After just fourteen years of combat, on Friday, August 21, the U.S. Air Force scored its first victory in the “War on Terror”, history’s first war against an emotion. Not surprisingly, the victory had nothing to do with aircraft. It was won by an enlisted airman who courageously took on a heavily-armed would-be terrorist on a train from Amsterdam to Paris. With help from two other Americans, one a National Guardsman, and two European civilians, the airman saved many innocent civilian lives. Far from being equipped with the latest bombs and missiles, the airman, Spencer Stone, and those assisting him were unarmed.
There are some important points hidden in this otherwise minor incident. First, the U.S. Air Force won what it has been incapable of winning thus far in 4GW, a victory at the moral level. The moral victory came because the American airman was an unarmed man confronting another who was well armed. This reversed the usual situation. In all other 4GW to date, the Air Force has been the heavily armed party fighting against people with few or no air defenses. What Martin van Creveld calls the power of weakness guaranteed that no matter what the Air Force accomplished physically, it lost.
Second, the Air Force’s victory came not be cause of its vast command and control system, with its many layers of headquarters and endless complex procedures, but because one enlisted man took the initiative and acted to get the result the situation required. He exhibited Third Generation behavior in a Second Generation system. He was only able to do that because he was on leave.
Third, Airman First Class Spencer Stone, his two friends, one a civilian, and the two European civilians showed how an effective defense against random, loner 4GW attacks works. It cannot depend on the National Security State. Even with its vast (and unwelcome) growth, the NSS can only cover a small fraction of a society’s vulnerable points. Effective protection in 4GW depends on a citizenry that will act in its own defense.
What the situation requires is in effect an updated form of a universal militia, a militia for Fourth Generation war. Unlike past militias, this one will not be a formal organization. There will be no uniforms, ranks, drill, or weapons. It will consist, ideally, of every male old enough but not too old to fight. Its members will pledge themselves–the pledge may be explicit or implicit–to act as Airman Stone and his helpers did on the train to Paris. When a “terrorist” (or just a nut case) shows a weapon, everybody jumps him. Some may die. On the train to Paris, those who acted said later they expected to die. But no loner or small group of shooters can hold off lots of other men coming at them, even if they are unarmed. Once would-be terrorists know they will be opposed and overrun, some will be deterred. Those who go ahead anyway and open up on civilians will lose at every level. Physically they will get stomped. Mentally they will fail to terrorize, because their actions will be met not with terror but with courage. Morally they and their cause will suffer a heavy defeat because they will be fought and beaten by those weaker than themselves, i.e., people without weapons. They will lose for the same reason the U.S. Air Force lost every previous engagement in the “War on Terror”: Goliath always loses.
For those of us who do not welcome the National Security State, a universal 4GW militia offers a way to provide security with liberty. The NSS is and will always be a threat to liberty, because it represents ever-greater government intrusion into our lives. A militia poses no such threat. Unarmed and purely defensive, it does not threaten liberty, it exemplifies it. It shows how a free people replies to danger: through individual initiative.