5GW: LOOKING FOR DIFFERENCES OF KIND, NOT DEGREE
William Lind had an interesting piece on the weaknesses inherent in decentralized, 4GW insurgencies ( hat tip John Robb). Which in turn, led me to ask myself a question:
How do we know the difference from a state military that has adapted sufficiently to fight 4GW-style warfare effectively from a state military that has moved into waging 5GW decisively ? Where is the demarcation point ?
October 1st, 2007 at 3:39 am
I’m curious what others will say.
Your question puts a different spin on the “Hammes & 5GW” meme. (“Hammes on 5GW“). Both in The Sling and the Stone and in his later essay (pdf) on 5GW, Hammes uses 4GW and 5GW to describe the enemy without ever suggesting that the U.S. develop 4GW or 5GW styles of fighting. The xGW model is what they do. Although he advocates changing the U.S. military structure — through training and education and reorganization to meet 4GW/5GW foes — at most he has implied that “netwar” is what the U.S. should learn, which one assumes is outside the xGW framework he uses. Us vs Them.
October 1st, 2007 at 3:48 am
Ah, I should have noted an ambiguity which seems to have cropped up in your post but also appeared in Sling and Stone:
that has adapted sufficiently to fight 4GW-style warfare effectively
As in Hammes’ book fight…4GW has a ring of fight 4GW foes.
Whereas, you use “wage” for 5GW: “waging 5GW.”
The overall context of both mentioned Hammes texts is what I have given; he sees 4GW/5GW as the foe, and we must develop to fight against 4GW/5GW.
But I wonder if you meant, what’s the difference between a state waging 4GW successfully and a state waging 5GW?
October 1st, 2007 at 4:52 am
Yes, Hammes stated explicitly at Boyd 2007 that a state that really mastered 3GW would be able to handle either 4GW insurgencies or 2GW conventional armies. Not sure if that is always going to be true but the combination of massed power and high mobility will always be dangerous.
“what’s the difference between a state waging 4GW successfully and a state waging 5GW?”
That’s exactly what I meant. Sorry for the lack of clarity.
I don’t envision the state fighting 1GW, 2GW, 3GW – then 4GW is for insugents only – then skipping to 5GW. Why would that exception happen ?
5GW is an adaption to defeat 4GW but that doesn’t mean that states won’t have 4GW tactics/strategy of their own, logically speaking.
So there must be a qualitative break point between the two generations.
October 1st, 2007 at 1:42 pm
The qualitative break would be on focus: an 4GW campaign would attempt to weaken some enemy, while a 5GW would attempt to change the rules of the game in which enemies are faced.
That said, the ultimate difference truly is one of degree: every higher generation involves wider dispersion of kinetics.
October 1st, 2007 at 3:38 pm
Interesting comments, but perhaps over-reading Lind’s article.
It seems to me a straightforward warning of geo-political dangers, which could easily express itself as state to state combat (perhaps unconventionally expressed).
To use a poor analogy, he’s warning that the fleet is going on the rocks. Not discussing details of engineering or naval architecture.
October 1st, 2007 at 10:34 pm
BTW -How’s the research/teaching going this semester ?
“That said, the ultimate difference truly is one of degree: every higher generation involves wider dispersion of kinetics.”
I’m not sold on that. First, I think it’s an arguable trendline ( and you have argued it) that depends on using a particular yardstick for “kinetics”. Secondly, I think there are a number of possibilities for emerging 5GW ( as well as the possibility of 5GW being a varied phenomena) though “shaping the battl;espace” is, I agree, one of them.
I agree with you re; Lind’s intent. However, after reading his article, that thought popped in my head nonethless. so Lind gets credit for inspiration ( though, as he derides the existence of 5GW, it’s a moot point).
October 3rd, 2007 at 4:32 am
Is this the Lind article that the link was supposed to be –>
“But if my assumption is valid and al-Qaeda’s leadership wants to change course but cannot, we may have found a seam in 4GW entities we can exploit. It will not exist in all 4GW organizations; gangs, for example, often have tight top-down discipline. Where they are de-centralized, however, this dynamic of imposing their program prematurely may prevail widely. If that proves to be the case, then these entities will carry within them the seed of their own destruction. Our strategy, in turn, must allow this dynamic to play itself out, which means we must de-escalate and take the pressure off.
As is true of most Fourth Generation theory, it is too soon to know if this insight is valid. But if we are to learn how to defeat Fourth Generation enemies, this is the sort of question we must continually ask about Fourth Generation war. We must constantly seek seams in our opponents that allow us to fold them back on themselves, or permit them to fold back on themselves with us careful not to get in their way as they do so. It is greatly to the credit of the Marines in Anbar province that they have learned that inaction is a form of action. Making that realization part of our doctrine for 4GW could in turn represent a real step forward.”
October 3rd, 2007 at 4:55 am
“don’t envision the state fighting 1GW, 2GW, 3GW – then 4GW is for insurgents only – then skipping to 5GW. Why would that exception happen ?”
States can fight 4GW.
The theory must move beyond Lind. I think Lind considers 4GW as something done by non-state actors against states.
4GW should be thought of as a conflict mode where two main things standout: 1) the full spectrum of weapons used includes things not generally though of as weapons and 2) A shift from the importance of the physical dimension of war to the that of the moral and mental (the physical, and the strategic/operational/tactical still matter but they can be trumped by the moral/mental).
What people normally call 4GW is information warfare using terrorism, guerrilla tactics, and especially psyops and media operations by non-state actors who are fighting primarily against a state opponent. This is what most articles and blogposts are about. So is Hammes’s excellent book.
There is no handbook for 4GW by state actors. Yet.
I have been meaning to make this a post for awhile, butI am a procrastinator, so I will type in my thoughts here (maybe I will post a copy at my site so I don’t forget).
Those planning for future State 4GW efforts should look to a few things for conflict against other states and/or against non-state actors:
1) The PLA book “Unrestricted Warfare” is a source. It shows glimpses as to what full spectrum weoponization could be. Has anything like this come out of the US National Security establishment of academia?
2) States must re-gain or acquire capabilities in information warfare/propaganda/media operations. Look to politicalwarfare.org to get an idea. Sometimes this is called political warfare . Look to the book
Fighting the War of Ideas like a Real War by J. Michael Waller for ideas (or for a historical perspective The Secret History of PWE: The Political Warfare Executive
by David Garnett).
3) States needs to prepare their citizens, institutions, and rule-sets for fighting 4GW. War is not WW2 or Vietnam redux. States will need the flexibility to utilize netwar organization of a perm or ad-hoc nature in conflict and to not be revolted at information operations.
October 3rd, 2007 at 6:03 am
“We must constantly seek seams in our opponents that allow us to fold them back on themselves, or permit them to fold back on themselves with us careful not to get in their way as they do so.”
—I addressed this long ago. The weakness of 4GW fighters becomes the strength of their 5GW opponents: 4GWer’s operate with a relatively myopic world view, often more concerned about local systems (rather than the whole system.) Their local systems are however nonetheless dependent on the whole system. Insofar as public opinion (their own and their enemy’s public) goes: it’s fairly unstable, able to be shifted by any occurrence outside their own field of operations and outside their own control. Depending on the polls, metaphorically speaking, is their weakness, especially when they are targeting their enemy’s “hearts and minds” in very limited ways or with severely limited focus with repetitive tactics/attacks/kinetics. (That’s their own version of “top-down,” which traps them.)