ORGANIC CONSERVATISM AND FOURTH GENERATION WARFARE
A number of email exchanges and blog posts at various sites recently spurred me to put my finger on something that has long troubled me about 4GW theoretical analysis; namely, a significant blind spot regarding economics that at times borders on sheer contempt. A few examples:
William Lind, writing in “Barbarians at the Gates“
“Buchanan breaks new ground in his discussion of the Republican Party’s disgusting defense of open borders, a position justified by the argument that the resulting cheap labor is good for the economy.
Scholar Jon Attarian gave a name to the cult that has captured the party of Goldwater and Reagan: “economism.” This neo-Marxist ideology is rooted in a belief that economics rules the world, that economic activity is mankind’s most important activity and the most conducive to human happiness, and that economics is what politics is or should be all about.
Economism does not just believe in markets, it worships them…The commands of the market overrule the claims of citizenship, culture, country. Economic efficiency becomes the highest virtue.
So far has the cult of economism spread that many conservatives now believe it defines conservatism. It does not. On the contrary, conservatives have never regarded efficiency as an important virtue. Buchanan does not fall into this vulgar error. He devotes an entire chapter of State of Emergency to the question, “What Is a Nation?,” and his answer would please Edmund Burke much more than it would Jeremy Bentham”
Lind has an extensive thesis on political correctness as cultural Marxism aping economic Marxism and P.C. advocates having a general and verifiably illiberal hostility toward Western culture and political norms. I think in many instances, at least where you deal with the zealous activist base of the academic/NGO hard left and its fellow travellers, Lind’s theory holds water. My problem is where Lind generalizes off of that to an assumption that consideration of the actual weight of economic variables in a situatuional dynamic makes you a “neo-Marxist”. No, it simply makes you intellectually credible.
Because Lind is an (if not ” the”) authoritative voice in the 4GW community, this anti-market attitude has been transmitted as if by osmosis to his followers and admirers who express it now almost a priori. Even John Robb, who certainly knows better than most about the power of the market as a complex adaptive system, wrote today on his less formal blog:
“This is the crux of the Bush/Neocon/Barnett plans. The only difference is the method. All of them assume they know where history is headed. All of them are wrong.
Even worse, they have recast Adam Smith as Che:
She attributed the setbacks to “counterrevolutionary forces” seeking to undo U.S. success in the region.
That’s a little over the top. As the world’s rentier elite, it’s hard to imagine that we are a revolutionary force. The real revolutionary forces are destroying states.”
There is a proper name for the valuation of atavistic identities uber alles – organic conservatism-
it has a very long pedigree and provides genuine saliency as an analytical perspective because group identities based on ethnolinguistic considerations, religion and culture are powerful political touchstones in their own right. They are very real factors in politics and war as Lind correctly emphasizes. What they do not do is cancel out or replace economic relationships but instead interact and coexist alongside them.
In my view, 4GW as a school of strategic thought has a number of critical insights to offer on geopolitics and military strategy that the official defense establishment has for too long resisted (or stridently attacked) that it would do well to consider in earnest. What 4GW thinkers in turn should do is make room for the power of economic drivers in their analysis. Disliking the cultural effects of the free market is fine, wishing them away is not.