Thursday, February 21, 2008

Straw Man

William Lind recently attacked the concept of fifth-generation warfare (the only well-accepted generation of modern warfare he did not first describe) as follows:

Between February 8 and February 14, four American schools suffered attacks by lone gunmen. The most recent, at Northern Illinois University on February 14, saw five killed (plus the gunman) and 16 wounded. Similar attacks have occurred elsewhere, including shopping malls.

Is this war? I don’t think so. Some proponents of “Fifth Generation war,” which they define as actions by “superempowered individuals,” may disagree. But these incidents lack an ingredient I think necessary to war’s definition, namely purpose. In Fourth Generation War, the purpose of warlike acts reaches beyond the state and politics, but actions, including massacres of civilians, are still purposeful. They serve an agenda that reaches beyond individual emotions, an agenda others can and do share and fight for. In contrast, the mental and emotional states that motivate lone gunmen are knowable to them alone.

The whole “Fifth Generation” thesis is faulty, in any case. However small the units that fight wars may become, down to the “superempowered individual,” that shrinkage alone is not enough to mark a new generation.


John Robb, Mark Safranski, and I have criticized Lind's article, noting his straw-man attack on 5GW theory.

Lind has earned sympathy from Shlok Vaidya, however, who has previously described 5GW as "an incoherent amalgam of a variety of perspectives." However, as Shlok's definition ("the emergent pattern formed by a distributed multitude of empowered individuals acting in concert by acting in their own self interest, without any collaboration") argues that 5GW is not competitive-cooperative, his concept of 5GW is not war at all.

07:12 Posted in Doctrine | Permalink | Comments (13) | Tags: William Lind

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Why we shouldn't fear the (Muslim) fanatic (in the Muslim world)

Harris, L. 2007. Why we fear 'fanatic': The lesson of the red mosque. TCS Daily. July 12, 2007. Available online: http://www.tcsdaily.com/article.aspx?id=071207A (emailed in my Michael DeWitt of Spooky Action).

Joseph Goebbels was proud of being a fanatic. To him, fanaticism was a term of praise, and not abuse. The Hebrew Zealots looked with contempt on those who were unwilling either to die or to slaughter their own families. In the culture of the modern West, however, to call someone a fanatic is to insult, and not commend, him. Yet, as the incident at the Red Mosque makes clear, our own attitude toward fanaticism is simply an example of ethnocentricism. By refusing to use the word fanatic to describe Ghazi and his followers, we are approaching them through the standards and practices that are observed in our culture, but not in theirs.


Indeed. "Extremism in defense of liberty...."

At the Boyd Conference, William Lind made the good point that the Arab world has been in a cycle of corruption-internal reform movement-revolutionary-corruption. By supporting corrupt states such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia, we interrupted this cycle, between the generation of the internal reform movement (primarily the Muslim Brothers) and the revolution which would bring on either their corruption... or possibly a way out of the cycle. Assuming the old governments of the Middle East have our, or their own people's, best interest at heart is foolish.

As I've said before, Islam is the answer. The governments of the Muslim world are the problem.

Of course, not all of Lind's points were so flattering or helpful...