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)

24 thoughts on “The Terminology of XGW”

  1. Sorry about that, Dan. My complaint really is pragmatic. Who cares if the guy at the pointy end makes his decisions based on an incomplete or lesser model so long as it works and is a good one? Of course, the pure academic in me sits with fork and knife to dig into this stuff. Yet, I have to remember that the whole point of this is to help guys at the pointy end. Good enough sometimes is.

  2. 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.

    I like the switch from “generation” to “grade”, as long as the temporal aspects are not jettisoned altogether.

    The problem of “generation” is really only one that frequently causes theorists and thinkers (i.e., every human) to stumble: the stopping on one definition as the only definition of that term. For instance, we can think of x+1G as being “generated” as a response to xG; we can think of it as being “generated” in response to the previous xG and by the newer prevailing conditions; but many people stumble because they are so used to using “generation” as a neat segment of an historical timeline.

    Grade, on the other hand, still may carry with it the necessary temporal aspects: “A stage or degree in a process.” This continues to suggest a timeline, but that timeline is one separated from the historical timeline, rather being defined in terms of the smaller subset of all xGW within a particular and limited epoch. (This is something I have argued enough times for xGW [1])

    Perhaps it’s too bad that we don’t have a word for Gravity that would fit the discussion for G, given the way CoG’s change, in the dispersal of kinetics of xGW!


  3. ry,

    Did I miss something? What are you sorry for?


    Agreed! I was tempted to suggest “gradation,” bt that’s too hard & odd to say!

  4. I don’t like criticising friends, Dan. unless really angry, which I wasn’t. or totally and utterly at odds over an issue, which we’re not.

  5. Lind has always stated that he used the wrong words. So he committed himself to ambiguous definition in the first place. He originally meant dialectically qualitative shift. Everyone here of course knows that (and the problems associated with Hegelian/Fichte thesis-antithesis-synthesis logic). However, the other little known definition he termed the generations as a “species.” He stated the following: “The word “generations,” though, is an analogy to help gain new insights, and it is wise not to push it too far. “Species” might be more descriptive, but “generations” seems to have stuck.”

    Which makes me think Lind’s generational warfare analogy is like a biological adaptation analogy with multiple “species” of combatants coexisting and dying, not just one linear timeline of generation after generation. Which is how a real world timeline of biological species looks like — a “messy bush” of burgeoning and dying species rather than a neat hierarchal “tree.”

    Questions about definitions:

    I notice you take a definition straight from the dictionary which makes it a lexical definition and comes with its own problems (nuance of meaning, the empirical nature of the definition, does an empirical survey of individuals who are in the realm accept it as appropriate?) Are there any rival definitions? Perhaps stipulative ones? With new and unconventional meanings? Or perhaps a combination of denotative definitions? Insofar as a taxonomy, or class, of things (as I think purpleslog is doing).

    I guess other things to think about with the inferences to best explanations is to collect all the rival explanations (Lind et al, Hammes, the blogospheric network of individuals, Robb etc.) of the phenomenon they all purport to describe and compare them with how deep/shallow they are, how powerful, falsifiable, explanatory etc. Then choose the best one. Once you have the best out of the strongest rivals I think a fundamental question to ask of your new definition is the following: Is the phenomenon real?

  6. Munzenberg,

    Lind can’t have it both ways, arguing that we are seeing the unfolding of a Hegelian ideal and also maintain he’s dealing with population biology. If he would assert both at the same time, he’s making the same mistake that Fabius Maximus did with his “darwinian ratchet.” [1]

    Lind’s theory is not falsifiable as we need to wait until the end of the quality shift untli we can even know what 4GW is, and Robb has never bothered to define his terms.

    XGW is the best of the variants by default. None of the rest show any sense of being useful, in the policy or social science sense.


  7. “None of the rest show any sense of being useful, in the policy or social science sense.”

    Actually, I kind of like Toffler’s Waves framework. It is simple, flexible and descriptive enough to be useful.

  8. What’s confusing? I don’t like leveling criticism like I did with that.

    I don’t typically do it. To me, there’s a difference between working in the group and arguing over a point and leveling criticism. My own personal vernacular probably. i don’t like leveling criticism, but I will almost always argue within a group over something. I usually don’t do it(criticize) unless I’m mad or in such stark disagreement that there can be no working within the group. (there’s got to be a German phrase or word for what I’m pushing for with working within the group, unfortunately my German sucks).

  9. Firstly, I don’t agree with Lind’s ideas. However, I think the ideas of “Hegelian Dialectism” as a model for 4GW are misrepresented in two ways. Firstly that it wasn’t Hegel’s idea (here: The process is more attributed to Fichte than Hegel (and going back further on the idea of analysis/synthesis — Kant then Hume, with Hume’s notion of “relation of ideas” and “matters of fact,” which I’ll get to down page).

    Secondly, there seems to be a use/mention distinction when individuals quote the “dialectially qualitative shift” (DQS from now on). Insofar as misintepreting a descriptive analogy of one word — generation — for an entire inference to best explanation framework. One of Lind’s comments on the topic was:

    “I developed the framework of the first three generations (“generation” is shorthand for dialectically qualitative shift) in the 1980s, when I was laboring to introduce maneuver warfare to the Marine Corps.”

    From that sentence do we know for sure that he was ‘using’ the DQS as an all encompassing inductive argument that explains a phenomenon? Or was he ‘mentioning’ DQS as a (bad) analogy of war?

    If he was using it as an inductive framework then why would he go for further analogies like “species” (or even “generation”) to fix up his mistake or explain things? If he was mentioning it, as I believe he was, as a bad analogy then attacking the falsifiability of it is incorrect and pointless. The analogy itself should be analysed and compared to the analogous object so as to draw out relevant disanalogies, irrelevance and so on, for the purpose of a better inference to best explanation.

    Thirdly, now everyone probably knows the following but I’ll lay it out anyway. Lind was of course influenced by Boyd. Boyd wrote about the “dialectic engine” in his “Destruction and Creation” paper. So while Lind might have brought the dialectic as an analogy of generations he wasn’t the only one using them. Boyd’s theories also carry similar thinking. Do we also wholesale reject Boyd’s theory because he uses the dialectic within the orientation part of the OODA loop? And quite frankly is that dialectic such a bad thing? I mentioned above about Hume where he came up with the idea of “matters of fact” and “relations of ideas” to which Kant (I believe) translated it as a process of synthesis and analysis (to which of course again transmogrified into dialectic aka speculative reasoning). In plain english when Hume spoke of “relations of ideas” he was talking about demonstrative reasoning or deduction. When he spoke of “matters of fact” he was talking about induction. So two processes of reasoning inductive/deductive, or synthesis/analysis, that really occur in the world. Lind has taken this a bit further using the analogy of the dialectic by stating there are logical contradictions and negations in war. Which others have written about, for example Edward Luttwak’s “Strategy: The logic of war and peace” which poses the idea of war between individuals as a process of paradox e.g. if you want peace prepare for war, or the long hard way up that cliff face is often the paradoxical best way as the easy way is often mined or set up for ambushes. Whether or not these contradictions and paradoxes lead to “generations” or “shifts” I dunno. But the process of contradiction and negation looks to me as a real phenomenon and backed up by scholarly work like Luttwak’s. That also raises the question as to the analogous power behind the DQS. I think Luttwak does a better job at explaining it.

    Lastly, I have a question:

    Is the OODA loop model as a parallel to the generation model still part of the XGW?

  10. Um, ‘save me from…’ was kind of mean. I could’ve made the point in a much neater and more formal way.

    BUT CGW’s bit over at D5GW gets at what I wanted to say, unsnarkily: Academic models are nice, but if it doesn’t help the warfighter who cares?

  11. Oh, and I hope you don’t mind me taking your ‘offloading’ discussion from the comments and using it in argumentation. I already did. Now I have to deal with being ungreatful but stealing your ideas too(I cited and linked, actually).

  12. “So 3rd Wave War?”

    Indeed, in ‘War and Anti-War’ the Toffler’s conception of warfare in the third wave is (on the kinetic end of War) 4GWish and (on the non-kinetic end on Anti-War) very 5GWish.

    I suppose if a framework for social and technological change in history had to be combined with a framework for warfare you could do a whole lot worse than crossing the Toffler’s Waves with XGW.

    1st Wave (Agricultural Society) – 0GW / 1GW
    2nd Wave (Industrial Society) – 2GW / 3GW
    3rd Wave (Informational Society) – 4GW / 5GW

    I’m not saying that we should immediately make this connection an integral part of XGW theory (XGW stands alone without the social/technological aspects thankyouverymuch), but it certainly has less ambiguity in application than GMW.

  13. “1st Grade War” does have an annoying ring to it, doesn’t it?

    How about:

    1GW: War of the Ist Grade
    2GW: War of the IInd Grade
    & so on


    I really don’t care what it’s called as such, but “grade” has the benefit of capturing the meaning, and the drawback of schoolhouse connotations.

  14. Hmm. Grade. It suggests chronology in the same semblance of it’s use in education (I’m in 10th grade, next year 11th for instance.) Gradient might work better as its directional and not chronological. It also speaks to the above mentioned Arherring’s Boom. Gradient 1 Warfare?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *