Defenses against 4GW: What xGW Theory Says

Fabius Maximus has an interesting post on militias, the irregular forces that can be important to winning wars. Fabius’ post is well written, but I think his adherence to GMW (the Generations of Modern War perspective put out by William Lind and others) limits his analysis. From his conclusion:

Militia – the ultimate defense against 4GW « Fabius Maximus

The rise of mercenaries and militias both foreshadow, in their own ways, the dominance of 4GW. Both are dramatic evolutions in military affairs, and also represent a shift of power from the center to the periphery of our society. Both potentially valuable to America. Both potentially dangerous to America. How we adapt to these developments determine not just how militia (and mercenaries) serve America, but what American becomes in the future.

xGW is a more useful theory than GMW, and explains the generations (better called “gradients“) of war in terms of the dispersal of kinetic violence through society. Each gradient disperses kinetic violence through the society more than the gradient before it, so that 4GW is more dispersed than 3GW, and so on. This allows each “higher” Gradient of War to be won with fewer armed troops than the one below it.

Therefore, defenses against 4GW may be

  • An “asymmetrical” response, in which a large number of 3GW blitzkrieger-forces battle a smaller number of 4GW-style enemies
  • A “symmetrical” response, in which 4GW-style militias battle 4GW-style enemies
  • An “asymmetrical” response, in which a smaller number of 5GW manipulators battle a larger number of 4GW-style enemies

There is no best way, without considering what costs the society defending itself against 4GW is willing to bare. An asymmetrical 3GW response has the benefit of requiring less training and less trust, though at the cost of more manpower. The asymmetrical 5Gw response reverses these costs and benefits. And the 4GW response is the focus of Fabius’ post.

8 thoughts on “Defenses against 4GW: What xGW Theory Says”

  1. Each gradient disperses kinetic violence through the society more than the gradient before it, so that 4GW is more dispersed than 3GW, and so on. This allows each “higher” Gradient of War to be won with fewer armed troops than the one below it.

    A great separate post would move beyond the doctrinaire assertion to describe why this happens, how it is so, etc.

    I am not convinced of your three suggested defenses. (Should they be called defenses or responses, anyway?) You seem to be using the term “asymmetrical” to describe only the kinetic variation between the forces, but the problem with that simple sketch is the fact that as G moves up, the dispersal makes measurement of the net kinetics much more difficult and perhaps impossible; thus, how do you establish that an asymmetrical 3GW will have more net kinetics than the 4GW force it would defeat? In other words, is this only an abstraction you have constructed, an ideal mental construct, rather than a realistic guide for realistic action and decision making?

  2. Curtis,

    I’m interested in your thoughts. The recent discussion at Coming Anarchy [1] led me to re-read “X vs. X” [2], and I noted the following two passages:

    We might use other ways of phrasing it: a dispersal of the center of gravity; or, a multiplication of centers of gravity, plural. The net kinetic activity, the net energy, may actually be greater for succeeding generations of war within our xGW.


    Finally, I would like to propose that the general progression to the left of Boom, with each succeeding generation, is intimately tied to the progression of the dispersal of kinetics. This is a subject worthy of a post of its own, I think.

    How would we measure the number of centers of gravity in a fight?


  3. Well that’s the important question, isn’t it? But I think there are other metrics as well:

    1. Quality considerations (besides merely quantity of CoGs)

    2. Non-kinetic factors (such as meme-dispersal. Yes, memes, as a part of thinking and thus biological ultimately, have kinetic features, at least on the cellular level lol; and, their dispersal can be kinetic in the form of bombs or merely the energy used to transmit them — really to cause them to emerge within individuals — but I’m abridging to “non-kinetic” here. You could also add cultures and perhaps some other things under the term non-kinetic.)

    3. Perhaps, the interrelations of these, or types of pathing for the kinetics that are dispersed; how and to where they are dispersed.

    But my general complaint in your post is the apparent assumption that kinetics alone, and the net kinetics in particular, would be all that needed considering for determining efficacy. Don’t know really if I’m misreading your general thrust. While I believe that dispersal of kinetics is a feature that can be used for distinguishing between G’s, I do not believe that it is the only necessary consideration for determining the efficacy of any given G, or of any given G over another G. In other words: what’s makes the dispersal of kinetics so important, that it would hold the key to understanding relative efficacy? Additionally, recent consideration of the idea of “entropy”, both at Robb’s blog but also glossed at Deichmans, has me wondering if all dispersal is necessarily good.

  4. Curtis,

    Great points. Addressing them


    Good point on quality, though the difference between an N (product of centers of gravity) and kN (product of each center of gravity and its quality) is not theoretically that great.

    2. Could you clarify?

    3. What would a “type of pathing for the kinetics that are dispersed” be or look like? (curious).


    What has Robb written about entropy that is worthwhile?

    (Of course, dispersal is no more necessarily good than any technology is necessarily good.)

  5. Dispersal. To a point true, it is no more useful than any technology or Principle of Warfare(like Mass, or Surprise) in that it isn’t worth having if it doesn’t buy your strategic goal. But dispersion does work to weaken lethality, and therefor kinetic means of combat. Should that be reflected in the grades of warfare some how, and if not why not?

  6. Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden was able to counter opponents who dispersion or concentration early in the 17th century (what generation of warfare are we talking about there?)

    By using artillery that was light enough to be quickly deployed on the battle field, he was able to cause carnage in the massed ranks of opposing tercios. If his opponents dispersed to counter the artillery fire, he would send in cavalry who would chop down the dispersed troops who were not strong enough to withstand a cavalry charge.

    We can see something similar going on today in Afghanistan. NATO (American) UAVs and aircraft can detect Taliban moving more than a dozen or so men and usually kill most of large groups with air strikes. If the Taliban send groups that are small enough to avoid detection, they are usually not strong enough to force their will on villagers who are usually armed and usually outnumber the Taliban.

  7. Dan, some clarifications:

    2. Non-kinetic factors — I introduced them because your focus in the original post seemed to be on kinetics for defining the efficacy of any given G. So while a “dispersal of kinetics” might play a key role in shaping G, other factors relating to the deployment and style of kinetics may play key roles as well. This is related to #3:

    3. “the interrelations of these, or types of pathing for the kinetics” — We might see how Nazi Germany and WWII America dispersed kinetics, and how the whole society might be geared to support the various front lines and CoGs; but in such a case, the dispersal throughout society still had as its goal the ultimate focusing of the kinetic activity onto a smaller set of CoGs than we would see in 4GW or 5GW where dispersal throughout a society addresses an even larger number of CoGs.

    If we fold into this consideration “non-kinetic” factors (#2), we might be able to distinguish how the “memosphere” of WWII players relied on a conscious and even moral focus in the supporting population against a well-defined foe; such a memetic focus worked to focus the kinetics.

    In 4GW or especially 5GW, in which the targets become more dispersed, we might see much more variation within the “memosphere.” This is, as said, especially true of 5GW, where a member of the population, a proxy/pawn (“prawn”) may focus his activity and kinetics on purely selfish goals, but said activity ultimately shapes the system according to the 5GW plan — without the prawn’s knowing that it does.

    I have in mind a post for this, and I’ve also had in mind the Bar-Yam visualizations from a couple years ago. [1] Shane’s latest post on D5GW also may be steering us into a further consideration of these things; i.e., as we contemplate the 3X3X3 matrix. [2]



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