Call for chapters: “5GW: The Fifth Generation of War?”

Introduction

Many thinkers have proposed a system of “generations” or “gradients” of warfare. Early literature on the subject was written in 2003 by David Steele and in 2004 by Willam Lind and Thomas X. Hammes.

As America begins to wind-down her involment in Iraq, escalates her presence in Afghanistan, and moves to a new era with the inaguration of Barack Obama, knowledge of the future of war is more important than ever. “5GW: The Fifth Generation of War?” will address the debate surrounding 5GW, including the rival Generations of Modern Warfare (GMW) and xGW frameworks. Other perspectives are encouraged, as well.

Possible Topics

Possible topics covering all aspects of 5GW include

  • Historical examples of 5GW
  • The validity (or lack therefore) of 5GW speculation
  • The future of 5GW
  • A possible “sunset” of 5GW, after which 5GWs will no longer occur
  • Policy responses to 5GW
  • Integration of 5GW with other approaches in order to further the national interest
  • 5GW and “boots on the ground”
  • xGW v. GMW
  • Other 5GW-related topics

Guidelines

Following Nimble’s standard guidelines, the entire volume will be between 60 – 120 pages, on 8 x 10 paper, amounting to 15,000 to 40,000 words total.

Both original and repurposed contributions are encouraged. The Nimble Standard Contributors Contract (PDF) and Nimble Marketing Playbook are available online.

The format of this work will be similar to Mark Sanfraski (Ed.)’s The John Boyd Roundtable: Debating Science, Strategy, and War

Please e-mail all inquiries and proposal submissions to dan@tdaxp.com, or leave a reply to this page below.

This volume will follow the Nimble content, procedure, and style guidelines for edited volumes.

39 thoughts on “Call for chapters: “5GW: The Fifth Generation of War?””

  1. This will be interesting. One of the 5GW battlegrounds in the coming decade will be Mexico. This country is on danger of becoming a “narco state” and what would that entail with opposing the powerful cartels 5GW style? And will the Mexican gov’t swallow their pride and allow U.S. military advisors to come here and apply some of the COIN lessons they’ve learned over the last 8 years (applied in the Mexican context, of course)?

  2. “I think Mexico’s narco-feudalists follow a more Robbian pattern of global geurrilla than 5GW.” (Jay)

    I was under the impression that global guerillas used 5GW as their strategy/tactic for war?

  3. Seerov,

    John Robb has been inconsistent — describing Global Guerrillas as a 4GW force, then saying that it was too early to describe anything as 5GW, then describing Global Guerrillas as a 5GW force [1].

    Jay,

    At least for now, yes, because the cartels are more interested in maximizing their revenue than in projecting power.

    If they continue to thrive and the state continues to weaken, however, they will begin taking on a police role out of necessary, and with that comes state powers.

    Goyo,

    And will the Mexican gov’t swallow their pride and allow U.S. military advisors to come here and apply some of the COIN lessons they’ve learned over the last 8 years (applied in the Mexican context, of course)?

    Interesting!

    The application of COIN in North America may well be news in the not-to-distant future. It is something to watch out for!

    [1] http://www.dreaming5gw.com/2006/10/barnett_and_robb.php

  4. In my reading of Brave New War it looked to me (in XGW terms) that Global Guerillas take a hybrid 3GW (system disruption) / 4GW (attack on perception / will) approach. Although, I would really place GGs in the category of practitioners. The one thing that Robb has been very clear about is the end-state of ungoverned spaces and hollow-states GG seek. To me they can use any doctrine they like to get there.

  5. Let me also add that if Mexico allows U.S. & other foreign advisers (I’m thinking Brazilian BOPE & Colombian Anti-Narc Brigade) I think it would be a good idea for the Mexican gov’t to be more transparent with Int’l Human Rights NGOs (such as Amnesty Int’l) to serve as a bulwark against excessive human rights abuses.

    What we don’t need in Mexico are for right-wing, extra-legal militias to spring up in a civilian response to the overwhelming violence. That was the greatest mistake in Colombia.

  6. Seerov, actually here’s what I said:

    http://globalguerrillas.typepad.com/globalguerrillas/2006/10/the_changing_fa.html

    http://globalguerrillas.typepad.com/globalguerrillas/2008/02/journal-on-supe.html

    Key passage:

    Superempowerment is a much richer and more complex phenomenon than a mere reduction in scale (down to a single attacker). Instead, superempowerment describes the process by which individuals and small groups are using; rapidly improving tools (the doubling rate of Moore’s law applied to technologies accessible to the average individual), connectivity to a global community and its resources (how to use those tools from MIT courseware to Jihadi “how to” sites), and newly accessible forms of economic activity that transcend state control, to radically improve their productivity in warfare. This is definitely a qualitative change in the conduct of warfare, although it is still early. It will become transformational as the technologies of self-replication begin to reach their full potential.

  7. Thank you John Robb for the links. May I ask you a couple questions?

    What do you see as the key differences between 4GW and 5GW?

    What exactly are GG’s or 5GW fighters trying to accomplish?

    It would seem as if their objectives differ from party to party? The Mexican cartels fight to further economic interests. AQ fights for the global Caliph. Do you see anything that connects these groups as far as end state goes?

    Thank you for your time John Robb.

  8. Seerov,

    Not sure what 5GW will look like fully realized. If I had to make a bet, I believe it will be a run out of the implications of superempowerment per the above passage.

    GGs, despite a plethora of motives, gravitate towards the creation of hollow states. This end-state allows them to operate autonomously while staying connected to the global system. Both Mexico’s narco-GGs and Al-Qaeda’s jihadi-GGs, both highly diverse movements, are moving towards the same goal (note the Caliphate is a feudal system not a state system).

  9. John Robb,

    Yes I tend to agree with your assessment of the GG end state. It appears they want a geographic area in which to find safety and organization, but also want security for their various “flows” into global system. These flows can be drugs, ideology, and violence.

    But this leads to another question? Do GG’s like the Mexican Narcos want this “hollowed state” just to have a safe supply-hub to sell drugs, or do they want something bigger? When I say bigger, I’m talking about political power? Prussia was sometimes described as “an Army with a State.” Is Mexico quickly becoming a drug cartel with a State? With AQ its pretty simple, they wish to develop a geographic area in which to shield Muslims from the global system and plan attacks with the goal of spreading the Caliph. Since its mainly ideological, its simple. But what about the criminal networks?

    I suppose if I were a Mexican Cartel leader I would want a State that defended my cartels’ ability to do business. Then again, if Mexico became totally a “Narco-State,” then this would invite the possibility of US intervention. So it may be better to have areas within the State that are “hollow” but not control the whole State?

    Anyway, what do you think?

  10. I’m sympathetic to superempowerment as a facet of 5GW though I think the more ominous possibility is a collective democidal counteroffensive ( by state or loyalist paramilitaries) against 4GW forces because indiscriminate slaughter shreds networks and it doesn’t require much sophistication in terms of tech as Rwanda demonstrated, just in IO to rationalize the policy for perpetrators and supporters.

  11. Zen,

    Wouldn’t that me Pre-Modern Warfare, or 0GW [1,2,3]? Democide is the least efficient (in terms of kinetic), most focused form of violence we have. Ants and chimps have that form down.

    That doesn’t mean that it can’t be effective, but if there’s any trend line in war I would think that genocide is way at the beginning.

    [1] http://purpleslog.wordpress.com/2006/04/13/on-unrestricted-warfare-and-the-generations-of-war-framework/
    [2] http://purpleslog.wordpress.com/2008/05/08/is-the-0gw-part-of-the-xgw-wrong/
    [3] http://www.tdaxp.com/archive/2007/09/06/pre-modern-wars-on-a-pre-modern-continent.html

  12. Here are my suggestions [1] for an overview:

    * Forward by TBD
    * What is Fifth Generation Warfare (5GW): Our Point of View (PoV)
    * The Genesis of this PoV
    * XGW, not Lind’s GMW
    * Properties of 5GW
    * Visualizing XGW
    * Actors and 5GW
    * Styles, Kinds, Types, and Organizations
    * Historical (Possible) Examples
    * 5GW in Fiction (books, movies and TV)
    * Possible Current 5GW
    * Preparing for 5GW
    * Defend against 5GW
    * Doing 5GW
    * Clausewitz, Sun-Tsu, Boyd, and 5GW
    * Survey of Opposing Views to this PoV
    * The Other 5GWs: Survey of other uses of the Term
    * Future Directions, Questions, and the Way Forward

    I would be willing to write, co-write of contribute to any of these (except the Forward).

    [1] http://purpleslog.wordpress.com/2009/01/13/my-suggestion-for-chapters-for-fifth-generation-warfare-5gw-book/

  13. John and Dan both raise different but equally interesting points vis-a-vis the genodide/democide response.

    John wrote:

    “Zen, ah the cycle of the leveling movement followed by the “aristocratic” revolt.”

    Pretty much right on the process. However, I’d tweak it that it is not an “aristocratic” response so much as an “oligarchical” one. Real aristocrats, even ruthless ones, are wedded to traditional values and generally do not have the stomach or imagination for slaughter on the scale required to be successful ( to kill off the hubs faster than they can regenerate and connect, so the network collapses) as the Vendee, or the Cavaliers or the White Russian movement’s Kolchak, Denikin etc. demonstrated.

    Counterrevolution of this kind requires a radicalized oligarchy that is self-aware that it’s advantages are unjust and power illegitimate – a politburo, a Forty Families, a Sullan Senate, a SLORC and so on. There’s a reason Algeria did not get taken over by extreme Salafists in the 1990’s but the Shah’s regime crumbled under 1/1000th of the violence that Algeria weathered.

    Dan wrote:

    “Wouldn’t that me Pre-Modern Warfare, or 0GW [1,2,3]? Democide is the least efficient (in terms of kinetic), most focused form of violence we have”

    Genocidal violence may have roots in evolutionary psychology but that’s a separate issue from “efficiency”. Depends what you mean by “efficient”,

    In the broad sense, genocide/democide is of course economically inefficient because it wastes labor (victims) and resources that could have been put toward productive ends. The Third Reich harmed its own war effort with the Final Solution, slave labor and harsh occupation policies.

    If you check the metrics of different genocides, the Rwandan is pretty impressive. Around 700,000 -800,000 people murdered in the most destructive month of the killings, mostly by hand by unpaid vigilantees on foot. The SS would have been deeply envious of the per capita cost efficiency. The Khmer Rouge were also thrifty genocidaires who tried to save bullets and Stalin’s Ukrainian famine was essentially a siege, no food was let in except to politically reliable networks, existing food inside was removed with great brutality.

  14. “Democide is the least efficient (in terms of kinetic), most focused form of violence we have.” (Tdaxp)

    Democide may not be efficient, but it is effective. It requires the ultimate in WILL, which is something the West no longer has. Democide is the ultimate in COIN, but is nearly impossible in today’s “post-modern” world?

  15. I’m curretnly researching a paper on urban gangs, so I’ve been thinking a lot about XGW as it (if it) relates to inner city gangs. Here’s a question I’ve been kicking around:

    If a city were facing a serious gang problem, would gentrification[1] be considered a form of 0GW? For the sake of argument, my question assumes that inner city gangs are a form of insurgent group and that they hide among a population with a similar S.E.S. and that the end result of gentrification would be removal of that S.E.S. group. Or would gentrification be too non-kienetic to fall into the XGW framework?

    [1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gentrification

  16. I suspect democide could be the GMW version of 0GW although I can’t think of any examples off the top of my head except for religious persecutions of peoples like the Heugenots. Even then I don’t think that was actually democide as much as lack of concern for the deaths of protestants.
    Another posibility might be the English Civil Wars between royalists and Cromwell’s New Model Army but that might be getting into 1GW territory.

  17. Seerov,

    Democide may not be efficient, but it is effective.

    Democide may not be efficient, but it is effective.

    Absolutely. High-cost, high-effect.

    I suspect democide could be the GMW version of 0GW although I can’t think of any examples off the top of my head except for religious persecutions of peoples like the Heugenots.

    Hitler’s 0GW COIN against the Jews, who he suspected had organized financial cartels against him.

    Stalin’s liquidation of various ethnic groups.

    The best contemporary examples of 0GW are with pre-modern populations. For instance, ethnological studies of natives in the Amazon reveal a death rate from war equivalent to an ongoing WWII in Europe.

  18. Brent,

    Sounds like an excellent idea for a chapter! 😉

    I think peaceful versions of war are best called politics [1], so I would classify nonviolent population replacement as perhaps 0GPolitics, keeping in mind that 0GP is more dispersed than 5GW. [2]

    zenpundit,

    Genocidal violence may have roots in evolutionary psychology but that’s a separate issue from “efficiency”. Depends what you mean by “efficient”,

    Exellent point.

    A better way to say it is that the xGW scale measures kinetic intensity [2], with 0GW requiring that every member Genocidal violence may have roots in evolutionary psychology but that’s a separate issue from “efficiency”. Depends what you mean by “efficient”,of the opposition be tapped, while 5GW allowing one to get away with so little violence as it may be indistinguishable from the normal static of crime. [3]

    [1] http://www.tdaxp.com/archive/2006/10/20/nonkinetic-war-is-called-politics.html
    [2] http://www.tdaxp.com/archive/2008/05/23/5gw-as-the-event-horizon.html
    [3] http://www.tdaxp.com/archive/2007/07/31/dreaming-5gw-part-vi-dream-of-5gw.html

  19. “The best contemporary examples of 0GW are with pre-modern populations. For instance, ethnological studies of natives in the Amazon reveal a death rate from war equivalent to an ongoing WWII in Europe.” (Dan tdaxp)

    Yes, for an anthropology class I took we studied Napoleon Chagnon’s ethnography of the Yanomomo tribe in South America. I was shocked to see the scope and breadth of violence they were capable of. The same was true for the Higi of Nigeria and Dani of New Guinea. There’s a very famous ethnography of the Dani called “Dead Birds” that I’ve watched at least 5 times in various anthropology classes I took.

    Many anthropologists claim that primitive people conduct “ritual warfare.” This labeling of “ritual warfare” is the anthropology community’s attempt at down-playing the amount of violence that occurs among primitive peoples (becuase only Western man is capable of large scale killing).

    I would suggest watching “Dead Birds” and Chagnon’s film on the Yanomomo. You may find them insightful in your study of 0GW? If your University has an anthropology dept, I’m pretty sure you can find both of these films there?

  20. Dan,

    In the spirit of GMW I was trying to think of something that would be pre-Napoleon / Westphalia.

    Brent,

    I slightly disagree with Dan that in XGW, the 0 gradient is the baseline for conflict and confrontation (confrontation would be my definition of a peaceful version of war in the sense of Rupert Smith’s The Utility of Force) in a very Darwinian survival of the fittest sense. It doesn’t get more kinetically concentrated than one-on-one, fight to the death, competition. (Howard Bloom makes a great argument that ideas work in the same way in The Lucifer Principle.)

    From that point of view in XGW a 0GW campaign against street gangs would probably resemble a Charles Bronson movie. Gentrification would resemble a 5GW approach in that a campaign to raise the profile of a neighborhood would be a de-facto change on the context of the neighborhood into one that doesn’t support gang activity.

    I agree with Dan. That would make a really interesting exploration.

  21. Hmmm… I’m thinking that maybe it depends on how a neighborhood improvement is implemented.

    I’ve heard Micheal Eisner recount the time Rudy Giuliani asked him to bring Disney’s then brand new play “Beauty and the Beast” to a theater near Time Square. At the time, New York was still reeling from a high crime rate and Time Square was better known for prostitution than Broadway shows. But Giuliani had a plan, so he promised Eisner that, by the time the play was ready to open, Time Square would be fit for a family audience.

    The transformation that went on in NY in the 1990s is an interesting study in exactly where the event horizon between between 5GW and politics lies. On one hand, there were plenty of examples of the peaceful dislocation/relocation of populations brought on by gentrification. On the other hand, the policy makers in charge of NY made a conscience decision to hire thousands of additional police officers and adopt aggressive tactics to drive crime down. Assuming that Eisner’s account of his meeting with Giuliani is accurate, that would seem to suggest the possibility that the gentrification of New York occurred as part of an overall grand strategy, meaning the Giuliani administration lined up interested investors and then systematically applied tough law enforcement tactics to a given geographic area.

    To put it another way: He won the war on crime by securing the peace before the war even began.

    What would be required to explore this further would be a case study of the decision making that went on in either New York, the Chicago Public Housing Authority, or another municipal government that succeeded at drastically reducing urban crime in the 1990s. If we see highly selective kinetics being applied along with policies that are designed to change the battle space (gentrify) then that would seem to indicate 5GW.

    This would look a lot like Tom Barnett’s ideal Leviathan/Sys Admin dynamic.

  22. Seerov,

    Thanks for the recs! I have an overdue book at the University library I need to return first, but after that I will check out those documentaries!

    Aherring,

    Is it fair that both 0GW and 5GW are “event horizons” for xGW, with warfare more kinetically disperse than 5GW becoming politics, and warfare more kinetically intense that 0GW being impossible?

    Brent Grace

    The transformation that went on in NY in the 1990s is an interesting study in exactly where the event horizon between between 5GW and politics lies. On one hand, there were plenty of examples of the peaceful dislocation/relocation of populations brought on by gentrification. On the other hand, the policy makers in charge of NY made a conscience decision to hire thousands of additional police officers and adopt aggressive tactics to drive crime down. Assuming that Eisner’s account of his meeting with Giuliani is accurate, that would seem to suggest the possibility that the gentrification of New York occurred as part of an overall grand strategy, meaning the Giuliani administration lined up interested investors and then systematically applied tough law enforcement tactics to a given geographic area.

    A brilliant example of what is perhaps a real, documented, self-consciously executed state-within 5GW!

    Definitely worth of a book chapter, I would think! 🙂

  23. Dan,

    This is something that I am currently thinking about, so while I’m putting this comment together I’m trying to put broader concepts into words. Forgive me for being unclear or oddly worded. Also, I might later decide I’m wrong (or you or somebody else might find flaw in my reasoning) so bear with me.

    The way I am currently envisioning XGW, within the paradigm of conflict and confrontation, ‘kinetics’ (certainly) and ‘politics’ (possibly) would be expressions of Force. Depending upon the goal of the practitioner, certain kinds of Force would have different levels of utility in different situations. In 0GW kinetic Force should have a great deal of utility, but the principle behind 0 gradient doctrines is that of basic survival ability to thrive. If a political Force makes that possible a doctrine should be devised to exploit the utility of that Force. On the other end of the spectrum, 5GW probably has no great utility for kinetic Force but great utility for political Force.

    I don’t know if this is what you mean by an ‘event horizon?’

    If Force, however it is expressed, has utility, the principle guiding the doctrine that informs its use should define its gradient.

  24. Aherring,

    In 0GW kinetic Force should have a great deal of utility, but the principle behind 0 gradient doctrines is that of basic survival ability to thrive. If a political Force makes that possible a doctrine should be devised to exploit the utility of that Force. On the other end of the spectrum, 5GW probably has no great utility for kinetic Force but great utility for political Force.

    With this, however, the marginal utility of each netwon of force increases with each higher gradient. That is, 0GW has a lot of force spread out over a population, so whether or not this particular villager is left alive or killed does not really matter.

    5GW may have extremely well targeted force, however, so the difference between a death toll of 4 and 5 may be the difference between success and failure.

    This is why I keep going back to gradients as measuring the dispersal of kinetics. 5GW is tightly focused — a laser of violence. 0GW is broadly aimed — a floodlight of death.

  25. A few thoughts:

    “That is, 0GW has a lot of force spread out over a population, so whether or not this particular villager is left alive or killed does not really matter.”

    It most certainly matters to the villager! That is why use of Force at 0GW is a very personal and individual matter. I get what you mean though.

    The way I am currently conceptualizing the gradients of XGW, that dispersal of kinetic Force is mirrored by non-kinetic Force having less utility at lower gradients and more utility at higher gradients.

  26. hat dispersal of kinetic Force is mirrored by non-kinetic Force having less utility at lower gradients and more utility at higher gradients.

    Right on. I am starting in my own mind to frame it as proportion of Kinetic war to Information war.

    0GW = high K, low I
    […]
    5GW = low K, high I

  27. K should be scaled by something.. I use intensity, but even if you just say K per participant, I think it’s easy to imagine a 2GW conflict that has more K than the 3GW conflict down the road, because the combatant states are larger.

  28. If absolute information (information that has been stripped down to its barest platonic ideals) is defined as the absolute absence of kinetic power, then 5GW becomes a zero to low power killer flashlight of death. At the other end of the spectrum, 0GW becomes the absolute presence of the killer flashlight of death. All wars would fall somewhere between those 5GW and 0GW, measured by the amount of kinetic intensity. This mysterious kinetic intensity (call it ether) cannot be calculated precisely but could be gauged sufficiently to point to where the war you’re in falls in the grand scheme of things.

  29. CGW’s site going down is a real loss. He was also behind the 5GW Theory Timeline, which is also down. Hopefully it will be back up soon, but in the mean time I will miss the reference.

    J.F.,

    Generally agreed, with the clarification that kinetic intensity is not necessarily mysterious.

    One of my hopes for this edited volume on 5GW is that at least some of these debates can begin to move forward. One reason I like J.F.’s thoughts so much is that I was thinking something similar myself back in 2006 [1] 😉

    [1] http://www.tdaxp.com/archive/2006/11/02/making-a-science-of-the-generations-of-war.html

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