On War #272: A Deeper Global Crisis

William S. Lind
August 18, 2008

Despite the recent drop in the price of oil, the world economy is still sailing into troubled waters. The U.S. credit crisis is intensifying and spreading to Britain. Europe is moving toward recession. The international financial system continues to depend on mountains of debt. If the financial panic the Federal Reserve Bank has thus far managed to stave off materializes, we could witness a meltdown of historic proportions.

What does all this portend for Fourth Generation warfare? Regrettably, it means the omens are favorable for some non-state entities, especially those which compete with the state in the delivery of vital social services.

Here we must remind ourselves that the root and origin of Fourth Generation war is a crisis of legitimacy of the state. One of the functions the state is now expected to perform, in free market as well as socialist countries, is to ensure that the economy functions as well. A world-wide financial panic followed by a world recession or depression would mean the state was failing in one of its core functions. That in turn would further diminish the legitimacy of the state.

Wilsonians and other “democracy” hucksters think that a state’s legitimacy is a function of elections. Even in established democracies such as the United States, those elections are becoming empty forms, political kabuki in which citizens are not given an opportunity to vote against the New Class. In most of the world elections do not even determine which collection of thieves will next get to plunder the treasury. The game is blatantly rigged.

In poor countries, the state’s legitimacy is more a function of its ability to provide vital services than the election of ju-ju. Often, those services include allowing people to eat. Most people’s diets depend on subsidized state rations, such as the bread ration in Egypt. Recent riots there when the issue of cheap bread was disrupted showed the potential power of hungry mobs.

A world-wide depression would cause hardship in rich countries. In poor countries, it would quickly lead to widespread starvation. The state would no longer be able to provide the subsidized rations millions of its citizens rely on. The rise in world food prices already underway would put states in a double squeeze: the state’s revenues would be falling at the same time that the difference between market and subsidized prices was growing. Add in global financial panic where credit dries up and we will see the number of failed states rise rapidly.

In the Great Depression of the 1930s, states’ economic failure brought governments and even systems of government, including democracy, into question. In both Europe and the United States, Communism and Fascism gained certain popularity because in the Soviet Union, Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany, everyone had a job. But the state itself was not challenged, because there was no alternative to the state.

Now, there is. Intelligent Fourth Generation entities, ranging from some drug gangs through organizations such as Hezbollah, are competing directly with the state for people’s primary loyalty. If those Fourth Generation entities can provide basic services, including food, when the state can no longer do so, they will gain the legitimacy that state is losing. In Fourth Generation war, that is a bigger win than any potential military victory.

In terms of 4GW theory, the lessons here are two. First, a global economic crisis is likely to lead to a much deeper crisis, a widespread existential crisis of the state itself. Second, the Fourth Generation entities that benefit from this crisis will be those that provide basic services more effectively than can the state. Once again, just as from a military perspective, we see that the “Hezbollah model” is the most promising model for Fourth Generation, non-state organizations. That model includes a highly competent military that can defeat state armed forces. But it employs its military capability sparingly, fighting only when attacked or when a low-risk, high-payoff military opportunity presents itself, which will be seldom. For 4GW entities as for states, the outcome of wars will remain unpredictable. Instead, the Hezbollah model focuses day-to-day on providing services to the people, building its legitimacy vis-à-vis the state and gaining the population’s primary loyalty. At some point, that loyalty will become so strong that not even military defeat by a state’s armed forces will destroy it.


  1. Do not assume the war between Russia and Georgia is over. So long as Mr. Saakashvili remains Georgia’s President, he will continue to challenge and taunt Russia. As the last week has made plain, he will be encouraged to do so by the Bush White House, his partner in folly. If Russia does not force his removal from office now, it will have to come back and finish the job.
  2. The will no On War column next week, as I will be in Ostland.

William S. Lind, expressing his own personal opinion, is Director for the Center for Cultural Conservatism for the Free Congress Foundation.

To interview Mr. Lind, please contact (no e-mail available):

Mr. William S. Lind
Free Congress Foundation
1423 Powhatan Street, # 2
Alexandria, Virginia 22314
Direct line: 703 837-0483

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Filed in Uncategorized | 22 responses so far

22 Responses to “On War #272: A Deeper Global Crisis”

  1. Fabius Maximuson 22 Aug 2008 at 12:58 am 1

    I think Lind’s scenario of a global depression — a “a meltdown of historic proportions” — is possible but unlikely in the near future.

    A global recession is a period in which global real GDP *grows* less than 2%. Global recessions are rare, the last being over a quarter-century ago (there is not good data on the emerging nations much before 1980). We are due for one, or overdue.

    Something worse, several quarters of slightly negative GDP, would be painful — probably the worst downturn since WWII, but still not a depression.

    Since economic growth has been relatively strong for over 25 years — with the past five perhaps the strongest since the invention of agriculture — many have come to associate a downturn with the apocalypse. Slowdowns should be aprox 1/5 of the economic cycle, and are, like winter, a necessary part of life.

  2. Barryon 22 Aug 2008 at 5:24 am 2

    It is significant that the Hezbollah is mentioned as a model for Generation, non state organisations, the situation that brought it into being was an invasion in 1982.

    Iraq is something similar, a minority community had disproportionate power over a growing majority. While problems with its legitimacy existed, in the minds of the dominated at least, only democracy that was foisted on them in the wake of the states defeat by a hostile power brought the divisions out in armed conflict. The Iraq’s Shia majority, in the driving seat at last, have a lot in common with Hezbollah’s base and nothing in common with the Sunni Osama Bin Laden.

    Egypt is a good bet for the same result if it is forced into democracy. “Iraq is the tactical pivot, Saudi Arabia the strategic pivot, Egypt the prize” Yes Egypt, Egypt is very much an enemy state in the minds of some and they are not without influence.

    [CR: The last quote is from an infamous briefing given to the Defense Policy Board In July 2002 by RAND analyst Laurent Murawiec.]

  3. TJGon 22 Aug 2008 at 9:05 am 3

    [CR: This is ordinarily far too long for a comment. It would, however, make a very good article, and I think you all will be interested in it. Because TJG is a new commentator on this site, I’m going to waive the length restriction this once.]

    The issue is not economic growth per se – the issue is whether economic growth can keep up with the demands of a growing population. Because of the need to make massive capital investments, and because as population density increases the costs per capita rise sharply, the amount that the economy would have to grow to accommodate a 1% annual population increase is actually a lot more than 1%. In the current environment, economic growth of 2% is nowhere near enough.

    I propose that, historically and, likely, at present, the single greatest threat to the legitimacy of the state is too-rapid population growth, which for all recorded cases where there was not an open frontier, inevitably produces crushing poverty so great that the state simply cannot maintain control no matter how tactically smart it is.

    Nobody beats the law of supply and demand. Wages are set entirely by the balance of supply and demand for labor. Many factors influence this balance, but the dominant one is the fertility rate. When people all have seven kids each starting at age 14, then there will always be more people than jobs, wages will be driven down to the most miserable subsistence, and the overall society will be capital starved, stagnant and corrupt. However, for the rich as a class nothing is more profitable than an endless supply of cheap labor. The rich are aggressively pushing policies that maximize population growth, the better to increase their profits. This population growth is rapidly burning up the productive capacity of our current technologies, and is likely going to return most of the world to the conditions of the Dark Ages. However, because government policies favoring rapid population growth are the single biggest factor in wages and profits, they are almost never discussed, because powerful interests find such discussion inconvenient. Like the Emperor’s New Clothes, we are all compelled by social pressures and force of habit to limit our political discussions to narrowly defined ruts, while hiding in plain site are policies that slowly but surely are turning the world into hell.

    Contrary to current big-lie propaganda, Malthus has not been proven wrong. First, it’s not just Malthus but also David Riccardo, John Stuart Mill, John Maynard Keynes, Alan Greenspan, and the editorial staff of the Wall Street Journal who hold the Malthusian position (the latter two might claim to disagree, but when they wax rhapsodic about how rapid increases in population drive down wages, or talk about how the vast excess of workers in China or Mexico makes it impossible for wages to rise, well we know what the story is). Malthus is standard economics.

    Malthus never predicted a global catastrophe. Malthus only described what he saw, which is that when everybody has six kids starting at age 14, regardless of circumstance, the resulting exponential population growth quickly absorbs all resources into just keeping people alive. At this point the average person is reduced to subsistence and population stabilizes because of increased mortality. The society becomes capital-starved, incapable of making large investments, and stagnant. Desperation causes widespread corruption, which magnifies the misery and contributes to the stagnation. But because there is no need to pay more than a subsistence wage, the profits and power of the rich are maximized.

    If you think that people should not have children that they can’t support (however large or small that number) then you are a Malthusian. If you think that 100 people competing for every job causes wages to fall rather than rise, then you are a Malthusian.

    The elites will always push for ever more people, for ever cheaper wages, unless the mass of poverty threatens the very stability of their society. Then without apology they switch to trying to limit population. They may have some success if they can succeed in dumping their surplus population somewhere else, with the added advantage of gaining political and economic control over new lands. But because the rich always wait until the last minute, and because demographic momentum means that even if the fertility rate could be instantly lowered to 2 children/family the population would still double or triple before stabilizing, there is no happy balance here, and the net effect is always to drive population growth to destabilizing levels.

    No society in all of recorded history has industrialized faster than Japan. However, even the best that flesh-and-blood human beings have ever achieved was not enough to keep up with rapid exponential population growth, and by the eve of WWII Japan was on the brink of collapse and chaos. The Japanese militarists had no illusions about their chances of defeating the United States. It’s just that they had no alternative: without invading and colonizing other lands their own exploding population would soon have destroyed their society (Read John Toland’s wonderful book “The Rising Sun”). As you might expect, that exploding population was not the “inevitable” consequence of industrialization, it was the result of a deliberate Japanese government policy to maximize population! Odd, though, how buried this rather important fact is: I only found it in the Eubios Journal of Asian and International Bioethics, and only because I already suspected the existence of such a policy before looking for it (Vol.6, pp158-9, 1996).

    The current high Japanese standard of living only started after the post-WWII fall in fertility rates. Of course.

    The issues are simple.
    Rapid population growth creates poverty (at least without a frontier or colonies).
    Rapid population growth is (Often? Usually?) deliberately created by the rich.
    Widespread poverty enriches a few but impoverishes the overall society.
    The state has no legitimacy when most people are totally miserable and the brink of starvation.

  4. senor tomason 22 Aug 2008 at 12:07 pm 4

    “I’m going to waive the length restriction this once”

    Thanks for that, Chet. This is indeed an interesting comment/article. Glad I was able to read it.

  5. Maxon 22 Aug 2008 at 2:09 pm 5

    We’re now at a dis-advatage here in analysis,
    in terms of space alowed, there’s a lot to cover.

    Overall a good peice, raising some interesting points.

    I’ve held the belief that many problems confronting civilisation could simply be
    alieviated in comensurate magnitude, by
    reduction in human population.

    Sure, that much seems perhaps obvious,
    on an instictive level.

    However, that’s not the world we live in.

    Nor would I subscribe to large scale orchistrated consperacy theories.

    I think that “things” happen, like the rise of the US MCIS&TT sector, or simply the rich getting richer, and the poor getting poorer, by default of circumstances, flaws in the system, inattention,
    lack of competent oversight, and following the path of least resistance.

    This might be expressed in other words, and to some extent as the natural order. At least as we know it and have tragicaly come to expect.

    There’s some good observations about cheap labour, the natural tendency for big bussiness
    to seek compeditive advantage, abandond concience in favour of continous expansion and excallating profit. As some would characterise as greed.

    It seems we have long abandoned the Henry Ford principle.

    There’s much more, but
    Now I’m out of space.

  6. […] Continue Reading » […]

  7. Fabius Maximuson 22 Aug 2008 at 7:02 pm 7

    The US is propably are going to 400 million people — but due to immigration.

    On the other hand fertility has collapsed in most developed nations, esp. Japan, southern and eastern Europe, and Russia. This could lead to massive population drops over the next 3 generations. Unless they allow massive immigration. Or, afterward the population collapse, they might be unable to stop it (those lands will not remain underpopulated unless they find some military means to prevent immigration).

    There is no historical experience for population declines other than war or plague. We are in unknown territory in this, as in so many things these days.

    You might find of interest some of the articles listed here — Demography – an archive of resources (one of the FM reference pages).

  8. Hamon 24 Aug 2008 at 10:45 am 8


    We may not meet your 400 million if you count on immigration. Seems a recent article from FoxNews tells us that:

    “Illegal immigrants are returning home to Mexico in numbers not seen for decades — and the Mexican government may have to deal with a crush on its social services and lower wages once the immigrants arrive.”

    Our crystal balls aren’t as clear as we need them to be.

  9. Fabius Maximuson 24 Aug 2008 at 4:03 pm 9

    Ham is of course correct; there are many factors affecting immigration. I said “probably” assuming that the US continues growing, and the current outflow to Mexico reflects just a typical economic slowdown — perhaps recession — of 6 to 12 months.

    A longer, deeper recession — like the roughly 18 months of 1973-75 or 1980-82 — might mean a hard pause to immigration from Mexico. But that would just be a time-out. No developments in Mexico or the US suggest that this long-term story of south ot north traffic is over.

    The rapid rate of production decline from Mexico’s Cantarell oil field (10 – 15%), and Pemex’s inability to raise the money to offset it from newer projects, is ominous news for Mexico. Oil is the foundation of their economy, and lower oil income might send new waves of people to the north.

    No matter how bad things seem to us, America might look good to Mexico.

  10. TJGon 25 Aug 2008 at 9:11 am 10

    With respect, while things do indeed just happen, population growth IS actively controlled by the rich.

    Mexico’s current population boom has been set by past policies aimed at maximizing fertility to make Mexico “bigger and better”. They even gave medals to women who had large families! Of course, while in the short run this boosted profits by keeping wages low, in the long run this poverty is destabilizing, and now even with the safety valve of emmigration to the United States Mexico is in danger of becoming a failed state.

    In the 1950’s and 1960’s the Chinese communists had policies aimed at maximizing population growth. The near-collapse during the cultural revolution was NOT caused by crop failures – just by a failure of production to keep up with population growth. The current 1-family one-child policy was an act of desperation by the communists to correct for their previous error and prevent the society from collapsing.

    After the Shah of Iran was deposed, the Iranian leadership instituted policies aimed at maximizing fertility. They are now frantically trying to institute controls, and in the meantime using hatred of “the great satan” to redirect the incoherent anger of all those unemployed young males.

    These are not minor examples, and they did not “just happen”.

    Also: for at least 50 years we have been hearing that immigration will stop, that the third-world population explosion will end, Mexico will become middle class, and that we will in fact “run out” of people. It has not happened, and shows no evidence of happening now. I think this is just typical propaganda designed to defuse concern over population issues. “It’s going to stop soon so there is no reason to worry: shut up”.

    Finally: we do have experience with population declines. In Medieval Europe the Black Death cut the population by a significant fraction, and unlike most plagues, held it there for generations. The result was a burst of creativity and prosperity as people had surplus to live better and invest in new enterprises. But wealthy rentiers dependent on landless peasants went bankrupt, what a shame….

  11. MickeyPvXon 25 Aug 2008 at 3:51 pm 11

    Well this is an interesting side of doing business I don’t think I remember being addressed in “Certain to Win.” Population control to minimize wages and maximize profits?

    Let it be known I have no formal education in business or economics (aside from an elective class way back in high school…).

    I guess this falls into the realm of business ethics. Whether one decides it is more advantageous to produce huge profits at the expense of the population rather than keep society maintained and the workforce manageable. While the whole purpose of being in business is to make a profit in the first place, how much is too much? In this case, assuming population control is at work here, how can it be regulated so that profits and wages are satisfactory for both the worker and business owner? Is it even ethical to be able to encourage population expansion/reduction in the first place?

    I don’t really have answers, just questions. Help…?

  12. Fabius Maximuson 25 Aug 2008 at 8:35 pm 12

    Great point. Public policy has powerful influence on both immigration and fertility.

  13. TomGreyon 26 Aug 2008 at 9:54 pm 13

    Russia started the Georgia war on 6 August.

    Most news reports are wrong about it — following the Russian PR line. (excellent disinformation by Russia).

    See a first hand report of somebody there now–Michael Totten:

    The Russians want a new Russian Empire, and think this is a way to get it. Their politicians really do lie, and are as bad as the Bush-haters claim Bush is.

    Overpopulation is a problem where the country’s corruption is stopping enough industrialization, like Mexico and most of Africa. In the EU, and even Russia and Japan, de-population is a bigger crises because of the expectation of gov’t retirement benefits, to be paid by current tax payers. Retirement consumption eats up investment and reduces future economic growth.

  14. Fabius Maximuson 28 Aug 2008 at 8:44 am 14

    These “who started it” debates have no end, as wars very seldom start with bad guy invading good guy. As with divorces, there is usually much history to these.

    For example, Michael Totten describes Georgia’s view of the war. And Joshua Foust rebuts it, showing that there are two sides of this story (I ignore Fousts’s attacks on Totten, that’s just chaff in the debate).

    People looking for simple stories will be disappointed, as usual for events in that part of the world.

  15. Maxon 28 Aug 2008 at 11:44 am 15

    “With respect, while things do indeed just happen, population growth IS actively controlled by the rich.”

    I can see that as far as the concepts of trickle down economics
    and the re-distribution of wealth and ensiuant prospertity
    encourages the birth rate, as previously mentioned.

    Conspicously absent from your argument is mention of the
    Catholic Church and it’s position against contrecpetion practices.
    That’s the only apparent example I can think of to support
    your postion of an orchistrated consperacy. Thier motives
    in such maynot be greed in the larger bussiness sense as
    you claim, but simply to make more Catholics.

    Flaws in underpinning logic aside, In the larger sense, To blame the worlds woes on overpopulation however, is not
    entirely without some reason, and as an enviromentaly sensetive individual I can relate to some degree.

    That however flys in the face of widely held bussiness & economic doctrine that basicaly works like this, if you can make one hundered bucks this week, then you should be able to make $ 150 the next,
    and $ 200 the next, and $ 300 the next after that, etc, and without end.

    If not share holders are disappointed, and you get fired.
    And that’s the botom line (pun int).

    Good thread.


  16. Maxon 30 Aug 2008 at 10:08 am 16

    Speaking of “things do indeed just happen,”

    Check out This brilliant analysis peice,


    “”There really is only one answer: Deep inside we love war. We want war. Need it. Relish it. Thrive on war. War is in our genes, deep in our DNA. War excites our economic brain. War drives our entrepreneurial spirit. War thrills the American soul. Oh just admit it, we have a love affair with war. We love “America’s Outrageous War Economy.””

  17. Maxon 03 Sep 2008 at 9:37 am 17

    “we must remind ourselves that the root and origin of Fourth Generation war is a crisis of legitimacy of the state.”

    Build a snowmobile using these parts;


    “There are no partial rights. Rights are fundamental rights,” Mr. Lincoln said. “Rights are links in a chain of fundamental values that bind all individuals in a society that wants to be equitable, and just, and fair. Rights are bridges that unite people in a society through a set of fundamental values, and the minute you deny those rights, you withdraw that bridge, and create a gap between members of that society by denying those fundamental rights that bind them together.”

  18. JJon 03 Sep 2008 at 11:32 pm 18

    I was wondering if Mr Lind has written about the PCC war on the State of Sao Paulo in 2006?

    I find that the basic theme of Thomas W. Chittum’s ‘CIVIL WAR II’ is particularly relevant when considering the topic under discussion here.

    Some of the warning signs he listed are in fact already in place.

    Are we, as the Chinese curse remarked, living in ‘interesting times’?

    [CR: JJ — I don’t know of anything, but it was a most interesting incident from the standpoint of state legitimacy so it’s entirely possible.]

  19. Maxon 04 Sep 2008 at 8:00 am 19

    “Some of the warning signs he listed are in fact already in place.”

    What does it say when “miltarisism” becomes this mainstream ?

    What’s next ?

    A special on Barrets and 50cal. armour peircing explosive
    ammo at Walmart ? Buy two and we throw in (pun)
    a couple of hand grenades,,,.

    “Sears to Sell Army-Approved Clothing”

  20. Maxon 06 Sep 2008 at 9:25 am 20

    More slight evidence of a slowing growing but IMO real, crisis, or perhaps
    more acturate, questioning, and chalange to the legitimacy of the State, the United States Of America, to be specific.

    It could be, and it’s also interesting and maybe telling that this
    “attitude” is manifest mainly on the northern frontier.



  21. JJon 06 Sep 2008 at 10:21 pm 21


    That was an interesting article.
    Pat Buchanan’s ‘State of Emergency’ examines some of the problems and is food for thought along these lines.

    In my own neighborhood I’ve seen gang graffiti which is a subset of El Eme.

    That is just one ethnicity’s presence amongst the variety.

    I think these developments portend an exciting future for law enforcement and other paramilitary agencies.

    Consider the PCC infiltration of highest levels of Brazilian Federal Police and likewise infiltration of DEA and ICE whereby major Federal drug raids, for instance, have been thwarted by tipoffs.

    William S Lind will chronicle all this for us.

  22. senor tomason 11 Sep 2008 at 9:46 am 22

    “fighting only when attacked or when a low-risk, high-payoff military opportunity presents itself, which will be seldom.”

    Seldom, but when it does happen the payoff is indeed big. In Beirut in October 1983, Hezbollah gave very bloody noses to both the United States Marine Corps and the French Foreign Legion.