Defense and the National Interest

Fourth Generation Warfare (Continued)

Is 4GW Simply Using Military Force in New Ways?

A premise of 4GW is that the world itself has changed, so that terrorism and guerilla warfare—and other elusive techniques that are still being invented—are now ready to move to center stage.  These techniques focus not so much on the enemy's military capabilities (although these may be attacked) but directly against the will of the enemy to continue the war.  All of the operations by a 4GW force must support this goal.  In its most fully developed form, there may be no real "battles" at all, as was virtually the case in the Sandinista take-over of Nicaragua in 1979.

There was a 4GW component to the Vietnam Warthe campaign by North Vietnam, of which the Viet Cong insurgency formed a key part, to turn US public opinion against the war. Once this was accomplished, and the US withdrew, the South could be finished off by conventional means, as is not unusual for the final phase of a traditional guerrilla war. Similarly, the goal of the mujaheddin in  Afghanistan was not to defeat the Red Army in some decisive battle, but to persuade the Soviet leadership to withdraw it, and al-Qa'ida appears to have achieved similar results in Spain. 

To summarize, fourth generation warfare appears to be evolving along two complementary lines:

  • One of the participants is a transnational organization (if it were dedicated to taking over the government of a particular state, we would be dealing with ordinary insurgency, which has always had transnational elements);

  • The focus (Schwerpunkt) of the non-state player's operations is to collapse states morally, that is, to rob them of their will to continue the fight.

Unlike Clausewitzian warfare, which envisions war as an act of policy in a contest between states, 4GW more resembles a boxer versus a viral infection.  Terrorism and LIC are two of the more common techniques, but there is no reason why conventional weapons and tactics could not also find a placesubmarines, for example, have been discovered under construction by narco-trafficking groups in South Americaand as been noted, fourth generation wars, like Phase III of a Maoist guerrilla campaign, might sometimes culminate in a final conventional push to subdue the remaining military forces of the state.

Fourth generation war will not replace second and third generation conflict but will co-exist alongside it.  As the state system continues to weaken, however, it will be the warfare of choice for transnational organizations that wish to confront state militaries trained and equipped for the earlier generations.

It would be a mistake and, in fact, a goal of our opponents might be to encourage this mistake, if we were to focus on the techniques and not the nature of 4GW itself.  As Col T. X. Hammes eloquently argues in "The Evolution of War: The Fourth Generation," social and political changes are driving this evolution—a theme he develops in his survey and analysis of 4GW, The Sling and The Stone.

Why is 4GW emerging now?  You can construct your own list of what is different about today's world than that of, say, 1960, but here are some ideas to get you started:

  • explosion in drug trafficking, with associated money flows and corruption to the extent that trafficking organizations are the de facto governments in a growing number of areas

  • worsening income inequities combined with a general decline in standards of living in many Third World countries, particularly in Africa and Central/South America

  • continued exponential increase in the world population

  • a growing "demographic youth bulge" in Third World countries, where un- / underemployment is already severe [cited in recent CIA testimony]

  • escalating sectarian violence as evangelizing religions (Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, etc.) clash over influence in rapidly growing Third World countries

  • survival of non-representative governments in the Third World that use religious and ethnic animosities and anti-American sentiments to distract from their own corruption and economic mismanagement

  • insertion & maintenance of a largely Christian American Army into the heart of the Muslim Middle East

  • accelerating AIDS epidemic in parts of the Third World [~30% of adults in Botswana are HIV-positive]

  • rise of Third World mega cities with populations exceeding 20 million

  • growth of worldwide connectivity (CNN and the Internet, for example)

  • ease of global transportation (24 hours between any two points)

  • increasing scarcity of arable land and water

  • increasing world demand for petroleum as China and India increase their consumption

  • disintegration of the Soviet Union and continued instability in that region

  • end of the bipolar world order and of the interpretation of events through a Cold War filter

  • ready availability of small arms and other weapons from the end of the Cold War

  • growing use of pre-adolescent children as combatants

  • resurgence of violent ethnic and ideological groups (e.g., Rwandan Interahamwe, and of course al-Qa'ida), which are becoming increasingly transnational

  • safe havens for these groups in areas of Africa, Asia, and South America where any effective government (even if corrupt and incompetent) is lacking

  • beginning of cooperation between transnational ideological groups and traditional criminal organizations such as narcotrafficking cartels

  • continued growth in wealth and influence of multinational corporations that sometimes have incentives to perpetuate corrupt, non-democratic regimes

  • creation of large and effective private military companies that recruit from elite military units

  • emergence of the US as the only conventional / economic superpower and the inevitable resentment this causes

If these or similar factors are indeed driving the evolution of conflict, then solutions must lie primarily in their arenas, that is, within the realms of economics, diplomacy, and law-enforcement. Military force will play a smaller role, performing specific tasks to solve problems that are intractable through other means.  A coherent "grand strategy" is needed to ensure that military (destructive) actions harmonize with our overall objectives and do not undermine the public support needed to prosecute a fourth generation war to its successful conclusion.  In grand strategy, the carrot is as important as the stick, and alliances are criticalfactors which should favor the United States and its allies in the 4GW against al-Qa'ida and those who support similar ideologies.

Technology is not unimportant, and may provide options, but the fact is that lack of suitable technology cannot explain our less-than-stellar track record in fourth generation warfare.

Editor's Note:  Any discussion of 4GW, since it involves conflicts of culture and religion, is likely to generate a high degree of emotion. In the articles that follow, some may find the authors' views to be simplistic or even offensive. For the record: Defense and the National Interest does not endorse any political, cultural, or religious viewpoint. These papers, however, raise many important questions about the nature of future conflict, and we are publishing them to stimulate thought and debate.

10/30/07 The 4th draft of FMFM 1-A, Fourth Generation Warfare (237 KB PDF).

1/01/07 The evolution of conflict, Rev 3 (Jan 07).  PowerPoint slideshow illustrating the four generations of war   Everything you always wanted to know about 4GW in one easy slide. (196 KB PPT)

10/09/06 It's the Tribes, Stupid, by Steven Pressfield.  Back in 1991, in The Transformation of War, Martin van Creveld predicted that tribes would be major players in what we now call "fourth generation warfare." So what is a "tribe"?  How do tribes differ from other types of organizations, particularly those common in the West? What happens if you have to fight one?

9/10/06 Doing what our enemies want, by Victor O'Reilly.  Osama has claimed to be in the vanguard of a long-term movement.  So, how do our chances look, long-term?

8/20/06 The National Cake and Defense, by Victor O'Reilly.  Economics, and life in general, is all about baking cakes and divvying them up.  When it comes to defense, can we have our cake and eat it, too?  What happens if we just pretend that we can?

8/12/06 Version 7.1 of Conflict in the Years Ahead.  Minor update - new charts 18 and 43 on Genghis Khan and on choosing the "least expected option."

7/15/06 Strategic Transformation: Aligning National Security Policy/Operations, by Greg Wilcox.  TX Hammes makes a strong case in The Sling and the Stone that success in 4GW requires the coordinated employment of all instruments of national policy, not just or even primarily the military.  In this short paper, Greg Wilcox describes an essential first step. (103 KB PDF)

6/11/06 Regarding "Leadership for the Fourth Generation: Preparing Leaders to Out-Think Our New Enemy", by Capt Robert Kozloski, USMC, by A. Scott Crawford.

6/01/06 Neither Shall the Sword, by Chet Richards. Revised presentation. PowerPoint (1681KB - play as slide show) and PDF (571 KB)

7/15/06 Strategic Transformation: Aligning National Security Policy/Operations, by Greg Wilcox.  TX Hammes makes a strong case in The Sling and the Stone that success in 4GW requires the coordinated employment of all instruments of national policy, not just or even primarily the military.  In this short paper, Greg Wilcox describes an essential first step. (103 KB PDF)

10/17/05 The Open Source War, by John Robb. Perhaps open source counterinsurgency is the key to leaving Iraq, although it is probably not the definition of "winning" that the administration has in mind.

10/4/05 Militia: the dominant defensive force in 21st Century 4GW? By Fabius Maximus. Musings on ways to wage 4GW.  44 KB PDF.

10/3/05 Interview with Martin van Creveld, by

7/08/05 Fourth Generation Warfare and the Information Arrow, by Greg Wilcox (137KB DOC)

7/02/05 Iraq News Increases Calls For Troop Withdrawal, Pew Research Center, June 13, 2005.  (42 KB PDF) [DNI Editor's note: 4GW is a struggle for public support and the moral high ground. If a state withdraws its forces, it makes no difference how well they might have fought.]

7/23/05 Ten Best Books on Fourth Generation Warfare, by Anthony A. Lukin, Ph.D.  An annotated list by a specialist in criminal justice.

Bill Lind's Strategic Defense Initiative, Distance from disorder is the key to winning the terror war. A major article on the theme of transforming 4GW into something that we can win. Originally published in The American Conservative.

Archive of Bill Lind's "On War" commentaries.  Thoughts from one of the originators of the concept of 4GW and still one of its most prolific proponents.

The Changing Face of War: Into the Fourth Generation, by William S. Lind, Colonel Keith Nightengale (USA),  Captain John F. Schmitt (USMC), Colonel Joseph W. Sutton (USA), and Lieutenant Colonel Gary I. Wilson (USMCR).  The classic article on why there really is something that should be called "fourth generation warfare," and why we should be paying very close attention to it, whatever it turns out to be.  Originally published in the Marine Corps Gazette, October 1989.

10/13/04 4GW, High Noon, And How Even I Get It Now, by Bryce Lane.  A martial artist contemplates fourth generation warfare.

9/15/04 Bin Laden's Vision Becoming Reality, Juan Cole. Assessment of al-Qa'ida's progress since 9/11.

7/29/04 The Fate of the State by Martin van Creveld.  4GW is war by entities other than states.  Van Creveld argues that the state system is breaking down, so 4GW (or as he refers to it, non-trinitarian warfare) will become the warfare of the future. Originally published in 1996.

7/27/04 Why Iraq Will End as Vietnam Did, Martin van Creveld.  Moshe Dayan's 1966 trip to Vietnam: "he who fights against the weak and loses, loses. He who fights against the weak and wins also loses." Van Creveld is the author of a recent biography of Moshe Dayan.

4/27/04 Fourth Generation Warfare, an Introduction, LTC Greg Wilcox, USA, Ret.  Superb overview and introduction to the subject, originally done for the USMC's Second Marine Expeditionary Force (II MEF.)  2.1MB PowerPoint.

3/10/04 Iraq: Fourth Generation Warfare (4GW) Swamp, Col G. I. Wilson, USMC. Perceptive article predicting the long, hot summer of 2004.

10/6/2003 4GW and the Moral Imperative, LTC Greg Wilcox, USA (Ret.)  To a great degree, 4GW is moral warfare - understanding this is a key to success for both sides. (256 KB PDF)

10/6/03 Judo of Fourth Generation Warfare, Col GI  Wilson USMCR (Ret.)  Presented at INFOWARCON 2003. (1.8 MB PDF)

4th Generation Warfare and the Dangers of Being the Only Superpower A Warning from Clausewitz by William S. Lind, Counterpunch, March 8, 2003.

Introduction to Asymmetric Warfare, Fourth Generation Warfare, and Maneuver Warfare, GySgt Bob Howard, USMC.  Teaching 4GW concepts to the folks who are actually going to have to do it.  (43 chart, 547 KB MS PowerPoint briefing - would not convert to PDF, as sometimes happens with PPT files)

Fourth Generation Warfare, LTC Greg Wilcox, USA Ret., and Col. GI Wilson, USMCR, Ret.  A concise introduction to the subject and brief assessment of our operations in Afghanistan.  Presented at the 2002 Boyd Conference at Quantico.  LTC Wilcox's (USA, Ret.) 4GW experience includes three tours in Vietnam, and Marine Col. GI Wilson is co-author of the original paper on 4GW. 75KB PDF document.

Military Response to Fourth Generation Warfare in Afghanistan, LTC Greg Wilcox, USA, Ret., and Col. G. I. Wilson, USMCR, Ret.  A companion to the above briefing offering more detail on our successes and failures in Afghanistan from a 4GW perspective.

Fourth Generation Warfare Today - Remarks by H. Thomas Hayden, USMC, Ret., July 18, 2003.

Joint Inquiry Staff Statement on September 11.

Asymmetries and Consequences, Col Richard Szafranski, USAF, Ret.  National leaders have insisted, correctly in our view, that we must take the offensive against terrorism.  With few terrorist havens remaining to bomb, however, and with the majority of active al-Qa'ida operatives likely already in the US,  western Europe, or in countries we are not going to attack, what does this mean?  In this paper presented at the Global Strategy Conference in Priverno, Italy, May 2002, Richard Szafranski offers some concrete answers.   Ultimately we can prevail: "My belief," he writes, " is that the September 11, 2001, attacks were unwise.  Monumentally unwise."  (55KB PDF file.)

e-Jihad Against Western Business.  British consultant and war correspondent Giles Trendle warns that as participants in 4GW become more sophisticated, they will expand their battlefields to include western businesses, their Web sites, and their e-commerce infrastructure. Now available are some of his more recent articles, The Colonel's Network Warfare, The ‘Swarm’ Factor in the Arab-Israeli Conflict and Omen In The Ghetto.

Fighting Stupid, Defending Smart, Col Richard Szafranski, USAF, Ret.  If the attacks on September 11 were meant to cripple our economy, what role can aerospace power play in preventing or defending against such attacks in the future?  In other words, is there a mission for the Air Force in 4GW?  103KB MS Word document; originally published in Aerospace Power Journal, Spring 2002.

When David Became Goliath, MAJ Christopher E. Whitting, RAAOC, Australia.  Masters Thesis at the US Army Command and General Staff College, 2001.  393 KB PDF File.  A thorough look at the problems that 2nd and 3rd generation armies (even very good ones) face in conducting 4GW. 

"Tactical Notes from Afghanistan," anonymous note commenting on the quality of both sides and the way the fighting is evolving.  Posted 4/02

"The Next War? Four Generations of Future Warriors," Eric Walters, Professor of Land Warfare, Military History, and Intelligence at the American Military University.  Professor Walters has prepared this sweeping look at trends in modern warfare from materials used in his courses at AMU.  Rather than extrapolating from trends in war itself, Prof. Walters approaches the question of future warfare by looking at what is happening with the people - the warriors - who will be fighting it.  A spectacular PowerPoint briefing (2.5 MB) and great introduction to 4GW.  For those with slower connections, we also have a .pdf version (714 KB) with the speaker notes.  Bibliography in MS Word (26 KB).

Fourth Generation Warfare: What Does it Mean to Every Marine?  Col Michael D. Wyly, USMC, Ret.  The source of our advantage over fourth generation opponents lies not in the superiority of our technology or even of our ideology.  In this prescient paper, Mike Wyly maintains that it lies in the very bedrock of our society - the Constitution.  Those would would wage 4GW must read, ponder, and understand this remarkable document, to which all members of the military have sworn to protect from all enemies, foreign and domestic.  [As a colleague of then-Commandant Al Gray, Col Wyly was one of the prime movers behind the Marines' adoption of third generation - maneuver - warfare in the late 1980s.]

New Order Threat Analysis: A Literature Survey November 2, 1996. Fred Fuller, Reference Librarian at the JFK Special Warfare Center and School.  Comprehensive survey of the basic concepts of 4GW as they appeared in the literature in 1996.  Good introduction to the field.

The Introduction to Spirit, Blood and Treasure, Ed. MAJ Don Vandergriff.  Why 4GW is the type of warfare we should be preparing for, and what this means for doctrine, personnel policies, training, and force structure. (Presidio Press, June 2001.)

The strange battle of Shah-i-Kot, by Brendan O'Neill.  How a battle that should have been over in 24 hours lasted a week and hundreds of bodies turned up missing.  Only the absence of CNN kept it from becoming a second Mogadishu.  More troubling, did Shah-i-Kot demonstrate that our commanders still have a fascination with "destroying infrastructure," and so fail to grasp the nature of fourth generation warfare? Link to the article at

"Fourth Generation Warfare is Here," By Harold A. Gould and Franklin C. Spinney.  Why the attacks of September 11 are not simply acts of "terrorism" but represent the opening shots in true 4GW.

For those new to 4GW, this is probably the best place to start:  "The Evolution of War: The Fourth Generation," by LtCol Thomas X. Hammes, USMC.  LtCol Hammes observes that "generations" of warfare are not defined primarily by the technology employed since, to some degree, each generation can use any available technology.  Rather, generations are better categorized by political, social, and economic factors.  After buttressing his case with examinations of China, Vietnam, Nicaragua, and the West Bank (Intifada I), LtCol Hammes concludes this important paper with the prediction that, "By using fourth generation techniques, local antagonists can change the national policy of Western democracies. Then once the Western forces have gone, they can continue to pursue their local objectives using earlier generation techniques."  Originally published in the Marine Corps Gazette, September 1994.

"Is The U.S. Military Ready To Take On A Non-Conventional Terror Threat?" Elaine M. Grossman, Inside the Pentagon, October 18, 2001.  Another in ITP's comprehensive look at the changing nature of warfare and how the US military is - and is not - shaping the war against terrorism in Afghanistan.

The Transformation of War, Martin van Creveld (Free Press, 1991).  An essential reference for fourth generation warfare.  Required reading, at some point, for every serious student of the subject.  Study it until you can say "non-trinitarian" with conviction.

"A New Kind of War," Donald H. Rumsfeld, Secretary of Defense, September 27, 2001.  Best evidence yet that when it comes to 4GW, our top leaders do get it.

"Terrorism Battle Like Drug War All Over Again," Hal Kempfer.  Once money began flowing into the War on Drugs, it, and not narcotrafficantes, became the focus of attention.


10/25/07 Light Infantry.  Another manual in the 4GW series by the Imperial and Royal (K. u. K.) Austro-Hungarian Marine Corps.  As the manual says, "... [light infantry] is the only one able successfully to counter the challenge imposed by the current transition towards the Fourth Generation of War." [123 KB PDF]

9/12/2007 FMFM 1A-3A Tactical Decision Games for 4GW.  Try your skills, courtesy of the 4GW Seminar of the Imperial and Royal Austro-Hungarian Marine Corps. [158 KB PDF]

11/18/07 Thinking About and Training for Long Wars, by Wilbur J. Scott, David R. McCone, and George R. Mastroianni, Department of Behavioral Sciences & Leadership, United States Air Force Academy.  Field experiences of two units from Ft. Carson, CO. Presentation (2.1 MB PDF) and paper (99 KB PDF).

11/28/07 Night of the Lone Wolves, by Adam Elkus.  Super-empowered individuals can do a lot of damage, but the rest of us aren't exactly helpless.

11/03/07 The Guns of August, by Adam Elkus.  The sniper as a strategic weapon of fourth generation warfare.

7/31/07 Terror's digital jihad, by Col GI Wilson, USMC, Ret.  Is it a real threat? [1.5 MB PDF]

6/26/07  On Boyd, Bin Laden, and Fourth Generation Warfare as String Theory, By Dr. Frans Osinga, Col, Royal Netherlands Air Force. (239 KB PDF).  Musings on the ultimate meaning of 4GW. 

5/08/07 Fourth Generation Warfare Evolves, Fifth Emerges (1 MB PDF), by Col. T. X. Hammes, USMC, Ret.  Perhaps the most significant examination of the subject since the original 1989 paper.  Originally appeared in Military Review; republished with permission of the author.

2/28/07 On gangs, crime, and terrorism, by GI Wilson and John P. Sullivan.  We often think of terrorism and fourth generation warfare as being "over there." A look at third generation street gangs.(70 KB PDF)

1/01/07 Terrorism: Psychology and Kinetics,  by Col G.I. Wilson, USMC.  Well researched survey of the psychology of terrorism by one of the originators of the 4GW concept (662 KB PDF).

12/29/06 Neocons and neolibs, by Chet Richards.  When working harder—and even smarter—only makes things worse, it might be time to consider whether we're solving the right problem (900 KB PPT - play as slide show).

4/09/06 Further Reflections on Unrestricted Warfare, by Robert Bryce. The two colonels' treatise, seven years on.

4/06/06 Twenty-Eight Articles, Fundamentals of Company-level Counterinsurgency by David Kilcullen, Ph.D.  Distilled lessons from history and recent experience.  Lt Col Kilcullen (Australian Army, Reserve) served on East Timor and is now seconded to the US Department of State. (199 KB PDF)

7/18/06 Conflict in the Years Ahead, version 7.1, by Chet Richards.  Conceptions of 4GW and grand strategy by several leading strategists.

1/10/06 4GW – Myth, or the Future of Warfare? A Reply to Antulio Echevarria, by John Sayen, Lt Col, USMCR (ret.)

12/24/05 Fourth-Generation War and Other Myths, by Antulio J. Echevarria II (177 KB PDF).  One of the Army's experts on Clausewitz critiques 4GW.

11/21/05 Mexico is Becoming the Next Colombia, by Ted Galen Carpenter.  Fourth generation warfare is a reflection of the decline of legitimacy of the state system (see for example Martin van Creveld's "The Fate of the State" and Bill Lind's "Strategic Defense Initiative.")  For examples, you don't have to travel all the way to the Middle East.  Originally published in the Cato Institute's Foreign Policy Briefing, No. 87, and republished here by permission (90KB PDF).

11/14/05 Women Warriors, by Fabius Maximus.  It's not whether women should be warriors, because they are.  What does this mean in a 4GW world? (22KB PDF)

10/18/05 Are There Five Rings or a Loop in Fourth Generation Warfare?  A Study on the Application of Warden's or Boyd's Theories in 4GW, Juerg Studer, Major, Swiss Air Force. (382 KB PDF)

8/10/05 From The Military: Applying 4GW Theory to The Intelligence Community, by Myke Cole. The IC is key to 4GW, so it's important that they understand what they're looking for.

7/14/05 Losing the Information War, by LTC Greg Wilcox, USA (Ret.)  Presentation to accompany "Fourth Generation Warfare and the Information Arrow." 1842 KB PowerPoint.

7/12/05 Dear Mr. & Ms. 1RP: Welcome to the 21st Century, version 4. Fourth Generation Warfare: Coming soon to a neighborhood near you. Advice for first responders (1RP) (251 KB MS Word document.)

7/02/05 Leadership for the Fourth Generation: Preparing Leaders to Out-Think Our New Enemy, Capt Robert Kozloski, USMC (34 KB PDF)

4/21/05 4GW, OODA Loops, and Implications of the Iraqi Insurgency, as delivered at the 16th Strategy Conference, Army War College, April 12-14, 2005. (256 KB PPT)

4/05/05 A New Doctrine for New Wars, By James Webb.  In a prescient article originally published shortly after 9/11, the former Secretary of the Navy lays out what might have been and possibly still could be a winning strategy for defeating groups like al-Qa'ida.

12/22/04 Fourth Generation Warfare and OODA Loop Implications of The Iraqi Insurgency, by G.I. Wilson, Greg Wilcox, and Chet Richards [22 Dec 2004, 1.7 MB PPT], the full version as cited by James Fallows in "Getting Out Right" in the April 2005 Atlantic.

6/1/05 Iraqi Insurgent Sniper Training.  The seven duties of an insurgent sniper - from a pro-insurgent website.  (660KB PPT)

Water Resources of the Occupied Palestinian Territory, United Nations, 1992. Nations and other groups often fight over scarce resources, from hunting grounds to farm land to petroleum.  In the Middle East, the West Bank has an abundance of the scarcest resource, water, and this is fueling an intractable conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.  This report concludes that "Israeli policies ensure that most of the water of the West Bank percolates underground to Israel, and settlers are provided with increasing access to the water resources of the occupied Palestinian territory. As a consequence, a 'man-made' water crisis has been brought about which undermines the living conditions and endangers the health situation of the Palestinian people." (222KB MS Word)  For an update, see Comment 425, The Struggle for Israel's Soul, August 20, 2001,

Changing the Paradigm of the War, Steven E. Daskal.  It's not "terrorism" but something much more. Some observations on what it will take to win 4GW.

"Chaos in the Littorals," Chapter 1 from MCDP 3, Expeditionary Warfare, April 1998.  Excellent overview of the nature of 4GW and the problems facing US armed forces attempting to find and engage "asymmetric" opponents.

Operations in Urban Terrain Website.  As we enter the 21st century, several Third World cities are approaching 20 million inhabitants.  These environments may present the most severe challenge yet to our techno-centric doctrines since satellite and reconnaissance sensors may find it difficult to separate "terrorists" from "ordinary citizen" amongst these teeming masses.

Maoist Revolution in Nepal.  "Rain of Shadows," first of a two-part series in Outside Magazine, September 2001.  Just when you thought  old-style communist revolution was gone forever.  This "on-line exclusive" article illustrates how changing conditions in Nepal are creating a favorable environment for revolution—where guerillas already control a large section of western Nepal and are continuing to grow in strength.  The second part, "Last Days of the Mountain Kingdom," describes a visit to the guerilla stronghold in western Nepal and includes interviews with its leaders.

The US and the Genocide in Rwanda, 1994, sixteen declassified US Government documents detailing why the US refused to take actions to stop the Rwandan genocide (800,000 dead in 3 months) and even intervened in the UN to delay measures that might have ended the slaughter.  Unlike France, which seems to have had a stake in the organizations that carried out the mass killings, the US was blinded more by simple incompetence and the failure to recognize the changing nature of warfare.  On the National Security Archives site at George Washington University, August 20, 2001.

Anticipating the Nature of the Next Conflict, by Col G. I. Wilson, USMCR, Maj Frank Bunkers, USMCR, and Sgt John P. Sullivan, LA County Sheriff's Dept., April 2001.  The Soviet Union is gone, only to be replaced by transnational crime, drug cartels with income greater than most countries, and wars over water and religion.  Technology is an important player in this new 4th generation warfare, but it works both ways. Considering the events of September 11, 2001, a remarkably prescient paper (384 KB MS Word; reprinted with permission of authors and the Emergency Response and Research Institution.)  A newer version of this paper is included in Comment 427, 20 September 2001.

The New Craft of Intelligence, by Robert David Steele.  What type of intelligence, and intelligence community, do we need when the threat is primarily fourth generation?

An ongoing Case Study in 4GW: The Al-Aqsa Intifada.  Charts and data that show why this conflict is going to be so hard to resolve. Also daily reporting from EmergencyNet:  28 Sep - 12 Oct  13 Oct - Present

Modern Conflict: The Reality, by Robert D. Steele, founder and CEO, OSS, Inc.  The data on fourth generation warfare as it is actually practiced in the world today. Why the "revolution in military affairs" is not the answer.

"Back to the Future with Asymmetric Warfare," by Col Vincent J. Goulding, Jr., USMC.  "Asymmetric warfare" is "as old as warfare itself," as the author reminds us in the very first sentence of this gripping paper.  Drawing parallels and lessons from two widely separated but eerily similar campaigns—Teutoburger Wald (9 and 14-15 A.D.) and Chechnya (1994-1995)—Col Goulding illustrates the dangers in preparing only for the forms of warfare that suit us.  In the early 21st century, we seem to favor high-tech, mechanized combat on gently undulating plains.  Col Goulding concludes that we are inviting future enemies to engage us in such places as teeming urban slums, where a simple RPG fired from behind a fruit stand can destroy a $4 million armored behemoth, live on CNN.  From Parameters, Winter, 2000 - 2001. [DNI Editor's note: "Asymmetric" is not the same as "4GW," since one of the aims of maneuver warfare - 3rd Generation - is to "hurl strength against weakness."  Undoubtedly, however, warfare in the 4th generation will carry the asymmetric theme much farther than its predecessors, to where the participants may not be recognizable as "armies" in any usual sense.]

"Armed Conflict in the 21st Century: The Information Revolution and Post-Modern Warfare," by Dr. Steven R. Metz of the Strategic Studies institute at the Army War College.  An alternative to the "generations" classification scheme: formal war (including the asymmetric aspects), informal war, and gray area war.  In this innovative and thorough critique of DoD planning (i.e., JV 2010), Dr. Metz takes the official line to task for focusing on better ways to re-fight the Gulf War. Given his radical interpretations of modern strategy, though, readers may find his final recommendations somewhat tame. ( 361K, 129 pp. .pdf file on the Institute's site.)

"Community War," by Captain Larry Seaquist, USN (Ret.).  As CAPT Seaquist notes, the fundamental question facing defense planners is "What is the purpose of the military in the modern world?"  When this question is considered at all, answers range from gunboat diplomacy (see Comment 381 - esp. Gen Sullivan's article) to waiting around to see if a peer competitor develops (e.g., China).  In this ground-breaking article, CAPT Seaquist suggests that these answers betray a lingering Cold War mindset and that there are more urgent, albeit unconventional, uses for military force today.  Reprinted with permission from the August 2000 Proceedings. See also Comment 384.

"Fourth Generation Warfare: Another Look," by William S. Lind, Maj John F. Schmitt, and Col Gary I. Wilson.  Originally published in the Marine Corps Gazette, December 1994.  An update of the authors' 1989 paper, which makes the case that future conflict may revert to its premodern past:  Not just armies versus armies but "Families waged war, as did clans, tribes, cities, monastic orders, religions, even commercial enterprises."

Thinking About Cities and War, Williamson Murray, originally published in the July 2000 Marine Corps Gazette.   Although not strictly about 4GW, it's a pretty good bet that a lot of 4GW will take place in the urban jungle.  Consider, for example, the number of Third World mega-slums that are approaching 20,000,000 people.

"Key Review Offers Scant Guidance On Handling '4th Generation' Threats," Elaine M. Grossman, Inside The Pentagon, October 4, 2001, Pg. 1.  Well executed analysis of the new (2001) Quadrennial Defense Review. Briefly, the parts dealing with 4GW were pretty much bolted on after September 11, and it shows.

Paradoxes of War, (500 KB PDF file) Grant  T. Hammond, Professor of International Relations and Director of the Center for Strategy and Technology at the Air War College, originally published in the Spring 1994 Joint Force Quarterly; republished with permission of author. The techniques and philosophy of 4GW applied to nation-vs.-nation conflict.  Strangeness persists: war and peace blur and intermingle, decisive wars are fought with little or no armed conflict, and operations on the moral and mental battlegrounds determine victor and vanquished. When it must be used, military force adds to the confusion and despair of the opponent, rather than simply bludgeoning him into surrender.  Dr. Hammond is the author of The Mind of War, a recent biography of John R. Boyd.

"Letter From the Middle East (I)"  Exclusive to DNI - how the attacks of September 11 played to a wide cross-section of Egyptians.  A first-person report from the region. Letter from the Middle East (II) - an update from three Arab countries on the mood in January 2002. Letter from the Middle East (III) - After Israel's Campaign: Cairo, Beirut, and Damascus, May 31, 2002.

"Sticks and Stones Can Break an Army" by Stan Crock in BusinessWeek OnLine. When armies fight teenagers, the "better" the soldiers do, the worse it looks on TV.  Which is the whole idea.  Readers with an interest in the Middle East may also want to consult Hal Gould's analysis in Comment 392.  

"War Isn't a Rational Business," By Colonel T. X. Hammes, U.S. Marine Corps. Colonel Hammes argues that the currently fashionable concepts that go by the name "network centric warfare" will be unable to cope with any real war, much less the mess that is 4GW.  Reposted 8/2004.

Corruption undermines democracy, retards economic growth, and may be a major contributing factor to 4GW. In the latest survey by Transparency International, the most corrupt countries are Yugoslavia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, Indonesia, Angola, and bringing up the rear, #90, Nigeria.  The U.S. ranks 14th (and first in perception that it uses unethical practices to aid its own companies!) Read the complete 2000 findings on the TI web site.

"The Roots and Fruits Of Terrorism," by Prof. Harold A. Gould.  Concise introduction to the subject, tracing its history and outlining the socio-political  conditions that spawn it. Examines modern India as a case study in how to (and how not to) alleviate the threat posed by terrorist groups. 

Terrorism:  Middle Eastern Groups and State Sponsors 2000.  Excellent survey of the origins and current status of the major terrorist groups in the Middle East. Ties the groups to their primary sponsors and outlines US efforts to counter them.

"Emerging, Devolving Threat of Terrorism," by Fred Fuller, USAJFKSWCS, Ft. Bragg, NC, and Colonel G. I. Wilson, OSD, USMC.  As "stateless actors" (e.g., international drug cartels and bin Laden-style networks) employ increasingly sophisticated terrorist tactics, our activities to counter (and deter) must change as well. EmergencyNet News Service, November 30, 1996.

"Asymmetric Warfare, the Evolution and Devolution of Terrorism; The Coming Challenge For Emergency and National Security Forces," by Clark L. Staten, Executive Director & Sr. Analyst, Emergency Response & Research Institute, 04/27/98.  The end of the Cold War is not turning out to be the dawn of universal peace.  If the U.S. is supreme in the conventional military sense, those who oppose our interests will find (or evolve) other ways.

"A Scourge of Small Arms," by Jeffrey Boutwell and Michael T. Klare in the June 2000 Scientific American.  The ultimate asymmetrical threat may be hoards of 6-12 year old kids.  No, we don't mean throwing rocks.

A Commander's Reflections, Address by Gen Anthony C. Zinni, USMC, retiring CINCCENT, to the US Naval Institute.  Entertaining, thought-provoking, and at times disturbing observations by the senior US commander responsible for perhaps the most likely venue for 4GW.  Excerpt:  "In reality, though, the only reason Desert Storm worked was because we managed to go up against the only jerk on the planet who actually was stupid enough to confront us symmetrically—with less of everything, including the moral right to do what he did to Kuwait."

"Culture Wars," MAJ Donald E. Vandergriff's thorough and often provocative study of why the U.S. Army must radically change its culture, and particularly its officer personnel management practices, to be successful in 4GW.

"Kosovo and the Current Myth of Information Superiority," by Timothy L. Thomas, LTC, USA (ret.) Parameters, Spring 2000.  Information superiority is defined as "the capability to collect, process, and disseminate an uninterrupted flow of information while exploiting or denying an adversary's ability to do the same."  Col Thomas shows that despite total information superiority dominance, Serbian forces were consistently able to deceive allied commanders to the extent that we still don't know exactly how many of Milosovic's armored vehicles we destroyed.  Thomas reinforces Adm Ellis's conclusion that "information superiority overload can actually hurt mission performance."  Interested readers may want to contrast the mechanistic definition of "information superiority" with Boyd's concept of organic design for "command and control."

"Dramatic Increase in Piracy and Armed Robbery" from the International Maritime Organization. High seas piracy increased by 52% over last year, claiming the lives of 71 crewmembers. Piracy has become another profitable activity for international crime syndicates, and perhaps another indication of the emergence of "non-trinitarian" warfare (not involving organized military forces of established states).

Links to 4GW Participants

Guerilla warfare—wars of "national liberation"—and similar highly irregular conflicts certainly did not end with the Cold War and will provide a component of any fourth generation of warfare. Like these precursors, 4GW will show a very strong moral dimension. Boyd, for example, observed that guerillas must:

Exhibit moral authority, offer competence, and provide desired benefits in order to further erode government influence, gain more recruits, multiply base areas, and increase political infrastructure, hence expand guerilla influence/control over population and countryside. ("Patterns of Conflict," p. 90)

To which one could add today: obtain funds from an affluent diaspora and influence US public opinion.

In other words, the moral may be to the physical as three to one in traditional conflict, but it is much more important to guerillas. As always, such movements must "swim in the sea of the people" in order to survive and grow. What better tool for moral warfare / grand strategy in the 21st Century than the World Wide Web, which allows participants to spread their message to tens of millions at very low cost and practically no personal risk?

Defense and the National Interest presents a collection of web sites from or about groups currently waging some form of 4th generation warfare. On this list, you will likely find our opponents or allies in future conflict. (Disclaimer—Defense and the National Interest is publishing these links to demonstrate the nature of 4GW and the level of sophistication of some of its participants. This most emphatically should not be construed as endorsement of the causes they claim to represent.)  [DNI editor's note: You can witness 4GW in action as these web sites are attacked and periodically shut down by opponents in other camps.], site of the anti-Taliban United Front, representing the recognized government of Afghanistan
Jihad and Mujahiddeen, Azzam Publications, pro-Taliban site produced in London. Also supports Chechnyan rebels
Hamas, a very complete site from a movement that has, unfortunately, put Boyd's advice into practice
Hizbollah, well-designed, content-rich site from the largely Shiite, Iranian-backed Lebanese group.  Illustrates how sophisticated some of these organizations have become in using 4GW techniques.  <Note: Site has been down since early October 2000>
Intifada Online a "moral high ground" site presenting the Intifada from the Palestinian perspective.  Explicitly geared toward Western public opinion.
SLA, "The Lebanese Foundation for Peace," Web site of the South Lebanese Army.  Group fighting Hizbollah in southern Lebanon.
ETA This is actually the link to "Basque Red Net," which has some type of affiliation to ETA.  We are looking for a better link.
FARC, the official web site of this Colombian guerilla movement
Tamil Tigers, very professional, with an on-line store
Zapatistas, well done, but showing its age
Sinn Fein, which is, of course, a legitimate political party, but has an historical association with the IRA. Again, we would most appreciate a link to an "official" IRA page.
"Homelands" links to national liberation movements
Terrorism links on PRICENet
Federation of American Scientists' Guide to "Liberation Movements, Terrorist Organizations, Substance Cartels, and Other Para-State Entities"  Like most FAS products, exceptionally informative and complete.
Terrorists, Freedom Fighters, Crusaders, Propagandists, and Military Professionals on the Net Very extensive collection, and not just to terrorist organizations. The editor's annotations are an education in themselves.
Terrorism: Middle Eastern Groups and State Sponsors 2000.  CRS survey provides a comprehensive overview.





CERTAIN TO WIN: The Strategy of John Boyd, Applied to Business, by Chet Richards. Boyd's real OODA loop and ancient strategies working for business today. More...
Advance Reviews;
Amazon and B&N


RAISING THE BAR, by Donald Vandergriff (U.S. Army, ret.) Published by the Center for Defense Information Press. Read the DNI review. Order from Amazon.


SCIENCE, STRATEGY AND WAR, by Col Frans Osinga, RNAF. Read the DNI Review.  Order from Amazon or B&N. New! Now in paperback directly from Routledge, $35.95.


NEITHER SHALL THE SWORD, by Chet Richards.  If you thought A Swift, Elusive Sword was too tame.  Read the Introduction and view the Briefing. Podcast review.  Available now on Amazon


BOYD: The Fighter Pilot Who Changed the Art of War by Robert Coram
Amazon & B&N.


BLUEPRINT FOR ACTION : A Future Worth Creating, by Thomas P. M. Barnett. Read the DNI review. Buy at Amazon and B&N


NOT A GOOD DAY TO DIE: The Untold Story of Operation Anaconda, by Sean Naylor. Read the DNI Review; Amazon and B&N


THE WASTRELS OF DEFENSE: How Congress Sabotages U. S. Security by Winslow Wheeler.  You'll be disgusted, then just mad.
Read Comment #527.
Amazon and B&N


THE AFGHAN CAMPAIGN, by Steven Pressfield.  Read the DNI Review. Amazon and B&N.


The Virtues of War by Steven Pressfield
Read the DNI Review.
Amazon and B&N. Now in trade paperback.


The Sling and The Stone by Col T. X. Hammes, USMC
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