Having been deployed to Iraq twice, I naturally retain much interest in events in the Middle East, especially Iraq. Before my first deployment, I was a true believer in “nation building”, the ascendancy of democracy and the superiority of the U.S. military. Such is no longer the case. By my second deployment, the first two were at the back of any priority list and I concentrated on training my fellow soldiers so that we could all just come back alive. I still thought the U.S. military was the best, but had niggling doubts due to our inability to truly defeat our foe. With recent events and ISIS rolling over the sham of a nation we left behind in Iraq and the constant destabilization of states in the region by our own governments backing, I was coming to a lot of conclusions. This book showed me that those conclusions had already been reached long before they started crystallizing in my mind.
The book hinges on, as Lind puts it, “the crisis of the legitimacy of the state”. From this crisis rise non-state actors with various agendas, the most visible of which is Islamic extremist organizations. These non-state actors take new ways of war, that state militaries are unprepared to face, and use them to their advantage. These new ways of war are known as Fourth Generation Warfare (4GW). The U.S. military, being a Second Generation Warfare (2GW) entity, is woefully unprepared to win a war against this strategy. That is something else shown in the book. The U.S. military needs to move from being a 2GW entity to a true Third Generation Warfare (3GW) entity. It needs to embrace true maneuver warfare to survive the coming century.
Non-state actors come in many different flavors though. U.S. street gangs, Mexican cartels and terrorist organizations are only a few and have many different ways of taking advantage of the crisis. This book touches on many key issues of the day and ties it all in. Immigration policies, militarization of the police and homegrown terrorism all have links to 4GW and pose their own threats as the modern state loses the loyalty of it's citizens who transfer their loyalties to a belief or alternate entity.
I cannot stress the importance of reading this book. We continue to repeat the mistakes of the past again and again. We need a new way forward to meet the coming challenges.
- Good: Does not sugar coat anything. Good predictive model, not always right, but time after time proves prescient. Shows some possible solutions.
- Bad: Is a bit of a slog, could have done with paring down and not repeating so much. I know this is the case of showing collected columns, but maybe should not have been the format then.
- Ugly: The continued idea that Iran would possibly annihilate the U.S. military by using the Shia militias and their own forces to cut our supply lines and roll us up. I know this could have been a possibility, but since it did not happen it becomes a drumbeat that you tire of hearing.