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Thread: 4GW Evolves, 5GW Emerges

  1. #21
    Council Member
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    Oct 2005


    Gentlemen, you are beginning to trend along the lines of my perceptions.

    The way men fight is a reflection of the society (with all its complex dimensions) within which they live, further molded to fit the context of the particular enemy in the field. This makes every fight, every war different - but the principles remain the same. That last bit seems commonly accepted regarding conventional warfare, and is promulgated in most military academies. However, COIN/UW seems to throw everyone into fits, and this generations nonsense is ignorance posing as understanding.

    How can what is essentially the oldest form of warfare be the new generation? The information revolution, or the revolutions in nanotech/biotech that Hammes reaches for, still do not change the fundamental precept that you have non-state actors looking to challenge nation-states (whether or not the also have direct or indirect outside state support doesn't matter for this discussion). This has been a recurring threat to nation-states since they were first hammered together (by force of arms). Although I feel the term Asymetric Warfare is clumsy, in many ways it is the best of the multivarious labels that have been stuck periodically on this type of warfare.

    As far as "decentralized networks" being a relatively new and emerging threat - hell, I remember a couple of decades ago, as a cherry HUMINT'er first working with the unconventional crowd, having hammered into me that there were essentially three types of leadership found among the bad-guys (those non-state SOBs): Command, those "hierarchical" organizations that we keep being told were the old model; Steering, leadership by committee - which we don't hear too much about, but which are plentiful in today's threat environment; and Stimulus, which is the decentralized threat that I keep hearing is so "new" and not fully understood yet by the ignorant masses. Just because the current tech revolution facilitates the latter form of leadership, does not make it new.

    Regarding the "new" WMD threat - several of the anarchists lead ideologues in the late 1800s wrote of their desire to use chemical weapons, "mines that would destroy cities", and Congreve rockets (old-guy speak for ballistic missiles) to kill huge numbers of civilians. The intent was there, plans formulated in the heads of other bearded maniacs, but lack of tech solutions foiled them. The same plans hatched, thousands of dollars were spent and slightly twisted PhDs and other highly motivated lunatics put a lot of effort into doing the same a bit more recently - but tech foiled Aum Shinrikyo too. So, are we saying if the tech finally becomes reachable by the lunatics who wish mass death upon innocents - that portends a new generation? I think not.

    I feel the "generations" labeling is a distractor. We all understand the common terms of attack, ambush, raid, etc. Just as in HUMINT ops we all understand the meanings of brush pass, dead drop, cut-out, etc. The challenge today isn't in understanding what damn generation of warfare we are facing - it is understanding how the bad guys are able to adapt and evolve with emerging technology within the framework of UW. An ambush is an ambush - whether it is by fire, an IED, a BW agent, or a network attack upon critical systems. Just as a dead drop is a dead drop - whether it is physical or digital.

    And the challenge is made doubly hard because, as Selil alluded to in his post, the bad guys don't give up the good old-fashioned methods as well - they are still quite useful. We have to keep looking back as we move forward.

    Combat is the harshest form of Darwinism there is, and methods are adopted and discarded by the weaker party in the fight rapidly (much more rapidly than a conventional force changes), based upon simple effectiveness and ease of material acquisition. High-tech isn't always the best; as always, a balance proves more effective.

    Hmm. I think I'm rambling now. I should probably delete/edit a few lines, but I guess I'll go ahead and leave it as it is....

  2. #22
    Council Member jcustis's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2006

    Default A beautiful reply from elsewhere

    Found this and got a hearty chuckle from it:

    5GW sounds like semantics to me. Subterfuge, espionage, Machiavelli and Sun Tzu by another name. It's always been fought, it always will be fought. Supposedly, in 5GW the other side won't know we're fighting, but neither could we because that kind of information is hard to keep from the world. Are we talking about shadowy wars fought by elites sworn to secrecy? Great. Sounds like today to me. Sign me up for MI6.

    I hope I'm not talking out of my arse here, but I don't believe that integrated battlespace technology has as much to do with the prosecution of next-generation warfare as do cellphones and the internet.
    All our overwhelming technology and firepower does is force the enemy to abandon symmetrical warfare, hence 4GW. Our own technology dooms us to failure because the enemy adapts to it easily while we in turn can't adapt to them because we're over-reliant on high-tech. How on earth does the F22 win the kind of conflict Hammes described?

    Bill Lind goes on about in terms of forecasting the death of the nation state. I'm not so sure if that's the case, and perhaps nor are you.
    H. John Poole has written a lot of handy (slightly nutty) books about 4GW infantry tactics. Keeping in mind that 4GW is defined by the blurring of the boundaries between military and society, one lesson I pulled from Phantom Soldier was that Western states have trouble understanding 4GW because we haven't yet practiced it ourselves. Can you effectively practice 4GW as a state? Well, some states have. Phantom Soldier described the Vietnamese border conflict with China. A good example of the integration of the military and society versus an enemy in a state-on-state conflict.

    4GW right now is only visible as a defensive measure. I don't believe anyone has made the leap from defensive to offensive 4GW yet. That's what eludes us. Otherwise, we'd have figured out how to win in Iraq - starting with the elimination of our Huge Defensive Footprint on the ground.

    Maybe 5GW is a way of vocalizing our realization that we can't win 4GW because we haven't learned how to alter societies' opinions? How could we win in Iraq? Well, if we could make the Iraqis believe that a secular democracy is the most important thing in their lives and something worth dying for, that would do the trick. How can we achieve that? Well, friggin' telepathy or microwaves into the brains, or some other fancy futuristic warfare mumbo jumbo might do it - although allocating aid money correctly, not torturing prisoners and stamping out corruption would be a start...

    Which leads me to:

    With all due respect, I've delved into this theoretical stuff for the past five years, and it's all pretty b0ll0cks. Like a bunch of college students debating the relative merits of Marxism <snore>.

    We still haven't figured out how do deal with the Iraqi insurgency. I'm incredulous that the powers at the top haven't yet sat down and gone
    "How do we minimize the enemy's strengths?"
    "Well, we could prevent him from targeting our patrols with IEDs and snipers."
    "How do we do that?"
    "By sneaking around, blending in, hiding."
    " mean out-G'ing the G? Let's do it."
    Once we've done that or whatever it takes to win, I'll turn to 5GW. Right now, the only thing I can think about 4GW is how it's Total War by another name, and how we're trying to come up with all sorts of theoretical excuses to avoid having to solve practical realities. Right now. On the ground.

  3. #23
    Council Member Mark O'Neill's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Canberra, Australia


    Quote Originally Posted by Jedburgh View Post
    Fourth Generation Warfare Evolves, Fifth Emerges

    I really found the piece disappointing and a bit annoying. I didn’t find any real insights or food for thought – just a lot of broad generalizations, false analogies, and unqualified assertions in a narrative purposely structured to justify the title-line without providing hard support, or even minimally adequate noting of sources.
    I agree. I also note Zenpundits observation about 'anti - theory jihad'. What I think we are witnessing on these pages is not actually 'anti - theory jihad' but 'bad theory intolerance'.

    Casting my fading memory back to when I first looked at the 'theory of theories' as a young undergraduate in the social sciences, I am struck by how poorly many of the 'new' theories hold up as theory.

    A key fault is that they are not universally replicable. They invariably require selective citation and significant qualification. Often anyone with the IQ of equal or just greater than that of a General Purpose Boot can quickly identify an example where the theory does not hold true.

    I will accept that many of them are useful 'book sales generation devices'. I will also cynically acknowledge their benefit as 'self promotion devices'. They have proven utility in being stalking horses for advocacy of a given paradigmatic or polemical political or world view (just like Mein Kampf).

    War is ultimately fought for 'ends'. These seem , despite changes in 'ways' and 'means" (which is in itself, nothing new), remarkably consistent in the history of human society. To my mind there is a remarkable continuum in the history of conflict that makes a mockery of psuedo intellectual fads.

    It is my view that these theories play well to those of us struggling with critical thought, the 'trained' rather than the 'educated' and, ultimately, the ignorant (side bar example - how else could anyone accept Barnett's map that places Singapore in his 'gap' construct?)

    My challenge to the 'new theorists' - provide an example where your 'theory' provides proven utility today in the application of the operational art of the profession of arms. From what I have heard to date about what is working in 'the surge' in Iraq, it sounds far more like classic COIN 101 than any rhetorical solution proffered by 'new' thinking.

    I stand ready to be proven wrong, however I note that the required standard is empirical, replicable fact, not assertion, political polemicism or religious affirmations.


    Last edited by Mark O'Neill; 05-17-2007 at 11:59 PM. Reason: syntax


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