I’ve noted before that I’ve done some work with the Matthew Ridgway Center for International Security Studies at the University of Pittsburgh. Dr. Phil Williams, a noted scholar on transnational security threats, was the director, and was also a visiting scholar at the Strategic Studies Institute of the U.S. Army War College, and for them he wrote several monographs. One in particular that caught my eye was “From the New Middle Ages to a New Dark Age: The Decline of the State and U.S. Strategy“. At the time (two years ago) I toyed around with the possibility of a book-length expansion on this, going as far as working up a table of contents and listing some extra things that the book could cover that the monograph did not.
Real life intervened, as it often does, and I found myself back at work as an engineer, so I never got much further with the book. Still, I think Dr. Williams’ paper deserves more consideration, and I’d still like to explore some of the ideas in the monograph in further detail. Given the Arab Spring, Ukraine, and Syria, as well as the situation in the South China Sea, I think Dr. Williams foresaw a lot of things in this publication. At the end of it, he gives some recommendations which are interesting in light of the cutbacks to the U.S. military that we are seeing.
I’ll explore different areas over the next few weeks – I’m aiming for one blog post per week. For today, here is a synopsis of the monograph taken from the SSI website. I encourage you to download and read it.
“Security and stability in the 21st century have little to do with traditional power politics, military conflict between states, and issues of grand strategy. Instead they revolve around the disruptive consequences of globalization, declining governance, inequality, urbanization, and nonstate violent actors. The author explores the implications of these issues for the United States. He proposes a rejection of “stateocentric” assumptions and an embrace of the notion of the New Middle Ages characterized, among other things, by competing structures, fragmented authority, and the rise of “no-go” zones. He also suggests that the world could tip into a New Dark Age. He identifies three major options for the United States in responding to such a development. The author argues that for interventions to have any chance of success the United States will have to move to a trans-agency approach. But even this might not be sufficient to stanch the chaos and prevent the continuing decline of the Westphalian state.”