On War #101
January 25, 2005


By William S. Lind

[The views expressed in this article are those of Mr. Lind, writing in his personal capacity. They do not reflect the opinions or policy positions of the Free Congress Foundation, its officers, board or employees, or those of Kettle Creek Corporation.

As regular readers of this column know, the small seminar on Fourth Generation warfare that meets at my house, made up mostly of Marines, is writing its own field manual, FMFM 1-A, Fourth Generation War.  Since the U.S. Marine Corps is in one of its anti-intellectual periods, the FMFM will appear as a publication of the Imperial and Royal Austro-Hungarian Marine Corps; Kaiser Otto, at least, recognizes the importance of ideas in war.  But we hope it will prove useful to U.S. Marines as well.

We are currently working on the second (incomplete) draft, and I thought a progress report would be in order.  The introduction, which is in close to final form, makes two points about 4GW.  First, past is prologue; Marines who face war waged by entities other than states are encountering armed conflict as it was before the Peace of Westphalia of 1648, which gave states a monopoly on war.  Second, because the root of 4GW is what the FMFM calls “a political, social and moral revolution, the decline of the state,” it can have no purely military solution.  Military force is as likely to undermine a state’s legitimacy as to uphold it – more likely, in fact, when that military force is foreign.  As the manual notes, “this is not just a problem, it is a dilemma – one of several dilemmas Marines will face in the Fourth Generation.”

At present, the FMFM has two long chapters (that may change).  The first is “Understanding Fourth Generation War.”  As the draft says, “Before you can fight Fourth Generation war successfully, you have to understand it.”  The chapter begins with the three classical levels of war – strategic, operational and tactical – but quickly adds three new ones identified by John Boyd as the moral, the mental and the physical.  These intersect like two games of three-dimensional chess, where every disharmony (on all sides) creates an opening.

As the manual says, “At this point, Marines may find themselves saying, ‘My head hurts.’”  So we take a lesson from the excellent Command and Control FMFM the U.S. Marine Corps published when Al Gray was Commandant and we tell a story:  the story of “Operation David.”  In the face of Operation Goliath, which bears a not incidental resemblance to what the United States has done in Iraq, an innovative battalion commander comes up with his own approach based not on escalation but on de-escalation.  It doesn’t offer a 100% solution, but 51% solutions may be the best we can do in 4GW situations.  His Operation David stresses the moral level, understands the power of weakness, integrates his troops with the local population, draws on that integration for good cultural intelligence and, we hope, illustrates the key characteristics of Fourth Generation war.  Chapter I is not yet in final form, but it is getting there.

In contrast, Chapter II, “Fighting Fourth Generation War,” still has a lot of blank spots.  Part of our problem is that only two of the seminar’s members were in Iraq during the Fourth Generation phase of the war; another of our members just left, and he will do some writing for us over there.  In the meantime, we identify two basic models for fighting 4GW:  the de-escalation model and the “Hama model,” based on what Hafez al-Assad did to the Moslem Brotherhood in the Syrian city of Hama (basically, he flattened the place).

We draw one critically important point from Martin van Creveld:  you can use either model with some hope of success, but if you fall between the two, you will certainly fail.  If you are going to be brutal, it has to be over fast.  If you can’t get it over fast, you must de-escalate.

We stress that in fighting 4GW, “less is more.”  Try to keep your physical presence small, if possible so small you are invisible.  If you can’t do that, then keep your footprint small in time – get in and get out, fast.  Finally, if you have to take the least desirable route, invading and occupying another state, you must do everything you can to preserve that state at the same time you are defeating it.  As we see in Iraq, if you destroy the state itself, there is a good chance nobody will be able to recreate it.

Getting down more to specifics, we stress that 4GW is above all light infantry war – real light infantry, jaegers, not what the U.S. calls light infantry, which is just line infantry with less equipment.  We talk about “Out G-ing the G,” in Hackworth’s phrase.  We discuss your most important supporting weapon:  cash.  We go into how to integrate your men with the local population (American-style “force protection” makes this impossible).  We look at how intelligence changes in 4GW (humint is everything, and IPB goes out the window) and how to win the fight at the mental and moral levels.

Again, in these areas we still have a lot of blanks.  It looks like some Marine captains may be willing to form another seminar to help us fill in those blanks; as with the Marine Corps’ earlier work on maneuver warfare, captains are key to this effort.  Our goal is to have a complete first draft some time in the next couple months; we will then post that draft on a new Fourth Generation web site so anyone who is interested can help us improve it.

It may have been a while since the Austrian flag flew over squadrons of battleships in the Mediterranean, but the K. und K. Marineinfanterie may still have something to offer to Marines everywhere who face the challenge of Fourth Generation war.

William S. Lind, expressing his own personal opinion, is Director for the Center for Cultural Conservatism for the Free Congress Foundation

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