Politics, Foreign Policy, Current Events and Occasional Outbursts Lacking Couth

4GW, 5GW, this GW that GW...

Motivated by an on going discussion at tdaxp regarding John Robbs Global Guerillas.

I have a rather hard time compartmentalizing war in the fashion of some sort of evolutionary scale. From a purely logical standpoint I suppose it makes a great deal of sense. Overall, throughout history warfare has advanced along the lines that the GW assertion presents in a very generalized fashion.

I have to wonder about the cogency of purely structuring something so primeval as warfare, or the ability of human beings to adapt as advantage turns to disadvantage or vise versa. Can the human strategic ability be Darwinized in the same fashion as that of genetic advantage? Is the difference between Hannibal and Patten inclusive of combat evolution? This theory seems to work fine as long as one generalizes warfare throughout the ages and ignores or marginalizes the human aspect of ingenuity.

For instance, if 3GW is both an evolution in combat and entails the previously "unknown" aspect of mass maneuver in what category would the Mongol army fall? Pre-modern? I don't buy it. The Mongol armies under Genghis Khan found success first and foremost through mobility and disorientation. His armies were faster, more agile, could be in very unexpected positions in a very short period of time and utilized strategic position, hit and run attack, siege machines and captured populace in a very "shock and awe" manner. His command structure entailed a decimal system (units of 10) that concentrated his army in a very fluid and conventionally bizarre (disorienting) formation of concentric circles that could collapse into smaller units or conglomerate in a much more efficient fashion than that of his enemies. Pre-modern?

What of 4GW? Here's an interesting strategy employed by GK: Pillaging the surrounding villages of a sieged city and subsequent purposeful herding of the populace into said city. What's the effect? Systemic collapse. The cities resources are over run by the influx of refugees, popular support wanes, starvation is exaserbated and in some cases insurrection, often aggravated by Mongol induced propaganda, occurs.

Further (and this is a tactic popularly employed by the Romans as well) the promise of leniency through surrender and the action of overt slaughter in light of resistance. The effect, in both cases, often led to the breaking of the enemies (either present or subsequent) will to fight as opposed to exacting an offensive that took away the enemies ability to fight. We're seeing much the same tactic being employed in Iraq as insurgent factions rule in much the same fashion.

Certainly the above examples in light of the seemingly rigid definitions of generational warfare aren't exact. But they (and many other examples in historic warfare) are enough to disparage my own want to strictly identify warfare as a phenomena that has, step by step, evolved to what it is today.

It isn't that I dismiss the ideals of the generations of warfare. The idea of dividing strategies into such definitive elements is, no doubt, an incredibly valuable framework for developing current and building future models of command and control during conflict.

I'd rather entertain the ideas of GW in an overlapping manner as essences of each can be found throughout history.

And that's my take.


Baron Duveen of Millbank said...

This is a good post and I agree.

I think the whole 3gw, 4gw and the envogue 5gw theory is pretty rediculous. They are trying to rename aspects of warfare that have been around since man was smashing each others skulls open with rocks.

Take 4GW for example, which is the nebulous concept of moral subversion of the population through propaganda, Rex Mason has an entire scholarly study called "Propaganda and Subversion in the Old Testament". In other words, 4GW in B.C. times.

The guys that are pushing this movement are also stuck in the language of our times e.g. Systems, open-source warfare, resiliency, networks etc. Metaphors built around the computer age but the with phenomenon that has been around forever.

The whole movement reminds me of individual fighting concepts throughout history. Take Bruce Lee for instance, who made it pretty clear fighting is just fighting and that most martial artists would rather sit around naming aspects of the fight with flowery rhetoric when the "is-ness" of fighting is right in front of them. He would say "A punch is just a punch".

Or perhaps Bruce just doesn't understand the "secretive 5GW preemptive curved-flying fist which has a preluding setup which aims to cognitively override the enemy's OODA loop with a verbal pattern interrupt (click link here to see my powerpoint presentation that shows an elaborate feedback system between language, fist, skull whilst combining a reference to my favorite revolutionary french author)".

Or, without the Sokal like bullshit, an old fashioned sucker punch.

Even Bruce Lee was preceded by one hundred year by an Englishman who tried to study individual fighting in its entire spectrum (google Bartitsu). You could go as far back as to the Greeks as well with the sport of pankration.

Of course there is upsides to the whole generational warfare study. It's damn interesting.

subadei said...

Baron duveen,

Sorry, was away for a bit.

I agree the theory is an interesting and effective means of studying warfare though some seem to take it beyond theory and adhere to it in such a stringent manner that it seems, to me at least, to bely historical fact.
As for 5GW, I intentionally avoided it because I have yet to fully grasp the principles behind it.
Can't very well disagree with that you don't know, and all that.

As far as "debunking" 4GW, Echevarria's "myths of 4GW" provide a cogent counter argument. Google it and you should find it it in PDF form.

As I stated in my post, the xGW theory is an amazing hypothesis that shouldn't be marginalized as it provides an incredible forum of debate and study. But to adhere to it in such a strict realistic form without entertaining the (as far as I can see) real overlap seems a bit shortsighted.

Baron D. said...

Thanks for the heads up to Echevarria's "myths of 4GW". I'll check it out.