Sunday, September 16, 2007

"al Qaidastan" Rising

Fourth Generation Warfare, according to it's leading theorists, is designed to challenge the legitimacy of the state. It's "kinetic" attacks are really a form of ju-jitsu designed to strike the enemy society at the mental and moral levels and thereby cripple the state apparatus through which modern nation-states govern themselves.

Repeated successful mitary forays by 4GW entities, perhaps in alliance with local ethnic and criminal organizations, can create a "TAZ" or temporary autonomous zone, outside the rule of law. "Temporary" is a useful descriptor because, frequently, police, paramilitary or Army units are able to "re-take" the TAZ from 4GW control because these decentralized forces melt away, go underground or shift to a less direct form of conflict such as system disruption or the use of IED type munitions.

However, there are now enough examples of recent vintage to tentatively answer the question of what happens when a TAZ under the domination of a 4GW group slides toward permanency? Al Qaida, is now doing so for the second time in it's history, as detailed by Pramit Pal Chaudhuri:

"Confederation of Terror

On September 6 the Islamic Emirate of Waziristan marked the first anniversary of its de facto recognition. On that day last year, the Taliban used the name when it signed a ceasefire agreement with the Pakistani government. The ceasefire is in tatters, but the terror trail of the recent plots in Germany and Denmark indicates that the Emirate is doing fine.

The Emirate's writ is spreading among the mountainous areas that make up the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) that run along the Pakistan-Afghan border. Going by trends, the Emirate is more than just a safe haven: It is on a nightmare path of nation-building. Osama bin Laden will be its sultan; Mullah Omar its spiritual leader; heroin and smuggling its economic drivers; and terrorism its primary export. "Al Qaeda is building a mini-state, an enclave, in the FATA," says Rohan Gunaratna, author of Inside al Qaeda.

Besides the heartland of South and North Waziristan, "al Qaedastan" also encompasses a belt of tribal land going up to Mohmand and Bajaur areas. Its sphere of violent influence, says a former member of the Afghan National Security Council, includes bordering Afghan provinces like Loya Paktia and, increasingly, Nangarhar...

...The malik, a local chief who helped keep the peace since the British Raj, and represented an older secular Pashtun nationalism, has been marginalized. The mullah now holds sway. "The Durrani tribal maliki that once dominated these areas is being physically eradicated," says Michael Shaikh of the International Crisis Group.

Some argue this is nothing more than Durrani nobility being replaced by an upstart subtribe, the Ghilzai. But the spread of Islamicism is blurring tribal distinctions. "Today's Taliban are fighting for an extremist ideology, not for Ghilzai supremacy," says an Afghan official. An example of how this ideology is taking root is how it has ended the centuries-old feuds between the Waziri and Mehsud subtribes.

The "al Qaedaization" of the Taliban can be seen in their use of suicide bombing, human shields and bloodier kidnappings, practices abhorrent in traditional Pashtun culture. The Afghan government has no doubt this represents foreign tutelage. Says the Afghan ambassador to the U.S., Said Tayeb Jawad: "Al Qaeda is the commander, the Taliban the foot soldier. Al Qaeda provides strategic guidance

William Lind, during the Israeli-Hezbollah War, suggested that after having attained a critical mass of legitimacy through sustained political-military success, 4GW organizations faced a choice of "To Be or Not To Be, a State". Lind argued that statehood was equivalent with vulnerable "targetability" and that Westphalian-era mummery was something that 4GW forces could best do without.

To an extent, Lind was correct. Neither Hezbollah, nor the Islamic Courts Union, HAMAS, al Qaida or even the Taliban during the period of their rule of Afghanistan, have ever formed a proper and recognized state apparatus. Nor have they, when enjoying longer-term territorial control, remained covert guerilla-terrorist networks either. Instead, they have tried to lock in their comparative advantages with an Anti-State model existing alongside or symbiotically integrated with, the sovereign state.

The 4GW Anti-State has certain recognizable characteristics or tendencies:

*Corporative: The 4GW organization openly lives by it's own codes, not the state's, with final authority for enforcement. The 4GW entity may impose these codes on the people over whom they exist (Taliban), or apply them primarily to their own membership (HAMAS) but the state has de facto ceded that prerogative.

*Post-Westphalian: The borders and claims of the nation-state are irrelevant, whether we are discussing a Pushtunistan-based "al Qaidastan" that crosses the Durand Line or a Transnational Criminal Organization network like a Russian mafiya clan with cells under discipline from Novgorod to Brighton Beach to Budapest to Tel Aviv. The 4GW Anti-State can be geographic or virtual as the primary loyalty attachment for the membership is a psychological and social one.

*Hegemonic Governance: The 4GW entity frequently, as HAMAS and Hezbollah have amply demonstrated, provide a sophisticated array of public goods and other services, often free of charge, in order to cultivate political legitimacy among the larger population. They do not accept all of the de jure responsibilities for the local population that are normally traditional for a rcognized sovereign and suppress rival authorities or independent-minded individuals with arbitrary force. In matters outside of the interests of the 4GW entity, residents are left to their own devices ( or the mercy of smaller predators) so that resources are conserved.

*Symbiotic Coexistence: The 4GW group is shielded, to a degree, from international intervention by coexisting within the confines of a recognized and sovereign nation-state that is unwilling (Sudan, Iran) or unable (Afghanistan, Pakistan, Lebanon, Iraq) to bring them to heel and even more unwilling to let outsiders do so. Like a parasite, a 4GW entity, if unchecked, is capable of hijacking it's host nation-state to serve it's own needs as al Qaida did in Afghanistan before 9/11.

The Anti-State model is useful for 4GW forces at a certain threshold of magnitude because it offers some of the defensive advantages of statehood with far fewer of the responsibilities or liabilities with running a state.


John Robb was kind enough to link and had this comment:

"Mark, over at ZenPundit, has an excellent (!) post on the virtual-state (not sure that 4GW, as a description of a form of warfare, works as a label for this). "

Thanks, John! I'm not sure it works either - LOL! An explanation though:

I used "4GW" primarily because I was interested in how such movements are developing semi-permanent, alternative, forms of governance to the nation-state. Bobbitt's "Virtual-State" could work well in many instances for what 4GW forces are in a structural or behavioral sense but the term also has broader application.

Then there is also the issue where 4GW entity is overlapping pre-modern (at times, ancient), subnational, territorial/tribal identities that are the very antithesis of "the state". A schizoid hybrid, if you will. The analogy can be misleading because these phenomena have aspects that are very unlike the state of Max Weber, despite usurping some of the functions, so I used " Anti-State". I'm not wedded to the term yet as the whole issue needs more fleshing out and discussion (and as Fabius noted in the comments, empirical investigation).

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Very interesting post on a valuable article.

But how much of this is true? Since official US policy designated al Qaeda as our master global enemy, we can expect to see these "commie under the bed" articles appearing frequently in the mainstream US media.

Note how easily the US mainstream media adopted the "al Qaeda as our primary enemy in Iraq" narrative, with so little supporting evidence.

Perhaps some care is required with this material.
this seems consistent, though, with stories that were published while osama's al qaida was officially dead, defeated, irrelevant, whatever.

might be a good thing though if it's a plant. maybe instead of bombing iran we'll bomb this alqaidastan.
I've been wondering for some time about areas like this, and potentially Jolo Island, and other places where the Westphalian system is unable to deal adequately with a region because the internal conflict has issues that cannot be internally resolved, and which are affecting other external actors. In other words, if I cannot invade a region because it's your territory, and you cannot control that region, and the people in that region are attacking me, then what's to be done? Frankly, I would consider attacking you outright (or at least making credible threats to do so) in order to protect myself.

So now, looking at this from the standpoint of a state that has lost control over some region to bad actors, and cannot reassert that control, what to do?

Again, were it me, I would at least have to seriously consider asking the stronger power for its "advice and assistance" in bringing the area back under my control. Failing that I would have to strongly consider declaring the region not part of the state I control, and essentially removing my protection from the region.

In other words, non-state actors are trying to have it both ways: challenging the Westphalian states while depending on their protection. As attacks by terrorists inevitably gain in destructive potential, it might be the case that weaker Westphalian states (the kind that would be in this position in the first place) will have to choose between defending the boundaries of their states, and the existence of their states. Removing the protections of the Westphalian states from the people acting against those states may become the only way out.

Indeed, were I in the President's shoes, Pakistan would already have been having to seriously confront that possibility.
Thanks, FM. I'm not sure the extent to which AQ is revived but I think there is a pattern here.

Hi Jeff,

Good to hear from you again - hope all is well on your end.

What you propose re: "advice and assistance" was actually practiced in Europe in the mid-19th century when Metternich hammered out an informal system for conservative monarchies and autocracies to crush liberal uprisings. The Russians intervened in Hungary ( crushed Kossuth's revolt, I believe).

The non-state actors are indeed trying to have it both ways - and the very nature of nation-states is preventing their collaboration to put a stop to this, which they could do fairly easily if they made common cause to strengthen lawful sovereigns. No one wants that kind of accountability though.
Nice flow of posts here at your Chateaux, Sir Pundit von Zen!

Q: Can there per definition exist legitimate* 4GW entities? If so, could you please, at your convenience,name any number of them.

*If it's kosher with you then I'd prefer leaving the definition of legitimate open for your interpretation instead of truncating it with my own inebriated prejudice.;)

Ha! I am now "Ritter von Zen" -thank you for knighting me M-1; I shall adjust my monocle accordingly.

That's a great question and an important one. Currently, I am hip-deep in the administrivia and meetings of my day job, but I think your answer needs a post of it's own later tonight
An easier question (in response to Meatball One's query) would be the number of legitimate 5GW entities, of which there are MANY (churches, publishers, educational institutions, intelligence organizations).

As for legitimacy in the 4th variety, I look forward to your response, Ritter von Zen! :-)
"Can there per definition exist legitimate* 4GW entities? If so, could you please, at your convenience,name any number of them."

If I might step in and entertain this bit from the fine Frozen Balls of Scandinavian Meat.

Of the 4GW entities discussed in Marks excellent post one has made a very real dash at political dominance of a true state beyond systems disruption. I'd submit Hezbollah as a "legitimate" 4GW element or one that has successfully conflated the kinetic effect of 4GW with the philosophical effect of politics within a state (with some success I might add.) Hezbollah won every parliamentary seat in southern Lebanon in the 2006 election and remains a political force within the country.

A bit of a divide from al Qaeda (nonstate,) Hamas and the ICU (failed state.)
I agree with Soob that Hezbollah is a "legitimate" entity now.
New post up...

Hezbollah really has crossed that divide - though we have to be careful not to overestimate it relative to other less visible (to Westerners) Shiite groups like Amal
In regards to Hezbollah and even to Al Qaida's current parasitic nature, I do believe, even as they attempt to be the "kingmakers" behind their hosts, eventually, they seek their own power and become established or even, in the case of Hezbollah, simply subsume the people around them until they are indistinguishable.

Thus, as one put it, making the entire lot outside of the protection of the state as seen in lebanon when the Lebanese army did nothing to stop Israel's smashing of Hezbollah. Largely because they feared exactly what is happening: slow motion death of independence by political assassination and subjugation of politics to thugs.

Hezbollah feels confident because they got good propaganda from the international media, because they have consolidated considerable gains in the Shia population, because they do have a very large financial, military and political backer in Syria and, finally, because they know that the Lebanese fear a new civil war and would be willing to put up with a Hezbollah government to avoid the bloodshed.

It's too bad that the media propaganda war got in the way of Israel's attack on Hezbollah. They should have smashed it even more or left it alone in the first place.

Or, better yet, ignore them, blame everything on Syria and give them a couple more bloody noses to remind them that they exist only because Israel lets them at our behest.
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