John Boyd and “4GW”: GMW and xGW Approaches

Curtis has an amazing piece that starts out on the difference between GMW (the “4GW” of William Lind) and xGW (the 0GW,1GW,2GW,3GW,4GW,5GW work that’s been done online). It beings:

Triangulating Clausewitz and Boyd – Dreaming 5GW
Recent discussions re: “GMW vs xGW” [1] [2] [3] suggest that William Lind’s Generations of Modern Warfare model is insufficient and that the newer model xGW proves more useful for understanding warfare in our present era — as well as in previous eras.

In point of fact, Lind’s model has often caused dispute, particularly on the forth tier, that is with regard to the prognostication of 4GW. Useful or not, the first three generations are descriptive of what has already occurred in our modern era and so are “pre-verified”. The fourth generation is a guess of what is to come, which has been partly verified by current conflicts but was left open enough to suggest all future conflicts.

The fact that Lind’s GMW leaves “fourth generation warfare” open to becoming whatever happens in the future — the definition is vague and fluid enough — severely limits the usefulness of GMW. What are we to learn from GMW that will benefit us, whether as a state or as individuals engaged in conflict? By leaving no room for the development of a “fifth generation of warfare” that could defeat a “fourth generation warfare”, we are left no recourse in GMW except the ability to describe: Having described 1GW through 3GW, we come to “4GW” which we can use to tag all future events. What we are to do about those events doesn’t matter and is conspicuously absent from the GMW model.

Curtis then moves on to examining John Boyd in the context of the importance and limitations of descriptions. An amazing post, and one reason I am so happy that GMW is being ditched as the empty pseudo-hegelianism that it is.

The Terminology of XGW

The clean break of XGW from GMW has is amazing. Not only does it represent the greatest advance since the first descriptions of 5GW, it’s simply liberating to no longer carry the water for thsoe more interested in Idealism than in advancing our understanding of war.

Today, I’ve come across a number of thought-provoking articles in Arms and Influence, Castle Arg, Dreaming 5GW, Simulated Laughter, and Soob. They made me think of XGW in terms of the words we use. In particular, two suggestions came to me.

1. The Term “Generation” Must Be Abandoned.

Just as the abandonment of GMW (The Generations of Modern War) is a critical step in the evolution of XGW theory, the abandonment of “Generation” is the next step. Consider the many criticisms of “4GW” available on the web. Previously, proponents of XGW had to argue against these criticism, and assert that the critics did not really understand 4GW. Now, proponents can agree with the criticism, generalize them to criticism of GMW, and present XGW as an alternative.

I propose Grade, thus making XGW X Grade War Theory. The first four definitions of “grade” are:

# A stage or degree in a process.
# A position in a scale of size, quality, or intensity: a poor grade of lumber.
# An accepted level or standard.
# A set of persons or things all falling in the same specified limits; a class.

These fits how G is used in XGW theory.

Grade also has the benefit of not having the strict timeline implications of “generation” while not doing away entirely with the parts of the timeline of XGW that make sense.

This leaves open the question of whether Roman or Arabic numerals should be use. That is, whether “4th Grade War,” “Grade 4 War,” “IVth Grade War,” or “Grade IV War” is clearer as to what it implies.

2. The “Stages of 4GW” Must Be Abandoned

4GWS1, 4GWS2, and 4GWS3 properly refer to only one form of 4GW, the Maoist model, and so exclude any form of 4GW that is not Maoist. Boyd’s PISRR-Loop is both more precise and more general. I’ve mapped the 3 Stages onto PISRR before, but that earlier work is limited. Instead of S1, we should clarify whether we are talking about Penetration anad Isolation. Instead of Stage 3, we should be precise if we meant Reorientation or Reharmonization, and so on.

3. In Conclusion

Consider one of the final actions in winning a 4GW. In GMW, this would properly be referred to as:

“The Third Stage of the 4th Generation of Modern War” (long form)
“4GWS3” (short form)

I propose instead:

???? (long form)
“4GW Reharmonization” (short form)

5GW as the Event Horizon

Big shout-out to Curtis of Dreaming 5GW for finding this comment over at skilluminati:

5GWhat? The Meaning of “Warfare” in 2008 // Skilluminati Research
Henry Okah and MEND, according to the framework of war theory, are rooted in 4GW because of the “calling cards” and press releases—5GW will be invisible.

I agree 100% that 5GW is an event horizon for warfare theory—it’s where war merges with everything else, where things become so radically different that the old theory is more of a hinderance than a help.

I got an interesting email this morning from a reader who pointed out that everything we speculate on 5GW techniques has been in practice for thousands of years by occult secret societies. I happen to agree with him and I’ll be drawing of Crowley just as much as Clausewitz.

I agree, with one change: 5GW is the event horizon, beyond which the xGW framework breaks down as violence is dispersed and action indirect enough that the study of war becomes the study of politics.

I’ve understood for a while why the xGW framework begins at 0GW (genocidal war): you can’t fight something that’s already completely eradicated. And now I understand why xGW ends at 5GW: that’s politics.

5GW as Event Horizion:” I think that’s my deep thought for the month.

Behold! A World Powered by Steam!

Obviously, I’m in favor of any references to steampunk appearing in the New York Times, but the article never mentions “steam” once! The entire alternative-universe vision of steampunk assumes that the electrical industrial revolution never happened, and steam still being the motive power behind the economy. Now, granted, much of the article is interesting:

Steampunk Moves Between Two Worlds – New York Times
She takes her emotional cues from scientists and inventors like Nikola Tesla, magicians like Harry Houdini and soulful spies like Mata Hari, each of whom injected a spirit of enterprise, intrigue and discovery into their age. Contemporary fictional parallels in film include the wildly ingenious scientist played by Robert Downey Jr. in “Iron Man,” who hopes to save the world by retooling himself as a flame-throwing robot made of unwieldy scrap metal parts.

If steampunk has a mission, it is, in part, to restore a sense of wonder to a technology-jaded world. “Today satellite photos make the planet seem so small,” Mr. Brown lamented. “Where is the adventure it that?” In contrast, steampunk, with its airships, test tubes and time machines, is, he said, “sort of a dream , the way we used to daydream. It’s like part of your childhood’s just bursting forward again.”

But without steam, what’s the point?

An example (I believe) of actual steampunk is The Difference Engine, which describes an Industrial-age Britain in which an actually designed (but not implemented) steam-operated computer sparks a steamcyber revolution.