I enjoy discussing 4GW because there are just so many problems with the “theory”. This is probably why I read Arms and Influence’s Mao or Less with a grin on my face:
OK, I’ve officially had it with the “netwar” crowd. An interesting observation–successful guerrillas and terrorists operate in loosely-networked organizations, instead of hierarchical chains of command–has turned into a distorted view of revolutionary warfare. “Netwar” is an overstatement, a description of a trend that is not entirely new, nor is it exactly the strategy of many revolutionary groups described as “net warriors.” If the United States is going to get smarter about counterinsurgency and counterterrorism, it shouldn’t posit a brand new kind of warfare that may not exist.
Then I read Simulated Laughter’s Fighting in the War Room:
Arms and Influence attacks netwar theory, specifically Martin J. Muckian’s article in Paremeters. Being biased towards 4GW and 5GW theory, I find many parts of his argument convincing, especially his insistence that insurgent groups have used “netwar” methods long before Iraq. Of course, Arms and Influence is looking at this from a classical, Galula-esque counterinsurgency perspective, so he doesn’t mention 4GW, and probably doesn’t think too highly of it anyway.
I’d wade in right now, but it’s late and I’ve already written on this already here. This is certainly a topic I’ll revisit with an expanded, updated, and smarter rebuttal.
A point A & I rightly questions of modern netwar / 4GW is Boyd’s OODA Loop, a critical concept to 4GW (and 5GW ??). Like so much else, this emphasizes our perception of violence and imposes a collective high power that’s simply absent in insurgencies that aren’t actually monolithic. Nigeria’s MEND is more, but not entirely, united that the actors in Iraq. From my review of Richard Schultz and Andrea Dew’s Insurgents, Terrorists and Militias:
In addressing American operational art, the combination of time and tempo (popular example: “Shock and Awe”), the authors don’t make specific prescriptives but suggest incorporating new (to us) understandings of how the enemy organizes and operates. Schultz and Dew show that OODA loops don’t matter when the invaded don’t see war as “organized violence” requiring “paper, forms, and documents”, don’t mirror our hierarchy, and have different priorities. The behavior of the enemy is far different from modern Western principles and thus has different levers and pressures points for manipulation. Our focus on whether or not the engine of insurgency is religious or socio-political may ignore the underlying realities of the why and how in specific instances. Like in the West, religion may be a Gramscian distraction and our focus on it blinds us to the levers and pressure points necessary for successful operations.