On War #290: Blowback Revisited

William S. Lind

February 3, 2009

Some time ago, I wrote a column warning that our involvement in Fourth Generation wars overseas would spur 4GW here at home. One way it would do so is by introducing soldiers to statelessness.

I do not see e-mail, but I was told that column generated lots of it. Many e-diots howled that I had somehow “attacked the troops.”

Well, guess what? It’s starting to happen. A reader sent me a copy of a story from The Oklahoman dated December 25, 2008. The title is, “Police Say Vet Made, Sold IEDs to Gangs.” It reads in part:

Police spent the day searching the house of a decorated, two-tour Iraq war veteran on Tuesday, one day after he was arrested and charged with making explosive devises and attempting to sell them…

Steven Andrew Jordal, 24, was an infantry tank (sic) specialist in the U.S. Army from 2002 to 2007. He received the Army’s Good Conduct medal, along with several other medals, badges and ribbons, the military confirmed.

Oklahoma City police took interest in Jordal when they received a tip he was selling IEDs to criminals. IEDs have emerged in Iraq as the weapon of choice for insurgents against U.S. forces.

For as little as $100, Jordal was making the same kinds of weapons he saw used against his fellow soldiers in Iraq and selling them on the streets of Oklahoma City to gang members…

Surprise, surprise. This is not the first such report I have seen. Shortly after my initial column ran, I received a letter from a reader in Poland with a news story that Polish police were being attacked and killed with IEDs.

If we read these stories merely as accounts of the spread of a technology, IEDs, we read them too narrowly. American and other foreign troops in places such as Iraq and Afghanistan are learning more than how to make IEDs and how effective they can be. They are learning by direct observation how a place works when the state disappears.

To the large majority of American and European soldiers, this is a lesson in horror. They return home thankful they live in a place where the state endures. The last thing they want is to see their native country turn into another Iraq or Afghanistan.

But a minority will learn a different lesson. They will see statelessness as a field of opportunity where people who are clever and ruthless can rise fast and far. They look upon themselves as that kind of people. They will also have learned it is possible to fight the state, and how to do so. The effectiveness of IEDs is part of that lesson; so are the power and rewards that come to members of militias and gangs. In their own minds, and perhaps in reality, they will have found a new world in which they can hope to thrive.

There is a parallel here with what the men who fought in the trenches on the Western Front in World War I learned. For most, it was the worst time in their lives. Their experience is captured by All Quiet on the Western Front. But a minority found it the best time of their lives. Their book is Ernst Junger’s Storm of Steel. It was these men, looking to re-create that tremendous experience, who made up the Brownshirts of the S. A. Their very name, Storm Troopers, originated in what they had done during the war. They came home determined to create a different Germany, and they did.

As I have argued both in these columns and elsewhere, if we want to avoid importing 4GW into the United States, we need to isolate ourselves from 4GW overseas. We need a defensive, not an offensive, grand strategy. So long as we enmesh ourselves in Fourth Generation wars like those in Iraq and Afghanistan – will the Obama administration add Somalia and Sudan to the list? – we will increase the danger we should seek most to avoid, the horror of 4GW on our own soil. That is the Fourth Generation’s strategic IED, and if it ever goes off in America, we will all get blown up.

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

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Mr. William S. Lind
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