At America's behest, Pakistan sent its army
into the tribal territories along its northwest frontier. Predictably, its army
got beaten. The Pakistani government has now signed a truce with the tribes
in North Waziristan, a wise move given that government's fragility. (On Sunday,
when the power went out all over Pakistan, everyone assumed there had been a
Washington and its gentlemanly Afghan puppet, Mr. Karzai, are howling that
this will give the Taliban a sanctuary, which is true. Every military force,
including those of the Fourth Generation, needs some sort of secure rear area
where its fighters can relax, its wounded can receive treatment, and its new
recruits can be trained. Such sanctuaries are vital for the Taliban, al-Qaeda,
Hamas, Hezbollah, and all the rest.
Unfortunately, this need for sanctuaries is leading the "silver bullet"
crowd, those who seek some magical single answer to the Fourth Generation threat,
off on another detour to nowhere. They say that if we only put enough pressure
on states such as Pakistan not to permit sanctuaries, and overthrow state governments
that openly provide sanctuary such as Syria's, then the Fourth Generation will
disappear. Sorry, but it won't.
The error is that, as usual, the silver bulleteers are thinking in terms
of states. They argue not only that Fourth Generation entities need sanctuaries,
which is true, but that those sanctuaries have to be in states, which is not
true. On the contrary, stateless regions provide the best sanctuary Fourth Generation
forces can hope to find.
The best example is the stateless region of Mesopotamia, formerly the state
of Iraq (minus Kurdistan). Despite the presence of 140,000 American troops,
20,000 mercenaries, and the dwindling remains of the coalition of the shilling,
Mesopotamia is now a happy hunting ground for more 4GW entities than Osama can
count. In that stateless void, they have rich recruiting grounds, the best training
available anywhere, ample funds, plenty of weapons, and enough quiet places
where tired or wounded mujahedeen can get their R&R. The former Iraq has
become a Fourth Generation theme park. Six Hundred Flags, perhaps? Or maybe
Much of Afghanistan is rapidly going the same route. Far from needing friendly
states for sanctuary, most 4GW forces can find it locally, often right under
the occupiers' noses. While Pakistan's northwest territories do give the Taliban
welcome sanctuary, I'd bet at least one goat that most Afghan Taliban find their
sanctuary in Afghanistan, among their families, friends, and fellow tribesmen.
If some hapless NATO troops stumble into their village while they're on R&R,
they can just smile and wave. Why travel for what you have at home?
The sanctuary delusion has two unfortunate consequences. First, like all
silver bullet answers to 4GW, it leads us astray from the slow, painful, and
difficult task of understanding the Fourth Generation in all its evolving complexity.
Second, as with Pakistan, it leads the American government to push friendly
governments in weak states over the edge. By demanding they deny sanctuary on
their territory to "terrorists" who have strong popular support, Washington
exacerbates their crises of legitimacy. Washington then acts surprised and dumbfounded
when those governments fall, as it discreetly folds away the pocket knife that
cut their high wire. If their fall creates another stateless region, the Fourth
Generation gets another ideal sanctuary.
As is so often the case in 4GW, the fact that Fourth Generation forces
need sanctuaries means neither that they must obtain them from states nor that
they can be targeted. Our troops in Afghanistan don't call their Taliban opponents
"ghosts" for nothing.