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Thread: Understanding 4th Generation Warfare

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    Understanding Fourth Generation War

    by William S. Lind

    Rather than commenting on the specifics of the war with Iraq, I thought it might be a good time to lay out a framework for understanding that and other conflicts. The framework is the Four Generations of Modern War.

    I developed the framework of the first three generations ("generation" is shorthand for dialectically qualitative shift) in the 1980s, when I was laboring to introduce maneuver warfare to the Marine Corps. Marines kept asking, "What will the Fourth Generation be like?", and I began to think about that. The result was the article I co-authored for the Marine Corps Gazette in 1989, "The Changing Face of War: Into the Fourth Generation." Our troops found copies of it in the caves at Tora Bora, the al Quaeda hideout in Afghanistan.

    The Four Generations began with the Peace of Westphalia in 1648, the treaty that ended the Thirty Years' War. With the Treaty of Westphalia, the state established a monopoly on war. Previously, many different entities had fought wars – families, tribes, religions, cities, business enterprises – using many different means, not just armies and navies (two of those means, bribery and assassination, are again in vogue). Now, state militaries find it difficult to imagine war in any way other than fighting state armed forces similar to themselves.

    The First Generation of Modern War runs roughly from 1648 to 1860. This was war of line and column tactics, where battles were formal and the battlefield was orderly. The relevance of the First Generation springs from the fact that the battlefield of order created a military culture of order. Most of the things that distinguish "military" from "civilian" - uniforms, saluting, careful gradations or rank – were products of the First Generation and are intended to reinforce the culture of order.

    The problem is that, around the middle of the 19th century, the battlefield of order began to break down. Mass armies, soldiers who actually wanted to fight (an 18th century's soldier's main objective was to desert), rifled muskets, then breech loaders and machine guns, made the old line and column tactics first obsolete, then suicidal.

    The problem ever since has been a growing contradiction between the military culture and the increasing disorderliness of the battlefield. The culture of order that was once consistent with the environment in which it operated has become more and more at odds with it.

    Second Generation warfare was one answer to this contradiction. Developed by the French Army during and after World War I, it sought a solution in mass firepower, most of which was indirect artillery fire. The goal was attrition, and the doctrine was summed up by the French as, "The artillery conquers, the infantry occupies." Centrally-controlled firepower was carefully synchronized, using detailed, specific plans and orders, for the infantry, tanks, and artillery, in a "conducted battle" where the commander was in effect the conductor of an orchestra.

    Second Generation warfare came as a great relief to soldiers (or at least their officers) because it preserved the culture of order. The focus was inward on rules, processes and procedures. Obedience was more important than initiative (in fact, initiative was not wanted, because it endangered synchronization), and discipline was top-down and imposed.

    Second Generation warfare is relevant to us today because the United States Army and Marine Corps learned Second Generation warfare from the French during and after World War I. It remains the American war of war, as we are seeing in Afghanistan and Iraq: to Americans, war means "putting steel on target." Aviation has replaced artillery as the source of most firepower, but otherwise, (and despite the Marine's formal doctrine, which is Third Generation maneuver warfare) the American military today is as French as white wine and brie. At the Marine Corps' desert warfare training center at 29 Palms, California, the only thing missing is the tricolor and a picture of General Gamelin in the headquarters. The same is true at the Army's Armor School at Fort Knox, where one instructor recently began his class by saying, "I don't know why I have to teach you all this old French crap, but I do."

    Third Generation warfare, like Second, was a product of World War I. It was developed by the German Army, and is commonly known as Blitzkrieg or maneuver warfare.

    Third Generation warfare is based not on firepower and attrition but speed, surprise, and mental as well as physical dislocation. Tactically, in the attack a Third Generation military seeks to get into the enemy's rear and collapse him from the rear forward: instead of "close with and destroy," the motto is "bypass and collapse." In the defense, it attempts to draw the enemy in, then cut him off. War ceases to be a shoving contest, where forces attempt to hold or advance a "line;" Third Generation warfare is non-linear.

    Not only do tactics change in the Third Generation, so does the military culture. A Third Generation military focuses outward, on the situation, the enemy, and the result the situation requires, not inward on process and method (in war games in the 19th Century, German junior officers were routinely given problems that could only be solved by disobeying orders). Orders themselves specify the result to be achieved, but never the method ("Auftragstaktik"). Initiative is more important than obedience (mistakes are tolerated, so long as they come from too much initiative rather than too little), and it all depends on self-discipline, not imposed discipline. The Kaiserheer and the Wehrmacht could put on great parades, but in reality they had broken with the culture of order.

    Characteristics such as decentralization and initiative carry over from the Third to the Fourth Generation, but in other respects the Fourth Generation marks the most radical change since the Peace of Westphalia in 1648. In Fourth Generation war, the state loses its monopoly on war. All over the world, state militaries find themselves fighting non-state opponents such as al Quaeda, Hamas, Hezbollah, and the FARC. Almost everywhere, the state is losing.

    Fourth Generation war is also marked by a return to a world of cultures, not merely states, in conflict. We now find ourselves facing the Christian West's oldest and most steadfast opponent, Islam. After about three centuries on the strategic defensive, following the failure of the second Turkish siege of Vienna in 1683, Islam has resumed the strategic offensive, expanding outward in every direction. In Third Generation war, invasion by immigration can be at least as dangerous as invasion by a state army.

    Nor is Fourth Generation warfare merely something we import, as we did on 9/11. At its core lies a universal crisis of legitimacy of the state, and that crisis means many countries will evolve Fourth Generation war on their soil. America, with a closed political system (regardless of which party wins, the Establishment remains in power and nothing really changes) and a poisonous ideology of "multiculturalism," is a prime candidate for the home-grown variety of Fourth Generation war – which is by far the most dangerous kind.

    Where does the war in Iraq fit in this framework?

    I suggest that the war we have seen thus far is merely a powder train leading to the magazine. The magazine is Fourth Generation war by a wide variety of Islamic non-state actors, directed at America and Americans (and local governments friendly to America) everywhere. The longer America occupies Iraq, the greater the chance that the magazine will explode. If it does, God help us all.

    For almost two years, a small seminar has been meeting at my house to work on the question of how to fight Fourth Generation war. It is made up mostly of Marines, lieutenant through lieutenant colonel, with one Army officer, one National Guard tanker captain and one foreign officer. We figured somebody ought to be working on the most difficult question facing the U.S. armed forces, and nobody else seems to be.

    The seminar recently decided it was time to go public with a few of the ideas it has come up with, and use this column to that end. We have no magic solutions to offer, only some thoughts. We recognized from the outset that the whole task may be hopeless; state militaries may not be able to come to grips with Fourth Generation enemies no matter what they do.

    But for what they are worth, here are our thoughts to date:
    • If America had some Third Generation ground forces, capable of maneuver warfare, we might be able to fight battles of encirclement. The inability to fight battles of encirclement is what led to the failure of Operation Anaconda in Afghanistan, where al Qaeda stood, fought us, and got away with few casualties. To fight such battles we need some true light infantry, infantry that can move farther and faster on its feet than the enemy, has a full tactical repertoire (not just bumping into the enemy and calling for fire) and can fight with its own weapons instead of depending on supporting arms. We estimate that U.S. Marine infantry today has a sustained march rate of only 10-15 kilometers per day; German World War II line, not light, infantry could sustain 40 kilometers.
    • Fourth Generation opponents will not sign up to the Geneva Conventions, but might some be open to a chivalric code governing how our war with them would be fought? It's worth exploring.
    • How U.S. forces conduct themselves after the battle may be as important in 4GW as how they fight the battle.
    • What the Marine Corps calls "cultural intelligence" is of vital importance in 4GW, and it must go down to the lowest rank. In Iraq, the Marines seemed to grasp this much better than the U.S. Army.
    • What kind of people do we need in Special Operations Forces? The seminar thought minds were more important than muscles, but it is not clear all U.S. SOF understand this.
    • One key to success is integrating our troops as much as possible with the local people.
    • Unfortunately, the American doctrine of "force protection" works against integration and generally hurts us badly. Here's a quote from the minutes of the seminar:
    There are two ways to deal with the issue of force protection. One way is the way we are currently doing it, which is to separate ourselves from the population and to intimidate them with our firepower. A more viable alternative might be to take the opposite approach and integrate with the community. That way you find out more of what is going on and the population protects you. The British approach of getting the helmets off as soon as possible may actually be saving lives.
    • What "wins" at the tactical and physical levels may lose at the operational, strategic, mental and moral levels, where 4GW is decided. Martin van Creveld argues that one reason the British have not lost in Northern Ireland is that the British Army has taken more casualties than it has inflicted. This is something the Second Generation American military has great trouble grasping, because it defines success in terms of comparative attrition rates.
    • We must recognize that in 4GW situations, we are the weaker, not the stronger party, despite all our firepower and technology.
    • What can the U.S. military learn from cops? Our reserve and National Guard units include lots of cops; are we taking advantage of what they know?

    One key to success in 4GW may be "losing to win." Part of the reason the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are not succeeding is that our initial invasion destroyed the state, creating a happy hunting ground for Fourth Generation forces. In a world where the state is in decline, if you destroy a state, it is very difficult to recreate it. Here's another quote from the minutes of the seminar:

    "The discussion concluded that while war against another state may be necessary one should seek to preserve that state even as one defeats it. Grant the opposing armies the 'honors of war,' tell them what a fine job they did, make their defeat 'civilized' so they can survive the war institutionally intact and then work for your side. This would be similar to 18th century notions of civilized war and contribute greatly to propping up a fragile state. Humiliating the defeated enemy troops, especially in front of their own population, is always a serious mistake but one that Americans are prone to make. This is because the 'football mentality' we have developed since World War II works against us."

    In many ways, the 21st century will offer a war between the forces of 4GW and Brave New World. The 4GW forces understand this, while the international elites that seek BNW do not. Another quote from the minutes:

    "Osama bin Ladin, though reportedly very wealthy, lives in a cave. Yes, it is for security but it is also leadership by example. It may make it harder to separate (physically or psychologically) the 4GW leaders from their troops. It also makes it harder to discredit those leaders with their followers… This contrasts dramatically with the BNW elites who are physically and psychologically separated (by a huge gap) from their followers (even the generals in most conventional armies are to a great extent separated fro their men)… The BNW elites are in many respects occupying the moral low ground but don't know it."
    • In the Axis occupation of the Balkans during World War II, the Italians in many ways were more effective than the Germans. The key to their success is that they did not want to fight. On Cyprus, the U.N. commander rated the Argentine battalion as more effective than the British or the Austrians because the Argentines did not want to fight. What lessons can U.S. forces draw from this?
    • How would the Mafia do an occupation?
    • When we have a coalition, what if we let each country do what is does best, e.g., the Russians handle operational art, the U.S. firepower and logistics, maybe the Italians the occupation?
    • How could the Defense Department's concept of "Transformation" be redefined so as to come to grips with 4GW? If you read the current "Transformation Planning Guidance" put out by DOD, you find nothing in it on 4GW, indeed nothing that relates at all to either of the two wars we are now fighting. It is all oriented toward fighting other state armed forces that fight us symmetrically.

    The seminar intends to continue working on this question of redefining "Transformation" (die Verwandlung?) so as to make it relevant to 4GW. However, for our December meeting, we have posed the following problem: It is Spring, 2004. The U.S. Marines are to relieve the Army in the occupation of Fallujah, perhaps Iraq's hottest hot spot (and one where the 82nd Airborne's tactics have been pouring gasoline on the fire). You are the commander of the Marine force taking over Fallujah. What do you do?

    I'll let you know what we come up with.

    Will Saddam’s capture mark a turning point in the war in Iraq? Don’t count on it. Few resistance fighters have been fighting for Saddam personally. Saddam’s capture may lead to a fractioning of the Baath Party, which would move us further toward a Fourth Generation situation where no one can recreate the state. It may also tell the Shiites that they no longer need America to protect them from Saddam, giving them more options in their struggle for free elections.

    If the U.S. Army used the capture of Saddam to announce the end of tactics that enrage ordinary Iraqis and drive them toward active resistance, it might buy us a bit of de-escalation. But I don’t think we’ll that be smart. When it comes to Fourth Generation war, it seems nobody in the American military gets it.

    Recently, a faculty member at the National Defense University wrote to Marine Corps General Mattis, commander of I MAR DIV, to ask his views on the importance of reading military history. Mattis responded with an eloquent defense of taking time to read history, one that should go up on the wall at all of our military schools. "Thanks to my reading, I have never been caught flat-footed by any situation," Mattis said. "It doesn’t give me all the answers, but it lights what is often a dark path ahead."

    Still, even such a capable and well-read commander as General Mattis seems to miss the point about Fourth Generation warfare. He said in his missive, "Ultimately, a real understanding of history means that we face NOTHING new under the sun. For all the ‘4th Generation of War’ intellectuals running around today saying that the nature of war has fundamentally changed, the tactics are wholly new, etc., I must respectfully say…’Not really…"

    Well, that isn’t quite what we Fourth Generation intellectuals are saying. On the contrary, we have pointed out over and over that the 4th Generation is not novel but a return, specifically a return to the way war worked before the rise of the state. Now, as then, many different entities, not just governments of states, will wage war. They will wage war for many different reasons, not just "the extension of politics by other means." And they will use many different tools to fight war, not restricting themselves to what we recognize as military forces. When I am asked to recommend a good book describing what a Fourth Generation world will be like, I usually suggest Barbara Tuchman’s A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous Fourteenth Century.

    Nor are we saying that Fourth Generation tactics are new. On the contrary, many of the tactics Fourth Generation opponents use are standard guerilla tactics. Others, including much of what we call "terrorism," are classic Arab light cavalry warfare carried out with modern technology at the operational and strategic, not just tactical, levels.

    As I have said before in this column, most of what we are facing in Iraq today is not yet Fourth Generation warfare, but a War of National Liberation, fought by people whose goal is to restore a Baathist state. But as that goal fades and those forces splinter, Fourth Generation war will come more and more to the fore. What will characterize it is not vast changes in how the enemy fights, but rather in who fights and what they fight for. The change in who fights makes it difficult for us to tell friend from foe. A good example is the advent of female suicide bombers; do U.S. troops now start frisking every Moslem woman they encounter? The change in what our enemies fight for makes impossible the political compromises that are necessary to ending any war. We find that when it comes to making peace, we have no one to talk to and nothing to talk about. And the end of a war like that in Iraq becomes inevitable: the local state we attacked vanishes, leaving behind either a stateless region (Somalia) or a façade of a state (Afghanistan) within which more non-state elements rise and fight.

    General Mattis is correct that none of this is new. It is only new to state armed forces that were designed to fight other state armed forces. The fact that no state military has recently succeeded in defeating a non-state enemy reminds us that Clio has a sense of humor: history also teaches us that not all problems have solutions.

    About the Author: William Lind is Director of the Center for Cultural Conservatism at the Free Congress Foundation. He is a former Congressional Aide and the author of many books and articles on military strategy and war.


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    Post Re: Understanding 4th Generation Warfare

    Because all those wars above are 4th generation wars, or more commonly known as unconventional wars, or low-intensity fighting.

    I didn't force you read this, so don't blame me for your troubles.

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    Post Fourth Generation Warfare

    Defense and the National Interest

    Fourth Generation Warfare

    Roughly speaking, "fourth generation warfare" includes all forms of conflict where the other side refuses to stand up and fight fair. What distinguishes 4GW from earlier generations is that typically at least one side is something other than a military force organized and operating under the control of a national government, and one that often transcends national boundaries.

    If we look at the development of warfare in the modern era, we see three distinct generations ... Third generation warfare was conceptually developed by the German offensive in the spring of 1918 ... Is it not about time for the fourth generation to appear? Lind, Nightengale, Wilson, et. al., Marine Corps Gazette, October 1989

    The attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Center are horrific examples of operations as part of a campaign conducted according to fourth generation principles. They dispelled forever the notion that 4GW is just "terrorism" or something that happens only in poverty-stricken Third World countries. But it is a strange form of warfare, one where, for example, military force plays a much smaller (though still critical) role than in earlier generations, often supporting initiatives that are more political, diplomatic, and economic. As important as finding and destroying the actual combatants, for example, is drying up the bases of popular support that allow them to plan and then execute their attacks. Perhaps most odd of all, being seen as "too successful" militarily may create a backlash, making the opponent's other elements of 4GW more effective.

    The authors of one of the first papers on the subject captured some of this strangeness when they predicted:

    The distinction between war and peace will be blurred to the vanishing point. It will be nonlinear, possibly to the point of having no definable battlefields or fronts. The distinction between 'civilian' and 'military' may disappear.

    Is 4GW Just Another Word for "Terrorism"?

    "Terrorism" (defined as seemingly gratuitous violence against civilians and non-combatants) can occur in all generations of war. Until recently, in fact, most wars killed many more civilians than military and not all of this was accidental - recall the Rape of Nanking, the London Blitz, and the firebombing of Dresden. As 4GW blurs any distinction between "military" and "civilian," we can expect more activities that the general population will regard as terrorism.

    Similarly, because practitioners of 4GW are often transnational groups without territorially-based armies as such, much of their activity will resemble "guerilla warfare" or "low intensity conflict." These highly irregular practices have deep roots in the history of war. The word "guerilla" itself, for example, dates back nearly 200 years to Napoleon's campaigns in Spain. Until recently, however, such "special" operations harassed but rarely decided—"sideshows" (as T.E. Lawrence once termed them) in wars fought mainly along 1st, 2nd, or 3rd generation lines. Examples could include operations by colonial militias and guerillas during the Revolutionary War, Nathan Bedford Forrest's cavalry raids, Sherman's March, and the tactics practiced in the early stages of most "national liberation" wars in the 20th Century.

    Is 4GW Simply Using Military Force in New Ways?

    The 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. It would be a mistake, however, and perhaps 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. The place to begin is with fundamental differences between 4GW and earlier generations.

    As Col T.X. Hammes eloquently argues in "The Evolution of War: The Fourth Generation," social and political changes are driving this evolution. You can construct your own list of what is different about today's world than that of, say, 1950. Here are some ideas to get you started:

    * continued exponential increase in the world population
    * worsening income inequities combined with a general decline in standards of living in certain Third World countries
    * presence 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
    * continuing AIDS epidemic in parts of the Third World
    * 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
    * explosion in drug trafficking, with associated money flows and corruption
    * 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
    * resurgence of violent transnational ideological groups
    * safe havens for these groups in areas of Africa, Southeast Asia, and Latin America where any effective government (even if corrupt and incompetent) is lacking
    * continued growth in wealth and influence of transnational corporations that sometimes have incentives to perpetuate corrupt, non-democratic regimes
    * emergence of US as the only conventional / economic superpower

    If these or similar factors are indeed driving the evolution of conflict, then solutions must lie primarily in this arena, 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 provoke a backlash that negates tactical success. 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.

    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.

    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.

    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. From the new book (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.

    "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.

    "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.

    "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.

    "Terrorism: Near Eastern Groups and State Sponsors, 2001," Kenneth Katzman, Congressional Research Service, 10 September 2001. Latest comprehensive survey from CRS. "Based on U.S. allegations of past plotting by the bin Laden network, ... the network wants to strike within the United States itself." (PDF file on the CRS site.)

    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,

    "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."

    "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. On the USNI Proceedings web site, July 1998 issue.

    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. 2001 update now available.

    "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. 2001 update now available.

    *, over 100 links to resources: maps, articles, photos on 11 September and its aftermath.

    If you know of any similar links, please send them to us for inclusion.

    Some find it in a flag, some in the beat of a drum
    Some with a book, and some with a gun
    Some in a kiss, and some on the march
    But if you're looking for Europe, best look in your heart

    (Sol Invictus)

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    Fourth Generation Warfare

    The Boys From Brazil

    by William S. Lind

    A point I have made repeatedly in these columns is that Fourth Generation war includes far more than America's current battle with Islamic "terrorist." Last week, events in Brazil offered us a timely reminder of that fact. There, a gang, the PCC or First Command of the Capital, launched a full-scale military attack on the Brazilian state.

    The PCC's actions illustrated a number of ways in which non-state forces deal with opposing states. The first is penetration. When a top-level meeting of Brazilian officials decided to act against the gang by transfering some of its leaders to a high-security prison, the gang immediately knew of the decision. How? It had a mole in the meeting, a contractor employed as a court reporter.

    Then, the gang showed that flat, networked organizations can move far faster than a state, with its bureaucratic hierarchy. As a story in the May 21 Washington Post
    reported, "Within hours of that meeting, news of the transfer plan had spread through the gang's prison-based network... "How? The Poststory says, "After word of the planned transfer plan had spread through the gang's leaders, coordinating the uprisings was easy. They simply called each other on their cellphones." Their cellphone is simple but effective: "According to police, the gang often clones legitimate cellphone numbers for illegal use. "

    While prison riots are common in Brazil, the PCC demonstrated an ability to reach far beyond the prisons. In the city of Sao Paulo, they launched military-style attacks on police and civilian infrastructure targets. The Post reports that

    "Riots broke out in more than 70 state penitentiaries. Gangs members outside prisons attacked police stations, burned more than 60 public buses and whipped up a general state of terror that paralyzed Brazil's Sao Paulo...

    As of Saturday (May 20), the death count totaled 41 police officers, 18 inmates, 107 suspected PCC members outside prisons and four civilians."

    Demonstrating the often-excellent intelligent capabilities of non-state organizations, "The gang members also know where the police live... Some of the officers who died during the outbreaks were killed near their homes while off duty."

    The PCC does what gangs do, namely use violence and make money off crime, especially the drug trade. But its origins illustrate the role non-state entities have in providing services states fail to offer. The Washington Post story notes that "(The PCC's) strength had been feeding on the weakness of government for years. The PCC was founded in 1993 as a responce to the abysmal conditions in Sao Paulo's prisons, where inmates lived in fear of each other, sleeping in overcrowded cells with no beds, no blankets, no soap, no toothbrushes. By offering protection and basic necessities to new inmates, the gang won the loyalty of most prisoners in a population that now numbers 124,400...the PCC has repeatedly won minor improvements in conditions in some facilities. That has earned them favor not only with the inmates, but with family members who provide the basic goods that PCC members distribute inside the prison blocs."

    Nor does the PCC work only in ways that are illegal. The Post writes that "the gang also employs a network of attorneys..."

    The PCC emerges from the Post account and from its uprising in Sao Paulo as almost a model Fourth Gerneration organization, operating a network of structures parallel to those of the state that work more effectively than the state's institutions. As the state retreats into ever-greater corruption and incapacity, the PCC has advanced by filling in the widening gaps. It has now reached the point where it can confront the state directly, while I think it is safe to say that the state cannot defeat much less destry the PCC.

    Not only does this offer us a Fourth Generation model very different from what we confront in alQaeda (it is more like Hamas and Hezbollah), it may also present a picture of what America will face coming out of its own prisons. Most American prisons are run not by the state but by racially-defined gangs. A prisoner's well-being, even his survival, depends on his gang, not on the prison authorities. How long will it be before those gangs, like the PCC, will be able to reach outside the prisons and confront the American state? Police in cities such as Los Angeles might say it is happening now.

    Last edited by Madoc; Friday, May 26th, 2006 at 09:51 PM.

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    Re: Fourth Generation Warfare

    The PCC is linked with the FARC - Colombian Revolutionary Armed Forces, an organization that uses narcotraffic as one of his main resources and seeks for power in Colombia.
    At the same time when the PCC was doing it's attacks here, in the countryside the MST - Movement of Worker's Without Land, was making attacks on farms. This in the same week. The MST burned some plantations.
    With a high interests rate (13% per year), the farmers protested in Brasilia. Most of these farmers are going to bankruptcy, because of the interest's rate (the paradise of the bankers), the taxes (Brazil has the second highest taxes on the world, and the first highest in the "third world"), and the attacks of the MST that are frightening some of them.
    The MST is linked to the PT - Worker's Party, that is currently the brazilian government. The PT promised an agrarian reform to these landless workers, but this they will never do, because they prefer the red terror, and they see this as a means to implement the Soviet Union of Latin America as was planned by Fidel Castro. The MST see themselves as an "army of the PT", the insidious character of this can be terrifying. The links are clear: PT - MST - FARC - PCC - USSRLA. The attacks from the PCC were made not only because of the transfers from prisons, but because of an need of the PT to harm politically the campaign of his main rival for the upcoming elections now in 2006: the former governor of the SP state, Alckmin. Now Lula is with high rates in the electoral intentions within the stupid people.
    The PCC strategy employed insiders in their operations, people from government that helps them. The NGO's for human rights protects them, but dont protect the population or the policemen that try to protect the population. That NGO's are all marxist and liked to the castrist mafia. Some people (marxists) in the European Union supports Castro's Soviet Union because this will harm the United States in some time (the affair in Vienna was only a theatre, all combined by the castrists).
    But I think the brazilian people, being stupid as it is, was needing something like that. They will get the government that they deserve for being utterly stupid and dont see the most obvious. Hope the white minorities that were politically attacked by the anti-white racist Claudio Lembo (the current governor), awaken for this new upcoming threat and do something.

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