On Friday, July 13, a Boyd Conference at the Quantico Marine Corps Base will devote a day to the subject of Fourth Generation war. As a panelist for one session of the conference, I have been asked to answer the question, “As one of the original authors and principal proponent of the 4GW concept, how well is it understood and acted upon by the West? By our adversaries?”
I will leave the second part of this question until Friday. As to how well the West grasps the concept of 4GW, the news, sadly, is bad on every level.
At the level of national governments, Western states not only do not grasp 4GW, they avert their eyes from it in horror, pretending it is not happening. In part they do so because they are the state, and the state does not want to admit that its own legitimacy has come into question. As Martin van Creveld said to me a decade or more ago, “Everyone can see it except the people in the capital cities.”
In larger part, they ignore the reality of 4GW because it contradicts their ideology, commonly known as “multi-culturalism” but actually the cultural Marxism of the Frankfurt School. That ideology says that all the world’s cultures are wonderful, happy, peaceful cultures except Western culture, which is oppressive and evil and must be destroyed. In fact, Western culture is one of only two cultures in human history that has succeeded over millennia (the other is Chinese). 4GW theory warns that we now face a world of cultures in conflict, that we must defend Western culture and that many, perhaps most, other cultures are threats, especially when they flood Western countries with immigrants. Cultural Marxism welcomes immigrants who will not acculturate precisely because they are threats to Western culture.
Western militaries are as blind to 4GW as are the governments that direct and fund them. They see themselves as knights in shining armor who exist to fight other knights like themselves, not low-born musketeer “terrorists.” Conveniently, fighting other knights requires buying lots of armor, in the form of Aegis ships, “stealth” aircraft and “Future Combat Systems,” all of which keep the bags of gold coming. 4GW is fought largely with weapons that can be made in somebody’s garage. Garages offer few Board of Directors positions to retired generals.
Western military intellectuals also mostly misunderstand 4GW. Here, too, the reason is partly ideological. Some of those intellectuals are cultural Marxists, while others are simply afraid to defy cultural Marxism, knowing the penalty for doing so can be high.
Beyond ideology, intellectuals, like lesser beings, are prone to pour new wine into old bottles. It is comforting to say 4GW is nothing new (or so old as to have been forgotten). So we hear that 4GW is just insurgency, that all we have to do is re-learn stock counter-insurgency doctrine, dig out old “Small Wars” manuals, etc. Combine that with stiffening the backs of politicians so they “stay the course,” and we can win Fourth Generation wars as surely as we won in Algeria and Vietnam.
As I have said before and will say many times again, Fourth Generation war is far larger than the insurgency/ counter-insurgency problem, as difficult as that problem is. Even for that relatively small aspect of the challenge (massive immigration of Third World people into Western countries is a far greater threat than anything we face in Iraq or Afghanistan), the old bottles will not hold the new wine. Counter-insurgency in a 4GW environment, with its ever-expanding multiplicity of players, is very different from counter-insurgency against a single enemy. As the students in my seminar at Quantico concluded early in our sessions last year, we now face many different models of insurgency, not just the Maoist model. That fact requires us to have many different models of counter-insurgency, most or all of which we may have to apply simultaneously in a single conflict. What might have worked against Mao or in Vietnam will not work in 4GW.
No, the West does not get 4GW, not in conflicts overseas and, much more dangerously, not on its own soil. To Hitler’s question, “Brennt Paris?”, 4GW answers “oui.” And not only Paris, but London, Brussels, Amsterdam, Los Angeles and a host of other Western cities and lands as well.
WILLIAM S. LIND, expressing his own personal opinion, is Director for the Center for Cultural Conservatism for the Free Congress Foundation.