FORWARD BASE B

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Tag Archives: colonialism

Fourth Generation Sovereignty

Why doesn’t the US take over Canada?  It doesn’t need to.  Both are seamlessly plugged into the same mass economy and international Western political and cultural system.  On maps, there is an independent, internationally recognized nation known as Canada but taking that too seriously is to misunderstand how the system works.

Before the Western powers twice committed mass suicide, power relationships were more explicit and required more direct maintenance.  Canada was little different back then except it was aligned with Britain instead of the US.  Instead of pretending to be a truly independent entity it openly called itself an affiliate of the British Empire.  Back then, as now, they sent their young men on command to fight pointless wars for their hegemon.  To suppose such a political unit is really sovereign when it does not even have its own foreign policy is, of course, a joke.

Most non-Western political units in the world were explicit territories of colonial overlords run at least at the topmost levels by imperial administrators.
Then, after WW2, we are told, all these subservient satrapies suddenly found their independence and the world lived happily ever after.

The former colonies established their own political systems but the new empire was founded on economics rather than politics.  The colonial administrators went home because they were no longer necessary.

The major powers needed only to entice the new local leaders into loan agreements with puppet strings attached.  If the new nominal countries had strategic resources, they often had no local infrastructure to exploit them.  Then they became dependent on international corporations to do the drilling and mining in hope of getting some crumbs.  The local leaders then owed their power to the resource extractors with their expensive equipment and engineers more than to their own people.

The old colonialism collapsed because it had become a bulky ideological affair and a big money loser.  Keeping colonies became an ostentatious display of national prestige instead of a profitable venture like it used to be.  The depletion of wealth after the World Wars and a worldwide depression in between them finally made this arrangement untenable.  Minimizing overhead, and maximizing profit was in again.  Allowing subject peoples nominal independence imposed all the costs and dangers of keeping order onto the local figureheads while they got to passively reap the benefits as absentee owners.

 Since the end of WW2 the state of affairs has more in common with the heyday of the British and Dutch East India Companies or the United Fruit Company with foreign affairs carried out primarily by economic actors working in conjunction with great powers.
In the earlier eras of economic imperialism the great powers supporting international extractive commerce were obviously sovereign entities acting with their own benefit in mind.

What makes our own age different is that the great powers are no longer clearly connected to anything we would consider a nation-state or even a well-defined empire with concrete borders.  The whole planet is fair game.  It is appropriate that those affiliated with this system of power are now often referred to as “globalists.”

I have stated before the thesis that in our age of fracture, political organization is both smaller and larger than the centralized bureaucratic nation-states we’ve taken for granted since the 1860s.  On the large scale we have vast economic zones that swallow up mere nations.  On the smaller scale we see actual sovereignty re-emerging in the form of tribes.  I call them “tribes” to contrast with 18th to 19th century ideas of ethnic groups or cultural groups monolithically united within the borders of one nation-state’s territory.

So far I’ve seen the term “fourth generation” used to refer to decentralized, non-state warfare.  I think this concept will apply to everything, not just warfare.  I see ISIS trying to found an Islamic state, a bunch of Kurdish enclaves across several different countries declaring themselves Kurdistan, growing separatist movements within the European Union, or now the emergence of the alt-right as signs of where we’re heading.

In the 21st century, having a nation-state is a strategic liability and an easy target.  A nation intrinsically defined by an unchanging territory and population can be isolated, blockaded, bombarded, or invaded.  A bunch of soldiers who put on official uniforms can’t act without making their permanent territorial unit a target for retaliation.  Even when they attack much smaller and weaker groups, they open the whole of their much larger group to counter-attack.  Soon there are many small, cohesive organizations that begin to overwhelm a mega nation that fewer care to be associated with anymore until it finally only exists on paper. 

If 1 US soldier charges across the Russian border screaming with bayonet fixed and randomly spraying on full auto, Russia technically could reasonably contemplate attacking New York City as a legitimate reaction. That soldier, if acting on orders, is a representative of all 330 million Americans.  In stark contrast, if one jihadi suicide bomber blows up some US soldiers there may be no clear idea of who to counter-attack or how to find them.

ISIS could set up in Nebraska and call it the Islamic State.  The Kurds could have Kurdistan in Oklahoma if they wanted to.  The Federation of Occupy could just have some moving tent towns.  Any of these polities would have far more real control over their affairs than Canada does.

The emerging neo-tribal, techno-tribal state exists firstly as its people, not as a territory its people are tied to.  They can choose to conceal their presence, influence the politics or not, stand and fight or try to set up elsewhere, they can be urban or rural as they please, gather all together or distribute far and wide across national borders and economic zones alike and still be united. 

The new tribes even if their members few in number and poor have a wealth of strategic options nation-states simply do not have access to.  They trade brute strength for maneuverability and flexibility, advantages that have been super-augmented by the information age.  Making this tradeoff is a winning strategy when nuclear weapons make massed brute force much less decisive than it used to be. 

It should have been immediately clear the old ways were over when US forces could not reconquer all of Korea after they decisively defeated the Chinese in combat or why the US could not simply crush North Vietnam or even shut down the Ho Chi Minh Trail supply lines that crossed international boundaries without serious political consequences.

Since then, organizations that have adapted to the post-nuclear, post-agriculturalist, post-colonial rules have met with astonishing success despite their relatively small sizes and limited resources.  Meanwhile, the nation-states have grown ever more sclerotic and impotent even as they dump infinite wealth into weapons systems that just sit there as their roads, hospitals, and power grids crumble.

The old nations are now easily outmaneuvered by both the globalists who manage the economic zones and by the techno-tribalists.  It is now a question of who ends up with the upper hand in a 4th generation age.  The new tribes began their rise as a counter to nation-states hobbled by the threat of nuclear weapons.  Now their fluid nature makes them suited to challenge an economic colonialism that is also nebulous by design.

The Obsolescence of the Nation State and ISIS

I found an insightful essay by an Israeli writer, Uri Avnery.  The trends of centralization until the World Wars and decentralization ever since has been a favorite topic of mine.
Excerpts:

“By the end of the 17th century, existing states could no longer cope with new demands. Small states were doomed. The economy demanded a safe domestic market large enough for the development of modern industries. New mass armies needed a base strong enough to provide soldiers and pay for modern arms.”

As I like to say: The main source of national cohesion is the fear of other nations.

“If I am not mistaken, it was Gustave Le Bon, the French psychologist, who asserted a hundred years ago that every new idea is already obsolete by the time it is adopted by the masses.

The process works like this: somebody conceives the idea. It takes a generation for it to become accepted by the intellectuals. It takes another generation for the intellectuals to teach the masses. By the time it attains power, the circumstances that gave it birth have already changed, and a new idea is required.”

“THE OBSOLESCENCE of the nation-state has given birth to a paradoxical by-product: the breakup of the state into smaller and smaller units.
While the world trend towards larger and larger political and economic units gathers strength, nation-states fall apart. All over the world, small peoples are demanding independence.”

“NATIONALISM WAS a European idea.
It never struck deep roots in the arid fields of the Arab world. Even in the heyday of Arab nationalism, it was never quite clear whether a Damascene, for example, considered himself first a Syrian or a Muslim, whether a Beiruti considered himself first a Maronite-Christian or a Lebanese, or whether a Cairene was first an Egyptian, an Arab or a Muslim.”

“The modern Arab nations were invented by European colonialists…THESE imperialist manipulations ran counter to Muslim history and tradition…THE HUGE attraction of the movement now called “Islamic State” is that it proposes a simple idea: do away with all these crazy borders drawn up by Western imperialists for their own purposes…With one swipe it clears the table of the nation-state and its derivatives. It carries a clear, simple idea, easily understood by Muslims everywhere.”

“THE WESTERN response is almost comically inadequate.  People like Barack Obama and John Kerry, and their equivalents all over Europe, are quite unable to understand what it is all about…They are facing a new phenomenon.”

The Obsolescence of the Nation State, Uri Avnery

Ottoman Empire before its non-Anatolian provinces were split up after WW1 into modern nations.

Ottoman Empire before its non-Anatolian provinces were split up after WW1 into modern nations.

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