5GW: Soundless + Formless + Polished + Leading

Riding the Tiger: What You Really Do with OODA Loops,” by Chester Richards, Belisarius, October 2002, http://www.belisarius.com/modern_business_strategy/richards/riding_the_tiger/tiger.htm.

Chrome,” by VNV Nation, Matter + Form, 12 April 2005, http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0007X9TTI/102-4292267-8637755?v=glance&n=5174 [buy the cd].

I won’t say that between Sun Tzu, Musashi, and tdaxp, you shall learn everything you need to about 5GW.


But add VNV Nation’s Matter + Form, and you probably will.



In this article I will show how important elements of the 5th Generation of Modern Warfare were described by Sun Tzu and Miyamoto Musashi. I will tie these into my own previous writings on this blog. Additionally, just as Myke Cole reflected 5GW theory off cartoons, I shall shine it through music to emphasize the key points.

I’ve been reading a lot of educational psychology for my studies at UNL, such as Elkind’s All Grown Up and No Place to Go and Weisberg’s Creativity: Beyond the Myth of Genius. I wanted to reading something meatier, so I turned to DNI‘s Suggested Reading List and found Dr. Chet Richard’s Riding the Tiger.

The article goes on to describe how to use the loop in business, but to me the first part was most interesting, because it seemed to focus on 5GW. , or , is the next generation of modern war.

In my first post on 5GW, I wrote:

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.

and in my second 5GW post:

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.

So I was delighted, while reading Richard’s Riding the Tiger, to see similar themes in Sun Tzu:

Be extremely mysterious, even to the point of soundlessness;
Be extremely subtle, even to the point of formlessness;
Thereby you can be the director of the opponent’s fate.

Soundless. Formless. Remember those.

And Sun Tzu’s Japanese doppelganger, Miyamoto Musashi (as summarized by Richards)

Yet, he specifically intended for his words to apply to more than just swordplay, and even there, he insisted that victory would go to the master of strategy, not to the strongest swordsman, nor to the fastest, nor even to the fighter with the most polished technique.

The focus, however, is never on defending, but on regaining and using the initiative so that you can lead your opponents where you want them to be.

Polished. Leading. Remember those.

These themes are echoed in VNV Nation‘s new track, Chrome


I’m saying nothing for the good of myself
but I’m still talking and you’re not listening


resort to shadows till your body expires


for each and all a chrome disguise…
embody promise in a sheen so pure


prompts for action force reaction

I’ve also discussed these elements in detail on tdaxp


But of course if parts of the world know they are being attacked, they will try to fight back.

So to win the SecretWarrior must walk without rhythm to avoid the worm of hurtful information.


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 put it in OODA decision cycle terms, the guard Observes a loosely dressed woman, orients this with knowledge of previously so-dressed women, acts by watching more, observes information in the context of believing he is watching a loose woman, etc. Thus the SecretWarrior gets inside the head of the Yakuza boss’s guards. The 5GWarrior rearranges the mind of her enemy, changing his fingertip-feelings into something better for her.

Just as the 5GWarrior must struggle with her physical appearance to be only a girl, the SecretWarrior must also struggle with her beliefs to appear to be only a girl.


SecretWar, or 5th Generation War, relies on leveraging power while minimizing visibility. A successful 5GW operation would be able to subdue or subvert a government without being noticed. Therefore it is appropriate that Stratfor, started by the author of America’s Secret War, outlines a way for SecretWarriors to subvert corporate America: shareholder activism.

A polished 5GW army will soundlessly and formlessly his enemy to where he wants him to be: and that will be the end of the 5GW. The loser will never know he lost. A repeated 5GW victim may sense his illness, but with 5GW attacking his Observation capacity, the victim’s response will probable make his situation worse.

in desperation dreams any soul can set you free
and I still hear you scream
in every breath, in every single motion
burning innocence the fire to set you free

your actions turn conquest to dust
in portents of fate you foolishly place trust

And that is the 5th Generation of Modern Warfare.

6 thoughts on “5GW: Soundless + Formless + Polished + Leading”

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

    Not necessarily. Let's say a 5GW campaign were under way and I had a “fingertip feeling” that led me to actually “see” it. It's entirely likely if I tried to tell other people what was going on that they would simply dismiss me as paranoid and a conspiracy nut, even accuse me of McCarthyism and witch-hunting. If the 5th generation warrior is doing something illegal he will eventually draw the attention of law enforcement. But if the 5GW tactics are legal, then law enforcement won't be a problem. Which means that citizens who become aware of the 5GW campaign will have to act on their own within the law but outside of government and operate a counter-5GW campaign. Nothing remains secret forever especially in a free society, but legal activities can be done out in the open without attracting attention because they appear to be run-of-the-mill and normal, certainly nothing to be concerned about. Free societies offer the 5th generation warrior the ability to “hide in plain sight” and still be able to pull off a victory without the loser being aware of what happened.

  2. Phil,

    5GW forces can be harmed in two ways: qualitatively or quantitatively.

    A qualitative action against a 5GW would try to “evaporate” or “materialize” it into another style of organization. For instance, trying to materialize a 5GW force into a 4GW force would make it much easier to eliminate, because a 4GW force must be about 20x more powerful to win than a 5GW force.

    A quantitative action would just try to scoop members out of the 5GW network.

    Any action — whether a directed against by a State in response to a finger-tip feeling, or an culture's autoimmune response to the visible activities of the 5GW organization — that quantitatively or qualitatively harms the 5GW network reduces its chances of success. Being recognized as a threat is especially dangerous, because the state would begin quantitatively reducing the network while trying to qualitatively change it at the same time: a double whammy.

    You are corrected that being noticed as such may be harmless.

    (This raises interesting questions as to the identity of 5GW networks)

  3. Mark,

    Hmmm… a DDOS attack [1] would be more 3GW or 4GW… Perhaps a 5GW enemy of blogs would merely set up blogger's owners in some conflict with the American people (by convincing them to censor themselves ), thus bringing about a take-down of blogger without actually getting their hands dirty…

    I'm happy that Coming Anarchy [3] and Phatic Communion [4] like the idea of formlessness. 🙂

    [1] http://www.tdaxp.com/archive/2005/05/04/network-politics-introduction-net-attacks-and-counter-attacks.html
    [2] http://blog.outer-court.com/censored/
    [3] http://www.cominganarchy.com/archives/2006/03/10/truly-formless-5gw/
    [4] http://www.phaticcommunion.com/archives/theory/

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