COUNTERINSURGENCY IS DOABLE SERIES & THE 4GW WAR OF WORDS [Updated]
Kingdaddy of Arms and Influence, who produced the high quality “Counterinsurgency is Hard” series that I featured here has begun a second, impressive, COIN series, ” Counterinsurgency is Doable -Part I.” and “ Part II“. Check it out
“We can avoid much of the angst associated with 4GW if we view it as a movement and not as a theory. The ranks of prominent 4GW thinkers include many of the “acolytes” of the late John Boyd. As such, they share an admirably tenacious desire to resist bureaucratic stupidity and a focus on the underlying challenges faced by our soldiers. Over the past fifteen years, they have identified non-state warfare as a challenge our military faces. The dynamics of state decline influence our national security in a significant way now, and they are dedicated to considering the consequences of these dynamics. But this is not where the controversy lies.
Where the conflict comes is when these 4GW thinkers attempt to create a historical framework for these dynamics of state power and non-state violence. By offering a simplistic model of the past four centuries of warfare, they ignore all of the variations and fluxuations the power of the state faced througout those four centuries and around the globe. In one breath Sayen acknowledges this “[the process of establishing states who possessed a monopoly on violence] did not end in the so-called “Third World” until the late 19th Century.” Yet in the next breath he avows that “…the [Westphalia] treaty’s key principles, which in essence gave states the sole right to wage lawful war, quickly spread throughout Europe and, through European colonization, the rest of the world” (emphasis added). He can acknowledge that “non-state actors have always been with us,” yet he can go on to assert that “non-staters are making a comeback,” implying that they must have be returning from somewhere.”
“Wiggins” the Wohlstetterian blogger at OSD has challenged me to throw my hat into the ring on the question of the validity of the 4GW school’s historical case for their theory, which as Lind himself recently wrote, has to do with the van Creveldian premise ” …At the core of 4GW is a crisis of legitimacy of the state“.
“My take: the state vs. state generational framework of the 4GW theory has run its course. It is extremely useful as a method of describing the state’s use of proxies to fight other states. It accurately describes the rise of the use of proxy guerrilla wars by cold war opponents and proxy terrorism by developing nations as a means to achieve objectives without conventional/nuclear conflict. We’ve gone beyond the proxy model and therefore beyond the 4GW generational framework. “
I’m taking this debate with the seriousness it deserves and I will lay out a comprehensive critique in the near future.