Tag Archives: 4gw

Torture and xGW

The writer’s copy of The Handbook of 5GW: A 5th Generation of War? is in limited circulation among the handbook’s contributors, so it’s a good time to highlight an excellent point by Arherring: “XGW and Torture.”

Here’s an excerpt:

4GW Torture:

4GW – Fourth gradient doctrines are based upon the principle of the attainment of a functional invulnerability that prevents the opponent from being able to orient upon a threat and creates a perception that saps the ability of the opponent to function effectively.

The use of torture at the fourth gradient is premised upon the creation of a sense of dread of the unknown in the minds of the opponent. Torture becomes a method not just of gathering information, but a weapon of fear. Used as an extreme, the opponent may have a fear of capture by the 4GW actor that prevents the opponent from orienting effectively, always considering most immediately the need to be able to escape rather than the most immediate method to execute their own doctrine. The morality of the use of torture at this gradient is ignored in the necessity of its utility to inspire fear.

5GW Torture:

5GW – Fifth gradient doctrines are based upon the principle of manipulation of the context of the observations of an opponent in order to achieve a specific effect.

Torture at the fifth gradient takes on a different aspect from the use of torture at 0GW and 4GW. At those gradients the negative moral aspect of torture is either irrelevant or used to give torture utility. For 5GW the moral aspect of torture is the most important aspect. In most  (if not all cases) 5GW is a warfare of competing ideas and ideals. At the fifth gradient the least desirable outcome is to have your ideology linked to an overwhelmingly negative meme like torture either  through your own actions, or by the manipulation of an opponent that links torture to your ideology.

A 5GW force is typically one that is too weak to win a competition of ideas and ideals, so I think Arherring’s descriptions of torture in 5GW are besides the point.  In a 5GW, the torture of a single person may be the only violence that is inflicted as part of a subtle, winning campaign.  Likewise, a 4GW campaign may be built on broadcasting an attractive ideology.  Fear may be besides the point.

Still, I like the idea of using xGW as a way to understand torture. I also like the way Arherring lumps together “torture and “enhnaced interrogation techniques.” The difference between them is a legal fiction. You either win or you don’t.  That is, you either lose or you don’t.

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.

Stephen Pampinella Reviews “Revolutionary Strategies in Early Christianity”

Major props to Stephen Pampinella, for his glowing review of Revolutionary Strategies in Early Christianity: 4th Generation Warfare (4GW) Against the Roman Empire, and the Counterinsurgency (COIN) Campaign to Save It.

Revolutionary Strategies in Early Christianity

As Stephen wrote in his review:

The best of Dan’s strategic analysis involves integrating Boyd’s PISRR steps to victory and the gendering of different aspects of war. PISRR stands for Penetrate-Isolate-Subdue/Subvert-Reorganize-Reharmonize. However, to successfully PISRR an enemy, and harmonize its existence according to one’s own strategy, it is necessary to use both male Panzers and female Soldats. Panzers crash gates, Soldats build societies. Using one without the other leaves one strategically vulnerable to further annihalation or eventual subversion. Femininity and Masculinity go hand in hand in warfare, a velvet glove to an iron fist. Christian Panzers spread the Good Word, Soldats ensured it stayed in the hearts and minds of the people. When the Empire was weak, it could switch to a Christian ideology that was already well received among the people. Thus, Christians destroyed the Roman will to resist it, as it became more rational to embrace it.

Thanks Stephen!

The window is still open for free review-copies for interested reviewers. Want one? Just comment below!

New Book on Jesus, Diocletian, 4GW, and COIN

D.M. was kind enough to join the hype-cycle for my new book, which will soon be followed on by a published version of the “John Boyd Roundtable,” edited by Mark Safranski of ZenPundit fame.

Revolutionary Strategies in Early Christianity

I wrote Revolutionary Strategies in Early Christianity: 4th Generation Warfare (4GW) Against the Roman Empire, and the Counterinsurgency (COIN) Campaign to Save It to help explain the persecution experienced by the early Christians in light of strategic theory. I believe that Romans, who martyred so many Christians, were not foolish or stupid. I think they knew what they were doing: they understood that if the Christianity triumphed, the world they knew and loved would be turned upside down.

The Romans acted according to the same basic rules that guided the Nazi fight against la Résistance in France… and the American fight against al Qaeda in Iraq.

I hope my book will be useful to those who want to begin learning about modern strategy, and for people who wish to know a little more about the rise of Christianity. From Joseph Caiaphas to the Prophet Muhammed, I describe the early enemies of Christianity as wise fighters who used strategies that now have buzzwords for names (COIN, xGW, and so on), but whose use goes back to the dawn of time.

Fierceness, Variations, and the utility of these concepts

Maximum, S. (2007). Arrows in the eagle’s claw — Chapter II, about 4GW analysis. Fabius Maximus. December 3, 2007. Available online: http://fabiusmaximus.wordpress.com/2007/12/03/arrows-in-the-eagles-claw-ii-4gw-analysts/ (from Defense and the National Interest).

Fabius Maximus (who kindly has me on his blogroll) calls for two conflicting goals in his recent post on 4GW analysis: first, he wants scientific progress on 4GW theory, and second, he wants fierce non-academic debate.

In parts of his article, Fabius appears to want a smack down brawl, a decline of community friendships, and a decrease in collaboration:

These things might result from 4GW analysis becoming over-collaborative, too congenial. The rapid development of the sciences results from the open clashing of views, often with fierce criticism between those of different views. The 4GW literature contains little of this.

Yet in other parts, Fabius holds high the banner of science as a cure for ills:

It is difficult to accurately describe a literature as large and diverse as that discussing 4GW. That being said, it seems to display some characteristics suggesting exhaustion or sterility. 4GW is a theoretical concept, only useful to the extent it generates insights for practitioners of statecraft, war, and intelligence. Otherwise it is either a hobby or an academic pursuit. The following are tendencies that seem to be appearing more frequently in discussions of 4GW.

Perhaps I am reading too much on Fabius’ words, but it seems he is calling for the development of a full-fledged field with thousands of employees and hangers-on.

If Fabius wants science to study 4GW, as some do and others do not, then we need a 4GW paradigm to guide us. This requires, among other things

a) variation to study
b) an agreement on what such a good study would look like

Such a scientific/academic program will generate significant differences between group means, practical effect sizes, and eventually links to other academic literatures. While certainly there should be disagreements, even strong disagreements, collegiality is a must if the community doesn’t fracture into incommesurable factions that just talk past each other.

Fabius also calls for useful tools to be deployed to warfighters. This is the role of an educator. It requires, among other things

a) rhetoric
b) practical experience

While scientifically/academically, xGW theory would be grown through studies analyzing variance, educationally/practically it would be spread through writing quality and utility.

These are both good goals. But Fabius appears to jump between them, attacking and embracing them in kind. Fabius should choose between his goals, or acknowledge that both are desired. Otherwise, it is hard to know what he means.

Pre-Modern Wars on a Pre-Modern Continent

Jackson, P. (2007). Are Africa’s Wars Part of a Fourth Generation of Warfare?, Contemporary Security Policy, 28:2, 267 – 285. DOI: 10.1080/13523260701489826 Available online: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/13523260701489826

Steve Pampinella, a friend of this blog, sent me a link to a very solid article, which wonders of the African Wars should be considered as part of the fourth generation of modern war (4GW). First some excerpts from the conclusion, and then my thoughts:

All of these wars exhibit characteristics that would seem to fit 4GW theory, including chaotic modes of warfare, looting, atrocities against civilians, and cultural approaches to power. However, there is significant evidence that African wars follow pre-colonial patterns of warfare, not new patterns, and that conflict in Africa has taken on a number of additional, modern characteristics including the use of modern weaponry and media and communications

In terms of policy, what an application of 4GW to Africa shows is that any approach to conflict resolution must be far broader than a military approach, and must take into account cultural and socio-political approaches…

The 4GW theoretical model of the evolution of warfare may not be applicable to Africa in the same way that it may or may not be applicable to Europe, but it does highlight the idea that African wars are exhibiting similar processes to those currently seen in different asymmetric wars.

The short answer is No, the African wars are not 4GW. The African wars tend not to be state-centered, but that is because they are before-the-state, not after-the-state.

Africa’s wars are pre-modern wars, or “0GW.” Simply put, the continent of Africa is too backwards when it comes to organization to indigineously host the sort of wars that the rest of the world takes for granted. Part of the reason for Africa’s inability to organizer higher generational (and less bloddy) wars is clearly cultural: a destroyed cultural infrastructure in one generation hardly helps the next! Another is bioneurological: the low intelligence of African populations due to malnutrition, disease, etc. But whatever the cause, referring to the pre-modern African wars as “4GW” demonstrates a poor understanding of both Africa and 4GW.

The Generations of War without the Jargon

Since the emergence of the modern warfare, four “generations of warfare” have been identified. The first generation, or 1GW, emphasizes concentration-of-soldiers. The most famous 1GW was the Napoleonic Wars, where the commander who could throw the most soldiers at the decisive point would in the war. The second generation, or 2GW, emphasizes concentration-of-force. The most famous 2GW was the western front of World War I, where the force that could concentrate the most artillery and explosive power at one point could win the day. Both 1GW and 2GW are made possible by reducing your fog of war, so that you know where your soldiers (1GW) or artillery (2GW) should go.

The third generation, or 3GW, emphasizes maneuver. The most famous 3GW was the German Blitz against France in 1940, where the force that could break through and carry the commander’s intent would win the day. The fourth generation, or 4GW, emphasis networks. The most famous 4GW were the Communist insurgencies in Asia, where the force that could alienate the population from the other side through unconventional means would prevail in the end. Both 3GW and 4GW are made possible by maximizing your enemy’s fog of war, so he is unable to properly command his troops (3GW) or rely on his population (4GW).

The fifth generation of modern warfare, or 5GW, is more speculative. It is assumed that as each generation of modern warfare “goes deeper” into the enemy’s social thinking (from where he concentrates soldiers, to where he prepares for an artillery barrage, to how he springs back from a blitz that seems to come from everywhere, to what he does when faced with insurgents who kill the tax collector), 5GW will go deeper yet. As each higher generation of war looks less like “traditional” war than the generation before it, it has been argued that 5GW will not even appear to be a “war” at all…

Widley Accepted Facts of 4G Warfare

Shannon Love of the Chicago Boyz has started an interesting series of exegeses on fourth generation warfare (see his posts on state-sponsorship and the existence of central directives). Shannon’s clearly a good writer, and knows what he’s talking about.

Too bad he dresses it up in nonsensical “myths” rhetoric.

Still, his first post seems to have been only in February, so hopefully Shannon will be able to use more constructive rhetoric in discussing the generational model of warfare as he gains experience with the medium of the blogosphere.

Orientation and Action, Introduction: On War Since John Boyd

Patterns of Conflict,” by John Boyd, edited by Chuck Spinney and Chet Edwards, Defense in the National Interest, Boyd’s last edition, December 1986, PowerPoint edition, 27 February 2005, http://www.tdaxp.com/archive/2005/05/23/john_r_boyd_s_patterns_of_conflict_brief.html.
Unto the Fifth Generation of War,” by Mark Safranski, ZenPundit, 17 July 2005, http://zenpundit.blogspot.com/2005/07/unto-fifth-generation-of-war.html.

The Generations of War in the Context of the OODA Loop

Whether you view reality as land, or as a sea, or even a mystical body, one thing is clear: you exist with it.

More specifically, you can effect the world and the world can effect you. Action flows from you to the world, and information flows from the world to you. Whether you kick a rock, pet a dog, or eat a snack, the your flow of action and the world’s flow of information make life what it is.

This is true no matter what you are. If you are a fighter, process remains the same. The fighter acts on the world, and the world blowbacks to the fighter. Blowback is the residue — the only thing that remains — of the fighter’s action after the action. A happy and lucky fighter gets easy and pleasant blowback. Fighters to choose poorly have less pleasant experiences.

The above three charts show the individual and the world as entities, and the lines are their relations. The graphics are called Entity-Relation, or E-R diagrams, and are commonly used to understand databases.

Another way to look at things is with flowcharts. Let’s take a look at the same fighter / world system, but with flowcharts. Here, a process called “fighting” effects a direct access storage device called the “world.”

Remember, this is exactly the same thing as before:

But what is this fighting? What sub-processes make up this process called “fighting”? Or for that matter, what sub-processes make up the process we called “being human”?

Air Force Colonel John Boyd invented something he called a “decision loop,” made up of four sub-processes called “observing,” “orienting,” “deciding,” and “acting.” While his original graphic was rather ugly, we can expand our “fighting-world” flow-chart to show his decision loop:

Or, even better:

Because the four stages start with O, O, D, and A, the decision loop is sometimes called an “OODA” loop. In the model…

  • We observe reality. We take that observation and make sense of it. We oriented new things we see against what we already think we know.
  • After we oriented new facts, we may go back into observing. This may happen if we are confused, or we just want to “wait and see.” Alternatively, we might decide what to do.
  • When we make decisions, two things happen. Obviously, the first thing is that we observe that we made a decision. We might then orient that with thinking that our decisions have often been bad, and paralyze ourselves with doubt.
  • The other thing that happens when we make a decision is we go on and act. Action effects the world, like when we chase a cat or rob a bank. Actions are implicitly guided by our orientation too. For example, you go through the entire OODA loop to decide to walk to the store, but many individual actions (how to move your legs to walk) are guided by your orientation without any decision to do so.


With this introduction of John Boyd’s out of the war, read on to see how it explains the many generations of modern war…

Orientation and Action, a tdaxp series
1. The OODA Loop
2. The OODA-PISRR Loop

The Importance of 5GW

America cannot win a 4GW — a long-term war of ideas — because she will betray herself first. Within a generation of the enslavement of Europe and China to Stalinism, arrogant American liberals combined with comforatble American leftists to do their best to defeat American action in the Vietnam War, and make South-East Asia safe for Communism.

If history repeats itself, or at least rhymes, within a generation of 9/11 active support of al Qaeda inspired movements should be fashionable on college campuses.

The reason that this treasonous behavior is more common among the left and the right is pretty clear: left-of-center politics is centered around the ideas such as “society should speak with more than one voice.” As long as one system is powerful — and America’s system is powerful, because it serves her citizens and her own future needs very well — the leftism distrust of authority will lead many of them to support whatever movement seems most able to destablize the established order.

As a method of defending our country, 4GW is passe.

While America cannot win a 4GW, she can win a 5GW — a war of hidden movements. America won the Cold War because, in spite of losing popular support for the struggle against Communism, she created institutions that kept the war going regardless of the will of the people or most political leaders. The Military-Industrial complex that gave America the ability to fight a world war long after the intellectual elite had despaired over nuclear “victory” was central to success.

To win this Long War against al Qaeda and her friends, we have to fight a 5GW. We have to build a Military-Industrial complex for fighting all Qaeda — what one might call a “Military-Industrial-Systems Administration-Complex” after the work of Thomas P.M. Barnett — long after political will has evaporated. We need an iron triangle of bureaucrats, contractors, and Congressmen to support the war out of reasons that have nothing to do with ideology, or else we will lose this war once the ideological pendulum has swung.

In a recent post, Dr. Barnett points out that there are now more contractors than soldiers in Iraq. This is a good sign, but not good enough. Future wars must be fought by locals, by private contractors, and others who are not motivated by ideology. That’s the way 5th Generation Wars are won. That’s the way the 5GW against al Qaeda will be won.

I’ve written three major posts on the 5th Generation of Modern Warfare

Additionally, there is an excellent blog dedicated to 5GW theory, named Dreaming 5GW after my original post, that I suggest that all check out.