Fourth-generation warfare (4GW) uses all available networks -- political, economic, social, and military -- to convince the enemy's political decision makers that their strategic goals are either unachievable or too costly for the perceived benefit. It is an evolved form of insurgency. Still rooted in the fundamental precept that superior political will, when properly employed, can defeat greater economic and military power, 4GW makes use of society's networks to carry on its fight. Unlike previous generations of warfare, it does not attempt to win by defeating the enemy's military forces. Instead, via the networks, it directly attacks the minds of enemy decision makers to destroy the enemy's political will. Fourth-generation wars are lengthy -- measured in decades rather than months or years.
Not only is 4GW the only kind of war America has ever lost, we have done so three times: Vietnam, Lebanon, and Somalia. This form of warfare has also defeated the French in Vietnam and Algeria and the USSR in Afghanistan. It continues to bleed Russia in Chechnya and the United States in Iraq and Afghanistan, and in other countries against the al-Qaeda network. The consistent defeat of major power by much weaker fourth-generation opponents makes it essential to understand this new form of warfare and adapt accordingly.
There is nothing mysterious about 4GW. Like all wars, it seeks to change the enemiy's political position. Like all wars, it uses available weapons systems to achieve that end. Like all wars, it reflects the society it is part of. Like all previous generations of war, it has evolved in consonance with society as a whole. It evolved because practical people solved specific problems related to their fights against much more powerful enemies. Practitioners created it, nurtured it, and have continued its development and growth. Faced with enemies they could not possibly beat using conventional war, they sought a different path.
Col. Thomas X. Hammes, USMC The Sling and the Stone: On Warfare in the 21st Century (2004)
I've just started reading this book, and I'll be very interested to find out what Col. Hammes has to say -- especially what he says about how best to fight against the techniques of fourth-generation war with our, essentially, third generation forces. (I guess that the old saw about generals always beeing ready to fight the last war can be extended to say that they're also always ready for the last generation of war, at least until the new generation becomes normalized.)
Speculating, since I've only begin the book, I wonder if the key to fighting against 4GW warriors isn't held in Mao's saying about the people being the water in which guerillas swim?* If what he says is the case, and it seems clearly to be true, then isn't is the most important thing to somehow change the water? Not to "drain the swamp" as some would want -- because unless you're fighting your war strictly for economic, colonial or territorial reasons, draining the swamp is the equivalent of destroying the village in order to save it -- but changing the water by reducing the people's support for the insurgents. You don't have to get them to love you -- that's much too daunting a task: if they were prone to love you they'd have done it from the start -- you simply have to get them to see some advantage to not helping the insurgents fight you.
That's hard when "the people" are the insurgents, but I would suppose that there are people are are actively involved, people who actively support them, and then a greater mass of people who can take it either way, depending on the circumstances. It's those your efforts should be aimed at.
And what efforts? Well, the winning of "hearts and minds" -- but a true and effective program, not forcibly relocating people for security reasons and then giving them a new cow to influence them to love you. No, you have to find out what they want and give it to them -- help them on their terms. Chances are they'll say something along the lines of food, clean water, security, work, safety, electricity, infrastructure repair, which means basically your task is to undo the damages of war or the lingering deficiences of the society you went there to disrupt in the first place.
If that sounds like "nation building," it is, and the Bush Administration's expressed contempt for the concept before 9/11 happened gives a good hint why they've done such a piss-poor job in Iraq -- not only do they not really understand the task that was before them, but they had no inclination to do it anyway.
Obviously that kind of work is not done primarily by the military -- although they do have to take the lead on security and safety, without which the others can't be achieved -- but has to be done in conjunction with other governmental agencies, NGOs, humanitarian organizations, the UN and other international agencies, and so on. They need to be out there rebuilding and getting systems back into place, so that people start to rely on them again. When that happens, the people won't be grateful (you're only, after all, providing the capacity for them to get the minimum of what is needed for survival, which was your responsibility as the disruptor in the first place) but when the systems go down they'll be annoyed, and when you let it be known via your system of propaganda (in the good sense of the word, purveying truthful information which is helpful to your side) operating through friendly locals, that they went down because of insurgent action -- well, the people may take out their annoyance on the insurgents instead of you. Multiply that and you've started the process of restricting the operational capacity of the insurgency.
(Of course, I'm interested in this subject because of Iraq, but, unfortunately, it's most probably much too late for any of this there -- if it even has any validity, being my own speculation and not the ideas of Col. Hammes. If these techniques were going to be used there, they would have to have been put into effect at the very beginning of the occupation, immediately after the fall of Saddam's regime. The necessary specially-trained troops and civilian workers should have been ready to come in right on the heels of the front-line troops, to instantly show the people that work was being done right away to put things to right.)
My other thought was about the nature of the military operations. It seems to me that the primary goal is to as soon as possible reduce the scope of the operation from fighting to policing, and that means making the public face of your forces, as much as possible, non-threatening. Obviously, to begin with, security and safety will require fighting forces, but as things come under control, the task should be handed off to other (again, specially-trained) troops who can police without being as intrusive or threatening to the people. Their task should be to train their own replacements from the local population as soon as possible, and turn the task over to them bit by bit.
Clearly, you don't send the front-line troops away immediately -- you keep them in reserve, ready to fight, when necessary, at hot spots which can't be dealt with by the policing troops. The total aim is for the public military presence to be as light, agile, non-invasive (no pun intended) and responsive as possible, but with a strong and forceful presence backing it up: the chain-mail fist in the velvet glove.
But, as I said, I would think that you've got to start at the beginning for any of this to be effective, and we didn't do that. Just after 9/11, I wrote that our best policy was to "bomb them with butter, bribe them with hope."
We *must* act as nation-builders, or at least facilitators so that nations can rebuild themselves. We should do this not out of guilt, [but] simply as a matter of enlightened self-interest.
That's still a fairly good description of the kind of techniques I'm suggesting here.
Will Col. Hammes agree? Maybe not. Probably, being a trained military analyst, he'll understand the problem in a very different way and have very different solutions. I'm looking forward to finding out.
[*] "The people are like water and the army is like fish," in Aspects of China's Anti-Japanese Struggle (1948).
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i've got a little list...
Steven Abrams (Kansas BofE)
Howard Fieldstead Ahmanson
Roger Ailes (FNC)
Alan Bonsell (Dover BofE)
Bill Buckingham (Dover BofE)
George W. Bush
Bruce Chapman (DI)
The Coors Family
William A. Dembski
Leonard Downie (WaPo)
John Gibson (FNC)
Fred Hiatt (WaPo)
James F. Inhofe
Philip E. Johnson
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Stephen C. Meyer (DI)
Judith Miller (ex-NYT)
Sun Myung Moon
Elspeth Reeve (TNR)
Martin Peretz (TNR)
Richard Mellon Scaife
Susan Schmidt (WaPo)
John Solomon (WaPo)
Richard Thompson (TMLC)
Bob Woodward (WaPo)
All the fine sites I've
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Arthur C. Clarke
Daniel C. Dennett
Philip K. Dick
Stephen Jay Gould
"The Harder They Come"
Ursula K. LeGuin
The Marx Brothers
Michael C. Penta
Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger
"The Red Shoes"
"Singin' in the Rain"
Talking Heads/David Byrne
Hunter S. Thompson
"2001: A Space Odyssey"
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