America’s Cycles of Change

Defend Your Borders or Lose Your Country

Mon, 16 November 2015

The United States faces a wide spectrum of 21st century security threats ranging from deliberately-induced smallpox epidemics to annihilation with a 15-minute warning time by Russian nuclear submarines armed with multiple independently-targeted reentry vehicle (MIRV) warheads.

But don’t forget also the good, old-fashioned method of rotting away the state and its security from within.

Today, this is called Fourth Generation War, or 4GW. The phrase means nothing to most Americans. But the collapse of law and order that it describes is becoming all too familiar to millions of people in this country. People in Arizona, California and lots of other places know what it’s like to live in lands that have been ravaged by it.

4GW rots the state from within. It’s a new name that was first used only in 1989. But it’s been a common feature in war and conflict throughout recorded history. However the advent of modern technology such as the Information Revolution, the Internet and the ubiquity of cell phones has made it a far more widespread and dangerous phenomenon.

My old friend William S. Lind is a world expert on 4GW. He has documented how the increasing chaos in Mexico, the collapsed state of Iraq and the failure of the superbly equipped Israeli military to root out the hostile regimes of Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah in southern Lebanon are all contemporary examples of 4GW.

Carl von Clausewitz, the great Prussian theoretician of modern war from 200 years ago, said relatively little about fourth-generation war. But one could argue that the erosion of King Solomon’s empire at the hands of both external and internal opponents, as described in the 11th and 12th chapters of the First Book of Kings in the Bible, is an early example.
Eventually, Solomon’s centralized, heavily militarized and highly taxed state collapsed after rebellions by subject peoples and a secession of 10 of the 12 tribes of Israel angered by his son and successor Rehoboam’s refusal to ease the tax burden on their people. The glory of King Solomon eventually fell victim to a biblical-era version of fourth-generation war.

However, not all state structures in the world weakened and collapsed at the same time that King Solomon’s empire did. King Rehoboam’s weakened kingdom of Judah soon after the secession of the 10 tribes was conquered by Pharaoh Shishak of Egypt, according to 1 Kings 14:24-25. Here, the vulnerability of one of society to the disintegrative forces of fourth-generation war left it vulnerable to a powerful neighbor that had not been so weakened.

In the same way, in our modern 21st century world, new major state structures are rising along old-fashioned, centralized and integrated lines and trying to organize powerful conventional military forces. Both authoritarian China and democratic India have taken this route.

India’s example is especially interesting as it flies in the face of military-procurement fashions and popular concepts of strategic thinking in the United States and Europe from recent decades.

Although India has long and complex land borders, the Indian state remains committed to defending them and rendering them as impermeable as possible to infiltration by mujahedin guerrilla groups based in neighboring overwhelmingly Muslim societies.

The Indians, heavily influenced by the example of Israel, with whom they have warm relations, constructed a long security fence to defend most of Jammu and Kashmir, which they control, against infiltration by mujahedin groups based in neighboring Pakistan. Indian military leaders have acclaimed this security fence as a great success, saying it cut down the number of infiltrations and casualties inflicted by the guerrillas by as much as 90 percent. They have therefore sought to duplicate the success of this Line of Control security fence in Kashmir by constructing another, even longer one along their entire land border with Bangladesh. That one worked too.

There are no short cuts to solving the problem of land border security. The Israelis, the Saudis and the Indians have all learned to be very good at it. The Russians and the Chinese take it seriously too. We need to learn the sensible lessons taught by these nations, not endlessly wag our fingers at them.

From the time of not-so-wise old King Solomon 3,000 years ago to the worries of Arizona ranchers today, the same lessons apply. Defend your borders or betray your people. And don’t dream that free trade agreements or hi-tech gadgetry will magically solve your problems for you.