Monday, July 25, 2005

Preface :

Recently, Dan of tdaxp posted a remarkable essay recently entitled " Dreaming 5th Generation War ".

Additional, 5GW related links:

Fifth Generation Warfare ? ( Lind)

Fifth Generation Warfare ( anonymous Army CI )

Unto the Fifth Generation of War (Zenpundit)

Go Deep( OODA and the Rainbow of Generational warfare) (tdaxp)

5th Generation War in the OODA Loop (Zenpundit)

5GW ( Coming Anarchy - Younghusband)

Emerging Netwar/Secretwar Tactic: Shareholder activism (tdaxp)

SecretWarriors Walk Without Rhythm, Won't Attract the Worm (tdaxp)

5GW ( Phatic Communion)


Fifth Generation warfare may not quite be here yet but the concept is certainly fodder for speculative analysis. Dan's "Dreaming " post was among his best and his previous OODA/5GW post attracted the attention of at least one field expert, " Open Source warfare" guru and military analyst John Robb. Possibly another expert as as well by email. That my friends, is the power of horizontal thinking, methodically applied !

Dan has articulated several concepts in his 5GW posts that have genuine resonance. Here is one:

"If traditional war centered on an enemy's physical strength, and 4GW on his moral strength, the 5th Generation of War would focus on his intellectual strength."

Consider the evolutionary shift toward managing information flows in real-time as critical variables in terms of economic growth, communication systems and network-centric warfare and you have to consider that Dan may have had an insight of fundamental importance. Not only would it seem to be in synch with conditions emerging for a globalized information economy future but also consistent with principles of warfare from the past:

"Always mystify, mislead and surprise the enemy"
- General Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson

" Finding a position where you can reach an opponent, realizing when the opponent has not yet determined what to do, you strike directly, as fast as possible, without moving your body or fixing your attention"
- Miyamoto Musashi

"All warfare is based on deception."

"Hence to fight and conquer in all your battles is not supreme excellence; supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy's resistance without fighting"
- Sun Tzu

A second major point of Dan's 5GW concept involes the primacy of secrecy as a tool of war:

" In 5GW, secrecy is vital for success. While this has always been true on some levels, secrecy has never been vital on the grand-strategic level before 5GW. In 5GW the enemy's knowledge of your existence all but ends your plans.

...being secret is more important than being completely "right" in 5GW."

What is secrecy ? Secrecy is a comparative advantage in information. The U.S. government loves secrets. It has a detailed hierarchy of secrecy and a set of security clearance rules, $ 50,000 FBI-DIA background checks and bureaucratic obfuscation that drives Dr. Steven Aftergood and practicing diplomatic historians up the wall. Ironically, most of these millions of documents aren't actually secret just as most "covert-operations" and " undercover" CIA and DIA personnel aren't secret either. These are examples of restricted classes of information, not secrets.

5GW secrets are secret even from the government striving to implement a 5GW policy and tactical moves will be done so under plausible reasons congruent with existing factional interests and well-known public goals. The 5GW network does not come to power by a political revolution from below but by moving up through legitimate channels to implement an invisible evolution from above. Their " Future worth creating" appears by to come into being by chance, not design.

I do have an important caveat in pondering Dan's excellent 5GW work. What he and other commenters have or may have discerned about 5GW is less than what 5GW will comprise when it is fully realized and a generational shift in warfare has taken place. We have to hold out the possibility that "attacking the enemy's intellectual strength" and secrecy as proposed by Dan and my "longitudinal vision-short execution" and "shaping the battlespace" may end up be less significant than aspects of 5GW that have yet to materialize. Societal shifts by 2050 or 2080 are likely to be sizable - perhaps more extreme than the changes that occurred from 1860 to 1945 - and these shifts will produce new advantages and conditions that may favor defense over offense.

Comments as always are welcome.
It's worth mentioning that 5GW is not limited to governments at all, or even to transnational groups. So-called "lone wolf actions" have become part of the lexicon of white supremacist groups, and I suspect that the concept will be spreading. No network to analyze, no cell structure to surveill and roll up.

The granularity of paramilitary operations is increasing, with individuals working alone being the endpoint. I think we'll reach this endpoint soon.

The present situation has come from a number of things:

* More highly connected networks create group loyalty transcending national boundaries

* Greater empowerment of the individual through information and technology allows one person or a small group to do immense damage: the depths have not yet begun to be plumbed

* Highly concentrated information, energy and economic hubs allow small attacks to produce faliure cascades, often capitalizing on stored "work" in the form of fuel or otherwise to produce catastrophically greater damage

Big changes coming. The question that keeps cropping up in my mind is whether free and open societies can continue to exist at all. I've been thinking about that question since about 1990.

Organic Warfare
Is Network-Centric Warfare considered as refinement (or optional add-on) to 3GW, or is it a complete alternative to 3GW|4GW|5GW?

Also the "Global Guerillas" idea: Is that a refinement (or optional add-on to 4GW), or is a something complete alternative to 3GW/4GW/5GW/NCW?

Would there be at least 2 directions in 5GW: One more tech-focused, and the other more information/people focused? Or would that be the distinction between 5GW and 5GP?

How would a Nation-State defend against 5GW?

How would a non-State defend against 5GW?

Wouldn't 5GW be perpetual war alternating between "hot" 5GW and "cold" 5GW periods?

The "cold war" 5GW might look like paranoia to those who are not focused on detecting/fighting it. I suppose that is one way somebody would fight 5GW: Portray those detecting it, as paranoids/crazy/eccentric to marginalize them among those on there own side.

Are democratic governments inherently poorly organized to fight 5GW? What structures (gov and non-gov) should a democratic nation-state develop to fight/detect 5GW?

This is all very interesting.



Great questions. Mark is a far better writer than I am, but I will foolishly try to answer anyway :)

In the William Lind article Mark cited, Lind gives the simple test that:

One simple test for whether or not something constitutes a generational shift is that, absent a vast disparity in size, an army from a previous generation cannot beat a force from the new generation. The Second Generation French Army of 1940 could not defeat the Third Generation Wehrmacht, even thought the French had more tanks and better tanks than the Germans. The reason I do not think the wars of the French Revolution and Napoleon mark a generational shift is that Wellington consistently beat the French, and the British Army he led remained very much an 18th century army.

Given this, I think that NCW is just a variation of 3GW. NCW's improvements are called "force multiplers," meaning that one thing might "double" the size of the force, another thing might "double" that, etc. So while NCW allows you to have a much "larger" force, an NCWarrior would fight the same basic war that Rommell fought: rapid maneuver. The fact the NCWarrior cares about "size" tells you that he is fighting the same old war, but with a "bigger" fighting force.

4GW is a generation beyond 3GW/NCW, because a 3GW/NCW many times the size of the 4GW force still loses. That's because the 4GWarrior will fight for decades, but the 3GWarrior/NCWarrior will feel nervous if the war lasts beyond a few weeks (3 weeks == German invasion of Poland, about 6 weeks == German invasion of France, about 6 weeks = American invasion of Afghanistan, 3 weeks == American invasion of Iraq), and can't sustain fighting beyond a few years at most.

"Global Guerrillas" seems to be 4GW with a greater focus on economic attrition.

Good question on tech and non-tech focused 5GW. I think they would both be 5GWs, but different ways of approaching it (just as the Soviets had a different version of Blitzkrieg than the Germans or the Americans, but we all agreed on the basics of maneuver war). You could also have high-tehc and low-tech 5GP (5th Generation Politics).

The general different between 5GW and 5GP, or really war and politics in general, is that in war non-state actors use violence and kill people.

How would a Nation-State defend against 5GW?

How would a non-State defend against 5GW?

How would it? I think we're all still brainstorming here, so what are your ideas? :)

Wouldn't 5GW be perpetual war alternating between "hot" 5GW and "cold" 5GW periods?

Struggle ends when at least one side is exhausted or destroyed, so a 5GW can definitely win.

However, you could have a world where no side is ever really eliminated, but engages in perpetual struggle that shifts between different styles of war and peace. I think ancient China is a great example of that sort of place. (These themes were explored in a science fiction setting in Xenocide and Children of the Mind, if you are interested in that.)

The "cold war" 5GW might look like paranoia to those who are not focused on detecting/fighting it. I suppose that is one way somebody would fight 5GW: Portray those detecting it, as paranoids/crazy/eccentric to marginalize them among those on there own side.

Great point! Art Bell, a very intelligent host at the "spooky" radio show Coast to Coast AM, has spoken on that issue from time to time.

Are democratic governments inherently poorly organized to fight 5GW? What structures (gov and non-gov) should a democratic nation-state develop to fight/detect 5GW?

You are stealing all my good blog posts ideas!!! :)

That comment was fantastic! Wow!

-Dan tdaxp
I concur that was a great comment ! I'm going to post my answers to Jeremiah ( good blog BTW)and Steve.

As for Dan, a couple of important points on Lind's reference to the Penninsular campaign conducted by Wellington:

a) Wellington had the assistance of
the Spanish insurgents loyal to the old King ( deposed Bourbon) and the Catholic Church. These were the original Guerillas and they fought a very savage 4GW-style struggle against French occupiers.

b) Wellington was mostly fighting Napoleon's "B" team in Spain. Nor was Joseph Bonaparte able to win over enough of the Spanish elite to support his kingship, despite the truly miserable governing record of his Bourbon predecessors.

Wellington did beat Napoleon at Waterloo but it was a close thing, the great Duke often said that Napoleon's presence alone on the field was worth 40,000 men.
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