The Generations of War: Not emerging, but always present

Question: When did the generations of war was the first 1GW? 2GW? 3GW? 4GW? 5GW? And when will the next generation emerge?

Answer: Before the beginning of history. And it never will, because (if it exists) it is already here.

The generations of war do not spontaneously appear in history at some certain date. It is not like reality obeys the dictates of teleological dialectical idealism and that some grand Synthesis can only appear once a Thesis has met its Antithesis. It’s like not 5GW can only appear after 4GW has been rigorously described.

Rather, each generation of war is a method, a technology, of enforcing ones will on others. Mao is often described as the Ur-Father of 4GW, but there’s a good argument to be made that Jesus and Paul deserve that title, too. I would not be surprised if future examination of ancient Chinese writing reveal 4GW thousands of years ago, either.

Question: In a state-directed 5GW, a state-within blossoms into a state-beyond. During the Cold War, the state-within centered around President Truman blossomed into a state-beyond centered around the Military-Industrial-MILC-Complex (MILC). If, in this Long War, a Military-Industrial-Sysadmin-Complex (MISC) blossums, will it look similar to the MILC? Will it look like an iron triangle?

Answer: Yes.

Human nature does not change. While people vary from time to time and place to place in intelligences, in preferences, in talents, and abilities, one rule up the behavior of all normal-functioning people:

“They love their families more than they love you.”

Why do doctors run unnecessary tests? Why do Congressmen love pork? Why do drug dealers distribute low-quality goods? Because each has responsibilities to an in-group (which you are not part of) more pressing than serving you and whatever out-group of which you are a member.

This is why every generation do not “emerge” through the centuries — because human nature does not “emerge” through the centuries. While different organizations may be more or less likely to employ this or that generation in order to enforce their will, every generational is theoretically employable. Now, a population with low average intelligence and low social complexity may be very unlikely to to employ 5GW, but this is just as true whether that population lives thirty centuries ago or thirty years from now. The Iron Triangle of the Military-Industrial-Complex manipulates actions by altering the environment where love is practiced: the triangle works because on every side, its functioning is determined by its members love for themselves and their families, not their love for some higher ideal.

14 thoughts on “The Generations of War: Not emerging, but always present”

  1. I agree totally! I think the label “generation” has really harmed understanding of this. The more I think about it, the more I agree with the OODA loop conception of “generational” warfare.

    Q – are you saying there will be no 6GW?

    Q – what is the difference between 5GW and a good ol' fashioned conspiracy?

  2. Some more pondering of the OODA and the generations (developed as a result of, and in tandem, to Dan's excellent planting of the standard!) —

    http://www.fifthgeneration.phaticcommunion.com/archives/2006/10/observing_the_maturing_world.php

    I'm still digesting Dan's reformulation of the ever-current or perhaps repeat-cycling of the Generational framework… Generally, while I view the xGW model to be a cognitive tool more than anything else (for understanding warfare), and while I believe that many aspects of each generation have appeared throughout human history, I also believe that certain configurations gain ascendancy for specific time frames, and that much of the modern era has added elements not present in the prior eras which lead to warfare that can be understood in a fairly linear model of generational development.

    If the xGW model is to be a cognitive tool, then I see no problem with viewing the generations as a linear progression rather than an all-in-one always around sort of fashion.

  3. Follow-up:

    To understand my p.o.v., it might be helpful to think of “the generations” not in terms of the whole system but in terms of specific groups of actors; e.g., of societies.

    Generally, when discussions of xGW become heated between those who believe the model is infallible and those who believe it's a myth or a bunch of crap, this is because the xGW framework is being thought of as a paradigmatic entity or Over-Reality that either must not exist or exists but must develop only toward the future without being able to “go back in time” or regress. (Arrow pointing forward.)

    Since xGW is though of in terms of an Over-Reality, for it to exist and be true, all societies and persons must fit within that dynamic, regardless of any distinguishing characteristics that would make them different. This style of thinking puts an undue burden on the framework and may in fact be related to the social darwinist theory of the development of cultures and societies.

    Rather, let's see what happens when we consider the xGW framework in terms of individual societies or groups of actors. The “generations” may still proceed in a linear fashion within such realms (of people); so, for example, al Qaeda may have began as very simplified 4GW but is unlikely to become 3GW or 2GW but may well morph into 5GW. And it may be possible to think of a larger grouping, like “Western Society”, in a similar fashion…?

    But here's the rub: globalization may be evening things out, so that these disparate groups do not follow their own xGW development in relative isolation. In the past, great turmoil could “shake up” any progressions of xGW, and much knowledge could be lost; e.g., something like a plague, genocide, or even the Middle Ages. Nowadays, with globalization and, especially, the storage of data and information as well as its transmission, these “rule-set resets” are not as likely to occur.

  4. Curtis,

    “al Qaeda may have began as very simplified 4GW but is unlikely to become 3GW or 2GW but may well morph into 5GW”

    At the Boyd conference [1], Lind (I believe) said that al Qaeda was now operating as a 3GW organization. This means that their ability to operate in the higher generation had been degraded and they were now relying on infiltration tactics.

    “But here's the rub: globalization may be evening things out, so that these disparate groups do not follow their own xGW development in relative isolation. In the past, great turmoil could “shake up” any progressions of xGW, and much knowledge could be lost; e.g., something like a plague, genocide, or even the Middle Ages. Nowadays, with globalization and, especially, the storage of data and information as well as its transmission, these “rule-set resets” are not as likely to occur.”

    Agreed. I bet the generations of war are somewhat similar to the stick-making technologies chimpanzees have. Probably all technologies now used by chimpanzees were invented and lost many times in the past.

    PS: Blogspirit must be suspicious of you! [2] I was able to post the four-link comment to Adrian just fine, but one- or two- link reply to you causes all sorts of problems!

    [1] http://www.d-n-i.net/boyd/2007_conference/report.htm
    [2] http://www.tdaxp.com/archive/2007/07/20/open-source-conspiracy.html#c1668030

  5. Adrian,

    “Q – are you saying there will be no 6GW?”

    I don't want to be a “Lind” [1] and say that the latest generation is the last, but as every generation is less kinetic than the one before it, it's hard to see where it's going if it doesn't just blend into chatter…

    “Q – what is the difference between 5GW and a good ol' fashioned conspiracy?”

    The same difference exists between rogue software projects and conspiracy theories [2 – see section III].

    A 5GW is a conspirac that ceases being required once the product is released. The creation by the Truman clique of the Military-Industrial-Leviathan-Complex and the Iron Triangle at the beginning of the Cold War is such an example. [3] A non-5GW conspiracy theory would be the supposed creation by the Truman clique of Majestic 12 [4]. In the 5GW, no further secrecy is required. In the non-5GW conspiracy theory, further secrecy is essential.

    [1] http://www.fifthgeneration.phaticcommunion.com/archives/2007/07/william_lind_on_5gw.php
    [2] http://www.tdaxp.com/archive/2005/07/20/dreaming-5th-generation-war.html
    [3] http://www.tdaxp.com/archive/2007/07/07/describing-the-military-industrial-sysadmin-complex-how-we-w.html
    [4] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Majestic_12

  6. Adrian,

    I, myself, have never been completely happy with the term 'Generation' applied to the model because I think it assumes a linear time progression. In essence, I see XGW in terms of the underlying doctrine, just as I see technology in terms of its utility as a tool. I do think the progression is linear in the sense that each generation is a progression in doctrine that is designed to defeat the previous generation and XGW is a congitive tool to express that. The term 'Generation' got hung on it and we are largely stuck with it.

    Will there be a 6GW? Yes, but only if it is a new doctrine different from preceeding doctrines that is designed to defeat opponents using 5GW.

    What is the difference between 5GW and good 'ol fashioned conspiracy? Well, you are going to have to explain exactly what you mean by conspiracy (two or more people working together secretly for personal gain, or in the sense of conspiracy theory were two events that are seemingly unrelated actually are). I see 5GW as an underlying campaign where the affect is not immediately obvious because the effects on the surface seem to be something else. It is really more complicated than that but I hope that gives you the sense on my thinking.

  7. Dan,

    The idea of degrading a foe to force that foe into operating at a lower G must be related to the idea of forcing a warfare rule-set reset similar to the examples I gave before. This degradation may only be temporary, however, and would only lead to the target's ultimate destruction or dissolution if the target does not begin moving “forward” again.

  8. If Iran-Contra was 5GW it was only a very small part of a larger campaign. In this particular case though, I think Occam's razor does apply in that the arms sales were an end run on the Boland Amendment that prohibited direct funding to the Contras and really nothing more.

    This is, however, the kind of thinking that a 5GW organization might follow if they are looking to fund their campaigns, as well as a lesson why a (non-shadow)government would probably be very bad at some aspects of 5GW or at the least will have to go about them in different ways.

  9. Aherring's strategy is a wise one. Iran's sub rosa cooperation with America is well known in many areas, and this is probably just an example of the Islamic Republic willing to strike a profitable deal with outsiders.

  10. Adrian…we can start thinking about 6GW once 5GW is mostly worked out and needs to be countered. Also, a 5GW may resemble a conspiracy, but a conspiracy won't resemble a war.

    Here is a 6GW thought: 6GW will be the peaceful competition between citizens after the states has withered away and the world is pure peer-to-peer. There is no kinetic war at all (complete dispersion).

    At least until the Robot rise up or when/if aliens show up with ray guns at the ready.

    Anyways, dumping the historical-time-emergence part of xGW is the right thing to do. It doesn't help us when thinking about conflict. Every society or time on earth may not have used every part of the xGW for cultural/genetic/geographic/competitive/etc reasons. I think we are stuck with the word “generation” though even though “level” or “mode” would be better.

    0GW is unorganized war, right?

    Iran-Contra as 5GW: no.

    I can see Iran-Contra part of a 5GW operation that was exposed though. The overall 5GW was an anti-soviet 5GW that wanted to bring around the end of the evil empire fearing a collapse of the west before that would happen. To do so, they infiltrated and manipulated the US to force a final collapse.

  11. Purpleslog,

    Fascinating comment!

    “Here is a 6GW thought: 6GW will be the peaceful competition between citizens after the states has withered away and the world is pure peer-to-peer. There is no kinetic war at all (complete dispersion).”

    Thus, (as a generation of war without war certainly isn't, pace Shlock [1]) is 5GW the last generation of war?

    After you've dispersed violence throughout the entire system, what medium allows it to disperse even more?

    [1] http://www.shloky.com/?p=779

  12. It was a fleeting thought:

    1) State systems will have completely collapsed – whithered away
    2) Humans become further domesticated – less violent?
    3) Citizens are SEI in the sense they interact peer-to-peer or through ad-hoc temporary associations (thanks to information technology, globalization, domestication and wide spread open capitalism)
    4) My brain hurts

    Still thinking…5GW is hard enough to visualize!

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