In the 1930's a handful of writers, General "Boney" Fuller, Heinz Guderian, an unknown French major, Charles de Gaulle and Captain Basil Liddell Hart were able to look ahead and describe what Blitzkrieg and war in the future would be like. Only one of these, Guderian, got the attention of his national leadership.
The political and military leaders of Britain and France would not see what was coming - they were entranced by their memories of WWI. The price for their attachment to ideas that no longer worked was a catastrophe.
Once again, our political and military leadership is attached to an idea that no longer works. Conventional militaries have lost every conflict with socially based guerrillas since 1945, but we think that if we only tried harder, we might prevail.
"Creveld (Martin Creveld is one of the leading military historians of our time and is based at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem) realized that whenever a state takes on a guerrilla movement it will lose. The reason is that whenever the strong are seen beating the weak .. they are considered barbarians. This view, amplified by the media, will eventually eat away at the state's ability to maintain more cohesion and drastically weaken its global image"
As the state's soldiers continue to fight weak foes, they will eventually become as ill disciplined and vicious as the people they are fighting die to frustration and mirror imaging.
For the state, it will likely not only lose the war but also in the process destroy the effectiveness of its army"
We can see this happening already. I cringe when I hear boosters ask that I support our troops. Little do they understand that the deaths and the physical wounds are nothing compared to what is going on spiritually when an army is subjected to this process.
It is not as if this is a surprise. Much of what is going on has been defined with great clarity.
Once again there is a group of thinkers that have built over the last 20 years an ever more clear vision of what is really going on and what can be done. These men are the spiritual sons of one of the greatest thinkers of the 20th century, the late Col John Boyd. (I will post a reading list later)
John Robb's new book "Brave New War - The Next Stage of Terrorism and the End of Globalization" is the latest addition to the growing body of knowledge about the nature of the threat posed to Nation States by what is called 4GW or Fourth Generation Warfare. If you want to know what we are really facing in the world today - this is where you may best start.
At the heart of the new reality is that the new social guerrilla is not like the Stern Gang in the 1940's or the Vietminh who were trying to create a new state. The new guerrilla has no time for any state. They are essentially tribal.
"The insurgency's learning goals in Iraq are completely different from our own. It is focused on how to disrupt and spoil the evolving political order rather than to replace it"
"To really understand this future, you need to discard the idea of state versus state conflict. This age is over. It ended with the rise of nuclear weapons, the integration of the world's economies and the end of the cold war... wars won't be fought by states but at a level below the state .. the rise of super-empowered groups is part of a larger historical trend ... technology will leverage the ability of individuals and small groups to wage war with equal alacrity ... over time .. as the leverage provided by technology increases, this threshold will finally reach its culmination - with the ability of one man to declare war of the world and win!"
"Airplanes are being turned into flying bombs, cell phone networks are being used to detonate bombs from miles away and critical computer networks are being hacked. Most important, a growing number of attacks are being made the underlying computerized networks that support our very economic fabric: from oil distribution to electricity grids."
The cold war was won by bankrupting the Soviet union. Bankrupting it both financially and morally. We now are being subjected to this form of attack. The more we respond conventionally to threats, the more further along the road to ruin we go.
"Because of the impact of systems, a $250,000 attack (9/11) was converted into an event that cost the US over $80 billion (some estimates are as high as $500 billion)."
This is how Rome fell. Once it made a linear defense its goal, the costs ramped up beyond the capacity of the tax base. Once it separated the army from the citizen, the moral heart of use of force was lost.
These are the stakes!
John's book is not simply a crie de coeur but is a tightly argued work that shows in detail the nature of a networked foe and how he will use our own critically vital networks to weaken us. Imagine New York losing power for 6 weeks. This would not be hard to do. Think about that we have lost in terms of freedom of travel and trade already. Think of what we have lost in terms of moral authority and liberty.
Having painted a crystal clear picture of how a war of networks is playing out, he comes to an astonishing conclusion that I hope he fills out in his next book.
For having explained the threat, he has set up a lifetime task of defining what to do to to reduce the threat. The short answer is to create local resiliency and sustainability.
If we on PEI can be energy independent, we will have gone a long way - what about your city or region?
John's thesis for coping and surviving is for us to create a network of locally self sufficient regions to replace our dependency on the central state and central systems of all kinds - energy, food, economy.
In a networked world, if you are dependent on a machine, you are vulnerable.
So here we see the great connection of much of the new thinking that is emerging in all fields. Every part of human life has been taken over by a machine metaphor. This no longer gives value. In fact it creates dysfunction and dependency that expose us as individuals and as societies to systemic failure.
The machine state is only a phase in our our social evolution. It is only 150 years old. It has had its day. The time of local self sufficient networks has arrived. Our global conflict will force this upon us, just as it forced the state upon us in 1914 -1918 and 1939 - 1945.
I know of no better starting point for undertanding what confronts us than John's book.