Redefining 5GW, again

For quite a while, I was involved in discussions relating to 5GW (which sometimes stands for the fifth generation of modern war, other times stands for the fifth gradient of warfare, but always implies a technique of armed conflict that can defeat a large-sized 4GW force).

The term is becoming fashionable again, with appearances in the Marine Corps Gazette and now Wired.

How to Win a ‘Fifth-Generation’ War | Danger Room from
5GW is anchored in the global Islamic jihad espoused by Al Qaeda, Coer writes. But that doesn’t mean that fifth-gen warriors necessarily are clearly ideological, with aspirations of setting up alternative political systems. They’re opportunists, intent only on destruction. But even seemingly pointless violence can have a perverse logic, for the sudden, irrational destruction undermines the idea that nations — and especially the most powerful nation, the U.S. — are viable in the modern world.

So how do you beat a fifth-gen enemy? By not fighting, first of all. Beebe says ending the vortex of violence in Africa means alleviating “the conditions of human beings that create these insecurities across state borders.” In other words, focus on economic development, humanitarian assistance and communication, with nary an M-16 or Abrams tank in sight.

The article reads like a re-terming (or rediscovery) of John Robb’s ideas, but without any reference to John. Both Robb and Coerr base their work off line, seem to accept the chronological emergence of the first four generations of war, and then predict that the next force will be either a “bazaar of violence” (Robb) or “clearinghouse for
violence” (Coerr) without any coherent ideology, desire for control
over population, desire for a state, etc. Robb, like Coerr, even for
a time branded his idea 5GW, but I think he determined that it was
best to stick to terminology he owned.

My monograph, Revolutionary Strategies in Early Christianity, briefly discusses 5GW. I have written about 5GW on this blog, and I participate in Dreaming 5GW, a website dedicated to the phenomenon.