Magazine article The American Conservative

Worse Than Tyranny

Magazine article The American Conservative

Worse Than Tyranny

Article excerpt

As the American foreign-policy establishment drools about "democracy," the U.S. position in the Middle East is collapsing. Its three legs are Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan. Two of those are disintegrating. One-legged stools make unstable seats.

The likelihood of any of the countries in the region becoming thriving, secular democracies is about equal to the probability we will balance the federal budget with bars of gold brought by flying monkeys. In the Middle East as in most of the world, the two options are tyranny and anarchy. When tyranny fails, anarchy moves in.

Establishment analysis perceives the possibility of disaster but does not grasp its potential dimensions. It sees the worst possible outcome as the rise of Islamic governments hostile to Israel, friendly to Iran, unwilling to cooperate with the United States in the "war on terror," and dismissive of such "universals" as feminist definitions of women's rights.

However, if we look at unfolding events through the lens provided by Fourth Generation war theory, a darker picture emerges. Fourth Generation theory says that what is at stake is the state itself.

Behind the events in the streets, the fundamental contest will be a war for legitimacy between non-state actors and the aspiring governments of states. As states all over the world become private preserves of a "new class" who use politics only to serve themselves, people are transferring their primary loyalty away from governments to a wide variety of other entities: religions and sects, races and ethnic groups, gangs, ideologies, and so on. For these new primary loyalties they are often eager to fight; this is especially true where there are large surpluses of young men with nothing else to do. Think of it as supply-side war.

From this perspective, the worst possible outcome of revolutionary events in the Middle East is the disintegration of states and their replacement either by statelessness--as we see in Somalia--or by fictional states, as in Iraq and Afghanistan. Within the territories that were formerly real states, power devolves to many non-state entities. Internally, war becomes a permanent condition, while externally there is no one with whom other states can deal. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.