Tag Archives: xgw

How Science Works in the Context of 5GW

Larry’s post, “How Science Works,” is definitely a blog post to read with a “shot of tequila” — very thoughtful, but full of unexpected connections

The Carter Doctrine keeps everything “foreign” out of the Middle East, except the implicit image of the Nation State to Observe.

The coolest thing, of course, is that this is all reaction of a line of mine…

I don’t believe that we are educating Americans appropriately. Large portions of critical industries are in the hands of foreigners because of the failures of US education. These failures are deep and systematic — all stakeholders share blame — but must be addressed.

… from a comment on my post, also titled “How Science works.” And even cooler, this recalls my work from 2005, on looking at 5GW in the context of the OODA Loop

Thanks Larry!

Afghanistan in 2050: The Long Type of Time

The American victory in Afghanistan would be short lived, owing to the efforts of the progressives. The stable, secure, and democratic Afghanistan inaugurated by President Obama was soon undermined by activists to his left. The Karzai government was unable to acquire the weapon systems that it needed to defend itself, and was soon swept away in all but name. To this day, the Afghanistan War is a lesson of the hollowness of military victory when the enemy has already infiltrated the nation’s capital.
The Story of the United States, 1776-2026, Beck Academic Books.

American imperialism ran aground in Afghanistan, like it ran aground in Vietnam two generations before. Attempts by the globo-capitalists in the Obama Administration to subjugate the Afghan people quickly backfired, as popular movements swept across the countryside. Of course, given Afghanistan’s unique history, many of these movements garbed themselves in the robe of the religion that is native to the region. The enormous might of the military-industrial complex was once again unable to overcome the will of the people– both American and Afghani — for peace.
The American People: Triumphs and Tragedies, the Yearly Kos Press.

The Shanghai Economic Friendship Association was first formed as the Shanghai Five in 1996, as a way for China build friendships with our neighbors. The group was renamed the Shanghai Cooperation Organization after Uzbekistan joined, though Uzbekistan would not be the last new member! Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Turkmenistan also soon wished to join, and the Shanghai Economic Friendship Association was born. The SEFA is now an “economic, monetary, and political union,” in which all members work together to harmonize their economics while avoiding conflict or misunderstandings. Peace-keepers from SEFA have proven critical for the prevention of conflict in Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, and other countries.
Asia: A Political Geography, Peking University Press.

“…we stayed a long, long time
to see you
to meet you
to see you
at last.”
– Sufjan Stevens, In the Devil’s Territory

There are several types of time. There is a short time, where events will begin after some action. In a short time, a man might buy a lottery ticket, and discovery that he is now rich. There is a medium time, where events will begin after a series of actions. A might cut up our credit cards, as a solution to his lottery addiction that will last a medium-amount of time, until he changes his mind and applies for new cards. There is a long time, in which a man’s medium time patterns keep repeating until something fundamentally changes. And there is a long, long time, after which it feels like the world has ended.

It is human nature to want all good things to being in a short time, and for bad things not till happen until a long, long time. In general, a more intelligent man will think more about what is good for a long time than a medium time, and a less intelligent man will think about what is good for a short time than a medium time.

The four types of time are relevant to understanding security. A battle can be won in a short time. Military solutions are short time solutions. Elections can be won in a medium time. Political solutions are medium time solutions. Wealth is built over a long time. Economic processes are long time processes. And the terrain changes of a long, long time. (There is human terrain and physical terrain, the former being more important than the latter.)

The four types of time can be understood through the xGW framework. In the xGW framework, violence is understood through one of six gradients. A 0GW conflict is a genocide, a war of people against people. A 1GW conflict is the the creation of a trained and armed class of fights. A 2GW conflict introduces capital as a substitute of labor, whether in the form of arrows or cannons. In a 3GW conflict the goal is no longer to destroy the enemy, but merely to disrupt his operations through formless fast transients. 4GW narrowly targets violence so that for most of the struggle the conflict is a political campaign aimed at splintering the opposition. 5GW focuses death even more closely, perhaps only on one individual, and may never be noticed at all.

The six gradients of conflict map onto the four types of time. 1GW, 2GW, and 3GW, falling within the traditional understanding of war, are clearly tactics made for winning in the short time. 4GW, falling within the traditional understanding of politics, is obviously a tactic meant for winning in the medium time. 5GW, as a method for silently creating social realities to force an enemy into doing as you wish, is naturally an economics-based approach. The gradients of war then circle around, as 0GW, a brute-force method of changing the human terrain, is a way of speeding of a change that normally would take a long-long time into a short-term solution.

This roundtable asks what Afghanistan will be like in 2050, forty years after these posts are written. Forty years is the difference between 1945 (when Emperor Hirohito of Japan surrendered to the Allies) and 1985 (three years before Emperor Hirohito would stop going to the Yasukuni Shrine, where some Japanese war-criminals are interred). Forty years is the difference between 1959 (two years after Deng Xiaoping was named being named General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party ) and 1989 (when Deng Xiaoping ordered the crack-down against pro-democracy protestors in Tiananmen Square). Forty years is the difference between 1944, Menachem Begin’s declaration of revolt against Britain, and 1984, the year after Begin left office as the Prime Minister of Israel.

In other words, forty years is no long, long time at all.

Neither is forty years a short time, though. A problem that lasts forty years is too long to be solved by the military. And neither is it a medium time. A problem that lasts forty years is too long to be solved even by the politicians.

Forty years is definitely a long type of time. Forty years is ruled not by armies or politics or geography, but by economics. Therefore, in order to understand Afghanistan in 2050, we can dispose of wars and politics. Battles will be won and lost, deals will be made and broken. Unless there is unusually brilliant or unusually atrocious individuals in power, the results of these things even out over time. Likewise, we cannot expect any meaningful change to the terrain in only 40 years. The Hindu Kush and Pamir Mountains will still be there, and the people will still be Muslim.

The physical and human terrain of Afghanistan mean that the largest industries in Afghanistan will be natural resource extraction. This will be true for a long time, whether the optimistic projections of specific surveys come true or not. The physical and human terrain of Afghanistan’s neighbors mean that the largest market for Afghanistan’s extractive industries in China. This will also be true for a long time. Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan are too small, Iran is an extractive supporter itself, and India is separated from Pakistan by inhospitable terrain — the Hindu Kush mountains and the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.

We will wait a long time to see Afghanistan in 2050. Fortunately, we already know the important outline of Afghanistan in 2050: in will be a natural resource exporting satellite of China. To the extent that U.S. strategy accounts for this fact, there will be less mayhem. To the extent it does not, there will be more. But absent unusually good or unusually atrocious leadership, this outcome is inevitable.

The Long Type of Time is part of the Afghanistan 2050 Roundtable. Be sure to also read The Exit Strategy Fantasy and Looking Back from 2050.

Definitions and Understandings

Major props to Joseph Fouche of the Committee on Public Safety, for a series of great visualizations of the Generations of Modern War, xGW, and other buzzword-heavy systems that are popular around here.

The most humorous:


The most thought-provoking:


Joseph’s excellent visualizations made me think of the definition of “Core” or “Functioning Core,” which Tom Barnett adopted from Immanuel Wallerstein to describe those countries at the heart of the global capitalist system.

Tom’s previously given three different definitions for the term, and in the glossary to his new book, Great Powers, offers a fourth.

Readers of my blog know that my definition is different yet, as seen (among other places) in this visualization:


Is there a definition of functioning core around that would allow us to make predictions about whether specific states where inside or outside? Tom once gave an operationalized description, but I think that one is closer to describing states that happen to be rich than states that are interconnected.

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.

John Boyd and “4GW”: GMW and xGW Approaches

Curtis has an amazing piece that starts out on the difference between GMW (the “4GW” of William Lind) and xGW (the 0GW,1GW,2GW,3GW,4GW,5GW work that’s been done online). It beings:

Triangulating Clausewitz and Boyd – Dreaming 5GW
Recent discussions re: “GMW vs xGW” [1] [2] [3] suggest that William Lind’s Generations of Modern Warfare model is insufficient and that the newer model xGW proves more useful for understanding warfare in our present era — as well as in previous eras.

In point of fact, Lind’s model has often caused dispute, particularly on the forth tier, that is with regard to the prognostication of 4GW. Useful or not, the first three generations are descriptive of what has already occurred in our modern era and so are “pre-verified”. The fourth generation is a guess of what is to come, which has been partly verified by current conflicts but was left open enough to suggest all future conflicts.

The fact that Lind’s GMW leaves “fourth generation warfare” open to becoming whatever happens in the future — the definition is vague and fluid enough — severely limits the usefulness of GMW. What are we to learn from GMW that will benefit us, whether as a state or as individuals engaged in conflict? By leaving no room for the development of a “fifth generation of warfare” that could defeat a “fourth generation warfare”, we are left no recourse in GMW except the ability to describe: Having described 1GW through 3GW, we come to “4GW” which we can use to tag all future events. What we are to do about those events doesn’t matter and is conspicuously absent from the GMW model.

Curtis then moves on to examining John Boyd in the context of the importance and limitations of descriptions. An amazing post, and one reason I am so happy that GMW is being ditched as the empty pseudo-hegelianism that it is.

The Terminology of XGW

The clean break of XGW from GMW has is amazing. Not only does it represent the greatest advance since the first descriptions of 5GW, it’s simply liberating to no longer carry the water for thsoe more interested in Idealism than in advancing our understanding of war.

Today, I’ve come across a number of thought-provoking articles in Arms and Influence, Castle Arg, Dreaming 5GW, Simulated Laughter, and Soob. They made me think of XGW in terms of the words we use. In particular, two suggestions came to me.

1. The Term “Generation” Must Be Abandoned.

Just as the abandonment of GMW (The Generations of Modern War) is a critical step in the evolution of XGW theory, the abandonment of “Generation” is the next step. Consider the many criticisms of “4GW” available on the web. Previously, proponents of XGW had to argue against these criticism, and assert that the critics did not really understand 4GW. Now, proponents can agree with the criticism, generalize them to criticism of GMW, and present XGW as an alternative.

I propose Grade, thus making XGW X Grade War Theory. The first four definitions of “grade” are:

# A stage or degree in a process.
# A position in a scale of size, quality, or intensity: a poor grade of lumber.
# An accepted level or standard.
# A set of persons or things all falling in the same specified limits; a class.

These fits how G is used in XGW theory.

Grade also has the benefit of not having the strict timeline implications of “generation” while not doing away entirely with the parts of the timeline of XGW that make sense.

This leaves open the question of whether Roman or Arabic numerals should be use. That is, whether “4th Grade War,” “Grade 4 War,” “IVth Grade War,” or “Grade IV War” is clearer as to what it implies.

2. The “Stages of 4GW” Must Be Abandoned

4GWS1, 4GWS2, and 4GWS3 properly refer to only one form of 4GW, the Maoist model, and so exclude any form of 4GW that is not Maoist. Boyd’s PISRR-Loop is both more precise and more general. I’ve mapped the 3 Stages onto PISRR before, but that earlier work is limited. Instead of S1, we should clarify whether we are talking about Penetration anad Isolation. Instead of Stage 3, we should be precise if we meant Reorientation or Reharmonization, and so on.

3. In Conclusion

Consider one of the final actions in winning a 4GW. In GMW, this would properly be referred to as:

“The Third Stage of the 4th Generation of Modern War” (long form)
“4GWS3” (short form)

I propose instead:

???? (long form)
“4GW Reharmonization” (short form)

I used to enjoy discussing GMW…

Just read Soob’s recent post criticizing the misreading of Tom Friedman’s Superempowered Individual concept that is prevalent in some parts of the blogosphere. Overall, I agree whole heartedly. I really need to think Aherring for finally distinguishing GMW (The Generations of Modern War, William Lind’s invention) as distinct from the more serious XGW (0GW, 1GW, 2GW, 3GW, 4GW, 5GW) work being done online. GMW is a slippery conception of questionable assumpitions — it’s a Hegelian dialectic, for heaven’s sakes! — that is it useful for neither practioniers nor students of war.

When I was still trying to salvage GMW, I was continually depressed by the parade of empty fads that keps popping up (SEIs, ad naseum) with proponents. Now I understand that GMW is a fundementally broken, fadish, unscientific, and useless way to study war, so it’s no surprise it attracts similar non-theories.

Explicitly rejecting GMW also allows me to agree with wise pundits who have criticized the nonsensical features of the theory, while still being able to salvage what is useful in the XGW framework.

So good bye to GMW, SEI, and all that.

I feel good.