Blowback – could our military become a threat to America?
Expansion of a nation’s armed forces when its internal cohesion is weakening (i.e., in an era of State decline) risks an autoimmunine response. Read closely, because this is too hot to spell out.
Update: The 3 excepts give describe the most likely danger as individuals turning against our regime, not the military as a whole. Here’s a biological analogy:
Autoimmume Disease: Failure of an organism’s defenses to recognize its own constituent parts as self, resulting in an immune response against its own tissues. See Wikipedia for more information.
Yes, it can happen to us. Slight indications of early symptoms are already in the news. We can look forward to more articles like these. And even more if (when) we demobilize from our Middle East wars.
- “Oklahoma City war veteran accused of selling bombs to gang members“, The Oklahoman, 25 December 2008
- “On War #290: Blowback Revisited“, Defense and the National Interest, 3 February 2009
- Militia – the ultimate defense against 4GW, this site, 31 May 2008
Another powerful aricle, but subscription only: “Jesus killed Mohammed: The crusade for a Christian military“, By Jeff Sharlet, Harper’s Magazine, May 2009.
This is one of a large number of posts on the FM site exploring the decline of the America political regime, of which this might be one aspect. Links to others appear at the end.
(1) “Oklahoma City war veteran accused of selling bombs to gang members“, The Oklahoman, 25 December 2008 — Excerpt:
Police spent the day searching the house of a decorated, two-tour Iraq war veteran on Tuesday to investigate a tip that the former soldier was said to have been making explosive devices to sell to gang members, according to a probable cause affidavit. Steven Andrew Jordal, 24, was an infantry tank specialist in the U.S. Army from 2002 to 2007. He received the Army’s Good Conduct medal, along with several other medals, badges and ribbons, the military confirmed.
Oklahoma City police took interest in Jordal when they received a tip he was selling improvised explosive devices to criminals.
For as little as $100, Jordal was making the same kinds of weapons he saw used against his fellow soldiers in the Iraqi deserts and selling them on the streets of Okalahoma City to gang members and known criminals, according to the document.
(2) William Lind explains what this might mean in “On War #290: Blowback Revisited“, Defense and the National Interest, 3 February 2009 — Excerpt:
This is not the first such report I have seen. Shortly after my initial column ran, I received a letter from a reader in Poland with a news story that Polish police were being attacked and killed with IEDs.
If we read these stories merely as accounts of the spread of a technology, IEDs, we read them too narrowly. American and other foreign troops in places such as Iraq and Afghanistan are learning more than how to make IEDs and how effective they can be. They are learning by direct observation how a place works when the state disappears.
To the large majority of American and European soldiers, this is a lesson in horror. They return home thankful they live in a place where the state endures. The last thing they want is to see their native country turn into another Iraq or Afghanistan.
But a minority will learn a different lesson. They will see statelessness as a field of opportunity where people who are clever and ruthless can rise fast and far. They look upon themselves as that kind of people. They will also have learned it is possible to fight the state, and how to do so. The effectiveness of IEDs is part of that lesson; so are the power and rewards that come to members of militias and gangs. In their own minds, and perhaps in reality, they will have found a new world in which they can hope to thrive.
There is a parallel here with what the men who fought in the trenches on the Western Front in World War I learned. For most, it was the worst time in their lives. Their experience is captured by All Quiet on the Western Front. But a minority found it the best time of their lives. Their book is Ernst Junger’s Storm of Steel. It was these men, looking to re-create that tremendous experience, who made up the Brownshirts of the S. A. Their very name, Storm Troopers, originated in what they had done during the war. They came home determined to create a different Germany, and they did.
As I have argued both in these columns and elsewhere, if we want to avoid importing 4GW into the United States, we need to isolate ourselves from 4GW overseas. We need a defensive, not an offensive, grand strategy. So long as we enmesh ourselves in Fourth Generation wars like those in Iraq and Afghanistan – will the Obama administration add Somalia and Sudan to the list? – we will increase the danger we should seek most to avoid, the horror of 4GW on our own soil. That is the Fourth Generation’s strategic IED, and if it ever goes off in America, we will all get blown up.
(3) Militia – the ultimate defense against 4GW, this site, 31 May 2008 — There are two dimensions to this discussion, only one of which I mention (for obvious reasons).
Private Military Companies (aka mercenaries, in a new form for the age of 4GW)
The historian Michael Roberts observed that military revolutions throughout history coincided with the rise and sometimes dominance of mercenaries. After 500 years of Great Nations efforts to control or eliminate mercenaries, the modern rise of mercs perhaps began with the creation of private firms, such as Executive Outcomes in 1989, from veterans of the South Africa Special Forces after the regime change there.
In the Iraq War US has greatly accelerated the formation and income of mercenaries – or, as many prefer to be called, Private Military Corporations. The dangers of this have already become apparent. Our finest troops now have an alternative market in which to sell their skills, one paying far more than America. It will likely move beyond our control, as markets usually do. We have created a conflict between our soldiers’ patriotism and their families’ needs, a challenge whose dimensions cannot yet be seen – only imagined. At the very least, we’re now bidding against ourselves in Iraq.
Worse, many years have passed since building patriotism was an important goal in most American schools, or a vital force in the overwhelming majority of American homes. Let’s not kid ourselves that patriotism arises autonomously, magically in every soldiers’ hearts. Once the Iraq War ends, what do they do? Re-enlist for a fraction of the current pay, or find another employer? Once a soldier kills for a dollar, unconnected to a national army, an invisible but real line has been crossed. Inevitably many of our finest will eventually be working outside of our control; some will work directly against us
Furthermore, knowledge moves with people. Hundreds of years of State-developed of tactics and training will become available to our 4GW enemies, those with the wit to take advantage of this opportunity. Only small numbers need “defect” for this to occur. Much of our most advanced military technology is also available to all. That is, everyone with the necessary money.
That some American mercs will serve our enemies is a near certainty. El Cid, hero of the Reconquista (d. 1099), worked as a mercenary for both Christian and Muslim rulers, although apparently never against Castilian interests. Mohammed II hired Christians, such as Urban of Hungary, to forge and operate the great cannon that broke the triple walls of Constantinople in 1453. Countless other examples can be cited throughout history. For more on this see “The new condottieri and US policy: The Privatization of Conflict and its implications“, Eugene B. Smith, Parameters (Winter 2002).
Militia can become the nucleus of mercenary forces. They provide training without the intensive indoctrination of conventional military forces. Their local focus and local leaders allow development of allegiance to something other than the central state.
Decline of the State
Both the rise of mercenary units from our own armies and the creation of militia are large steps toward the decline of the State, as seen by Martin van Creveld. They represent two aspects of the same centrifugal forces. Armies form the core of the modern state, some of whose elite soldiers now spin off to operate on their own. The armed but unorganized citizenry might coalesce to form militias in order to provide for the common defense, previously a core function of the State. Here we see the possible end of the State’s monopoly on the legitimate use of force, end of the era established in 1648 with the Treaty of Westphalia.
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For more information from the FM site
To read other articles about these things, see the FM reference page on the right side menu bar. Of esp interest about this topic:
- About America – how can we reform it?
- About America’s national defence strategy and machinery
- About An Army near the Breaking Point – studies & reports
Loyalty to America’s political regime comes from knowledge and love of the Constitution:
- Forecast: Death of the American Constitution, 4 July 2006
- The Constitution: wonderful, if we can keep it, 15 February 2008
- Congress shows us how our new government works, 14 April 2008
- See the last glimmers of the Constitution’s life…, 27 June 2008
- Remembering what we have lost… thoughts while looking at the embers of the Constitution, 29 June 2008
- Another step away from our Constitutional system, with applause, 19 September 2008
- What comes after the Consitution? Can we see the outlines of the “Mark 3″ version?, 10 November 2008