Death of the Nation-State?

I was listening to a fascinating debate between Vox Day and Jack Murphy on the subject of the Alt-Right and the viability of ethnic nationalism in America, and there was an interesting point that Vox Day brought up, regarding the advent of 4th Generation Warfare.

4th Generation Warfare (4GW) is characterized by a blurring of the traditional lines between warfare and politics. It is highly decentralized, usually fought through a combination of terrorism, propaganda, and litigation, the goal being to operate in the fog between moral legitimacy and the raw exertion of power, and in doing so, make your side more difficult to identify and to hit.

In answer to one of Jack Murphy’s questions (about the possibility of “CalExit“), Vox Day pointed out that since the advent of 4GW, the monopoly of state power with violence has significantly eroded:

The ironic thing is that the U.S. has gone to war several times to protect the self-determination of peoples. It is ironic that they would use violence to prevent self-determination on the part of American citizens.

I am not saying that Jack is wrong, I think that might be the case, but the reality is that it will not be too long before that option disappears.

It will not be too long before the proliferation of genetic weapons and other WMDs are going to nullify the overwhelming power of the central state.

One of the books we publish, the 4th Generation War Handbook with Lind and Thiele, talks about how the state loses most of the wars that it fights now. In the last fifty years, the regular military forces have lost almost every encounter with populace forces that they have fought.

It is a valid point on the subject of California alone (or Texas and Cascadia, for that matter). But technology rarely sits in one place for very long. 4GW and the types of technology to which Vox is referring could undermine the monopoly of force held by the state to wage wars and to enforce law. In other words, we may see the death of the nation-state as a model for human organization within the next century.

It is often forgotten just how modern an invention the nation state is, particularly in its current political trappings. Prior to the 18th century, in fact, the nation state almost did not exist (with a few notable exceptions, like Japan). Small tribes, like the Cherusci and the Cherokee; city states like Sparta and Athens; feudal kingdoms like Northumbria and Bavaria; multi-ethnic empires like Rome and China. All of these existed, but not nation states as we see them today. There was no “France,” or “Spain,” merely a variety of groups within the boundaries of the regions that we today call “France” and “Greek.” Some of these spoke French, some spoke Greek; others spoke Latin, Arabic, or even Gaelic. Dorians Acheans, Aeolians, Ionians, Persians, and various North African peoples have variously occupied the Hellenic archipelago. In France, the Franks, Celts, Visigoths, Saxons, and even Vikings have variously passed through and settled. Each of these groups had their own government, or more likely, loose alliance between a collection of clannish governments.

As Justice Oliver Wendel Holmes Jr. points out in The Common Law, the origins of our modern judicial system arose out of a desire to minimize the damage caused by inter-tribal blood feuds. The right to the monopoly of force was ceded to a wise king, who could arbitrate disputes and enforce his rulings with overwhelming power if necessary.

Armies, by contrast, began through alliances between tribes that shared a temporary common interest. The Achaean alliance against the Trojans, as reported in the Iliad, is one such example. If you voluntarily grant to a king the monopoly of violence over your people, you may as well grant military power abroad as well. Thus the foundations for the “night watchmen state” were laid. Today, it has certainly grown beyond this libertarian core, into something of a leviathon of collective philanthropy. But without the power of overwhelming violence at its core, the state loses both its moral and practical legitimacy.

4GW fundamentally undermines this moral and practical foundation. The technology and organizational strategies that make 4GW possible are unanswerable to the State. This is because the state is necessarily organized by explicit laws that constrain its power… without these explicit constraints, the difference between a voluntary granting of the monopoly of force and the involuntary subjugation of a people under a ruling class fades away.

At first, this may sound as if it only applies to liberal democracies. But more authoritarian nations are far more susceptible to 4GW psy-ops than liberal democracies are. Historically speaking, the possibility of absolute power over a group always proves to be more attractive to the greedy and the corrupt than to those more suited for ruling, if it doesn’t corrupt those already holding the office. A nation divided from within is easy to invade and conquer, especially when a large part of its population is desperate for some semblance of order.

It is impossible to know exactly what form of government will follow the nation state. Perhaps it will be a collection of loose tribes, each insular and distrusting of outsiders, but willing to quickly and fluidly combine forces to defend against common threats (if such combination is even needed; with 4GW, the cost of invasion is much higher than before). Perhaps it will be some kind of technologically-enabled collection of direct democracies, with a Wikipedia-style body of common law, enforced through algorithmic digital sanctions. Such a techno-state could exist without actual geographic boundaries; who knows. Perhaps the only safe option will be to avoid the web, and follow the example of the demographically-exploding Amish peoples–off the grid, and building barns with hammers and horses. At this point in time, the possibilities are so multifaceted and unexplored that we can only speculate.

It will have to be something though. Between the rising debt, the increasing difficulty of even defining — let alone enforcing — the law, and securing national borders, the modern nation state is failing to preserve the nations it was purpose-built to protect. On the subject of immigration, for example, the problem is as much legal immigration as it is illegal, if not more so. Our modern state seems ill-equipped to handle such distinctions, as foreign peoples are finding ways — with the help of technology previously unavailable — to invade and exploit foreign nations before heading back home, if they do not simply remain and turn their new home country into a version of their homeland.

I have gotten the crazy look from friends for suggesting that civil war was coming to the United States within the next 10-20 years. But within the 4GW model, the war isn’t coming: it’s already here. In case you aren’t aware, war has been declared on you. By Muslims from ISIS now living in your home country; by blacks in #BLM who believe whites to be genetically inferior and ought to be enslaved or killed off; by La Raza Cosmica, who want to take over the South West of the United States and perhaps more after that. Even by other people who share your race, but who hold different values and different political ideologies. They will not launch terror-attacks, lawsuits, and propaganda campaigns against you in the future: they are already doing that right now.

And the Nation-State won’t protect you. It can’t.


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