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.

5 thoughts on “Torture and xGW”

  1. Thanks for the link!

    You could actually make the argument that all torture takes place at 0GW, a very immediate and personal expression of kinetic force. However, the strategic consequences of the use of torture, (not the information obtained by it but the in morailty of applying it) only comes into consideration at 4GW where ideas become weapons, and at 5GW where the relationships between ideas and their context becomes paramount.

    As an expression of 5GW doctrine it wouldn’t be the act of torturing somebody that matters, but rather using the idea that somebody does or does not torture in order to manipulate the context of a situation.

  2. Arherring,

    Thanks for the comment! I like these high-level discussions

    As an expression of 5GW doctrine it wouldn’t be the act of torturing somebody that matters, but rather using the idea that somebody does or does not torture in order to manipulate the context of a situation.

    Possibly, but consider the following example

    A Fifth Gradient Organization (AFGO) wishes to impact government policy, is willing to use violence, but is too weak to wage a ‘war of ideas’ in order to convince the people or policy-makers to go along. AFGO’s spcific objective is Some Policy Change (SPC). Therefore, AFGO seeks to identify subtle mechanisms that can be set in motion using violence if necessary to accomplish SPC.

    AFGO may observe that the political space is occupied by two mutually hostile groups, Group Alpha (GroA) and Group Beta (GroB). GroA and GroB are mutually antagonistic to each other, and often use elections to influence policy for or against each other. Further, AFGO may observe that elements of GroB have suggeested that adopting SPC may help them in their efforts to contain the influence of GroA. Other elements of GroB have argued that the costs of adopting SPC would be too great, regardless of the benefits that would be gained from it.

    Therefore, AFGO selects a prominent member of GroB and tortures him in a false-flag operation in which AFGO elements appear to be GroA radicals. This shifts the balance-of-forces within GroB in favor of advocating for SPC, as they now pereceive themselves to be under outrageous threat from GroA, and so more expensive tools are justified. At that time, GroB does all the ‘hard work’ in actually organizing for electiosn, writing position papers, influencing elected officials, defending SPC for court challenges, etc.

    AFGO in this example is much smaller and weaker than either GroB or GroA. It has no ability to implement its ideas directly. However, it has subtly manipulated other acts to do the work that it is completely incapable of doing. AFGO succeeded by wisely using violence to achieve its ends.

    If this 5GW is successful, GroB will succeed in its efforts to enact SPC. Grob will remain unaware that is has been manipulated, and SPC may well be indifferent to the continuing and perhaps pointless strugles of GroA v. GroB.

  3. An interesting operational scenario and very 5GWish, however, the type of 5GW manipulation I was talking about occurs when you take AFGO’s actions a step further.

    In your scenario the false-flag operation has motivated GroB, but GroA is potentially still around to oppose GroB in regards to SPC. AFGO now has a strategic decision to make. Does AFGO still desire the confrontation between GroA and GroB? If yes, the AFGO will need to risk the opposition of GroA to SPC, maybe disrupting GroA in other subtle ways, and sometime reveal that GroA really had nothing to do with the torture. GroA may be able to recover and AFGO can still leverage to two against one another. However, if it suits AFGO to bring down GroA, or if GroA may be still capable of effectively opposing SPC in spite of further AFGO manipulation, then AFGO has created an opportunity. If AFGO continues to manipulate the context of the situation through avenues such as the media or through law enforcement and the courts (assuming this doesn’t happen regardless of AFGO’s help), to tie that act of torture not only to radical elements of GroA, but to the core organization and leadership of GroA, then GroA will be severely damaged to the point of being incapable of acting to oppose SPC and may well cease to exist as a viable organization.

    That is the kind of ideaology being tied to a negative meme that I was thinking of for 5GW. Once the link is established it is hard to break. Organizations that portray a positive image like the U.S. (or as is likely in your scenario, GroA) must guard against such negative linkages whether they commit the actions or the actions are committed in their name by false-flags or by radical/rogue elements.

  4. And really you are talking about the utility of using 4GW forces (military and political) in order to achieve certain 2nd degree and 3rd degree outcomes? Or because GroA and GroB appear to be entrenched in the 4GW mindset, then the AFGO utilizes torture to ignite the 4GW auto-response systems of those groups?

    But in this case isn’t the “5GW torture” just really 4GW torture?

    I am not buying the utility of even considering a type 5GW torture, for any description of torture itself. Instead, these ideas seem to be a reiteration of the willingness of AFGO’s or any 5GW groups to use “any means necessary” for achieving their goals. It may not play out the same way as it would for 4GW, 3GW etc., but a change in order of actuality (2nd, 3rd, 4th degree effect) does not seem sufficient for labeling the activity particularly 5GW rather than 4GW or 3GW.

  5. Aherring,

    Thank you for your comment.

    I agree that your analogy takes it a step firster. Specifically, it moves the gradient of the operation one level from 5GW to 4GW.

    A Nony Mouse,

    Nice nick! 🙂

    And really you are talking about the utility of using 4GW forces (military and political) in order to achieve certain 2nd degree and 3rd degree outcomes

    Outcomes are gradient-independenet. 5GW can be used to achieve the same outcomes with 4GW, with less labor.

    . It may not play out the same way as it would for 4GW, 3GW etc., but a change in order of actuality (2nd, 3rd, 4th degree effect) does not seem sufficient for labeling the activity particularly 5GW rather than 4GW or 3GW.

    Specifically, the “G” in “GW” tracks the diffusion of violence in an operation, so yes, it can largely be a matter of the degree (that is, the indirection) of the effects.

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