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  • Stateless Actors: Myths of 4G Warfare Part I

    Posted by Shannon Love on July 19th, 2007 (All posts by )

    In my comments on Lex’s post on 4G warfare, I argued that Fourth Generation Warfare didn’t really exist, at least, not as usually defined. I thought I would expand on my arguments because I think that the myth of 4GW diverts attention from the reality of most modern conflicts and frustrates our ability to win such conflicts.

    (Note: Although much disagreement exists about the taxonomy of nthG warfare, for the sake of brevity, I will use just the term 4GW to describe the entire swath of associated concepts.)

    I think the attributes of 4GW are best expressed in terms of the attributes of the organizations that fight using 4GW tactics. Lets call them 4th Generational Warfare Groups (4GWGs). The theory says that a 4GWG will have the following attributes:

    A. Stateless: The group is not based in an integral state (country). Supposedly, this attribute makes the group nearly impossible to defeat since they lack a base which an opponent can destroy or a territory which an opponent can occupy.
    B. Decentralized Forces: The forces of the 4GWG do not cluster together like a conventional army but spread out into small units and usually blend in with a civilian population. Further, each unit carries out attacks on its own initiative, usually striking at targets of opportunity. Supposedly, this makes the group hard to defeat because they possess no command centers to destroy and little communications to disrupt. Destroying one unit does not affect the operations of other units. Trying to militarily defeat such an organization becomes an unending game of whack-a-mole.
    C. Memetic warfare: The group’s primary weapon is not violence but propaganda. They leverage relatively-small-scale attacks with media to create the illusion of a physically powerful group. They exploit innate divisions within their opponents’ social and political structures. They appeal to pacifists. Supposedly this greatly amplifies their power to defeat integral states, especially liberal democracies which have no coordinated defenses against memetic warfare and many internal divisions.

    I do not think that any real-world group has ever possessed all of these traits, nor do I believe the biggest myth of 4GW, i.e., that it is highly successful.

    To make this digestible, I will break this argument up into several posts, each covering a single attribute. Let’s start with the Stateless Actor.

    I consider the Stateless Actor to be greatest 4GW myth. I believe that virtually all supposedly “stateless” groups since WWII have fallen into one of two categories: (1) covert proxies of states or (2) factions in a civil war fighting in a disintegrated state. (At times, a group could fall into both categories.)

    The supposed non-state actors of the Cold War that most 4GW theorists point to in support of their theory have, with the ending of the Cold War, been shown to have been highly dependent proxies of a superpower. Mao, Castro, Ho Chi Min, the PLO, the Sandinistas etc. all turned out to be covert proxies of Soviet intelligence who relied heavily on Soviet training, money, material and advisors to support their struggles both before and after their successes.

    In the post-Cold War world, many 4GW theorists point to Hezbollah and Al-Qaeda as Stateless Actors. I think this categorization is a joke. Hezbollah began as a faction in the Lebanese civil war and only rose to prominence as a dependent proxy of Iran and Syria. If those states cut off their support, Hezbollah will implode in a matter of months. The early Al-Qaeda began as a quasi-stateless group, but they did not carry off any of their large-scale attacks until they moved their leadership to Afghanistan and became the internal security force of the Taliban regime. The leadership of Al-Qaeda and the Taliban inter-married, which in their cultural context means they formed one entity. In truth, 9/11 was carried out by an arm of the Afghan government, an entity which represented the fusion of the Taliban and Al-Qaeda.

    I also think that upon examination all major 4GWGs turn out to have some kind of territorial base, either within a patron state or in a region of a disintegrated state. They require such bases for training and organization, and loss of those bases cripples the group. Integral-state opponents of the 4GWGs usually cannot attack those bases initially, due to military or diplomatic limitations, but when these conditions change the opponent destroys the base and does significant damage to the group. The PLO, for example, had de facto bases in communist-era Romania, Bulgaria and the Soviet Union. Further, they tried to carve out their own territories in Jordan and Lebanon. They were driven out of both territories by direct conventional military action. When they also lost their bases in the former Warsaw Pact, they retreated broken and ineffective to the occupied territories. They only survived due to the continued support of Arab states and gullible liberal democracies.

    The other groups often called stateless are factions in civil wars. Such groups may or may not have an external patron, but I don’t think they usually qualify as stateless, because they almost always rapidly acquire territory within the disintegrated state over which they exert military control. For example, Hezbollah controls a big chunk of Lebanon and the Lebanese government openly acknowledges that it cannot militarily control that region. As in the case of bases above, if an opponent can or will seize the territory, they will cripple the 4GWG.

    I believe that the myth of the stateless group arose as a mutual diplomatic fiction during the Cold War when it behooved each side to try to prevent every little conflict from escalating into extinction-level nuclear war. For example, if the United States government officially stated that the PLO was an arm of the Soviet Union, it would be required to take retaliatory action against the Soviet Union whenever the PLO killed Americans or attacked an ally. Further, each side liked to portray its proxies as plucky Davids empowered by the justice of their causes and defeating the evil Goliath superpower and its minions. Factions within liberal democracies that ideologically oppose defense spending or military action eagerly embraced the myth in order to frustrate military action. The electorates support action against explicit and dangerous totalitarian enemies, but they grow ambivalent if the opponents appear as unsupported and uninstigated indigenous actions of underdogs. By simply redefining the enemy, the pacifistic factions escape criticism for not engaging the enemies of democracy.

    A large number of supposed stateless groups evaporated at the end of the Cold War when their patron state failed. Attacking Afghanistan crippled Al-Qaeda. Bringing 4GW conflicts to an end first requires jettisoning the myth of the Stateless Actor, and instead seeking to neutralize the state sponsors of 4GWGs or to control their territorial bases. Until we do that, we are just trying to push a rope.

    [Note: Please restrict comments to the concept of Stateless Actors. That will keep the comments from spiraling out of control.]

    —-
    Related Posts:
    Decentralization: Myths of 4G Warfare Part II

     

    28 Responses to “Stateless Actors: Myths of 4G Warfare Part I”

    1. Kelly Says:

      Shannon,
      “Non-state actors” was always an overstatement. Better ones might be quasi-state or post-state (or sometimes even proto-state or alt-state); not fish but not entirely fowl. The reality is, the Westphalian model is breaking down, particularly in parts of the world where it was never native, and the replacement hasn’t yet emerged.
      Very good and useful historical reminders, but proxies how- and whyever established take on lives of their own. Don’t spend too much effort smacking down a strawman.

    2. Lexington Green Says:

      I need to revisit Hammes’ book. I think the role of state sponsorship is not so all-important as you suggest. The first Intifada — the rock throwing kids — seems to have been a truly bottom-up and local effort, which was working. And, in any case, the state sponsor often has nuclear weapons, and hence is invulnerable, so you still have to deal with the insurgency rather than the sponsor. And, sponsor or not, the big question is this: Why do political appeals by these groups work so effectively in liberal democracies? The Sandinistas set up a public relations office in DC before they started their armed resistance to Somoza. They knew before firing a shot that the decisive front in the war was US public opinion and US political support or resistance.

    3. Shannon Love Says:

      Kelly,

      …but proxies how- and whyever established take on lives of their own. Don’t spend too much effort smacking down a strawman.

      It’s not a strawman if 90% of the 4GWGs implode when they lose their State sponsorship which I would argue is the real-world pattern. Ignoring the sponsor is very, very dangerous because allowing the group a sanctuary of any kind lets them regenerate following virtually any defeat.

      We got in the habit of ignoring state sponsorship during the Cold War but we need to break that habit. In the vast majority of cases, state sponsorship is very real and very important.

    4. Shannon Love Says:

      Lex,

      State sponsors don’t necessarily need to be attacked outright. We just need to neutralize their support. Making them morally responsible for the actions of their proxies is a good start. Economic warfare is another good tool. If we make it to expensive to support the 4GWGs chances are good the sponsors will stop their support.

      I think the important thing is to recognize the extent and importance of state sponsorship. For example, I would argue that the Intifada “worked” to the extent it did largely because Israel’s strategic situation changed significantly after the fall of the Soviet Union and the neutralization of Iraq after the first Gulf War. All the front line Arabic states were armed by the Warsaw block. When they lost their patron they lost any hope of taking on Israel in a head on fight. Along with their nukes, this pretty much guaranteed that Israel would not have to face a large scale conventional invasion ever again. With that threat gone, the occupied territories lost their strategic significance.

      In other words, the Infitada worked not because it was a novel effective strategy but rather because the value of the disputed territories dropped dramatically for Israel. Had the Infitada occurred circa 1970 it would not have worked. The occupied territories would be to vital as a buffer to allow some rock throwing children drive Israel out.

    5. zenpundit Says:

      Hi Shannon,

      An interesting post, one very much in the spirit of Antulio J. Echevarria(see “Fourth Generation Warfare and other Myths” -http://www.strategicstudiesinstitute.army.mil/Pubs/display.cfm?pubID=632)

      Some comments:

      * Leading 4GW theorists (Lind, Van Creveld, Robb) give far more weight to the weaknesses of nation-states and the relevance of moral legitimacy in military conflict than your post indicates.

      *I fully agree with you that state sponsors of terrorist and insurgent groups should be made to bear the costs of their client’s behavior. State sponsorship of such groups did not cease after 1991 or after 9/11.

      However, I disagree that state sponsors are the entirety of the picture – we can see societal sponsorship through private donations as well as groups self-financing via criminal enterprise (kidnapping, drug smuggling, human trafficking, “blood diamonds”, “war taxes” extortion) at a level unprecedented during the Cold War era. See Moises Naim’s Illicit on the effects of black globalization. Collapsing the Syrian and Iranian states by a direct American attack will not solve our problems in iraq or the Mideast.

      * “all major 4GWGs turn out to have some kind of territorial base, either within a patron state or in a region of a disintegrated state. They require such bases for training and organization, and loss of those bases cripples the group”

      To qualify as a 4GW entity, it is not required that the organization comprise a “virtual state” without physical teritory of it’s own, though it could. ” Non-state” or ” stateless” does not always mean “without territory”. This is where I think you veer off course. Subnational groups like tribesmen or ethnic separtists may have a geographic center of gravity and still might be considered to be 4GW depending upon their organizational structure and motivation. Failed state regions are dangerous because they provide the room for 4GW groups to emerge or migrate to set up shop.

      * If Israel could not seize Southern Lebanon from Hezbollah, I really don’t know who can. Iran and Syria were vital for Hezbollah’s ability to hit Israel operationally with ballistic missiles, no question. However, these states were irrelevant in Hezbollah-IDF small unit conflict where the Israelis gave their worst performance since 1948 ( the blame here lies with Olmert and the restrictions placed on company commanders, not the soldiers who chafed under them).

      Good post, some solid points but I think you are also making some assumptions about 4GW that Lind & co. have not made.

    6. Dan tdaxp Says:

      Shannon,

      You’re boxing ghosts.

      I’m not sure what you attempting to criticizing (a generational model of gang warfare? Robb’s work? something else), but you are not addressing 4GW theory. It’s not that your post is right or wrong — it’s that it is not simply talking about whatever everyone else is.

      To take the issue of stateless actors:

      There are three stages of 4GW
      1. Create outrages to highlight the importance of the group and force the state to over-react. The classic example here is assassinating government officials.
      2. Contest a territory or network. At this point, the 4GW army is strong enough to control territory but not strong enough to hold it. The classic example here is controlling an area by night while the State controls it by day.
      3. Conventional operations. Once the state is significantly weak, it can be defeated by traditional methods. The classic example here is the march on Saigon.

      Your criticism “all major 4GWGs turn out to have some kind of territorial base” is really a way of saying all late stages 4GWs are in the late stages of 4GW. Indeed.

    7. Shannon Love Says:

      zenpundit,

      … I disagree that state sponsors are the entirety of the picture…

      I did not intend to imply that they were, however, I definitely do think that neutralizing state support is one necessary component of any successful counter 4GW strategy. If we latch so strongly to the “stateless” concept that we simply ignore the state sponsorship we have no hope of winning. Neutralizing the state sponsor may or may not in of itself end the conflict but I argue that it is a necessary component of any successful strategy.

      I think the claim of “statelssness” which originated with 4GW groups itself, is really just another memetic weapon intended to create the illusion that the group can never be defeated because it lacks a physical area which can be attacked or occupied.

      Instead of using the term “stateless” we should use the term “covert state proxy” or “covertly state sponsored.” Then, we fight such a group, the idea of neutralizing their patron state will be foremost in our minds.

    8. Shannon Love Says:

      Dan tdaxp,

      Your criticism “all major 4GWGs turn out to have some kind of territorial base” is really a way of saying all late stages 4GWs are in the late stages of 4GW.

      No, I argued that 4GWGs have either a state sponsor or territory when they begin. Throughout the entirety of the conflict there will be some identifiable area or state actor which an opponent can and must neutralize inorder to seek victory.

      For example, the Communist Party of China became part of the Comintern in 1923 years after its founding. From that point on it received direction, training, money and propaganda support from the Soviet Union. Many chinese journeyed to the Soviet Union to train. In 1930-34 they took advantage of the civil disorder in China to found several Chinese Soviets in different area of China. From that point on, they always operated from a territory of some kind in addition to the state support they received.

      I don’t think that their have been any 4GWGs that have operated without an external sponsor. I think the entire bootstrap myth was manufactured by Mao and spread by Soviet propaganda. Every rule has exceptions but I think exceptions to this one will be very rare.

    9. Dan tdaxp Says:

      “4GWGs have either a state sponsor or territory when they begin… Every rule has exceptions but I think exceptions to this one will be very rare.”

      So you’re making a universal claim, but insulating yourself from disproof?

    10. Shannon Love Says:

      Dan tdaxp,

      So you’re making a universal claim, but insulating yourself from disproof?

      No, I would say that rare would qualify as less than 5% of all groups usually qualified as 4GWG. Any higher than that and it becomes a majority/minority thing. However, I would state definitively that no group that managed to succeed in seizing control of a entire country did so without external state support. If you know of any concrete counter examples, I would be happy to examine them.

      Even if we could only say that a majority of 4GWGs have state sponsorship it behooves us to begin out counter-strategy with trying to neutralize that support. I argue that ignoring that state support is a lethal delusion.

    11. Shannon Love Says:

      Dan tdaxp,

      There are three stages of 4GW

      I argue that the three stages are a myth. Mao first promulgated this idea and, as I said before, he did so to hide from the xenophobic Chinese people the degree of support and direction he received from the Soviet Union.
      The real history goes like this: The Chinese Communist Party joined the Comintern in 1923 and from that point on received direction, technical training, personnel, propaganda support and money from the Soviet Union. During the chaotic conditions in the late 20’s and early 30’s when no centralized government existed, they established several territories in the form of Chinese Soviets. The Nationalist pulled things together enough to destroy all but one of the Soviets before the Japanese invaded. After the Japanese war, the Soviets poured resources into the Communist controlled regions and launched a full scale propaganda campaign against the Nationalist. It is possible that Soviet agents in the US government prompted the US’s insistence on a last minute cease fire that saved the Communist from total destruction in 1947. Again with Soviet assistance, they rebuilt while the Nationalist lost international and internal support. Only then did they sweep to power.
      In short, from three years after its founding and definitely during the entire period it engaged in arm conflict, the CCP received significant support from their Soviet state sponsor. Without that support they very likely would not have succeeded. At the time, any successful counter strategy would have require neutralizing or at least counterbalancing that support.
      I argue that upon closer examination, the vast majority, if not all 4GW conflicts involve critical state support or they take the form of civil wars in which the 4GWG operates from a secure territory (usually a region dominated by a specific ethnic group. ) ALL the 4GW conflicts the US has been involved in involve significant external state support.

    12. JohnSal Says:

      The probelm with defining 4GW in a neat and tidy package is that it is a kind of fruitsalad. I live in an environment of low intensity 4GW in El Salvador. Ms. Love states: “I consider the Stateless Actor to be greatest 4GW myth. I believe that virtually all supposedly “stateless” groups since WWII have fallen into one of two categories: (1) covert proxies of states or (2) factions in a civil war fighting in a disintegrated state. (At times, a group could fall into both categories.)” Unfortunately, the Mara Salvatrucha is very real here but it doesn’t fall neatly into either (1) or (2).

      I think Zenpundits term “black globalization” is the other side of the AQ coin, with independent criminal gangs, for want of a better term, like MS indulging in criminal capitalism. The recent capture of the gunman resposible for the 2006 5J atrocity here in El Salvador has exposed the ties between the radical left FMLN and their use of gang members as “shock troops” for street demonstrations. How the partnership will evolve here and in Guatemala and Honduras, i.e. will they become political proxies, will be interesting to observe, and maybe very consequential. Is FARC in Colombia a leading indicator of criminal gangs promoting ideological platforms and achieving territorial control? We’ll have to wait and see.

    13. Dan tdaxp Says:

      Shannon,

      As you’re speaking of percentages, then I should ask what dataset you are using?

      Likewise, your use of “external state support” seems true and trivial. What organization would shy away from a profitable client relationship?

    14. Dan Says:

      I only just started Terrorism Financing, but from what I’ve read so far it appears to me that while Shannon’s observation applies well to the cold war era, there seem to be no shortage of methods for “non state actors” to pay their way in the world now that state sponsorship has become more rare than in previous decades. Some do involve territorial control, but with so much of the world beyond the reach of Westphalian order, this doesn’t seem like such a big deal that it would require the NSA to be a state handpuppet.

    15. Shannon Love Says:

      John Sal,

      I would qualify Mara Salvatrucha (known more widely in the States as M-13) as an criminal organization that engages in political violence only in order to further its criminal interest. They appear to have recruited or absorbed several political groups established during the Cold War but this probably represents only the long standing tendency of covert political organizations to evolve into organized crime. As a criminal organization, their goals differer significantly from that of political covert organizations and my argument doesn’t really apply.

      To my knowledge no criminal organization has ever evolved into a political one. Several have adopted political colors as a form defense (such as the Black Panthers) but criminals simply won’t put themselves on the line in a serious fight and that is what it takes to win mass armed struggles.

    16. Shannon Love Says:

      Dan Taxp,

      Likewise, your use of “external state support” seems true and trivial.

      My argument is that external support is not trivial in the overwhelming number of cases and that any counter strategy should begin with seeking to neutralize that external support. Nothing you have offered convinces me any different. As I said before, if you could offer a case in which significant external support was not offered then I would reconsider but since you haven’t, I can’t. ( I would look first at the Algerian war of Independence but I think I would qualify this one as a civil war with groups operating from established basis in south.)

      I can say with confidence that the conflicts that most commonly get mentioned as being examples of 4GW, China, Vietnam, Rhodesia, Nicaragua, Hezbollah, Al-Quada and others do not fit the supposed pattern. In all cases, external State support was so vital to the 4GWG eventually success that calling the groups stateless is a serious error.

    17. zenpundit Says:

      ” can say with confidence that the conflicts that most commonly get mentioned as being examples of 4GW, China, Vietnam, Rhodesia, Nicaragua, Hezbollah, Al-Quada and others do not fit the supposed pattern”

      Well, as far as I am aware, none of the leading thinkers of the 4GW school have defined any of those movements, except for Hezbollah (“quasi-4GW” according to Lind) and al Qaida as examples of fourth generation entities. Insurgency on a hierarchical model with the objective of maturing into a normal, conventional, military in order to overthrow and replace the rulers of the state isn’t 4GW. Even T.X. Hammes, who ties 4GW theory more closely with historical case studies of insurgency/counterinsurgency, considers 4GW to be ” evolved” and different from Maoist guerilla forerunners.

      Nothing wrong with pressing hard on state sponsors, squeezing the money pipeline etc. It will certainly help and raise the costs for 4GW groups as well as traditional insurgencies but it won’t be a silver bullet by a long shot. Al Qaida is not the Abu Nidal Organization or the Red Brigades.

    18. Dan tdaxp Says:

      My argument is that external support

      Let me rephrase: the point (“4G organizations will form client relationships with outside powers!”) is obvious.

      Why wouldn’t an organization hostile to a state form client relationships with other powers also hostile to a state?

      This is just as insightful as critiquing a BusinessWeek article that talks about Nike as not a manufacturing company, and saying “A ha! But they have contracts with manufacturing companies!”

    19. Shannon Love Says:

      Zenpundit,

      There is a fairly wide gulf between the academic definitions of 4GW and the definition in popular usage. I intentionally chose the popular usage (see the link in the parent to the Wikipedia article) because it is that usage that is politically significant. Using Lind’s rather strict definition, 4GW remains merely a theoretical threat since no real world group has ever obtained true 4G status. However, in the political discourse, most conflicts since WWII fit the definition.

      I am at the moment more interested in the real-world groups than in theoretical future threats. If you want to define the 4GW in only the hypothetical, then my arguments don’t really apply because they are based on real-world organizations and events.

    20. Shannon Love Says:

      Dan Tdaxp,

      Why wouldn’t an organization hostile to a state form client relationships with other powers also hostile to a state?

      It’s all a matter of scale. You seem to argue that state support is very minor and that neutralizing it will not have a major impact on the outcome of the conflict. I argue that state support is major and that neutralizing it will have a major impact on the outcome of the conflict. The myth of stateless actor causes strategic planners, especially political ones, to ignore state support when formulating counter-strategies.

      This is just as insightful as critiquing a BusinessWeek article that talks about Nike as not a manufacturing company, and saying “A ha! But they have contracts with manufacturing companies!”

      It is insightful if all of Nike’s competitors have been basing their strategy on the belief that Nike just pulls their products out of thin air. Competitors would give up the fight because how could they compete against a company that doesn’t have manufacturing cost. In the same way, the myth of the Stateless actor creates the idea that 4GWGs cannot be defeated because they have no territories or national interest to attack.

      Neutralizing State support or controlling the territorial base will cripple or destroy most supposed 4GWGs, yet the myth of the Stateless Actors leads planners to not even attempt to do so. That is why it is important to give state support the proper emphasis.

    21. John Jay Says:

      Shannon- I agree. China was a mish-mash of warfare styles, and people who point to it as an example of 4GW often leave out important bits.

      I’m not sure the support needs to come from a state per se, just from a very wealthy patron with cover in their home state – see the Saudi religious schools that train terrorists around the world, and also see the Irish-American supporters of the IRA.

      One true 4GW arena was Lithuania post-WWII. See how far the Forest Brothers got when British and Swedish support dried up.

    22. veryretired Says:

      I was going to stay out of this argument because Shannon was doing very well on his own and certainly didn’t need my poor support, but I ran across a little tidbit yesterday that compels me to mention it.

      I keep a book in the car to read while I’m waiting for the kids or some such, and these days it’s an interesting history called “Postwar, Europe from 1945”. In a discussion of Stalin and the various eastern European countries the SU occupied after WW2, there is a section concerning Yugoslavia and Tito.

      In a footnote, the author states that Tito was supporting the Greek communist insurgents. As some part of the complex dispute with Stalin as to whose views should prevail in the Balkans, Tito closed the border with Greece, cutting off their supplies. The Greek insurgency then shrivelled up and collapsed.

      Obviously, the author had no intention of supporting any side of an argument about 4GW, nor, it is obvious from the context, did he think this observation was at all controversial. It is just clear to him that the Greek insurgency was part of a larger conflict, and the Greek communists rebels were an appendage, not a whole entity in and of themselves.

      One of the falsehoods, or myths, to be kind, that was repeated endlessly during the Cold War was that each of the various marxist insurrections around the globe was entirely indigenous and self-initiated, and that saying they were merely proxies was paranoid.

      Sure enough, when the SU collapsed, suddenly all these “indigenous” marxist groups collapsed also, or morphed into the criminal drug gangs we now see in various places, and their strident marxist rhetoric seemed to fade off. Only recently has marxist cant become popular again, in the case of Chavez and his cronies, fueled by oil money from Venezuela and the ME.

      There is a certain intellectual position with some degree of popularity in the west, and especially among the elites in the US, that holds that the US military is hopelessly out of date and ignorant of this or that; that military people are stupid and uninformed; that military planning, logistics, and tactics are all disasters, and so on. The shorthand comedic line was always, “military intelligience—isn’t that an oxymoron?”

      Odd how they keep winning on the battlefield, while the academics and politicians who scorn them keep losing their parts of the fight, or capitulating without a fight, which is even worse.

      Criticism in an open society is always welcome and constructive. Snobbish disdain is not.

    23. zenpundit Says:

      Veryretired

      Not sure who the author of your history happens to be but Tito, who was indeed in a serious dispute with Stalin over the Balkans at the time, was supportng the Greek Communists in defiance of Stalin, not the reverse. The Greek civil war was a nasty business and the Communists were outfought by the Greek government with British and American support.

      We seem to have a basic dispute here on this thread as to what 4GW means. It does not mean all insurgencies since the dawn of time or at least those since the onset of Western civilization. If Shannon wants to discuss the history of guerilla warfare or China’s warlord era, fine, those are interesting subjects, but it isn’t what she claimed to be critiquing.

      Nor are state sponsors running al Qaida, the Chechen guerillas, the Islamic Courts Union, Islamist terror groups in Indonesia and so on.

    24. Shannon Love Says:

      Zenpundit,

      We seem to have a basic dispute here on this thread as to what 4GW means.

      Well, I did provide a link in the parent post to Wikipedia entry which I think pretty much covers the popular and politically significant definition of 4GW.

      If we move to the strict academic definition of 4GW then no true 4GW groups have existed or, if we are generous, have only existed for the last 10 years or so. In either of these case, we really don’t have enough experience with 4GW to say anything about its real-world effectiveness.

      Nor are state sponsors running al Qaida, the Chechen guerillas, the Islamic Courts Union, Islamist terror groups in Indonesia and so on.

      As I have argued above, Al-Queda did receive significant state support and the loss of that support crippled the organization. Al-Queda evolved directly out of the organization created by US and Saudi intelligence to fight the Soviets in the Afghanistan. After the Cold War it continued to receive direct support from the Saudis until sometime in the early 90’s. After it carried out attacks within Saudi Arabia the Saudi government officially severed all ties. Al-Queda then shifted its physical base to Sudan and then to Afghanistan where it became an arm of the Taliban government. While operating from within a State, Al-Queda carried out several grandiose attacks. After the lose of the base they were reduced to minor scattered attacks.

      Today, the Chechen Islamist are support covertly by Iran according to both American and Russian sources and they received direct support from the Taliban regime prior to their overthrow.

      So even if we do restrict out scope to Islamist groups who have arisen in the last 10 years or so we see a pattern of vital state support. Groups that don’t get such support remain firmly in the regional minor leagues.

    25. zenpundit Says:

      Hi Shannon,

      “If we move to the strict academic definition of 4GW then no true 4GW groups have existed or, if we are generous, have only existed for the last 10 years or so.”

      Yes, agreed. Lind, Wilcox etc. essentially wrote in 1989 and Van Creveld in the early 1990’s that such groups would be emerging due to changes in the global strategic environment, not that they were already here.

      “Al-Queda evolved directly out of the organization created by US and Saudi intelligence to fight the Soviets in the Afghanistan.”

      The United States did not create al Qaida, or at least no credible source that I am aware of has provided any such evidence.

      Secondly, the role of Abdullah Azzam and Bin Laden during the Soviet War has been wildly blown out of proportion to their actual importance at the time, even amongst the Arab volunteers who composed an insignificant fraction of Mujahedin fighters ( a few thousand across a ten year span vs. multiple hundreds of thousands of Afghans). The “Arab Afghans” made no military difference in the war except as a show of Muslim solidarity and a conduit for donations and were regarded, according to Steve Coll, as something of a nuisance at times to Mujahedin commanders.

      The Taliban, by contrast, was a postwar creation of Pakistan’s ISI and had Pakistani military advisers and personnel in their drive to conquer Afghanistan as well as initially generous financial support from Saudi intelligence and the House of Saud. Both relationships began to fray after the al Qaida-Taliban alliance strengthened ( in my view, the dominant partner was al Qaida, ideologically, militarily and financially, not the Taliban militia).

      Likewise, even early on, bin Laden had proven able to use his financial resources to strategically influence weak states like Sudan, by influencing ideologically sympathetic leaders like Turabi. It did not work that way with Carlos the Jackal, George Habash or Abu Nidal. They were proxies, al Qaida is not.

    26. Shannon Love Says:

      Zenpundit,

      The United States did not create al Qaida…

      I didn’t intend to imply that we did but it is true that Al-Queda seems to evolved directly out off the nameless organization that we used to help fight the Soviets. The Saudis exported a lot of hot heads to Afghanistan (probably hoping they would be killed) and after the war they took their training, contacts and existing organization and built Al-Queda. My point here was to show that Al-Queda did not arise ex nullo but rather that evolved directly out of a previous state sponsored organization.

      They were proxies, al Qaida is not.

      I didn’t say that they were. In the case of Al-Queda I argued that they had a significant territorial base and that they lost a great deal of effectiveness when they lost that base. Clearly, al-Queda functioned as an integral component of the Taliban regime within Afghanistan itself. Exactly, what the scope of their internal power was is largely unimportant for this discussion. The importance of Afghanistan to the myth is that it shows the degree to which having a state sponsor/territorial base is to supposed 4GWGs and how much its hurts them to have it attacked and lost.

      You may recall that some people opposed the liberation of Afghanistan because they believed such action useless because Al-Queda was a “stateless” entity. Well, they were wrong.

      To repeat myself, my interest lays in getting people to discard the myth of the stateless entity and to instead focus strategic planning on identify state support/territory that can be attacked or neutralized as an essential component of any successful victory.

    27. veryretired Says:

      Zenpundit,

      Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945 by Tony Judt, p141,

      “Tito’s provocative encouragement to the Greek insurgents thus annoyed Stalin—who rightly reasoned that without Yugoslav assistance the Greek imbroglio would long since have resolved itself peacefully(5)—and alienated him still further from his Balkan acolyte.”

      5) When Tito closed the Greek land border with Yugoslavia in July 1949, following his break with Stalin, the Greek Communist resistance collapsed almost immediately.

      If you wish to argue with the author, go right ahead. If you merely wish to make condescending noises, suit yourself.

    28. zenpundit Says:

      “If you wish to argue with the author, go right ahead. If you merely wish to make condescending noises, suit yourself.”

      If Judt was here, I might as the Greek communists did not “collapse almost immediately”. Unfortunately for me, all I have here is you.

      Thank you though for the cite. Sweeping continental histories are great but they can also lend themselves to gross simplifications, which Judt or his editor employed here. If Judt were writing a history of the Greek Civil War, I’m sure he’d have had a lot more to say. I stand by my previous comments.