Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Fifth Generation Warfare: 4GW No Longer Applies

The model of 4th generation warfare as enunciated by Thomas Hammes and others is rooted in the insurgencies that Mao led in China and Ho Chi Min led in Vietnam. As Hammes depicts it, such insurgencies depend on the insurgents' willingness to withdraw and attack; to govern and develop loyalty in territory which they control; and to refrain from orthodox warfare until they control sufficient territory. Hammes does not dissect the interaction of ideology with 4th generation warfare tactics. However, the insurgencies he describes are mostly communist or leftist and prevailed in the age of radio and television. Such insurgencies were not Islamic, and pre-existed technological innovations that have occurred since the days of the Vietnam War, namely, the internet and cellular phones.

It is obvious that Islam plays an important role in the Middle East, and the Iraqi War cannot be understood outside of Sunni-Shia relations and Islamic value systems. Sunni-Shia relations are only beginnning to be understood in the popular American mind, notably via Vali Nasr's Shia Revival.

New technology, Islamic values and relations radically change the implications of Hammes's strategic model. In some ways, Islamic culture makes fifth generation conflict more like pre-modern warfare. Categories such as the Islamic ummah and historical beliefs about the role of religion in government need to be understood and utilized. Such understanding is not only a matter of public relations and propaganda, but also of management of conflict within target populations. The notion of an insurgency that has national parameters is not applicable to the Middle East. Also, evaluations about attitudes and loyalties need to be made in the appropriate historical context. It is as naive to think that fighting a terrorist enemy is like fighting the Vietnamese as it is to think that fighting the Vietnamese would be like fighting German General Eric Ludendorff in 1918. In particular, the interactivity of Islamic belief with military action means that a more total approach to war might be necessary than it would be with insurgencies that are built on shorter term loyalties to the personalities of specific leaders. 4GW may be passe.

1 comment:

PurpleSlog said...

Do you have a definition of 5GW?