Straw Man

William Lind recently attacked the concept of fifth-generation warfare (the only well-accepted generation of modern warfare he did not first describe) as follows:

Between February 8 and February 14, four American schools suffered attacks by lone gunmen. The most recent, at Northern Illinois University on February 14, saw five killed (plus the gunman) and 16 wounded. Similar attacks have occurred elsewhere, including shopping malls.

Is this war? I don’t think so. Some proponents of “Fifth Generation war,” which they define as actions by “superempowered individuals,” may disagree. But these incidents lack an ingredient I think necessary to war’s definition, namely purpose. In Fourth Generation War, the purpose of warlike acts reaches beyond the state and politics, but actions, including massacres of civilians, are still purposeful. They serve an agenda that reaches beyond individual emotions, an agenda others can and do share and fight for. In contrast, the mental and emotional states that motivate lone gunmen are knowable to them alone.

The whole “Fifth Generation” thesis is faulty, in any case. However small the units that fight wars may become, down to the “superempowered individual,” that shrinkage alone is not enough to mark a new generation.

John Robb, Mark Safranski, and I have criticized Lind’s article, noting his straw-man attack on 5GW theory.

Lind has earned sympathy from Shlok Vaidya, however, who has previously described 5GW as “an incoherent amalgam of a variety of perspectives.” However, as Shlok’s definition (“the emergent pattern formed by a distributed multitude of empowered individuals acting in concert by acting in their own self interest, without any collaboration“) argues that 5GW is not competitive-cooperative, his concept of 5GW is not war at all.

Punish Friends, Reward Enemies?

Rove, K. (2008). Obama’s new vulnerability. The Wall Street Journal. February 21, 2008. Available online:

Karl Rove’s new article on Barack Obama is partisan (of course), but his best paragraph also outlines an attack that Hillary Clinton will use to try to save her campaign, as well:

Mr. McCain, too, raised questions about Mr. Obama’s fitness to be commander in chief. Mr. McCain pointed to Mr. Obama’s unnecessary sabre-rattling at an ally (Pakistan) while appeasing our adversaries (Iran and Syria). Mr. McCain also made it clear that reining in spending, which is a McCain strength and an Obama weakness, would be a key issue.

This is a serious concern. While John McCain and Hillary Clinton have done hard work, such as supporting the Orange Revolution in Eastern Europe even beyond legislation, Obama’s adaption of leftist rhetoric would make foreign states happier being our enemies than our friends. This position is typical of the anti-American left, and if Barack Obama actually believes it (as opposed to pandering to the liberal/left flank of his party that gets him his caucus wins), it is very dangerous.

A best-case outcome for Obama is that he will get us involved in some wars in Africa, helping us build up our SysAdmin Industrial Complex and increasing Army-USMC expertise in counterinsurgency and shrinking the Gap.

In other words, Obama’s substance has been so weak, support for him on international relations have to hope that his race trump his rhetoric — that his ancestry trump his actions.

And that’s too bad.