Sunday, May 13, 2007

The Strategic Citizen and the Long War

I was going through some old files and came across this text. It was originally written and posted as a comment at Zenpundit some time ago (not sure exactly when) where I presented some of my thoughts on the "strategic citizen." Since I have a blog now, I figured I would repost it here:

We are conditioned to think of war as government activity and for the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd generations of war that is true. But once the 4th generation+ appears it is no longer a war waged by governments against governments. Our free societies are comprised of government and civil society. The moral level is something that is better handled by the civil society component. We recognize the importance of the "strategic corporal", well in civil society we need to recognize the role of the "strategic citizen". In the kind of war we are now fighting ordinary citizens can have a strategic impact. In free societies it is the government's job to guarantee freedom of speech. It is not authorized to pick and choose among the variety of speech its citizens choose to engage in. Rather, it is the role of the citizen to step up to the plate and compete. Islamic fundamentalists are free to try to persuade people to their point of view, to wage media campaigns, hire lobbyists, and propagate their ideas. As long as they are not breaking the law, government has no role. But citizens do have a role. The kind of war we are in now is different from what we faced in the past. Citizens have a strategic role to play in this war. In fact the only way we can win this war is if citizens assume the responsibility of waging the war within civil society and wage campaigns within the context of civil society to counter Islamist activity. "Strategic citizens" need to create networks, develop ideas, and persuade those who are vulnerable to the Islamist message to adopt a vision of a society "conceived in liberty". They need to become advocates for what we have in the West that is worth defending.

Last year when we were first discussing 5GW, I suggested that we look at the Italian socialist Antonio Gramsci's idea of cultural hegemony as a possible contender. One of the internal conflicts within socialism in the early 20th century was the fact that the working class was not inclined to fulfill its "assigned" role as the revolutionary agent. Some socialists solved this problem by aligning with authoritarian nationalists and replacing the working class with "the nation" as the revolutionary agent, thus giving us fascism. But Gramsci concluded that the failure to radicalize the workers was because liberal capitalism had achieved cultural hegemony, and thus was unconsciously accepted as "common sense". Therefore socialist ideas were rejected out of hand. The plan then was for socialists to engage in a strategy to achieve cultural hegemony for their ideas. This is exactly what Islamic fundamentalists are doing. They are first achieving hegemony within Muslim communities in the West and then by demanding special concessions for their Islamist views, seeking hegemony in Western societies generally. Western democratic governments are not organized to deal with this kind of threat. In the West we break things up into different categories: religion and politics, politics and war, war and crime. And depending on how a particular act is categorized determines how we respond to it and whether government action is authorized. But the Islamic fundamentalists don't necessarily think in terms of our categories. For them religion, politics, war and crime are undifferentiated. One of the biggest problems we have in the West is recognizing the threat and that is because it doesn't fit into our categories. We look at what they are doing and we say "That's no threat, it's not war. It's just people practicing their religion, engaging in normal politics. That's nothing more than a criminal act, law enforcement can handle it."

There will come a time when Islamists will realize that terrorism is counterproductive in the West. That they can achieve their goals through boycotts, protests, marches, lobbying, media campaigns and electoral politics. Is that still war? There is a point where politics and war become indistinguishable. And at that point it isn't government that will lead the way, but, rather, citizens. Citizens motivated by the ideals of the free society, creating associations to further those ideals, and waging a war of ideas to defend their civilization.

So what will it take for citizens to become "strategic citizens"? To recognize their potential and to have the will and drive to act? The war on the moral level is a citizen responsibility. How do we wage that war?

RELATED POSTS:
Citizen Self-Mobilization
The Strategic Citizen and Information Operations

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