PISRR and 4th Generation Struggle

Penetrate-Isolate-Subvert-Reorient-Reharmonize,” by Dan Moore, Proceedings, May 2003, http://www.usni.org/proceedings/Articles03/promoore05.htm.

Fourth Generation Warfare & OODA Loop Implications of The Iraqi Insurgency,” by G.I. Wilson, Greg Wilcox, and Chet Richards, Defense and the National Interest, December 2004, http://www.d-n-i.net/fcs/ppt/4gw_ooda_iraq.ppt.

I was reading a fascinating presentation on Iraqi 4GW and OODA and I came across this slide


PISRR? Hadn’t heard of that before! Dan Moore explains

What strategy caused the Iraqi regime to collapse? What must the United States and Britain do to consolidate the fleeting gains of a historic military victory? PISRR: penetrate-isolate-subvert-reorient-reharmonize.

In his “Patterns of Conflict” briefing dated December 1986, Boyd wrote about the “essence of Blitzkrieg,” which reads like a screenplay for what the world witnessed on 9 April 2003 with the fall of Baghdad and the collapse of Saddam’s regime:

Create grand tactical success then exploit and expand it into strategic success for a decisive victory. . . . Blitzers, by being able to infiltrate or penetrate or get inside adversary’s system, generate moral-mental-physical non-cooperative (or isolated) centers of gravity, as well as undermine or seize those centers of gravity adversary depends upon, in order to magnify friction, produce paralysis, and bring about adversary collapse.

It is easy to picture Saddam scuttling from bunker to bunker, increasingly disoriented with each passing hour of penetration, isolation, and subversion at a national, city, and personal level, while power relentlessly slips through his fingers until he is left as a dead man walking. Now that’s a real PISRR.

So PISRR is a Net-Centric Warfare concept that Wilson et al want to apply to 4GW. But how?

Below are my thoughts on how PISRR can be applied to fourth generation struggle from four perspectives: 4GW Counter-Insurgent, 4GW Insurgent, 4GP Counter-Insurgent, and 4GP Insurgent.


  • 4GW Establishment creates ties of friendship and assistant with local population
  • 4GW Insurgent obtains job working for the Army or Body Guard
  • 4GP Establishment appoints friendly member to insurgent-friendly branch of government
  • 4GP Insurgent obtains job working for administration, allowing him to “leak” information


  • 4GW Establishment creates checkpoints to control flow of people
  • 4GW Insurgent uses assassination fears to prevent Governor from meeting his people
  • 4GP Establishment normalizes a “consensus” that makes someone seem “strange” (eg NAFTA and Buchanan/Nader)
  • 4GP Insurgent conducts “false flag” attacks (eg calling Congressional office and complaining about a bill from a different perspective)


  • 4GW Establishment creates local allies from same tribe as insurgents
  • 4GW Insurgent directs government funds to pro-Insurgency causes
  • 4GP Establishment creates astroturf special interests (eg “feminists for life”)
  • 4GP Insurgent uses political office to push anti-Establishment agenda (eg “Civil Rights Commission” under Bush)


  • 4GW Establishment reframes insurgency for people (eg from “Ba’athi v. Oppressed” to “Foreigners v. Iraqis”)
  • 4GW Insurgent reframes insurgency for Establishment (eg from “Anti-Iraq Forces” to “Army of Liberation”)
  • 4GP Establishment redefines debate for people (eg from “Safety v. Nuclear Power” to “Foreign Oil v. Nuclear Power”)
  • 4GP Insurgent redefines problem for Establishment (eg “Get a job, hobo” to “Structural Problems of Capitalism”)


  • 4GW Establishment provides path to normalcy for vanquished (eg Statehood after Reconstruction)
  • 4GW Insurgent creates new order (eg Vietnam’s reeducation camps and collective farms)
  • 4GP Establishment changes nature of opponent (from anti-Capitalist Labour against Thatcher to Blairite Labour now)
  • 4GP Insurgent creates vested interests for new policies (eg legions of Social Security recipients)

Are these appropriate examples for the use of PISRR in Fourth Generation Struggle? Does the concept of a “4GP Establishment” even make sense?

Update: Was listening to National Public Radio this morning, and the guest was a military guy who talked about decision cycles, etc. One of his quotes:

Most insurgencies end when they enter the political process

That’s the last R — Reharmonize — in PISRR.

Juan Cole’s Unique 4GWS1/4GWS3 Synthesis

50 Dead, 90 Wounded in Iraq Bombings on Wednesday Morning: Qaim Campaign Continues,” by Juan Cole, Informed Comment, 11 May 2005,

The anti-Iraqis near the Syrian border are standing and fighting. While this is probably a mistake, the insurgents are not acting irrationally. American forces have traditionally avoided that desert area, so the anti-Iraqis may calculate that relatively little bloodshed will push us back out. Likewise, the anti-Iraqis have a history of attacking fortified targets, so maybe they are being worn down and need a deci…

That’s too sane and boring. Here’s Juan Cole’s whacky theory:

The US commanders expressed their happiness that the guerrillas at Ubaydi are standing and fighting, on the grounds that if they do that, they will be finished faster. I wouldn’t be so happy if I were them. The jihadis are making themselves martyrs in order to give other young men a reason to fight. It is a recruitment drive.

Yes. Guerrillas fighting a conventional battle for recruitment. Using 4GWS3 tactics (conventional warfare) for 4GWS1goals (recruitment). It makes so much sense. That’s why Mao and the Viet Cong fought so many conventional battles…

Wait, that’s insane.

At least Cole keeps it up:

Since guerrillas have managed to kill about 14 US troops in recent days, moreover, it is a way of signalling that the US is not 10 feet tall, but is rather vulnerable. If the US has this much trouble with about 2500 foreign fighters in Iraq (and over 20,000 Iraqi ones), imagine the problems if the jihadi recruitment drive succeeds, and the foreign contingent doubles or triples.

No, spectacular small-group hit-and-run 4GWS1 attacks are a way of showing that the Iraqi government is vulnerable. That’s why there are so many car bombs, assassinations, and kidnappings. Tight small-group lightning attacks are how 4th Generation Warriors show that the enemy can bleed while building up their own nets. It’s what Fourth Generation insurgents do best.

But conventional battles are what any organized army does best. Conventional battles are the last stage of fourth generation war, not the first. Conventional battles are fought for land, not recruitment.