Every 5th Generation War will be different, perhaps so different that they donâ€™t seem to even belong in the same category. But if we accept some general features then we can explore some of the possibilities that follow from them. In an earlier post, Dan offers some significant thoughts:
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.
The two elements that Dan highlights above are very important. 5GW isnâ€™t just about using ideas to undermine the will of a people or government to fight, but about undermining a countryâ€™s ability to defend itself intellectually, one could say that it is an existential campaign that calls into question the very legitimacy of that countryâ€™s existence. A campaign that a country may not even be conscious of. So how would this be accomplished?
Mark at Zenpundit points out:
A strong possibility exists that given successive generations of warfare tend to drive “deeper” into enemy territory, that 5GW will mean systemic liquidation of enemy networks and their sympathizers, essentially a total war on a society or subsection of a society. There is no where ” deeper” for 5GW to go but here.
How deep is deep? In 5GW the enemy might be a state or a foreign non-state actor or something homegrown. Whatever its source it would require that there be citizens willing to intentionally seek the defeat of their own country, or citizens who could be persuaded to adopt behaviors and ideas that would lead to defeat whether it was intentional or not. But the enemy in this case would realize that they canâ€™t win a conventional war or even a 4th Generation War, so they devise deeper tactics. In 4GW the enemy attempts to use the target countryâ€™s media as a vehicle to sap the peopleâ€™s and political leadersâ€™ will to fight. In 5GW the enemy actually becomes the media and the political leadership. In 4GW a terrorist organization might attack a school or a courthouse in order to show that the government canâ€™t defend itself; in 5GW the enemy would become the teachers and judges. It doesnâ€™t get much deeper than that. And so a country might never know as Dan states above, that it is even at war or who the enemy is, or that they have lost the war.
So is there a role for the military, intelligence and law enforcement agencies? The 5GW operatives in democratic societies will remain â€œinvisibleâ€ to the state unless they are inciting violence, plotting or engaging in illegal activity. And things become much more complicated if they actually become the judges, intelligence officers, diplomats, policy makers etc. I donâ€™t really think there is a major role for the state in this kind of intellectual war, but rather think that ideas have to be fought with ideas, and that the people who want to defend their country from this kind of attack need to develop their own 5th generation tactics independent of the state.
Now, we are just brainstorming here, trying to sketch out some of the details of a potential 5th Generation of War. Thinking about this is like trying to see something at night. You catch a glimpse of something in your peripheral vision, then look directly at it and it disappears. Then you look away and can again see it in your peripheral vision. This can make you wonder whether there is really something there to see.
A lot of questions still need answers. Does a 5th generation campaign need to be violent in order to be war? If war is politics by other means, then is 5GW war by other means? How do we distinguish, in a free society, between the legitimate promotion of ideas and policies and a 5th Generation War on our â€œintellectual strengthâ€?
Posted by Phil