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

I've spent the last month or so mentally flipping around the theory of 5GW. Ideally, I'd like to absorb the works of D5GW from 0 to present day. Sadly, the day affords only so many hours (24 here on earth) and so such is not plausible at this time. Though, if one or all four authors put forth a book... Nah, not possible really as the theory is simply too elastic to refine to the point of definition, from my perspective anyway.

At any rate, today in bouncing around the blogs that encompass my suggested daily allowance I came across this post at MountainRunner (I'm going to hack and slash this bit so you should definitely visit the source: Apologies in advance to author) and got to thinking that either MR has accidentally presented another sliver of theoretical gold regarding 5GW or I've simply erroneously perverted his post to suit my own means. In either case let's have a look at what MR states and how I'll conveniently hammer it to suit my own means:

Warfare in a globalized society is theater, making information king. The "old" style of warfare, occasionally still played out in Afghanistan, the Philippines, inside Pakistan, and elsewhere in the Long War (or whatever it is named today), is a rarity. Camera phones, cheap digital video cameras, YouTube and LiveLeak, and connectivity everywhere means every Joe and Jihadi gets at least a bit part in the theater of information.

To wit, 5GW isn't necessarily a conglomerative effort but an individual effort. Further, 5GW entails an unprecedented province. Contrary to conventional warfare which evolves around the very closed source context of gathering and acting upon secret intelligence, 5GW entails mastering the overt, obvious, sometimes spectacular realm of information.

In 1999, two Chinese colonels described the future of warfare, which they called Unrestricted Warfare, as one in which all means of power "will be in readiness, that information will be omnipresent, and the battlefield will be everywhere."

5GW transcends even the most dynamic 4GW event in that it can non-kinetically originate, manifest, mature, afflict and intellectually conscript the same culture from which it originates. Contrary to, say, the Fort Dix Six a 5GW event (from this perspective) infiltrates, coalesces and then effectively steers mass ideology in a certain direction. A real world "example" might be the entire "industry" of global warming in which a contested theory has taken on an almost dogmatic following. While Global Warming lacks (so far as I know) a Machiavellian motive it does provide a footprint for a 5GW effort. More on that in another post, perhaps.

Modern conflict is now deterritorilized, focused on ideology, culture, society, or economics. Secondary is the physical space. Modern battlefields discount the need for enemy’s order of battle. Increasingly important is knowledge on media availability (foreign and domestic), audience receptivity (will they listen), public opinion (what will they think if they do listen), and the roles and functions of information systems to understand what could be termed “information channels”.
Perhaps 5GW isn't an evolution from the previous 4, rather a ramification of any concerted effort of warfare in conjunction with today's seemingly endless visage of information. Perhaps 5GW is the mastery of information within the context of "transparency." Sounds a bit like propaganda, doesn't it? Yeah, well it's not. Utilizing the intellectual free market of media to your advantage is a daunting, maybe impossible task that goes well beyond the "feel good, go gettum" film rolls splashed across the silver screen during WWII.

The line from Clausewitz that war is the extension of politics is no longer accurate. Today, war is politics. Every act in war is political and it means little if there is no audience.

Perhaps the media and the perception it induces is an extension of war and 5GW is the ability to comprehend and utilize the media in much the same fashion.


MountainRunner said...

Soob, thanks for the comments. While I don't agree w/ the 4GW or 5GW taxonomy, my post is based on the present reality of conflict, which is an amplified reality of the past. Information campaigns always matter for purposes of national morale but provided little value against the enemy. Today, the concept of "nationalism" is different than in the past and includes diasporic communities far and wide, unhindered by geography. You must communicate with them for moral, social, financial, physical, and recruiting support just as "nations" and state-equivalents did in the past.

I'm suprised you didn't mentioned the tanker blowing up under the bridge comment. Like a tree falling in the forest...

Curtis Gale Weeks said...

Soob, thanks for the inspiration! (Check out the "Links to this Post" below!)

Arherring said...

Great post Soob!

I like this idea because it extends, I believe, one of the central principles of how 5GW will manifest itself. As I forsee it 5GW will be all about appearances, and at the bottom line things are -never- always as they seem. 4GW is essentially, blatantly, blackmail. Whoever blinks first loses. 5GW presents you with two or more options and you will never know where the path leads or who made that path for you. All you can do is choose what appears to be the best course and hope.

subadei said...

mountainrunner, thanks for the insight and for your tolerance as I took your post, kicked aside the original message and hammered it out into a new form to meet my own conjecture.

In terms of disagreeing with the 4GW, 5GW taxonomy are speaking along the Echevarrian line of thought or focusing on my post?

Curtis, glad to inspire! Your reflections on this post are intriguing and inspiring.

As we see in Soob’s post, individuals catching a particular source (or, noticing it), will go on to innovate from that starting point or using that particularity as one inspirational datum in complex frameworks of their own devising: “or I’ve simply erroneously perverted his post to suit my own means.” The appearance of novelty, as an isolation of one particular source within the static while other sources remain indistinct or unknown, will promote a new iteration of the thoughts which are already becoming entrenched in — for lack of a better term — the Global Mind.

And this is why I blog.


Thanks, and I agree. 4GW is just as blatantly definitive as it's three GW predecessors. 5GW is subtle and the practitioners might well not know they are such.

Steve Pampinella said...

Great post. Stressing information brings me back Karl Deustch's work on communication and culture. Never before have we had a 'global theater' and a 'global mind' that connects and distributes information universally, although the subjective meaning and interpretation of such information may be different.

You mentioned a possible book at the beginning of the post. One possible step in this direction may be to write an article on 5GW, announcing its birth and theorizing on possibilities. Although it is a loose concept, I think it is still coherent enough to describe the different variations of 5GW, something Dan, Curtis, and others have done in the past. If an article existed, 5GW would be taken much more seriously by the academic community, and would allow others to cite and build upon your work (all six of you guys). Keep up the good work.

subadei said...

Thanks for the comment and the encouraging words, Steve!

Given Linds apparent dismissal of the 5gw theory I'm hard pressed to imagine a medium that would publish such an article. Any ideas?

deichmans said...


Think about publishing in "Information Age Warfare Quarterly" (I'm on the editorial board). I am pondering a piece on the utility of "complex emergence" for distributed command and control -- tipping the hat to the emerging concept of 5GW.

sf/ shane