William Gibson cited at length a posting by William Lind, and pointed to the archive site. I had read Mr. Lind's various columns at Antiwar.com, but didn't realize he had an entire library of his own. I highly recommend it. As Gibson says, "It must be a singular sort of hell today, to be at once an American, a conservative in the non-mutant sense, and a seminal theorist of Fourth Generation warfare..."
An earlier article by Mr. Lind led me to read "A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century," by Barbara Tuchman as a model for what Fourth Generation Warfare -- wars waged by non-state actors -- looks like. I cannot recommend "A Distant Mirror" highly enough.
In some of his current writings, Mr. Lind notes the hazards of losing the moral high ground -- where 4G wars are truly fought -- by applying obvious double standards.
Of course, we claim we are hitting only Mr. al-Zarqawi’s fighters, but anyone who knows ordinance knows that is a lie. The 500, 1000 and 2000-pound bombs we drop have bursting radii that guarantee civilian casualties in an urban environment. More, it appears we see those civilian casualties as useful.
The October 12 New York Times offered this interesting quote from “one Pentagon official:”
If there are civilians dying in connection with these attacks, and with the destruction, the local as some point have to make a decision…Do they want to harbor the insurgents and suffer the consequences that come with that, or do they want to get rid of the insurgents and have the benefit of not having them there?
As the article goes on to make clear, American officials believe such terror bombing will split the resistance. In fact, the whole history of air warfare says it will have the opposite effect.
The point here is not merely that in using terrorism ourselves, we are doing something bad. The point is that, by using the word “terrorism” as a synonym for anything our enemies do, while defining anything we do as legitimate acts of war, we undermine ourselves at the moral level – which, again, is the decisive level in Fourth Generation war.
Imagine Mr. al-Zarqawi himself said the following about the suicide car bombs his group uses, bombs that have killed many Iraqi civilians:
If there are civilians dying in connection with these attacks, and with the destruction, the locals at some point have to make a decision. Do they want to harbor the Americans and suffer the consequences that come with that, or do they want to get rid of the Americans and have the benefits of not having them there?
Would we denounce that as “justifying terrorism?” Of course we would – and rightly so.
What is sauce for the goose is also sauce for the turkey. Obvious double standards put us on the moral low ground. The rest of the world can see the hypocrisy, even if what passes for America’s “leaders” cannot. As the old saying goes, it is worse than a crime; it is a blunder.
Meanwhile, back at Gibson's blog, he is writing and citing with a passion that I haven't really seen before. Everything else I've read by him has seemed incredibly incisive, far-seeing, and very cool, but without a sense of moral outrage. Good on you, Bill.