Revenge of the Road Warrior

Finally, a decline-of-the-state book that not only doesn’t depend on Martin van Creveld’s work, but doesn’t even mention it. And it’s a pretty good one.

FROM THE NEW MIDDLE AGES TO A NEW DARK AGE: THE DECLINE OF THE STATE AND U.S. STRATEGY, by Phil Williams. Dr. Williams is Visiting Research Professor at the Army’s Strategic Studies Institute in Carlisle, PA, for whom he wrote this monograph.

It’s a short book, so read it. Here are a few tidbits to get you started:

Underlying the change from traditional geopolitics to security as a governance issue is the long-term decline of the state. Despite state resilience, this trend could prove unstoppable. If so, it will be essential to replace dominant state-centric perceptions and assessments (what the author terms “stateocentrism”) with alternative judgments acknowledging the reduced role and diminished effectiveness of states. (ix)

There is now a nexus of dangerous new actors, methods, and capabilities that imperil the United States, its interests, and its alliances in strategically significant ways.” These threats require a response which is carefully formulated, with an appropriate balance between ends, ways, and means, and a realistic prospect of reaching an end state that is less dangerous and unfavorable than it would be in the event of inaction. (47)

Dr. Williams considers three generic strategies, roughly world domination, isolation, and selective intervention. His discussion is nuanced, although his treatment of “world domination” is a masterpiece of the understated annihilation technique.

If there is a fault to this work, it is the assumption, always lurking in the background, that there is a way to manage the world, and if we got our act in order, we could do it.

Taking this a step further and developing the transagency organizational structures discussed above might enhance the prospects that these selective interventions would create the desired results. Even selective interventions require the holistic exercise of power and a more coherent organizational approach than has been evident in Iraq. (48)

This is, however, as optimistic as he gets.

Again, read it, make up your own minds, and recognize yet once again that the American people are truly getting our money’s worth out of SSI. By the way, he doesn’t mention Lind or 4GW either.

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Filed in Misc. | 34 responses so far

34 Responses to “Revenge of the Road Warrior”

  1. rmhitchenson 10 Jun 2008 at 11:59 am 1

    “There is now a nexus of dangerous new actors, methods, and capabilities that imperil the United States, its interests, and its alliances in strategically significant ways.”

    In what way is this not rank fear-mongering? Propounded by (surprise!) the military, which continues to pull in an astonishingly high percentage of GNP even as global violence diminishes. As Tom Barnett told ’em at Leavenworth last year, “On a per capita basis, less people are involved in war than we’ve ever seen. … So the terrorism, the transnational, the non-state actors is what’s left.” Serious enough, but hardly imperiling, I should think.

    Doesn’t mean I won’t read the book.

    [CR: I have to apologize. That is a quote from the Army Strategic Planning Guidance. After reading it in context, I can only be “pretty sure” that Williams agrees with it. In the remaining two pages of the book, Willliams writes that responding to these threats requires “an appropriate balance between ends, ways, and means and a realistic prospect of reaching an end state that is less dangerous than it would be in the event of inaction.” What Williams never comes right out and says is whether this is possible (in one place, he says that it might require “reform of the American government in general,” and even that might not suffice). In fact, he ends with what might be considered as a paraphrase of van Creveld’s “The Fate of the State,” which concludes with:

    Still, it is worth recalling that the state’s most remarkable products to date have been Hiroshima and Auschwitz; the former could never have been built by any organization but a state (and the most powerful one, at that), whereas the latter was above all an exercise in bureaucratic management. Whatever the future may bring, it cannot be much worse than the past. For those who regret and fear the passing away of the world with which we are familiar, let that be their consolation.

    As I said read it. It’s short and you’ve already paid for it. ]

  2. Maxon 10 Jun 2008 at 12:07 pm 2

    “this trend could prove unstoppable. If so, it will be essential to replace dominant state-centric perceptions and assessments (what the author terms “stateocentrism”) with alternative judgments acknowledging the reduced role and diminished effectiveness of states. (ix)”

    Very interesting indeed.

    In my mind, “alternative judgements” or surigates, ties in with the now largely defunct but widely embraced and promoted, (and only a decade ago) notions, and enthusiasim for “economic globalisation.”

    http://ucatlas.ucsc.edu/economic.php
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Economic_globalization

    Whereby mega corporate entities where hoped could provide coheasion, and bring about a means that otherwize disparate interests could identify and rally.

    In a sense, corporations could to some degree replace, or oterwize surpass states in the public imagination, a concept that I started hearing about in the 70s, with the rise of entities like
    ITT and IBM, the seven sisters, etc.

    Taking a look at what Walmart has done for China,
    and in so doing, was at the leading edge of the explosion of comercial export and manufacturing interests there.

    This was touted by some, also as reducing the prospect for international war, through highly interdependent trade and resultant speading prosperity.

    Well, it didn’t quite work out that way, not everywhere, for sure. There always seems to be a winner, and often many losers. And provided a marvelous opportunity for some to put short term gains and exploitation ahead of the greater and longer term interests of many. Once the ribbons
    then veneer come off, Conspicously flaunted, is The very rich, screwing the poor, and dwindling middle class, to put it bluntly.

    We saw the anti-globalisation movements and protests at the various G-8 summits etc, once you got past the mobs, and the shouting, a lot of compelling arguments and legitimate greivance
    came to light. It came home to me after Seattle
    and Quebec City protests, that these were actually mostly normal people, who felt powerless under the thumb and influence of elites.

    Most recently, you just don’t hear much anymore
    about economic globalisation as a solution to all that ailes civilisation.
    M

  3. Cheton 11 Jun 2008 at 6:30 pm 3

    I should point out that in addition to somehow overlooking Bill Lind and Martin van Creveld, Williams also managed to miss John Robb.

    For those of you who haven’t read it, I recommend John’s book, Brave New War, which adds concepts from complexity theory and netwar to the decline-of-the-state theme. Visit his blog at http://globalguerrillas.typepad.com/johnrobb.

  4. Fabius Maximuson 11 Jun 2008 at 9:14 pm 4

    This was a fun report to skim. Like reading Kipling’s “Just so stories.”

    This is not a serious work imo, but a mildly interesting polemic. He mentions none of the positive trends in the world today, such as the fantastic growth of many emerging nations. How can we take him seriously when he does not even mention the word “growth” (in any postive senses), Singapore, or China (except with reference to its population).

    Also, this is completely devoid of numbers to put any of the factors he describes in an overall global context. Nor is there any assessment of the odds of his scenario vs. more positive alternatives.

    Not mentioning the prior work of Martin van Creveld or William Lind seems a bit difficult to overlook or justify.

    But still fun, like watching “The Towering Inferno”.

  5. seydlitz89on 12 Jun 2008 at 2:53 pm 5

    Fabius-

    Greetings.

    “a mildly interesting polemic”

    The “dying state” thesis is of course a paradoxical anti-state polemic and not limited to Williams. This since it also allows for avoiding questions of what exactly the political purposes of political entities battling state militaries might actually be, since their goal could not be the establishment of a new state, since the state as an institution is “dying” according to this deterministically clockwork worldview. . . Thus serving the political purposes of the powerful and delegitimizing the efforts of the weak in such conflicts. This obviously does not aide one in understanding of the phenomenon of war.

    My question though, is what exactly is left of this “dying Westphalian state thesis” from your perspective and how does that affect van Creveld’s concepts of “Trinitarian Warfare” and “Non-trinitarian Warfare”? If the state is alive and well, at least as a global institution, then does that not call into question van Creveld’s whole idea of his “transformation of war”?

  6. Maxon 12 Jun 2008 at 5:38 pm 6

    http://www.mackenzieinstitute.com/1996/1996_10_Military_Massacres.html

    “What is more dangerous: A brace of F-18s with laser-guided bombs and AIM-9L air to air missiles, or a group of men with pitchforks and improvised clubs? Think carefully, the correct answer may not be the obvious one.”

    SNIP

    “Professor Martin van Crevald. His book, The Transformation of War, makes a distinction between the “trinitarian” warfare of the nation-states with the non-trinitarian warfare of non-state actors. The trinity in reference is the Clauswitzian one of a government waging war through its military with the support of its people against a similar trinity on the other side. Non-trinitarian warfare consists of conflicts where one or more of the elements of the trinity are missing on either side – if not both.”

    “Modern trinitarian warfare might be exemplified by some of the grand campaigns of the Second World War, that of the Normandy Landing and Break-out being typical. The resources and manpower of entire states were harnessed to war. Non-trinitarian warfare has many forms and many expressions. It is exhibited by terrorism, massacre, brigandage, guerrilla uprisings, or endemic rioting. One example arises out of the turmoil between the Hutus and Tutsi in Rwanda and Burundi, in recent years.”

  7. Cheton 12 Jun 2008 at 5:48 pm 7

    seydlitz89 —

    The Fund for Peace, among others, has documented the degree to which many states around the world fail to meet even the most basic needs of their citizens. Thus, the majority of people in those areas are turning to other social organizations to provide security and the other necessities of life.

    There is nothing deterministically clockwork about that observation. The claim that as the world population grows and resources become increasingly strained the state itself as an institution will cease to exist is, of course, an hypothesis. It can be argued either way — there’s nothing polemical about it. Lind, Williams, and van Creveld argue one way — you are free to argue another.

    However, the counter-claim — that all war should fit into the mold of Clausetizian cabinet wars — strikes me as far more polemical, with one caveat: One could simply define the word “war” in this way, and that course has some merit. The issue would be whether or not “policy by other means” is a reasonable way to categorize most of the large-scale armed conflict that has recently occurred and can be expected to occur. Another hypothesis to be argued. As you know from IWCKI, I don’t like using the term “war” for a lot of conflict in the world today, including much of what is sometimes called “fourth generation war.”

    One can easily apply the ideas from The Transformation of War, though, not only to the failed states themselves but to apparently viable states as they deal with increasingly potent non-state groups. The trick, as Boyd so often suggested, is not to get locked into one framework for viewing the world.

    For the data offered by the Fund for Peace, please click here. They are proposing 32 states as “failed,” and they put nearly 100 more in the warning category. These are large numbers, but as you can see from their map, not exactly the end of civilization.

  8. seydlitz89on 12 Jun 2008 at 6:31 pm 8

    Chet-

    “Clausetizian cabinet wars”

    What exactly are those? I haven’t a clue.

    “many states around the world fail to meet even the most basic needs of their citizens”

    The state is defined as being able to employ the monopoly of “legitimate” violence within a certain territory. That of course is an ideal. What exactly is your definition of the state? Mine is basic and fundamental to human existance following Hobbes along with every realist who follows in his footsteps. If you are going to replace the “state” with something else, what would it be? Notice that you seem to be attaching a whole lot of stuff to your concept of state that I am not.

    We could talk about Mexico . . . from your perspective, and mine . . .

    As I have mentioned in the second paper, van Creveld defines his “state” solely as what Weber and others see as the “state apparatus”, that is the administration that a ruling elite uses to operate the state. For van Creveld the “rulers” would seemingly remain following “the death of the state” . . . thus the “state” for van Creveld is simply a mechanism, or do you see it differently?

    And following that, how exactly is it possible for a ruling elite to operate without a state apparatus?

    Instead, 17 years after TTW, I wonder why you would not question the survivability of the “turbo-capitalist” market of speculation we have created, this from a US Southern conservative political perspective. That seems to be more the current problem then how we organize our societies . . .

  9. Fabius Maximuson 12 Jun 2008 at 10:22 pm 9

    seydlitz89 –

    To say that we are moving to a multi-polar array of state and non-state entiites does not require specifying their goals. The goals of the leaders and members of non-state entities will be th same goals as leaders and members of states. Power, money, security, advance their ideology/religion, etc. Organizations are means, not ends.

    This is neither “deterministic” nor a “clockwork worldview”, anymore than any analysis that attempts to understand our time. When I bet on Redbottle in the fifth race, I can explain why he might win without positing a clockwork view of the world.

    How can we tell if the State is alive and well? See this for a brief analysis:
    http://fabiusmaximus.wordpress.com/2007/10/01/the-iraq-war-as-a-warning-for-america/

    As for your larger questions, see this series of articles:
    http://fabiusmaximus.wordpress.com/theory/

    Esp the first:
    “A solution to 4GW – the introduction”
    http://fabiusmaximus.wordpress.com/2008/03/12/solution-c1/

  10. seydlitz89on 13 Jun 2008 at 5:18 am 10

    As to Clausewitz’s “definition” of war, there are many. That is the reason that the “remarkable trinity” (not the trinity of “Trinitarian Warfare” which I have argued is not a Clausewitzian concept) is the capstone to the general theory. That trinity comprises passion, chance and the subordination to policy/politics. Clausewitz is not saying that all wars are controlled by policy, rather he gives the phenomenon of war a rational element which is only one of three, the others being essentially “irrational”. The reason behind this is basic in Clausewitz’s view to the subject of war, which is seen as part of a larger social realm. It also opens the door for critical study from a social science approach.

    “The fundamental point to grasp is that war differs from physical nature in that it unfolds according to a purpose; and that, consequently, the methods which science applies in order to study nature are, by definition, irrelevant or at any rate inadequate to it. The failure of virtually all writings on war to produce anything of truly lasting value therefore does not, as Liddell Hart believed, derive from their author’s being unscientific (in the sense of not establishing enough regularities, or of setting up the wrong ones because of bias or inattention), but on the contrary, from the fact that they were too much so. By trying to study war ‘scientifically’ the authors of these writings ipso facto denied themselves the right of asking not merely what war is, but also what it serves for; since these are questions which modern science, as it has been practiced since the beginning of the 17th Century, simply does not admit.”

    Martin van Creveld, “The Eternal Clausewitz”

  11. Maxon 13 Jun 2008 at 5:54 am 11

    “For the data offered by the Fund for Peace, please click here. They are proposing 32 states as “failed,” and they put nearly 100 more in the warning category.

    Interesting, and good information.

    Particulary since the list very wizely includes the United States itself.

    Including but not limited to, the destructive rise of Presidential powers, the decline of morality and civil rights in the name of the GWOT, increasing disparity between lower and middle classes and the extreamly wealthy, burgeoning dis-content, declining economy and standard of living, a virtually wrecked military, and the beginings of seperatist divisions.

    M

  12. Maxon 13 Jun 2008 at 7:55 am 12

    rmhitchens

    “In what way is this not rank fear-mongering? Propounded by (surprise!) the military, which continues to pull in an astonishingly high percentage of GNP even as global violence diminishes.”

    I have to agree in large measure, even if “global violence” remains constant, or even excallates, the US is putting more at risk domesticaly (potential for collaphs and/or anarchy and revolt) on the current course.

    It’s so patheticaly easy for those who profit by all this, to scare Americans, and seperate them from thier dwindling hard earned wages.

    MaX

  13. Cheton 13 Jun 2008 at 11:04 am 13

    Seydlitz89,

    Interesting points all.

    Max Weber died in 1920, when Sayyid Qutb was 14. No Internet, no al-Qa’ida, and western powers still held vast colonial empires.

    I’ll buy your definition of “state” as exercising a monopoly of legitimate violence. Of course, that is as much a definition of “legitimate violence” as it is of “state.” By that definition, though, hardly any of the 130 or so “Failed” and “Warning” states on the FFP’s list count as real states. Here’s an example from today’s NYT: “In Rio Slum, Armed Militia Replaces Drug Gang’s Criminality With Its Own.” Has the Brazilian state failed? Most people would argue that it has not. Has it lost the monopoly of “legitimate violence” over large fractions of its population? Definitely.

    As for the problem of what elites do, I guess they can be godfathers, qa’ids (commanders), chieftains, warlords, whatever. Some of them will probably establish territories and become states. 4GW concerns those that don’t or at least haven’t.

    As for your definition of “war” as subordinate to “policy/politics,” first, I’d like to point out that in English, those are separate words with distinct meanings. If we rule out “politics” for the moment, which leads to “wag-the-dog” wars (and in which case, I agree completely with Clausewitz), then we have war as a “rational” act of policy. Cabinet wars, in other words, presuming that somebody had to formulate the policy.

    After the events of the last five years, your faith in the rationality of national decision-making authorities is commendable.

  14. Maxon 13 Jun 2008 at 12:09 pm 14

    seydlitz89
    on 12 Jun 2008 at 6:31 pm
    8Chet-

    “Clausetizian cabinet wars”

    What exactly are those? I haven’t a clue.

    ___________
    Neither did I apparently.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kabinettskriege

    Kabinettskriege (English: “Cabinet War”) is the German expression referring to the type of wars which affected Europe during the period of absolute monarchies, from the 1648 Peace of Westphalia to the 1789 French Revolution. It is also known as “war between princes.” Such wars involved small armies, noble officer corps, limited war goals, and frequently changing coalitions among the belligerents.

    The terms of Kabinettskriege plays on Kabinettsregierung (Cabinet government), Kabinettsjustiz (Cabinet law), etc.

    In contrast with precedent wars of religions, and 20th century total wars or revolutionary people’s war, “cabinet wars” had limited goals.

  15. Cheton 13 Jun 2008 at 3:38 pm 15

    Max —

    A quick glance at the calendar will show that we’ve moved several years into the 21st century and the meaning has broadened by analogy to encompass any war that is the product of a deliberate policy decision. The concept is that a small group at the top of the government (“the cabinet”), for reasons that perhaps only they truly understand, commits the armed forces of the state. The warfare of Sun Tzu’s period also fits this definition pretty well.

    Wars waged for “irrational” purposes, such as for all the reasons listed by Martin van Creveld in The Transformation of War, don’t fit this description. As the Wikipedia article notes, the concept had gone out of style until we, as the sole remaining superpower, revived it for reasons that only the War Cabinet truly understands (and they aren’t telling).

    You can read over some of Lind’s stuff, e.g., On War #85 or #182, to see this meaning in action.

    Is it fair to call it “Clausewitzian”? Perhaps not, but the term is associated with him because of his insistence that war should be a rational act of policy:

    We see now that War is not merely a political act, but also a real political instrument, a continuation of political commerce, a carrying out of the same by other means.

    You can see the “cabinet war” flavor in this passage. He goes on to talk about “State policy” being “the intelligence of the personified State” and that at times, the nature of its relations will “impose the necessity of a great war.” What was true in 1832, however, would likely impose the reality of the end of civilization or at least a severe decline in living standards for survivors, if it were attempted today.

    As I’ve said, times change. Take from Clausewitz what’s useful, and from Sun Tzu, and Boyd, and quantum mechanics and complexity theory, and whatever.

  16. Maxon 13 Jun 2008 at 4:54 pm 16

    “The concept is that a small group at the top of the government (”the cabinet”), for reasons that perhaps only they truly understand, commits the armed forces of the state.”

    Or portions thereof, amoung resourches.

    Thanks Chet very illuminating.

    Snowmobiles we are building.

    Running with the ball.

    To take a nation or pepole to war for some personel
    vendetta ? As in the middle evil era ?

    In one popular consperacy theory rendition, amoung a few,v vSome have speculated that maybe one factorvin the current US predicament.

    Yet, It sounds perhaps crazy enough in the post nuclear age to be true.

    M

  17. Fabius Maximuson 13 Jun 2008 at 5:21 pm 17

    To see the early signs of the decline of the state in America, just cracks so far, read “Crimes against nature: The many uses of the Daniel Boone National Forest”, By Kathy Dobie, Harper’s (July 2008).

    http://www.harpers.org/archive/2008/07/0082096

    Describes rising crime, alienation from the State, gross misgovernment. One small tidbit, describing the massive anti-drug efforts in Dan Boone Natl Forest (which include Army personnel, perhaps illegally):

    “Although attacks and threats against Forest Service employees have increased more than 5x in the past decade, the Forest Service as a whole has lost almost 1/3 of its total patrol force since 1993 and now has, on average, one law officer for every 291,000 acres and every 733,000 annual visitors.

    ” … it becomes clear that although the drug war is well financed, the Forest Service, which is incharge of protesting the forest from those visotrs, is being starved.”

  18. seydlitz89on 14 Jun 2008 at 1:30 am 18

    Chet-

    “Has the Brazilian state failed? Most people would argue that it has not. Has it lost the monopoly of “legitimate violence” over large fractions of its population? Definitely.”

    Not really, the emphasis has to be on “legitimate” and as the article shows hardly anyone considers the militias to be “legitimate”, but rather coercive and illegitmate. Also it doesn’t matter what outsiders think, but rather members of the specific political community, what they consider legitimate or illegitimate.

    Take for instance the example of Mexico. In the 1920s US oil companies operated their own private armies to inforce their hold over oil leases which they had in many instances gained through dubious means. They intimidated Mexican farmers to allow for drilling and busted Mexician efforts to organize unions, both illegal under Mexican law.

    There’s an interesting book on the Teapot dome scandal that goes into this in some detail. . .

    http://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/13/books/13grim.html

    So non-state entities operating military units and acting against the legality of the state, which would make those 1920s US oil companies 4GW entities would it not? They also had an international network of powerful contacts representing and furthering their interests. The problem here is that from what I see, probably most or all of what you refer to as 4GW has been going on for a long time, in some cases centuries, but of course it hasn’t normally been referred to as “war”.

    Or we could look at this in terms of Clausewitzian cohesion (both moral and material). The Mexicans have always had a high level of moral cohesion, that is a very strong identity of being Mexican and the cultural identity assoicated with belonging to that political community. At the same time they have traditionally had a low level of material cohesion, for various reasons including the interest of US and European interests who saw this as allowing them to operate pretty much at will within Mexico. In fact for much of our history, Mexico has been considered “a good neighbour” when they did as we expected, in line with our own interests, not those of the Mexican people or state (as in their atttempt in 2006 to reform their drug laws). The strongest level of material cohesion they have achieved was in the 1930s when they nationalized the oil industry which was also when US economic interests were at their nadir (due to the Great Depression).

    Also contrary to what Lind wrote, there seems to be a tight fit between US policy and what Lind calls “4GW” in Mexico. . .

    http://www.commondreams.org/archive/2008/06/04/9456/ (MaX, you’ll like this one)

    [CR: That well illustrates the problem with this whole line of reasoning: I’m truly amazed to see someone who is apparently not Brazilian nor, I would guess, even living in Brazil, telling the people of the favelas what is and is not “legitimate.” The question seems to be not so much that the militias are not “legitimate,” but that given the alternatives, they may be the best they can do for the time being. Sociopolitical abstractness may be a luxury they cannot afford, given the failed nature of the Brazilian state in their locales.

    By the way, I agree with you for the most part on whether 4GW should be considered “war.”]

  19. Maxon 14 Jun 2008 at 6:03 am 19

    Fabius Maximus
    on 13 Jun 2008 at 5:21 pm
    “To see the early signs of the decline of the state in America, just cracks so far, ”

    Right you are professor.
    Here’s another example for acedemic interest.
    Pretty slick and professional looking websites
    as well.

    http://www.vermontrepublic.org/

    http://www.vtcommons.org/

    http://www.akip.org/

  20. Maxon 14 Jun 2008 at 8:05 am 20

    Forgive the off topic however this is huge.
    This is just too hot to ignore.

    The tactics were astonishing.

    They even used motorcycles, not
    $ 1.4 Bil. B-2 Stealth bombers,
    or V-22 Ospreys !

    If Isreal had pulled this off,
    it would be heralded at nauseum
    in the western press a stunning
    military victory, a real David Vs
    Goliath.

    M
    _____________

    http://tinyurl.com/6o7vhv
    Afghan official: 870 inmates escaped from prison By NOOR KHAN and JASON STRAZIUSO, Associated Press Writers
    38 minutes ago

    KANDAHAR, Afghanistan – About 870 prisoners escaped during a Taliban bomb and rocket attack on the main prison in southern Afghanistan that knocked down the front gate and demolished a prison floor, Afghan officials said Saturday

    (I particuarly enjoyed the NATO Generals
    take on this,)

    “”We admit it,” Branco said. “Their guys did the job properly in that sense, but it does not have a strategic impact. We should not draw any conclusion about the deterioration of the military operations in the area. We should not draw any conclusion about the strength of the Taliban.””

    [CR: Excellent! Demonstrates (yet again) the Taliban’s weakness in having to resort to such desperate tactics.]

  21. Maxon 14 Jun 2008 at 8:50 am 21

    “MaX, you’ll like this one”

    I had some previous inclination as to what Blackwater et al were upto, but that article is far more revealing and astonishing !

    Now that’s a twist on 4GW.

    But maybe nothing new, in repetition of the last decades of the Roman Empire.

    Even if it’s only 50% accurate, (we have no way to be sure, and that’s pretty much the whole point isn’t it ?) it’s very, very disturbing.

    I also enjoyed the analysis in the preceeding
    comments.

    Thanks.
    M

  22. Maxon 14 Jun 2008 at 9:07 am 22

    “the Taliban’s weakness in having to resort to such desperate tactics”

    Translation;

    “They” kicked butt, and took names.
    And drove off in mini vans.

    This would never have happened with the
    counter insurgency genius General David Patreaus in charge of US Central Command !

    Err,,,ahhh.

    M

  23. Dr_Vomacton 15 Jun 2008 at 12:25 am 23

    The problem here is that from what I see, probably most or all of what you refer to as 4GW has been going on for a long time, in some cases centuries, but of course it hasn’t normally been referred to as “war”.

    It think that’s right. It was called “banditry”, “lawlessness”, “savagery”—or perhaps “jolly good adventure” (when the participants were members of the British ruling classes). I’ve come to realize that the “decline of the state” view is profoundly Eurocentric. People like van Creveld talk as though the world is going from a condition of order to one of chaos because the “state” is in decline.

    I think it is more accurate to say that, from the viewpoint of the non-European world, things aren’t changing all that much. The European states brought order to Europe, but gave only a superficial veneer of order to the rest of the world. In Africa and Asia, life remained “nasty, brutish, and short”—notwithstanding the presence of various “civilized” colonial masters.

    After the spectacular period of self-destruction some call the “Twentieth Century”, the European states have lost their confidence and their ability to impose their will outside the continent. They have no energy to spare, for they are consumed by the process of surrendering their sovereignity to a “European Union” that is—as van Creveld rightly observes—not a state (because it is not sovereign, has no army, and does not rule).

    Meanwhile, the United States of America acts as though nothing has changed, and tries to fill the geopolitical vacuum by imposing its will on various traditional subject peoples of the European states by force of arms. Unfortunately, the U.S. is unclear on the concept of colonialism; it does not understand that the European colonial powers never ruled entirely—or even mainly—by violence. The British, by far the most successful colonialists, ruled by guile, administrative skill, and moral force. They had the secret, you see—act as though you are morally entitled to rule the world, and everyone will believe you. Contrast this with the American approach: “We don’t want to rule you, we are bringing you a better way of life—live like us! (And we are so sorry about those bombs.)”

    When the locals resist the new inept imperial power, this is called “insurrection”, “guerrilla war”, “insurgency”, or—perhaps—”4GW”. When the denizens of some far-off “failed state” (better: “never-was state”) clash for political ambition or business reasons (carving up the lucrative trade in recreational pharmaceuticals, for example), then we can use those same convenient terms.

    You’re right, Seydlitz, there is nothing fundamentally new here. The awkward novelty is that these conflicts are now the only kind of violence that seems to have a future. We just can’t seem to have a real war any more (you know: a “Third Generation” war). Unless, of course, van Creveld is wrong…unless the “decline of the state” is not indeed universal. I do so dread that the Pentagon looks with fond hope to the East.

    [CR: Fabius Maximus had a post yesterday that looks at this issue from another angle. A lot of our readers also go to his site, but if you haven’t, check out this article.]

  24. seydlitz89on 15 Jun 2008 at 6:19 am 24

    Chet-

    “I’m truly amazed to see someone who is apparently not Brazilian nor, I would guess, even living in Brazil, telling the people of the favelas what is and is not “legitimate.” ”

    Where did I do that? Rather I read the NYT article that you posted and it said in effect that the militias were obviously not considered legitimate by the locals, or do you disagree? It was your interpretation that the militias exercised some sort of legitimate monopoly of violence and thus constituted a “failed state”, contrary to what the article stated.

    As to my Brazilian connections, I live in Portugal, speak the language as to my own fashion (the same more or less as spoken in Brazil), my wife has family in Brazil, our oldest daughter has been going steady with a German-Brazilian boy for years. I know lots of Brazilians living in Portugal and loads of Portuguese who have been to Brazil, although I have never been there myself. The stories I’ve heard of about that place leads me to be very careful to make blanket statements about such a diverse country. My point is that it is precisely up to the Brazilians to decide what would constitute “legitimacy” and in the case of the article you posted, they didn’t consider the militias legitimate.

    [CR: Thanks. You obviously know more about Brazil than I do, but that is like saying that I live in England and am married to an American. I’ve never been to the States, but we have relatives who live in Brentwood, so I know what life is like in East LA. Because the Brazilian state has failed in the favelas, it’s up to the people of those areas to decide the matter as best they can. Would they prefer not to have the militias? Probably, but is that an option? Were the druggies better? Will whatever follows the militias be better? Point is that “legitimacy” is one of those concepts (like “the continuation of policy by other means”) that sounds good, but when you try to apply it to the real world, it loses much of its meaning. And I do agree with you that outsiders must be very cautious when talking about “legitimacy” in connection with societies other than their own.

    I’ll give you another one to play with: FM 3-24, Counterinsurgency, says that democratically elected governments may be considered as legitimate. So is the Hamas government in Gaza “legitimate”? Ahmedinijad’s in Iran? Was Hitler’s in Germany?]

  25. Maxon 15 Jun 2008 at 7:48 am 25

    “You’re right, Seydlitz, there is nothing fundamentally new here.”

    Well, except for superior weaponry, including WMDs and the proliferation. These grant empowerment to non-state entites.

    Now, let’s discuss Mass media and communications, the internet, sattelite TV, etc.

    All that’s pretty significant, alowing information
    and progagnda to spread faster, influence pepole
    more quickly, and force states into unwize
    decisions.

    Allthough for the life of me I can’t
    think of an example,,. ;0)

    MaX

  26. seydlitz89on 15 Jun 2008 at 8:13 am 26

    Max-

    “Wars waged for “irrational” purposes, such as for all the reasons listed by Martin van Creveld in The Transformation of War, don’t fit this description.”

    That’s of course the rub to Chet’s comment. By labelling the reasons that one side or the other fights as “irrational” we deny them their, or avoid facing our own, political purpose. Many motives which we could call “irrational” from a Western perspective have rational political connections from the perspective of those resisting/aggressing. Clausewitz’s quote of course describes an aspect of war, that is as an instrument of policy, but we have to take that quote as part of the larger general theory of war, otherwise we risk instituting an arbitrary relationship between the elements. So for whom is war an instrument of policy? The aggressor? Not only, since for Clausewitz war begins when the defender resists. Lack of resistance would not constitute war. Considering Iraq and Afghanistan then we have political communities resisting what they see as foreign aggression, what for Clausewitz is political or existential defense, thus they use war as an instrument. This of course does not mean that there are not irrational passions involved, or chance, in fact that is exactly what the remarkable trinity brings together.

    I stress the subordination to policy/politics element because that is exactly what is missing in 4GW, constitutes for me one of its fatal flaws as functional theory.

    [CR: Unfortunately, the subordination to policy / politics — and which is it? The two words have different meanings in English — is often a construct backfitted onto events, as you can see from your Iraq / Afghanistan point. Your insight into the dynamics of the various ethnic, religious, linguistic, and tribal groupings in Iraq and Afghanistan — that they all fit the Clausewitzian mold — seems less useful than van Creveld’s — that organized conflict may arise for a variety of reasons. Unless you call all of these “policy,” in which case the term loses its meaning, you have to admit to a variety of potential causes. It might be useful, especially in determining how we get out of those places, to understand these.

    I was using the term “irrational” purpose in contrast to the “rational” implication of a war that really is the continuation of policy by other means, such as the US Civil War. Sorry about the confusion.]

  27. seydlitz89on 15 Jun 2008 at 1:44 pm 27

    Dr_Vomact-

    A pleasure as always. Are the European states actually “surrendering their sovereignity to a “European Union””? The Irish vote this week was a big NO to the Lisbon Treaty, and earlier attempts to put the EU Constitution to a vote came to defeat in Holland, Denmark and France. Germany passed it through the Bundestag, but had it come to a popular vote in Germany, it might have failed even there. That is contrary to van Creveld’s thesis of “existing states either combining into larger communities or falling apart”.

    How Europe deals with the continuing fuel crisis and the necessary restructuring will be very interesting.

    [CR: It may be premature to declare van Creveld’s thesis defunct. It took us some 170 years to transform a group of colonies into a unified state, and our ancestors obviously had advantages that the Europeans don’t. Even then, there were several threats of secession by states unhappy with the union prior to the Civil War.

    It may well be that the Europeans simply haven’t worked out a form of closer political integration that they’re willing to support. It helped that we started with only 13 states and we had several clear and present dangers close by. It’s also possible they’ll decide nothing of the sort, in which case further fragmentation — Belgium and the UK spring to mind — remains a possibility.

    And it’s also possible van C is wrong, at least about Europe. But he can’t be dismissed outright.]

  28. seydlitz89on 15 Jun 2008 at 3:54 pm 28

    Chet-

    I’ve never claimed to be an expert, or even especially knowledgeable about Brazil, just know enough not to make any blanket statements. My father-in-law spent a couple of months in Rio around the first of the year and lived with two different sets of relatives there, in two completely different neighborhoods. Came back with all sorts of stories, some hairraising and some just funny. Most Portuguese find Rio scary (although not my f-i-l), whereas the vast majority of Brazilians take it all in stride. Is it worse than it was 20 years ago? Probably in some ways, whereas it’s better in others.

    “Point is that “legitimacy” is one of those concepts (like “the continuation of policy by other means”) that sounds good, but when you try to apply it to the real world, it loses much of its meaning.”

    Disagree. The historical examples of war being a political instrument are overwhelming. Every war the US has fought has been due to policy goals/subordination to political interests. Also we measure success in war based on the application of means to political ends. As to legitimacy, this concept has special interest for me since I have seen with my own eyes what happens when a state loses its legitimacy in the eyes of its own people . . . as what happened in East Germany in 1989.

    [CR: Brazil is a place I’ve always wanted to visit (Portugal, too), so I envy you both.

    My replies to your “political instrument” argument are at the end of some of your other comments — essentially that it resides in the minds of the beholders. Your citing Iraq and Afghanistan may be cases in point. Doesn’t mean that it’s wrong, but it hardly amounts to an argument-ender.

    There was an interesting NPR piece on Afghanistan over the weekend on the nature of the fighting: real Hatfield-and-McCoy stuff. You can backfit a political purpose on that if you wish, but why?]

  29. Maxon 15 Jun 2008 at 5:24 pm 29

    “The state is defined as being able to employ the monopoly of “legitimate” violence within a certain territory. That of course is an ideal. What exactly is your definition of the state? Mine is basic and fundamental to human existance following Hobbes along with every realist who follows in his footsteps. If you are going to replace the “state” with something else, what would it be? Notice that you seem to be attaching a whole lot of stuff to your concept of state that I am not.”

    “As to legitimacy, this concept has special interest for me since I have seen with my own eyes what happens when a state loses its legitimacy in the eyes of its own people . . . as what happened in East Germany in 1989.”

    I find your postion and arguments to be all over the map, confusing, saying one thing and with emphatic declarations, then back peddling, when chalanged.

    Boyd, would have, as Lind, or Creveld would make mince meat of you, one on one.

    Exasperated.

    M

  30. Dr_Vomacton 16 Jun 2008 at 1:29 am 30

    My point is that it is precisely up to the Brazilians to decide what would constitute “legitimacy” and in the case of the article you posted, they didn’t consider the militias legitimate.

    Perhaps…but would it be correct to say that the Brazilians are not of one mind about what is—and what is not—legitimate? Might it be illuminating to consider this proposition? Perhaps a certain confusion—or lack of consensus—among the people about what instrumentalities of violence are legitimate is the mark of a degenerate state?

    I am most assuredly groping about in the dark here…I’m not posing rhetorical questions. By the measure of “popular consensus” Nazi Germany was indeed a completely legitimate state. John Lucacs argues that Hitler was probably the most “democratically legitimate” statesman of the period, in that he had the nearly complete support of his people. I think Lucacs has a point. What about Stalin? Clearly, he ran a pretty tight ship of state. By what I’ve read, he was feared, hated, and despised by wide sectors of the Russian populace…yet few Russians could be found who would challenge the legitimacy of his government. But I wasn’t really talking about popularity when I spoke of “consensus”; perhaps what’s required is popular agreement that this is the government. By that measure, the Russian state was rock-solid.

    Of course, “consensus” isn’t a definition of “state”; I’m not so ambitious as to attempt to offer one in a few short paragraphs. But perhaps it’s one of the necessary but not sufficient requirements for there to be a state. Frankly, I’m not sure if you (Seydlitz) and Chet truly need to disagree about this.

    [CR: You may be right. The point is fundamental, however, to Lind’s argument that 4GW is all about the “crisis in legitimacy of the state.” If there is no such crisis, there is no 4GW, at least of the Lind variety (Hammes’ paradigm — evolved insurgency — is another matter). So if seydlitz89’s purpose is to discredit Lind’s concept of 4GW, he has to attack the concept of general state decline and must interpret all the evidence in that light.

    On the other had, it seems obvious that some states are in decline and others are not, and we may be too close to the problem to see the long-term trend, if there is one. Seydlitz89 is right to raise this question, but it must be settled by examination of the data and not (and this is my problem with much of S89’s commentary) by trying to wedge every conflict into the Clausewitzian framework of “policy by other means” or into any other framework, for that matter.

    It’s a little ironic because Lind is as big a Clausewitzian as seydlitz89 (see On War Nos. 6, 51, 60, 73, 91, 134, 149. 158, and 219, and Clausewitz forms the backbone of Lind’s highly influential paper, Strategic Defense Initiative). Lind has pointed out, though, that a lot of things have changed since 1831.]

  31. Dr_Vomacton 16 Jun 2008 at 1:54 am 31

    Seydlitz, I’m not sure that the failures encountered by EU referenda weaken my argument. It’s not the people who are leading the drive to strengthen the European Union—it’s the states themselves. I am familiar only with Germany (where I still frequently visit and have familial ties), but I can assure you that had the German government permitted issues like the adoption of the Euro, the EU constitution, or similar measures to strengthen the EU to come to a popular vote, these measures would have gone down in flames.
    You’ll notice that when referenda are held on EU questions, it’s almost always because the country in question has an internal (i.e. constitutional) obligation to do so. Regrettably, no such requirement exists in Germany, so EU measures are crammed down the throats of the German people as the government pleases. The Germans complain bitterly about this in private, but any attempt at public protest would be seen as a return of German nationalism, and would be quickly discredited on that account.

    Meanwhile, the European states no longer issue their own currency, they have no border controls, and they are subject to literally tens of thousands of regulations issued by the Brussels bureaucrats. My friend, if that’s not a “decline of the state”, then I don’t know what such a decline might look like.

    On the bright side, there are signs of “devolution”—giving more power to the component states of Germany. Recently, the states were given control of the schools (another distinction of the state gone—Bismarck is cursing in his grave). And here lies my fondest hope: the resurrection of the Kingdom of Bavaria. The beer will be excellent, pure, and cheap by government fiat. We need only find a poofter with a passion for kitschy architecture and opera to rule the place…

  32. Maxon 16 Jun 2008 at 2:42 am 32

    “That is contrary to van Creveld’s thesis of “existing states either combining into larger communities or falling apart”.”

    Yeah right, except maybe for all this,

    M

    http://tinyurl.com/2flmhf

    http://tinyurl.com/5gpfj4

    http://tinyurl.com/2euvhx

    http://www.socialwatch.org/en/informesNacionales/453.html

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flemish_movement

    http://www.canadaka.net/link.php?id=27092

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ETA

    http://www.hunmagyar.org/tor/hungaria.htm

    http://riotsfrance.ssrc.org/Hargreaves/

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2005_civil_unrest_in_France

    http://www.socsci.mcmaster.ca/polisci/emplibrary/amidpaper.pdf

    http://tinyurl.com/5bxbqv

    http://en.rian.ru/analysis/20071224/93988149.html

    http://www.turkishdailynews.com.tr/article.php?enewsid=94400

  33. Maxon 16 Jun 2008 at 10:36 am 33

    Where to look for likely Chalanges to the Legitimacy of specific European nations, EU retoric aside. A few examples. There’s likely plenty more.

    M

    http://tinyurl.com/6f8vss

    http://tinyurl.com/6bjmtt

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ETA

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scottish_Nationalism

    http://www.cerium.ca/Spain-Grappling-With-Illegal

    http://www.socialwatch.org/en/informesNacionales/453.html

  34. seydlitz89on 16 Jun 2008 at 1:39 pm 34

    Chet-

    “Unfortunately, the subordination to policy / politics — and which is it?”

    Actually, both, as I mentioned in the first paper, but obiously I should have gone into more detail . . .

    “So the capstone deals with the “objective” totality of war. It is also important to mention that two of the three elements are in effect “irrational”, that is not subject to reason. The political purpose uses war as its instrument, that is policy defined as military/political power, but war is at the same time separate from politics.
    Much has been written of the duality of Clausewitz’s concept of policy/politics, policy being the subjective use of the instrument of war, whereas politics is seen as the objective factors that influence and give war its specific character. In this latter sense politics could be viewed as “party politics” or even political culture. The distinction is seen currently in the Iraq war. Policy got the US into Iraq, whereas politics, defined as the interests of various important political players keeps the US there. Thus the current war in Iraq offers the best evidence against van Creveld’s view. He sees war as a state instrument of policy as not belonging to the “transformation” which war has supposedly undergone since the end of the cold war, but the current reality of Iraq, with the war continuing perhaps for decades to come absent any coherent strategy is proof of the subordination of war to (US domestic) politics, which from a subjective policy perspective is irrational: That is the distinction between subjective policy instrument and objective political reality is modeled very well by the remarkable trinity.”

    The Germans knew about this all along, but it was only Raymond Aron who brought it to the non-German speaking students of Clausewitz in the 1960s. I’ve got lots of quotes I can use including a nice one from vC, on this point or on “duality” in general, but since you like Echevarria, here’s a link to an article he wrote on the subject . . . notice that he has three meanings for Clausewitzian “Politik”.

    http://library.thinkquest.org/C004488/Ess2.html

    [CR: When you start out assuming what you’re trying to prove, it’s fairly easy to construct a proof:

    Policy got the US into Iraq, …

    I’ll accept “politics.” As I may have mentioned, in English the two words have different meanings. Your own example proves this quite well.]

    [This thread doesn’t seem to be going anywhere, so I’m closing it for comments. It’s also starting to verge dangerously close to the “civil tongue” provision of our comment policy, of which I’m as guilty as any.]