Fourth Generation War — Was I Wrong?

When I proclaimed the death of 4GW in this very blog about a year ago? Of course not. But there are disturbing developments, at least in its decline-of-the-state/road-warrior variant (aka, the Bill Lind definition).

Did you know, for example, that groups espousing an ultra-orthodox salafist interpretation of Islam, those iconic 4GW warriors we call “al-Qa’ida,” now control an area larger than that of the United Kingdom? This zone includes much of western Iraq and eastern Syria. It’s worth reminding ourselves that before March 2003, they controlled exactly none of this (or any other) territory. Patrick Cockburn offers his explanation of how we got ourselves into this mess in “Al-Qa’ida’s second act,” a five-part series in The Independent.

Bill Lind is not alone in seeing this as a general, global trend. Robert Reich finds it happening right here at home. He writes in a blog yesterday, “The New Tribalism and the Decline of the Nation State“:

We are witnessing a reversion to tribalism around the world, away from nation states. The the same pattern can be seen even in America – especially in American politics.

So is this evidence for 4GW?  Perhaps, in the sense of the breakdown of existing states. On the other hand, the goal of the baby al-Qa’idas is the establishment of a new state with them at its head. And even in the US, although it’s not clear what the ultra-Right has in mind, it seems to be some sort of refashioning of the existing United States in their image (and under their control), the same goal that the ultra-Left had back when there was a left wing worthy of the name.

If, on the other hand, you consider 4GW as evolved transnational insurgency, then … maybe. I have to admit, it’s hard to explain the renaissance of al-Qa’ida (in whatever form) otherwise.

4 thoughts on “Fourth Generation War — Was I Wrong?

  1. there is this

    Al Qaeda’s Second Act; Is Saudi Arabia Regretting Its Support for Terrorism?

    but there is also this … US gov. finally allowing families of 9/11 victims to sue Saudi Arabia as responsible for 9/11 (some of the references cite US’s increasing energy independence as responsible for the change)

    9/11 Families ‘Ecstatic’ They Can Finally Sue Saudi Arabia–abc-news-topstories.html
    Inside the Saudi 9/11 coverup
    Murdoch’s NY Post Backs Michael Moore’s Bush-Saudi 9/11 Claims

    and they are also pushing for making all of the 9/11 commission report public.

    Lawmakers, victims’ families call to declassify key portion of 9/11 report
    A call to declassify key portion of 9/11 report

  2. Chet,

    Based on your posts, it would seem that fourth generation warfare is very much alive. Most alarmingly, if Robert Reich’s post is correct (and I agree with him), it means that far from collapsing Al Queda, 4GW is slowly collapsing the US from within. The War on Terror has taken an enormous moral toll, an enormous financial toll, and rather than unifying, is dividing the US, along with the other events have have occurred since 9-11-2001.

    Let’s look at what the US has in the War on Terror:
    – Superior financial resources
    – High tech weapons
    – Numbers

    All … very second generation-warfare advantages.

    Against this, the 4th generation forces have:
    – The moral will to fight on no matter what (versus a war weary American public)
    – Knowledge of the local terrain, people, culture, etc
    – They are not going anywhere
    – A much smaller OODA Loop

    All … very third and fourth generation warfare advantages.

    Should it be any surprise that the US is struggling in the “War on Terror”, even discounting the massive strategic miscalculations that have been made? Or for that matter the “defense death spiral”? Or the state of the US economy, which for all talk of “recovery” remains quite weak?

    A second generation mentality cannot win against a fourth generation opponent. The “opponent” is not clearly defined. It is whomever is convenient for current politicians it would seem to achieve their short term political goals.

    – Chris

  3. 4th generational warfare is to the conventional, what advanced oxidization becomes
    to machinery. “In war, the moral is to the material as three is to one” this applies
    in the form that Napoleon is most often used in context, but also in the context
    of commitment, and just cause.

  4. “Should it be any surprise that the US is struggling in the “War on Terror”, even discounting the massive strategic miscalculations that have been made? ”

    But the “war weary Americans” are mostly just the Conservative Republicans who are worried about cost, and the 1% who are fighting the war. Most of the rest don’t even know there is a war going on.

    Climate change? What the hell is that?

    The truth is: 2GW is very powerful, especially if you conduct that warfare on the Internet.

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