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Is 4GW Dead?: Point-Counterpoint and Commentary

4GW theory has always attracted overenthusiasts and  raging haters ever since the concept emerged way back in 1989, so debates about the merit of 4GW are nothing new; in fact, the arguments became so routine that they had largely gone sterile years ago.  After T.X. Hammes published his excellent  The Sling and the Stone and John Robb  went to the next level with Brave New War , it seemed that  little new was left to be said. In the late 2000’s, intellectual energies shifted to arguing the nuances and flaws of Pop-centric COINwhich proved in time to be even more bitter than those about 4GW.

Generations of War Theory Visualized by Chet Richards

What is different recently is that the person taking the affirmative on the question “Is 4GW dead?” was Dr. Chet Richards, who for years ran the premier but now defunct 4GW site, D-N-I.net, now archived here by the Project on Government Oversight.  Richards is no Clausewitzian true-believer or Big Army MBA with stars, but a former collaborator with John Boyd and a leading thinker of the 4GW school who had written several books with that strategic theme.

Therefore, not a critic to be dismissed lightly. Here’s Chet:

Is 4GW Dead? 

….The first thing to note is that 4GW is an evolution from 3GW, which they equate to maneuver warfare and the blitzkrieg as defined in MCDP 1 and Boyd’s Patterns of Conflict. These are styles of warfare conducted by state armies against other state armies, although the paper does invoke the notion of transnational terrorists near the end.

At some point in the late 1990s, the theory bifurcated. Bill Lind and Martin van Creveld began to emphasize the decline of the state and focus on transnational guerrilla organizations like al-Qa’ida. Tom Barnett called this the “road warrior” model. T. X. Hammes, on the other hand, characterized 4GW as “evolved insurgency” and envisioned the techniques described in the paragraphs above as also useful for state-vs-state conflicts.

….The 9/11 attacks, by a transnational guerrilla movement, seemed to confirm 4GW in both of its forms. In the last few years, however, everything has gone quiet. Transnational insurgencies, “global guerrillas” as John Robb terms them, have not become a significant factor in geopolitics. “Continuing irritation” might best describe them, whose primary function seems to be upholding national security budgets in frightened western democracies. The state system has not noticeably weakened. So it might be fair at this point to conclude that although 4GW was a legitimate theory, well supported by logic and data, the world simply didn’t develop along the lines it proposed.

A prominent critic of 4GW, Antulio J. Echevarria, may have been correct:

What we are really seeing in the war on terror, and the campaign in Iraq and elsewhere, is that the increased “dispersion and democratization of technology, information, and finance” brought about by globalization has given terrorist groups greater mobility and access worldwide. At this point, globalization seems to aid the nonstate actor more than the state, but states still play a central role in the support or defeat of terrorist groups or insurgencies.

Why? I’ll offer this hypothesis, that the primary reason warfare did not evolve a fourth generation is that it didn’t live long enough. The opening of Sir Rupert Smith’s 2005 treatise, The Utility of Force, states the case….

Chet’s post spurred a sharp rebuttal from William Lind, “the Father of Fourth Generation Warfare”:

4GW is Alive and Well 

So “the world simply didn’t develop along the lines it (4GW) proposed”? How do you say that in Syriac?

The basic error in Chet Richards’ piece of April 19, “Is 4GW dead?” is confusing the external and internal worlds. Internally, in the U.S. military and the larger defense and foreign policy establishment, 4GW is dead, as is maneuver warfare and increasingly any connection to the external world. The foreign policy types can only perceive a world of states, in which their job is to promote the Wilsonian nee Jacobin, follies of “democracy” and “universal human rights.” They are in fact, 4GW’s allies, in that their demand for “democracy” undermines states, opening the door for more 4GW.

In most of the world, democracy is not an option. The only real options are tyranny or anarchy, and when you work against tyranny, you are working for anarchy. The ghost of bin Laden sends his heartfelt thanks.

Third Generation doctrine has been abandoned, de facto, if not de jure, by the one service that embraced it, the U.S. Marine Corps. The others never gave it a glance. The U.S. military remains and will remain second generation until it disappears from sheer irrelevance coupled with high cost. That is coming much sooner than any of them think.

….In many of these cases, including Egypt and Pakistan, the only element strong enough to hold the state together is the army. But the “democracy” crowd in Washington immediately threatens aid cut-offs, sanctions, etc., if the army acts. Again, the children now running America’s foreign policy are 4GW’s best allies.

Fourth generation war includes far more than just Islamic “terrorism,” and we see it gaining strength in areas far from the Middle East. Gangs have grown so powerful in Mexico, right on our border, that I predict the state will soon have to make deals with them, as the PRI has done in the past. Invasion by immigrants who do not acculturate is a powerful form of 4GW, more powerful than any terrorism, and that is occurring on a north-south basis (except Australia) literally around the world. Remember, most of the barbarians did not invade the Roman Empire to destroy it. They just wanted to move in. In fact, most were invited in. Sound familiar?

What should concern us most is precisely the disconnect between the internal and external worlds. Externally, 4GW is flourishing, while internally, in the US government and military, it does not exist. This is the kind of chasm into which empires can disappear….

Fabius Maximus – who is a both a pseudonymous blogger and a group blog, also responded:

Update about one of the seldom-discussed trends shaping our world: 4GW 

One of the interesting aspects of recent history is the coincidence of

  1. the collapse of discussion about 4GW in US military and geopolitical circles,
  2. victories by insurgents using 4GW methods over foreign armies in Iraq and Afghanistan, &
  3. most important, the perhaps history-making victory by Bin Laden’s al Qaeda.

The second point is important to us, but the usual outcome since WW2 (after which 4GW became the dominate form of military conflict; see section C below).  The third point is the big one. Based on the available information, one of Bin Laden’s goals was to destabilize the US political regime. Massive increase in military spending (using borrowed funds). The bill of rights being shredded (note yesterday’s House vote to tear another strip from the 4th amendment). Our Courts holding show trials of terrorists — recruited, financed, supported by our security services. Torture and concentration camps.

….We — the Second American Republic — have engaged in a war with nationalistic, Islamic forces using 4GW.  So far we are losing.  For various reasons we are unable to even perceive the nature of the threat. In DoD the hot dot is again procurement of high-tech weapons — new ships, the F-35, the hypersonic cruise missile, etc.  All useless in the wars we’ve fought for the past 50 years, and probably in those of the next 50 years….. 

A few comments.

4GW has been heavily criticized – and accurately so – for making selective use of history, for unsupported maximal claims, for an excessively and ahistorically linear argument and for shifting or vaguely defined terms. Presented rigidly, it is relatively easy for critics to poke holes in it simply by playing “gotcha” (some of the criticism of 4GW did not get beyond ad hominem level garbage, but more intellectually serious detractors made very effective critiques of 4GW’s flaws).

That said, there were a number of useful elements or insights in the body of 4GW writings that retain their utility and I think are worth recalling:

  • Whatever one thinks of 4GW as a whole, the school drew attention to the threat of non-state irregular warfare, failed states and the decline of state vs. state warfare and did so long before it was Pentagon conventional wisdom or trendy Beltway talking head spiels on Sunday morning news programs.
  • While the state is not in decline everywhere in an absolute sense, it sure is failing in some places and has utterly collapsed elsewhere. Failed, failing and hollowed out states are nexus points for geopolitical problems and feature corruption, black globalization, insurgency, tribalism, terrorism, transnational criminal organizations and zones of humanitarian crisis. Whether we call these situations “irregular”, “hybrid”, “decentralized and polycentric”, “LIC”, “4GW” or everyone’s favorite, “complex” matters less than using force to achieve political aims becomes increasingly difficult as the interested parties and observers multiply. Some of the advice offered by the 4GW school regarding “the moral level of war”, de-escalation and the perils of fighting the weak in such a conflict environment are all to the good for reducing friction.
  • The emphasis of the 4GW school on the perspective of the irregular fighter and their motivations not always fitting neatly within state-centric realpolitik, Galula-ish “Maoist Model” insurgency, Clausewitzian best strategic practice or the Western intellectual tradition, were likewise ahead of their time and contrary to S.O.P. Even today, the effort to see the world through the eyes of our enemies is at best, anemic. Red teams are feared more than they are loved. Or utilized.
  • The bitter criticism the 4GW school lodged of the American political elite being allergic to strategic thinking and ignorant of strategy in general was apt; that American strategy since the end of the Cold War has been exceedingly inept in thought and execution is one of the few points on which the most rabid 4GW advocate and diehard Clausewitzian can find themselves in full agreement.

The lessons of 4GW will still be relevant wherever men fight in the rubble of broken societies, atomized communities and failed states.

28 Responses to “Is 4GW Dead?: Point-Counterpoint and Commentary”

  1. Pete Says:

    My experience tells me the approaches are what’s wrong.  4GW’s views are often unable to resolve vital aspects of “winning” on the modern battlefield.  If the enemy is using 4GW techniques still (or if not) the civil populace remains the defeat mechanism.  It’s less about maneuver warfare and more about moving the populace towards the “legitimate” government.  If we fight in a way that ignores moving the populace…then victory is not a controllable element.  Even the mighty smart modern Marines are missing the point.  The over reliance of drones, COIN, unit achievements, biometric databases focuses too much attention on a microfraction of the battlefield population.  Move the populace and you win on both the micro and macro battlefield.  Whether or not 4GW is dead is irrelevant…we aren’t training to fight a fight we know how to win.  What we have managed to do the past 20+ years is reinvent or modify colonialism.  Maybe the better question is why did we create 2nd Gen Colonialism?

  2. J. Scott Shipman Says:

    And, Pete: For the amount of blood and treasure we’ve expended, we’re pretty poor at 2G Colonialism…

  3. Madhu Says:

    .In many of these cases, including Egypt and Pakistan, the only element strong enough to hold the state together is the army. But the “democracy” crowd in Washington immediately threatens aid cut-offs, sanctions, etc., if the army acts. Again, the children now running America’s foreign policy are 4GW’s best allies.

    For Pakistan, no, that is propaganda that works very well on a certain type of person. The Army, quite clever at UW, cultivated a variety of non-state/state actors to counteract conventional Indian military superiority. This disorder also draws in a variety of Western and other states that pay into the system, worried about the disorder. This allows more money to be spent on nuclear and other weapons which allows the non-state/state actor bleeding to continue.
    There may be some change now because even the Chinese and Saudis are no longer amused and may no longer find it useful to keep the Americans, Iranians, Indians, Russians, whomever, in check, and may have sent word to tone it down.
    Who knows? Only time will tell. This anarchy vs. tyranny fantasia is just that, complete and utter fantasy.
    The good thing about this post is that I can safely ignore this nonsense, plenty of people warned about anarchy and they were states targeted by the very anarchy at times leveraged by other states. They said it first, and back in the 80’s when the Soviet focused types ignored it, and during the 90’s when the Clinton administratin prioritized a certain kind of relationship with China which only increased disorder while bringing order, all at the same time, depending on the individual situation.
    Good grief. Like boys or girls playing with toys. 

  4. Madhu Says:

    Whatever one thinks of 4GW as a whole, the school drew attention to the threat of non-state irregular warfare, failed states and the decline of state vs. state warfare and did so long before it was Pentagon conventional wisdom or trendy Beltway talking head spiels on Sunday morning news programs.

    Go back and read the warnings by Indians and others; this is an American, Beltway-centric view of the world which is completely ignorant of the very many people that drew attention to the threat of non-state irregular warfare, it wasn’t just state sponsored insurgencies, they worried about the “virus” itself and have done so almost from the beginning of their state.
    Zen, is this an insider conversation aimed at someone else besides your regular readers? You know this stuff. 

  5. Madhu Says:

    A state went in and removed Saddam Hussain and Al Q piggy backed on that. So, is it the strong state that is at issue, or the weak state left behind?
    Chicken-and-egg. Fantasia. Tonka toys. Lego diagrams. Little Green Army Men. Play, play, play at intellectual games while the actual world, the stuff beyond Lew Rockwell and Counterpunch and flickering fluorescent light conferences moves, in its own way, in its own time.
    Outta here, be good everyone! 

  6. Curtis Gale Weeks Says:

    The problem is that 4GW as a theory was either misconceived or only vaguely conceived from the beginning.   Robb misconceived, but had the freedom to do so because Lind only vaguely conceived it originally. But having built the podiums to certain specifications, the speakers could not alter their perspectives and speak from a different direction.  Heck, look at most recent official talk about future warfare—e.g., Obama’s insistence that future conflict will not be like past conflict—and it might be clear that something has shifted.  Most Americans who pay attention, having been subjected to a decade+ of Iraq and Afghanistan and seeing the results of the Arab Spring, Syrian civil war, Libya, mass demonstrations vs. YouTube videos across the Islamic world….The Tsarnaev bros. and beheadings on UK streets….Well, they see that the horizon doesn’t look much like what they thought they saw in the 20th C.  But all of this is still rather vague.


    Presented rigidly, it is relatively easy for critics to poke holes in it simply by playing “gotcha”    


    Precisely.  I will apply something I more or less said about 5GW once or twice:  Regardless of what we call it or don’t call it; regardless of whether we even address it formally — or entirely fail to consider it —; regardless of however many arguments for the idea or against the idea are made, good and bad arguments on either side, it is still going to happen.   The form it takes, it will take; and this form might not reflect precisely any theory now given of it.  What I mean by this is that these sometimes self-interested pseudo-scholarly debates are precisely beside the point.  If we had never formulated a concept for gravity and complex formulae describing how it works, gravity would not suddenly cease to occur, and people would still go about their lives informed by gravity, addressing it.  And, because the future context will be…the future context,  whatever we do in the future will address that future.  That someone should be able to thump his chest in the future and say, “See, I told you so!” is quite irrelevant.    

  7. Lynn C. Rees Says:



    Lind’s still really worked up into a lather over Versailles. Someone needs to get Karl Thomas Robert Maria Franziskus Georg Bahnam von Hapsburg-Lothringen to fax him a birthday hug.

  8. Mr. X Says:

    Meanwhile, Sen. McCain just had tea with the first Al-Heart and Lung Eaters Brigade in Syria.

  9. david ronfeldt Says:

    i’ve never cottoned to the 4GW term, and it may well be dead.  but what it’s proponents were calling attention to – the underlying trends and dynamics, mostly concerning the rise of new network forms of organization, technology, and doctrine – are indeed still alive and growing.
    4GW is presumably a postmodern kind of conflict / warfare.  but i’ve yet to see a totally postmodern bunch engaging in 4GW in a violent manner.  instead, the ablest postmodern practitioners appear to be lobbyists, public-relation firms, and activist ngos.  plus some cyber gangs dedicated to malevolent hacking.  linn’s comments above notice this as well.
    as for violent war-like conflict, most (all?) of 4GW’s perpetrators so far — to the extent that al qaeda, the taliban, la familia michoacana, etc., reflect 4GW — are laden with antique tribal and clan dynamics and engage in ancient modes of violence.  in that sense, many of today’s exemplars of 4GW are primarily practitioners of pre-generation warfare.  the standard 1GW, 2W, 3GW, 4GW spectrum leaves out this earlier mode, and recategorizes it under 4GW.  someone a few years ago did a timeline about 4GW that starts with the notion of a pre-formal generation of war: 0GW.  it corresponds to my concern, but even so i still find the whole 0-4GW spectrum problematic, and prefer other options.
    as for 4GW’s evocations about state failure — notably about states being eroded by tribal, market, and new network actors, as well as by internal corruption and incompetence — my view remains that the state is far from finito.  it’ll go through adaptations and reformulations, remaining essential for the construction and governance of complex societies.  indeed, most 4GW actors aim to reinstitute the state in some form.
    much as i appreciate linn’s points above, they overdraw that democracy is the key alternative outside of tyranny versus anarchy.  much of the world remains more suited to patrimonial corporatism than to liberal democracy.  and that’s not necessarily a bad bad thing.  to treat patrimonial corporatist regimes as tyrannies misjudges their deep appeal, as well as fact that some are much less tyrannical than others.
    finally, ahem, i’d note that 4G seems to have spread beyond warfare and then telecom levels, to capture what i see as a 4G mentality among some folks preparing for the worst: the 4 G’s being guns, gold, gardens, and gigabytes – the more the better.

  10. Curtis Gale Weeks Says:

    “as for 4GW’s evocations about state failure — notably about states being eroded by tribal, market, and new network actors, as well as by internal corruption and incompetence — my view remains that the state is far from finito.  it’ll go through adaptations and reformulations, remaining essential for the construction and governance of complex societies.  indeed, most 4GW actors aim to reinstitute the state in some form.”


    Exactly the major problem with the Old School 4GW theory.  While spinning fancy fantasies of global guerillas and other miscellaneous non-state actors, they failed utterly to understand the state.

  11. Lynn C. Rees Says:

    Most contingencies dealing with the unstated were dealt with by the Law of Nations. For example, from Vattel:



    § 200. Difference between the present case and those in the preceding chapter.


    WE have said that an independent nation, which, without becoming a member of another state, has voluntarily rendered itself dependent on, or subject to it, in order to obtain protection, is released from its engagements as soon as that protection fails, even though the failure happen through the inability of the protector. But we are not to conclude that it is precisely the same case with every nation that cannot obtain speedy and effectual protection from its natural sovereign or the state of which it is a member. The two cases are very different. In the former, a free nation becomes subject to another state, — not to partake of all the other’s advantages, and form with it an absolute union of interests (for, if the more powerful state were willing to confer so great a favour, the weaker one would be incorporated, not subjected), — but to obtain protection alone by the sacrifice of its liberty, without expecting any other return. When, therefore, the sole and indispensable condition of its subjection is (from what cause soever) not complied with, it is free from its engagements; and its duty towards itself obliges it to take fresh methods to provide for its own security. But the several members of one individual state, as they all equally participate in the advantages it procures, are bound uniformly to support it: they have entered into mutual engagements to continue united with each other, and to have on all occasions but one common cause. If those who are menaced or attacked might separate themselves from the others, in order to avoid a present danger, every state would soon be dismembered and destroyed. It is, then, essentially necessary for the safety of society, and even for the welfare of all its members, that each part should with all its might resist a common enemy, rather than separate from the others; and this is consequently one of the necessary conditions of the political association. The natural subjects of a prince are bound to him without any other reserve than the observation of the fundamental laws; — it is their duty to remain faithful to him, as it is his, on the other hand, to take care to govern them well: both parties have but one common interest; the people and the prince together constitute but one complete whole, one and the same society. It is, then, an essential and necessary condition of the political society, that the subjects remain united to their prince as far as in their power.(57)


    § 201. Duty of the members of a state, or subjects of a prince, who are in danger.


    When, therefore, a city or a province is threatened or actually attacked, it must not, for the sake of escaping the danger, separate itself from the state of which it is a member, or abandon its natural prince, even when the state or the prince is unable to give it immediate and effectual assistance. Its duty, its political engagements, oblige it to make the greatest efforts, in order to maintain itself in its present state. If it is overcome by force, necessity, that irresistible law, frees it from its former engagements, and gives it a right to treat with the conqueror, in order to obtain the best terms possible. If it must either submit to him or perish, who can doubt but that it may and even ought to prefer the former alternative? Modern usage is conformable to this decision: — a city submits to the enemy when it cannot expect safety from a vigorous resistance; it takes an oath of fidelity to him; and its sovereign lays the blame on fortune alone.


    § 202. Their right when they are abandoned.


    The state is obliged to defend and preserve all its members (§ 17); and the prince owes the same assistance to his subjects. If, therefore, the state or the prince refuses or neglects to succour a body of people who are exposed to imminent danger, the latter, being thus abandoned, become perfectly free to provide for their own safety and preservation in whatever manner they find most convenient, without paying the least regard to those who, by abandoning them, have been the first to fail in their duty. The country of Zug, being attacked by the Swiss in 1352, sent for succour to the duke of Austria, its sovereign; but that prince, being engaged in discourse concerning his hawks, at the time when the deputies appeared before him, would scarcely condescend to hear them. Thus abandoned, the people of Zug entered into the Helvetic confederacy.1 The city of Zurich had been in the same situation the year before. Being attacked by a band of rebellious citizens who were supported by the neighbouring nobility, and the house of Austria, it made application to the head of the empire: but Charles IV., who was then emperor, declared to its deputies that he could not defend it; — upon which Zurich secured its safety by an alliance with the Swiss.2 The same reason has authorized the Swiss, in general, to separate themselves entirely from the empire, which never protected them in any emergency; they had not owned its authority for a long time before their independence was acknowledged by the emperor and the whole Germanic body, at the treaty of Westphalia.






    § 203. Possession of a country by a nation.


    HITHERTO we have considered the nation merely with respect to itself, without any regard to the country it possesses. Let us now see it established in a country which becomes its own property and habitation. The earth belongs to mankind in general; destined by the Creator to be their common habitation, and to supply them with food, they all possess a natural right to inhabit it, and derive from it whatever is necessary for their subsistence, and suitable to their wants. But when the human race became extremely multiplied, the earth was no longer capable of furnishing spontaneously, and without culture, sufficient support for its inhabitants; neither could it have received proper cultivation from wandering tribes of men continuing to possess it in common. It therefore became necessary that those tribes should fix themselves somewhere, and appropriate to themselves portions of land, in order that they might, without being disturbed in their labour, or disappointed of the fruits of their industry, apply themselves to render those lands fertile, and thence derive their subsistence. Such must have been the origin of the rights of property and dominion: and it was a sufficient ground to justify their establishment. Since their introduction, the right which was common to all mankind is individually restricted to what each lawfully possesses. The country which a nation inhabits, whether that nation has emigrated thither in a body, or the different families of which it consists were previously scattered over the country, and, there uniting, formed themselves into a political society, — that country, I say, is the settlement of the nation, and it has a peculiar and exclusive right to it.


    § 204. Its right over the parts in its possession.


    This right comprehends two things: 1. The domain virtue of which the nation alone may use the country for the supply of its necessities, may dispose of it as it thinks proper, and derive from it every advantage it is capable of yielding. 2. The empire, or the right of sovereign command, by which the nation directs and regulates at its pleasure every thing that passes in the country.


    § 205. Acquisition of the sovereignty in a vacant country.


    When a nation takes possession of a country to which no prior owner can lay claim, it is considered as acquiring the empire or sovereignly of it, at the same time with the domain. For, since, the nation is free and independent, it can have no intention, in settling in a country, to leave to others the right of command, or any of those rights that constitute sovereignty. The whole space over which a nation extends its government becomes the seal of its jurisdiction, and is called its territory.


    § 206. Another manner of acquiring the empire in a free country.


    If a number of free families, scattered over an independent country, come to unite for the purpose of forming a nation or state, they altogether acquire the sovereignty over the whole country they inhabit: for they were previously in possession of the domain — a proportional share of it belonging to each individual family: and since they are willing to form together a political society, and establish a public authority, which every member of the society shall be bound to obey, it is evidently their intention to attribute to that public authority the right of command over the whole country.


    § 207. How a nation appropriates to itself a desert country.


    All mankind have an equal right to things that have not yet fallen into the possession of any one; and those things belong to the person who first takes possession of them. When, therefore, a nation finds a country uninhabited, and without an owner, it may lawfully take possession of it: and, after it has sufficiently made known its will in this respect, it cannot be deprived of it by another nation. Thus navigators going on voyages of discovery, furnished with a commission from their sovereign, and meeting with islands or other lands in a desert state, have taken possession of them in the name of their nation: and this title has been usually respected, provided it was soon after followed by a real possession.


    § 208. A question on this subject.


    But it is questioned whether a nation can, by the bare act of taking possession, appropriate to itself countries which it does not really occupy, and thus engross a much greater extent of territory than it is able to people or cultivate. It is not difficult to determine that such a pretension would be an absolute infringement of the natural rights of men, and repugnant to the views of nature, which, having destined the whole earth to supply the wants of mankind in general, gives no nation a right to appropriate to itself a country, except for the purpose of making use of it, and not of hindering others from deriving advantage from it. The law of nations will, therefore, not acknowledge the property and sovereignly of a nation over any uninhabited countries, except those of which it has really taken actual possession, in which it has formed settlements, or of which it makes actual use. in effect, when navigators have met with desert countries in which those of other nations had, in their transient visits, erected some monument to show their having taken possession of them, they have paid as little regard to that empty ceremony as to the regulation of the popes, who divided a great part of the world between the crowns of Castile and Portugal.1


    There is another celebrated question, to which the discovery of the New World has principally given rise. It is asked whether a nation may lawfully take possession of some part of a vast country, in which there are none but eratic nations whose scanty population is incapable of occupying the whole? We have already observed (§ 81), in establishing the obligation to cultivate the earth, that those nations cannot exclusively appropriate to themselves more land than they have occasion for, or more than they are able to settle and cultivate. Their unsettled habitation in those immense regions cannot be accounted a true and legal possession; and the people of Europe, too closely pent up at home, finding land of which the savages stood in no particular need, and of which they made no actual and constant use, were lawfully entitled to take possession of it, and settle it with colonies. The earth, as we have already observed, belongs to mankind in general, and was designed to furnish them with subsistence: if each nation had, from the beginning, resolved to appropriate to itself a vast country, that the people might live only by hunting, fishing, and wild fruits, our globe would not be sufficient to maintain a tenth part of its present inhabitants. We do not, therefore, deviate from the views of nature, in confining the Indians within narrower limits, However, we cannot help praising the moderation of the English Puritans who first settled in New England; who, notwithstanding their being furnished with a charter from their sovereign, purchased of the Indians the land of which they intended to take possession.2 This laudable example was followed by William Penn, and the colony of Quakers that he conducted to Pennsylvania.


    § 210. Colonies.


    When a nation takes possession of a distant country, and settles a colony there, that country, though separated from the principal establishment, or mother-country, naturally becomes a part of the state, equally with its ancient possessions. Whenever, therefore, the political laws, or treaties, make no distinction between them, every thing said of the territory of a nation, must also extend to its colonies.


    CHAP. XV.




    § 223. Subjects cannot commit hostilities without the sovereign’s order.


    THE right of making war, as we have shown in the first chapter of this book, solely belongs to the sovereign power, which not only decides whether it be proper to undertake the war, and to declare it, but likewise directs all its operations, as circumstances of the utmost importance to the safety of the state. Subjects, therefore, cannot of themselves take any steps in this affair; nor are they allowed to commit any act of hostility without orders from their sovereign. Be it understood, however, that under the head of “hostilities,” we do not mean to include self-defence. A subject may repel the violence of a fellow-citizen when the magistrate’s assistance is not at hand; and with much greater reason may he defend himself against the unexpected attacks of foreigners.


    § 224. That order may be general or particular.


    The sovereign’s order, which commands acts of hostility, and gives a right to commit them, is either general or particular. The declaration of war, which enjoins the subjects at large to attack the enemy’s subjects, implies a general order. The generals, officers, soldiers, privateers-men, and partisans, being all commissioned by the sovereign, make war by virtue of a particular order.


    § 225. Source of the necessity of such an order.


    But, though an order from the sovereign be necessary to authorize the subjects to make war, that necessity wholly results from the laws essential to every political society, and not from any obligation relative to the enemy. For, when one nation takes up arms against another, she from that moment declares herself an enemy to all the individuals of the latter, and authorizes them to treat her as such. What right could she have in that case to complain of any acts of hostility committed against her by private persons without orders from their superiors? The rule, therefore, of which we here speak, relates rather to public law in general, than to the law of nations properly so called, or to the principles of the reciprocal obligations of nations.


    § 226. Why the law of nations should have adopted this rule.


    If we confine our views to the law of nations, considered in itself, — when once two nations are engaged in war, all the subjects of the one may commit hostilities against those of the other, and do them all the mischief authorized by the state of war. But, should two nations thus encounter each other with the collective weight of their whole force, the war would become much more bloody and destructive, and could hardly be terminated otherwise than by the utter extinction of one of the parties. The examples of ancient wars abundantly prove the truth of this assertion to any man who will for a moment recall to mind the first wars waged by Rome against the popular republics by which she was surrounded. It is therefore with good reason that the contrary practice has grown into a custom with the nations of Europe, — at least with those that keep up regular standing armies or bodies of militia. The troops alone carry on the war, while the rest of the nation remain in peace. And the necessity of a special order to act is so thoroughly established, that, even after a declaration of war between two nations, if the peasants of themselves commit any hostilities, the enemy shows them no mercy, but hangs them up as he would so many robbers or banditti. The crews of private ships of war stand in the same predicament: a commission from their sovereign or admiral can alone, in case they are captured, insure them such treatment as is given to prisoners taken in regular warfare.


    § 227. Precise meaning of the order.


    In declarations of war, however, the ancient form is still retained, by which the subjects in general are ordered, not only to break off all intercourse with the enemy, (179) but also to attack him. Custom interprets this general order. It authorizes, indeed, and even obliges every subject, of whatever rank, to secure the persons and things belonging to the enemy, when they fall into his hands; but it does not invite the subjects to undertake any offensive expedition without a commission or particular order.


    § 228. What private persons may undertake, presuming on the sovereign’s will.


    There are occasions, however, when the subjects may reasonably suppose the sovereign’s will, and act in consequence of his tacit command. Thus, although the operations of war are by custom generally confined to the troops, if the inhabitants of a strong place, taken by the enemy, have not promised or sworn submission to him, and should find a favourable opportunity of surprising the garrison, and recovering the place for their sovereign, they may confidently presume that the prince will approve of this spirited enterprise. And where is the man that shall dare to censure it? It is true, indeed, that, if the townsmen miscarry in the attempt, they will experience very severe treatment from the enemy. But this does not prove the enterprise to be unjust, or contrary to the laws of war. The enemy makes use of his right, of the right of arms, which authorizes him to call in the aid of terror to a certain degree, in order that the subjects of the sovereign with whom he is at war may not be willing to venture on such bold undertakings, the success of which might prove fatal to him. During the last war, the inhabitants of Genoa suddenly took up arms of their own accord, and drove the Austrians from the city: and the republic celebrates an annual commemoration of that event by which she recovered her liberty.


    § 229. Privateers.


    Persons fitting out private ships to cruise against the enemy acquire the property of whatever captures they make, as a compensation for their disbursements, and for the risks they run: but they acquire it by grant from the sovereign, who issues out commissions to them. The sovereign allows them either the whole or a part of the capture: this entirely depends on the nature of the contract he has made with them.


    As the subjects are not under an obligation of scrupulously weighing the justice of the war, which indeed they have not always an opportunity of being thoroughly acquainted with, and respecting which they are bound, in case of doubt, to rely on the sovereign’s judgment (§ 187), — they unquestionably may with a safe conscience serve their country by fitting out privateers, unless the war be evidently unjust. But, on the other hand, it is an infamous proceeding on the part of foreigners, to take out commissions from a prince, in order to commit piratical depredations on a nation which is perfectly innocent with respect to them. The thirst of gold is their only inducement; nor can the commission they have received efface the infamy of their conduct, though it screens them from punishment. Those alone are excusable, who thus assist a nation whose cause is undoubtedly just, and that has taken up arms with no other view than that of defending herself from oppression. They would even deserve praise for their exertions in such a cause, if the hatred of oppression, and the love of justice, rather than the desire of riches, stimulated them to generous efforts, and induced them to expose their lives or fortunes to the hazards of war.


    § 230. Volunteers.


    The noble view of gaining instruction in the art of war, and thus acquiring a greater degree of ability to render useful services to their country, has introduced the custom of serving as volunteers even in foreign armies; and the practice is undoubtedly justified by the sublimity of the motive. At present, volunteers, when taken by the enemy, are treated as if they belonged to the army in which they fight. Nothing can be more reasonable: they in fact join that army, and unite with it in supporting the same cause; and it makes little difference in the case, whether they do this in compliance with any obligation, or at the spontaneous impulse of their own free choice.


    § 231. What soldiers and subalterns may do.


    Soldiers can undertake nothing without the express or tacit command of their officers. To obey and execute, is their province, — not to act at their own discretion: they are only instruments in the hands of their commanders. Let it be remembered here, that, by a tacit order, I mean one which is necessarily included in an express order, or in the functions with which a person is intrusted by his superior. What is said of soldiers must also in a proper degree be understood of officers, and of all who have any subordinate command, wherefore, with respect to things which are not intrusted to their charge, they may both be considered as private individuals, who are not to undertake any thing without orders. The obligation of the military is even more strict, as the martial law expressly forbids acting without orders; and this discipline is so necessary that it scarcely leaves any room for presumption. In war, an enterprise which wears a very advantageous appearance, and promises almost certain success, may nevertheless be attended with fatal consequences. It would be dangerous, in such a case, to leave the decision to the judgment of men in subordinate stations, who are not acquainted with all the views of their general, and who do not possess an equal degree of knowledge and experience; it is therefore not to be presumed that he intends to let them act at their own discretion. Fighting without orders is almost always considered, in a military man, as fighting contrary to orders, or contrary to prohibition. There is, therefore, hardly any case, except that of self-defence, in which the soldiers and inferior officers may act without orders. In that one case, the orders may safely be presumed; or rather, the right of self-defence naturally belongs to every one, and requires no permission. During the siege of Prague, in the last war, a party of French grenadiers made a sally without orders and without officers, — possessed themselves of a battery, spiked a part of the cannon, and brought away the remainder into the city. The Roman severity would have punished those men with death. The famous example of the consul Manlius is well known, who, notwithstanding the victory gained by his son, caused capital punishment to be inflicted on him for having engaged the enemy without orders.1 But the difference of times and manners obliges a general to moderate such severity. The mareschal Bellisle publicly reprimanded those brave grenadiers, but secretly caused money to be distributed among them, as a reward for their courage and alacrity. At another famous siege in the same war, that of Coni, the private men of some battalions that were stationed in the fosses, made, of their own accord, during the absence of their officers, a vigorous sortie, which was attended with success. Baron Leutrum was obliged to pardon their transgression, lest he should damp an ardour on which the safety of the place entirely depended. Such inordinate impetuosity should nevertheless be checked as far as possible; since it may eventually be productive of fatal consequences. Avidius Cassius inflicted capital punishment on some officers of his army, who had, without orders, marched forth at the head of a handful of men, to surprise a body of three thousand enemies, and had succeeded in cutting them to pieces. This rigour he justified, by saying that there might have been an ambuscade, — dicens, evenire potiusse ut essent insidiœ, &c.2


    § 232. Whether the state is bound to indemnify the subjects for damages sustained in war.(180)


    Is the state bound to indemnify individuals for the damages they have sustained in war? We may learn from Grotius that authors are divided on this question.3 The damages under consideration are to be distinguished into two kinds, — those done by the state itself or the sovereign, and those done by the enemy. Of the first kind, some are done deliberately and by way of precaution, as, when a field, a house, or a garden, belonging to a private person, is taken for the purpose of erecting on the spot a town rampart, or any other piece of fortification, — or when his standing corn or his storehouses are destroyed, to prevent their being of use to the enemy. Such damages are to be made good to the individual, who should bear only his quota of the loss.(181) But there are other damages, caused by inevitable necessity, as, for instance, the destruction caused by the artillery in retaking a town from the enemy. These are merely accidents, — they are misfortunes which chance deals out to the proprietors on whom they happen to fall. The sovereign, indeed, ought to show an equitable regard for the sufferers, if the situation of his affairs will admit of it: but no action lies against the state for misfortunes of this nature, — for losses which she has occasioned, not wilfully, but through necessity and by mere accident, in the exertion of her rights. The same may be said of damages caused by the enemy. All the subjects are exposed to such damages: and woe to him on whom they fall! The members of a society may well encounter such risk of property, since they encounter a similar risk of life itself. Were the state strictly to indemnify all those whose property is injured in this manner, the public finances would soon be exhausted; and every individual in the state would be obliged to contribute his share in due proportion, — a thing utterly impracticable. Besides, these indemnifications would be liable to a thousand abuses, and there would be no end of the particulars. It is therefore to be presume that no such thing was ever intended by those who united to form a society.


    But it is perfectly consonant to the duties of the state and the sovereign, and, of course, perfectly equitable, and even strictly just, to relieve, as far as possible, those unhappy sufferers who have been ruined by the ravages of war, as likewise to take care of a family whose head and support has lost his life in the service of the state, There are many debts which are considered as sacred by the man who knows his duty, although they do not afford any ground of action against him.


    The power to define what that means for the United States is a power granted to Congress:

    To define and punish Piracies and Felonies committed on the high Seas, and Offences against the Law of Nations;

    An example of U.S. defense policy mediated through the lens of the Law of Nations: James Monroe’s second report to Congress on the State of the Union (this section was probably written by John Quincy Adams, Monroe’s Secretary of State):

    Our relations with Spain remain nearly in the state in which they were at the close of the last session. The convention of 1802, providing for the adjustment of a certain portion of the claims of our citizens for injuries sustained by spoliation, and so long suspended by the Spanish Government, has at length been ratified by it, but no arrangement has yet been made for the payment of another portion of like claims, not less extensive or well founded, or for other classes of claims, or for the settlement of boundaries. These subjects have again been brought under consideration in both countries, but no agreement has been entered into respecting them.


    In the mean time events have occurred which clearly prove the ill effect of the policy which that Government has so long pursued on the friendly relations of the two countries, which it is presumed is at least of as much importance to Spain as to the United States to maintain. A state of things has existed in the Floridas the tendency of which has been obvious to all who have paid the slightest attention to the progress of affairs in that quarter. Throughout the whole of those Provinces to which the Spanish title extends the Government of Spain has scarcely been felt. Its authority has been confined almost exclusively to the walls of Pensacola and St. Augustine, within which only small garrisons have been maintained. Adventurers from every country, fugitives from justice, and absconding slaves have found an asylum there. Several tribes of Indians, strong in the numbers of their warriors, remarkable for their ferocity, and whose settlements extend to our limits, inhabit those Provinces.


    These different hordes of people, connected together, disregarding on the one side the authority of Spain, and protected on the other by an imaginary line which separates Florida from the United States, have violated our laws prohibiting the introduction of slaves, have practiced various frauds on our revenue, and committed every kind of outrage on our peaceable citizens which their proximity to us enabled them to perpetrate.


    The invasion of Amelia Island last year by a small band of adventurers, not exceeding 150 in number, who wrested it from the inconsiderable Spanish force stationed there, and held it several months, during which a single feeble effort only was made to recover it, which failed, clearly proves how completely extinct the Spanish authority had become, as the conduct of those adventurers while in possession of the island as distinctly shows the pernicious purposes for which their combination had been formed.


    This country had, in fact, become the theater of every species of lawless adventure. With little population of its own, the Spanish authority almost extinct, and the colonial governments in a state of revolution, having no pretension to it, and sufficiently employed in their own concerns, it was in great measure derelict, and the object of cupidity to every adventurer. A system of buccaneering was rapidly organizing over it which menaced in its consequences the lawful commerce of every nation, and particularly the United States, while it presented a temptation to every people, on whose seduction its success principally depended.


    In regard to the United States, the pernicious effect of this unlawful combination was not confined to the ocean; the Indian tribes have constituted the effective force in Florida. With these tribes these adventurers had formed at an early period a connection with a view to avail themselves of that force to promote their own projects of accumulation and aggrandizement. It is to the interference of some of these adventurers, in misrepresenting the claims and titles of the Indians to land and in practicing on their savage propensities, that the Seminole war is principally to be traced. Men who thus connect themselves with savage communities and stimulate them to war, which is always attended on their part with acts of barbarity the most shocking, deserve to be viewed in a worse light than the savages. They would certainly have no claim to an immunity from the punishment which, according to the rules of warfare practiced by the savages, might justly be inflicted on the savages themselves.


    If the embarrassments of Spain prevented her from making an indemnity to our citizens for so long a time from her treasury for their losses by spoliation and otherwise, it was always in her power to have provided it by the cession of this territory. Of this her Government has been repeatedly apprised, and the cession was the more to have been anticipated as Spain must have known that in ceding it she would likewise relieve herself from the important obligation secured by the treaty of 1795 and all other compromitments respecting it. If the United States, from consideration of these embarrassments, declined pressing their claims in a spirit of hostility, the motive ought at least to have been duly appreciated by the Government of Spain. It is well known to her Government that other powers have made to the United States an indemnity for like losses sustained by their citizens at the same epoch.


    There is nevertheless a limit beyond which this spirit of amity and forbearance can in no instance be justified. If it was proper to rely on amicable negotiation for an indemnity for losses, it would not have been so to have permitted the inability of Spain to fulfill her engagements and to sustain her authority in the Floridas to be perverted by foreign adventurers and savages to purposes so destructive to the lives of our fellow citizens and the highest interests of the United States.


    The right of self defense never ceases. It is among the most sacred, and alike necessary to nations and to individuals, and whether the attack be made by Spain herself or by those who abuse her power, its obligation is not the less strong.


    The invaders of Amelia Island had assumed a popular and respected title under which they might approach and wound us. As their object was distinctly seen, and the duty imposed on the Executive by an existing law was profoundly felt, that mask was not permitted to protect them. It was thought incumbent on the United States to suppress the establishment, and it was accordingly done. The combination in Florida for the unlawful purposes stated, the acts perpetrated by that combination, and, above all, the incitement of the Indians to massacre our fellow citizens of every age and of both sexes, merited a like treatment and received it.


    In pursuing these savages to an imaginary line in the woods it would have been the height of folly to have suffered that line to protect them. Had that been done the war could never cease. Even if the territory had been exclusively that of Spain and her power complete over it, we had a right by the law of nations to follow the enemy on it and to subdue him there. But the territory belonged, in a certain sense at least, to the savage enemy who inhabited it; the power of Spain had ceased to exist over it, and protection was sought under her title by those who had committed on our citizens hostilities which she was bound by treaty to have prevented, but had not the power to prevent. To have stopped at that line would have given new encouragement to these savages and new vigor to the whole combination existing there in the prosecution of all its pernicious purposes.


    In suppressing the establishment at Amelia Island no unfriendliness was manifested toward Spain, because the post was taken from a force which had wrested it from her. The measure, it is true, was not adopted in concert with the Spanish Government or those in authority under it, because in transactions connected with the war in which Spain and the colonies are engaged it was thought proper in doing justice to the United States to maintain a strict impartiality toward both the belligerent parties without consulting or acting in concert with either. It gives me pleasure to state that the Governments of Buenos Ayres and Venezuela, whose names were assumed, have explicitly disclaimed all participation in those measures, and even the knowledge of them until communicated by this Government, and have also expressed their satisfaction that a course of proceedings had been suppressed which if justly imputable to them would dishonor their cause.


    In authorizing Major-General Jackson to enter Florida in pursuit of the Seminoles care was taken not to encroach on the rights of Spain. I regret to have to add that in executing this order facts were disclosed respecting the conduct of the officers of Spain in authority there in encouraging the war, furnishing munitions of war and other supplies to carry it on, and in other acts not less marked which evinced their participation in the hostile purposes of that combination and justified the confidence with which it inspired the savages that by those officers they would be protected.


    A conduct so incompatible with the friendly relations existing between the two countries, particularly with the positive obligations of the 5th article of the treaty of 1795, by which Spain was bound to restrain, even by force, those savages from acts of hostility against the United States, could not fail to excite surprise. The commanding general was convinced that he should fail in his object, that he should in effect accomplish nothing, if he did not deprive those savages of the resource on which they had calculated and of the protection on which they had relied in making the war. As all the documents relating to this occurrence will be laid before Congress, it is not necessary to enter into further detail respecting it.


    Although the reasons which induced Major-General Jackson to take these posts were duly appreciated, there was nevertheless no hesitation in deciding on the course which it became the Government to pursue. As there was reason to believe that the commanders of these posts had violated their instructions, there was no disposition to impute to their Government a conduct so unprovoked and hostile. An order was in consequence issued to the general in command there to deliver the posts – Pensacola unconditionally to any person duly authorized to receive it, and St. Marks, which is in the heart of the Indian country, on the arrival of a competent force to defend it against those savages and their associates.


    In entering Florida to suppress this combination no idea was entertained of hostility to Spain, and however justifiable the commanding general was, in consequence of the misconduct of the Spanish officers, in entering St. Marks and Pensacola to terminate it by proving to the savages and their associates that they should not be protected even there, yet the amicable relations existing between the United States and Spain could not be altered by that act alone. By ordering the restitution of the posts those relations were preserved. To a change of them the power of the Executive is deemed incompetent; it is vested in Congress only.


    By this measure, so promptly taken, due respect was shown to the Government of Spain. The misconduct of her officers has not been imputed to her. She was enabled to review with candor her relations with the United States and her own situation, particularly in respect to the territory in question, with the dangers inseparable from it, and regarding the losses we have sustained for which indemnity has been so long withheld, and the injuries we have suffered through that territory, and her means of redress, she was likewise enabled to take with honor the course best calculated to do justice to the United States and to promote her own welfare.

    U.S. discussion of intervention in Cuba in 1898 was also informed by the law of nations.

  12. zen Says:

    Excellent comments my friends,
    Move the populace and you win on both the micro and macro battlefield.  Whether or not 4GW is dead is irrelevant…we aren’t training to fight a fight we know how to win.  What we have managed to do the past 20+ years is reinvent or modify colonialism.  Maybe the better question is why did we create 2nd Gen Colonialism?

    Excellent question. My best answer to that is that Americans decided somewhere that they don’t “do” foreign languages and culture anymore. If you compare the # of Americans who learned Arabic, Urdu or Pashto or did MENA area studies 2001-2013 with the # who studied and fluently spoke Russian, Korean or Vietnamese in a similar time frame during the Cold War, the comparison is embarrassing. We went from a handful of USG diplos who could speak Russian in the 40’s (literally Kennan, Bohlen and a half dozen others) to thousands by the mid fifties. If you can’t understand what ppl are saying and don’t care about their cultural norms it’s easier to impose your way of doing things on them ( which neatly overlaps with training missions which in the process of teaching useful basic military skills basically downloads an administrative-logistical system for their military no country on earth can afford except the US, Japan, China or maybe KSA. Not sure how ANA is going to pay all those soldiers in 2015 but whatever)
    More in the am – I’m dead tired….. 

  13. T. Greer Says:

    Zen do you have a source for the number-of-Americans speaking Vietnamese/Korean/etc. statistic? Not that I doubt it. But I would love to be able to cite the fact in future writings.  

  14. Justin Boland Says:

    “4GW,” being an acronym of three characters, is surely the most concise term we’ll ever have to refer to the phenomenon, which is real and ongoing.
    I do not see how it’s going to die any time soon. Perhaps several months of follow-up essays will convince me? (Just kidding: please. Don’t.)
    PS: Is 6GW when we realize the world is too crowded and complex for simple “victories” ? It’s all unintended consequences from here on out…then again, it always was.

  15. Madhu Says:

    “4GW,” being an acronym of three characters, is surely the most concise term we’ll ever have to refer to the phenomenon, which is real and ongoing.
    A theory is only as good as its eventual application if it is a theory meant to explain aspects of war or warfare. My problem is with the application of said theory in terms of explanation. Anarchy, disorder, hollowing out of states, these are not exactly new concepts and plenty of people have made the same arguments or got to the same point without referring to the theory.
    The theory is so loosey goosey that anything can be made to say it “fits”. How does this help real men and real women with an actual job to do? 

  16. Madhu Says:

    Yeah, I know I’m being a huge jerk these days here and on other blogs. It’s just that I keep feeling as if I’m being sold a bill of goods by people that are more interested in drawing pretty power point pictures than understanding, albeit imperfectly, the world as it is. \.
    When Zen writes, “Excellent question. My best answer to that is that Americans decided somewhere that they don’t “do” foreign languages and culture anymore,” he’s making the correct argument. A lot of this is about a kind of intellectual laziness in our foreign policy apparatus and within certain military theorist circles. I’m sorry, but there it is. Afpak was ahistorical and based on lazy theorizing that was basically a bunch of State department and DC standard formulas passed off as a strategy. There is an entire literature about why the United States has followed certain policies in that region, a robust literature written by Americans and non-Americans alike. Better than 4GW or Pop Coin might have been doing one’s homework. People have to do their jobs but they want some theory to do it for them.
    I guess I’m too emotionally invested in the subject seeing its effects on a daily basis. You all will have to patient with me, I will try and write more carefully. I’m sorry I made fun in my earlier comments but honestly, what does a person have to do to get through to people? 

  17. Curtis Gale Weeks Says:

    @ Madhu:


    “but honestly, what does a person have to do to get through to people?”


    This is the question that even terrorists ask themselves at least once in their short careers, at least the planners and the lone wolves.  (I’m guessing that many of the pawns, e.g. suicide bombers employed by terrorist orgs, often have other concerns motivating them.)


    Whether through words or actions….Words are actions; actions, words; and the modern milieu presents opportunities not as widely available or as potentially effective in much of history prior to our present era.   Employed, focused performative strategies have always had a place in conflict  — e.g., this from the LOOOOOONG comment Rees left,


    “The enemy makes use of his right, of the right of arms, which authorizes him to call in the aid of terror to a certain degree, in order that the subjects of the sovereign with whom he is at war may not be willing to venture on such bold undertakings, the success of which might prove fatal to him.”


    — but I think we would err if we failed to recognize how modern technology and other factors of our present milieu have altered the context of warfare & conflict (& peace) relative to such strategies.  I’ve always been in favor of recognizing these differences, even bastardizing Ye Ol’ 4GW Theory in an attempt to take from that theory whatever insight it might offer into the present context—but also, recognizing that certain aspects of Old School 4GW theory are quite inadequate, even silly.


  18. J. Scott Shipman Says:

    “intellectual laziness,” indeed, and widespread. At some point, the “sound bite” culture took over, and rigor was valued less. We (the USA) were wealthy enough to paper over the imperfections. By-products are the nostalgic, those who don’t do anything but harken back to the good ole days (while doing little about today), and the peddlers of utopia: if we have just enough _______________ things will be perfect. Few apply the rigor necessary to avoid these alluring traps—mostly because they don’t know any better. Michael Lotus and James Bennett’s new America 3.0 refreshingly takes neither path. 

  19. zen Says:

    Hey T. Greer.
    briefly – the first wave of Russian experts came in the twenties with the reforms of Huges and the professional Foreign Service, a special Russian/Soviet program was established of which Kennan and a very small # of FSO were alums. Gaddis has some details in his bio Kennan:An American Life. I do not have the exact stats on the Russian students in the fifties which I read in a journal and blogged about the Cold War ramp up to seed universities with FL and Soviet studies programs to meet USG and mil demand – I will have to search to find that one.

  20. Justin Boland Says:

    How does this help real men and real women with an actual job to do?
    I would hope it helps by providing a valuable life lesson that one should never look to the theorizing class for “help” when you’ve got an actual job to do.

  21. Lynn Wheeler Says:

    Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq, 2003 to 2005 (Thomas E. Ricks)

    He mentions that after Vietnam that the Army did its best to remake itself and forget everything it learned about counterinsurgency.

    Ricks also seems to waffle between 1) the decision to invade Iraq was made early and then did everything to fabricate the justifications for the decisions and 2) two camps that had honest disagreements about justifications to invade Iraq. He does make the point that enormous amounts of resources were diverted to the fabrications which significantly distracted from the real issues that needed to be faced. In the background seems to lurk Spinney’s theme about MICC objective for “Perpetual War” and constant flow of funds for major weapons systems(major counterinsurgency is effectively diplomacy which MICC has constantly undermined since it represents little funds flowing into MICC).

    Talks about overlap with the players between Desert Storm and the last decade … however, he doesn’t talk about the same players going back to “Team B” … Colby being replaced with Bush1 in the mid-70s … because the CIA wouldn’t get in line with the MICC analysis.
    Eisenhower was able to debunk MICC claims with CIA U2 photo recon. The Colby firing was getting CIA inline with MICC. He also doesn’t talk about “Team B” supporting Iraq in Iran/Iraq war
    Then it turns out that US is arms merchant to both sides
    lots of details were to be released in 2001 under the Presidential Records Act when the new president signs executive order keeping them classified.

    however “Fiasco” was written before a newer president rescended the 2001 executive order

  22. Grurray Says:

    one of Bin Laden’s goals was to destabilize the US political regime

    No. This is the goal of cartoon super villains not Al Qaeda
     Bin Laden’s goal was to drive the US out of the Arabian Peninsula in order to overthrow the Saudi Royal family. He thought attacks on Americans would cause us to retreat due to our self-absorbed and weak society. He may have gotten this idea from subplot in one of his porn movies.
    There aren’t trans-state actors, only sub state actors driven by transnational ideologies. This was a switch from the post – post – cold war world and a novel idea to the Sovietologists, but nothing new to the rest of the world.
    On the other hand, dismissing insurgencies as mere skirmishes in proxy wars risks lapsing right back into the chessboard ludic fallacies Madhu mentions.
    The civil war in Syria is not a war between Saudi Arabia and Iran, but the Arab Spring was/is a movement that has sprung up out of the vacuum that resulted after Iraq.
    “Maybe the better question is why did we create 2nd Gen Colonialism?”
    The first version of Middle East colonialism was motivated by two things: the ideology of centralized state control and the need to secure oil supplies. The latest version is the opposite.
    Remember Rumsfeld’s classic dismissive line, “you go to war with the army you have”. Well you also go to war in the time you live in.
    So forget what you see on the news , or what they try to sell you.
    The past decade of conflict was about the West unwinding the old system (they created) and to transition into to a post-petroleum world, or, at least in the short term, transition to a post Middle East energy dependent world. 

  23. Curtis Gale Weeks Says:

    Another problem w/ 4GW theory, consequent of those theorists’ failure to understand the state, is that the theory as a whole comes from a state-centric worldview even if those theorists are incapable of seeing this for themselves.  They are almost trapped within their state-centric p.o.v. even as they argue 4GW’s state-destroying motif.  The problem is further exacerbated when arguments against 4GW theory also come from a state-centric worldview.
    E.g., “looking out” from the state, they see these transnational non-state actors encroaching — and can delineate ever so many features of those non-state actors, in detail, individually and in conglomerate — and they ask, “Whatever is the state to do?”  Having not looked as closely at the state, they do not see that many of the capabilities they assign to those encroaching actors are present within the state’s population as well, informing that state’s actions and even operating independent of the state’s organizing powers.  No, they continue to imagine the state having to act alone, even apart from the population within the state, utilizing state power organized hierarchically and rigidly directed vs. swarms of non-state actors.
    While to some extent the state is organized hierarchically — the shifting populace’s influences and “non-state qualities, powers” are funneled into leaders, branches of the government, and so forth via election and law — and is thereby limited in what it may do at any given moment, the state, particularly if it is democratic and bureaucratic, may “go through adaptations and reformulations” as David Ronfeldt said above.  Furthermore, the population within the state may be highly adaptive and resourceful quite apart from the state apparatus (also influencing the state) — and rather resilient.  For a 4GW performative strategy, which seeks to demoralize and confuse a populace, this is a major problem.  (I would say that 4GW successes vs. despotic, rigid, non-democratic states within the Middle East and Africa are symptomatic of an easier playing field.)
    As Scott said above, in a society like ours, where a “‘sound bite’ culture” can “take over,” 4GW efforts might be peculiarly effective in the short term, and perhaps advanced and extremely well-devised 4GW efforts could be extremely effective over a longer period; but, I would return again to David’s observation that “the ablest postmodern practitioners appear to be lobbyists, public-relation firms, and activist ngos.”   In my past attempts to bastardize Old School 4GW theory in order to make something useful of it, I’ve tried to draw attention to the fact that American politics is rather 4GW and has been for a long time, albeit 4GW without the violence.  (I.e., performatively 4GW, but without using violence to “speak” and influence.  This is not to say that violence has never been used in America in performative strategies, however; just look at lynchings etc. during and following Reconstruction.  Certainly, the threat of violence remains ever-present:  Note however that the state employs this in America, rather than non-state actors so much.)
    Another symptom of a state-centric worldview in Old School 4GW theorists:  “Whatever will the military do?”  Here you have a more solid argument re: the problems with hierarchy and rigid operations vs. non-state actors.  But still, the p.o.v. is state-centric.  And so, when 4GW theorists have continually asked, “What will the state do?” and “What will/can the military do?” and only ask these things from a state-centric worldview, it’s easy to see how their final answer to these questions must be, “THE STATE IS DOOMED!!”
    Hammes fell into this trap in another way.  One can see the problem in his exploration of 5GW.  First when describing 4GW, and then when postulating  the coming (or already-developing) 5GW, Hammes saw both as being what the other guy did.  This is a point of view that is always looking out—looking out from the state, and wondering whatever the state and the military can do.  That the state and the military might adopt 4GW and 5GW strategies in order to compete never really seemed to enter his mind.  Those strats are what the other guy does.  The problem with that approach is that it creates a certain rigidity in the theories of 4GW or 5GW, a kind of too-limited, too-stable and ultimately, returning back to the question the original blog post above raises, a stale concept of 4GW (and 5GW.) 
    Within this very comment thread, it might be possible to detect a state-centric exploration of 4GW as a theory.  Madhu for instance says, “A theory is only as good as its eventual application if it is a theory meant to explain aspects of war or warfare,” and asks, “How does this help real men and real women with an actual job to do?”  I think this is a very valuable question; but behind it is an assumption (apparently; I could be wrong) that those “real men and real women” are in the military and/or the state apparatus:  those are the men and women Madhu has in mind.  The fact that 4GW theory and the whole Generations of Modern Warfare Theory has been an ongoing exploration and debate by and among polisci and mil theory folk (professionals or hobbyists), may point at an intrinsic effort to develop a state-centric and military-centric answer to the question, “Whatever shall we do?”   Perhaps this is symptomatic of the presumed deficiencies of The State ™ after all.
    The problem, as I see it, is that there is more to “we” than the military and the state.  Indeed, 4GW (and 5GW) inherently suppose a non-state set of actors, their behaviors and motivations, a broader milieu than that of government officials and military personnel.  More importantly, the targets of 4GW and 5GW endeavors are that broader “we.”   My answer to how 4GW theory may help real men and real women may still be rather vague — mine is an ongoing exploration — but I would say that the application of the theory should be broader than mere considerations of what the state or military can do with it.  For the general populace to be able to recognize 4GW and 5GW efforts, and to know that they are the ones being targeted by those efforts — and that they themselves might utilize 4GW and 5GW strategies in self-defense — perhaps would be more empowering than trying to devise procedures and strategies the state and the military (as objects not of the people) may use.

  24. deichmans Says:

    Is there a Mel Gibson movie for 6GW? After all he is the sage of Generational Warfare:

    0GW: Braveheart
    1GW: The Patriot
    2GW: Gallipoli
    3GW: We Were Soldiers
    4GW: Mad Max
    5GW: Conspiracy Theory

  25. Lynn Wheeler Says:

    couldn’t resist … recent “perpetual war”

    Top Marine Sees A Future Of Perpetual War — Sandra I. Erwin, National Defense
    Top Marine Sees a Future of Perpetual War

    and Spinney’s reference

  26. Is 4GW Dead?: Point-Counterpoint and Commentary « Attack the System Says:

    […] ZenPundit.Com […]

  27. Curtis Gale Weeks Says:

    Nicely, this correlates with the discussion of 4GW re: state failure (and “Global Guerrilla Syndrome” otherwise known as World War Z hah.)  Fits some of my old thinking about the necessity of being aware of “the angels” as well as “the devils” re: superempowerment and DIY approaches and what I said above, that “the population within the state may be highly adaptive and resourceful quite apart from the state apparatus.”
    “The End Of The World Isn’t As Likely As Humans Fighting Back” @ http://www.fastcoexist.com/1682109/the-end-of-the-world-isnt-as-likely-as-humans-fighting-back via @DavidBrin on Twitter:

    William Gibson famously said “the future is here, it’s just not evenly distributed.” Unless we’re talking about an extinction-level asteroid strike, true dystopian futures will affect diverse parts of the world differently. This is true at a high level, even for dystopias–most of the time, the poorest parts of the world are also the ones hit the hardest by Globally Scary Threats–but it’s better to think of this observation as something more akin to a scalpel. Even within the same region or country, some communities will be hit harder than others, and some will have access to far greater resources than others.
    If your dystopian scenario includes the phrase “we’re all doomed” or otherwise implies the Globally Scary Threat will affect us all equally, it’s probably bad futurism.


    End of the world forecasts are an easy way out of a complex challenge: articulating a set of plausible futures in times of abundant and large-scale crises. Figuring out how different communities will react to complicated problems is hard; laying out a “collapse of civilization” storyline (with or without zombies) is much easier. There’s no reason to imagine the novel ways people might fight back, or try to solve the problems. Just keep layering on the doom–it’s pandemic, followed by swarms of insects, and probably the death of the firstborn for good measure–and eventually you get to a point where the scenario audience just wants to go hide in the corner.

    Maybe Charles, who likes to focus on End Time thinking, could make use of the above as well.  I’ve written previously (albeit not always clearly) about how GGs and like instigators have an extremely narrow worldview, narrow perspectival approach to operations…It is interesting to consider how End Time thinking might well be a symptom of a narrow observational capability that sees the near (or only isolated realities) and universalizes the observation into prophecies of Doom and Gloom etc.

  28. Madhu Says:

    @ Curtis: You make good points.
    @ Justin: That’s a good comeback!
    @ deichmans: You win every discussion on the internet ever with that comment.
    Okay, I’m still skeptical but I will try and be more open-minded on the subject.

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