Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Myke Cole, a consultant with CACI who sometimes appears at DNI as well, has some ominous speculations about 5th Generation Warfare in an excellent article the latest issue of The Small Wars Journal. An excerpt:

"Written in 1988, “V” proves chillingly prescient in light of the strategies 4GW actors are enacting as they maneuver to defeat large states that they cannot hope to defeat on conventional grounds. Historian and 4GW guru William Lind notes “Police departments in some large American cities would be quick to note that they are already facing Fourth Generation opponents on the streets.”In another article, Lind points out that “it is happening in some American cities. Police officers are being killed — assassinated, really — not because they get in the way of some bank robber but because they are symbols of the state. A Fourth Generation fighter, usually a gang member, simply walks up to a police cruiser and shoots a cop.

...Moore’s “V” gives a glimpse of a subnational enemy who has realized that his power rises and falls in direct proportion to the cohesion of state authority. In realizing this, he understands that the destruction of the state altogether creates the kind of power vacuum where his sort can thrive. “V for Vendetta” warns that perhaps it is not a change of tactics, but of the scope of the enemy objective that defines the fifth generation war evolving around us. It suggests a generation of enemies dedicated to the ultimate destruction of the state in totality, not just as means for seizing power in Iraq or driving US forces from Afghanistan, but for inaugurating a new world order where the cohesive, central power of the state fails in the face of an enemy it cannot define, cordon off and defeat on its own terms, until its citizenry loses patience and withdraws its collective allegiance. "

Several comments from me:

First, I have just begun Philip Bobbitt's Shield of Achilles - for those out there who have finished the book, how does Myke's scenario fit in with the idea of Bobbitt's Market-state superceding the Nation-state ?

Secondly, I can forsee an exceedingly grim response by States where the ruling elite retains the will to power to contest their destruction.

Confronted with persistently successful 4GW/5GW actors - particularly those on the loose end of the organizational spectrum such as virtual cells or a cell organized around a superempowered individual - a major state power will inevitably go the route of setting up a small off-the books clandestine unit - essentially a death squad without the pyschopoathology - and begin quietly disappearing people based upon probalistic estimates.

You don't really need very many people to do this either. The yezhovschina purges ( which were not secret and were designed to instill terror rather than suppress it) in 1937
were accompished by about 200 handpicked professional killers who in turn were themselves easily liquidated by Stalin after they had served their purposes, being too few in number to offer effective resistance or mount a coup on their own.

4GW actors are interdependent with the state they are attacking and their effectiveness correlates with the self-restraint of the state actors being concerned with the political calculus. If the State actors are indifferent to political concerns or can achieve mastery over it via secrecy, then the asymmetrical relationship becomes unfavorable to the 4GW actors.

4GW and 5GW threats are dangerous because they threaten to push the State into a great leap backward in moral terms even when the 4GW actors lose the game.

Excellent pair of articles. If I may comment, while turning your fine blog into a vehicle for self-promotion...

I like Cole's defense of nontradtional sources of thinking. "Dreaming 5th Generation War" utilized early American horror, political punk, political techno, the Old Testament, Russian faux-lesbi pop as orientation guides. Comic books are at least as good. In my experience, any stimulation which provokes a fight-or-fight response and symbolic thinking tends to be.

I take issue with Cole's description of 5GW:

“V for Vendetta” warns that perhaps it is not a change of tactics, but of the scope of the enemy objective that defines the fifth generation war evolving around us.

While Cole notes Hammes, this ignores the thrust of Hammes' argument. 5GW, whatever it is, is a practical, pragmatic improvement on 4GW from the point-of-view of the war-fighter. The generations of war were not first devised by a professor or a theoretician: they were shaped by men who had concrete problems to solve. It is not the goal that makes a new generation of war -- it is the path to that goal.

Or to use Lind's words:

One reason for the confusion may be a misapprehension of what “generation” means. In the context of the Four Generations of Modern War, “generation” is shorthand for a dialectically qualitative shift.


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.

These have nothing to do with the objective, only the approach. While one of course effects the other, they should not be conflated.

4GW can be part of a larger operation (say, the Mujaheddin elements of the Afghan Campaign in the Cold War), or can be the guiding force of an entire struggle (the rise of the Vietnamese Communists). Similar, 3GW tactics can attempt to create a Thousand Year Reich or expel one oil-rich Arab dictatorship from another. 2GW tactics can try to make the world safe for democracy or be part of a larger war to save one Union. 1GW wars can be fought for God or for tax duty rights. The goal's aren't the issue: how the war is won and lost is the issue.

Semi-relatedly: A 5th Generation Warrior might try to attack a police force, but more likely for its effect rather than an end in itself. Attempting to diminish the violent power of a police force in order to displace it is the path to a symetrical war. As I wrote in the example case for Dreaming: "[The 5th Generation Warriors] also realize it would be trivial for the FBI or even local police to round them up if their "treason" was discovered."

One last thought: I like the Caerdroia peace - I advocated something similar. Sovereignty and the Monopoly of Violence are overrated. While featuring heavily in the hooliganism of International Law, neither is mentioned either in the Declaration of Independence or the Constitution. What is mentioned in the Constitution is a recipe for intentionally distributed violence

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free
State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be


No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house,
without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner
to be prescribed by law.


The enumeration in the Constitution of certain rights shall not be
construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.


The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution,
nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States
respectively, or to the people.

Dan tdaxp
I am in general agreement with Dan. While 5GWarriors might indeed utilize 4GWarriors, the use is likely to be for the purpose of distraction -- for instance, 5GWarriors might surreptitiously instigate a gang war without caring whether the gang won or the State won. (By the time either won, the 5GWarrior would already have advanced some yards toward his ultimate goal.)

Pure 5GW is likely to be an odd case -- especially internal 5GW. (I even doubt that we would be able to know that it is occurring or has occurred , unless someone squeals. If it is discovered without the help of 5GW turncoats, I wouldn't call it "pure.")

Mark, I've had the subject of internal 5GW in mind since our earlier discussions on 5GW. I think that three scenarios are particularly interesting:

1. The digruntled hacker or group of young hackers.

We really are at a time when a few bored but brilliant teenagers could wreak a lot of havok. Besides crippling financial, governmental, and military institutions with an onslaught of cyber attacks, brilliant teenage "hackers" could "hack" at the human genome or the American biosphere via the use of biological and/or chemical agents. They might even make a bio-/chemical attack look like it came from al Qaeda or a radical environmentalist group -- thus causing quite a bit of havok while laying "seeds" throughout the Web for the real attack that would come later.

This would be the Wargame-Fight Club Scenario. Unlike in the movie Wargame, the attacks would be intended and would really be targeted at America from within; unlike Fight Club, these would be young hackers who are probably from middle class and/or wealthy families rather than lowerclass brutes and skinheads running on testosterone. (Some might be young women.)

2. The university cabal.

This is similar to the first, but the 5GWarriors would be college-age, career-oriented warriors who make a pact, and a plan, to infiltrate certain industries (including the government) after graduation and from those positions attack the "State." So some would work for the military, some in federal government, some for Microsoft and some for Google, and some for major financial institutions, etc.

This would be the Manchurian Candidate-Fight Club Scenario, except: the Manchurian Candidate would be the collective group itself, and really outside the system rather than in it or parallel with it; and, like before, these 5GWarriors wouldn't be the lowerclass service workers of Fight Club.

3. The corporate/multinational takeover.

This one's fairly self-explanatory. I think that rather than attempt a direct takeover -- say, loaning the U.S. government huge sums of cash -- the corporation would likely introduce revolutionary technology and/or new means of using old technology, and thereby shift the lifestyle, culture, etc., of the society "for the better." The society would become extraordinarily dependent on that corporation. This might also include operating significant portions of the U.S. military burden -- mercenaries and support staff -- or even developing superior military technology and sharing it with the U.S. on the condition that the corporation's own people only are allowed to operate it, repair it, etc. (Or at least, the corporation would maintain close control of its own technology.) And of course, general manipulation of the markets would likely be included in the attack. Perhaps even the supply of real essentials, like food, water, and important vaccines. (For that matter, a pharmaceutical company might unleash a non-lethal virus with the plan of coming to the rescue -- after, of course, inoculating its own key players.)

This would be the Wall Street-Fight Club Scenario.


In the first two of the above scenarios, greak havok could be intended without having a particular replacement for the "State" in mind; in the final scenario, the goal would be a bureaucratic technocracy, or techno-corporatism, although great havok of one variety or a few would likely occur. I think, however, that the 5GWarriors of the first type would probably have a general goal in mind, probably a fantastic utopian ideation of what would replace the State; 5GWarriors of the university cabal sort might have ideas of becoming a neo-illuminati.

But I do tend to agree that with any of these, an extraordinary reorganization of the society would be intended; and, the process of change would probably be quite tumultuous. (This is why I include "Fight Club" in all three of the above.) The State would likely be helpless to defend against any of the above scenarios, mostly because the 5GWarriors would be hidden and the State would be focusing all of its energies on solving various symptoms and diversions -- exactly as the 5GWarriors intend for the State. The sort of gang warfare or mafia warfare or "V" warfare you mention is not 5GW, and I believe that those warriors would almost certainly be pawns of the 5GWarriors (or victims if not also pawns.)

Thank you for the kind words. I agree that we would not know of a well-executed 5GW. Just as the perfect bank robbery is one where the bank never knows it was robbed, the perfect 5GW is one where the victim never knows he lost.

"FightClub" represents something much closer to 4GW and 5GW. It is a mass movement with police powers whose work is known and whose existence is increasingly assumed by the authorities. That the fighters hide like viri in the blood do not make them SecretWarriors.

1. 5GW/WarGames

A good example. One might see a group develop a fix for the Apache web server or some-such with a hidden bug under one flag, launch an attack on it on the second flag, and then solve the problem under a third flag. After that, access to the compromised systems would be used in a way that the victim never observes (say, change financial data to prevent investment in one country or encourage in another; lead to enemies being dismissed; access medical data; &c).

2. 5GW/UniversityCabal

After attending UNL for some months, this is much more likely than before. While my old program was 2/3rds international, UNL has a much larger Indian and Chinese student population (by numbers). Many have spouses still in the old country or even working or studying at another university across the country. There is a large number of educated, highly-skilled, highly-motivated foreigners with long time horizons. Just the thing needed for "sleeper cells" in 5GW or SecretCells in 5GW.

3. 5GW/CorporateTakeover

This doubtless has happened in a "5th Generation Business" sense (hmmm... sounds like something for Belisarious...), even in combination with 5GW/UniversityCabal. And if you factor in that many of these group are no doubt political with specific security concerns (say, Leftists sympathetic to causes in central America, or Zionists, etc), you may have forms of this type of 5GW right now.

States are unable to knowingly defend against 5GW attacks, and attempts to "discover" specific 5GW attacks run the risk of false positives (conspiracy theories). Using the "virus in the blood" analogy, we need a good autoimmune system.

Of course, viri like HIV are coated with sugar to avoid harm. What is the "sugar shield" of the 5th Generation Warrior?

Dan tdaxp
"FightClub" represents something much closer to 4GW and 5GW. It is a mass movement with police powers whose work is known and whose existence is increasingly assumed by the authorities. That the fighters hide like viri in the blood do not make them SecretWarriors.


I think you're right about this. I had in mind, however, another thought mentioned at an earlier P.C. thread on 5GW: that once the rubicon is crossed (by the target), secrecy may no longer be important to the 5GWarrior.
I think you're right about this. I had in mind, however, another thought mentioned at an earlier P.C. thread on 5GW: that once the rubicon is crossed (by the target), secrecy may no longer be important to the 5GWarrior.

Ah, yes, the old thought of one generation of war melting into another under friction (intended or not).

There has to be some quote or the other along the line of "Pure forms exist in Plato's world; dirt and mud in ours." Because warfare is evolved by practioneers, 5->4GW shouldn't be dismissed just because it's a hybrid.

Dan tdaxp
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