Wiggin's wonders aloud whether legitimacy is zero sum. That, if in order for one entity gain legitimacy, another must lose legitimacy. He links to John Robb's post here that highlights a Lind quote.
In the Great Depression of the 1930s, states’ economic failure brought governments and even systems of government, including democracy, into question. In both Europe and the United States, Communism and Fascism gained certain popularity because in the Soviet Union, Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany, everyone had a job. But the state itself was not challenged, because there was no alternative to the state.
Now, there is. Intelligent Fourth Generation entities, ranging from some drug gangs through organizations such as Hezbollah, are competing directly with the state for people’s primary loyalty. If those Fourth Generation entities can provide basic services, including food, when the state can no longer do so, they will gain the legitimacy that state is losing. In Fourth Generation war, that is a bigger win than any potential military victory.
This concept of a 4th Generation entity makes sense when considering the parasitic, narco-feudalists affecting the likes of Mexico and Columbia. Keeping the host (the nation) in a state of continued decay is essential for maintaining their cocaine driven baronies.
However, from my perspective, Hezbollah and Hamas are hardly seeking the state of "perpetual 4GW" (or the Robbian Global Guerrilla) rather are endeavoring to usurp the existing political authority and replace it with their own construct. Think of it as a very gradual coup that occurs not from the top down (a la Pervez Musharaff, perhaps) but yanks the bricks from the foundation that supports an existing regime in a very slow and methodical fashion. Very much in line with Robb's "hollowed state" but the goal isn't anarchy but political change.
Certainly this strategy has worked very well for Hamas as they now maintain political control of the West Bank and Hezbollah as they now hold unprecedented and legitimate power (with some help from Israel) within the Lebanese parliament. Both entities achieved this through the above mentioned displacement of loyalty to the state to loyalty to the party through establishment of a grassroots social welfare system that provided where the authorities could or would not.
So the question is, when does a 4GW entity stop being a 4GW entity? Should we consider Hamas and Hezbollah along the same lines of FARC or any Mexican drug cartel? Is 4GW directly defined by a groups modus or it's status?