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

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Lind on 5GW

Via Dan at D5GW, this dismissal of the 5GW framework from William Lind at this years Boyd Conference.

"No 5GW is in sight. No eyes can see that far.”

“There are vital, unexplored parts of 4GW [which may be misdescribed as 5GW].”

“There will be more central elements [of 4GW] manifesting themselves.”

This is a bit disappointing to hear coming from Lind. I don't know much about Lind the man having only been subjected to his views via his online essays at DNI. Politically I agree with him more often than not though I am something of a skeptic regarding the chronological evolution of his 4 generations of warfare. That aside I had imagined Linds perspectives on any theoretical outlook regarding strategy would be more welcoming. It's odd that a man who decries the cultural Marxists blind eye regarding his own theories turns an equally blind eye to others.

Apparently anything beyond the fourth generation is actually an element of the fourth generation that has yet to manifest itself. A conveniently open ended ideology that creates a comfortable intellectual umbrella. Lind seems to be embarking on the same old course as his Cold Warrior predecessors as he looks to the past and shuns the future. Disappointing.


Adrian said...

As a skeptic of 5GW (I am undecided on the generational warfare structure in general), I'd advise you to not be so quick to criticize Lind. Rather I would attempt to prove him wrong - after all the burden of proof is on you, TDAXP, Curtis, Arherring and other proponents of 5GW (honest question - are there any others?) to prove that 5GW exists, not on Lind to prove it doesn't. The way to convince me that 5GW exists is to show me examples, not to do vague theorizing of the sort that goes on at D5GW.

Anonymous said...


To be completely honest that part that really bugs me about Lind's comments is that he dismisses the possibility of 5GW out of hand.

I, personally, believe that 5GW 'will' exist. We at D5GW are looking into the future to discover what will be (or what has possibly already been but misunderstood or undefined). As for vague theorizing, I think the theory has progressed quite a bit in the short time that it has been around. I also think that we will find as time goes on and 5GW is refined and put into practice its utility in fighting 4GW opponents will be revealed.

To be honest, try to poke as many holes in 5GW as you can. I constantly put my own ideas through the torture test. A theory that can be disproven is as valid as believeing that the world is flat.

deichmans said...


Who's to say that ANY "generation" exists independent of human articulation?

The generational warfare structure is simply an ordering principle to show variation in methods (and participants) of warfighting over time. That is all.

Interestingly, the first three generations (in the "standard model" used by Lind, Hammes, Richards, Vandergriff, Hoffman, tdaxp, Arherring, purpleslog, CGW et al.) are purely attritionist: they describe different manners by which kinetic energy is applied by professional soldiers in a defined battlespace.

4GW expands the "T/O" -- the table of organization that describes who is playing. This is nothing "new": Sun Tzu wrote of these ideas more than two millenia ago in The Art of War [q.v. "Estimates"], and Clausewitz's "trinity" of rationality [state], probability [military] and rage [people] in On War [q.v., Book 1, Chapter 1, Section 28].

While 4GW implicitly treats the method by which combatants engage in shaping an opponent's perception, it does not go quite far enough in accounting for the fundamental role of "perception" in conflict -- and the prospect of a true Sun Tzu-like "victory without fighting, achieved through purely contextual methods.

I have (tongue-in-cheek) used Mel Gibson movies as a similar ordering principle for the evolution of warfare (Braveheart to The Patriot to Gallipoli to We Were Soldiers to Mad Max to [quite recently, h/t to purpleslog] Conspiracy Theory).

The irony of Lind's dismissiveness toward 5GW is that he is ultimately a Hegelian dialectician -- yet he is ignoring an evolution of his very thesis. Arrogance does not befit Hegel....

sf/ shane

Anonymous said...

Who do you refer to as the opponents when you said "its utility in fighting 4GW opponents will be revealed."?
In my opinion the central governments should be the opponents, but I would like to know your perspective. Thanks.

Anonymous said...


The most visible practitioners of 4GW at the moment are 'terrorists'. So far as I can tell from my cable news channels it seems the opponents of these 4GWers are governments (I don't know about 'central governments'), or at least the ones that profit most from stability.

If you want to bring down a government 5GW will do it (once it is fleshed out of course), but it would probably be just as possible and effective to change the government into something more like you would rather live with.

Anonymous said...

I just don't see why a 5GWarrior would fight 4GWarriors instead of his gov't, but I am still reading the usual websites to get up to speed.
I do disagree that it is possible to change gov't into something better; it only gets worse and more corrupt. I think a wave of revolutions is coming: China, Mexico, Russia, Venezuela, eventually the US,and of course, many smaller countries. The elites are too entrenched for there to be any reformation.

Anonymous said...

Hmmm, that would be an interesting thought experiment. A 5GW campaign to end corruption in government (insert country here).

Dan tdaxp said...

I just don't see why a 5GWarrior would fight 4GWarriors instead of his gov't, but I am still reading the usual websites to get up to speed.

You're a good observer.

There's no reason why a 5GW has to be directd against a 4GW force -- it could easily be directed against a 2G state, for instance.

In the same way, 3GW originally was devised to fight states (the German Blitzkrieg), but John Robb has shown had it can be adapted into guerrillaism.

Anonymous said...


You're just going to confuse Vegas there by bringing Robb into the conversation.


The Generations of warfare model is laid out as a progression to show that each generation is designed to combat the previous generations. Therefore a 3GW organization is well suited to combat a 1GW or 2GW foe, but ill suited to combat a 4GW opponent.

5GW would be, in a sense, at the top of the food chain. Yes, 5GW doctrine could be used in a conflict with a 2GW organization, but it is the only effective way to combat a 4GW opponent. That is what I meant in saying that 5GW will have utility in fighting a 4GW opponent.

Anonymous said...

Adrian is correct.

Why don't you guys plan, fight, or advise groups/persons in a suped-up 4gw, or 5gw (based on your definitions so far) so as to test out the theory? I ask such a question in an ethical vacuum of course (although it is impossible to escape the ethical side of war but let's forget that for the moment).

I hear a lot of talk about super empowered individuals and the ability of small groups to knock down states and other actors. So, can bloggers, random internet dudes, or any non-military member of society wage war using 4gw and it's supposed greater xGW forms?

The online discussions I've watched periodically over the years on various blogs have mainly been the O-O-D of Boyd's epistemological OODA loop. The posts, books, articles ... what have you ... they mainly discuss the observing, orienting, and hypothesis of xGW patterns, there is little testing, action or artistic display by writers/bloggers creating the theories in a real combative environment against another social system. You could say Barnett, Robb, Lind, Hammes et al. are the testers because they have links to the military and are informing the military on xGW patterns (which brings up a point of epistemological importance: the lack of feedback from theory to test and back into theory again because of such things as classified after-actions reports etc.) But isn't the military testing the theory counter-intuitive to the xGW patterns? Is the military needed when theoritically anyone can wage it? (1)

The theory has a historical feel to it. The writers etc. are describing the combative methods of competing social systems rather than participating in it. The writers/bloggers are more like social scientists and historians rather than strategic/theoretical practioners like Clausewitz or Mao.

Not that being a historian or social scientist is worthless, they are definitely needed, I just think there is a lack of testing and practicality for something that has been considered an 'art' by it's finest practitioners. Artistically speaking, You can spend all day waxing philosophically about baroque paintings, doric architecture, and the different methods, styles and traditions of the various masters, but in the end the critics, theorists and art historians are talking about the outcome of work produced by artists, collaboration of artists, and pupils and assistants to the masters.


1. Talking out of my arse here ... One could say that the link from hypothesis to test for most of the xGW theory is from the Global Guerrilla/4GW/PNM schools (2) to the artists in the military-government-business triumvirate. If that is the case then xGW is defined, not necessarily created, by these two different groups (the schools and the triumvirate). The triumvirate might be artists in some styles (hostile takeovers of businesses, diplomacy, the great captains etc.) but they are classifying and defining the work of the 4GW artists (insurgency methods, terrorism etc.) and trying to come up with counter-artistic methods (5gw? COIN? something else?) to the current xGW definition/classification. This seems rather circular, the 4gw artists are producing what is known as 4gw based on two groups who define what 4gw is. 4GW and the two groups are defined in terms of each other. Not only that but What do our enemy artists call it? (Do they even refer to it as an art? Or a science? Or something else?) What are our enemies schools of thought? Obviously some of them have referred to 4gw in the press (Al Qaeda for instance) but did they know they were doing 4gw (or are they playing us for fools and exploiting our mental images by playing on our obsessions and the human tendency to create a super-enemy?). How do they define it.

2. On a meta footnote I use the term schools in an artistic sense again where it came from the fifteenth century geographically dispersed schools of art. They weren't exactly schools in our sense, rather they were apprenticeships where the master memetically past on his style to the apprentice. Once the apprentice was good enough he would paint complete art works in the masters style thus creating geographically centered "schools". When I see the different terms out there like 4GW, effects-based operations, COIN and net-centric warfare I see them as schools of thought similar to the artists of old. The schools have their masters and apprentices in the field of war. Perhaps we should focus more on war artists in terms of temporal and geographical schools (the MEND nigerian delta guerilla school, or the Abu Sayyaf terrorist South East Asian school) rather than all encompassing definitions of war.

Anonymous said...

I should have been more specific in my definitions. Most of the time when I said xGW above I meant from 4gw and greater. Obviously, from the theory, 1gw-3gw is militarily based.

Anonymous said...

Baron D,

I've thought a lot about your comment. You ask some very good questions. I can really only speak for myself but here are some responses and, hopefully, answers.

"Why don't you guys plan, fight, or advise groups/persons in a suped-up 4gw, or 5gw (based on your definitions so far) so as to test out the theory?"

Well, mostly, 5GW theory is something I do in my free time (something there never seems to be enough of) and I do it as mental exercise. If somebody wanted to call me up and ask my opinion and/or advice on 5GW that would be interesting, but nobody ever has.

"So, can bloggers, random internet dudes, or any non-military member of society wage war using 4gw and it's supposed greater xGW forms?"

Sure, don't see why not. Pick a target (or end result rather) and let me know how it turns out.

At the bottom line though (and to bring it back to the original topic of the post regarding Lind), 5GW is still very much a theory. What we are doing is taking a step forward down a path we can't really see. We know it is there but it is still dark and hazy. We can imagine the operationalization (and I have), but each time we do so we uncover myriad new considerations that we must explore because we need to understand them better. Honestly 5GW isn't ready for real operationalization. It still needs guys like Soob, Dan, Curtis, Purple and others to envision it and understand it. It still needs guys like you Lind and Adrian and others to poke holes in it.

By the way, your 'schools' idea is interesting.

Anonymous said...


Just because you haven't seen the operationalization, the experimentations, the activity, and so forth, doesn't mean it isn't happening.

But we've addressed these questions before.

The nature of 5GW, such as it is, will not be such that experimenters show up their weaknesses, their warfare rule-set resets, and so forth to better educate others how to turn those 5GWers aside. This would be silly.

Again: The long time frame for 5GW plans will frustrate those seeing children and women and noncombatants blown to bits every day in Iraq and Afghanistan and youths dying of drug overdoses while networks of drug pushers rake in the cash. Incidentally, those things could actually be a part of an ongoing 5GW.

G said...

Arherring thanks for the reply. I think what you, dan, curtis, soob and others are doing is great, no doubt about it. I'd just like to see a move from theory to practice, which as you have stated, the theory is still in it's infancy. Which is understandable. I'll continue watching with considerable interest.

Curtis, the argument of "just because we haven't seen a 5gw doesn't mean it doesn't exist" still doesn't sit right with me exactly because of the lack of evidence. I still think there is missing link between theory and practice, especially practice conducted by those espousing the theory (1).

I understand the nature of 5gw, according to the definitions, doesn't allow for much leniency in penetrating what really goes on. That is why I think moving from the theory towards testing it, in the form of actually waging a 4gw/5gw war because combative strategy/theory is forged in competitive environments (much like the comment by phil on that link of yours).

Or maybe I'm wrong about the whole thing, and perhaps, as arherring stated, you guys are still exploring the boundaries of a new concept.


1. Which brings up a counter point to my assumption. Why should I assume you guys should test it? A lot of military theory seems to be created *after* the warrior-philosophers action days. So perhaps the Mao, Boyd, Clausewitz or Musashi of 5gw is alive today and will write something someday in the far off future. That's assuming there is a correlation between good written military theory and the generations of war.

Anonymous said...

I'm going to pull out of this discussion for the moment as I may be missing something. I'm going to go back and re-read all the 4gw material over a few weeks and then I may move onto the 5gw thought.