“Fourth Generation Warfare (4GW),” by Greg Wilcox and G.I. Wilson, Boyd Conference, http://d-n-i.net/fcs/pdf/4GW_wilson-wilcox_boyd_conf_2002.pdf, 20 May 2002.
“4GW – Fourth Generation Warfare,” by John Robb, Global Guerillas, http://globalguerrillas.typepad.com/globalguerrillas/2004/05/4gw_fourth_gene.html, 8 May 2004.
Two posts, two different perspectives, on Fourth Generation Warfare. The freakishly anti-American John Robb, and the definition-of-American Defense and the Natural Interest, both have posts describing 4GW. If it wasn’t for Mark I would not even recognize the name “Boyd,” so this is clarifying for me too.
4GW can be defined as a method of warfare that uses the following to achieve a moral victory:
* Undermines enemy strengths (this may seem obvious, but most of modern warfare has involved direct attacks on enemy strengths — find the enemy army and destroy it).
* Exploits enemy weaknesses.
* Uses asymmetric operations (weapons and techniques that differ substantially from opponents).
The strategic/operational/tactical breakdown
â€“ Loss of nation stateâ€™s monopoly on war
â€“ A return to a world of cultures and states in conflict
â€“ Internal segmentation/division along ethnic, religious, and special
interest lines within our own society
â€“ Seeks major psychological impact (will to fight, public opinion)
â€“ Disproportionate results to investment
â€“ Shift in focus from enemyâ€™s front to his rear
â€“ Use the enemyâ€™s strength against him
4GW is an evolution of what came before
Generations of Warfare
The generational development of warfare can be outlined as:
* First generation — wars of Napoleon, conscription and firearms (the decline of mercenaries).
* Second generation — the US civil war and WW1, firepower and nation-state alignment of resources to warfare.
* Third generation — WW2, maneuver and armored warfare.
* Fourth generation — ad hoc warriors and moral conflict.
The Boyd Conference report puts things more clearly
â€¢ 1GW = Age of Napoleon
â€¢ 2GW = Age of Firepower
â€¢ 3GW = Age of Maneuver and Ideas
â€¢ 4GW = Small Independent Action Cells
GG gives a summary of how to “win” fourth generation wars (at least for the other side)
Winning a 4GW conflict
Victory in 4GW warfare is won in the moral sphere. The aim of 4GW is to destroy the moral bonds that allows the organic whole to exist — cohesion. This is done by reinforcing the following (according to Boyd):
* Menace. Attacks that undermine or threaten basic human survival instincts.
* Mistrust. Increases divisions between groups (ie. conservatives and liberals in the US).
* Uncertainty. Undermine economic activity by decreasing confidence in the future.
DNI cites Boyd’s original paper
â€¢ Surface fear, anxiety, and alienation in order to generate many non-cooperative centers of gravity thereby magnify internal friction
Destroy moral bonds that permit an organic whole to exist.
What can we do?
To combat 4GW requires coordinated response
What are the moral problems with this? (Open question)