Big shout-out to Curtis of Dreaming 5GW for finding this comment over at skilluminati:
5GWhat? The Meaning of “Warfare” in 2008 // Skilluminati Research
Henry Okah and MEND, according to the framework of war theory, are rooted in 4GW because of the “calling cards: and press releases — 5GW will be invisible.
I agree 100% that 5GW is an event horizon for warfare theory — it’s where war merges with everything else, where things become so radically different than the old theory is more of a hindrance than a help.
I got an interesting email this morning from a reader who pointed out that everything we speculate on 5GW techniques has been in practice for thousands of years by occult secret societies. I happen to agree with him and I’ll be drawing of Crowley just as much as Clausewitz.
I agree, with one change: 5GW is the event horizon, beyond which the xGW framework breaks down as violence is dispersed and action indirect enough that the study of war becomes the study of politics.
I’ve understood for a while why the xGW framework begins at 0GW (genocidal war): you can’t fight something that’s already completely eradicated. And now I understand why xGW ends at 5GW: that’s politics.
“5GW as Event Horizion:” I think that’s my deep thought for the month.
30 thoughts on “5GW as the Event Horizon”
We might be getting into a GMW vs. xGW argument here, but…
My conception of xGW is that it begins with the tactics of the line and column of the gunpowder age, which implies a certain democratization of violence, and an increase in the utility of infantry. That is 1GW.
oGW–what you define as genocidal war, in my book, is the more Clausewitzian term of Primordial Violence, and has existed for at least 4000 years in varying forms and using different methods.
Are we on the same page here?
And 5GW as an evert horizon: Interesting. We may be veering into The End of History-type arguments again here, but this is worth exploring.
I need to think about this a bit more. However, what is to prevent violence from rearing its ugly head once we’ve passed into the 5GW (the purely political) world? I do think there are certain existential aspects of humanity that predispose us to violence, and even if the peaceful among us get the upper hand (via an alliance system, totalitarian government, whatever you wish), there will still enough latent violent tendencies to light off another war (Archduke Franz Ferdinand, anyone?).
It may be instructive to work out the roots of war and violence in humanity to determine if the 5GW event horizon can even exist. If such tendencies toward violence can be eliminated, then I think there may be something to the 5GW event horizon. Otherwise I think we need to keep looking.
Martin van Crevald in Transformation of War noted that a big reason wars are fought today is because they are FUN! There is nothing like the glory of being shot at, and having the rounds miss. Likewise, there is nothing quite like the moral certitude you get when you engage the enemy in combat and win. It is observations like this that make me think that 5GW event horizons after which war becomes purely political may be pure fantasy.
I hadn’t thought of GMW as shorthand for “Generations of Modern War,” but it works. I quickly googled that TLA (three letter abbreviation) and see a comment by Aherring.  Did he coin it? (If so, bravo!)
I’m excited about this round of criticism and theorizing. It’s the most lively the field’s been in a bit, and it’s very constructive. Can I send you a review copy of my monograph? Chapter 2 especially may be interesting… it was written before the GMW v. XGW divide became explicit as well as before the event horizon stuff, but may be useful for some context.
William Lind’s GMW format just ends at 4GW (the hegelian dialectic is still synthesizing, and all that), and T.X. Hammes theory may best be seen as a stepping stone from GMW to XGW, so from an XGW perspective…
If there is a “timeline” in XGW, it’s very long  … chimpanzees can commit 0GW genocide, rush in 1GW decisive battles, used 2GW ranged weapons (stones), and engage in 3GW light infantry / infiltration attacks; presumably early humans were capable of both 4GW and 5GW. So it’s not that violence & history end at 5GW, rather that it no longer makes sense to speak of war when kinetic violence is dispersed higher than 5GW. 
I have to again praise your recent criticisms of 4GW. If it helps accelerate the divide between GMW and XGW, it is a very good thing.
Dan tdaxp said:
“So itâ€™s not that violence & history end at 5GW, rather that it no longer makes sense to speak of war when kinetic violence is dispersed higher than 5GW.”
This is where you lose me. I cannot imagine a war without a kinetic (killing, or at least the existential threat of killing). A form of political conflict without violence or threat of violence may be another generation of conflict, perhaps, but certainly not a generation of war.
Perhaps it might be better to reclassify the GMW/xGW relationship as the GMW/xGPC (xGeneration of Political Conlict). This would be better for purists like me.
It might also be good to do away with such Great Society vocabulary as the War on Poverty, War on Drugs, etc. But again, I’m a purist.
And I enjoy the debate, too. I think my role here is to keep all of you honest! I’m not so much criticising 4GW as I am criticising 5GW. As I have already said, the 4GW framework is remarkably useful to explaining defeats of modern maneuver armies at the hands of ragtag bumkins with AK-47s. I still think 5GW, in all honesty, doesn’t tell us anything useful about the future of armed conflict. But I might be wrong about that and so I stay in the discussion.
Nor do I think the xGW/GMW divide is a good thing. The lexicon of both schools of thought are too similar and only serve to cloud the issues. xGW needs to make a clean break with GMW, or it needs to merge with GMW.
I would be happy to read the monograph. You have my email…we can work out the details.
Should there be a distinction between kinetics and violence, or war or conflict? Are bullets violent or kinetic? Are ideas violent or kinetic. Are business or politics war or conflict? This may be purely a philisophical kind of distinction (or lack thereof) but I think it is an important one.
I had read Justin’s article, but before the comments appeared.
“Iâ€™ve understood for a while why the xGW framework begins at 0GW (genocidal war): you canâ€™t fight something thatâ€™s already completely eradicated. And now I understand why xGW ends at 5GW: thatâ€™s politics.”
Great!. There the continuum. This is the fundamental difference between XGW and GMW.
“GMW as shorthand for â€œGenerations of Modern War,â€”
I like this, and will start using this myself!
“So itâ€™s not that violence & history end at 5GW, rather that it no longer makes sense to speak of war when kinetic violence is dispersed higher than 5GW. ”
Yes yes yes! My brain is all excited! Want to know why people have a problem believing 5GW can exist…if you look at this a grap:
– with the Y axis being Kinetics with 0 being low/dispersed moving up to Hi/focused
– X Axis Left to right) 0GW 1GW 2GW 3GW 4GW 5GW Politics
– the curve or line is Upper Left to Lower right
– each XGW takes a slice of the graph. The area/slice between 4GW and Politics is small…5GW is a small area…that is why people find it hard to believe it can be. Unless you look closely, there doesn’t appear to be a slice at all.
I call 0GW Primal Warfare. I think we are all talking the same thing. ( http://purpleslog.wordpress.com/2008/05/01/what-should-0gw-be-called/ )
I have come to believe recently that those actors that think war is only kinetic are going to be loosing a lot of wars to those actors that don’t think that way.
Those practicing 5GW will want people to keep thinking that way.
In no place did I ever say or imply that war is ONLY kinetic…indeed, both Clausewitz and I recognize that any war that is purely kinetic is not war at all, but rather primordial violence divorced from policy.
I *am* saying that all war *must* have a kinetic aspect, whether the threat of kinetics or actual kinetics. And by kinetics, I mean there must be a real possibility of death or harm. A war with no kinetic aspect is pure policy, and represents the opposite extreme from that of primordial violence. The kinetic aspect may be academic–like the nuclear calculations made by the US and USSR during the cold war, or it may be very, very real–the snipers bullet, fragmentation from artillery, poison gas, etc. Even Lend-Lease of pre-WWII represented an aspect of war–it was almost purely political with almost no violent aspect, save for the fact that we were supplying allies with arms which to kill with.
I am even willing to say that a virus intended to destroy or disrupt a computer system of an enemy may be a form of war, for that could infict harm on the enemy.
But a war without a kinetic aspect–meaning no threat of violence or harm, or no actual violence or harm? Ha!
“I have come to believe recently that those actors that think war is only kinetic are going to be loosing a lot of wars to those actors that donâ€™t think that way.”
I think the exact opposite–those who seek a paradigm of war without a kinetic aspect are seeking a utopia. Those who seek utopias tend to have their Observation and Orientation pretty messed up. And they tend to lose wars.
There is always this problem, of thinking that “dispersed kinetics” equals “no kinetics.”  Pretty soon, straw men are being used, red herrings and so forth!
If someone dies of starvation in Africa, and that starvation is due to many factors, is the dying “non-kinetic”?
Or suppose what some have supposed (for the sake of this argument), that all the ethanol use taking the world by storm has helped to cause starvation: there are those cars, moving at speed — many of them! — which is a quite kinetic thing ultimately leading to the starvation in Africa and elsewhere.
If you don’t like that argument, a more recent argument, put forth by Mr. Brown himself in the last few days: farm subsidies in the developed West are leading to starvation in poorer countries! Are the farm subsidies really “non-kinetic” given the fact that they influence how farmers actually farm and farming is a kinetic activity?
Besides, I do not at all like Dan’s formulation, which he tried to make once before, that 5GW=politics/political conflict. No, no, there’s economic conflict as well (in the sense of “The starving populace does not make for a viable, replenishable military force…..” etc.) and so many other things. This politics & war dichotomy is much too simplistic.
Back to the drawing board.
Or look at the quote Dan lifted from Skilluminati: “where war merges with everything else” — and pay attention to the last two words there.
In fact, I am tempted to say of politics, while we are on that subject, that the term “politics” will require as much of a shift in meaning as the term “war”, once we reach the singularity. (Right now we’re just clawing our way there, in this thread.)
[Note: in the last few comments left to tdaxp, I’ve inadvertently submitted the wrong website address associated with my name. “5GW.com” is not correct! Dunno how that got there, but my browser has been replicating it!]
“* In 3GW, the strategist offloads even more of the violence. While in 1GW you can have all able-bodied men at a front, and in 2GW you divide them between the direct war of fighting and the indirect war of production, in 3GW you offload even more by swapping some of your labor & capital for increased human capital. 3GWâ€™s light infantry must be able to correctly identity the purpose of their mission, distinguish it from the means of their mission, and operate independently. Those that assist in the building of this human capital are just as much part of the war effort as the machine-producers of 2GW and warriors of 1GW.”
Good stuff here. Now that I understand the terminology (“unloading of violence”), I recognize that what you speak of as something I already knew of.
My only criticism is that you neglected to continue your discussion through and past 4GW –where we start to get into insurgencies that share much in common with conceptions of general peoples’ war. The prospect of completely politicized populations of entire cities/provinces, etc…has the potential to bring the “unloading of violence” full circle back to the state the approximated 1GW. This, I think, would both increase the density and the omnipresence of the political violence. Political Correctness takes on a whole new violent aspect. It might be worth looking at The Great Terror of Soviet Russia for analogues of this.
“Should there be a distinction between kinetics and violence, or war or conflict?”
No, not if coercing an opposing actor is the goal…then they are war.
“Are bullets violent or kinetic?”
“Are ideas violent or kinetic”
“Are business or politics war or conflict?”
If the business or politics are proxies for coercing an opponent then it is war. Conflict is a nicer name for war.
“In no place did I ever say or imply that war is ONLY kineticâ€¦”
“I *am* saying that all war *must* have a kinetic aspect, whether the threat of kinetics or actual kinetics. And by kinetics, I mean there must be a real possibility of death or harm. A war with no kinetic aspect is pure policy, and represents the opposite extreme from that of primordial violence.”
“But a war without a kinetic aspectâ€“meaning no threat of violence or harm, or no actual violence or harm? Ha!”
I understand your reaction.
I have come to believe that a major aspect of 4GW is the Weaponization of things not thought to be weapons. An opponent a can be pushed around and dislocated just so they don’t appear to be “mean” or “bad”. This is fighting war in the Moral and Mental Dimensions. 4GWers fight war in the Physical, Moral and Mental dimensions, whereas 0GW/1GW/2GW/3GW are fought almost completely in physical dimensions.
In 5GW, the Physical dimensions is minimized as direct kinetic action is pre-empted by fighting in the Mental, Moral and Institutional dimension. Wars fought this way will have reall consequences in the Physical dimension, but those will be 2nd and 3rd order effects that are not easily observable. In someways 5GW will resemble politics. But that is just cover so the 5GW Warrior can avoid retaliation by the opposing actor (0GW, 1GW, 2GW, 3GW, 4GW)
“I think the exact oppositeâ€“those who seek a paradigm of war without a kinetic aspect are seeking a utopia.”
I don’t think I am Utopian. I see this more as War Theory Arbitrage or Entrepanuership. Personally, I started looking at 5GW partially to find novel ways of fighting 4GW.
This is a fun discussion!
“I have come to believe that a major aspect of 4GW is the Weaponization of things not thought to be weapons. An opponent a can be pushed around and dislocated just so they donâ€™t appear to be â€œmeanâ€ or â€œbadâ€. This is fighting war in the Moral and Mental Dimensions. 4GWers fight war in the Physical, Moral and Mental dimensions, whereas 0GW/1GW/2GW/3GW are fought almost completely in physical dimensions. ”
I disagree. 1GW & 2GW are highly kinetic, as is 3GW. However 3GW puts a premium on destroying cohesion through piercing, isolating, penetrating, infiltrating, and neutralizing, not by attritive destruction of the enemy. 3GW relies on the shock factor of realizing that you are surrounded, and are therefore mentally compelled to surrender. The 3GW beating, though it may have small areas of extremely high concentrations of attritive firepower, is still based on the mental destruction of the enemy’s will to fight.
4GW may be highly kinetic, too. The Hama model of destroying an insurgency is an examply of using physical and mental means to destroy the moral heart of an insurgency, though connectivity by networked media generally works against the utility of the Hama method today. A good quote by the always-kickass Gen James Mattis that might have relevency to the 3GW and 4GW warrior: “Sometimes the best way to influence the mind of the enemy is to put a bullet in it. Another example: Fallujah.
4GW may be highly kinetic, yet the focus is destroying the moral heart of the enemy. The focus isn’t destroying individual troops (1-2GW), or cohesion (3GW). The focus in 4GW is destroying his moral worth as a fighting force. The focus is to either assimiliate/co-opt the enemy, or to destroy him by sending him into a nihilistic abyss, thereby facilitating his destruction.
“In 5GW, the Physical dimensions is minimized as direct kinetic action is pre-empted by fighting in the Mental, Moral and Institutional dimension. Wars fought this way will have reall consequences in the Physical dimension, but those will be 2nd and 3rd order effects that are not easily observable. In someways 5GW will resemble politics. But that is just cover so the 5GW Warrior can avoid retaliation by the opposing actor (0GW, 1GW, 2GW, 3GW, 4GW)”
In 3GW and 4GW direct kinetic action is often pre-empted by fighting in mental and moral dimensions, too. 5GW is not unique in this. This is the point of RoE, rigorous fires clearance procedures, adherance to norms against using poison gas, the Law of Armed Conflict, etc. I could list countless other examples.
What is the “institutional dimension?” What does fighting there resemble? Examples?
How are moral and mental “combats” (I put combat in quotes because it is, in this case, nonkinetic) different in 4GW and 5GW?
As an aside, I think the weaponization of things not thought to be weapons is a product of moving past the industrial age. When we were dependent on factories to build the materials of war, those materials were highly specialized. Therefore I think the weaponization has more to do with socio-economic realities rather than tendencies of a particular generation of war (whether GMW or xGW).
“Perhaps that is a major aspect of every higher GW?”
Yes, that would include 5GW as well (carry over from 4GW).
“The 3GW beating, though it may have small areas of extremely high concentrations of attritive firepower, is still based on the mental destruction of the enemyâ€™s will to fight.”
You are right. In 3GW, the mental and moral dimensions start to come into play.
“4GW may be highly kinetic, too. The Hama model of destroying an insurgency is an examply of using physical and mental means…”
I disagree. The Hama-Example-as-4GW is Lind’s problem not yours though. One shortcoming of Lind’s model is that he tries to group actors and timeframes under his generations. So, he had no choice but to claim the Syrian action at Hama is 4GW. In reality it was 2GW attrition (or perhaps even 0GW genocide). Lind’s GMW backed him into a corner. With the XGW, we don’t have that problem.
I think the definition that most use for 4GW is to limiting. 4GW is more then advanced/evolved Insurgency + Information Warfare. Mostly, this is Lind’s fault as his GMW concepts can not be “improved” upon unless the idea is really his. Go read the Chinese book “Unrestricted Warfare” to get a better idea of real scope of 4GW. We are only seeing the tip of 4GW right now.
“In 3GW and 4GW direct kinetic action is often pre-empted by fighting in mental and moral dimensions, too. 5GW is not unique in this.”
The Physical dimension is still the most important in 3GW. In 5GW, it is almost of no direct importance.
“What is the â€œinstitutional dimension?â€ What does fighting there resemble? Examples?”
It’s my creation. Here’s the reference:
“How are moral and mental â€œcombatsâ€ (I put combat in quotes because it is, in this case, nonkinetic) different in 4GW and 5GW?”
In 4GW they can be me more overt. 5GWers will rely upon 2nd/3rd/n-degree effects to avoid discovery.
This is a great post and set of comments!
I hope this all doesn’t seem like I am suggesting that kinetics don’t matter. In parts, each XGW tries to avoid the kinetic effects of a lower generation because destruction is final. That is not to say a well run 3GW can’t beat a 4GW.
Was that what the second Fallujah was perhaps? Marine-Army 3GW beats Sunni/Al-Qada 4GW? Or had the USA forces degraded the Sunni 4GW into a light 3GW or 2GW force which then got destroyed by the better USA/Marines/Army 3GWers?
“The Hama-Example-as-4GW is Lindâ€™s problem not yours though. One shortcoming of Lindâ€™s model is that he tries to group actors and timeframes under his generations. So, he had no choice but to claim the Syrian action at Hama is 4GW. In reality it was 2GW attrition (or perhaps even 0GW genocide). Lindâ€™s GMW backed him into a corner. With the XGW, we donâ€™t have that problem.
I think the definition that most use for 4GW is to limiting. 4GW is more then advanced/evolved Insurgency + Information Warfare. Mostly, this is Lindâ€™s fault as his GMW concepts can not be â€œimprovedâ€ upon unless the idea is really his. Go read the Chinese book â€œUnrestricted Warfareâ€ to get a better idea of real scope of 4GW. We are only seeing the tip of 4GW right now.”
I think you’re mixing up Hammes and Lind here. Hammes uses the words “evolved insurgency” to define 4GW in The Sling and the Stone. Lind actually opposes that definition, because it is too narrow. He has said so on the d-n-i site.
Nor is Lind too Hegelian. He allows for non-4GW forces to exist in 4GW times–he is the first to say the US military is hardly even a 3GW force, because he thinks that we are too reliant on attritive firepower in the form of PGMs (I agree with this–to a point). He therefore has no problem with a 4GW campaign using 2GW forces (Syrian’s military) against Hama. The point of the Hama campaign was to destroy the moral heart of that insurgency, and they were remarkably successful.
Tactically it was a 3GW penetration operation. Operationally it was physical destruction of self-selected insurgents, facilitated by the IO campaign, and by allowing self-selecting citizens out of the city prior to the American onslaught. Strategically Fallujah II was 1)Making an example of the city (mental), 2)Documenting and disseminating evidence of the atrocities of the city (moral), and 3) Destruction of the insurgent city government (moral, mental, and physical).
In Fallujah the insurgents certainly were NOT 3GW. They violated just about every 3GW principle–use of massive fortifications for protection rather than canalization, use of firepower for attritive effects, rather than shaping enemy mental processes, little use of reserves, lack of concentration of forces in either space or time. The insurgents were strategically 4GW, with largely attritive 2GW tactics.
What was the Rwandan genocide? 4GW or oGW? There was a very strong IO component in that fight that could not be present in a oGW situation. And there was political differentiation between Hutus and Tutsis–it was a political fight as much as a tribal fight. That level of politicization could not exist in oGW. Yet the killing was done with machetes and small arms, and without much regard to the moral aspects of the fight…it was almost purely attritive.
Best discussion yet on this topic, that I have seen.
“Regarding Rwanda, becuase war is an extension of politics, the Rwandan genocide was no more or less political than any Yanomamo battle: two socially defined groups in a resource conflict, ending with the near-extermination of the loser. Thus, 0GW.”
I think someone other than you or I defined the 0GW as Primordial Violence–which is a Clausewitzian term, and is congruous to the Ideal War concept that Clausewitz also formulated. Ideal war is basically perfect violence. It is known as Ideal War because it cannot exist–it is hostile even to its own policy, and therefore is useful only as a tool for analysis rather than a descriptive term for an actual war. This is why taking a given conflict and empirically stating whether it is representative of a given GW is so difficult. All GWs, I think, are ideal. (Not to mention that empirically saying anything about war is anti-Clausewitzian. Remember the concepts of “uncertainty” and “fluidity” that are so important to 3GW and later generations).
So it was a trick question…Yanomomo war cannot be 0GW, unless 0GW is defined as something other than Primordial Violence/Ideal War. The policy of Genocide is even too political to even qualify as 0GW, if 0GW is defined as primordial violence. It was something else…and certainly not ideal.
So Yanomomo war cannot be 0GW. I guess that means neither can the Rwandan genocide be 0GW. It was 4GW with crude weapons.
Another thing to consider is that 1GW, in Lind’s GMW conception, is defined in part by the advent of the use of firearms by infantry, and brought a democratization of violence to the battlefield, tactics of lines and columns, etc. So is 0GW tactics of the Crossbow and Pike (Swiss Squares)? The Alexandrian Combined Arms Synthesis? Khan’s Flying Columns of Mangudai? –Or is it the Primordial Violence/Ideal War? This is worth exploring because 1GW is defined in part by technological innovation in the age of gunpowder. xGW may have tried to jettison this technological baggage with the rest of the socio-political-economic aspects of war that Lind relies on, but then the question remains how do you define each generation regardless of the Socio-Political-Economic-Technological (SPET) aspects? Unless we can define these GWs without regard to SPET, I think we’re stuck with at least some of Lind’s GMW.
1GW isn’t the only generation with these problems. Crucial to 4GW is the technological advent of nukes, which reduces the ability of conventional 3GW forces to fight.
I’m just asking for workable definitions here…
“In terms of the dispersel of kinetic violence in society. In other words, in terms of how much of the warfighting is â€œoffloadedâ€ from the actual fighters to support mechanisms.”
I fail to see how this is not an economic decision, rooted in socio-economic-political-technological circumstances. Nor do I see how greater off-loading of violence is congruous with higher-generations of war. I am no great fan of Jomini, but this even runs counter to the Principle of Mass.
For example: Capital-rich fighting organizations (US military, for example) spend their money on equipment, offloading the production of violence to industry. Labor-rich fighting organizations (N. Vietnam, VC) offload less of their production of violence, instead relying on their large labor pool. Less violence was offloaded by the VC than the Americans, yet they managed to strategically beat the US, using 4GW mixed with 3GW tactics. The fighting force that offloaded less violence won against a force that offloaded greater violence.
The offloading is inherently an economic decision, and I don’t think it gives much bearing on the advancement from one xGW to another xGW.
Not only that, you will find many guerrilla movements that are labor-rich, offload little violence, and also practice more advanced styles of war than do 3GW maneuver forces. FARC, Hizbollah, JAM, Hamas, VC, IRA, GSPC, etc…
“So it was a trick questionâ€¦Yanomomo war cannot be 0GW, unless 0GW is defined as something other than Primordial Violence/Ideal War. The policy of Genocide is even too political to even qualify as 0GW, if 0GW is defined as primordial violence. It was something elseâ€¦and certainly not ideal.”
I’d like to put in my two cents on this point. I have been trying to reconcile two versions of 0GW, firstly the genocidal warfare of ultimate survival, and secondly the very personalized warfare of individuals who fight for themselves in order to gain status and the right to continue their genetic line. I think the concept of ‘ideal war’ bridges this gap because it points out that such warfare is unsustainable. Genocides in Africa show this. The ability of all sides eventually breaks down and even the victors suffer. The response to this can be found in the Native American concept of ‘counting coup’ and the Aztec ‘Flower War’. In both cases 0GW was waged on a fundamentally personal/survival level, yet with a limiter that allowed the participants to further their own status and genetic legacy without corrupting the ability of their line to survive in the long term. This is not to say that they weren’t capable of ‘ideal 0GW’, as Gen. Custer and Cortez could attest to, but that it wasn’t in their best interest to do so except when deemed necessary.
Many things deserve a place on the unfinished timeline! I’m contemplating creating a short form that will allow others to submit sources for inclusion, or some other way of facilitating the process.
However, I’ve added this post today!
“However, XGW measures the offloading of kinetic violence (reducing the kinetic intensity), not the offloading of the war effort.”
Yet violence in each succeeding GW is more intense than in the previous GW. In WWI, the fighting was mostly 2GW in nature, with concentrated violence along the fronts. In WWII, a largely 3GW war, violence was both more intense and less concentrated, extending to the industrial areas. In Vietnam, a 3 & 4GW, the violence was even more intense than WWII (look at tonnages of bombs dropped in VN vs. WWII–you will be surprised to find that far more firepower was used in VN as WWII, even if you add in the atomic bombings). In VN the violence was even more intense, yet less concentrated.
Now look at the recent Hizbollah v. Israel War in 2006. Terror-rockets were fired at civilian centers wherever they could be ranged. PGMs were used by a 4GW force against 3GW tanks. Intensity increaced. Concentration decreased. These effects were combined with increasingly effective IO campaigns, perhaps giving the impression of offloading violence, but I think that would be wrong.
I just don’t see how even in these examples how more advanced GWs have decreased concentrations of kinetic violence. In fact, they kinetic violence may be generalized, or specific–that, frankly, doesn’t seem to matter.
Ironically, Victor Davis Hanson in his book “Carnage and Culture,” claims that the institution of the Flower War prevented the Aztec from dealing with Cortez as they should have. Hence Cortez conquered Mexico with a few hundred Europeans with firearms. It seems the Aztec were incapable of genocidal war.
I think the dispersal of kinetics/violence, is also a factor. With X+1 in XGW the application of violence becomes less direct. At 0GW kinetic violence may be insignificant but is directly personal, 1GW less so but still very immediate, 2GW (from archers to artillery to strategic bombing) even more removed. At the same time, however, effects are dispersed more widely. In 3GW the kinetic actions on one part of a battlefield are able to dislocate forces who never even saw the enemy. At 4GW the will itself can be attacked by the very idea of violence. At 5GW whole societies may be manipulated, causing unknowable upheaval, and yet these effects occur without even knowing one has been attacked.
I suppose I should have said the Tlaxcala and not the Aztecs. At the end of the Spanish conquest one survived and the other was destroyed.
Frankly, I don’t see how:
-Strategic Bombing is 2GW–it’s very nature is the deep raid, bypassing strength in armies to attack weaknesses in industrial production (whether this was effective is an open question, however.) It’s nature is also to attack the will of the enemy (again, effectiveness is open for debate.) It did not attempt to destroy armies through attrition, which would be 2GW.
-Archers are 2GW, given that they operated in combined arms formations with heavy (shock) infantry. It seems that their range is a rather moot question when your options are to be hacked or stabbed by a sword or be pierced by a crossbow bolt. The violence for each is just as near. And if you’re an archer, your biggest enemy is the lancer. If, you, as an archer, perish, it would probably be due to the cutting of a blade or piercing by a lance, Agincourt and disease notwithstanding. So, again, here the placing of apparently 2GW archers with apparently 1GW men-at-arms is rather myopic. It’s myopic because it mistakes a specific weapons system for an entire style of warfare that actually persisted from prehistory through the invention of the Arquebus. And even with primitive firearms, the Pikeman had a heyday in the formation of the Swiss Square, and this was in the 17th century!
Furthermore, there are plenty of examples of using persisting logistics strategies to defeat invaders–an example would be wasting fields and burning crops. Such actions also are capable of destroying armies without ever once even engaging them, yet these almost certainly do not amount to a higher generation of war. Likewise, Alexander used superior Maneuver through the Cilician Gates of Anatolia to avoid contact and attack the rear of his Persian enemies, yet even this is not 3GW (he was using archers (apparently 2GW), hoplites (apparently 1GW), and primitive cavalry (take your pick as to what GW). Alex provided a great example of the utility of Maneuver, yet he wasn’t a Maneuverist in the true sense of the term.
As far as 4GW goes, you say that “the will itself can be attacked by the very idea of violence.” Indeed. And I can also say that this is not unique to 4GW. When even a remotely competent commander recognizes that “The Enemy Gets a Vote,” he admits that his will is being attacked at some level by enemy action. This is not 4GW. This is METT-T.
“-Strategic Bombing is 2GWâ€“itâ€™s very nature is the deep raid, bypassing strength in armies to attack weaknesses in industrial production”
You are absolutely right. Strategic Bombing is a 3GW doctrine. But this is the only point I will conceed.
You can also see XGW as a system for the classification of doctrine:
0GW is the heading for genocidal/survival warfare. Individuals fight for themselves and for the right of their line to survive.
1GW encompasses projection of force to and from key geographical postions. The Spartans and Persians at Thermopylae is a good example of this as are the campaigns of Hannibal and many other battles from antiquity to modern times.
2GW covers doctrines of attrition, where force is used to degrade the physical ability of the enemy to oppose you by direct force. Agincourt is a prime example of this but so are many battles in the American Civil War, WW1 and WW2.
3GW is for doctrines that dislocate the strength of an enemy with a strike at the essential weakness of an enemy (2GW is strength on strength, and 3GW is strength on weakness). The German bypassing of the Maginot Line is an example of avoiding strength to attack weakness and displacing the enemy. This kind of displacement may be positional, temporal, material and/or moral. The Mongols were masters of this, so was ‘Stonewall Jackson’ and Erwin Rommel.
4GW makes the jump into the moral that 3GW starts. 4GW doctrines strike at the enemy’s perceived ability to continue fighting. Scorched earth is an example of 4GW in that even before an invader feels the pinch of not being able to provide for themselves from conquered territory (even if alternative supply can be arranged) they begin to feel unable to continue the fight in the face of such destruction and resolution.
5GW is even more subtle, it’s activity goes below perception into the context of conflict. What a target observes is manipulated in order to cause the target to react in a specific and completely natural manner.
Each of these Generations is, in effect, a dislocation of the previous Generation (X-1). The doctrines that fit into each of these Generations may exist concurrently with each other. A 5GW campaign may contain battles fought with 4GW, 3GW and 2GW doctrines and contain engagements of Generations 0, 1, 2, 3, and 4. This is a strength of XGW.
I think you’re moving in a better direction as far as defining the types of XGW with regard to doctrine…this is still fraught with lots of problems (that Lind, Hammes, and van Crevald all avoided by beginning their constructs of modern war with the age of gunpowder.) But it is superior, I think, to the “offloading of violence” theory put forth earlier.
So, if the issue of classifying the types of XGW based is on doctrine, the best way to do that would be to assemble an intellectual history of warfare, which is a fine idea. Doing this seems to imply, however, that the XGW must be rooted in the SPET landscape. This can be done without the Hegelianist construct of Lind…we could build a freer, more open framework that may allow for an Alexandrian maneuver warfare, for example, followed by a 2GW type warfare of the early Roman period–with their strengths in Heavy Infantry, followed by a return to Maneuver with the Cataphracts of Byzantium, etc…
This is tough, however…Alexander may have used Combined Arms, and may have attacked weakness with strength, and used fortifications for controlling the maneuver of the enemy. But he still didn’t have a doctrine that allowed for use of a reserve, or a doctrine that allowed for devolved C2, etc. So he may have practiced a type of maneuver war, but a very primitive form of it, at best. Other Great Captains and their styles of war have similar problems. In fact, seperating doctrine from the person of Alexander is remarkably difficult. We could talk about his tendencies in battle and try to build a doctrine from that, but that would still be an inferred doctrine. So whatever framework we use will have to be remarkably open.
And by the way, Thermopylae, though in some ways a positional fight, was also a maneuverist fight. Firstly, it was not an attritive battle…it was a delaying action to rally allies (delaying actions are not sought in positional battles). Second, a picked force was used, which is also a 3GW technique. Thirdly, the dislocation forced on the Persians in that battle was technological–it was based on Greek hoplite heavy infantry fighting against Persian light forces in confined terrain–that is strength v. weakness.
How I wish we were discussing this in a bar!!! Great discussion!
As far as the “offloading of violence” theory goes, that book has already been written. “Strategy,” by Sir Basil Henry Liddell Hart (kickass name).
He uses different terminology (he calls it “the indirect approach”). It might be worth a read.
The criticism of the book usually relates to The Indirect Approach being too broad a definition to really say anything substantive–it can be overlayed onto almost any battle and say whatever you want it to mean.
“How I wish we were discussing this in a bar!!! Great discussion!”
I agree! It would be nice to do this face to face, but thanks to the magic of the Internet we can have a discussion that would have otherwise geographically impossible. All here deserve a great deal of thanks but particularly you Smitten Eagle for your insight and especially Dan for the forum.
XGW offloading was defined as this; “XGW measures the offloading of kinetic violence (reducing the kinetic intensity), not the offloading of the war effort.” I take this to mean the effects of the kinetics are dispersed in ever wider affects and effects. I don’t think this is wrong and I think it is one way to express how Generation ‘X’ is dislocated by ‘X+1’. I have read Strategy, and I don’t think Liddel-Hart’s indirect approach fits very well into this concept. Perhaps ‘offloading’ is an incorrect term or perhaps it needs to be better defined but I don’t think Dan is wrong in this.
“Nations and groups are all capable of every form of XGW, though with individuals you have the conceptual question of whether or not organized violence can exist withou an organizaiton.”
I agree, all forms of XGW are possible. I think that applies to states, groups, or individuals. With XGW it is the way the violence is organized that is important, not the way the group or individual is organized.
“Offloading” needs to be better defined. My mind is still struggling what exactly is meant by it with regards to the individual xGWs…(how is offloading accomplished in one GW, and how is that same offloading accomplished in the x+1GW. How is that offloading sufficiently different between generations to make such generational distinctions possible? How do I know that the offloading isn’t a symptom of some other social/political/economic/technological process that might be the real cause for the differences in generation?)
I am more comfortable with Abherring’s doctrinal explanation, although I have differences of opinion as to which generation a particular type of war might be (strategic bombing, etc…) The feature/bug of this approach is binding of the generations of war to the intellectual history of war–something I have no problem with and certainly an approach with some merit. Note that this is still remotely connected with the social/political/economic/technological, but not as closely tied as Lind’s framework.
Such an approach would allow for the generations of war to coexist in different forms throughout a larger span of history than merely the gunpowder age, yet would also recognize the incompleteness of, say, 2GW styles of war prior to the Industrial Revolution.
As far as Liddell Hart goes, I would say that his indirect approach is possibly analagous to offloading of violence–although I’ve already stated my uncertainty of the definition of offloading. I think this might be graphically depicted better, which is what prompted the comment that we should be in a bar–because then there would be plenty of napkins to write on. Anyways, I’ll stew on this some more and see if I can find a better way of expressing this. I know my thesis to be correct intuitively, but don’t yet have the words to express myself.
“Attrition is a 2GW characteristic. Strategic bombing, has historically used, is 2GW. Against an opponent that can organize the production of large quantities of goods, going after production is attemping to wear-down a strength, not exacerbate a weakness.”
I think attacking critical infrastructure (ball bearing plants, POL facilities) qualifies as attacking weakness. Whether it was successful is another matter, but the targeting process of strategic bombers emphasized the attacking of industrial weakness. Douhet’s Command of the Air emphasized this, notably at the same time as most other 3GW pioneers (Rommel, Guderian, Liddell Hart, JFC Fuller, even Ernst Juenger) were writing their works.
Not to mention that a 2GW solution to defeating enemy production is to produce more yourself. Likewise a 2GW use of strategic bombing would be to strategically attack armies from the air. Douhet and other emphasized attacking critical nodes in the means of production (strength v. weakness).
Also, most 3GW treatises allow for concentrations of kinetic firepower, which might be mistaken for attritive methods. MCDP-1 specifically allows for this.
Are you looking for absolutes and clean singularity breaks?  But even Lind suggested that some things carry over from one generation to the next and to the next.
I’ve previously introduced the idea of “refinement” (most recently in a comment at Dreaming 5GW branching off from this post  ) IMO, we should be able to talk of “ishness”, or the appearance of xGWish features in much older wars, without diluting the purity of our modern-xGW theory via the discovery of nominally “incomplete” versions much earlier in history.
Nor should the appearance of some xGW attributes in xGW+1 or xGW-1 lead to the utter collapse of the xGW theory. Indeed, as I understand it, the inter-generational conflict, because it occurs within a given epoch, may make for muddy waters during the transition or conflict, but the refinement that occurs partly as a consequence of this conflict resembles emergence — that is, the unique confluence of many things leads to the emergence of a particular xGW that may be distinguished from xGW-1 and xGW+1 even if those also have some features in common.
Apparently only the blog author can post more than one link? I posted two, and my comment hasn’t appeared……