Religious men of the 19th century believed that a benevolent God would only create a moral nature. How does one explain carnivores? At least they killed swiftly and prevented longer suffering from starvation. This was a form of just killing, so goes the reasoning. But they were at lost to explain the extreme cruelty Ichneumon Wasp. Stephen Jay Gould describes the nonmoral nature of this wasp. Wasp females paralyze other insects, then they lay their eggs inside the host. When those eggs hatch, they eat the immobilized but living host inside out, bit by bit, and kill it slowly.
The nation-state is playing host to its parasitic killer.
I think the world is about to undergo a major phase-transition and the current level of violence may just be a warning.
Failed States are widespread and the nation-state system is very weak.
There are several trends at work here. Demographic changes, new technologies, and new economic structures are creating unpredictable changes that the nation-states across the world are ill-prepared to manage. In the few strong states left, their strength comes from volunteer civic societies rather than the power of the government. The failing states become more and more disconnected from globalization.
Thomas Barnett describes the Pentagon’s New Map
It forces Americans to come to terms with I believe is the new security paradigm that shapes this age, namely, Disconnectedness defines danger.
Show me where globalization is thick with network connectivity, financial transactions, liberal media flows, and collective security, and I will show you regions featuring stable governments, rising standards of living, and more deaths by suicide than murder. These parts of the world I call the Functioning Core, or Core. But show me where globalization is thinning or just plain absent, and I will show you regions plagued by politically repressive regimes, widespread poverty and disease, routine mass murder, and—most important—the chronic conflicts that incubate the next generation of global terrorists. These parts of the world I call the Non-Integrating Gap, or Gap.
Globalization’s “ozone hole” may have been out of sight and out of mind prior to September 11, 2001, but it has been hard to miss ever since.
It’s not a new analysis. This is the ancient Core-Periphery model. The center of economic activity occurs in the core which creates better governments and higher standards of livings. The Periphery creates threats which attack the Core. This is the classic problem the ancient Egyptians and Romans managed.
Many states on the Periphery are already failing or fragmenting. So what exactly is replacing them? We find rot inside most states in the world – authoritarianism, corruption, rampant crime, and revolutionary fantasy ideologies. And there you find the ichneumon larvae.
Transnational criminal organizations have entered the global economy and are one of the fastest growing industries. Criminal organizations set up their base of operations in failed states and use the captured host to run a global black market, trading in illegal weapons, stolen and counterfeit goods, drugs, slaves, and other criminal activity. This illicit market produces at least $1 trillion a year by feeding off of globalization. The Western Prohibition of drugs is really paying off someone at least. The world is now filled with a million Al Capones.
These criminal organizations grow in power until they become political players. They grow into parties and adopt political ideologies. They join political insurgencies or start their own insurgency. They cannot challenge a nation-state’s conventional military in direct battle, so they wage a form of unrestricted warfare.
Breaking the rules gives them advantages over larger state enemies. Criminals pay for these wars from the carcass of failed states.
This is Warlordism and we’re watching it’s re-emergence in real-time. Each warlord group has a great incentive to loot and capture control of black markets in his region to make themselves wealthy – even if this disrupts a larger economy and impoverishes the rest of the country.
Decentralized Military Power
The Warfare State is coming to an end.
Military power is decentralizing as individual killing productivity continues to rise. New communications technologies allows the creation of “network insurgencies” The lethality of individuals and small-groups skyrocketed during the Industrial Revolution.
It may seem silly to say, but 100 men today with AK-47s could defeat a full Roman legion.
Silly, yes. But not as much as you think. An army of ancient Greek hoplites from 300BC could still fight Roman legions in 300AD. The Romans used more iron, but the battle would not have been absurdly lopsided. Even Middle Ages battles, such as Agincourt, would be more familiar to the ancient Romans than to us today. Some weapons barely changed at all – the composite bow used by Steppe Horseriders changed little from 1600BC to 1600AD.
Weapons in the past were inefficient. Swords, bows, spears, and armor exhausted the user and had limited range and effectiveness. In the worst battles, the losing armies only lost 15% of the men.
To compensate, states amassed large labor-intensive armies to achieve destructive goals. They had to create even larger logistical systems to materially support larger armies. Weapons were refined, but barely kept pace with similar refinements in armor and fortifications.
The widespread availability of AK-47s and cheap explosives gives incredible killing power to small gangs without the need for massive state-led armies.
Small city-states and tribes can resist a nation-state with networked insurgencies and 4GW tactics. Many groups fight for “independence” from central governments and may be joined by a variety of interests, ranging from tribes, global insurgents, and opportunistic criminals.
Open Source Warfare
John Robb describes “open source warfare” as one means to enable network insurgencies.
Network insurgents use a unique form of logistics to supply their wars. Robb calls it the “bazaar of violence.” So how do you get 50 different groups with different selfish interests to work together? Free markets. Independent insurgent cells and networks trade goods and services in this bazaar. They shop around for the best price and contract services as needed. They use capitalist markets to coordinate and cooperate rather than central management and distribution like conventional armies.
A bazaar of violence is a hallmark of global guerrilla warfare. When a state collapses, as it did in Iraq, global guerrillas quickly arrive with money and violence. Through this funding, terrorist violence, and infrastructure disruption; global guerrillas create conditions ripe for the establishment of a bazaar of violence. In essence, the bazaar is an emergent property of global guerrilla operations within a failed or collapsed state. Once established, it builds on itself and creates a dynamic that is almost impossible to disrupt.
These network insurgents are entrepreneurs, and Robb compares their behavior to the open source software community. They innovate and share concepts, test them, and modify them as needed. Their heavy reliance on the Internet facilitates this interaction. This is especially pronounced with bomb-makers. They are used to make IEDs and other types of bombs, but are engaged in a constant arms race against state forces.
This has been developing since the Cold War, back when the Soviet Union supported dozens of Communist insurgencies across the world. Insurgents today have matured and no longer need a state sponsor. Iraq is a prototype for this new style of warfare.
The Battle of the Commons
Once these network insurgencies and transnational criminal organizations collapse weak states on the periphery, they begin attacking the global trade on the Commons.
The Global Commons is the region where no state or corporation owns. The Commons provide access to other countries. These commons include the oceans, space, airspace, cyberspace, financial markets, ideologies, and cultures.
Globalization relies on the Commons to integrate multinational economies. Disrupting or severing access to the Commons could do more material harm to states than direct attacks on their territory.
The great danger may not come from other states. Great Power tensions will always exist, but the failure of states along the periphery can sever trade routes.
Criminals and radicals in failed states are already beginning to infest the commons. This includes traditional parasitism. Piracy – actually armed robbers on boats – is on the rise once again. Non-traditional attacks appear in other areas of the commons, like criminal activity and the spreading of propaganda on the Internet.
Look on the bright side, the states that are still strong are about to undergo major demographic crises. These demographic crises have traditionally been linked to increases in conflicts.
The populations of Europe, China, and Japan are aging. The Japanese and Russian populations will decline. China and India have a growing gender imbalance which will create millions more males than females.
The core states – the United States, Europe, Japan – face unsustainable debt from their welfare systems over the next few decades.
The most difficult security problem is the Youth Bulge. There is a surge of population growth in the Mid East and Africa where a disproportionate percentage of the population is under age 30.
Guns are cheap and jobs are few.
It looks like much of the world is reaching a critical point where the old Industrial-era systems of government are failing or weakening. New methods of warfare are getting better at tearing down nation-states through small confederations of network insurgencies, criminals and tribes. The current Global Insurgency, led by the Islamists, may or may not become more significant on its own. It may be like the Balkans Wars which preceeded the World Wars.
The rot that people see in Iraq today is common throughout the periphery. The publicity of the war in Iraq is revealing how bad the situation really is more than anything else.
I don’t know how violent or how long this avalanche will be. All I can say is this is nonmoral.