Definition of 4GW

Fourth Generation Warfare (4GW),” by Greg Wilcox and G.I. Wilson, Boyd Conference,, 20 May 2002.

4GW – Fourth Generation Warfare,” by John Robb, Global Guerillas,, 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.

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

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

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)