Summary: Today Chet Richards looks a recent Stratfor post about the crisis of the middle class, and from there explores some of the challenges facing 21st century America.
George Friedman, Founder and CEO of Stratfor, is always worth reading for the same reason that, say, James Kilpatrick was: You might not have agreed with much that he wrote, but there were usually a few nuggets amidst the infuriation, and he wrote so amazingly well. In fact, in his later years, his columns on writing were all I remember.
Friedman has an important column in Stratfor, The Crisis of the Middle Class and American Power. He opens with:
I received a great deal of feedback, with Europeans agreeing that this is the core problem and Americans arguing that the United States has the same problem, asserting that U.S. unemployment is twice as high as the government’s official unemployment rate. My counterargument is that unemployment in the United States is not a problem in the same sense that it is in Europe because it does not pose a geopolitical threat. The United States does not face political disintegration from unemployment, whatever the number is. Europe might.
And proceeds to argue most eloquently that the United States faces exactly that. This was also something the late John Boyd (Colonel, USAF) worried about. For examples, here’s part of his discussion of the prerequisites for an insurrection. From his presentation Patterns of Conflict, slide 94:
Summary: Today Chet Richards takes us into the heart of modern conflict, the 4GW techniques that will play a large role in shaping the 21st century (as 2nd generation warfare shaped the 19th century and 3GW shaped the 20th century. He shows us them in practice, as used by Venezuela.
4GW drives 21st conflicts
While we write clever pieces of sophistry proving that there is no such thing as 4GW (“Fourth-Generation War and Other Myths“, Antulio J. Echevarria II), our less discerning opponents go right on applying it. And calling it by name.
You may have read GI Wilson’s latest on 4GW here at Fabius Maximus. If not, I strongly recommend it. He makes the point that leaders of al-Qa’ida, far from mocking the concept, studied it, unfortunately applied it, and may be continuing to develop it:
An article entitled “Fourth-Generation Wars” by Abu ‘Ubeid Al-Qurashi, appeared in the now defunct al-Qaeda affiliated Internet magazine Al-Ansar acknowledged that 4GW forms the foundation of al-Qaeda’s combat doctrine.
And now, hot off the press, we have a study from the US Army War College detailing how Hugo Chavez’s Venezuela has picked up on the idea of 4GW, is studying it, and is most definitely pursuing its implementation:
Excerpt from “Venezuela as an Exporter of 4th Generation Warfare Instability”
By Max G. Manwaring (Prof of Military Strategy, US Army War College)
Published by the Strategic Studies Institute, 19 December 2012
Is this America’s future, endless war?
Steven Metz, Chairman of the Regional Strategy Department of the Army War College’s Strategic Studies Institute, noted in a tweet a few days ago that “Ten plus years and people are still trying to pound the round peg of terrorism into the square hole of war.”
Which got me thinking, again, and this is a discussion Fabius and I have been having for many years: Are we at war with anybody? Is there any chance we will ever be at war with anybody? And the collateral issue, which makes all this more than just a philosophical discussion on the futility of names: What sort of military forces will be useful for us in the first half of the 21st century?
As way of background, strategists have typically reserved the word “war” for something serious. Here are a couple of the best known examples:
- War is a matter of vital importance to the state; the province of life or death; the road to survival or ruin. (Sun Tzu’s Art of War, Griffith trans. 63)
- War is an act of violence pushed to its utmost bounds. (Clausewitz, Penguin edition, 1987, p. 103)
Some have noted that in the era of nuclear weapons, Clausewitz’s conception must be modified:
- Thus the effect of nuclear weapons, unforeseen and perhaps unforeseeable, has been to push conventional war into the nooks and crannies of the international system. (Martin van Creveld, The Transformation of War, p. 11)
- State-on-state war has gone the way of the dinosaur thanks to America’s willingness to remind everyone on a regular basis that we are the last superpower standing. (Thomas P. M. Barnett, The Pentagon’s New Map, p. 271)
- War as a massive deciding event in a dispute in international affairs; such war no longer exists. (Sir Rupert Smith, The Utility of Force, p.1)
Note that none of these rule out war, per se, just a replay of WWII or at least one of its major battles. Are they right? Doug Macgregor doesn’t think so, as he wrote in an earlier post: