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Using the Military to Fight American Gangs

Mission Creep: Counter-Insurgency in Salinas?

by WILLIAM S. LIND

One of the ongoing themes of this column has been gangs and the role they play in a Fourth Generation world.  Here in the United States they already serve as an alternative primary loyalty (alternative to the state) for many urban young men.  Gangs will likely be a major player in 4GW because gang members are expected to fight.  Those who won’t do not remain gang members.

The November 15 Washington Post had a story about gangs in Salinas, California, that deserves close attention from 4GW theorists.  Salinas is reportedly overrun with Hispanic gangs.  The Post wrote that its homicide rate is three times that of Los Angeles.  It quoted a Salinas police officer, Sgt. Mark Lazzarini, on one of the classic results of state breakdown, chaos:

“Only half of our gangs are structured; the Norteños,” he said.  “The southerners are completely unstructured.  Half of our violence is kids who get into a car and go out and hunt.  These kids don’t know their victims.  How do you stop that?  It’s very chaotic.”

Salinas’s new slogan might be, “Salinas: where even the lettuce has tattoos.”

But what is interesting in the Post’s article is not the gangs themselves.  It is a new response to the gangs. Salinas has brought in the U.S. military to apply counter-insurgency doctrine to a situation on American soil.  The Post reports that:

Since February combat veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan have been advising Salinas police on counterinsurgency doctrine, bringing lessons from the battlefield to the meanest streets in an American city…

“It’s a little laboratory,” said retired Col. Hy Rothstein, the former Army career officer in Special Forces who heads the team of 15 faculty members and students (from the Naval Postgraduate School), mostly naval officers…

Rothstein…notes the “significant overlap with how you deal with insurgencies and how you deal with cities that are under siege from gangs.”…

Leonard A. Ferrari, provost of the naval Postgraduate School, embraced the project from the start, hearing…an opportunity for a school “in transition from just a defense institution to a national homeland and even a human security institution.”…

“The idea was, not just Salinas,” Ferrari said, “but is there a national model for this?”

From the perspective of 4GW theory, this is an important development.  The Naval Postgraduate School is a DOD institution, part of the U.S. government.  Its involvement in Salinas marks the federal government’s formal recognition of Fourth Generation war on American soil, and the need for a “national model” to counteract it.  If we must involve the U.S. military to lead counterinsurgency efforts in American cities, then it is difficult to deny that we face something like insurgencies in those same cities.  Again, the significance is that this is now formally admitted by the U.S. government, not merely noted by “outside the beltway” observers of 4GW.

The U.S. military officers advising Salinas on how to wage an anti-gang counterinsurgency are doing so as volunteers, according to the Post, to avoid Constitutional issues.  But the camel’s nose is obviously inside the tent.  Many wars have begun by sending “volunteers.”  If, as likely, the volunteers prove insufficient, regular troops will follow.

As someone who believes in a strictly limited federal government, the government envisioned by our Founders, I find this troubling.  But from a 4GW perspective, I also know it is inevitable.  As I have said time and again, the main Fourth Generation threat we will face will be on our own soil, not halfway around the world, where we are currently pouring our strength out into the sand.  We will come to regret that waste bitterly.

Objectively, what the Washington Post has reported is a milestone, to be neither praised nor regretted but merely noted.  It denotes another step toward 4GW here at home.  It is a step we cannot avoid.  As both imported and domestically-generated Fourth Generation entities ramp up their warfare on American soil, the U.S. military will be drawn in.  As is the case in 4GW overseas, it will probably fail.  Old Uncle Karl was right:  the state will wither away.  But what follows will not be communism.  It will be chaos.

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