Incoming! "Kahwump!" Few Americans have connected the collapse of Enron with the collapse of the World Trade Center and with the collapse of Argentina's currency. However, they are all opening salvos in the first war of the 21st century, which may well be recorded as World War III when the dust settles and the dead are tallied.
Into the Abysmal Abyss
The new war has been a while in fermentation and much as Chamberlain's efforts to restrain Hitler in 1939 Munich failed, so "War 21C-1" will not be denied its day by peace movements; it already has hideous momentum and too much stands at risk for the stakeholders, comprised of everyone in the world.
At the end of the Cold War, marked most notably by the collapse of the Berlin Wall, a series of global rules dissolved. After World War II there were two global superpowers, and everything that happened was cast in the light of those two powers. Even "skirmishes" like Korea, Vietnam, El Salvador, and Afghanistan were small power imbalances in an otherwise stable tug-of-war between the two giants.
However, when the Berlin Wall came down on November 9, 1989, it became a collapsed dam, releasing long-pent-up tensions, and while politicians chanted peace mantras during the transition period of the 1990s, numerous smaller powers jockeyed for position. Those reading the real pressure gauges knew that sooner or later, something had to blow.
Guerre Sans Frontières
The global paradigm has radically changed and overcoming the human tendency of trying to "get back to normal" is essential for survival. The meaning of "normal" will not be a 20th century definition and when the war ends, much will have changed forever: a point of no return has been passed in the night as the global passengers slept on. The new war will most likely be perceived as a series of incoming "kahwumps" as breakdowns or attacks take place. This will be followed by a period of recoil, retaliation and retrenchment, only to be followed by another "kahwump."
The new war involves a dance of combatants, where the sides are unsure, and switching sides may become commonplace depending on the day or skirmish in question: terrorists carrying out a political or religious agenda, governments defending themselves from terrorists, or other governments helping terrorists; speculators attacking governments in the money markets; or governments defending themselves from their citizens as the governments' own schemes collapse under their own insupportable economic weight. Internal dissent and clashings of minority groups will be frequent.
Old ideologies - particular the rose-colored leftist ones - will receive a sound thrashing as reality breaks through, no longer sustainable by world events and economic realities. Even radical environmentalism is on its way to becoming unsustainable in the new war.
1) War 21C-1 will be a war without national borders, involving numerous players for whom national boundaries have no significance save for a place to hide. Al-Qaida, for example, is not a country but several thousand warriors scattered in unknown locations around the world, all intent on bringing damage to their opponents' homelands. Some are "sleepers" in the very lands they intend attacking. They achieve their goals not by an armed frontal attack but by stealth. Some attacks may be merely electronic. They can hide in a host of different countries. Thus eradicating the enemy will necessitate preemptory or retaliatory military action within the borders of sovereign nations, which may trigger other actions and consequences.
2) This blurring of boundaries and jurisdictions will provide the United Nations with much fodder for pressing to its goal of global governance in the name of preventing all future wars, which is surprising considering its track record of 100% failure to accomplish this during the last 50 years of its existence. Already the UN is pushing hard to becoming self funding, hiring its own peacekeeping force (read "army"), and claiming legal jurisdiction over much of the "global commons" and parts of sovereign nations themselves. Applying the duck test, it is a global government in the making, even while it denies such a thing.
3) The new war uses both conventional weapons and unconventional ones. The physical aspect of this war is primarily infrastructure disruption: psychological, physical and political. Terrorism is designed to intimidate a civilian population into surrender by unexpectedly killing a small group of their number or disrupting their infrastructure. There may be squaring off of armies occasionally but much of this war will be hidden from view, especially in the electronic and economic sectors.
Terrorists have a widening array of arms, and biological and nuclear weapons that hitherto were available only to select countries. They also now have serious electronic and economic weapons, which can be deployed against their enemies in the world's money and commodity markets, as well as the world's communications systems. Competition for increasingly scarce resources such as oil will become fierce.1
Retaliation against terrorism is difficult without information about the attackers, who appeared from nowhere and disappear to nowhere or destroy themselves in the attack, which leads to the next phase of the war.
Truth: The First Casualty
Truth is almost invariably the first casualty of any war. The new war will be fought intensely as an electronic info-war at two levels:
1) Political - as verbal claims, counter claims, information, disinformation and misinformation reverberate around the globe in seconds on satellites and the Internet. Combatants, governments and financial organizations can be expected to emit a huge quantity of misinformation designed to steer entire populations to predetermined actions and outcomes in the war, rather than to provide them with genuine information and perspective. Obtaining "clean" information will be an essential skill of the new warriors.
2) Tactical - as combatants coordinate their efforts worldwide and governments attempt to prevent incidents within their own borders, snooping of all kinds will become the order of the day. Ultimately, everyone will be suspect, even those citizens whom governments are supposed to defend. Indeed, this is a key goal of Islamic terrorism: destroying the freedoms enjoyed in the West by turning Western governments on their own people during the fight against terrorism.
After each "kahwump," we will probably see new, hastily ill-composed categories of electronic and paper crimes and regulations-violation of which may carry hefty prison terms or fines. These will invariably sweep up many innocent "criminals," who inadvertently violate the constantly evolving legal matrix, which no one can possibly know thoroughly.
Since police cannot be everywhere, citizens will be encouraged to spy on one another, and the invariable abuse of system will set in. Don't like what your neighbor or seat partner believes politically or religiously? Just turn him in for saying he was going to bomb something. That will make a lot of trouble for him and the burden of proof will be on him that he didn't say it.
It's a continuation of child abuse "abuse," which is now rampant in many countries, particularly in divorce cases. From 60-70% of all child abuse accusations are groundless, but keep law enforcement officials running around tracking down false leads while muddying the waters of real ones. The same can be expected of the new watch-your-neighbor system that is evolving.
As governments try to track the movements of active terrorists, there will be unrelenting pressure to track the movements of everyone: cameras with facial recognition software, ID registration of citizens, databases, and the ever-popular chips. Private organization will be encouraged by governments to help them know as much as possible about the daily lives of everyone, making privacy a thing of the past. Databasing the detailed information of Westerners is far more advanced than most realize and what governments are prevented from doing by law, they buy from private "compu-snoop" organizations or have their allies do it for them.
There will be almost irresistible pressure to suspend or subvert legal protections in the name of making people safe. In the midst of the newly emerging legal structure, some voices like MSNBC host Alan Keyes are already pointing out that if a country destroys the very freedoms it purports to defend in the process of fighting the war, the enemy will have won.
Key to the new war is economics. Fighting economic wars on a daily basis is essential in fighting the war as combatants electronically jockey for control of information, resources - especially oil - and currencies.
Few people understand the precarious state to which the world's currencies have come, which is a factor in and of itself. Our article next month, "Facing the Abysmal Abyss," deals with the state of the global monetary system, which will be a major player in the first war of the 21st century. Indeed, the physical, political and economic aspects of the war will invariably combine.
One thing is certain: the era of stability, peace and prosperity is over. The only stability to be found in the near-term future is faith in God, who promises to carry His own safely through whatever may come. But that should not be taken to mean vigilance and action may not be required of us.
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[John Loeffler hosts the weekly news program, Steel on Steel, heard on the Information Radio Network at www.steelonsteel.com]