Military Matters: Brave new war

By WILLIAM S. LIND  |  May 11, 2007 at 7:01 PM
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WASHINGTON, May 11 (UPI) -- While the White House and the Pentagon continue their long vacation in Cloud Cuckoo Land, in the real world the literature on Fourth Generation war continues to grow. An important addition is John Robb's new book, "Brave New War: The Next Stage of Terrorism and the End of Globalization."

As the title implies, this book dares to question the inevitability of the globalist future decreed by the internationalist elites, a one-world superstate where life is reduced to an administered satisfying of "wants." Robb perceives, rightly, that the "Brave New War" of the Fourth Generation will put an end to the Brave New World.

Following a useful and well-written introduction to Fourth Generation war, or 4GW, "Brave New War" offers four observations of strategic importance.

The first is that the "global guerillas" of 4GW will use "systems disruption" to inflict massive damage on states at little cost to themselves. Modern states depend on the functioning of numerous overlaid networks -- fuel pipelines, electric grids, etc. -- which have critical linkages that are subject to attack. Robb writes:

"To global guerillas, the point of greatest emphasis is the systempunkt. It is a point in the system ... that will collapse the target system if it is destroyed. Within an infrastructure system, this collapse takes the form of disrupted flows that result in financial loss or supply shortages. Within a market, the result is a destabilization of the psychology of the marketplace that will introduce severe inefficiencies and chaos.

"Our problem is that the global guerillas we see in the long tail of this global insurgency are quickly learning how to detect and attack systempunkts."

Here, I think John Robb's U.S. Air Force background may mislead him to an extent. Air forces have long believed that the bombing of critical nodes in an enemy's military, communications or economic systems can win wars; American air raids on German ball-bearing plants in World War II are a famous example. In reality, it seldom works because the enemy's rerouting, redundancy and repair capabilities enable him to work around the destruction. Robb is right that such destruction can increase costs, but wartime psychology can absorb higher costs. War trumps peacetime balance sheets.

Robb's second strategic observation I think is wholly correct: 4GW forces gain enormous strength from operating on an open-source basis. Anyone can play, a shared vision replaces top-down control, and methods evolve rapidly through lateral communication.

A great description of the dynamics of OSW, or Open Source Warfare, is a bazaar. People are trading, haggling, copying and sharing. To an outsider it can look chaotic. It's so different from the quiet intensity and strict order of the cathedral-like Pentagon. This dynamic may be why Arab groups were some of the first guerilla movements to pick up on this new method and apply it to warfare.

The combination of post-modern Open Source Warfare and pre-modern, non-state primary loyalties leads to the third observation, that 4GW turns globalization against itself.

My conclusion is that globalization is quickly layering new skill sets on ancient mindsets. Warriors, in our current context of global guerillas, are not merely lazy and monosyllabic primitives. They are wired, educated and globally mobile. They build complex supply chains, benefit from global money flows, travel globally, innovate with technology and attack shrewdly.

Finally, Robb correctly finds the antidote to 4GW not in Soviet-style state structures such as the Department of Homeland Security, but in decentralization. What Robb calls "dynamic decentralized resilience" means that, in concrete terms, security is again to be found close to home. Local police departments, local sources of energy such as roof-top solar arrays -- I would add local farms that use sustainable agricultural practices -- are the key to dealing with system perturbations. To the extent we depend on large, globalist, centralized networks we are insecure. Robb foresees that as state structures fail.

Members of the middle class will take matters into their own hands by forming suburban collectives to share the costs of security -- as they do now with education -- and shore up delivery of critical services. These "armored suburbs" will deploy and maintain backup generators and communications links; they will be patrolled by civilian police auxiliaries that have received corporate training and boost their own state-of-the-art emergency response systems.

If this all sounds a bit like what happened as the Roman Empire fell, it should. The empire in this case is not America or even the West, but the state system and the force that produced the state, the modern age. Modernity shot itself in the head in 1914. How much longer ought we expect the body to live?


(William S. Lind is director for the Center for Cultural Conservatism for the Free Congress Foundation. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of United Press International.)

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