A Limiting Document?
William S. Lind
by William S. Lind: O=W
view of our Laputan foreign-policy establishment, what is happening
in Syria and elsewhere is a conflict between democracy
and dictatorship. Valiant youths who fight for freedom
are destined to triumph, bringing happiness and prosperity to their
formerly oppressed lands. This is the Whig version of history
the progressive narrative. It bears little resemblance to reality.
A Syrian Foreign
Ministry spokesman Jihad Makdissi came closer to truth. He was quoted
in the New York Times as saying that Syria faces gang warfare.
Gangs are one
of the most basic, and most potent, building blocks of stateless
Fourth Generation war. We commonly think of gangs in connection
with crime. But through most of history, the line between crime
and war was blurred, often to the point of vanishing. (See Barbara
Distant Mirror: The Calamitous Fourteenth Century.)
It was the
state that drew the line clearly, but today in much of the Middle
East and elsewhere states and the state system are collapsing. What
is succeeding the state looks much like the 14th century Europe
Tuchman describes: people and regions are at the mercy of roving
bands of armed men who hire themselves out as soldiers when they
can and otherwise take what they want from anyone too weak to resist
them. Their only loyalty is to each other to their gang.
One of the
characteristics shared by most disintegrating states is a vast surplus
of young men who have no access to jobs, money, or women. Gangs
are a magnet for them. We see this in American contexts as well:
in public schools, in ethnic neighborhoods, and in our prisons,
most of which are controlled not by wardens but by racially defined
Young men are
also drawn to fighting, which, conveniently, is something gangs
do. Much of what we see in states struggling for their lives such
as Syria is supply-side war. Fighting spreads not because of some
cause like democracy but because idle young men see
a fight and join in. Why not? They have nothing to do, nothing to
lose, and thanks to their new gang and AK-47, lots to take: money,
women, and fame. The New York Times reported from Aleppo:
said there were not just clashes between the government and insurgents,
but also rival militias from the countryside fighting for control
of individual streets.
In a central old quarter, one man
said a friend had warned him not to visit because young gunmen
had established a checkpoint to rob car passengers.
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2012 The American Conservative