Dreaming 5th Generation War

I. The Dream-Quest of Unknown 5GW

Three times Randolph Carter dreamed of the marvelous city, and three times was he snatched away while still he paused on the high terrace above it. All golden and lovely it blazed in the sunset, with walls, temples, colonnades and arched bridges of veined marble, silver-basined fountains of prismatic spray in broad squares and perfumed gardens, and wide streets marching between delicate trees and blossom-laden urns and ivory statues in gleaming rows; while on steep northward slopes climbed tiers of red roofs and old peaked gables harbouring little lanes of grassy cobbles. It was a fever…”The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath, Howard Philips Lovecraft.

Earlier I argued that war is evolving “deeper into the Observe-Orient-Decide-Act loop

I also argued

If traditional war centered on an enemy’s physical strength, and 4GW on his moral strength, the 5th Generation of War would focus on his intellectual strength. A 5th Generation War might be fought with one side not knowing who it is fighting. Or even, a brilliantly executed 5GW might involve one side being completely ignorant that there ever was a war. It’s like the old question of what was the perfect robbery: we will never know because in a perfect robbery the bank would not know that it was robbed.

I kept trying to imagine what this would look like. Besides a vague inkling that it would be fought by some combination of George Friedman and Peter Wiggin, no picture came to me. Like Randolph Carter looking for Unknown Kadath,

Fortunately, I got in communication with a genius who helped me understand that the Observe-Orient-Decide-Act look might be better pictured as

The original analysis is still valid. The “arrows of attack” I used still fall earlier and earlier in the Observe-Orient-Decide-Act power-line. Just now it is clear that not most actions are not decided upon. They are implicitly guided and controlled by orientation, based on our observations.

Then a comment by Mark Safranski hit me like a hammer

We all have a tendency to some degree to run on a mental ” autopilot” – whether you want to call this phenomenon “framing”, worldview, paradigms, schemas, ideological constructs, etc. – the precise meaning vary but the effect is to shape our perceptions of the world ( highlighting or omitting data) and to an extent predetermine our responses in a large picture sense. Ideological blinders concentrate our vision but they distort our view of reality.

A critical skill is to be able to periodically attempt to step outside one’s worldview and look at an event from multiple perspectives other than one’s own. You have become a strategic thinker when you know *when* to do this as well as *how*.

Now it’s clear exactly what

If traditional war centered on an enemy’s physical strength, and 4GW on his moral strength, the 5th Generation of War would focus on his intellectual strength.

means. The beautiful sunset city has been found.

II. The Uncaring War

I don’t care if you don’t
I don’t care if you don’t
I don’t care if you don’t care

Jesus of Suburbia, Green Day

Every other form of modern-warfare requires people to care. The aggressor needs to be able to morally and physically support his military forces for over a period of time — often a long time. The defender, once he realizes he is being attacked, will care about his own survival and fight back. “Caring” requires explicit thoughts, it requires decisions. The nature of wars where people gave a damn — of Caring Wars — was summed up by John Adams centuries ago

What do we mean by the American Revolution? Do we mean the American war? The Revolution was effected before the war commenced. The Revolution was in the minds and hearts of the people; a change in their religious sentiments, of their duties and obligations…This radical change in the principles, opinions, sentiments, and affections of the people was the real American Revolution.

Hearts / minds. Duties / sentiments. All based on explicit action. All based on Decisions.

In contrast to “hearts and minds,” 5GW focuses on the enemy’s “fingertips and gut.” “Fingertip feeling,” what the Germans called fingerspitzengefuhl, is the ability to know without thinking. This is what Americans call “gut feeling.” To a certain extent, it means a commander trusting his intuition. It is critical in 5GW because fingertip feelings, or “hunches,” will be the only way for the enemy to sense the fighter.

To rephrase these points, in 5GW:

  • The people do not have to want to be on the fighter’s side
  • Forces the fighter is using do not have to want to be on the fighter’s side
  • Your enemy must not feel that he is not on your side

In 4th Generation War, the sort of moral wars the world saw with Mao, Ho, and the Sandinistas, political mobilization is critical. In 5th Generation War, if it “tips” off your enemy, political mobilization is worse than useless.

III. Lessons from Software Development

Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring forth.”

“Stone is heavy and sand a burden, but provocation by a fool is heavier than both.”

“The prudent see danger and take refuge, but the simple keep going and suffer for it.”
King Solomon (Proverbs 27:1,3,12)

In 5GW, secrecy is vital for success. While this has always been true on some levels, secrecy has never been vital on the grand-strategic level before 5GW. In 5GW the enemy’s knowledge of your existence all but ends your plans.

Describing 5GW, Mark Safranski writes

It occurs to me after reading [that] a very powerful shift of longitudinal perspective takes place. 4GW is executed over a very long time frame, sometimes decades. 5GW is conceived in terms of strategic vision over an even longer time frame, sometimes before an opponent realizes that they will be an opponent but the execution time may be very short in comparison to 4GW. The operative question is probably whether the attacker or the defender has initiated 5GW – once you are already attacked you have missed your opportunity to shape the battlespace.

Once I realized what 5GW is, re-reading Mark’s words immediately reminded me of Systems Analysis & Design with Omar El-Gayar. The crushing Systems Analysis & Design class, called “SAD” by everyone, teaches that to create a system a plan must be created, in analysis of the plan against the current situation must be conducted, a design must be established, and finally the system must be implemented. Visually:

PADI: Planning, Analysis, Design, Implementation

Over the years, two different philosophies have surfaced of the best way to design a system — the most effective way to run through the plan-analysis-design-implementation obstacle course.

Waterfall Development was the first method tried. It takes every step one-after-the-other. Careful and methodical, it looks like a waterfall or perhaps a series of dammed locks, each lower than the last Because Waterfall Development occurs in a series, it might also be called “serial development.”

Waterfall Development (PADI, Serialized)

(A variant of waterfall development, “parallel development,” breaks down one large product into several smaller projects, each of which uses its own waterfall model.)

The other major philosophy is “Rapid Application Development,” the most famous version of which is “Prototyping.” The chief difference between Rapid Application Development Prototyping and Waterfall Development is that RAD allows projects to evolve, changing as new requirements come in. RAD is considered to be much more flexible than Waterfall Development and has become the industry standard in almost all subfields of software engineering.


Industry Standard Prototyping / Rapid Application Development (RAD)

Warfare, like software development, is a complex human undertaking involving reconciling a future worth creating with stakeholders. Waterfall’s top-down Soviet-style leadership seems most appropriate for older generations of war, while Prototyping’s user-centric approach is closer to 4GW and “open source” warfare. So will 5GW be “Waterfall Developed” or “Prototyped”?

To see, just look at the pros of Prototyping:

What’s Wrong with the Pros of Prototyping?

Need a hint?

In Prototyping, User Can Identify anything

Prototyping lets the end-users know the project exists. 5GW relies on the users not knowing that the project exists at all.

Prototyping allows for loose, Darwinian networks of projects competing with each other with user-input. For 4GW, this is fantastic. But just as being “fast” is more important than being completely “right” in maneuver war, being secret is more important than being completely “right” in 5GW.

5th Generation Wars will be created with Waterfall Development. We can see what 5GWs will be like by looking at what Waterfall Development is like:

  • Requirements must be known a long time before fighting begins
  • Requirements will be rigid and non-adaptable
  • Long Time between proposal and victory

(Note: Before I put 5GW together with Systems Analysis, I could not see why Mark would say “5GW is conceived in terms of strategic vision over an even longer time frame, sometimes before an opponent realizes that they will be an opponent but the execution time may be very short in comparison to 4GW.” It seemed a non-sequitur. My hat off to Mark for seeing this long before I did.)

IV. 5th Generation Networks

“My punishment is more than I can bear. Today you are driving me from the land, and I will be hidden from your presence; I will be a restless wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me.”
Cain (Genesis 4:13-14)

The nature of the networks that hold together a 5th Generation military is predetermined by that network’s need for secrecy and need for serial development. We know

  • A 5GW army will be unable to recruit to any sizable degree
  • A 5GW will be very unable to recruit during operations (development), because that is when the danger is the greatest
  • A 5GW will rely on strategic corporals or sheiks, who are super-empowered.
  • A 5GW will rely on “sleeper cells” who must not give up, get bored, or switched sides.

From this, we know every 5G warrior will be valuable to the 5G militia. Likewise, to succeed every EG warrior must value the 5G project.

In other words, a fifth-generation war is a lot like a struggling software project at a cash-strapped corporation. It needs to keep its head down, or it will be found-out and terminated. The solution is to have a collection of cross-specialist high-quality workers who know each other and make every worker a stakeholder — that is, make every worker feel that at least some important decisions were his decision. The team is able to subvert the corporate system, diverting resources for the benefits of the project under the radar of jealous management.

The team plans, analyzes, and plans together. While there should be a “leader,” consensus management is a must. Every team member is constantly reminded, in words and deeds, how important he is. Team and project loyalty are established, and by the time jealous management learns of the project — after implementation, it is too late.

While there are no running starts in 5GW, every 5GW must be fully operational by the time it is launched.

V. A Boydian Approach to 5GW

“If there’s anything you know
Please send me a letter
PS: Kiss my ass

Dick Is a Killer, Rx

5GW is substantively different from all previous forms of Modern War. Yet it is a natural evolution of warfare and the basic Art of War remains the same. And specifically, the lessons of Colonel Boyd’s Patterns of Conflict hold even in 5GW, where only one side knows it is fighting.

Slide 6

Idea of fast transients suggests that, in order to win, we should operate at a faster tempo or rhythm than our adversaries—or, better yet, get inside adversary’s observation-orientation-decision-action time cycle or loop.

Commentary: Or best yet, arrange the enemy’s OODA loop, so his thoughts never flow into the orient-decide-act power-line relative to you, your plan, or your organization.

Slide 11

Diminish adversary’s capacity for independent action, or deny him the opportunity to survive on his own terms, or make it impossible for him to survive at all.

Commentary: In limited 5GWs, removing the enemy’s “capacity for independent action” is the goal. Specifically, the fighter tries to entangle the enemy into a web of obligations that effectively reharmonize the enemy, without the enemy knowing that he has “conditionally surrendered.”

Slide 115

Fire and movement are used in combination, like cheng/ch’i or Nebenpunkte/Schwerpunkt, to tie-up, divert, or drain-away adversary attention and strength in order to expose as well as a menace and exploit vulnerabilities or weaknesses elsewhere.

Commentary: In a successful 5GW, the enemy’s attention won’t so much be needed to be “diverted” away from a focus but “misdirected” from ever attaining that focus.

Slide 76

Create tangles of threatening and/or non-threatening events/efforts as well as repeatedly generate mismatches between those events/efforts adversary observes or imagines (cheng/Nebenpunkte) and those he must react to (ch’i/Schwerpunkt)

Commentary: In a successful 5GW, the events the enemy “must” react to are an “unknown unknown.” The enemy doesn’t know what they are, and doesn’t even know that he needs to know what they are.

VI. A Dream of 5GW

“We’ll run away, keep everything simple
Night will come down, our guardian angel
We rush ahead, the crossroads are empty
Our spirits rise, they’re not gonna get us

They don’t understand,
They don’t understand us”

Not Going to Get Us, Tatu

This brings me back to my original question: what would a 5GW look like? Once I understood the organization, developmental, doctrinal, and other aspects of 5th Generation War, picturing one in operation was trivial.

The Border War

A small, close-knight, highly-able team of Nativists wishes to militarize the Southwest border of the United States against Mexican migrants. Unable to handle the “content flow” of Latin culture and people, the Nativists believe they have exhausted attempts at political satisfaction. Therefore, they try politics by other means: war. Their aim is limited: the subversion of the government of the United States of America into closing the Southern border. (The aim of the Persian Gulf War coalition was similar: subvert the government of Iraq into closing the Iraq-Kuwait border against military and governmental Iraqi content flow.)

Logical View of Nativist-USG Struggle

The nativists seek an economy of force. They realize they are weak — perhaps only a few dozen highly-able members. They also realize it would be trivial for the FBI or even local police to round them up if their “treason” was discovered. Therefore they look to see what other forces they can leverage.

A big possibility stands out: the Global War on Terrorism. The USG is at war with al Qaeda, with Arab Muslims supporting both entities to different extents in different ways.

The Found Environment: The Global War on Terrorism

Which of course means:

The two conflicts, seen together

The Nativists now create two shadow organizations: Islamophiles and Islamaphobes. These are more than false-flag organizations because the shadow organizations will honestly strive to achieve their stated goals. However, the success of the shadow organizations is irrelevant to the success of the Nativists. Both the Islamophiles and Islamophobes publicly support the United States Government and assist the USG in some ways. However, the leadership of both shadow-groups is part of the Nativist network.

First Step of Implementation: Shadow Networks Created

Next, the shadow networks begin engaging in paramilitary operations. However, neither shadow network directly attacks the U.S. Government, and both continue supporting the Government as they are able. The purpose of the Islamophobes is to provoke and antagonize the Arab Muslim population. Publicly, the Islamophobes agitate for the removal or internment of the Arab Muslim population. On a street level, the Phobes align with anti-Arab-Muslim street gangs, escalating to political assassination of Arab-Muslims moderates and “outrage” attacks (bombing of deserted mosques, etc). The purpose is to disrupt peaceful Arab Muslim networks.

Simultaneously, the Islamophiles work to defend the civil rights of Arab Muslims, paying especial communication to maintaining liberal communication networks between American and international Arab Muslims. The Philes will work to create Arab-Muslim “self-defense” networks, which will have the natural consequence of increasing the militancy of the Arab Muslim population. Most critically, the Philes will strive to make physical communication with the Arab world as easy as possible (“charity” smuggling networks, with a complementary political effort). The purpose is to prevent the disruption of internationally-originating terrorist attacks.

The Philes and Phobes will engage in “phony” attacks on each other, as well.

The Frictional Sea of Conflict

Then, bam, a spectacular terrorist attack.

The details of the attack, and the particulars of its effects, don’t concern us. Nor does the fate of the American Arab population (interned? expelled? integrated?). But a natural consequence of such an attack will be an increase in border security. There already is strong agitation among working-class whites for “border crackdown.” For now, the cries are too weak to move a Government committed to North American integration.

But a few more 9/11s would change Washington’s mind.

And all of the 9/11s would happen without the Government understanding their was a thinking force supporting the attacks that had no concern whatsoever for bin Ladenism

So a natural consequence of the US Government’s escalating war against al Qaeda will be much tighter control of immigration and the Mexican border, including either National Guardsmen or Soldiers on watch. The 5th Generation Warriors have won.

The militant Nativist network is now abandoned as obsolete: the government has been subverted. The shadow networks are abandoned, allowed to run their course as passions dictate. The war against al Qaeda goes on, but it would have continued anyway.

What Victory Looks Like

For the price of a few thousand lives, the 5th Generation Warriors have won without their enemy — the American Government — ever realizing that it was in a war against them.

There are even purer forms of 5GW. But such is a post for another time…

Similar Posts

18 thoughts on “Dreaming 5th Generation War
  1. Interesting 5GW game you played there Dan. Before I comment on that I would like to try and jump right into application here, for reasonings sake:

    “In 5GW the enemy's knowledge of your existence all but ends your plans.”

    Do you think that 5GW can degenerate into 4GW? For example the 9/11 attacks: although UBL may have been planning a 5GW, AQ's existence was known by western intel agencies, thus degenerating their strategy into 4GW.

    So if they were planning a 5GW, who were their philes and phobes? Was it caliphate vs. US troops in Arabia? Could either of these be considered misdirection?

    I think the idea of attacking the OBSERVATION part of the OODA loop is vital. By controlling observation, DECISION-making will seem irrelevant, and ACTION will be taken after a quick ORIENTATION. In other words by controlling the head of the snake, you control its actions and force the OODA loop to take its normal “auto-pilot” course.

    PS. Is there no formatting of comments allowed?

  2. “A 5GW requires a conspiracy…”

    Interesting observation.

    Too bad about the formatting. I have been checking the “Subscribe to thread” with no results.

  3. Possibly the first step in determining whether a 5GW is occurring (leading to the possible outing) would be to determine who, if anyone, is benefiting most from whatever is happening.

    The 9/11 case is pertinent. Although conspiracy theories laying the blame on Israel or an “Illuminati” were common, some suspected China; in the 1999 book on Unrestricted Warfare, the authors said,

    “Whether it be the intrusions of hackers, a major explosion at the World Trade Center, or a bombing attack by bin Laden, all of these greatly exceed the frequency
    band widths understood by the American military.”

    The translated book, available on Amazon, has a picture of the burning WTC on the cover — even though the book was written prior to 9/11! I say this only to point out the existence of this other conspiracy theory related to 9/11.

    If some third party stood to gain from America's involvement with Iraq, Afghanistan, and bin Laden/Islamofascists in general, that party might not need to do much to cause the conflict.

    In fact, if any nation sought to benefit from NGOs such as terrorist organizations or armed militia, that nation would need to be certain that threads couldn't be traced back to it from those groups. Otherwise, that nation's role would be exposed and the benefits of a 5GW style of war would be lost.

    Similarly, sudden outbreaks of a virus (biological or computer) could be used to destabilize a nation or bloc of nations by an active state if the apparent aggressor was a terrorist organization or even merely a group of “independent” hackers, leaving the true aggressor “blameless.” (I suppose it's about using unwitting pawns.)

    How exactly a state could engage in 5GW without leaving fingerprints is up in the air. I think that the ability of the state's opponent to find threads, connect them, and make intuitive or logical conclusions would play a role, so that some 5GW tactics against inefficient or underdeveloped opponents would work but would prove disastrous if targeted at a higher tech, more developed state.

    Similarly, distinguishing between a 5GW strategy like those outlined above and a state's “serendipitously” benefiting from a war between two other parties would be difficult. I suspect that successive moves, if they “fortuitously” benefited the same nation or bloc, might tug at the intuition of those trying to determine what exactly is happening.

  4. Interesting, Dan.

    I was thinking more along the lines of a scenario in which multiple, seemingly unrelated events hurt one nation (or a group of nations) repeatedly, as if “the hand of God” were behind those events: say, one major terrorist act, one major financial crises, one upsurge in bird-flu, one natural disaster, one powergrid failure, and a case of a targeting error in some ongoing conflict (killing many innocents), over the period of 9 or 15 months. How would we go about tying all of these together if in fact they were the design of one intelligence (nation or NGO) — or would we assume a more fatalistic explanation? I can imagine some in the U.S., were the U.S. so targeted, blaming our society's degeneracy (God has acted to punish us) or blaming one political party or another for failure to be proactive — leading to internal political instability.

    Successive acts would not necessarily be all of the same nature, thus further blurring the threads that might lead back to a single agent. (Indeed, multiple agents, seemingly acting alone, might be discovered for some of these, thus abridging the search for the true Enemy.)

    I'm not sure how all of this fits in to the present discussion. (As for Unrestricted Warfare, I believe the Colonels argued that tactics of that variety could be used to at first soften a target somewhat surreptitiously before conventional warfare took over to finish the task, so you would have a 5GW as the initial stage and would culminate with a more familiar type of war.)

  5. Ah, I forgot. I think that the present WoT has actually benefited China, because it has given so many nations an excuse for hating the current U.S. administration. The recent Global Pew Poll which showed a generally more favorable opinion of China over the U.S. is some evidence of China's having benefited, although perhaps (?) China has benefited without having to do much. One could argue that China's ability to forge closer ties to some Latin American countries is also a result of American negligence (America has focused so many dollars and energy on the Middle East.) But how would we know the difference between a lucky break for China and a result of some hidden 5GW activity? (Actually, we don't even know if the book Unrestricted Warfare was read by bin Laden — giving him ideas or at least intellectual support for his endeavors. A goad?)

  6. Ya, but what you forgot was during the 4th war Satan offered Hitler Robots as an army, only to have him refuse because the Aliens real goal was to have Hitler buy the bot army and have them kill all humans, the original purpose. So, it all went to the UN who figured it out only to have the 5th war accept the deal………….really!

  7. It seems to me that the Soviets used 5GW, as you descibe it here, against us for a long time.

    They directed and often financed thousands of “useful idiots” both in support of their explicit goals and to resist identification of their efforts by stridently proclaiming that all the USSR sought was 'peaceful coexistence”, etc. Surely the objective was to create the conditions for a win or a series of wins on their side, while convincing us that we were not even involved in a serious conflict and that those who claimed we were should be called out (just as Winston Churchill was) as “warmongers”.

  8. I went back to re-read this for something I'm writing at work and only just now noticed that you quoted Tatu.
    You, sir, are the funniest man I have ever met! LOL.

  9. Just re-read this myself. Am I the only one who thinks of Palpatine from STAR WARS when he reads this?

  10. Geeky males? Maybe that's a sign that you need to get your wife involved to keep the rest of us in line? *grin*

    Seriously, though, I'm not a real big STAR WARS fan, but what I do know of Palpatine's scheming sounds just like your description of 5GW. As Darth Sidious, he created the threat of the Trade Federation that brought the chaos leading to the demand for a strong leader and weakend the Jedi through casualties. As Chancellor Palpatine, he fought the Trade Federation using a clone army that partially replaced, and eventually overthrew, the Jedi. Everybody saw what they wanted him to see, and acted accordingly.

  11. Sounds like an interesting book. Did the Red Guard, PLA, etc, know who was pulling the strings? The Emperor's ability to pull everyone's strings WITHOUT their realizing it was what got my attention.

    Yeesh. The way I'm going on about this, you wouldn't think I was more a Babylon 5 fan than Star Wars:P I'm still trying to decide whether the Shadows and Drakh count as 5GW, though.

  12. What do you think of the following:


    First of all, I concede that the ultimate victory is to make the enemy give up his purpose and surrender while never actually having to fight him. Having said this, since we do live in a world with weapons eventually they will be used. History borne this out. Perhaps peace will last forever, but don't bet on it (and I am truly a pacifist).

    I propose, and this is just speculation, that the next great war will revolve and be in the CITIES of the world. They contain the highest levels of human population. As unit tactics will evolve toward the articulation of each soldier being an army, the cities of the world offer the best battlefield for both supreme survival and objective forthwith the hub's of economics: “The population”; which are all highly packed in the cities and are the consumers or endpoints of world economies.

    A city is no longer “BESIEGED” from without but within. Its concentrated mass (of material and population) allows some level of camouflage from space and any action would guarantee a shutdown.

    Standing mass armies are useless because the destructive power of weapons coupled with the number required to cover every target makes them untenable. An infiltrated city does not have to be destroyed, just neutralized through its population.
    The population is the objective or at least their minds. The form of infiltration, would encompass a new type of soldier/psychologist that would corall a populaton in a form of terror. Unit mass would be small, with a kind of organic command structure (i.e. non-linear) which would give free rein to individual initiative while keeping with overall command.

    Major keys, of course, would be opposing leaders, communications, etc.
    The population itself would be a shield for an opposing force. Its destruction could be a fully “friendly fire”.
    If martial law is declared, then you have effected a result. A disruption. A consequence could be a population armed which allows for civil unrest; violence. Which could be exploited against itself.

    A response to infiltration, is maintaining complete control of communication to the populations mind.
    All this is another example of quantity vs. quality, low tech vs. high tech, attrition vs. maneuver.

    A future military commander will have to control the culture/mindset of his troops/people and of his opponents as political control is paramount due to changes in conventional warfare.
    In order to effectively defeat the enemy, you will have to love him.
    Also fighting on different technological levels will become a strategy to concentrate strenghth.
    The -ception between both sides will achieve more importance. This is the lens/image. Large forces will mean nothing. The population can achieve all objectives (both sides in both ways.)


    Thoughts ?

  13. “One simple test for whether or not something constitutes a generational shift is that, absent a vast disparity in size, an army from a previous generation cannot beat a force from the new generation.” William S. Lind

    5GW by definition would be a military concept that would be able to prevail when confronted with the present situation in the Niger Delta or the forces that comprise the “Anbar awakening”.

    Present U.S. 3GW operations, as copied and implemented by other state forces, gives many examples of Lind’s axiom.

    5GW will be conducted by individuals, armed with of-the-shelf technology, conducting lone wolf attacks on targets that present minimal risk of detection and counter-force response.

    As an example, I would say a sustained string of power-plant accidents – electricity distribution failures – pipeline breaches – or sub station fires will indicate we are under a 5GW assault, without being able to identify the origin of the attacks.

    A second example would be a high attrition rate among major names in Anbar or the Delta – motor vehicle accidents, heart attacks, food poisoning, snipers, chipping away at what little formal organization is there.

    I think the defining characteristic of 5GW operations will be surprise declarations of victory, without any indications hostilities had commenced.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *