Wednesday, May 23, 2007

The Need for Counter-4GW

In 2003, William S. Lind argued that the US invasion of Iraq would face debilitating trouble from insurgency and terrorism, also known as fourth generation warfare, or 4GW. Col. Thomas Hammes also ably discusses this concept in his book The Sling and the Stone. Lind's view of second generation warfare is that it involves use of artillery followed by occupation of troops, or "putting steel on target." Third generation warfare follows the German Blitzkrieg in focusing on the situation and on surprise. Fourth generation war, though, involves fighting non-state opponents. It involves a conflict of belief systems or cultures. In it, "invasion by immigration can be at least as dangerous as invasion by a state army." "At its core lies a universal crisis of legitimacy of the state, and that crisis means many countries will evolve Fourth Generation War on their soil."

Lind and Hammes are implicitly suggesting that just as generations one and two of warfare reflected industrialization, the telegraph and railroad, while the third generation reflected the advent of the automobile, truck and radio, the fourth generation is associated with the mass media and information technology. War becomes increasingly a matter of propaganda, mass information and attitudes rather than mere organized violence or, as Clausewitz defined it (On War, chapter 1) "an act of violence intended to compel our opponent to fulfil our will." With a Ph.D. in labor relations, I would term 4GW the triumph of Saul Alinsky. The methods that Alinsky discusses in his book Rules for Radicals are very, very similar to the concepts of 4GW.

The transition from the second to the fourth generation of warfare parallels how management has changed from the days of the Ford assembly line to the days of self-directed teams, computer aided design, flexible management, just-in-time inventory systems and modular organizations. Rather than use artillery and then occupy an opponent's terrain, an entirely different set of issues becomes paramount: integration into the enemy's community; the interpersonal conduct of forces in the community after battle; cultural intelligence; reliance on intelligent special operations operatives; and emphasis on public relations. Lind argues that "(o)ne key to success in 4GW may be 'losing to win.'" Maintenance of state systems, which we failed to do in Iraq is also important, as is the observation that "many different entities, not just governments of states, will wage war."

If Lind, Hammes and other advocates of 4GW are right, it seems to me that the response will not come from the state, which is bound by special interest groups. Rather, it needs to come from private individuals who respond to the terrorists' 4GW with counter-4GW. This would involve standing up to the media and our leaders who are motivated by personal interest in responding to special interest group pressure rather than the national welfare.

The chief source of informaton is of course the media. A second is academia. If insurgents and terrorists have used information to their advantage, then those who wish to respond need to work on exposing the rot in these institutions.

Earlier I watched The New York Times's Thomas Friedman on CBS News. Friedman was being interviewed as an expert on Iraqi policy. He made a few imbecilic points, each of which contradicted the other but had only one theme: attack President Bush. On the one hand, he argued that if the War in Iraq is like World War II, we have too few troops and we shouldn't have low taxes. On the other, he argued that America used to be in the business of exporting hope, but now it is in the business of exporting fear. I mean, which is it? Increase the number of troops, bring them home or what? The fact is that Friedman was unable to articulate a coherent alternative strategy for Iraq because he hasn't given it a moment's thought. Is Friedman the sort of person who should be viewed as an expert to be interviewed on national television? Or is he and the Times a joke?

It has become increasingly urgent for citizens to educate themselves about military strategy through books because the mainstream media, including some of my favorite sources like the Economist have not provided the public with a coherent framework for thinking about current events. Yet, Lind and Hammes provide one that is readily available.

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