Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
July 01, 2006

Neocon Thinking In 4GW Cloth

William Lind reviews his collegue Chet Richard's book "Neither Shall the Sword".

The book and the review is about fourth generation warfare (4GW). A concept that envisions that third generation wars, Blitzkrieg like big army operations, are essentially a thing of the past and present and future warfare is a fight about the legitimacy of the central state between the central states and non-state actors. John Robb's Global Guerrillas is one of the most far out sites on this concept.

I agree that this thought-frame does have some value and I think nation states today are weekening themselfs far too much by conceding more and more power to privat actors, i.e. corporations and belief-groups.

But aside from that concept, there is a typical exceptionalist argument made by Richard exposing the blind spot of U.S. 4GW thinkers.

Lind writes:

Richards makes additional valuable points. One is that the Bush administration has fundamentally miscast the nature of the conflict we now face. He argues that

and now Lind cites Richard:

war is terrorism, so a “war on terrorism” is a war on war. We are not in a war on “terrorism” or engaged in a “struggle against violent extremism.” Instead, we are faced with an evolutionary development in armed conflict, a “fourth generation” of warfare that is different from and much more serious than “terrorism”…

    to see the difference between 4GW and “terrorism,” run this simple thought experiment: suppose bin Laden and al-Qaida were able to enforce their program on the Middle East, but they succeeded without the deliberate killing of one more American civilian. The entire Middle East turns hostile, Israel is destroyed, and gas goes up to $15 per gallon when it is available. Bin Laden’s 4GW campaign succeeds, but without terrorism. Do you feel better?

I agree with the first paragraph. For example: Any competent gang with a bit of brain can hit some infrastructure, like a pipeline, and at the same time have some call options or the like on gasoline prices. The act delegitimizes the state and generates exorbitant profits to finance the next action. In Iraq, that's daily business and unless they let Saddam go and give him tanks, that state may well lose its credibility over this and dissolve.

But Richards second paragraph is nuts.

"The entire Middle East goes hostile" - Hostile to whom? Why? Could that be a reaction, not an action?

Is there any country in the Middle East that is, in its heart, friendly to the U.S. today?

Currently there is a bunch of dictators in Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and elsewhere being payed one way or another by the U.S. There is a powerless puppet regime in Iraq and religion based, and thereby pseudo democratic governments, in Iran and Israel. Non of these, including Israel, is at its heart really friendly to the U.S. or anyone else. States have interests. If Osama Whoever would rule there, he would have become a state-actor, and, by definition, vanished as a GW enemy. It would not change the rules of the game.

"Israel is destroyed" - Wow - the U.S. might lose its colony. Please note that muslims do not fight Israel for its people being jewish, they fight it for robbing their land. And as long as Israel does not even adhere to basic human behaviour vis-à-vie the native population and steadily enganges in extending its territory, there is not much reason to give a shit. Sow wind and you will reap storm.

"gas goes up to $15 per gallon" - Ahhh - now here is the real bummer that wakes up the standardised U.S. reader. Finally a boogieman that might get attention and sell the book.

But to keep up $15 per gallon for a while would be the best thing that could ever happen in Richard's envisoned 4GW case. Within two or three years the oil dependent countries would really change their behaviour and jump away from those carbonhydrids. Following that, the oil price would crash (like it did after the 70's oil boycott) and with it the power of the rulers in oil rich countries.

The only reason why the "west" is interested and engaged in the Middle East, and why it reaps this reaction, is its addiction to oil. Take that away with a period of very high oil prices and the addiction will heal itself.

The enemy in 4GW are stateless actors, not some oil rich countries in the Middle East, whoever might rule them.

4 GW as business out of control of the people is a real danger. But Richard's arguments to sell that basicly sound concept is just neocon thinking in new cloth.

Posted by b on July 1, 2006 at 20:29 UTC | Permalink


Americans will go to war before they will pay $5 a gallon at the pumps (or we have to wait in line to get it), regardless of what it will cost the economy overall. We made that decision back in 1973, when we failed to start weaning ourselves off the Middle East over the Arab embargo, when gas jumped from 40 cents per gallon to over 60 cents.

Posted by: ralphieboy | Jul 1 2006 21:16 utc | 1

unless they let Saddam go and give him tanks, that state may well lose its credibility over this and dissolve.

You don't hear too many Goopers using the old "Iraqis are better off without Saddam" line anymore.

My guess is much of the US Foreign Policy establishment, if it had its druthers, would love to figure out a way to bring Saddam back.

The odds are at least 100 to 1 against of course, but ya never know.....

Posted by: Night Owl | Jul 2 2006 0:26 utc | 2

You betcha N. O.

I would never say that ,of course, for it is not "politically Correct".

Posted by: Miss Manners | Jul 2 2006 0:49 utc | 3

Coming soon to NBC...

My Name Is Saddam

A mustachioed misfit takes control of a country, and then loses it in bizarre circumstances. He's on the run, caught in a hidey hole, and put on trial - but he gets something most of us can only dream of:

A second chance.

Now Saddam is back where he was, but he has a dream. To right all the wrongs he ever inflicted - no matter who's going to stop him, no matter what gets in his way.

Watch hilarity ensue as he tries to make up with his old buddy Rummy! See awkward comedy at its finest when he apologized to young punk Moqtada for "accidentally" killing his pops! And you won't believe what Saddam has in store for the Kurds!

Posted by: Rowan | Jul 2 2006 2:02 utc | 4

Interesting, Rowan, but I see a much larger film, an epic, cast of thousands.

Think we need JOHN FORD . Looks like Sid gets Left Behind.

I see:



Condi Rice(leather de riguer)

Liz Cheney

Hilary Clinton

And 2 of Wolfie's Brit speaking Bimbettes to add the appropriate gravitas.

Uniform of the day for last four:

Leather or latex, white or black boots,
depending upon the season.

6-8 quack apothecaries and court astologers, also Brit speaking. I have a few in mind.

Needs to be fleshed out a bit, but your concept Rowan, has great possibilities.

Posted by: Groucho | Jul 2 2006 3:00 utc | 5

Billmon writes in The War of Laws

In my opinion, the war against Al Qaeda (and the various branches of Islamic terrorism that have grown from the original trunk) is a war, and a highly deadly one, even if doesn't fit well in a legal framework based on conflicts between sovereign states -- or at least organized armed groups controlling defined pieces of real estate. And that conflict fully justifies the application of presidential war powers in certain areas, including the detention and treatment of enemy combatants, the creation of military commissions to try them, etc. I also recognize (despairingly) that it’s going to be a long war, not least because the morons currently in charge of fighting it have barely a clue.

And I think this is where I disagree with him, certainly with the thread of Lind and Richards.

The idea that everything changed on 9-11 is a fraud.

The US, the US/israeli Axis in the Middle East, has been pursuing policies rooted in injustice there for decades. The blowback was long overdue. It may as well be that the present regime in the White House failed to prevent the occurence of 9-11 out of "benign neglect" as out of incompetence. We may never know.

Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda might be construed as actors, but their ability to act is in turn rooted in the desperate straits of the people among whom they live and plot, from whose midst they act, and in whose midst they hide. Take away the underlying desperation that is the necessary precondition of their continued existence and they are gone. Stop pursuing policies rooted in injustice, eliminate the reaction to it, and you eliminate the criminal acts such as 9-11, that have been profitably misconstrued as war.

Al Qaeda is like Baader Meinhof. They are a criminal gang. Pursue them, capture them, try and imprison them.

Yet if we do not concommitantly uproot the injustice at the base of our policies there will be an immediate replacement.

This whole "war on terrror" is the cynical misuse of the predicatable blowback from decades of exploitation and expropriation to redouble that same exploitation and expropriation.

The Liberal establishment is as wedded to this "adventure" as the present regime. The Demoplican establishment is not lacking in backbone, it is doing the job its paid to do.

Billmon, according to his stated opinion in the paragraph above, buys into this "war on terror" stuff.

The Lind/Richards routine is more of the same discussion and justification for the "war" that isn't a war and doesn't have to be.

Those who profit from these conflicts and the hatred and slaughter they engender are either cynical nihilists, resigned to others' suffering for their own benefit or, in willful denial of reality, mistakenly think they have something to gain from a ride on the coattails of those who have no compunctions about plunging the whole earth into hell to slake their greedy thirsts.

I have no arguments with Billmon. I'm just an admirer in the stands. He's on the field. His focus, analysis, and his development of ideas is breathtaking and always a pleasure to read.

But if he has truly bought into this war on terror business, this clash of civilizations stuff, I disagree. That's all.

It's quite possible that the US is done. That there will be no popular recognition of its criminal decline, no collective revulsion that finally brings the decline to a halt at least. It's hard to imagine the US ever enjoying the position it once did in the world. But I hope that things do stop getting worse. I do hope that we can at least stop murdering innocent people around the world, thumbing our chests and congratulating ourselves while we do so.

Posted by: John Francis Lee | Jul 2 2006 3:33 utc | 6

With corporate media busy spreading propaganda, a real discussion of strategy for resolving the oil issues has not begun. Since the 1960's effective countermeasures have been developed against Western colonialism. Algeria, Afghanistan and Iraq are examples. Since the collapse of communism, the resistance to foreign occupation has been spearhead by religious institutions. This is different from globalization and multi-national companies increasing power over established states. The drive for mercenaries in the USA is a result of trying to fight a war on the cheap without the draft or taxing corporations to pay for the war.

The USA is headed for the Mother of All Crises as soon as foreign investors realize that the personal and federal debt can never be paid off. The question is will the US Constitution and rule of law survive or will North America de-evolve into a real Mad Max World.

Posted by: Jim S | Jul 2 2006 3:44 utc | 7

It is discouraging to see even the most enlightened of what passes for US intellectuals descend, time and again, into the fallacies of exceptionalism and US-centrism. Just look at Billmon's newest post, "The Law of Wars". He once again seems to accept the WoT frame lock, stock and barrel. And note that even as he calls the current government criminals, he clings to the illusion that they are the problem, that the system itself is not rotten to core, that all will turn out right if only the current gang are replaced. Talk about being in denial ...

I have concluded that Billmon, Gilliard, et al simply cannot help it, that even highly intelligent and unusually perceptive people who grew up in the USA, those who at times seem able to see themselves at least partly as others from outside see them, cannot sustain that attitude forever and fall back, sooner or later, into their ingrained patterns of looking at the world. Undoing that tendency would probably take the same effort that you'd need to de-program the members of some cult, if it were at all possible. Of course, that makes the few individuals who are able to overcome this national narcissim on their own all the more admirable.

Posted by: mira | Jul 2 2006 3:50 utc | 8

Given the Bush Gang's skill in stealing elections, getting Saddam back into power will only require another of those "free" elections,( perhaps Jeb Bush could help)and so,...the problems solved..Rummy can even be photographed on trhe sofa with him in the good old days!

Posted by: brian | Jul 2 2006 5:53 utc | 9

Israel warns: free soldier or PM dies

Israeli fighter jets bombed 20 targets in Gaza, including the Interior Ministry, which it said had been used by militants to stage meetings, while artillery hit the northern strip with 500 shells in the 24 hours until yesterday morning.
Much of Gaza, including two main hospitals, was without power and running water as a UN aid chief warned that the 1.4 million residents of the strip were three days away from a humanitarian crisis.

"They are heading for the abyss unless they get electricity and fuel restored," said emergency relief co-ordinator Jan Egeland, who urged militants to free Corporal Shalit and stop firing rockets into Israel.

Residents complain that sonic booms caused by Israeli jets traumatise children and that shelling confines families to their homes.

Posted by: b | Jul 2 2006 6:18 utc | 10

It's Chet Richards not Chris. I would argue he isn't a Neocon, nor am I.

Posted by: John Robb | Jul 2 2006 9:57 utc | 11

Thanks for the correction John. I don´t think he is a neocon. It's the argumentation that he uses that makes him look like one. It's a pro-war argumentation because something "could happen". But then I haven´t read that book but just find this fearmongering of $15 gas disgustible.

Posted by: b | Jul 2 2006 11:19 utc | 12

Thanks for the clarification. Ok, need to think about this.

Posted by: John Robb | Jul 2 2006 15:19 utc | 13

Saddam himself has said that he expects the US to come to him to help him control the country. (After all, he did it for a long time, Rummy and all loooved him.)

Yeah Rowan it is comedy but people on the ground tend to take it more seriously.

Mira, they can’t help it. Some guy on the TV says the earth is flat, and that’s it, though one can argue endlessly about its flatness, the people who support flatness or don’t, the new lot who will make little mountains on the land politically acceptable, so it won’t quite be so flat - hey there might be treaties about flatness! And some evil people contest perfect flatness, but they have to have their say...but at the end of the day.. flat is good, bumpy is suspect and :


morally wrong

dead wrong



flat wrong



Posted by: Noisette | Jul 2 2006 16:01 utc | 14

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