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.