The following is a piece Mr. Lind published previously in The American Conservative magazine, originally titled “Rage Against the Machine” (January 13, 2003). Here he discusses the numerous negative paradigm shifts likely to be consequences of society’s uncritical embrace of new technologies. We are grateful to The American Conservative for permission to republish this piece.


Russell Kirk, who may have been the only conservative in the post-war American conservative movement, forbad the importation of television sets into his ancestral manse, Piety Hill. One day, in his absence, his wife and daughters smuggled one in. Dr. Kirk discovered it, and they in turn soon discovered him, high in the tower with television in hand, pitching it off the roof.

Television, like all virtual realities, comes from Hell. (The author of this piece, having hosted several television programs, knows how difficult it is to use the medium for good; in effect, one has to do bad television.) Earlier generations of conservatives knew instinctively that machines could be Hellish, and they regarded innovative technologies with distrust.

It is perhaps a measure of how much conservatism has withered away that most American conservatives now welcome any new technology that comes along. They love cell phones, which destroy what little is left of the public space. They gush over genetic engineering, which will create weapons that bring back the Black Death. Most of all, they embrace computers and all their progeny even though, all around us, our fellow subjects of Heaven are using them to create virtual realities they can inhabit almost full-time. (Fortunately, they still have to eat.)

The first Christian principle, and the first principle of Western civilization, is that there is and can be only one reality. If there can be multiple realities, we lose both Jerusalem and Athens. If there can be more than one reality, there can be more than one God; so falls Jerusalem and monotheism. If there can be more than one reality, what is logical in one means nothing in others, where logic itself may not hold; so falls Athens and reason. All things are indeed relative where realities proliferate.

Hell has always hated reality, for in the real world, Christ is King. Old Screwtape’s problem, for millennia, was that philosophy made a poor weapon against reality. Even Hell’s most sophisticated philosophical device, ideology, fell sure prey to reality, seldom lasting more than a couple of generations. His Wormship knew that he needed a more powerful and enduring weapon than philosophy could provide. He needed convincing but false images of the true: virtual realities.

Virtual realities existed, to be sure. Nero’s Domus Aurea was one; Marie Antoinette’s life as a shepherdess another. Military headquarters were often wonderful generators of virtual reality. (We now flood ours with computers, making the problem worse.) But these took great power and vast resources to create and were also impossible to sustain.

If Hell were to triumph over reality and make it stick—which comes very close to triumphing over God—it needed to find a mechanism that could create powerful, compelling virtual realities, proliferate them widely, and enable people to live in them, self-convincingly, most of the time. And then, brilliantly, Hell’s workshops begat the cathode ray tube and the video screen.

It is clear that many modern people live lives where the video screen, in all its many variants, is the dominating reality. (Perhaps we should borrow here from Derrida and write reality.) Televisions are on and squawking throughout the house, from rising through going to bed. The children spend countless hours with their video games; sunny days are irrelevant. The adults’ version is the Internet, whose most common use is for pornography. All offer alternate realities, an ever growing variety of them, all getting better and better in their ability to seem real. First they are alluring, then satisfying, and finally compulsive. Snap! Go the jaws of Hell.

If most conservatives were still conservative, they would find this troubling. Some do find the content of many virtual realities discomfiting; the Roman arena begins to pale in comparison. But few seem to see that the Reality Principle (Marcuse’s old enemy) is itself at stake. Is watching a Mass on television the same as going to Mass? No. Is knowing that it is a fine day in Ouagadougou the same as enjoying a fine day in the park? Again, no. Is watching people on a video screen the same as knowing actual people? No, indeed. But in more and more lives, the virtual is replacing the real.

And the image is substituting itself for the Word, the Logos. The West spent three thousand years struggling to substitute the Word for the image. The war of the Word against the image is perhaps the most basic theme of the Old Testament. Thousands of Christians gave their lives in that fight. Now, thanks to the video screen, history is running backwards because on video screens images are far more powerful than words. Not surprisingly, paganism is on the rise, beyond and within the Church.

If conservatives cannot see the danger in the thing itself, in the substitution of the false for the true, one would expect they would at least, be alarmed that all virtual realities are subject to manipulation. Today, in America, most of them are manipulated, deliberately and systematically, to serve the ideology of cultural Marxism, a.k.a. political correctness. Thus we get endless television programs and video games where men are puny and women strong (they beat up the men), muggers are white and doctors are black, and the only normal-seeming white males are homosexuals. Thanks to virtual realities, the entertainment industry has become the most powerful force in American culture, and it is largely owned by the cultural Marxists. Through it, cultural Marxism does what it is supposed to do, psychologically condition. Soon enough, in any life where virtual realities hold sway, anyone who dares think that maybe Western civilization really is superior looks in the mirror and sees “another Hitler.” Does the prospect of Brave New World not bother conservatives anymore?

The answer to all the above, from many technology-addicted conservatives, is that computers and their ilk provide wonderful sources of information. That is undoubtedly true. But it raises a further, very conservative, question: is information itself all that wonderful?

I often lecture to young people, college grads, usually on military topics. They are adept at the information technologies, having imbibed them as their mother’s milk. The problem, to put it bluntly, is that most of them cannot think. They cannot think because of information, not because of a lack of it.

An Amish friend of mine, David Klein, put it well as we talked under the trees of his Wayne County, Ohio, farmyard this past summer. Using information technologies, he said, is like trying to build a car by reaching blindly into a vast dumpster and using as parts whatever comes to hand. That is how these young minds work. They cannot grasp any sort of intellectual order or framework. All they have ever encountered are bits and pieces of this and that, spewed randomly out of some cosmic, universal vending machine. It is not simply that things do not make sense; these young people have no concept of things making sense. As Ortega warned would happen, they have become technologically competent barbarians.

Again, an earlier generation of conservatives would have understood. When life is, in effect, an endless process of interruption, thought, as we traditionally knew it, becomes impossible. Western thought is linear, but “information” is chaotic. More, thought requires being alone with your thoughts, something the technologically dependent can neither attain nor abide.

Just as intellectual chaos is normal to the information generation, so is their lowly status as humble servants to lumps of beige plastic. I will confess that a year ago, I was browbeaten by my office into putting a fax machine in my summer home in Ohio. It was more demanding than a cat. Unless I met its every beeped and coded wish, and they were many, it refused to work. (Even a neglected cat will still catch mice.) This summer, I realized I was the servant and it the master and resolved this inversion of the natural order in Kirkian fashion, by taking a sledgehammer to it. Its human replacement, a FedEx courier, does the same job with far less trouble.

But rebellion of this sort lies far outside the ken of those who worship the computer and its siblings. They cannot imagine lives without their machines, even though we lived such lives (quite nicely, too) just a few decades ago. No sabot in the gears for them; without their calculators, they cannot even add. Go to the bank some fine day and ask the young teller to do something that “isn’t in the computer,” and she will look at you with great, cow eyes.

Conservatives used to know that information does not equal knowledge and that knowledge does not equal understanding. (T.S. Eliot had something to say on the matter.) The transitions require thought, and computers, in both their informational and virtual reality guises, are enemies of thought. Thought only works if it is unplugged.

Clausewitz and Boyd: The Case for a Defensive Grand Strategy

The following is a piece Mr. Lind published previously in The American Conservative magazine, originally titled “Strategic Defense Initiative” (November, 2004). In it he makes the case for a paradigm shift in America’s grand strategy. As this article is germane to this website, we thought it worth republishing. We are are grateful to The American Conservative for permission to do so.


In the cacophony of an election year, one matter of prime importance seemed to be agreed by all parties: in the so-called War on Terror, America must remain on the offensive. Immediately before George W. Bush’s State of the Union speech, the White House released as an excerpt, “America is on the offensive against the terrorists.” Speaking to the Congress of Tomorrow in Philadelphia later the same month, Bush said, “No question, we will win the war on terror by staying on the offensive. This administration and this leadership is committed to making sure we stay on the offensive against the terrorists.” He told the American Legion, “We’re on the offensive against terror, and we will stay on the offensive against terror.” Following the Madrid railway bombings, the Washington Post reported, “Bush’s aides said he began talking to other world leaders about his determination to remain on the offensive in the war on terrorism.” It sounded as if the ghost of von Schlieffen prowled the halls of the Bush White House.

The offensive strategic orientation of John Kerry was subtler but present nonetheless. In March 2004, speaking to the International Association of Firefighters, Kerry said, “I do not fault George Bush for doing too much in the War on Terror; I believe he’s done too little.” And in a speech at Drake University in December 2003, where he laid out a broad foreign-policy vision, Kerry said, “From the Battle of Belleau Wood to the Battle of the Bulge, from Korea to Kosovo, the story of the last century is of an America that accepted the heavy responsibility of its historic obligation—to serve as not just a beacon of hope, but to work with allies across the world to defend and extend the frontiers of freedom…To provide responsible leadership, we need … a bold, progressive internationalism—backed by undoubted military might—that commits America to lead in the cause of human liberty and prosperity.” This is strong Wilsonianism, which by its nature puts America on the strategic offensive.

There is little doubt that “being on the offensive” sounded good to most voters. But if the objective is to design a strategy that brings victory in the War on Terror, a different approach may have much to recommend it. That oft-quoted if seldom read Prussian, Carl von Clausewitz, believed that the defensive was the stronger form of war.

Early in his book On War (a German friend has a first edition; he notes, “It is in perfect condition. It was in a regimental library, so it was never touched.”), Clausewitz writes, “defense is simply the stronger form of war, the one that makes the enemy’s defeat more certain … We maintain unequivocally that the form of warfare that we call defense not only offers greater probability of victory than attack, but that its victories can attain the same proportions and results.” In a direct swipe at most of what is being said and written at present, he perorates, “So in order to state the relationship precisely, we must say that the defensive form of warfare is intrinsically stronger than the offensive [emphasis in original]. This is the point that we have been trying to make, for although it is implicit in the nature of the matter and experience has confirmed it again and again, it is at odds with prevalent opinion, which proves how ideas can be confused by superficial writers.” And, perhaps, by candidates for high political office.

What might a defensive strategy in America’s War on Terror look like? Before we can approach that question, we must address two other points. First, the threat America faces is not merely terrorism, which is only a technique. The threat is Fourth Generation warfare, which is a vastly broader phenomenon. Fourth Generation war marks the greatest dialectically qualitative change in the conduct of war since the Peace of Westphalia that ended the Thirty Years War in 1648. It has three central characteristics:

  • The loss of the state’s monopoly on war and on the first loyalty of its citizens and the rise of non-state entities that command people’s primary loyalty and that wage war. These entities may be gangs, religions, races and ethnic groups within races, localities, tribes, business enterprises, ideologies—the variety is almost limitless;
  • A return to a world of cultures, not merely states, in conflict; and
  • The manifestation of both developments—the decline of the state and the rise of alternate, often cultural, primary loyalties—not only “over there,” but in America itself.

Second, no state armed forces know how to defeat Fourth Generation opponents militarily, and thus far none have been able to do so. Politically, the most fundamental characteristic of the Fourth Generation, a crisis of legitimacy of the state, is not recognized in any national capital. Combined, these two facts render many states extraordinarily vulnerable to Fourth Generation opponents.

Col. John Boyd, USAF, America’s greatest military theorist, defined grand strategy as the art of connecting to as many other independent power centers as possible, while isolating the enemy from as many independent power centers as possible. The grand strategic question facing the U.S. is how to do that in a 21st century that will increasingly be dominated by non-state, Fourth Generation forces.

The answer begins by considering why the state first arose toward the end of the 15th century. Medieval Europe was a highly ordered, cultured, and successful society. It was brought down primarily by the plague, a point of more than historical interest in a world where many non-state forces may be able to carry out biological attacks. After the medieval order fell, it was succeeded by disorder, which led naturally to a strong desire for order, which in time was supplied by the state.

As we already see in those parts of the world such as West Africa where the state is disappearing, the state, like the medieval world, is followed by disorder. A Fourth Generation world will be one where disorder spreads like mold in a damp bathroom.

What does Colonel Boyd’s definition of grand strategy mean in such a world? It means America’s grand strategy should seek to connect our country with as many centers and sources of order as possible while isolating us from as many centers and sources of disorder as possible. This is the only reasonable chance of preserving something called the “United States” in a 21st century dominated by Fourth Generation war. And, as we will see, it leads toward a defensive, not offensive, military strategy.

What do we mean by centers and sources of order? First, places where the state still stands. The state arose to bring order, and in portions of the world it continues to do so. While the crisis of legitimacy of the state is universal, that does not mean it will everywhere reach catastrophic proportions. Those places where the state endures not simply as an empty form will remain centers of (relative) order. America is already connected to those places in a wide variety of ways and should strive to remain so. Actions such as the war in Iraq that tend to isolate us from successful states run counter to our interests.

In a Fourth Generation world, surviving states will not be the only centers of order. One of the central characteristics of the Fourth Generation is a return to a world where culture will often be more significant than statehood, and some cultures tend toward order. An example is Chinese culture, which extends well beyond the borders of the Chinese state. Order is the highest Chinese virtue; so, at least, Confucianism would suggest.

As people around the world transfer their primary loyalty from the state to a wide variety of other entities, some of these entities may also emerge as sources of order. Religions may become sources of order; we see that happening today as Christianity grows in places of chronic disorder such as Africa. Ideologies may be centers of order, depending on the ideology. Businesses and other commercial undertakings may be sources of order. So might mercenary armies. Because some, perhaps many, sources of order in the 21st century will not be states and may even appear strange or disreputable, the people who run foreign ministries may find it difficult to imagine building connectivity to them. But that is one of the novel actions the Fourth Generation will require.

One of the primary centers of disorder in the 21st century will be failed states—areas where the state has either disappeared or become simply one more criminal gang among many. Current examples include much of Africa, Somalia, Mesopotamia (following America’s destruction of the Iraqi state), Afghanistan, parts of the former Soviet Union, and the West Bank of the Jordan River. These areas represent the future for much of the world. Just as some cultures are likely to be centers of order, others will be centers or sources of disorder. One culture provides an example of the fact that centers and sources of disorder may not be identical—Islam. Because Islam is a religion of rules, it is capable of providing internal order in Islamic societies. As Robert Kaplan has noted, a stranger with a fat wallet can walk safely through some of the poorest Islamic slums. Islam, however, is likely to be one of the principal sources of disorder in a Fourth Generation world, even while some parts of the Islamic world may be centers of order. The reason is that Islam demands its believers wage endless jihad in the dar al harb, the non-Islamic world (literally the “world of war”), and a world where the state is weakening will be a happy hunting ground. The long-standing Arab military tradition of irregular light cavalry warfare is especially well suited when adapted with modern technologies and carried out at operational and strategic levels. Indeed, that is much of what Washington now calls terrorism.

One important way in which centers of disorder will also act as sources of disorder will be by producing hordes of refugees and emigrants. It is natural to flee disorder. But as some European countries have already discovered, accepting refugees from centers of disorder imports disorder. Just as people from highly ordered cultures, such as Germans or Scandinavians, take order with them wherever they go, so people from disordered places are bearers of chaos. The ways of life necessary for survival in centers of disorder—lying, cheating, stealing, and killing—become habits, and they are not easily left behind.

Other centers and sources of disorder will to some extent mirror centers of order: religions, ideologies, commercial enterprises (the drug trade is already a powerful example), mercenaries, and so on. One source of disorder that will not have a mirror image is disease. Centers of disorder will become breeding grounds for plagues and diseases of every sort, and some of them will travel well. West Nile virus is already a growing concern in the U.S. and it is merely the forerunner of a vast Pandora’s box. The fact that some diseases may be genetically engineered as weapons of war will make the danger all the greater.

The Bush administration appears to recognize dimly that the fundamental fault line of the 21st century will be that between order and disorder. In his Sept. 25, 2003 speech to the United Nations, Bush declared, “Events during the past two years have set before us the clearest of divides, between those who seek order and those who spread chaos.” The administration errs in assuming that the forces of order are the stronger party, and this assumption underlies its offensive strategy. But because the root of Fourth Generation war lies in a crisis of legitimacy of the state, and the state is still the main agent of order in the world, the forces of order in the 21st century will be weaker than the forces of disorder. When the Bush administration decided to invade Iraq, it assumed order would be easy to maintain or restore because the Iraqi state would endure. The actual effect of the invasion was to destroy the Iraqi state and replace it with chaos.

This brings us to the next question: what do we mean by “connect” and “isolate”? Connection is easy enough to understand. Goods, money, people, and ideas all flow freely with minimal barriers. Americans view those to whom we are connected as friends, extending help in times of need and also asking for and receiving assistance, including in war. Commercially, we buy their products and sometimes they even buy ours.

“Isolate” is more difficult to understand, in part because in the lexicon of the present foreign-policy establishment, “isolationism” is a term of opprobrium. But as America learned on Sept. 11, a Fourth Generation world will be a place where our physical security will depend on our ability and willingness to isolate ourselves from certain forces.

What isolation means will vary from case to case, but in some situations it will require actions that appear harsh by current standards. For example, we may find it necessary to prohibit people from certain places from entering the U.S. We may need to profile on a variety of bases, including religious belief and ethnic origin. Isolation may also inflict hardships on Americans, as when we must avoid becoming dependent on imports such as Middle Eastern oil.

In general, isolation will mean minimizing contacts that involve flows of people, money, materials, and new primary loyalties, such as religions and ideologies, into the United States. Flows in the other direction will generally be less dangerous, except for the fact that one-way relationships are difficult to sustain. They tend to become reciprocal, which means importing danger. Americans will require a newfound self-discipline in a Fourth Generation world, realizing they cannot have it all (and have it cheaply) without creating serious threats to America’s homeland security.

In terms of foreign relations, isolation will more often apply to regions where the state is weak or has vanished. But it will sometimes be necessary for us to isolate ourselves from other states, especially states that exist in form but not in reality. Unfortunately, friendly relations will leave open the door to the non-state elements that are the real powers within the hollow form of the other state, and those powers may be threats to us. Saudi Arabia may soon be a state that falls in this category.

How does this isolate the enemy, which in our strategy means centers and sources of disorder, from other independent power centers? Here, our proposed grand strategy works indirectly, in a way John Boyd might appreciate. To use one of his favorite expressions, it folds the enemy back on himself.

As the offensive strategy of the Bush administration has demonstrated, when we choose to engage centers and sources of disorder, attacking them militarily or demanding reforms inconsistent with their cultures, we provide an external threat against which they can unite. Conversely, if we isolate ourselves from them, we will help them focus on and thus accentuate their internal contradictions. This is a classic case of inaction being a form of action.The Islamic world offers an example. Islam mandates jihad against all non-Islamics, which means Islam will always be a threat to the U.S. But Islam itself is also riven with internal conflicts. Those internal conflicts are now minimized because Islamics can call for unity against an external threat. Even so, internal conflicts persist: many Shi’ite Iraqis blame car bombings in Shi’ite areas on Wahhabi Muslims.In Terror’s Mask: Insurgency Within Islam, Michael Vlahos argues that what we are seeing in the Islamic world today follows an age-old pattern. Purist elements arise that accuse existing Islamic governments of straying from Islam; they triumph, only to find that pure Islam cannot govern; attempting to make things work, they also become corrupt; and new purist elements gather to bring about their overthrow. This cycle could work to America’s advantage if she isolated herself from it, because it focuses Islamic energies inward. As Boyd would say, it tends to fold Islam back on itself.

What are the implications for the conduct of strategy, the military component of grand strategy?

First, note that no strategy is a hard and fast rule that can be applied mechanically. Strategy is an art; its conduct, as Helmuth von Moltke said, is a matter of expedients. In the conduct of strategy, the engineering approach to problems favored by Americans is not useful. Past attempts along engineering lines, such as the Weinberger Doctrine and the Powell Doctrine, resulted only in pseudo-strategies that were useless in the real world. Real strategies do not seek to create templates but rather inform and shape specific actions, harmonizing them and giving them a coherence that will often be visible only in retrospect.

Within this context, one of the first implications of our recommended grand strategy is that America’s current military strategy—a strong strategic offensive coupled with a weak tactical offensive—is wrong. Strategically, we are launching military attacks on perceived opponents worldwide, or at least threatening to do so, under a doctrine of preventive war. But tactically, our attacks are weak because it is relatively easy for our real enemies, non-state forces, to sidestep them.

Both Afghanistan and Iraq provide examples. America took the strategic military offensive, invading both countries. But in Afghanistan, on the tactical level, both al-Qaeda and the Taliban survived our attempts to destroy them and are now coming back. The reason they could do so is that our Second Generation armed forces fight by putting firepower on targets, and Fourth Generation forces are very good at making themselves untargetable. Even in Operation Anaconda, when al-Qaeda stood and fought, the inability of the Second Generation American Army to fight a battle of encirclement (something that is central to Third Generation tactics) allowed the enemy to escape with small losses.

The situation in Iraq is similar. For the most part, the Iraqi armed forces did not contest our advance to Baghdad. Whether that was part of their strategy is not yet known. But the result was to leave those forces alive and armed to serve as a basis for a guerrilla war. The non-state forces that are emerging from the wreckage of the Iraqi state are proving to be as untargetable as those in Afghanistan.

Instead of a strategic military offensive coupled with a weak tactical offensive, our grand strategy would urge a strategic military defensive coupled with a powerful strategic and tactical counter-offensive. In simple terms, this means we would leave centers and sources of disorder alone militarily (and in other ways) unless they attacked us. But if they attacked us, our response would be Roman, which is to say annihilating.

The logic of a defensive strategy is almost self-evident. If our grand strategic goal is to connect ourselves to order while isolating ourselves from disorder, we will not want to undertake military offensives aimed at other states that are themselves centers of (again, relative) order. If successful, such offensives will usually result in the destruction of the opposing state and its reduction to a new center of stateless disorder. Offensives against centers and sources of disorder run directly contrary to the goal of isolating ourselves from them. As we see both in Afghanistan and in Iraq, the most thorough way to enmesh ourselves in a center of disorder is to invade and occupy it. A strategically defensive military posture is a necessary outgrowth from our recommended grand strategy.

The second part of our prescription, an annihilating counteroffensive, needs some elaboration. Here again, Clausewitz is helpful:

What is the concept of defense? The parrying of a blow. What is its characteristic feature? Awaiting the blow. It is this feature that turns any action into a defensive one; it is the only test by which defense can be distinguished from attack in war. Pure defense, however, would be completely contrary to the idea of war, since it would mean that only one side was waging it. Therefore, defense in war can only be relative, and the characteristic feature of waiting should be applied only to the basic concept, not to all of its components.

The challenge facing an annihilating counterstroke is not theoretical but practical: how do we accomplish it? There may be some instances in which our Second Generation armed forces can do it, for example by carpet bombing from B-52s. Should we ever succeed in transitioning the American armed services to the Third Generation, more options would open up, such as large-scale battles of encirclement. But in some cases, unconventional weapons will have to be employed.

When that is the case, it will be imperative that the employment of unconventional weapons follows instantly after a successful attack on the United States. As Machiavelli would understand, such a reaction must appear to be a “spasm” on our part, not a calculated act. In 1914, had Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia within 48 hours of the assassination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand, she might well have gotten away with it. While the world, in shock over the 9/11 attack, might have accepted an apparent American spasm with unconventional weapons, it also might have objected that any first use of such weapons would be the end of efforts to stop the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

But in fact, from a Fourth Generation perspective, the genie of WMD is already out of the bottle. The Fourth Generation threat is not states delivering nuclear weapons by ballistic missile but non-state actors developing genetically engineered plagues that can be delivered anonymously by shipping container (small nuclear weapons, bought or stolen, may come the same way). The technology already exists, and unlike that required to build nuclear weapons, it does not require much in the way of facilities. It is knowledge based, and the knowledge is or soon will be universally available. Such plagues can be more, not less, devastating than nuclear weapons.

A defensive military strategy that includes an annihilating counterattack is consistent with our grand strategy of isolating centers and sources of disorder while folding them back on themselves, yet it runs no danger of being perceived as weakness on our part. On the contrary, it both demonstrates and demands more strength of will than is currently evident in the Washington establishment, in either political party.

The next implication, or perhaps precondition, of our grand strategy is one that is very difficult, yet essential, to grasp. America itself may not remain a center of order in a Fourth Generation world. As dangerous as the importation of Fourth Generation war into America is, more dangerous still is the Fourth Generation war that America may develop from within.

To survive the crisis of legitimacy of the state that lies at the heart of Fourth Generation war, a state needs two qualities: an open political system and a unitary culture. At present, America has a closed political system, dominated by an establishment that is in essence a single political party, and she is pursuing a policy of multiculturalism that enhances and exacerbates cultural frictions. While an open political system and a unitary culture are to some degree fungible—Japan’s unitary culture will probably allow the Japanese state to survive despite its closed political system, while Switzerland’s open political system preserves legitimacy despite three distinct cultures—any state that has neither is likely to experience a crisis of legitimacy. At the least, we cannot assume that the United States will not experience such a crisis, to the point where self-generated Fourth Generation war is not even a possibility. Police departments in some large American cities would be quick to note that they are already facing Fourth Generation opponents on the streets.There are, of course, steps the American state could take to minimize the chance of Fourth Generation war developing here. The most urgent is to end the current de facto policy of open immigration. Because multiculturalism works against acculturation of immigrants, mass immigration from other cultures is a clear and present danger in a Fourth Generation world. When large numbers of immigrants retain a primary loyalty to their own cultures rather than to the American state, they provide an ideal base for Fourth Generation war.

More broadly, if America is to avoid Fourth Generation war on her own soil, she needs to address the two origins of the crisis of legitimacy of the state. That means opening up the political system and abandoning multiculturalism for a policy of encouraging what used to be called Americanization (and is in fact the adoption of Anglo-Saxon norms, at least in the public square). Americanization means actions such as restoring America’s public schools as primary centers of acculturation, a role they played effectively a century ago, and making English the only legal language in public business. Opening the political system means actions such as giving third parties a real chance against the two major parties, term limits, putting “none of the above” on the ballots, reducing the power of money in politics (what American politicians call “campaign contributions” are recognized in the rest of the world as bribes), making much more use of ballot initiatives and referenda, and restraining the judiciary from legislating.

On the grand strategic level, where foreign and domestic policy unite, avoiding Fourth Generation war on America’s own soil (regardless of its source) means recognizing that in a Fourth Generation world, the enemy is disorder itself. This does not mean that the answer to the Fourth Generation threat is to increase the raw power of the state through ill-considered legislation such as the Patriot Act. On the contrary, giving the state extraconstitutional powers will exacerbate its crisis of legitimacy. The American Constitution, as it was created and understood by the founders, is a means to a new legitimacy, not an obstacle to it.

America’s ability to prevent the spread of Fourth Generation war elsewhere in the world will be small. Overt American military support to states facing Fourth Generation threats will most often be counterproductive because it will undermine the legitimacy of the government the United States is fighting to uphold. The more relevant question is how an America that has succeeded in avoiding the Fourth Generation at home might relate to a world where the state is generally in decline.

The Islamic world, as noted, may not everywhere be a center of disorder, but it is likely to be a vast source of disorder. Isolating ourselves from it will mean weaning ourselves from dependence on Arab oil (Russian oil could substitute, at least for a while). Because China may be a major center of order in the 21st century, those voices in Washington that see war with China as inevitable represent folly. From a Fourth Generation perspective, America and China are united by the most powerful of all strategic common interests, an interest in the preservation of order. China should be viewed as a strategic ally of the first importance, under any government that can maintain China’s internal unity.

Latin America is likely to be an area where the crisis of legitimacy of the state sharpens and Fourth Generation forces grow more powerful. Isolating the United States from the resulting disorder will above all mean effective immigration control. Africa is already being devoured by Fourth Generation war, which is not surprising in a region where states were never real and most governments are kleptocracies. The rapid spread of Christianity could provide a countervailing force, but Africa’s future is probably war, plague, famine, and death. Isolating America from Africa will be necessary but should not be difficult, barring pure imbecility on the part of American politicians. India’s future is uncertain; her national unity depends on maintaining the veneer of the Raj, which is wearing a bit thin. Isolating America from a disordered India, should India crumble, would not be difficult.

Europe’s future, like that of the United States, is not so assured as some may assume. Europe has imported an enormous source of disorder in the form of immigrants from other cultures, many of them Islamic. It is by no means impossible that the 21st century will see Europe compelled to undertake a second expulsion of the Moors. If Europe is to survive, it will have to bring its birthrate up substantially. Russia is an important part of Europe, and regrettably it is a part where the state is now fragile. The U.S. missed a golden opportunity to forge an enduring, strategic alliance with Russia when Communism fell; to the degree that opportunity has not been lost—largely through inane American actions such as going to war with Serbia on behalf of Islam—it should be pursued.

One theme shines through this brief circumnavigation: the requirement that America not be dependent on any part of the world that is a center or source of disorder. Here, the implication is less for American foreign policy than for American economic policy. While the United States need not pursue a policy of autarky, it does require what might best be termed full economic independence. That is to say, we need to be able to manage on what we’ve got if we have to, in terms both of natural resources and manufacturing capability.

By now, one point should be clear: a defensive strategy oriented toward a Fourth Generation threat leaves us with an entirely different frame of reference from the one that now prevails in Washington. Everything changes, in what would be the greatest alterations in American grand strategy, military strategy, and force structure since 1917.Nothing illustrates better the magnitude of the challenge than the response a defensive strategy and its logical outgrowths would surely elicit from those in power. “Is such a transformation even imaginable politically?” they will ask. Their answer, stated or implied, will be, “Certainly not.” At the same time, the question that the decline of the state, the state’s loss of its monopoly on war, and the rise of the Fourth Generation poses is, “Would even these changes be sufficient to enable the United States to protect itself in a world dominated by Fourth Generation war?” The distance between those two questions measures the likelihood that the American state will survive the 21st century.

The View From Olympus 5: Shooting the Wounded

female marine

The US military suffers from a self-inflicted wound, namely its outdated adherence to Second Generation war. The Obama administration, instead of healing it through military reform, has chosen to put a bullet in its head. How? By admitting women to the combat arms.

No single action could be more destructive of combat effectiveness. Any presence of women in a military is harmful. Putting them into the combat arms undermines unit cohesion, the basis of combat effectiveness, in the few units we have that actually fight. Instead of bonding, the men will fight over the women.

A few years ago, I was visiting a Navy ship whose captain I knew. His crew included women officers. I asked him what the fraternization rate was. After making sure no one could overhear his answer, he replied, “100%, of course. I have male sailors engaging in knife fights over the women officers.”

The July 25 New York Times reported that “Officials from all military service branches told Congress today they can open combat positions to women by 2016 without lowering physical or performance standards.” That is cant. It is not true and both the officers testifying and the Congressmen listening know it is not true.

The feminist script is always the same. First, they demand entry for women into a field that reality dictates must be male. Then, when women can’t hack it, they demand not only entry, but quotas. So many women must graduate; so many must be employed; so many must reach top ranks. That, of course, requires separate standards for men and women.

It doesn’t end there. Next, they demand the atmosphere must be made “comfortable for women,” which is to say the necessarily male cultural environment must be destroyed. In the new, womanized environment, all males are looked upon as “rapists” and “threats to women,” who must be controlled through a Stalinist climate of hostility toward men. Any woman who charges a man with “sexual harassment” is assumed right. The man is presumed guilty unless proven innocent. Sexual harassment can be anything the woman wants it to be, including just a “feeling.”

I once asked a friend who is a retired Army command sergeant major how they disciplined the women. He replied, “You can’t. If you try, they charge you with sexual harassment.” I said, “Then how do you get them to do what you need them to do?” He said, “We don’t. We just let them do whatever they want.”

If a military is to fight, its culture must be male. To womanize its culture is to destroy it. Several years ago, after the Army had incorporated large number of women, it took a survey. The question was, “Is the Army’s main purpose to fight?” Two-thirds of the women, and already at that point one-third of the men, said no. Womanization was well underway.

A womanized military will end up the Episcopal Church in uniform. The only men left will be gays and wimps.

The feminsts know that forcing women into a military will destroy it. That is their objective. They seek to destroy every entity that has a male culture. While 19th century feminism was pro-family, today’s feminism has been totally subsumed by cultural Marxism. Its goal is “negation;” bringing everything down. (If you want a more detailed account of why womanizing a military destroys it, see Martin van Creveld’s book, Men, Women and War.)

Does the senior military leadership not know any of this? Are they such babes in the woods that the feminist agenda is new to them? Of course they know. But they became senior leaders by bending to the political winds, not defying them. To my knowledge, not one has resigned in protest over the womanizing of our military since the process began. None has done so over this final nail in the coffin, putting women in the combat arms.

Ten years from now, what are infantrymen supposed to do when their new female platoon leader, who had to be given her billet to meet a quota, can’t keep up? Carry her?

The View From Olympus 4: Calling Mr. Holmes

The Marine Corps considers itself America’s premier fighting force, and on the whole I would agree. It attracts the best recruits; Marine Boot Camp remains rigorous; it has, at least on paper, a Third Generation doctrine of maneuver warfare. From the mid 1970s up through much of the 1990s it earned a reputation as the most intellectual American armed service. Marines read serious books, and the Marine Corps Gazette was widely regarded as the best American military journal.

It is therefore a mystery how and why “the canon,” the list of seven books which I discussed in my previous column and which take the reader from the First Generation of modern war into the Fourth, disappeared from the Marine Commandant’s official Reading List, a list of books Marines are supposed to know.

The facts are these. The canon was on the previous version of the Commandant’s Reading List. It was put there by the Expeditionary Warfare School, the Marine Corps’ school for captains. While not called “the canon,” the books were in the correct order. When a new version of the list was released by the Commandant in January, they were gone. All of them, including the most important book on war written in the last quarter century, Martin van Creveld’s The Transformation of War, had been deleted.

How did this happen? I have no idea. I doubt the Commandant personally removed them. He may not even have noticed the change. But it is hard to believe no one noticed their absence in all the reviews such a document usually gets.

Why did it happen? Here is where we need our friend Mr. Holmes. It is hard to imagine a motive for an act so damaging to Marines and so embarrassing to the Marine Corps. These seven books aren’t just biographies of Chesty Puller. They contain what Marines most need to know if they are to orient, that word so emphasized by John Boyd, if they are to understand where their institution stands on the historical time-line of modern war and where it needs to go. Put simply, they offer what Marines need to know to win.

The authors are all highly respected scholars. Robert Doughty, the top American expert on the French Army in the 20th century (from which we learned our current way of war) was the chairman of the History Department at West Point. Bruce Gudmundsson, whose Stormtroop Tactics is the best book on the inception of maneuver warfare, teaches at Quantico. Marin Samuels is, as Bruce puts it, the one Englishman in his generation who really understands the German Army. Martin van Creveld is the most insightful military historian now writing. He has also taught at the Marine Corps’ schools at Quantico. So why are all these scholars now exiled from the official Marine Corps reading list?

One theory is that, in a masterful example of infiltration at the strategic level, either the Taliban or al Qaeda silently took over Headquarters Marine Corps. They ditched their turbans, got short haircuts, and learned to say “aye aye, sir” without an accent. While this might sound implausible, it does answer the question of motive. Someone who wanted to lead the Marine Corps to defeat would also want to delete the canon from the Commandant’s Reading List. Why would anyone else do something so damaging?

So it is time to call in Mr. Holmes. Perhaps Chesty is the dog that did not bark.

While he is here, we might ask Mr. Holmes to solve another mystery: why, being now 0-4 against Fourth Generation opponents, the Marine Corps is not acting to do anything differently? I suspect the two mysteries may be related. Both point to the theory of Taliban infiltration, since Fourth Generation forces certainly don’t want the Marine Corps to do anything differently. As things now stand, they have the game down pat.

Let’s hope Mr. Holmes will take the job. Both cases seem sufficiently curious to attract his attention. Of course, the Marine Corps will have to break DOD regulations and let him smoke his pipe. No gentleman can think without his pipe. And there’s another mystery for Mr. Holmes attention: how can a military service expect its men not to fear bombs or bullets but to live in mortal terror of “offended” women and second-hand smoke?

The View From Olympus 3: Some 4GW Resources

French tanks move to the front towards Sedan
French tanks move to the front towards Sedan


For those wishing to learn more about the intellectual framework I call the Four Generations of Modern War, some useful resources are available. The first is “the canon,” a series of seven books which, if read in the given order, will take the reader from the First Generation into the Fourth (my colleague Major Greg Thiele, USMC, has an article on the canon in the June 2013 Marine Corps Gazette). The books are:

1) The Enlightened Soldier: Scharnhorst and the Militaerische Gesellschaft in Berlin, 1801-1805 by Charles E. White, (Praeger, Westpower, CT, 1989) Scharnhorst was the key figure in the Prussian military reform movement that rebuilt the Prussian Army after the disastrous defeat of 1806. Without Scharnhorst’s reforms, the German Army would probably not have been able to develop Third Generation war in World War I, more than 100 years later. This is a history not only of adaptation and innovation in the First Generation, but of the importance of ideas in war as well. When I taught a course on the canon for Marine captains at Quantico, one of them said to me, “This book explains why we are reading all the other books.”

2) The Seeds of Disaster: The Development of French Army Doctrine, 1919-1939 by Robert A Doughty (Archon Books, Hamden, CT, 1986) This somewhat dry book is essential to understanding the US military today, because what we think of as “the American way of war” was copied wholesale from the French during and after World War I. Every American officer to whom I lent my copy said on returning it, “This is us.” The reader can skip much of the material on French Army organization; it is the Second Generation doctrine that remains alive today.

3) Stormtroop Tactics: Innovation in the German Army, 1914-1918 by Bruce Gudmundsson (Praeger, Westport, CT, 1989) This is the definitive book in English on the development of Third Generation war by the German Army in World War I. By 1918, Blitzkrieg was conceptually complete, lacking only the means to overcome the defenders’ mobility advantage at the operational level, which is what the Panzer divisions provided in World War II. When I asked General Hermann Balck whether Blitzkrieg was developed mostly 1914-1918 or 1918-1939, he replied, “It was all 1914-1918.” Bruce Gudmundsson co-hosted the Modern War television show with me for several years, and all his work is superb (you can probably still find his excellent “Tactical Notebook” series somewhere on the internet).

4) Command or Control? Command, Training and Tactics in the British and German Armies, 1888-1918, by Martin Samuels (Frank Cass Publishers, London, 1995) This comparison of the Second Generation (sometimes still First) British Army with the Kaiserheer illustrates the differences between the Second and Third Generations.

5) The Breaking Point: Sedan and the Fall of France, 1940, by Robert Doughty (Archon Books, Hamden, CT, 1982) In the 1940 campaign, the Second and Third Generations clashed head-on, and the Second went down to defeat in six weeks (though the French had more and better tanks than the Germans). The crossing of the Meuse at Sedan by Guderian’s XIXth Panzer Corps and its subsequent turn toward the Channel was the decisive point, and this gripping book is the best on the subject. Several years ago I joined the US Army’s Quarterhorse Cav for a staff ride of XIXth Panzer Corps’ campaign through the Ardennes, and only when you see the terrain do you realize how great a risk the Germans took. You also note how, at one critical juncture after another, German junior leaders took the initiative while the French waited for orders.

6) Fighting Power: German and US Army Performance, 1939-1945, by Martin van Creveld (The Free Press, NY, 1991) Martin and I are friends, and as I have told him more than once, this is his second-most important book. It compares the Second Generation US Army and the Third Generation Wehrmacht as institutions, showing the vast differences in institutional culture between the two generations. The Second Generation is inward-focused on procedures, processes, orders and techniques; it is highly centralized; it wants obedience, not initiative (initiative and synchronization are incompatible) and it depends on imposed discipline. The Third Generation is focused outward, on the situation, the enemy and the result the situation requires; it is decentralized in its decision making; it prefers initiative to obedience and it depends on self-discipline. The US military’s greatest shame is that it today remains a Second Generation force, despite the ready availability of books like Fighting Power that clearly show the superiority of the Third Generation. Why is it so out of date? Mostly out of sheer intellectual laziness.

7) The Transformation of War by Marin van Creveld (The Free Press, NY, 1991) Though now more than twenty years old, this remains the best book on Fourth Generation war. As van Creveld says, what changes in the Fourth Generation is not how war is fought, but who fights and what they fight for. It works best to read this book after reading van Creveld’s The Rise and Decline of the State, which gives the history on which Transformation is based. Transformation is not only van Creveld’s most important book, it is also the most important book any serving officer can read. Any country whose officers have not read it is doomed to defeat, which may help explain why we are 0-4 against 4GW opponents.

For those interested in navies, I would add an eight book: The Rules of the Game by Andrew Gordon. The Royal Navy developed and institutionalized Third Generation war in the second half of the 18th century. The Rules of the Game is the story of how and why it lost it again in the 19th century.

Beyond these books, another important resource is the Fourth Generation War Field Manuals of the K.u.K. Austro-Hungarian Marine Corps, which are available here. These FMs were written by a series of seminars on 4GW which I led before my retirement, mostly made up of US Marine Corps officers.

Why were they issued by the Imperial and Royal Austro-Hungarian Marine Corps? Because we could not write official manuals for the US Marine Corps, and also because, as anyone on the traditional right should understand, it is important to keep the old empires alive, even if only as shadows.



The proper conservative response to “gay marriage” is to point out that it is an impossibility. Why? Because a union between two people of the same sex is not what the word means. The definition of marriage as a permanent (in intention) union between a man and one or more women goes back into prehistory. No one generation has the authority to change something so long established. As Chesterton wrote, “Conservatism is democracy that includes the dead.”

Advocates for “gay marriage” will reply, “What do we care about the past? Our radical redefinition of the word ‘marriage’ may not be legitimate, but we have the political and propaganda power to pull it off. What are conservatives going to do about it?”

There may be an answer to that question. The culturally Marxist elite will ensure that people are conditioned, by endless repetition, to accept “gay marriage” as real. As Paul Weyrich and I argued in our last co-authored book, The Next Conservatism, conservatives can only respond effectively by abandoning the institutions—or in this case, a word—the cultural Marxists control and setting up our own parallel institutions. We need a new word for marriage, a word the cultural Marxists cannot take over and pollute.

My suggestion is we adopt the Russian word for marriage. A Russian linguist will have to tell you what that word is; I speak German, not Russian. Conservatives will no longer “marry;” rather, we will (Russian word).

Why use a Russian word? Because Russia—the Russian state and the Russian Orthodox Church—and only Russia can define the meaning of Russian words. Since both state and church are culturally conservative, neither is likely to agree that the Russian word for marriage can mean a union between two people of the same sex. Gays here and elsewhere may of course attempt to steal the word, but Russia, I think, will say they are wrong: the word cannot mean what they are doing.

Once we have a word of our own, just let the gays, sheep, bacteria, whatever have the word “marriage”. There is no way we can take it back and strip it of its pollution; the cultural Marxists control too much of the media for that to be a realistic option. So just let it go. Culturally conservative men and women will designate their lifetime, sacred union before God with a different word. At that point, the gay lobby’s victory over “marriage” will become empty because its intended message, “We can do whatever you do,” will be nullified. Sorry, but no, you can’t.

The View From Olympus 2: Another 4GW Fracture

Image Credit: James Buck on Flickr via Creative Commons
Image Credit: James Buck on Flickr via Creative Commons

Events in Turkey and Egypt have revealed another Fourth Generation fracture line in states, an important and potentially powerful one: rural vs. urban.

In Western societies, because the rural fraction of the population is small, we do not think much about what is in fact a very old, pre-state tension line; that between city dwellers and those who live on the land. Yet in much of the world, the rural population is still a sizable portion of the whole. Rural areas can offer a better base for warfare than cities, in part because of the dispersion and in part because basics, especially food, are more readily available.

City-country tensions often combine with other 4GW fraction lines, each reinforcing the other. Rural people tend to be more conservative culturally and religiously. Urban dwellers are more likely to be globalists, i.e., secular liberals. We see this on prominent display both in Turkey and in Egypt.

In the past, urban-rural conflicts sometimes took the form of peasant revolts. These usually failed, but often terrified those in power; see Martin Luther’s denunciations of the German peasant revolt of his time. At other times, the countryside and the rural population rallied to a conservative leader who had been ousted by liberal, urban elements. The revolt in the Vendée against the French Revolutionary government of the 1790s is an example. That pattern fits the current developments in Egypt, and it suggest a lot of blood may flow.

The urban-rural fracture line, like other pre-state divisions, now finds itself up against states that have already been seriously weakened, both in their ability to function and in their legitimacy. Again, Egypt is the leading example. The Turkish state is functional, but the basis of its legitimacy since Atatürk, secularism and progress, has been repudiated by the current, Islamist government. In terms of legitimacy, that government now has one foot on the dock and one foot on the boat, not a particularly steady position.

I said in an earlier On War column that I expected the Egyptian state to survive, largely because Egypt has had strong central governments for millenia. I am now less certain about that. The rural-urban split in Egypt, which in part parallels the Islamic-secular split, is wide and deep. It could lead Egypt into the sort of civil war we see in Syria, which can destroy the state itself—as it has in Syria, which has joined Libya in the column of stateless regions (with the kiddies who make American foreign policy cheering for the forces of statelessness in both places). If the Egyptian state does disintegrate, 4GW is likely to spread through the entirety of the Arab world. Should Turkey follow—which I still find unimaginable—the consequences for the international state system would be incalculable.

Two New Martyrs


Cultural Marxism has martyred two more innocent people, George Zimmerman and Paula Deen. Zimmerman, accused (and now acquitted) of second-degree murder in the shooting of a young black male, Trayvon Martin, was put on trial in a process that presumed he was guilty unless proven innocent. The fact that he was prosecuted at all for what evidence showed was self-defense was a political decision. The Monday, July 8 New York Times reported that “only after sharp criticism from civil rights leaders and demonstrations here (Florida) and elsewhere did the Florida governor transfer the case to a special prosecutor…”

Zimmerman’s supposed political crime that led to a special prosecutor being appointed was “profiling,” i.e. suspecting that Martin was up to no good because he was a young black male (Zimmerman was a member of a neighborhood watch for a gated community). But Zimmerman had every right to suspect a young black male of having criminal intent. Why? Because the black rate of violent crime is twelve times the white rate. Not double; not triple; not even quadruple; the black crime rate is triple times quadruple the white rate. And most violent black criminals are young males. Not only do whites try to avoid them, so do other blacks.

All law enforcement is and must be based on profiling. Otherwise, you would have to have a cop for each civilian. Given the low ratio of police officers to citizens, cops must use a process of elimination—profiling—in order to focus their attention where it is most likely to prevent a crime or apprehend a criminal. They profile on sex, on age, on dress, on what kind of car a person is driving, and on race. All are statistically valid indicators. Even New York Mayor Bloomberg recently defended such profiling, daring to point out that cops make random stops of black New Yorkers more often than white because minorities commit most of the crimes.

Why does cultural Marxism forbid racial profiling? Because blacks are its parallel to economic Marxism’s workers, which means they are by definition “good”, while whites are the cultural Marxists’ equivalent of capitalists, who are defined as “bad”. It does not matter what people from any of these groups actually do. The ideology has as its purpose “empowering” workers over capitalists (Moscow) or blacks over whites (Frankfurt School). Facts mean nothing, because cultural Marxism seeks to abolish the “reality principle” itself.


Paula Deen, whose principal crime has been to provide people with delicious food, has been exiled from the public square for admitting, in old court testimony, that she used the word “nigger”. When she did so, she was describing a black criminal who had held a gun to her head.

Common sense says that when you are describing someone who threatened to murder you in a hold-up, you can use whatever words you want. Even the f-word, which has always been considered the worst available, would be excused by most people under such circumstances. But in promoting its “transvaluation of all values” (taken from Nietzsche), cultural Marxism spreads the f-word around like confetti while making the word “nigger” a thought crime.

A bit of linguistic and historical perspective may be helpful here. “Nigger” is merely a misspelling of the Latin word for the color black, “niger”. Felis niger est: the cat is black. Objectively, calling someone a “niger” (both spellings are pronounced essentially the same) is calling them a black in Latin. Big deal. If blacks want to make an issue about correct Latin spelling, I will be with them 100%, but getting a case of the vapors over being called black in Latin instead of in English is just silly.

Historically, the word “nigger” was sometimes used negatively, sometimes not. Mark Twain’s Nigger Jim in Huckleberry Finn is presented as an admirable man. My late uncle said that when he was a boy, the local iceman was black. He introduced himself to his customers as “Nigger Joe”. Was he disparaging himself by doing so? Hardly. The kids could not have cared less; they followed his wagon on hot summer days, hoping for some chips of ice (precious before home refrigeration), the same way kids followed the wagons of white icemen.

Today, “nigger” is usually used derogatorily, by both blacks and whites, for blacks who behave badly. People who behave badly deserve to be called by derogatory words. The problem is not when Paula Deen or anyone else uses the word “nigger” for a black behaving badly, the problem is the black’s bad behavior.

Again, cultural Marxism forbids any mention of bad behavior by blacks. According to the ideology blacks by definition (as the “oppressed”) cannot behave badly. Anything they do is justified, because all whites are by definition “racists”. Even though black hatred of whites is now more common than white hatred of blacks, cultural Marxism says blacks cannot be racists.

But there is also a meta-level here. The old economic Marxism worked by combining rational argument (from false premises) and terror. Cultural Marxism seeks to combine terror—See what happened to Paula Deen? You must fear us—with psychological conditioning, a la Brave New World. Any defiance of its dictates, i.e., using the word “nigger”, threatens to disrupt the conditioning of the masses and therefore must be stopped.

The great irony in all this is that the primary victim of cultural Marxism in this country has been our urban black community. As late as the 1950s, it was a safe, decent place. In the 1950s, 80% of black shoolchildren came home to a married mother and father. Then the Marxists’ cultural revolution hit in the 1960s, and the urban black culture collapsed. White college students said “Do your own thing” and “If it feels good, do it,” then went on to get their MBAs and law degrees, get married and raise middle class families. In the ghetto, they just kept on doing it. The result is there for all to see, in a black urban culture of instant gratification that has brought endless degradation with it, as instant gratification always must. The cultural Marxists did America’s blacks more damage than Simon Legree could ever have imagined.

The View From Olympus


This begins a new series of columns on military affairs, as a follow-on to my long-running On War series (I will continue to write a military column for The American Conservative magazine as well). Since I am now retired and take my motto from Augustine (before he became St. Augustine), deificari in otio, I have decided to title the new series, “The View From Olympus.” Olympus isn’t too far from Cleveland. will be the column’s regular home, though websites that often printed On War are welcome to re-publish The View From Olympus as well.

The framework for The View From Olympus will be that of On War, namely the Four Generations of Modern War. I developed this intellectual framework in the 1980s, initially as the Three Generations; the Marines to whom I was then lecturing kept asking what the Fourth Generation would be like, so I answered their question. I first laid the whole framework out in print with some co-authors in the October 1989 Marine Corps Gazette.

The framework of the Four Generations of Modern War fits well with TraditionalRight’s focus on paradigm shifts because it chronicles four such shifts in the art of war in the modern period, which is to say roughly since 1650. Each generation represents a dialectically qualitative change in the conduct of war (not the nature of war, which is fixed and unchanging; retired Army general Jim Dubik has written an excellent paper on this important distinction). Dialectically qualitative changes are somewhat fancier versions of paradigm shifts, of the “bursting dam” variety; see Hegel for a further discussion.

First Generation war begins roughly with the Peace of Westphalia in 1648 and runs through the American Civil War. Tactically, it was war of line and column, where armies moved in column and fought in line. On the whole, First Generation battlefields were battlefields of order, which in turn created a military culture of order. That culture was inward-focused on drills, rules, regulations and orders; demanded obedience, not initiative; and depended on imposed discipline. The fact that armies were recruited by sweeping the gutters and most soldiers wanted to desert reinforced the need for a culture of order. The main significance First Generation war has for us now is that state militaries came to define themselves by the culture of order and they still do today.

The Four Generations framework is based on land warfare, but it is worth noting that in the second half of the 18th century, probably beginning when Anson became First Sea Lord, the Royal Navy developed and embraced the culture we associate with Third Generation maneuver warfare. By 1800, it was outward focused on getting the result the situation required regardless of rules, fighting instructions, or order; it wanted initiative, not rote obedience, at least from ship captains on up; and at least among officers had moved slightly from imposed to self-discipline. There is a marvelous book on how and why the Royal Navy lost that culture and became inward-focused again in the 19th century, The Rules of the Game by Andrew Gordon.

The First Generation has another, meta-level characteristic that is rapidly again becoming important: it marked the assertion by the state of a monopoly on war. Previously, wars had been waged by many different kinds of entities: not only governments (governments go back into pre-history, but the state is relatively new, dating to about 1500; see Martin van Creveld’s book, The Rise and Decline of the State), but also families, clans and tribes; religions and sects; races; cities and business enterprises, legal and illegal; etc. With Westphalia, states in Europe said, “No more.” After that, non-state combatants, soldiers who did not belong to state armies, were no longer seen as legitimate and were usually hanged or shot on the spot. When state armies met non-state opponents as European power expanded world-wide, the state virtually always won. By 1900, the state system and war between states had a monopoly, at least outside the jungles of New Guinea or the Amazon. As we will see, that is no longer true.

Both the Second and Third Generations of Modern War were born in World War I. In 1914, the armies of the European Powers marched to war looking like, and often fighting like, those of 1814. The result was catastrophic for everyone, with hundreds of thousands of men killed in a few months. In the west, the overwhelming power of artillery and machine guns forced both sides into the trenches. (On the eastern front, lower troop densities allowed both tactical and operational maneuver to continue, at least in some sectors.

The Second and Third Generations were created by the French and German armies respectively. The French army built its new doctrine around a single fact: on the western front, the battlefield was dominated by indirect artillery fire. Overall, about 80% of the casualties suffered by all parties on that front in World War I were from artillery. Summarized by the French army as “the artillery conquers, the infantry occupies,” Second Generation tactics synchronized all arms in a highly choreographed “methodical battle.” Attacks were with limited objective, and defense depended more on maneuvering fires than troops. Overall, Second Generation war was a contest in mutual attrition, where victory was supposed to go to whoever could bring the most firepower to bear.

Second Generation war as developed by the French during and after World War I remains relevant to us in two ways. First, it preserved the First Generation culture of order. Second Generation war remains inward focused on orders, processes, procedures, etc.; it may be thought of as “war by formula.” It wants obedience, not initiative; synchronization and initiative are incompatible. And it remains based on imposed discipline, to the point where between the wars French officers were forbidden to publish anything that contradicted official doctrine.

The other way Second Generation war remains relevant is that the US Army and Marine Corps still fight that way, despite the Marine Corps’ official doctrine of maneuver warfare. The US armed forces absorbed Second Generation war from the French during and after World War I, then promptly forgot where it came from. We still practice it tactically, attempting to win wars by putting ever more (“precise”) firepower on ever more targets. And we still embrace a Second Generation military culture of order: centralized, inward-focused, valuing obedience over initiative and relying on imposed discipline.

Meanwhile, back in the First World War’s trenches, something very different was happening in the German army. Already imbued with a culture of outward focus and initiative thanks to the Scharnhorst reforms during the Napoleonic war, the German army solved the dilemma of the trenches with radically new tactics. Attacks no longer sought to push a line forward. Rather, small groups of men flowed like water around enemy strong points, always seeking the path of least resistance and, when they found one, drawing others after them. Attacks were with unlimited objective, seeking to collapse the enemy from the rear forward. In the defense, instead of trying to hold a line, the Germans sucked the enemy in as deeply as possible, then cut him off with counterattacks that left him encircled. These tactics demanded radical decentralization of decision making, with orders specifying only the result to be attained, not method.

During the 1930s, the new tactics of 1917-18 were married with the Panzer divisions to create the Blitzkrieg. Tanks permitted not just tactical but also operational maneuver, making fast, decisive campaigns possible once again. The new tactics and operational art, combined with a military culture that was outward focused, decentralized, prized initiative over obedience and depended more on self-discipline than imposed discipline, gave us Third Generation war, also known as maneuver warfare. When the Second Generation French army and Third Generation Wehrmacht met head-on in 1940, the Second Generation went down to defeat in six weeks—despite the fact that the French had more tanks than the Germans.

Since the mid-1970s, I have endeavored to convince the US military to move from the Second to the Third Generation, with little success. The Marine Corps did adopt Third Generation maneuver warfare as its official doctrine in the early 1990s when General Al Gray was Commandant. It published some quite good field manuals on it. But it changed nothing else, least of all its inward-focused culture of order, so what it does remains, like the US Army, almost purely Second Generation war. For a couple hundred billion dollars a year, we are buying a military museum.

Fourth Generation war represents the largest paradigm shift in the conduct of war since 1648. It reverses what the Peace of Westphalia established, the state’s monopoly on war. All over the world, state militaries designed to fight other state armed forces much like themselves instead find themselves battling non-state entities: again, as before Westphalia, families, tribes, and clans; races and religions; sects and “causes,” i.e. ideologies, which are new since Westphalia but have their parallels in pre-Westphalian heresies; business enterprises including gangs, etc. All things old have been made new again. Unlike in most of the modern age, when state armed forces fight these non-state elements, the state forces almost always lose. The US Marine Corps, the best of the American armed services, is now 0-4 (Lebanon, Somalia, Iraq, and Afghanistan).

As Martin van Creveld says, what changes in Fourth Generation war (his term is “non-trinitarian warfare,” referring to Clausewitz’s trinity of state, people, and army) is not how war is fought, but who fights and what they fight for. This is a larger change than changes in how war is fought. Van Creveld’s book The Transformation of War is by far the best on the subject.

Not only is Fourth Generation war non-trinitarian, it escapes Clausewitz’s definition of war as politics carried on by other means. Many of the objectives for which Fourth Generation warriors fight are not political (some of course are). They range from having fun and grabbing women and loot through attaining eternal salvation. Much Fourth Generation war is supply-side war, generated by the presence of large number of young men with no jobs, no money, no access to women, and no future. What do such young men naturally do? Fight.

Some commentators have mistakenly defined Fourth Generation war merely as insurgency. This reduces it to just another buzzword and obviously not a paradigm shift. Their error is not looking beyond how war is fought. Many Fourth Generation entities do employ the techniques of insurgency, but these techniques are not the origin of their strength. Their strength is mental and, above all, moral, not physical. It is a product of the causes they represent and as van Creveld has pointed out, of their very physical weakness. They represent David confronting Goliath. In the several thousand years the story of David and Goliath has been told, how many people have identified with Goliath? Over time, Fourth Generation war will affect how war is fought. It has already rendered most of the hi-tech, hyper-priced weapons in the arsenals of state armed forces irrelevant. Why do we need the F-22 Raptor? To shoot down Taliban flying carpets (Chet Richards adds, the fact that so far the F-22 has not bagged a single carpet shows we need a new radar and a new platform to carry it).

An example of 4GW changing how war is fought is the advent of the suicide bomber. Suicide attacks have been quite rare in military history. The fact that some Fourth Generation entities are able to employ them routinely show 4GW’s power at the moral level. Suicide bombers have given Fourth Generation forces their own precision-guided weapon, one at least as effective as our drones firing missiles. Against our Hellfires they pit the Heaven-fired. Which is winning?

Fourth Generation war is in its early stages, and will take at least a century to play itself out (talk of Fifth Generation war is nonsense; we cannot see that far ahead). What is at stake is the state system itself, and with it conservatives’ highest good, order. If the state system collapses, the world faces another calamitous century, like the fourteenth in Europe (see Barbara Tuchman’s book, A Distant Mirror).

This is the framework of the Four Generations of Modern War. First laid out in the 1980s, it has been justified by events, or so some observers have said. It continues to unroll in north and west Africa, in the Levant, in Mesopotamia, and the Hindu Kush. One might add, along America’s souther border and in the hearts of her cities. An American government that seeks to bring order to Afghanistan cannot maintain it 1000 yards from the US Capitol after nightfall. Were Washington open to reality, which it is not, that might tell it that something is changing. The Establishment’s attitude is best summed up by the reputed statement of the Chief of Staff of the Italian army shortly before World War II: “If you have a full plate of pasta for life and a little wine, who care about anything else?”

The New Paradigms


What do we mean by a paradigm shift? A paradigms shift is a change in the terms which define a contest. You may think of it as an alteration of the rules of the game, or a move from one battlefield to a new and very different one. Paradigm shifts are defined not merely by new answers, but by new questions.

World War One, the second catastrophe suffered by the West in the modern age (the first was the French Revolution), offers an example. In August of 1914, the Houses of Hapsburg and Romanov were mesmerized by each other. Who would win this latest round in their long contest? Inconceivably in that fateful summer, the winners would be an unimportant American republic and a fellow named Ulyanov sitting in a café in Zurich. History knows him as Lenin.

That was a paradigm shift. Its consequences were vast. As the Marxist historian Arno Mayer argues, in 1914 the United States represented the international left. All the other powers but one, France, were conservative Christian monarchies. By 1919, the United States was organizing the international right. The US had not changed; rather, the international spectrum had shifted around it. The three great monarchies of Austria, Prussia, and Russia had become socialist republics, giving conservatism a blow from which it has not recovered.

It is the view of this journal that more paradigm shifts of similar magnitude are coming. One has already occurred, without the notice it should have received from conservatives. If Western culture is to be successfully defended and restored, it is imperative that the right recognize these paradigm shifts before the left does. In any contest, a time advantage can be decisive, or so the Boyd theory informs us. (Colonel John Boyd, America’s greatest military theorist, argued that all conflicts occur in time-competitive cycles of observation, orientation, decision, and action [OODA loops]. Whoever can cycle consistently faster than his opponents builds a tremendous advantage.)

One of our purposes is to identify coming paradigm shifts early and to discuss how cultural conservatives might best respond to them. It is not possible to identify all the coming paradigms now, because many have not yet begun to emerge. However, we can identify and analyze some, along with ways conservatives might take advantage of them. We can also, in this journal, provide a periscope through which those who are watching may espy new ones. We encourage anyone who thinks he may have spotted one to submit an article or a letter to the editor.

What emerging paradigms are now visible? One has been hidden in plain sight since the mid-1960s. What is it? The adoption by virtually every Western country’s elite of cultural Marxism as the unofficial state ideology.

Cultural Marxism, commonly known as multiculturalism or Political Correctness, is the Marxism developed by the Frankfurt School (formally the Institute for Social Research), building on the work by Lukacs and Gramsci. Very different from the economic Marxism of Moscow, cultural Marxism was the basis of the New Left and the counter-culture of the 1960s. That counter-culture is now the mainstream culture in all Western countries. Its primary objectives, from Lukacs and Gramsci onward, have been and remain the destruction of the Christian religion and Western culture.

How has this created a paradigm shift? By reducing cultural conservatives from the vast majority of Americans as recently as the 1950s to an embattled and despised minority, the one minority against whom discrimination is encouraged. How conservatives mights respond to this change of paradigm, and the nature of the ideology that has brought it about, will be a recurrent theme in this journal.

We think the most effective response to cultural Marxism will usually be that recommended by Paul Weyrich in his famous open letter to the conservative movement of the 1990s. In that letter, Paul said attempts to retake existing institutions from the cultural Marxists were unlikely to be successful, rather, cultural conservatives should create their own parallel institutions as the home schoolers have done.

Creating parallel institutions is the most powerful revolutionary act. As such, it leads us to another paradigm shift now underway: an international crisis of legitimacy of the state and the rise of Fourth Generation war—war waged by non-state entities for goals that lie outside the parameters of politics.

All over the world, states are failing as their citizens transfer their primary loyalty away from the state to a wide variety of other objects: gangs, tribes and ethnic groups, religions, ideologies and “causes,” etc. These new entities wage war, and when they fight state armed forces, they usually win. This marks a paradigm shift of vast magnitude, the biggest change in war since the Peace of Westphalia in 1648. The (non-Marxist) withering away of the state and the rise of Fourth Generation war will also be a frequent theme in this journal. Young conservatives may well live to face a world in which the continued existence of states, including the United States, is in serious question.

A third paradigm shift we can begin to glimpse is an end to economic prosperity in the United States and in other developed countries and an era of widening impoverishment. Because most states now claim legitimacy on the basis that they provide economic prosperity, the end of prosperity and the crisis of legitimacy of the state are likely to be intertwined.

Widening impoverishment has been the experience of much of the American middle class for some decades. The root cause is the doctrine of free trade and the resultant destruction of American manufacturing. Put simply, only making or growing things brings real prosperity; when a country ceases to make things, its middle class becomes impoverished. One of America’s proudest and most unusual achievements was the creating of a large blue-collar middle class. Up well into the 1960s, a man working on an assembly line could give his family a comfortable middle-class way of life on one income. Equivalent families in today’s America can barely meet basic needs on two incomes, with both the husband and the wife working (leaving the children to be raised by the Devil’s babysitter, video screen technologies).

This long-term decline in middle class living standards is likely to accelerate and become deeper as the United States, along with much of the rest of the world, enters into a multi-decade debt crisis. Both private and government spending has been based on increasing debt, and that is not sustainable. Representative Paul Ryan is correct: we will have a debt crisis.

Debt crises are not simply recessions. Not only do both governments and individuals have to eliminate the spending previously funded by debt, their spending must be reduced below what they earn in order to pay off the debt. An economy of which 70% is consumer spending plummets, reducing incomes further, which reduces consumption further, in a vicious cycle we now see in places such as Greece, Spain and Portugal. Those countries today are the US tomorrow.

With one difference: having our own currency, we can print money. The Federal Reserve is already doing so at an unprecedented pace. The result, inevitably, will be inflation, possibly hyperinflation. As Milton Friedman said, inflation is always and everywhere a monetary phenomenon. Inflation wipes out such savings as the middle class possesses, making everyone “equal” because everyone is equally impoverished. Despite periodic depressions, most of them short, American culture has always reflected an expectation of rising living standards. What will happen when that expectation is replaced by a reality of living standards that fall for decades? Can a government de-legitimized by widespread impoverishment endure? Can the state maintain its unity under such circumstances? These are the sorts of questions raised by paradigm shifts, and the shift from a paradigm of increasing prosperity to one of decreasing poverty is a powerful paradigm shift indeed.

A fourth paradigm shift relates to technology. The advent of seemingly magical technologies that profoundly reshape daily living, from the television and the computer to genetic engineering, have led to uncritical acceptance of whatever new technologies come along. But history cautions that every technological innovation has its downsides. We are beginning to become aware of some of these, in the form of a generation that cannot read a book or hold a conversation, genetically altered crops that our bodies react to allergically, and the replacement of the Christian religion with a variety of new paganisms as a consequence of replacing the word with the image. Expanding our understanding of the negatives as well as the positives of new technologies and discussing how conservatives might protect themselves from these negatives will be another of the paradigm shifts explored in this journal.

Not all coming paradigm shifts will be negative. A welcome one, whose first shoots are already visible, will be the replacement of the global, the vast, and the institutional with the local, the small, and the personal.

Globalism is already failing, as our economy and those of other developed countries are averaged with the economies of countries where wages are many times less. They come up, but we go down. Wall Street makes a mint because most big companies are now global, but the rest of us take an increasingly painful hit. We are beginning to figure this out.

Globalism brings more than declining incomes for most Americans and Europeans. Global plagues are already in the news, from Zebra mussels and black tiger mosquitoes to diseases that kill up to 50% of infected humans. Globalism promotes immigration, sometimes of highly skilled and wealthy people, who are welcome, but too often also of masses of poor peasants who burden the economy, debase the public square and pollute the culture of their new homelands (where they have often arrived illegally). Even as it groans under a stifling cultural Marxism, Europe is beginning to resist the immigrant plague. A cleansing of the shire may be in the offing, and a second expulsion of the Moors.

Similarly, the absorption of the small by the large is a trend that may be reversing. Size can produce one benefit, cheapness. But with that come many debilities, in product quality, treatment of employees, relations with communities and awareness of (and concern about) downsides. Conservatives have long been suspicious about big government, and big everything else as well. Too often bigness creates a steamroller that flattens the local traditions and variations conservatives prize. Now the paradigm that has favored bigness since the industrial revolution is shifting. Walmart, agribusiness, and China may be on the way out. Farmers’ markets, local farms and products, and “Made in the USA” are starting to come back. This is a paradigm shift conservatives should welcome.

With it may come what may be the most important/positive change in this list: that from the institutional to the personal. Small size is part of this: Walmart cannot be personal, but the corner grocer can be and is. As technology works to disembody communication, replace the real with the virtual, and condition Brave New World’s subjects to be compliant, a new, growing network of person-to-person relationships offers the promise of restoring reality and encouraging independent thought.

If we add these up—rebuilding upon the ruins of Globalism a traditional society where most things are local, small, and personal—we get a paradigm shift that would empower real conservatism, conservatism not as a political ideology (which real conservatism can never be: as Russell Kirk wrote, “Conservatism is the negation of ideology”) but as a way of life. The 21st century will present conservatives with many new dangers, but with some opportunities as well.

This list is merely a beginning. Again, many of the paradigm shifts that will shape 21st century America cannot yet be seen. They may include the return of such historical experiences as famine and plague, as consequences of genetic engineering. The Middle Ages discovered that when you lose 60% of your population in six weeks, as some areas did when the Black Plague arrived, everything changes.

If conservatives are to protect and restore Western culture in the 21st century, we must be the first to perceive what is coming and we must have a plan of action before it gets here. To those goals our pages are devoted.