Tag Archives: generations of war

Categorization and the Nature of Science

Does the Core and the Gap exist? That is, does a generally well-off realm known as the Functioning Core contain goods associated with globalization (wealth, peace, etc), while a realm known as the Non-Integrating Gap lack these goods?

Mountainrunner, surprisingly, appears to say the answer is no. While he does not say so directly, he notes that (in general) anything that exists in the Gap exists within the Core, and vice versa. In response to my claim that the assassination of former Pakistani Prime Minister Bhutto is not surprising because it happened in the Gap, Mountainrunner wrote:

My point is this: this is about violence and death and ideology that is not specific to Islamists or the Gap. Heads of state were targeted. The IRA reminded Thatcher they only needed to be lucky once, she needed to be lucky all the time. Italy, Greece, Hungry, etc. Take your pick and you’ll find attacks on leadership.

A similar mistake is made by those who deny the existence of “race,” or often the “generations of warfare:” a misunderstanding about what categories are.

Categories are not Platonic ideals, true forms that are immutable through time and space. Categories allow us to explain variance. That is, a categorization is useful if categories within it correlate with clusters in frequencies of some traits. Consider again the Core and the Gap. There are rich people in the Gap, and poor people in the Core. There are those with IPTV in the Gap, and those without electricity in the core. For that matter, there are gang rapes in Darfur and gang rapes in Dallas.

But the terms “Core” and “Gap” really do explain variation in these things. Don’t believe it? Run the numbers yourself. The same is true with regard to race, and my assumption is that the same is true with regards to the generation of war.

Objecting to the Core/Gap categorization because you can cite assassinations in Core countries is like objecting to the concept of race because you know some East Asians who drink milk. (Because I am unaware of any large dataset on war that’s been used to test xGW theory, sadly we’re still in the realm of mixed methods when it comes to the generations of war.)

The moral of the story: categories explain variation. That does not mean they explain all variation. That does not mean they are supposed to.

Anything else is just… unscientific.

Also on the web: Against xGW, for William Lind? On another aspect of Mountainrunner’s post.

The Generations of War: Not emerging, but always present

Question: When did the generations of war was the first 1GW? 2GW? 3GW? 4GW? 5GW? And when will the next generation emerge?

Answer: Before the beginning of history. And it never will, because (if it exists) it is already here.

The generations of war do not spontaneously appear in history at some certain date. It is not like reality obeys the dictates of teleological dialectical idealism and that some grand Synthesis can only appear once a Thesis has met its Antithesis. It’s like not 5GW can only appear after 4GW has been rigorously described.

Rather, each generation of war is a method, a technology, of enforcing ones will on others. Mao is often described as the Ur-Father of 4GW, but there’s a good argument to be made that Jesus and Paul deserve that title, too. I would not be surprised if future examination of ancient Chinese writing reveal 4GW thousands of years ago, either.

Question: In a state-directed 5GW, a state-within blossoms into a state-beyond. During the Cold War, the state-within centered around President Truman blossomed into a state-beyond centered around the Military-Industrial-MILC-Complex (MILC). If, in this Long War, a Military-Industrial-Sysadmin-Complex (MISC) blossums, will it look similar to the MILC? Will it look like an iron triangle?

Answer: Yes.

Human nature does not change. While people vary from time to time and place to place in intelligences, in preferences, in talents, and abilities, one rule up the behavior of all normal-functioning people:

“They love their families more than they love you.”

Why do doctors run unnecessary tests? Why do Congressmen love pork? Why do drug dealers distribute low-quality goods? Because each has responsibilities to an in-group (which you are not part of) more pressing than serving you and whatever out-group of which you are a member.

This is why every generation do not “emerge” through the centuries — because human nature does not “emerge” through the centuries. While different organizations may be more or less likely to employ this or that generation in order to enforce their will, every generational is theoretically employable. Now, a population with low average intelligence and low social complexity may be very unlikely to to employ 5GW, but this is just as true whether that population lives thirty centuries ago or thirty years from now. The Iron Triangle of the Military-Industrial-Complex manipulates actions by altering the environment where love is practiced: the triangle works because on every side, its functioning is determined by its members love for themselves and their families, not their love for some higher ideal.

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

Orientation and Action, Part II: The OODA-PISRR Loop

The Observe-Orient-Decide-Act (OODA) loop of John Boyd is not only a model of human cognition.

It is also useful in aligning the generations of modern war within the framework of human cognition

Likewise, the broader Observe-Orient-Decide-Act/Penetrate-Isolate-Subvert-Reorient-Reharmonize Social loop is not only a model of social cognition

ooda_pisrr_09

It is also useful in aligning the kinetic intensity within the framework of social cognition

waveform_one

Both of these findings can be synthesized by viewing the generations of modern war within the framework of social cognition.

Consider that the second generation of modern war (2GW), based on concentrate of firepower, is the strong-suit of the state in war. Likewise, consider that the fourth generation of modern war (4GW), based on idealogical coherency, is the strong-suit of the insurgent in war.

From this we can place the third generation of modern war (3GW), based on mobility, in between the state’s and the insurgent’s spheres of influence.

And this makes sense. In Patterns of Conflict, John Boyd describes maneuver warfare as “blitz/guerrilla.”

(One might just as easily as say “Global Guerrilla / Panzer General“)

There are two remaining generations of modern war, and both fall outside the realms of the state and non-state. The first generation (1GW), built on total mobilization, was designed for states able to conscript a large fraction of the male population but unable to communicate effectively enough to effective combine firepower. Thus we place 1GW to the left of 2GW, as belonging to an actor which we would describe as a state… almost. (Compare the workings of Napoleonic France to that of a modern state to see how a 1G “state” falls short.)

Likewise, place the fifth generation of modern warfare (5GW) to the right of 4GW. 5GW is the domain of non-states… almost. When a 5GW is used by a state, it’s actually the province of a “state within” that acts as an internal insurgency. The Military-Industrial-Complex devised by President Truman is the work of such a 5GW conspiracy-within-the-state.


Blue Circle encompasses the Realm of the State
Red Circle encompasses the Realm of the Non-State

The take-away from this visualization is as follows:

  • each ‘higher’ generation of war is less kinetically intense than the one before it.
  • Further, states tend to be victorious in areas where intensity is high but not overwhelming — between 2GW and 3GW.
  • At the same time, non-states tend to be victorious at low but not underwhelming kinetic intensity — between 3GW and 5GW.
  • Finally, 1GW and 5GW fall outside the realms of both the state and the non-state, and into the lands of the proto-state and the state-within.

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

Orientation and Action, Part I: The OODA Loop

Our OODA loop helps us know where warfare is headed. Modern warfare is usually divided into the four generations of 1st Generation Warfare (1GW), 2nd Generation Warfare (2GW), 3rd Generation Warfare (3GW), and 4th Generation Warfare (4GW).


Modern War in the Context of the OODA Loop
  • 1GW
    • example: Napoleonic War
    • characteristic: mass armies
    • method of fighting: man-to-man
  • 2GW
    • example: First World War
    • characteristic: mass armies
    • method of fighting: fixed-artillery-to-men
  • 3GW
    • example: Second World War
    • characteristic: blitzkrieg, fast transitions from one maneuver to the next
    • method of fighting: tanks/bombers-to-cities/armies
  • 4GW
    • example: Vietnam War
    • characteristic: dispiriting the enemy
    • method of fighting: propagandists-to-populations

In a recent post where he tries to look ahead to what the 5th Generation of Warfare (5GW) would be, Mark Safranski writes

A strong possibility exists that given successive generations of warfare tend to drive ” deeper” into enemy territory, that 5GW will mean systemic liquidation of enemy networks and their sympathizers, essentially a total war on a society or subsection of a society. There is no where ” deeper” for 5GW to go but here. At the high tech end 5GW would be precisely targeted to winnow out ” the bad guys” in a souped-up version of Operation Phoenix but at the low-tech end we could see campaigns that would be indiscriminate, democidally-oriented death squad campaigns that shred 4GW networks by the same actuarially merciless logic that led the Allies to firebomb German and Japanese cities in WWII.

War is going deeper, but by that I do not mean “farther into enemy territory.” Certainly you can’t get any deeper than obliteration of Dresden or Hiroshima! For that matter, centuries ago Catholic terrorists tried to destroy the British Parliament, which was the deepest heart of the British government!

War is going deeper into enemy minds. Every generation of warfare aims for deeper in the enemy’s OODA loop

1GWs, like the Napoleon Wars, were extremely fluid. Armies could march whenever men’s feet could carry them. Information was relatively symmetrical — precise locations of either army were unavailable to any commander, while general knowledge of the land was known to all commanders. (Napoleonic “disinformation” was trivial compared to what was later devised.) Another feature of the Napoleon Wars was the army’s need to live off the land. 1GW was defined by conflict centered around an enemy’s ability to decide and act.

Aim Destroy enemy army

Visually:

2GWs, like the First World War, were sticky. Armies took marched, drove, or took trains to the front line — where they stopped. In 2nd Generation War, action is easy: charge. You know exactly where you are, exactly where the enemy is, and exactly where you are going to die (in the razorwire and minefield, hit by enemy crossfire). Thanks to telegraphs and modern communications, commanders are flooded with a tsunami of almost meaningless facts. Thinking now centers around where and when it makes sense to try to break through, as well as the how to move to advance evenly. This means that the heart of conflict “moves deeper” into the OODA loop. Another way to think of it is like a rainbow or spectrum, where the heart of conflict is “redshifting” away from acting. 2GW was defined by conflict centered around an enemy’s ability to orient and decide.

Offensives conducted on wide frontages—emphasizing few, rather than many, harmonious yet independent thrusts.

Evenness of advance maintained to protect flanks and provide artillery support as advance makes headway.

Visually:

3GWs, like the trenches for most of the Second World War or the Lawrence of Arabia campaign in the First World War, were fluid again. But conflict kept burrowing deeper into the OODA loop and redshifting further away from action. Victory in 3rd Generation Wars required the ability to instill madness — to mess with the enemy’s minds. The purpose of 3rd Generation Warfare is to paralyze the enemy with doubt. We move even deeper into the OODA loop, to the red end of the rainbow. 3GW is defined by conflict centered around an enemy’s ability to orient.

Taken together, the captured attention, the obscured view, and the indistinct character of moving dispersed/irregular swarms deny adversary the opportunity to pictures what is taking place.

and

Gain support of population. Must “arrange the minds” of friend, foe and neutral alike. Must “get inside their minds”.

Visually:

If older generations of war were like fluids, 4GW was like a gas. It spreads everywhere yet regular armies have a hard time even finding battles. Like 3rd Generation Wars, 4th Generation Wars focus on the picture inside the enemy’s head. But while 3GW tries to destroy the picture, 4GW builds a new one. This picture is built in that part of the OODA loop where people “wait and see,” the double-headed arrow between Observe and Orient. While 3GW tries to paralyze the enemy with doubt, 4GW tries to deny him even that much — 4GW drains the will of the enemy so he “waits and sees,” robbing him of his ability to want to do anything. In practice, this means 4GW tries to destroy an enemy’s civil society, turning his population into mindless cowards. To achieve this, 4GW is defined by conflict centered around Observe and Orient.

John Boyd’s words on the tactics of “moral warfare,” an important part of 4GW:

Create, exploit, and magnify … uncertainty

Impressions, or atmosphere, generated by events that appear ambiguous, erratic, contradictory, unfamiliar, chaotic, etc.

and…

Surface, fear, anxiety, and alienation in order to generate many non-cooperative centers of gravity, as well as subvert those that adversary depends upon, thereby magnify internal friction.

Visually:

So if these patterns hold, what will 5GW look like?

Visually, like this

The 4th Generation of War redshifts deeper into the OODA loop. It slides into the “Observation” realm. If traditional war centered on an enemy’s physical strength, and 4GW on his moral strength, the 5th Generation of War would focus on his intellectual strength. A 5th Generation War might be fought with one side not knowing who it is fighting. Or even, a brilliantly executed 5GW might involve one side being completely ignorant that there ever was a war. It’s like the old question of what was the perfect robbery: we will never know, because in a perfect robbery the bank would not know that it was robbed.

In his post, Mark Safranski noted that 4GW was around for decades its nature was recognized.

William Lind, one of the fathers of 4GW theory has welcomed yet cautioned against attempts to ascertain with too much precision any outlines of a 5th Generation Warfare that might be evolving within the dynamic of 4GW conflicts we see in Iraq, Afghanistan and in transnational terrorism. Yet according to theorists and practitioners of 4GW like Colonel Hammes, that form of warfare, although just now coming in to its own has already been present for some seventy years ! Undoubtedly then 5GW is also here with us, waiting for the next Mao or Rommel to fit the disparate puzzle pieces into a coherent pattern.

This means that, in their pragmatic attempts to solve problems, both al Qaeda and the United States might be using aspects of 5GW right now. Where will historians of the future look to see aspects of a secret war? Of a war centered on ignorance?

The 9/11 Commission

Al Qaeda’s new brand of terrorism presented challenges to U. S. governmental institutions that they were not well-designed to meet. Though top officials all told us that they understood the danger, we believe there was uncertainty among them as to whether this was just a new and especially venomous version of the ordinary terrorist threat the United States had lived with for decades, or it was indeed radically new, posing a threat beyond any yet experienced. As late as September 4, 2001, Richard Clarke, the White House staffer long responsible for counterterrorism policy coordination, asserted that the govern-ment had not yet made up its mind how to answer the question: “Is al Qida a big deal?”

A week later came the answer. Policy Terrorism was not the overriding national security concern for the U. S. government under either the Clinton or the pre-9/ 11 Bush administration.

The policy challenges were linked to this failure of imagination

President Bush:

Our response involves far more than instant retaliation and isolated strikes. Americans should not expect one battle, but a lengthy campaign, unlike any other we have ever seen. It may include dramatic strikes, visible on TV, and covert operations, secret even in success. We will starve terrorists of funding, turn them one against another, drive them from place to place, until there is no refuge or no rest. And we will pursue nations that provide aid or safe haven to terrorism. Every nation, in every region, now has a decision to make. Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists. From this day forward, any nation that continues to harbor or support terrorism will be regarded by the United States as a hostile regime.


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

Fourth Generation War Is Not Pre-Modern War

Trolling the Blogosphere,” by William Rice, Dawn’s Early Light, 8 May 2005, http://dawnsearlylight.blogs.com/del/2005/05/trolling_the_bl.html.

Bill at DEL read my “Full Spectrum Struggle” post and added

Dan over at tdaxp discusses network-centric warfare (NCW) and 4th Generation Warfare (4GW) here. My question to Dan is while he believes the US does poorly with 4GW in Vietnam, Somalia and Lebanon, what about Afghanistan and Iraq?

The short answer: we lucked out.

The medium answer: It’s too soon to know for sure, but it does look like we are winning. In both Afghanistan and Iraq we shifted the fight from a fourth-generation struggle to a pre-modern struggle. We win pre-modern struggles. Always.

The long answer:

As I blogged before, Fourth Generation movements use violent ideological net-struggle. They are flat peer-to-peer networks that are resilient against decapitation attacks. A 4GWnet looks like

medium_diagram_4gp.jpg

The reason that CIA Director George Tenet told President George Bush that al Qaeda would survive bin Laden’s assassination is because it is true: in 4GW the movement is much more than the sum of its parts. Fourth-Generation Wars often last decades, beyond the fighting life of almost all of its members.

We have never won a fourth generation war. We lose them every time. This is why we need to focus on that sort of warfare a lot more than we are.

But guess what? There is something that is so similar to 4GW that even I confused the two. It is Pre-Modern War, and it looks like this:

medium_diagram_pmp_sm.jpg

When I described PMW’s peaceful cousin, Pre-Modern Politics (PMP), I wrote

PMP is sometimes not included because it is barely politics as we recognize it. Unlike modern politics it is not organized for a belief, ideology, party, or even candidate — there is no “point” to a PMP network other than the PMP network itself. PMP networks are familial networks, The only way to directly increase a familial network is to increase the number of children, though “permanent” alliances can be forged with other nets through marriages.

In both Afghanistan and Iraq we forced the enemy to move from 4GW to PMW tactics. We forced the enemy to lose.

In Afghanistan, this was easy. By 2001 most of the “Taliban” were just warriors and their kind. Afghanistan was well into transition to PMP anyway. America’ adept use at tribal politics — allying with Uzbek and Tajik forces while appointing a charismatic Pashtun as leader — cemented the shift.

Iraq is harder. Abu Zarqawi understands what he is doing. By trying to create a civil war he is attempting to use PMW for his own ends. But Zarqawi misunderstands American strengths — while the U.S. hosts a powerful Left that is willing to betray state allies for its own ends, the U.S. is made to fight Pre-Modern struggles.

We are better at PMW then Zarqawi. When we disbanded the Iraqi Army, when we stopped payments to Ba’ath loyalist tribes, when we de-Ba’athed the countries, we instinctively prepared for a Pre-Modern War on our terms.

From Tippecanoe to Wounded Knee America was baptized in Pre-Modern War. The same tactics which hurt us so much in 4GW — Abu Gharibs and Mai Lais — work wonders in PMW. In 4GW massacres and humiliations weakens political will and helps the insurgents. Such deeds strengthen 4GW nets. In PMW humiliating elders (network supernodes) and killing women and children (exposing the network’s administrators as incompetent in protecting their own) helps. Such acts destroy PMW nets from the inside.

Today, in many ways, we are re-fighting the Indian Wars. My home state saw a bitter multi-angled contest between the Ojibwe (who were ethnically cleansed by the Sioux), white settlers (also ethnically cleansed by the Sioux), the Dakota Sioux (who, after ethnically cleansing the white settlers, reached an amicable peace by turning against their Lakota Sioux brothers), and the Lakota Sioux (exiled to hellish reservations by the U.S. Cavalry).

But we are also fighting Fourth Generation Wars against violent Islamism. The tactics which help us win the New Indian Wars against thugs help us lose the Ideological Net-Wars against the bin Ladens.

And at the same time, we may soon be fighting Fourth Generation Politics against peaceful Islamism.

We live in a complicated world.

Definition of 4GW

Fourth Generation Warfare (4GW),” by Greg Wilcox and G.I. Wilson, Boyd Conference, http://d-n-i.net/fcs/pdf/4GW_wilson-wilcox_boyd_conf_2002.pdf, 20 May 2002.

4GW – Fourth Generation Warfare,” by John Robb, Global Guerillas, http://globalguerrillas.typepad.com/globalguerrillas/2004/05/4gw_fourth_gene.html, 8 May 2004.

Two posts, two different perspectives, on Fourth Generation Warfare. The freakishly anti-American John Robb, and the definition-of-American Defense and the Natural Interest, both have posts describing 4GW. If it wasn’t for Mark I would not even recognize the name “Boyd,” so this is clarifying for me too.

Definition
4GW can be defined as a method of warfare that uses the following to achieve a moral victory:

* Undermines enemy strengths (this may seem obvious, but most of modern warfare has involved direct attacks on enemy strengths — find the enemy army and destroy it).
* Exploits enemy weaknesses.
* Uses asymmetric operations (weapons and techniques that differ substantially from opponents).

The strategic/operational/tactical breakdown

• Strategic
– Loss of nation state’s monopoly on war
– A return to a world of cultures and states in conflict
– Internal segmentation/division along ethnic, religious, and special
interest lines within our own society
• Operational
– Seeks major psychological impact (will to fight, public opinion)
– Disproportionate results to investment
• Tactical
– Shift in focus from enemy’s front to his rear
– Use the enemy’s strength against him

4GW is an evolution of what came before

Generations of Warfare
The generational development of warfare can be outlined as:

* First generation — wars of Napoleon, conscription and firearms (the decline of mercenaries).
* Second generation — the US civil war and WW1, firepower and nation-state alignment of resources to warfare.
* Third generation — WW2, maneuver and armored warfare.
* Fourth generation — ad hoc warriors and moral conflict.

The Boyd Conference report puts things more clearly

• 1GW = Age of Napoleon
• 2GW = Age of Firepower
• 3GW = Age of Maneuver and Ideas
• 4GW = Small Independent Action Cells

GG gives a summary of how to “win” fourth generation wars (at least for the other side)

Winning a 4GW conflict
Victory in 4GW warfare is won in the moral sphere. The aim of 4GW is to destroy the moral bonds that allows the organic whole to exist — cohesion. This is done by reinforcing the following (according to Boyd):

* Menace. Attacks that undermine or threaten basic human survival instincts.
* Mistrust. Increases divisions between groups (ie. conservatives and liberals in the US).
* Uncertainty. Undermine economic activity by decreasing confidence in the future.

DNI cites Boyd’s original paper

Idea
• Surface fear, anxiety, and alienation in order to generate many non-cooperative centers of gravity thereby magnify internal friction

AIM
Destroy moral bonds that permit an organic whole to exist.

What can we do?

To combat 4GW requires coordinated response
– Political
– Military
– Economic
– Social
– Religious?

What are the moral problems with this? (Open question)