To continue my previous post, the myth of Fourth Generation Warfare (4GW) is distracting from the reality of present andfuture threats. I previously
focused primarily on legitimacy issues of the State and of the use of
force. This post has lingered in various draft forms for a week or so,
even getting posted briefly (and thus picked up by a number of RSS
readers) before I took it down.
The previous post generated a spirited debate that hopefully this
and another immediately following (that warrants its own post) will
continue to contribute to the debate. The Theory of Fourth Generation
should be laid to rest, it cannot be rehabilitated for the very
fact of its name, implying a superseding of previous forms of conflict.
4GW texts carefully and looking into references, two things become
today onto the past abounds and the complexity of reality is
This post delves a bit into the complexity part expanding on my
4GW as a theory offers very little new information on how to conduct
war. 4GW does not prescribe preventive measures. 4GW provides only
faulty analysis of what the
fight will look like. The fight described by 4GW relies on a great deal
preparatory ground work the theory does not discuss, attribute, or
provide understanding of. If 4GW looked at the causes of the models it
claims as supporting the Theory, we would see a different theory.
Let’s look to Mao Tse-Tung for guidance, someone special to the Theory.
Consider this from Mao’s Selected Military Writings:
Epistemologically speaking, the source of all erroneous views on war lies
in idealist and mechanistic tendencies… People with such
tendencies are subjective and one-sided in their approach to problems. They
either indulge in groundless and purely subjective talk, basing themselves upon
a single aspect or temporary manifestation [and] magnify it with similar
subjectivity into the whole of the problem… Only by opposing idealistic and
mechanistic tendencies and taking an objective all-sided view in making a study
of war can we draw correct conclusions on the question of war.
The “objective all-sided view” is what I seek here, but due to space and
time, I can only focus on one or two aspects. As humans, we, and 4GW, like to
stereo-type, however doing so misses key ingredients that make historical and
present events unique and learnable tools for future application.
failures is something superfically discussed, mostly in terms of
corruption or attention, but this critical, misunderstood and ignored
the present conflict does get into the discussion and is crucial to the
Iraqi model for 4GW. The causes of this failure, whether or not
Rumsfeld was bored with the mission and
showed little interest in Phase IV (allegations that literally reach
years), include motivation / reward systems not tuned to support
effective post-conflict operations, or for that matter winning the
peace in C or PC
(confict / post-conflict). There are too many unjustified
failures in Iraq. Too man incomplete jobs, shoddy work requiring second
and too much imported labor and not enough buy in with the locals.
can do and should expect better, and we should anticipate a reaction to this.
Debates over the quantity of forces, notably with General
Shinseki but with others
are ignored by those compartmentalizing and commodifying missions. In
the end, we lost the peace before it got a chance with 4GW not
contributing to the why, only how. Phasing as sequential events instead
of overlapping events is lost in the discussion. The definition of
"war" in the American lexicon is distorted with political themes like
the War on Drugs and the War on Poverty. This has come out clearly in
this conflict. What is war? What was the purpose? To rebuild the
country, Iraq, into a democracy? Shouldn’t those "war plans" have been
drawn up first? What does 4GW contribute to how this war or counter-war
is conducted? Does it explain the nature of the vacuum created by the
loss of civil services?
The lack of Post-Conflict planning contributed to expensive and outrageous
no-bid contracts within minimal to no oversight. The cost if one thing, the
impact on purpose of mission and public diplomacy, civil affairs, and public
relations are another. The Pillar
Foreign Affairs article adds more fuel to the public debate over the intent
to go to war, but missing are designs to "go to peace".
"Mission Accomplished" was only the (ultimately false) end of
kinetic war and really held little importance. Much like the War on Drugs and
the War on Poverty, the real "war" began before and continued after
the ‘kinetic’ phase. So before jumping in a showing how the 4GW is clear in
Iraq, let’s look first at how we constructed the playing field for these
The focus on C/PC (conflict/post-conflict) is not surprising since the
Pentagon is doing most of America’s public diplomacy, but should this be so? By
now, many will know who the Rendon Group is. John Rendon’s client is not State,
it is DoD. Draconian Observations’ Transitioning
Rocks: Will DoD and State Deliver? continues to fall into the trap of
compartmentalization and C/PC focus. Phase IV should not be the transition from
“militarily dominated process to civilian dominated process in the wake of an
intervention”, it should be included with military operations from the get go.
Previous wars say a much greater integration of these steps, including World
War II. With the troops on occasion or immediately following the troops were
civilian and civil minded units to serve and protect everything from police,
arts and antiquities, architecture, etc. There is a comprehensive strategy
necessary to work over the entire population.
“The Guerrilla swims
in the sea of the people.” – Mao
Disjunctions between policy and practice were manifested in our treatment of
civilians and prisoners. This is both a point of media coverage and the reality
of actions. Mistreatment served only to bolster the solidarity and support of anti-Americanism
in theater and elsewhere. We assumed the sea would part and spit up the
guerillas because of who we are and not what we do. The guerillas require the
sea of people to exist and will die without it.
Consider whyHamas won
the recent Palestinian elections. The people rejected the PA, PLO, and
Fatah arguably more than the desiring Hamas. Hamas assisted through
providing basic civil services the government did not. It is as simple
as Maslow’s Pyramid of Needs.
We must act to divest the people and the guerrillas from each other,
to divide them from one another. Mao recognized the guerrillas needed
the support of the people. He insisted his men
pay for food, treat the peasants with respect, and write poetry to
they fit into the greater good. Without the support of the people, the
guerillas die. The “people” include hard-liners and middle of the
order win, we need to the local population to believe, to firmly
future is at odds with the “insurgents”. This begins before Phase IV,
begins with making sure civil services are functional, or at least
involved in the process.
Consider the CPA its attempt to Americanize Iraq. Consider Vietnam and out
attempts to Americanize the South (pre-LBJ). Consider activities such as the
building of our new “embassy” with imported labor stuffed 20 to a trailer that
would normally only hold 4 Western contractors. What are the hearts and minds,
a phrase created by the British in their colonial campaign in Malaysia that has
more in common with Iraq today than not, leaning towards in their view of
World War II saw prisoners of war in American camps learn how great we are.
We assume each and every prisoner is a die-hard extremist when we know they are
not. Yet, they return to their homes and friends and have what kind of stories
Still, the strategy won’t ease the frequent complaints, off the record,
by officers home from Iraq, that visiting the Pentagon can be like visiting a
distant planet where the war is just a speck in the sky.
But at least the military folks are thinking about such matters. Sen. John
W. Warner (R-Va.), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, charged
last week that the civilian agencies are just about AWOL. "We’re not
pulling together, all elements of our government, with equal force,"
Warner said at a hearing on the Pentagon budget.
The detail from last week that may reverberate most powerfully is that the
"long war" against bin Ladenism cannot be waged only with troops. An
article in Policy Review, written by a former State Department brain named Tony
Corn, landed on a number of desks last week. Conservative, chewy, cantankerous,
the piece was a bid to focus feuding Washington institutions on a common
mission as big as the Cold War.
"The State Department as an institution appears unable to make the
transition from a bureaucratic to a strategic way of thinking," Corn
observed, while the Pentagon has trouble dealing with the cultural abyss that
underlies Islamic extremism.
Plucking a stunning statistic from yet another bureaucratic report — a 2002
study by the United Nations of the sad state of development in the Arab world
— Corn noted that "the number of books translated by the whole Arab world
over the past thousand years is equivalent to the numbers of books translated
by Spain in one year." It’s no wonder that a few rich and purposeful
leaders in the Islamic world can exercise great influence over countries that
modernity has so dramatically passed by. That’s a problem created over decades
Corn identified why the Rendon Group works for the Pentagon and not State. A
major public relations / information warrior, regardless of your views on RG,
works for the military and not State. The military has recognized a need to
break out of compartmentalized thinking and is leading the integration wave.
Unfortunately, it is the Pentagon and not State. We had programs that did a
fine job with pre-emptive understandings that have since been gutted for
short-term fiscal reasons and short-term goals.
Ever wonder why 4GW isn’t raging in foreign militaries? Fourth Generation
Warfare doesn’t gain traction in the United Kingdom or France because of its
similarity with colonial warfare, including the American Revolution and Stern
& Irgun of the Middle East. These aren’t "clean" conflicts with
stops and starts, but with escalations and de-esclatations.
Colonial war, especially that experienced by Great Britain in the aftermath
of World War II, has all the hallmarks of 4GW. The actions of the Stern Gang
and Irgun clearly satisfied the requirements laid down by William S. Lind (and
summarized in Chet Richards’ huge 164 slide powerpoint). The same can be said
of Malaysia, Cyprus and Kenya. If we want to look French, we can see Algerian
attempts to globalize their plight, Vietnam and Ho Chi Minh’s requests to
nearly every US President since, and including, Woodrow Wilson. Even though
media wasn’t the great 24/7 beast it is now, the media was leveraged and
vocabulary mattered. Knowing when to use “terrorist”, “Communist”, or
alternative titles were key. The media war is one piece 4GW concedes to the
“small” enemy, perhaps that’s because the US has generally proven incapable of
winning this “war” except in limited situations (like associating 9/11 with
The “sea of the people” is where our attention must be focused. The
"sea" must expel the guerillas, outsiders cannot. Normative changes
must take place, internal buy-in solidified, and participation
Driving a wedge between the people and the “terrorists” (how you label them
is important, it is not always beneficial to call them “terrorists” because you
must play the media game like it or not… just like the Brits didn’t label
Kenyans Communists) is there, although we have shoving dirt into the crevasse
for the sake of domestic audience consumption (arguably the prime target of the
Rendon contract). But "what we do and who they are" keeps re-entering
our actions, turning potential allies against us and reinforcing the images
those against us want to believe in.
Comprehensive solutions are necessary and they must come from State and
other civilian entities working with or instead of military force. The British
do not export Britannia into Iraq, but co-mingle, including eating Iraqi food
and understanding and connecting with the culture. The security situation now
is a result of our failure to secure the vacuum before.
Consider the evolution of "the peace" in Iraq after Mission
Accomplished. In World War II, there was substantial planning (and propaganda)
to prepare for civil affairs and the military government. Even the 1940 US Marine
Corps Small Wars manual, the need for governance over the territory is clear
(see this for the discussion in the SWM on
implementing a government), as does the Geneva Conventions. The vacuum left
after the disbanding of the Iraqi military and the failure to support civic
services allowed alternative "power mongers" to enter the fray. The
definition of a Small War in the manual is this:
The term "Small War" is often a vague name for any one of a
great variety of military operations. As applied to the United States, small
wars are operations undertaken under executive authority, wherein military
force is combined with diplomatic pressure in the international or external
affairs of another state whose government is unstable, inadequate, or
unsatisfactory for the preservation of life and of such interests as are
determined by the foreign policy of our Nation…. The assistance rendered in
the affairs of another state may vary from a peaceful act such as the
assignment of an administrative assistance, which is certainly non-military and
not placed under the classification of small wars, to the establishment of a
complete military government supported by an active combat force. Between these
extremes may be found an infinite number of forms of friendly assistance or
intervention which it is almost impossible to classify under a limited number
of individual types of operations.
Fourth Generation Warfare Theory relies tempocentric views of past
conflicts, including even British efforts (and more importantly, lessons
learned against "insurgency") in Malaysia (where the phrase "win
the hearts & minds" originated), Kenya, Cyprus, and even Vietnam.
Perhaps stating these are "pre-modern" or precursors to modern 4GW,
they dismiss these and older examples of attacks across the full spectrum of
ideology, economicy, violence, and politics.
4GW theory reliance on Mao and Vietnam as models are flat wrong when
considering the realities. We brought the media to Vietnam with a reason that
begins to unravel the 4GW belief: the media was in Vietnam because we needed it
there to show our victory. Our smothering of the South Vietnamese with
Americanization set us up to lose the war, as did picking the wrong fight. We
failed to implement a strategy to help the Vietnamese but focused on helping
ourselves. NSC-68 led directly to Vietnam and resulted in our using it to
showcase our "victory" and led to the belief that any
"loss", nationalist leader or otherwise, was a strike against the
credibility of the US. Just as the so-called "quagmire" of Vietnam is
not portable to Iraq, neither is the "insurgency". We must consider
the actual conflict, all of its components, especially non-military components.
This was a bit of a ramble, but hopefully you get the idea.
Tags: 4GW, War, QDR, Current Affairs, Politics, Terrorism, Security, GWOT, Public Diplomacy, Long War