The deconstructionists are mistaken when they argue that in literature text is everything. When we come to the subject of grand strategy, however, it is correct to say that context is everything. Nothing illustrates the point better than the interventionists’ habit of presenting every situation as a replay of Munich 1938. In reality, in a world where the state is losing its monopoly both on war and on social organization, worrying about another Munich is as useful as worrying about another Defenestration of Prague. The 21st-century context is radically different from the context of Europe in the 1930s.
Conservatives in particular now find ourselves confronting vast changes in the grand strategic context, changes many find emotionally difficult as well as intellectually challenging. We were brought up in a world where the grand strategic context was easy to grasp: our country, the United States of America, represented what was good, and our country’s principal opponent, the Soviet Union, represented evil. “Us versus them” was a realistic and useful framework.
The new grand strategic context is much more complex, from a moral as well as a political perspective. And—here is where many conservatives choke —the United States, or at least its policy-making elites, no longer wear the white hats. Conservatives, especially cultural conservatives, face a 21st century where the landscape is dominated by two vast evil forces in collision. Sadly, one of those forces is largely defined and led by the United States.
Of these two baleful titans, one is easy for Americans to perceive and reject. It is the conglomeration of elements collected under the big tent of Fourth Generation war, a collection that includes al-Qaeda and terrorists generally.
The Fourth Generation of Modern War, warfare since the Peace of Westphalia in 1648, is the greatest change in armed conflict since the modern era began. It is marked by the state’s loss of the monopoly on war it established with Westphalia and the rise of non-state elements that can fight states and win. At its core is not a military but a political, social, and moral phenomenon, a crisis of legitimacy of the state itself. All over the world, people are withdrawing their primary loyalty from the state and giving it to a wide variety of other things, of many different kinds: families, clans, tribes, ethnic groups and races, gangs, ideologies, causes such as environmentalism and animal rights, religions, and so on. Many people who would never fight for their state are willing, even eager, to fight for their new primary loyalty.
Further, just as the state was born from cannon, so Fourth Generation war is giving rise to new forms of social organization. It should not surprise us that al-Qaeda’s goal is not taking power within states but abolishing the state altogether and replacing it with an ummah headed by a caliph, a pre-state form of social organization.
Critics of the non-state forces of the Fourth Generation say that they represent a return to the Dark Ages. That critique is valid. Where the Fourth Generation has prevailed, in places such as West Africa, Somalia, and, thanks to an American invasion, Iraq, life is once again nasty, brutish, and short. Just as the lamps went out all over Europe in 1914, so they will be extinguished, perhaps for centuries, wherever the state fails and Fourth Generation elements come to rule. This, again, is easy for Americans to grasp.
The hard and painful aspect of the new grand strategic context is that the principal opponent of the Fourth Generation is not the Christian West but Brave New World. Aldous Huxley’s short novel by that title, published in the 1930s, is a chillingly accurate description of the soft totalitarianism that now sees itself within reach of unchallengeable world power.
Sadly, the march toward Brave New World is led by the United States. The main characteristics of Huxley’s dystopia are all too evident in post-1960s America (and Europe). They include a culture where the summary of the law is “you must be happy,” happiness coming from a combination of materialism, consumerism, electronic entertainment, and sexual pleasure; globalism, the elites’ “one ring to rule them all and in the darkness bind them” under de facto if not de jure world government; and endless psychological conditioning, especially through the government schools and the video-screen media. Religion is already relegated to the eccentric margins, at least among the elites, if not yet quite forbidden—note those elites’ hysteria over the thesis of intelligent design, which can be reached via the scientific method. Even reproductive processes are becoming much as Huxley envisioned them. In the post-Christian West, sex is predominantly recreational, and if children do not yet come from bottles, not many babies result from all that sex. Soon enough, thanks to genetic engineering, the genetic conditioning Huxley foresaw will join psychological conditioning to create an inescapable prison for the human will. At that point, we will face the Abolition of Man. No wonder Huxley’s “savage,” who represents the Last Man, committed suicide.
Presciently, Huxley also foresaw America’s leading role in the creation of Brave New World; the calendar was measured “in the Year of Our Ford.” The fact that the United States is now Brave New World’s chief promoter and, as in Iraq and Afghanistan, enforcer, is not due merely to the short-term phenomenon of the neocons’ hold on national policy. (Though neocons see themselves as defenders of liberty, their Newspeak definition of “freedom” is shorthand for everything Huxley feared.) Rather, the values of Brave New World are embodied in America’s post-1960s culture to an astonishing degree. And not only embodied, but aggressively exported, in everything from our television programs and the Internet to the imposition of feminism and soon, no doubt, gay rights on Iraq and Afghanistan with American bayonets.
There is one element of the real Brave New World Huxley missed, and that is ideology. At the heart of the West’s assault on itself, on traditional, Christian, Western culture, is the ideology of cultural Marxism, the civilizational IED planted by Gramsci, Lukacs, and the Frankfurt School. Known most commonly as political correctness or multiculturalism, cultural Marxism holds sway over all Western elites; to deny or contravene it (without groveling apologies) is to cease instantly to be a member of the elite. It has already made vast progress toward its goals of “negation” of Western culture and the “transvaluation of all values” (stolen from Nietzsche), which means simply that the old sins become virtues and the old virtues, sins. Buggery is a fine, normal, high-principled thing, but for God’s sake, don’t smoke.
Just as Brave New World’s critique of the forces of the Fourth Generation as representatives of a new Dark Age is valid, so is the critique of Brave New World by much of the Fourth Generation. When they say Brave New World is Satanic, they are correct. A traditional Christian theologian might dare go further than Salafi mullahs; in its efforts to create an everlasting, all-embracing, inescapable virtual reality where man loses all free will, Brave New World may be hell’s most audacious attempt to expel Christ from this world altogether. In other words, Brave New World is anti-Christ.
Thus we see the grand strategic context of the 21st century, defined by the cosmic collision of the forces of the Fourth Generation and Brave New World. They are already physically in combat in the Middle East, the Balkans, the jungles of Columbia, and the deeper jungles of Los Angeles.
What is an American who loves the country he once had, and is even more deeply devoted to the old Western culture than that country reflected, to do? Choosing the lesser of two evils is not an option because if there is one thing Brave New World and the Fourth Generation agree on it is that “Western culture’s got to go.” The proper answer to a choice of death by hanging or by firing squad is to refuse to participate in one’s own murder.
Rather, we must do what seems impossible. We must rally the remnants of Western Christian civilization to fight Brave New World and the Fourth Generation simultaneously. Perhaps, as when the Roman Empire fell, all we will be able to accomplish is to keep the Holy Faith and (some) knowledge alive in the monasteries, whatever those may prove to be in our time. Much was then lost, but enough survived to enable the Christian West to rise again.
Yet even as Old Night comes on, there are glimmers of light. In the Third World, the advancing hordes of Islam are being met, and fought, by a growing new Christendom. That new Christendom is already strong enough to reach out into the apostate West; witness Third World Anglican bishops riding to the rescue of their oppressed orthodox coreligionists in the post-Christian Episcopal Church.
Seen from within the United States, the triumph of Brave New World appears inevitable. But here too there is hope. The globalist Brave New World elites are making what may be a fatal mistake. They think they have already won.
Whenever one party to a war believes at the outset of the conflict that his victory is inevitable, it isn’t. Yet nothing more strongly characterizes Brave New World than its belief in inevitable victory. It permeates American elites’ rhetoric: globalism is inevitable; liberal, secular democracy, the “end of history,” is inevitable; the obliteration of Christian morals is inevitable; enslavement of the world’s population to electronic virtual realities is inevitable.
Poppycock. In the real world, the forces of the Fourth Generation are already defeating those of Brave New World in one venue after another, from Gaza through Iraq to Afghanistan. History, it seems, is not quite dead. Brave New World cannot see that the forces undermining the legitimacy of the state are more powerful than most states, especially at the moral level.
The globalist economy is beginning to raise Western middle classes against itself as they perceive that it means their extinction. In America, the governing Brave New World elite has made the classic hubristic blunder of imperial overreach, starting, then losing, avoidable wars. America’s finances are precarious, its economy depends on endless foreign loans, and its Brave New lifestyle depends on a flood of energy that is drying up. It all looks ever more like Versailles in about 1788, minus Versailles’s good manners and music.
When Brave New World’s walls come a tumblin’ down—and they will—men of the West may have their opportunity. Bewildered, shocked, sometimes panicked societies will seek alternatives but not know where to turn.
We do know where to turn. In the West, and perhaps beyond the West, survival will mean turning back, back to the old ideas, old ways of living, old morals and old faith. They have not been gone, or almost so, for so long that they are forgotten. Our task now is to take them down off the shelves, polish them up, and fit them once again for service. When the vacuum appears, we, as cultural conservatives, can and must be ready to fill it. Whoever fills it successfully will be the winner of the war between the Fourth Generation and Brave New World.
The good news is that the victor does not have to be either of the main contenders..
William S. Lind is director of the Center for Cultural Conservatism at the Free Congress Foundation in Washington, D.C