry, tanks, and artillery, in a "conducted battle" where the commander was in effect the conductor of an orchestra.

Second Generation warfare came as a great relief to soldiers (or at least their officers) because it preserved the culture of order. The focus was inward on rules, processes and procedures. Obedience was more important than initiative (in fact, initiative was not wanted, because it endangered synchronization), and discipline was top-down and imposed.

Second Generation warfare is relevant to us today because the United States Army and Marine Corps learned Second Generation warfare from the French during and after World War I. It remains the American way of war, as we are seeing in Afghanistan and Iraq: to Americans, war means "putting steel on target." Aviation has replaced artillery as the source of most firepower, but otherwise, (and despite the Marine's formal doctrine, which is Third Generation maneuver warfare) the American military today is as French as white wine and brie. At the Marine Corps' desert warfare training center at 29 Palms, California, the only thing missing is the tricolor and a picture of General Gamelin in the headquarters. The same is true at the Army's Armor School at Fort Knox, where one instructor recently began his class by saying, "I don't know why I have to teach you all this old French crap, but I do."

Third Generation warfare, like Second, was a product of World War I. It was developed by the German Army, and is commonly known as Blitzkrieg or maneuver warfare.

Third Generation warfare is based not on firepower and attrition but speed, surprise, and mental as well as physical dislocation. Tactically, in the attack a Third Generation military seeks to get into the enemy's rear and collapse him from the rear forward: instead of "close with and destroy," the motto is "bypass and collapse." In the defense, it attempts to draw the enemy in, then cut him off. War ceases to be a shoving contest, where forces attempt to hold or advance a "line;" Third Generation warfare is non-linear.

Not only do tactics change in the Third Generation, so does the military culture. A Third Generation military focuses outward, on the situation, the enemy, and the result the situation requires, not inward on process and method (in war games in the 19th Century, German junior officers were routinely given problems that could only be solved by disobeying orders). Orders themselves specify the result to be achieved, but never the method ("Auftragstaktik"). Initiative is more important than obedience (mistakes are tolerated, so long as they come from too much initiative rather than too little), and it all depends on self-discipline, not imposed discipline. The Kaiserheer and the Wehrmacht could put on great parades, but in reality they had broken with the culture of order.

Characteristics such as decentralization and initiative carry over from the Third to the Fourth Generation, but in other respects the Fourth Generation marks the most radical change since the Peace of Westphalia in 1648. In Fourth Generation war, the state loses its monopoly on war. All over the world, state militaries find themselves fighting non-state opponents such as al-Qaeda, Hamas, Hezbollah, and the FARC. Almost everywhere, the state is losing.

Fourth Generation war is also marked by a return to a world of cultures, not merely states, in conflict. We now find ourselves facing the Christian West's oldest and most steadfast opponent, Islam. After about three centuries on the strategic defensive, following the failure of the second Turkish siege of Vienna in 1683, Islam has resumed the strategic offensive, expanding outward in every direction. In Third Generation war, invasion by immigration can be at least as dangerous as invasion by a state army.

Nor is Fourth Generation warfare merely something we import, as we did on 9/11. At its core lies a universal crisis of legitimacy of the state, and that crisis means many countries will evolve Fourth Generation war on their soil. America, with a closed political system (regardless of which party wins, the Establishment remains in power and nothing really changes) and a poisonous ideology of "multiculturalism," is a prime candidate for the home-grown variety of Fourth Generation war – which is by far the most dangerous kind.

Where does the war in Iraq fit in this framework?

I suggest that the war we have seen thus far is merely a powder train leading to the magazine. The magazine is Fourth Generation war by a wide variety of Islamic non-state actors, directed at America and Americans (and local governments friendly to America) everywhere. The longer America occupies Iraq, the greater the chance that the magazine will explode. If it does, God help us all.

For almost two years, a small seminar has been meeting at my house to work on the question of how to fight Fourth Generation war. It is made up mostly of Marines, lieutenant through lieutenant colonel, with one Army officer, one National Guard tanker captain and one foreign officer. We figured somebody ought to be working on the most difficult question facing the U.S. armed forces, and nobody else seems to be.

The seminar recently decided it was time to go public with a few of the ideas it has come up with, and use this column to that end. We have no magic solutions to offer, only some thoughts. We recognized from the outset that the whole task may be hopeless; state militaries may not be able to come to grips with Fourth Generation enemies no matter what they do.

But for what they are worth, here are our thoughts to date:


If America had some Third Generation ground forces, capable of maneuver warfare, we might be able to fight battles of encirclement. The inability to fight battles of encirclement is what led to the failure of Operation Anaconda in Afghanistan, where al Qaeda stood, fought us, and got away with few casualties. To fight such battles we need some true light infantry, infantry that can move farther and faster on its feet than the enemy, has a full tactical repertoire (not just bumping into the enemy and calling for fire) and can fight with its own weapons instead of depending on supporting arms. We estimate that U.S. Marine infantry today has a sustained march rate of only 10-15 kilometers per day; German World War II line, not light, infantry could sustain 40 kilometers.


Fourth Generation opponents will not sign up to the Geneva Conventions, but might some be open to a chivalric code governing how our war with them would be fought? It's worth exploring.


How U.S. forces conduct themselves after the battle may be as important in 4GW as how they fight the battle.


What the Marine Corps calls "cultural intelligence" is of vital importance in 4GW, and it must go down to the lowest rank. In Iraq, the Marines seemed to grasp this much better than the U.S. Army.


What kind of people do we need in Special Operations Forces? The seminar thought minds were more important than muscles, but it is not clear all U.S. SOF understand this.


One key to success is integrating our troops as much as possible with the local people.


Unfortunately, the American doctrine of "force protection" works against integration and generally hurts us badly. Here's a quote from the minutes of the seminar:

"There are two ways to deal with the issue of force protection. One way is the way we are currently doing it, which is to separate ourselves from the population and to intimidate them with our firepower. A more viable alternative might be to take the opposite approach and integrate with the community. That way you find out more of what is going on and the population protects you. The British approach of getting the helmets off as soon as possible may actually be saving lives."


What "wins" at the tactical and physical levels may lose at the operational, strategic, mental and moral levels, where 4GW is decided. Martin van Creveld argues that one reason the British have not lost in Northern Ireland is that the British Army has taken more casualties than it has inflicted. This is something the Second Generation American military has great trouble grasping, because it defines success in terms of comparative attrition rates.


We must recognize that in 4GW situations, we are the weaker, not the stronger party, despite all our firepower and technology.


What can the U.S. military learn from cops? Our reserve and National Guard units include lots of cops; are we taking advantage of what they know?

One key to success in 4GW may be "losing to win." Part of the reason the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are not succeeding is that our initial invasion destroyed the state, creating a happy hunting ground for Fourth Generation forces. In a world where the state is in decline, if you destroy a state, it is very difficult to recreate it. Here's another quote from the minutes of the seminar:

"The discussion concluded that while war against another state may be necessary one should seek to preserve that state even as one defeats it. Grant the opposing armies the 'honors of war,' tell them what a fine job they did, make their defeat 'civilized' so they can survive the war institutionally intact and then work for your side. This would be similar to 18th century notions of civilized war and contribute greatly to propping up a fragile state. Humiliating the defeated enemy troops, especially in front of their own population, is always a serious mistake but one that Americans are prone to make. This is because the 'football mentality' we have developed since World War II works against us."

In many ways, the 21st century will offer a war between the forces of 4GW and Brave New World. The 4GW forces understand this, while the international elites that seek BNW do not. Another quote from the minutes:

"Osama bin Ladin, though reportedly very wealthy, lives in a cave. Yes, it is for security but it is also leadership by example. It may make it harder to separate (physically or psychologically) the 4GW leaders from their troops. It also makes it harder to discredit those leaders with their followers… This contrasts dramatically with the BNW elites who are physically and psychologically separated (by a huge gap) from their followers (even the generals in most conventional armies are to a great extent separated from their men)… The BNW elites are in many respects occupying the moral low ground but don't know it."


In the Axis occupation of the Balkans during World War II, the Italians in many ways were more effective than the Germans. The key to their success is that they did not want to fight. On Cyprus, the U.N. commander rated the Argentine battalion as more effective than the British or the Austrians because the Argentines did not want to fight. What lessons can U.S. forces draw from this?


How would the Mafia do an occupation?


When we have a coalition, what if we let each country do what is does best, e.g., the Russians handle operational art, the U.S. firepower and logistics, maybe the Italians the occupation?


How could the Defense Department's concept of "Transformation" be redefined so as to come to grips with 4GW? If you read the current "Transformation Planning Guidance" put out by DOD, you find nothing in it on 4GW, indeed nothing that relates at all to either of the two wars we are now fighting. It is all oriented toward fighting other state armed forces that fight us symmetrically.

The seminar intends to continue working on this question of redefining "Transformation" (die Verwandlung?) so as to make it relevant to 4GW. However, for our December meeting, we have posed the following problem: It is Spring, 2004. The U.S. Marines are to relieve the Army in the occupation of Fallujah, perhaps Iraq's hottest hot spot (and one where the 82nd Airborne's tactics have been pouring gasoline on the fire). You are the commander of the Marine force taking over Fallujah. What do you do?

I'll let you know what we come up with.

Will Saddam's capture mark a turning point in the war in Iraq? Don't count on it. Few resistance fighters have been fighting for Saddam personally. Saddam's capture may lead to a fractioning of the Baath Party, which would move us further toward a Fourth Generation situation where no one can recreate the state. It may also tell the Shiites that they no longer need America to protect them from Saddam, giving them more options in their struggle for free elections.

If the U.S. Army used the capture of Saddam to announce the end of tactics that enrage ordinary Iraqis and drive them toward active resistance, it might buy us a bit of de-escalation. But I don't think we'll that be smart. When it comes to Fourth Generation war, it seems nobody in the American military gets it.

Recently, a faculty member at the National Defense University wrote to Marine Corps General Mattis, commander of I MAR DIV, to ask his views on the importance of reading military history. Mattis responded with an eloquent defense of taking time to read history, one that should go up on the wall at all of our military schools. "Thanks to my reading, I have never been caught flat-footed by any situation," Mattis said. "It doesn't give me all the answers, but it lights what is often a dark path ahead."

Still, even such a capable and well-read commander as General Mattis seems to miss the point about Fourth Generation warfare. He said in his missive, "Ultimately, a real understanding of history means that we face NOTHING new under the sun. For all the '4th Generation of War' intellectuals running around today saying that the nature of war has fundamentally changed, the tactics are wholly new, etc., I must respectfully say…'Not really…"

Well, that isn't quite what we Fourth Generation intellectuals are saying. On the contrary, we have pointed out over and over that the 4th Generation is not novel but a return, specifically a return to the way war worked before the rise of the state. Now, as then, many different entities, not just governments of states, will wage war. They will wage war for many different reasons, not just "the extension of politics by other means." And they will use many different tools to fight war, not restricting themselves to what we recognize as military forces. When I am asked to recommend a good book describing what a Fourth Generation world will be like, I usually suggest Barbara Tuchman's A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous Fourteenth Century.

Nor are we saying that Fourth Generation tactics are new. On the contrary, many of the tactics Fourth Generation opponents use are standard guerilla tactics. Others, including much of what we call "terrorism," are classic Arab light cavalry warfare carried out with modern technology at the operational and strategic, not just tactical, levels. As I have said before in this column, most of what we are facing in Iraq today is not yet Fourth Generation warfare, but a War of National Liberation, fought by people whose goal is to restore a Baathist state. But as that goal fades and those forces splinter, Fourth Generation war will come more and more to the fore. What will characterize it is not vast changes in how the enemy fights, but rather in who fights and what they fight for. The change in who fights makes it difficult for us to tell friend from foe. A good example is the advent of female suicide bombers; do U.S. troops now start frisking every Moslem woman they encounter? The change in what our enemies fight for makes impossible the political compromises that are necessary to ending any war. We find that when it comes to making peace, we have no one to talk to and nothing to talk about. And the end of a war like that in Iraq becomes inevitable: the local state we attacked vanishes, leaving behind either a stateless region (Somalia) or a façade of a state (Afghanistan) within which more non-state elements rise and fight. General Mattis is correct that none of this is new. It is only new to state armed forces that were designed to fight other state armed forces. The fact that no state military has recently succeeded in defeating a non-state enemy reminds us that Clio has a sense of humor: history also teaches us that not all problems have solutions.

I didn't include link to the above essay since I got it from a Death hippie site who threaten vaguely about those reprinting this work without permission. Frankly, I'd be happy to go to war against them myself. And to further my reputation as a pointlessly bellicose fellow I will also add to my reputation as erudite, even at the real risk of alienating my vast readership, by referring to Fransisco Franco.

War, for many in the West, is a sentimental venture. For the majority of anti-war Death Hippies war is something one can emote about in public for the sake of impressing ones fellows with ones deep commitment to Peace. It's a performance art for people who have nothing better to do with their lives than to pretend at morality. For serious people, war is business, the business of living, the business of the tools and material that make Life possible. One doesn't go into a war for no reason and with no expectation of gain. It's not gratuitous. In the Modernity we live in there are civilized rules to obey in war, and they have been in place at the least since the time of St Augustine. One rule is that we do not fight wars we cannot hope to win. Thus:

Franco engaged in war against the Republican forces in the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s. Picasso fans will know of the painting, as such, "Guernica." The painting commemorates Franco's battle against the city during which Hitler sent the Luftwaffe to destroy the city and it's inhabitants, armed and civilian, at random and totally. For those who prefer their history of the non-Stalinist flavor, one might refer to George Orwell's Homage to Catalonia. The point: Fascist murderer Franco was aided in his war by friends Mussolini and Hitler against the equally disgusting Stalin, who attempted to exterminate the Republicans as well. Including all involved, there was no good side in the war; however, not all was pointless: each side demanded a result of benefit. Franco, a rational, if murderous, military man, gained more than he lost. He won. He won by following the laws of natural war. Rather than rushing immediately to Madrid to claim victory and to then fight the towns and villages till victory was cemented, he stopped at each point, killed the opposition to the point of annihilation, and moved on to the next, pacifying and consolidating all his gains as he went. Spain remained in the grip of his fascist dictatorship for roughly 40 years thereafter. Western Germany was spared that length of dictatorship thanks to the Allies, among other tactics, burning Dresden.

So, what do we want? What are we prepared for and what are we wiling to pay for it? Of course we are all lovely people here, and we are moreso daily; but what kind of people are we willing to become should the need arise? Do we honestly care about the hearts and minds of jihadis? Do we genuinely care to have an endless and losing jihad against us as do the Indians in Kashmir? Is a sensitive New Age war the kind off commitment we care to make. If our governments continue to collaborate with our enemies, do we care to abide by our own destruction? What goal, if any, do we care to have? What is our point or purpose in waging war? Can we win at all? What is winning a war?

I feel that we need a theory, one written and explained to our public, one debatable and clear. To claim we are at war is one man's considered opinion based on observation of the world we live in. My response is that we should wage war effectively for the purpose of winning; but what is winning? And what do we do to ensure our victory isn't Pyrrhic-- if only in the moral sense? I ask 'What is to be Done?'

5 comments:

CGW said...

The West will adapt and due what is necessary to preserve our Enlightened Western Civilization - even if it means becoming like them.
That's a promise.

CGW said...

"do" what is necessary :-/

truepeers said...

Dag, since you reproduced an essay from a few years ago, let me do the same in response. Here is one from a friend, written in 2005. Since he chose to remove his blog from the internet, let's not name him.

First, I'll just add that the thing to remember about Lind is that he only half-heartedly believes in an American future; he hates the present nihilist, relativist, multiculti elites and has imagined in a novel and essays that America will in future collapse and become balkanized in more or less ethnic enclaves fighting each other. Thus, he appeals to those ready to allow the hated multicultural globalist order to crumble, and to think of war and tactics accordingly.

Yet strategically, we first have to decide whether we are still fighting for the kinds of modern democratic states in which we presently live. I would hope so.

Anyway, here's the essay from our friend:

On "Fourth Generation Warfare"

Here, I have to admit that I’m out of my depths, which I will use to my advantage to point out what the theorists and sub-theorists of “fourth generation warfare” seem to me to be missing. The idea appears to be that war no longer primarily involves the confrontation of armed forces, but is now increasingly likely to be waged along asymmetrical lines with the weaker party focusing less on the armed forces of the stronger party than on the decision making processes of the rulers—which, since we are obviously referring to advanced democratic societies with a high premium on a stable economic environment, involves focusing on the media and information circulation more generally, and ultimately at public opinion.

I’m skeptical of such formulations for a few reasons, but I’ll start with a simple one: they treat contemporary terrorist “warfare” as equivalent to guerilla war. Guerilla wars always seem to be organized around a national liberation struggle: the guerilla warriors do everything in their power to look like a functioning government, such as occupying and administering as much territory as possible, cloaking themselves in national symbols, trying to gain popular support, issuing plausible political programs, working to gain recognition from other states and international organizations. In other words, while guerillas may break the rules of warfare, they play by the rules of international politics. And guerrilla warfare is usually careful to take on only enemies who can’t be avoided—it’s unthinkable, for example, that the Viet Cong would have bombed, say, the British embassy over British support for the U.S. The moral force of guerilla warfare lies in all these aspects, plus the broader one that not only was much of World War II fought along these lines by the Allies, but the broader civilian/military boundary that guerilla war subverts and exploits had already undergone significant erosion due to the bombing of civilian population centers by the allies.

We can’t really apply this analysis to terrorism. Contemporary jihadist terrorism doesn’t “use” the media and “target” public opinion in the “metropolis”: it is thoroughly parasitic upon the media, and shows absolutely no inclination to make itself responsible in any way. Terrorism feels no obligation to have a serious political program or to build ties to a constituency: in fact, as I suggested in my introductory essay, terrorism works best if it relies upon some vague sense of global injustice and white guilt rather than concrete political goals. If the icon of guerilla warfare is the armed peasant, the icon of terrorism is the hostage taker. There are apparent exceptions: the Iranian mullahs, Hezbollah, Hamas, even the Taliban, who did run a state for a while. These are groups with one foot in national liberation/guerilla warfare (power in Iran was not seized through the use of terrorism, but at the wave of a popular movement) and the other in terrorism. Once in power they become hated rapidly and they are ultimately faced with a choice: integrate into normal political processes and reject terrorism or maintain your identity as international jihad fighters and subvert the settlement of the dispute that supposedly motivates your action.

Terrorism, that is, relies upon the survival of the after-image of genuine guerilla war in the minds of Westerners, and upon the survival of what have now become clichés aimed at making judgment impossible: one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter; the presence of foreign, occupying troops is anathema, the original and unsurpassable indignation for all peoples; counter-insurgent warfare inevitably leads to scandals, lies and the political demise of the governments who wage them, etc. Terrorists can’t win the media war if these clichés are cleansed from our thinking. This is why descriptions of fourth generation warfare, however ingenious, and their application to Iraq or the war on terror more generally, almost invariably are calls for retreat or, at best, a level of caution that would be indistinguishable from defeat and the transformation of the war into a large scale public relations effort.

Analyses of fourth generation warfare, that is, make some assumptions about Western, and particularly American, society, that are overly static, to say the least. We want wars to be over quickly because we want to return to normalcy, but we abhor the massive and at least to some extent (and with the technology we have at our disposal, almost any “extent” will seem far too brutal) indiscriminate use of force such rapidity would require (and we’re even skeptical about whether that would work—aren’t guerrillas and terrorists so deeply interwoven into the social fabric that nothing short of genocide can uproot them?). And the enemy is everything we’re not: patient, without scruples, willing to sacrifice all, with practically inhuman powers of endurance. The jihadis have made themselves into a simulacrum of this set of characteristics. Once you have “described” things in this way, the conclusion follows by itself: fourth generation warfare can’t be won by the stronger part, so articulate your foreign policy so as to avoid it at all costs. Of course, once you concede this, the terrorists will themselves be setting the tempo, and determining which decisions carry how much risk of getting trapped in one “quagmire” or another.

The only way to refute such assumptions is by transforming the realities they’re attached to, and to up the ante. Since theories of fourth generation warfare all seem to presuppose that our enemies are taking the initiative and changing the rules of the game, let’s consider what would change if we reversed those assumptions and took on the role of the “next generation” ourselves. Let’s imagine, in other words, what a genuine cultural, economic and political mobilization of American society in response to 9/11 would have looked like (and would still look like).

First of all, we would have long ago implemented the terrorist futures markets ideas that were floated early on after 9/11. The arguments in favor of such a market override all the objections to its offensiveness: in the American tradition of using self-interestedness to serve public ends, it would have generated all kinds of knowledge helpful in predicting and therefore preventing terrorist attacks—it would produce millions of intelligence gatherers, a lot of them probably a lot more efficient than the ones we now have at the CIA. Second, our media would be producing one documentary and special after another on 9/11, showing the footage from that day, retelling the stories of heroism and horror, looking very carefully at what various individuals from across the political spectrum and various individuals, governments and representations of various institutions throughout the world have had to say about the events of that day, and so on. In other words, we’d be treating 9/11 as a “big bang,” creating a new universe that is now taking shape in the form of new galaxies of opinion, new solar systems of rumor and myth. In addition, the media would constantly be reminding us of what our enemies say and do: we wouldn’t need MEMRI because that function would be mainstreamed. By now dozens of terrorist themed movies and TV shows would have hit the screens and airways, exploring subtle changes in our sensibilities even in areas of everyday morality, love and friendship, as well as trying out new versions of well worn plots on this new material. None of this media activity would be uncritical of American society or government actions, but the criticism would be from the standpoint of a fundamental consensus regarding who our enemies are and the impermissibility of defeat. The media and educational institutions would be geared toward encouraging young people to serve their country in the military, especially focusing on the kinds of high tech and cultural skills that are required for officers and intelligence agents. Through the media and educational systems we would have invited American Muslims into a sustained dialogue regarding the terms of citizenship, which might become a broader national "seminar" on the relations between religion and state, ethnicity and nationality, majority and minorities: in particular, we would have cut off in advance the recourse to stereotyped victimary discourses that many Muslim institutions have taken advantage of, ultimately doing harm to their own communities. Perhaps, for example, we could have gathered clear, unequivocal rejections of jihad ideology from Muslim American leaders, to be broadcast through the world; perhaps we could have formed and highlighted Arab-American divisions in the army. There would be a boom in R & D regarding new forms of surveillance, ID, bomb detection and other useful technology (of course, maybe this, at least, is happening). Our diplomatic corps would have been cleared out entirely, getting rid of all the deadwood, career diplomats more loyal to the State Department than elected officials, region specialists more loyal to the rulers of the regions in which they serve or their own pet theories about how to “handle” them than to the policies instituted by their government. Instead, we’d have people in place willing to cooperate on everything that we can cooperate on, and completely candid about everything else. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, we would be much further along in the global and domestic political realignments that we can already see in outline: globally, a decline in “legacy” institutions like the UN and NATO, a shifting of resources to substantive alliances with up and coming countries like India and Indonesia, and a more rigorous policy of rewarding allies, punishing enemies and rivals, and complicating life for neutrals through trade deals and other forms of collaboration; domestically, a retrieval of the a more originary understanding of liberty, an attack on the various dependencies that ties citizens to the state and a shifting of collective forms of security regarding retirement, health care, unemployment, the possibility of falling into destitution, and so on onto various modes of insurance, the only means of guaranteeing both the financial viability of shared responsibilities and that such shared responsibilities enhance, rather than erode, our sense of self-reliance and accountability. By this point, our total focus on destroying jihadism, root and branch, would have grown over into so many other concerns and areas that we'd be able to see it clearly as a symptom of flawed assumptions dysfunctional institutions whose mystifications we have now seen through and have lost their hold on us.

Why, exactly, is all of this unthinkable in the “mainstream” political arena? At heart of this is the struggle between white guilt and iconic intelligence, for which I must ask the reader to read my introductory essay.

truepeers said...

Your comment on vanity also inspired me to quote again, since it reminded me of the comment on vanity and war in the conclusion to Evelyn Waugh's Brideshead Revisited.

As my prologue to that book's epilogue, let me say that instead of thinking about monumentalizing our programme for war, something we're sure to fight about if we take it too literally as an attempt at writing history, why not "just do it", just start writing, get people thinking about a programme that speaks to the human need forever to re-present the program? Let's think about understanding and defending the anthropology and freedom that allows for our re-presentations, to better understand what needs to be done as we find our way from past to future...

One of the things that fascinates me about Brideshead Revisited is that a now long forgotten Canadian writer named John Cornish shamelessly stole the plot and basic character outlines and reset it in a not bad novel portraying British Columbia Society in the 1920s-40s. The Provincials was published in New York in 1951; Cornish went on to a career at the post office. The sacrificial violence of modernism, in which only the ever new was to be worshipped in a great artist/superman-led quest to transcend once and for all the vulgarities of market society, sealed the provincial Cornish's self-imposed fate.

Yet the question remains, whatever the literary success or failure: How is one story able to transcend the closure of another and be used to give us fair insights into the distant world of BC, not to mention the future yet to come? But that is precisely the question raised in the concluding passages of BR, with the image of the flame.

Anyway, here's the last two pages of my paperback BR scanned:


It was nearly twelve. 'You've been hotted again, Hooper. That straw was to be drawn any time before six tonight.'

'Oh Lor; sorry, Ryder. Sergeant Block -'

'It's my own fault for going away .... Fall in the same party immediately after dinner, bring them back here and keep them here till the job's done.'

'Rightyoh. I say, did you say you knew this place before?' , Yes, very well. It belongs to friends of mine,' and as I said the words they sounded as odd in my ears as Sebastian's had done, when, instead of saying, 'It is my home,' he said, 'It is where my family live.'

'It doesn't seem to make any sense - one family in a' place this size. What's the use of it ?'

'Well, I suppose Brigade are finding it useful.'

'But that's not what it was built for, is it?'

'No,' I said, 'not what it was built for. Perhaps that's one of the pleasures of building, like having a son, wondering how he'll grow up. I don't know; I never built anything and I forfeited the right to watch my son grow up. I'm homeless, childless, middle-aged, loveless, Hooper.' He looked to see if I was being funny, decided that I was and laughed. 'Now go back to camp, keep out of C.O.'s way, if he's back from his recce, and don't] to anyone that we've made a nonsense of the morning.'

'Okey, Ryder.'

There was one part of the house I had not yet visited, and I went there now. The chapel showed no ill-effects of its long neglect; the art-nouveau paint was as fresh and bright as ever; the art-nouveau lamp burned once more before the altar. I said a prayer, an ancient, newly-learned form of words, and left, turning towards the camp; and as, I walked back, and the cook-house bugle sounded ahead of I thought:

'The builders did not know the uses to which their work would descend; they made a new house with. stones of the old castle; year by year, generation after generation, they enriched and extended it; year by year the great harvest of timber in the park grew to ripeness; until, in sudden frost, came the age of Hooper; the place was desolate and the work all brought to nothing; Quomodo sedet sola civitas. Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.

'And yet,' I thought, stepping out more briskly towards the camp, where the bugles after a pause had taken up the second call and were sounding 'Pick-em-up, pick-em-up, hot potatoes', 'and yet that is not the last word; it is not even an apt word; it is a dead word from ten years back.

'Something quite remote from anything the builders intended, has come out of their work, and out of the fierce little human tragedy in which I played; something none of us thought about at the time; a small red flame - a beaten-copper lamp of deplorable design relit before the beaten-copper doors of a tabernacle; the flame which the old knights saw from their tombs, which they saw put out; that flame burns again for other soldiers, far from home, farther, in heart, than Acre or Jerusalem. It could not have been lit but for the builders and the tragedians, and there I found it this morning, burning anew among the old stones.'

I quickened my pace and reached the hut which served us for our ante-room.

`You're looking unusually cheerful today,' said the second-in-command.

Dag said...

CGW rises the point that we will win "even if we must become like them." I agree, and I don't shy away from such a thought as a strong possibility. The point of conflict is to resolve it the best one can to the bet of both sides' advantage, even if that means their total destruction so that we might incorporate them and allow them to live anew, as was and is the case in Germany and Japan, as is not the case in Iraq and Afghanistan.

I'm deeply disturbed by what I see in our cultures as deadly sentimentality. I deliberately made reference to General Franco, certainly no model of good or right behavior to me, to shake the boards and kick up the dust. To hide our selves from reality in the hope of others joining us in pleasantness is self-destructive, to start with, but worse in the long term in that it will ill-prepare us for that failure. We must, I believe, see the perimeters of Human potential in conflict so we know what we might do, thus knowing in advance what we must not do. How far will we go and what will we do at the edges of our behavior? Not to leave it to chance and good will, how far and what is our limit beyond which we will not move? At what point is the game not worth the winning? Generally, how far will we go to win? If we know, then our enemies will know too.

But as one can read, I have no liking for the essay above, it being trite, in my opinion, and nothing new or dynamic. I raise it only to knock it down, to present the concept of the revival of the filibuster, which I refrain from entering into here in further detail. That, ladies and gentlemen, is the next generation of war. It is because of that that it is essential that we address ourselves to what is to be done. It's a matter of civilians not of our governments taking action. I don't care at all what our governments agree to or what they actually do: it is only important to know what we will do as private citizens without the benefits of military codes and traditions. We, the people, must know what we will do.

The essayist Truepeers quotes above is right and, as always, brilliant. However, I wish to point out that our position is one equal to that of our enemies, if less so. We, not they, are the question. What are we going to do? What do we, the people, wish for our own lives and for the lives of our children? Will we stop at any atrocity? If not, why not? If so, why would we stop? I ask us all, what is to be done? Where do we draw the line? Why would we care to draw it at all? Should we live? Are we life not worthy of life? If we are, why? If we are, and if we know we are, and if we care enough about our lives and the lives of our own, what is to be done to keep it and expand it and take it beyond our easy and lazy bounds? What sacrifice is too great? What effort too brutal? What would matter if nothing were done, or if something were done; and what would anything be? What is to be done? Do we die? Do we live as slaves? do we allow chance to rule? Do we act and hope for the best given our deepest thoughts toward the Good? What is to be done?

Shall we gather at the river? Shall we drown our miserable selves or shall we cross this Rubicon? What is to be done?