Fierceness, Variations, and the utility of these concepts

Maximum, S. (2007). Arrows in the eagle’s claw — Chapter II, about 4GW analysis. Fabius Maximus. December 3, 2007. Available online: (from Defense and the National Interest).

Fabius Maximus (who kindly has me on his blogroll) calls for two conflicting goals in his recent post on 4GW analysis: first, he wants scientific progress on 4GW theory, and second, he wants fierce non-academic debate.

In parts of his article, Fabius appears to want a smack down brawl, a decline of community friendships, and a decrease in collaboration:

These things might result from 4GW analysis becoming over-collaborative, too congenial. The rapid development of the sciences results from the open clashing of views, often with fierce criticism between those of different views. The 4GW literature contains little of this.

Yet in other parts, Fabius holds high the banner of science as a cure for ills:

It is difficult to accurately describe a literature as large and diverse as that discussing 4GW. That being said, it seems to display some characteristics suggesting exhaustion or sterility. 4GW is a theoretical concept, only useful to the extent it generates insights for practitioners of statecraft, war, and intelligence. Otherwise it is either a hobby or an academic pursuit. The following are tendencies that seem to be appearing more frequently in discussions of 4GW.

Perhaps I am reading too much on Fabius’ words, but it seems he is calling for the development of a full-fledged field with thousands of employees and hangers-on.

If Fabius wants science to study 4GW, as some do and others do not, then we need a 4GW paradigm to guide us. This requires, among other things

a) variation to study
b) an agreement on what such a good study would look like

Such a scientific/academic program will generate significant differences between group means, practical effect sizes, and eventually links to other academic literatures. While certainly there should be disagreements, even strong disagreements, collegiality is a must if the community doesn’t fracture into incommesurable factions that just talk past each other.

Fabius also calls for useful tools to be deployed to warfighters. This is the role of an educator. It requires, among other things

a) rhetoric
b) practical experience

While scientifically/academically, xGW theory would be grown through studies analyzing variance, educationally/practically it would be spread through writing quality and utility.

These are both good goals. But Fabius appears to jump between them, attacking and embracing them in kind. Fabius should choose between his goals, or acknowledge that both are desired. Otherwise, it is hard to know what he means.

3 thoughts on “Fierceness, Variations, and the utility of these concepts”

  1. While it has been said that 4GW is warfare that a weak (as in less resources than the opposing side) body uses against a not so weak body, the opposite is true. 4GW is a type of warfare that a stronger body uses against a lesser opponent. The optimal outcome is the extermination of the weaker body. However, the weaker body has a feedback loop that is self-regulating. This feed back loop produces an induction currant on the controls of the stronger body. As Killcullen says, to paraphrase, when this feedback is not well connected, 4GW works real well.

    While I am sure there are many in the academic field willing to push their own mothers down a flight of stairs for an office with a window view, this optimal outcome might be considered a topic not to be discussed in the halls of academia. Maybe the reason “fierceness” debate is hard to find is that some understand war and some don’t.

  2. “While it has been said that 4GW is warfare that a weak (as in less resources than the opposing side) body uses against a not so weak body, the opposite is true”

    In the same way that the cancer is strong and the flesh is weak?

  3. That was fast! Now we have vigorous debate! But no “decline of friendships”, no “development of a full-fledged field with thousands of employees and hangers-on” – neither of which I advocated or consider desirable.

    I did not call for science to study 4GW, as the current 4GW club-like structure is old hat to sociologists). I called for the 4GW community to borrow a few traits from science.

    The desirable characteristics of science, such as “fierce debate among practitioners”, developed long before science became a large institution during the 20th century. For centuries it was a small club, open to all. Like 4GW today. Scientists debated but remained, if not always friends, fellow respected members of their community. We describe this as “it’s just business, not personal.” Debate, then drinks for all afterwards.

    BTW — the 4GW community already has a “paradigm”, in the sense in which Thomas Kuhn used the word (per your excellent link). That is something the 4GW community wisely and successfully borrowed from science, and which seems to work very well.

    At the end you go beyond what I said into a closely-related and interesting subject. I said that 4GW must generate useful insights; you raised the question of how they get “deployed” to actual users (military, intelligence, Foreign Service). That's important — anyone care to write about it? Taxp and I will critique your work, but as friends working with you in the search of ways to win 4GW — a pursuit we all share and consider important.

    One question, as this confuses me: “These are both good goals. But Fabius appears to jump between them, attacking and embracing them in kind.” To what do you refer?

    Upon reflection, I should have said we need more writing like yours! This site is an exemplar of professional debate.

  4. “In the same way that the cancer is strong and the flesh is weak?”

    I would say that is a fair assessment. The cancer has few resources but has the advantage of immortality over the flesh. Perhaps it could be said that the flesh has too much faith that it can overcome the cancer, while we have too little. We tend to see our enemies as ten feet tall, while the flesh sees the enemy as a single cell.

    If we assume, like the flesh does to the cancer cell, that our enemies are of the same flesh, then on a technical level the “height” of our enemies can only be judged by the amount of resources they have and how they use those resources. We would then need to look at the amount of resources we have and how we are using them.

    By setting the resources of our enemy next to ours, and determining the horse power of each stack, a true assessment of the situation should be determined.

    Perhaps I should have said that in 4GW one side uses more resources (greater horsepower) than the other side and because of that the other side appears weaker. When that which is real becomes apparent, then it doesn't matter which is stronger.

    When the US military was in a battle running down the Native Americans, the kill rate was 10 US solders to 1 Native American. It might be said that the Native Americans were the “stronger” of the two, but simply ran out of resources. The US military used 4GW to deplete those resources.

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