Time and again, I find it necessary to remind myself and readers of this column that Fourth Generation war includes much more than the eternal conflict between Christendom (what’s left of it) and Islam. It is war on many fronts, and the southern front, Latin America, has recently witnessed several interesting developments.
In Venezuela, ex-paratrooper President Hugo Chavez recently ordered his military to make study of Fourth Generation war its top priority. More details I do not know, but I suspect the intention here is probably defensive. Chavez says he fears American military intervention in Venezuela, which may or may not be a pose (it seems that in every army, the Airborne is a magnet for the worst and the dumbest). Chavez, and everyone else in the world, has learned from Iraq how to fight the American military. Making the Hammes mistake, Chavez may understand 4GW as just a new term for insurgency, and his directive to his commanders may amount to little more than preparing an insurgency-based defense against Uncle Sam. If others know more details about the Venezuelan situation, I would be happy to hear them.
More interesting from a 4GW standpoint are events in Bolivia, where Indianismo took over the government with the election of Evo Morales as President. Evo Morales also represents the coca farmers, and he has already begun to dismantle the American-financed and American-run program to discourage the growing of coca.
Both his Indian background and his connection with the coca farmers give Morales an interesting option, the option of waging offensive Fourth Generation war. Fourth Generation war is above all a contest for legitimacy. In much of Latin America, the state’s legitimacy is already shaky. The collaboration of some Latin governments with the American government in programs such as eradicating coca fields through aerial spraying reduces their legitimacy further. Helping a rich country destroy poor farmers’ crops in your own country almost guarantees you win the Order of Quisling, First Class (the medal shows two Norwegian lions rampant, holding an inverted chamber pot).
Morales can present himself, not only within Bolivia but well beyond its borders, as a champion of the Indians and the coca growers. Both are potentially a powerful base, and the coca growers are part of a larger system, the drug trade, that is already waging war against the hated gringos. What would be the effects, both on local states such as Peru and on American interests in the region, if Indians outside Bolivia started to look on Morales as their legitimate leader, without regard to state boundaries? Morales’s first, unofficial, Indian inauguration as President, which was roughly modelled on the coronation of an Inca, suggests he may perceive this potential.
Similarly, how may coca farmers in countries such as Columbia regard the President of another country in the region who helps coca growers instead of cooperating in poisoning their crops? Might they too see him as their leader, without regard for national boundaries? Might they be willing to follow him rather than their own state’s leaders, including in a confrontation with America?
Fourth Generation offensives seek not to violate state borders but to transcend them and render them irrelevant. Governments of other states are bypassed rather than confronted, much the way Third Generation infiltration tactics bypass enemy strong points. Both the dispossessed Indians and the besieged coca farmers of portions of Latin America offer Evo Morales fertile soil for a Fourth Generation offensive. It just might happen that Bolivia’s long-desired corridor to the sea runs not through northern Chile but from Cusco to Callao.