Archive for the '4GW - Articles' Category

Making sense out of 4GW

[Significantly revised at 6 pm EDST, on March 12th]

Fabius Maximus, in stark contrast to his nickname “Cunctator” (Delayer), takes the initiative:

When non-T conflicts become struggles for control of large geographic areas (not neighborhoods) AND involve substantial use of force, we call them 4GW’s. In the words of Martin van Creveld (private communication) 4GW is a tactic (or body of tactics) used in non-T conflicts. So is crime. So are private acts of violence by super-empowered individuals (see BNW [Brave New War] and Robb’s other writings for more on this). Although these three things can blur together, they are conceptually distinct concepts. Confusing them by calling them “war” can have bad consequences. This is one of the key contributions of Richards in IWCKI [If We Can Keep It].

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A gap in the line

A large-scale conventional war involving the United States and a “near peer” (read: Russia or China - see Bill Lind’s latest, below, for more) just isn’t going to happen. But a massive pandemic, either natural or released by accident or terrorism, cannot be so glibly ruled out. This season’s flu fiasco shows just how far we are from being able to cope with virus-based diseases, even relatively mild ones.

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Alternative Definitions of “4GW”

A new generation?

When Bill Lind, Keith Nightengale, John Schmitt, Joseph Sutton, and GI Wilson published the paper that introduced the term “fourth generation warfare,” they were speculating:

Is it not about time for a fourth generation to appear? If so, what might it look like?

They posed two broad alternatives, a technology-driven fourth generation (as was the second) or an ideas-driven (as was the third). While ostensibly neutral between the two, it is clear from the word count that they favored the second option and that something like “terrorism” would play a large role (although they admit that up until then - 1989 - it had been “largely ineffective.”)

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Nature of 4GW

Perhaps the primary difference between insurgency and 4GW — although both may use techniques like “terrorism” and guerrilla warfare — lies in their objectives relative to state governments.

An insurgency by definition is a rebellion, either to replace an existing government or, as in the case of the late unpleasantness here in the South, to to establish a new government on part of the territory of the old. Fourth generation warfare involves non-state entities, as does insurgency, but the groups waging it are transnational. They are willing to let someone else occupy the UN seat and pick up trash in the streets while they pursue other objectives. The relationship between al-Qa’ida and the Taliban government of Afghanistan is a case in point as are the relationships between most narcotrafficking groups and street gangs and the governments of the countries they operate in. I address this distinction in excruciating detail in IWCKI.

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The Generations of War Model and Domestic Policing

Dr Simon Newman
Senior Lecturer in Law
University of Westminster, UK

[Note: Dr. Newman has been kind enough to share some working notes he made for the London’s Metropolitan Police Department. It’s an excellent example of how that framework can help stimulate insights and creativity, which to me is the real purpose of models — Chet]

1st Generation - a culture of Order, “Line of Battle” and the parade ground, e.g., Napoleonic war. 1st generation entities emphasise order at any cost. WW1 tactics ‘walking into machine guns’ was probably the last gasp of 1st gen culture on the battleground.

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Crises and the Decline of the State

By Ed Beakley

In On War #251, “War or not war?” Bill Lind wrote:

At the core of 4GW lies a crisis of legitimacy of the state. A development that contributes to the state’s crisis of legitimacy is the disintegration of community (Gemeinschaft). Since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution and the rise of the powerful, highly intrusive state, community has increasingly been displaced by society (Gesellschaft), where most relationships between people are merely functional.

I draw a significantly different thread from Mr. Lind’s article than those indicated by other comments.

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Mass Murder, Men, and the Decline of the State

By Dr. Vomact

Some deeds raise questions. Some speak so loudly, you might say they are themselves questions. The recent vogue of mass murders, done by a single individual who walks into a crowded public space and commences firing for no apparent reason belongs to this latter class. The press and public ask why anyone would do such a thing. They talk about how such bloody deeds could be prevented.

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During Millenium Challenge 2002

Fabius Maximus asked: In an ideal world, what should have happened during MC 2002 after General Paul van Riper took the exercise “out of the box”, outside its designed conceptual frame?

[Original post on Fabius Maximus’s blog is here.]

Comments by Ed Beakley, who runs the Project White Horse blog:

This is a really good question with implication for any aspect of decision making and preparation for conflict in this century, and I suggest one worth more in-depth thought.

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Progress in the GWOT?

By Chuck Spinney

More than seven years after 9-11, it ought to be clear from (1) the senseless destruction of Iraq, (2) the deteriorating war in Afghanistan, and (3) the increasing potential for chaos in nuclear-armed Pakistan, that George II has gomered up the so-called war on terror (WOT).

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A Resilient Community

During a disaster, become part of the solution

By Terry Paulson

[Reprinted with permission from the Ventura County Star
Original URL:]

Monday, January 7, 2008

Happiness is the absence of a disaster and a short memory. Unfortunately, whether it’s the “devil wind,” fires or rain-driven mudslides, the disaster coverage cycle remains much the same. Most soon tire of the impressive visual disaster images and human-interest stories and return to life as usual — no better prepared for future disasters.

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