A fourth generation war near you

John Robb picks up the “Mexico is next” theme in a post on Global Guerrillas that I highly recommend. While the world is still focused on the Middle East, the real action has shifted closer to home:

The only existential threat the US faces in the near term is from global guerrillas in Mexico and not the Middle East.

We may yet get a chance to see if this counterinsurgency stuff really works, not in perpetuating an occupation but in countering an insurgency.

An alternative is that what we’re going to face might better be described as a fourth generation, non-trinitarian conflict and not classical insurgency because it doesn’t appear that the goals of the groups employing terrorism and guerrilla warfare tactics involve replacing the government of either Mexico or the United States (see Bill Lind’s latest, below, for a discussion of this point).

So it is armed conflict, and if it isn’t insurgency, is it war? This is an important question because, as the current president claims and as the candidate from his party agrees, in war, a president has extraordinary powers.

While such powers have proven useful when the country faces the military forces of another country, they also allow the president to undertake activities that would be counterproductive if used against a guerrilla-type opponent, where the outcome depends primarily on moral elements — that is, on our ability to attract allies, maintain our own determination, and dry up the guerrillas’ bases of support.

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8 Responses to “A fourth generation war near you”

  1. Duncan Kinderon 05 Jun 2008 at 1:00 am 1

    So it is armed conflict, and if it isn’t insurgency, is it war? This is an important question because, as the current president claims and as the candidate from his party agrees, in war, a president has extraordinary powers.

    Of course, a president is limited not only by what he wants to do but also by what he actually can do.

    Besides historical checks and balances, the next president will probably face other constraints.

    Note that Robb also discusses Nigeria. Iraq, Pakistan, and the host of other MidEast related issues shall persist. The mortgage crisis and related financial problems shall persist. Oil may have peaked. The United States has a large and robust Latino population, many of whom may sympathize with the insurgents and who would be far more difficult to quell than its small and vulnerable Muslim population.

    Further note that Robb also is recommending a book, which I have not yet read, which apparently suggests that the United States may collapse much as the Soviet Union did.

    Under these circumstances, insofar as Constitutional doctrine shall germane, the Second Amendment may very well turn out to be of greater practical import than Article II.

    [CR: Thanks, Duncan. I always feel so much better after reading your stuff.]

  2. Fabius Maximuson 05 Jun 2008 at 1:35 am 2

    Stratfor has covered this story early and well. For a quick background on this, the following provide excerpts from their reports:

    Is Mexico unraveling? (28 Aprili 2008) http://fabiusmaximus.wordpress.com/2008/04/28/mexico/

    “High Stakes South of the Border” (13 May 2008)

    “Mexico: On the Road to a Failed State?” (14 May 2008)

    Also, note that in the early 1990’s Martin van Creveld was discussing Mexico as a failing state and serious threat to the US. Many thought he was crazy. As usual, he proved to be correct.

  3. johnrobbon 05 Jun 2008 at 6:32 am 3

    You are exactly right Chet, will this counter-insurgency stuff work against an open source enemy with billion dollar funding? The criminalization of immigration (a felony?), as we have seen recently in Iowa, as well as use of anti-terrorism legislation against immigrants (abrogation of rights), will only radicalize immigrants.

    Fab — Bill and I both have been exploring the dynamics of this collapse in Mexico for years. Martin, as always, is much earlier than all of us (although without the specifics).

    At least from my perspective, Stratfor arrived very late to the party. Not sure that they added anything to the analysis, did they or did they offer a watered down version?

    I’d very much like to see any top level conclusions/dynamics that they unearthed that add to our understanding of the situation.

  4. nimbus48on 05 Jun 2008 at 2:52 pm 4

    Radicalize immigrants??

    I don’t know what level of society believes that illegals and many legal immigrants have not been radical in their beliefs for many years now.

    I am not a great fan of the Patriot Act etc. But having had the misfortune to be intimately associated with many recent immigrants I can tell you they are “radical” in their beliefs as defined by “mainstream” “Anglo-Americans”.

    Perhaps the “Gated Community” crowd, the 20 percent of US citizens that are riding high on the “economy” are the ones that believe only the Patriot Act and Iowa law has radicalized them.

    [CR: How would they appear to us “mainstream” non-hyphenated Americans?]

  5. nimbus48on 05 Jun 2008 at 10:30 pm 5

    If my ears and eyes don’t deceive me I have heard (and read) people of all European immigrant groups express concern regarding the radical behavior of recent illegal and legal arrivals in this country to include recent eastern European and Asian arrivals. And this was long before 9/11.

    I used Anglo-American to represent long time English speakers etc.

  6. dkenbluon 06 Jun 2008 at 8:23 am 6

    Radical in their beliefs nimbus? Don’t suppose you’d care to be more specific. I live in Frederick, MD, home of a recent explosion in legal and illegal Hispanic immigration. Maybe it’s a misfortune for you to be intimately associated with some of them, but that’s not my experience.
    I don’t live in a gated community, and I coach their kids on my daughter’s soccer team, play soccer with and against them, and had some of them working on my deck and basement when we got those done. My conclusion is that they’ve come here to work their butts off.
    Sure there should be a discussion on taxes paid vs. community services received, housing overcrowding, and many other issues. But blithly dismissing them as radical and and outside the mainstream of “Anglo-Americans” smacks of the worst part of our American history of intolerance for those who don’t look like us.
    Are Anglo-Americans the only few with a God-given right to enjoy the freedoms of America? Why don’t you take a look at some of the “Pictures of the Fallen” on Washingtonpost.com or elsewhere and we’ll tell all those non-Anglo-Americans that there’s no need for them to serve.

    [CR: This is an area where emotions run high. If the subject is just too charged and we can’t discuss it in a dispassionate way, I’ll close off comments on this thread.]

  7. Maxon 06 Jun 2008 at 10:35 am 7

    nimbus48on 05 Jun 2008 at 2:52 pm 4

    Radicalize immigrants??

    If 9-11 proved anything, meant anything, it’s that those with
    the determination, even when emersed, can resist the temptations of the Good Life, and the American dream, and carry out thier lunatic

    Let’s be reminded yet again, of our own “home grown” McViegh,
    Nichols, and Oklahoma City. Home grown Anglo-Americans, both !

    If that underscores a point it maybe, that there’s no need to import.


  8. nimbus48on 06 Jun 2008 at 11:23 pm 8


    If you look at the politics of the countries or origin of Eastern Europeans, Middle Easterners and Latin Americans I’d say a dispassionate observer would think these folks might be a little different in their politics then a fifth generation citizen of the USA. Is that specific enough?

    Great game football! Invented in the UK and loved by the working and upper classes all over the world.